Figure 1: Eastwood Hall, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Photo Credit – MuBu Miner
The Walker Family and Eastwood Hall
A brief history of one-half of the Barber Walker Co. dynasty.
Eastwood Hall, Nottinghamshire, a Hotel and Conference Centre currently owned by Principal Hayley’s, has strong historical links with the local coal mining industry and especially the Barber Walker Company. It was the Walker family residence during part of the nineteenth century later becoming administrative HQ for Barber Walker Co. Ltd. Following nationalisation of the British coalmining industry in 1947 it became the HQ for the National Coal Board (NCB) East Midlands No. 5 Area HQ until 1966. After this, it was an Administrative Centre for the NCB then HQ for its Operations Directorate, for its successor, the British Coal Corporation (BCC) from 1986 to 1994. Hayley’s purchased the property in 1997, and by 2000, they had transformed it into a Conference Centre. Principal Hotels brought out Hayley’s in 2007.
Figure 2: Barber Walker Co Ltd, 1935 Colliery Year Book & Coal Trades Directory.
Barber Walker Co. Ltd
The Barber – Walker partnership can be traced back to the late eighteenth century when Thomas Barber (1738 – 1818) and Thomas Walker (1752 – 1816) joined forces. The Barber side of the enterprise had been conducting coal business for around a hundred years prior to this, being associated with the Fletcher family during this period. The Barbers inherited the coalmining interests of the Fletcher family through the marriage of Francis Barber and John Fletcher’s daughter in 1731 and later through the bankruptcy of inventor, John Barber, in the 1780’s.
In 1790 the Right Honourable George Henry, Earl of Stamford, leased the rights to mine coal in several liberties of Newthorpe and Awsworth, Nottinghamshire, to Thomas Barber of Derby and Thomas Walker of Bilborough. The lease was for a period of twenty-one years dating from 25th March 1790. A further coal-mining lease in 1791, for forty-seven years at Strelley and Bilborough, consolidated the partnership. Other coal leases followed and by the early nineteenth-century, Barber Walker Co. rapidly came to concentrate its activities and to dominate its coalmining business in the central section of the Erewash Valley.
Figure 3: Nottinghamshire Coalmining Royalties Map c1920’s showing Barber Walker take around Eastwood. .
In the 1860’s and 1870’s they sunk a number of new collieries around the Eastwood district, which would form the bedrock of the local coalmining industry for the next one hundred years; High Park (1860), Moorgreen (1865), Watnall (1871), Brinsley (1872) and Selston (Underwood) in 1875. In the early twentieth century, they ventured into the South Yorkshire coalfield at Bentley and Harworth.
Figure 4: Thomas Barber (left) and Thomas Walker (right) – founders of the Barber Walker company.
The Walker Family’s coal links in the early 19th century
In Farey’s History of Derbyshire (1807), it mentions various members of the Walker family has having connections with the coal mining industry.
- Michael Walker – Coal Master and Engineer, Eastwood.
- Thomas Walker – Coal Master and Viewer* of Nethergreen and Bilborough.
- William Walker – Coal Agent of Bilborough.
*A Viewer was the early term for a Colliery Engineer / Manager.
Thomas Walker entered the scene in the 1780’s as a skilled mine viewer. He was associated with some primitive, embryo coal pits in the Bilborough area of Nottingham. Hill sites Walkers Pit at Bilborough as being sunk in 1796 but being disused by 1813. In Farey’s account, Thomas Walker is described as having great mathematical knowledge and extensive practice as a Coal Master / Viewer.
Figure 5: Eastwood Hall and lake – date unknown. Photo Credit: Eastwood Library
Eastwood Hall and the Walker Family
In Eastwood through Bygone Ages, Coleman suggests that the Eastwood Estates of the Plumptre family were acquired by George Walker Esq around 1830. He is quoted as being the principal landowner and Lord of the Manor in Whites Directory of 1832. The Hall was built in Italian style by local builder, William Rowe, in 1832. George Walker died in 1851, aged 45, and in the 1853 Whites Directory, his son, Thomas Walker, then being a minor, is listed as the principal landowner and Lord of the Manor. .
Whitlock states that the Hall was the residence of the Walker family from 1843 until 1871, when Thomas Walker died, aged just twenty-six. In the 1871 Census, taken just prior to his death, both Thomas and his wife, Eleanor (nee Bourne) were residing at Eastwood Hall. They married in 1865 when he was nineteen and she just fourteen years of age. She predeceased him and they left an orphaned daughter, Mabel Zoe Walker (1869 – 1934). She was dispatched to Thomas Aunt Frances in Middlesex and later Colonel and Mrs Davidson looked after her. Eastwood Hall was in the hands of caretakers from 1871 until the early 1890’s. In the 1876 Kelly’s Directory, the Trustees of the late T. Walker Esq are listed as being the principal landowner and Lords of the Manor.
The Coach Drive, a tree lined drive, connected the Walker residence of Eastwood Hall with the Barber residence at Lamb Close House. In the 1960’s, the Coach Drive estate was built at the Eastwood end of the drive, opposite the entrance to Eastwood Hall.
Figure 6: Eastwood Hall in 1906. Photo Credit: Eastwood Library
During the early part of World War 1, Eastwood Hall was used for a while as a convalescent home for Belgian Officers injured in the war. In 1917, it became the administrative HQ for the Barber Walker Company. The original offices on Mansfield Road, Eastwood (Durban House) were not considered large enough following the company’s venture into the South Yorkshire coalfield at Bentley Colliery in 1908 and taking over the Harworth Colliery development in 1916. Prior to it becoming HQ for the Barber Walker Company, an auction took place of the Walker family’s belongings at Eastwood Hall.
Figure 7: Rhinefield, residence of the Walker-Munroe family from the late1880’s to 1951.
The Walker-Munroe’s and Rhinefield.
In 1887, Mabel Zoe Walker married Scottish Naval Lieutenant, Edward Lionel Munroe, and the family took the double barrel family name of Walker – Munroe. They built a family home, Rhinefield, near Brokenhurst in Hampshire, which comprised the Great House, a hunting lodge, stables, a gardener’s bothy and a gate lodge. Other residences they purchased included The White House at Milford on Sea and a property in Cannes. When Mabel Zoe inherited following the death of her husband in 1920, she was said to be one of the wealthiest women in Britain.
Rhinefield had been the site of various hunting lodges since Norman times. The Walker family owned it until the early 1950’s, when crippling debts forced the widow of Major Ian Charles Ronald Walker-Munroe to dispose of it. In 1982, Nicholas Hotels purchased it and developed it into a luxury hotel, apartments and leisure complex.
Figure 8: Major Ian Charles Ronald Walker Munroe
Major Ian Charles Ronald Walker Munroe
Major Ian Charles Ronald Walker Munroe (1891 – 1952), the son on Lieut. Edward Lionel Walker Munroe and Mabel Zoe Walker, inherited the family estates on the death of his mother on 7th September 1934 and moved into Rhinefield. He served in the Grenadier Guards, before emigrating to Kenya, where he farmed on a large scale, with financial assistance from his father. In 1919, he married the daughter of Sir Hugh Monroe, his cousin, and they had four sons. He was a Director of the Barber Walker Company from 1934 until his death in 1952.
Figure 9: Thomas Ian Michael Walker Munroe.
Thomas Ian Michael Walker Munroe
Thomas Ian Michael Walker Munroe, b 1922, was the eldest son of Major Ian Charles Ronald Walker Munroe. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied engineering. Despite showing interest as a mining engineer, he went into agriculture. On the death of his father in 1952, he became a Director of the Barber Walker Company at the time it was being wound up following nationalisation of the British coalmining industry in 1947. He remained as Director until voluntary liquidation of the company in 1954. He died in 1965.
Figure 10: Eastwood Hall in the 1960’s, National Coal Board East Midlands No.5 Area HQ. Photo Credit – Coal Authority
Eastwood Hall and the National Coal Board
NCB East Midlands No.5 Area HQ (1947 – 1966)
On nationalisation of the British coalmining industry on 1st January 1947, known as Vesting Day, Eastwood Hall became HQ for the NCB East Midlands No. 5 Area. On its formation, the No. 5 Area comprised of eighteen collieries in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire coalfields. By 1966, rapid rationalisation of the coal industry saw just a handful of collieries left in the No. 5 Area and it was disbanded that year. Former collieries still open in No. 5 Area, temporarily went into the NCB East Midlands No. 4 and No. 6 Areas until the reorganisation of April 1967.
Figure 11: 1952 map showing collieries in NCB East Midlands No.5 Area.
In 1951, Pevsner described Eastwood Hall as being early 19th century stucco with an ionic columned porch and full height bows. He noted the NCB had performed their usual trick of removing the fireplaces but had left a geometrical staircase with a domed top light and remains of good quality Regency plasterwork. In a Century Remembered, Dave Richmond’s recalled his father being Head Gardener at Eastwood Hall in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He grew flowers and vegetables in a greenhouse and on Fridays these were sold to employees at the Hall, in what was described as being a very busy day!
Figure 12: Building work at Eastwood Hall in the late 1950s. Photo Credit – Coal Authority
The NCB constructed several new buildings on the Eastwood Hall site in the 1950’s including science and marketing blocks, a coal preparation block and a canteen. The last of these extensions were completed in 1960/61.
In the NCB reorganisation of April 1967, the few remaining No. 5 Area collieries went into the NCB North Derbyshire and NCB South Nottinghamshire Areas. After the closure of Ormonde Colliery, near Heanor, in 1970, just two former No.5 colliery concerns remained; Moorgreen at Eastwood and the Pye Hill Complex in the parish of Selston, the latter which comprised of a merger of the former Selston Colliery at Underwood and Pye Hill Colliery at Jacksdale. Both of these collieries closed in 1985 through exhaustion of viable coal reserves, after being rundown to closure from 1983 following local agreement between the NCB South Nottinghamshire Area and the Nottingham Area of the NUM.
See other Mining Heritage Blogs
Figure 13: 1980’s aerial view of Eastwood Hall Photo Credit: Eastwood Library
Eastwood Hall: 1966 to 1994
Following the demise of NCB East Midlands No.5 Area in 1966, Eastwood Hall became a NCB Department for marketing, geology and mining records. In the early 1980’s, Marketing, Regional Sales, Planning, Administration and Subsidiary Companies, NCB Coal Products and Thomas Ness Ltd, were all based there. Eastwood Collieries Male Voice Choir, founded in 1919, used Eastwood Hall for its rehearsals from 1981 to 1992 following the closure of Eastwood Miners Welfare, the former Mechanics Institute on Mansfield Road, Eastwood.
In 1986, the British Coal Corporation (BCC) became the successor of the NCB and it made Eastwood Hall the centre for its Operations Directorate until the end of 1994.
Figure 14: James Anderton Mining Memorial at Eastwood Hall early 1990’s. Photo Credit: Eastwood Library
In 1989 the James Anderton Mining Statue, The Miner, was installed at Eastwood Hall. Originally, it was located at Anderton House, Lowton, Lancashire, HQ for the NCB North Western Division. James Anderton invented the Anderton Shearer, an important addition to the mechanisation of the coal industry in the 1950’s. The statue returned to its north-west roots following British Coals closure of Eastwood Hall. It is now situated on a traffic roundabout, at a former colliery site, in St Helens.
From 1st January 1995, what remained of the British deep coalmining industry went back into private ownership. The majority of the remaining collieries went to RJB Mining who made their HQ at Harworth Colliery on the Nottinghamshire / South Yorkshire border. Harworth was developed by the Barber Walker Co. from 1917 and was in production from 1924 until 2006. It was the third last Nottinghamshire colliery to close.
Figure 15: Mcgregor and Scargill rooms, Eastwood Hall. Photo Credit – MuBu Miner
Eastwood Hall – Hayleys Conference Centre.
In 1996, British Coal put Eastwood Hall on the market and it was purchased a year later by Strawson Holdings, a North Nottinghamshire developer. A year later, it was sold to Hayley Conference Centre and plans for its redevelopment were submitted in March 1999. It opened in May 2000 and later was brought out by Principal Hotels in 2007. Local themed locations, some associated with its coalmining past, were adopted for the various conference and hotel rooms, although there have been a few raided eyebrows locally at the McGregor and Scargill Conference rooms being located next to each other!
Figure 16: Pits, Props and Prose event as part of the 2015 DH Lawrence Festival of Culture at Eastwood Hall, September 2015. Photo Credit – MuBu Miner
Some local arts, cultural and heritage events associated with the annual DH Lawrence Festival of Culture have been held there over recent years, including the Leavis / Lawrence Conferences and DH Lawrence Poetry Conferences.
Figure 17: Touch and Go and DH Lawrence portrait by Paul Fillingham. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
DH Lawrence and Eastwood Hall
Eastwood Hall featured in some of the literary work of famous Eastwood author, DH Lawrence. In the 1913 novel, ‘Sons and Lovers’, Barber Walker Co, became Carston, Waite and Co., the Walker family being the Waite bit. It was at Eastwood Hall that the scene in Mr Noon, with Patty Goddard, a character based on Sally Hopkin, Gilbert Noon and an aggressive young cow, is set.
Enid Hilton, born ten years before DH Lawrence, remembered during her childhood in the 1880’s, that the Hall was empty, but her family had access to the grounds. Later she recalled DH Lawrence often went with them into the gardens and surrounding park when the main house was shut up.
DH Lawrence’s 1920 coal mining play, ‘Touch and Go’, is believed to be based at Eastwood Hall. The play, written in 1918, was DH Lawrence’s last coalmining play and was set in a period of industrial unrest which eventually led to the 1921 and 1926 Miners Lockouts. In the play the character of Willie Houghton is based on Willie Hopkin and that of Job Arthur Free on local Nottingham Miners Association (NMA) Official. Joe Birkin. The Barlow’s are based on the Barber Family, one half of the Barber Walker Company, who by this time were established at Eastwood Hall as its HQ.
Figure 18: Eastwood Hall, part of a mural by Florence Nightingale Academy at the Hilltop Co-op, Eastwood. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Figure 19: Information board at Colliers Wood, former Moorgreen Colliery site, including the Walker Trail. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Figure 20: Walker Street, junction with Nottingham Road, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Arc Heritage, The Physical Landscape Legacy Phase 2: The Heritage of the Nottinghamshire Coalfield, Historic England Project 6742, 2018.
Bailey, S. and Nottingham, C. Heartlands: A Guide to DH Lawrence’s Midland Roots, 2013.
Chapman, S. Muted Paternalism: The Barber Walker Company and its Collieries in West Nottinghamshire 1700 – 1900, Transactions of the Thoroton Society, Vol. 107, 2003, p. 163 – 179.
Coleman, A. Eastwood through Bygone Ages: A Brief History of the Parish of Eastwood, 1970.
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Coalfield: Map showing Colliery Royalties, c1920’s.
Eastwood Historical Society, A Century Remembered: Reminiscences of everyday life in the Eastwood Area, 2000.
Colliery Guardian, Guide to the Coalfields, various dates.
Hardy, G. and Harris, N. A DH Lawrence Album, 1985.
Hill, M. Early Coal Mining in the Bilborough Area of Nottingham, 2019
Kelly’s Post Office Directory for the Counties of Derby, Leicester, Rutland and Nottingham, 1876.
Moore, R. Community and Conflict in Eastwood: A study from the Nottinghamshire Coalfield before 1914, 1995.
Ottewell, D. Eastwood on old picture postcards, 2000.
Pevsner, N. The Buildings of Nottinghamshire, 1951.
Principal Hayley Eastwood Hall, Training, Meetings, Conference’s, Events. – Information Pack, 2005.
Riley, H. and Fretwell, B. Eastwood, Nottinghamshire Vol. 2: Times Past and Present, 2016.
White, F. History, Directory and Gazetteer of the County and Town of Nottingham, 1853.
White, W. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1832.
Whitlock, G.C.H. 250 Years in Coal: The History of the Barber Walker Co, Ltd, 1956.
Blog posted by David Amos
Heritage Resources Officer
19th October 2021.