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Meet The Godfreys: John’s old diaries reveal how Liberal Club was formed, park recreation land was bought and also record reaction to Titanic sinking


Angie Keyworth is a relative of the Godfrey family who were responsible for constructing many of the iconic buildings around Carlton. In this latest article she opens up the diaries of John Godfrey…

These entries from John’s diary detail how he decided to turn a former baptist church into a liberal club, in a bid to pull people away from the public houses.

The Liberal Club on Burton Road was opened on March 30th 1901. 

The church would firstly have to be moved to make the opening of the Liberal Club possible. Land was purchased on Urban Road (now know as Station Road) and a new church was constructed.

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His diary entries reveal when he bought the land and also transform the former church into the new club.

On September 28th, 1896…”I bought about 150 yards for the Baptist friends on Urban Road at 3/6 per yard.”

April 6th, 1900 … “Took part and laid a stone at Baptist Chapel Urban Road.

April 7th 1900… “Bargained with Mr Geo Marriott to purchase the old chapel for the sum of £245, free conveyancing for use as a Liberal Club.”

Although John had mixed feelings about the Liberal Club’s usefulness, if properly conducted he believed ‘it may be a counter attraction to the public houses’.

April 10th, 1900… “Received cheque for £50 from J E Ellis MP towards the above, as it is possible to be used as a Liberal Club.  We want now to issue 200 shares at £1.00 each.

April 8th, 1901... “Opening of new Baptist Chapel.  I took part in the evening services.

PICTURED: The old Baptist Church on Burton Road that later became the Liberal Club
PICTURED: The chapel in use as a Liberal Club before it was extended.  The occasion was my Harold Godfrey’s 21st party. Harold is centre of second row in a dark jacket and white bow tie. 
PICTURED: A more recent picture of the Liberal Club building on Burton Road

I was married in Carlton Baptist Church but until recently had no idea that John was involved in the purchase of the land, stone laying, or that he took part in the first service in the new church.

Here’s a few entries of local interest taken from John’s diary.

September 17th, 1895... “I took a walk with Emma to Netherfield to look how John Lewin is getting on with the four houses he is building for us on Godfrey Street.  Mr Clark to collect rents at 4/11 per week.” 

June 22nd, 1897… “Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  Great National rejoicing.  In Carlton over 400 people aged 60 and over were invited to dinner at the Board School.  A free tea at each of the Sunday Schools.  About 2,200 children paid for at 3 1/2 old pennies per head.  Carlton and Netherfield gaily decorated.  Nottingham decorated most of the week.  Great gathering of Sunday School children on the Forest.  Jubilee Honour.  Nottingham made a City.”

On the wall  between 7 and 9 High Pavement there is a commemorative Queen Victoria plaque to mark the occasion and the City’s importance as a global centre for the lace industry.

April 29th, 1902… “At parish meeting.  I suggested we try and start a fund for a recreation ground for the children.  What with cycles and motor cars the streets are too busy for children to play safely.”

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March 25th 1905 … “Carlton UDC meeting. Buying of land near cemetery and for free library at Urban Road corner unpopular, but I think it is right in both cases.  The coming years will I believe justify the policy.”

February 10th, 1906… “Opening of Free Library by J E Ellis MP.  My daughter Emma asked me for one of the books. Ivanhoe.

June 11th, 1910… “Small recreation ground near the cemetery opened today.  I wish we had more open spaces for children.”

March 8th, 1911…“Earl Manvers today sold a number of farms and pieces of land.  Samuel and I bought the cricket field on Ouse Bridge for £1670 to offer it to the Urban District Council on condition it is used as an open space.  About 14 acres at 6 old pennies per sq yard.”  

I have a copy of the letter John and Samuel wrote to the Council.  It mentions that the cricket field is the only level piece of land in the area and the residents are anxious to keep it for recreational purposes. 

It also mentions that the brothers could make a substantial profit on the speculation if the Council didn’t want to buy the land.

John and Samuel did sell the land to the Council at cost, with the condition that it be used for recreation.  Agreed over a hand shake no doubt!  It would not have been agreed over a pint as John was extremely opposed to alcohol.  In fact he was a founding member of the Total Abstinence Society of Carlton and Netherfield.  I am told, that there was also a ladies’ abstinence society – but that is too much for my imagination!!

March 31st, 1911…“Rev F J Perry Rector of Carlton died, he was much respected and Carlton will miss him very much.”

April 15th, 1912… “News of terrible disaster at sea.  Titanic, monster vessel 45,000 tons gone down over 1000 lives lost.  Collided with an iceberg, maiden voyage.  Great heroism displayed as well as a little of the perverse.”

June 24th, 1914… “King George and Queen Mary state visit to Nottingham.  Emma and I had good seats on the platform front of exchange.  Children had a good view from a window on Wheeler Gate.”

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The photos are the old Baptist Chapel and the Chapel in use as a Liberal Club before it was extended.  The occasion was my Grandpa’s Harold Godfrey’s 21st party. Harold is centre of second row in a dark jacket and white bow tie.  The third photo is the building taken more recently.

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  1. Would anyone happen to have any other photos of the liberal club? I have recently discovered that my great grand uncle, William Henry Collings was the Head Billiard Marker (1911 census). I presume this was a reasonably auspicious roll and so I’m hoping that he appears in some other photos (maybe even this one). He lived in Forest Fields and so I’m guessing this would be the liberal club he worked at. Can anyone help?


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