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Plumtree Parish Council

Kate Murden (1895-1989)

Notes on life in Plumtree early in the 20th century

Kate compiled these notes in January 1989 as the result of a request by Jennie Phimister who realised the importance of recording village history. Jennie knew her as 'Auntie Kate'.

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My name is Kate Murden. I was born in Plumtree on the fifth of January 1895 [1] so I'm just 94 years old.

I am one of a family of six [2]. My parents were George and Sophia Murden [3]. I am the only one left. It is sad that there is no one of the family left in Plumtree after over two hundred years [4], so I have been asked to write down the things that I remember of my early days.

When I was three years old I was taken to school [5] by my sister (she was seven years older than me). At first I sat with her in the big room. There were two classrooms. After a time I went into the infants room.

Mr. Walker was the schoolmaster, and Miss Wright (I think) the other teacher. They married later. I cannot remember much about the infant time only when I was six there was a concert I had to recite and my sister sang. I also remember one Christmas, Mrs Browne the Rector's wife [6] gave us a Christmas tree and every child had a present; mine was a very nice work basket which I much treasured.

Our chief learning was the three R's (reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic). I was not good at arithmetic but anything to do with reading and books was good. I sat for an Exam (I forget the name of it) when I was twelve and passed and so was able to leave school and go to work.

Life in those days was very primitive in the village - mostly agricultural with quite a lot of big farms around [7]. The farmers had a great many cottages for their labourers who lived rent free. Wages were 10 shillings (50p) a week, with free milk and some produce.

Market day in Nottingham saw many Farmers and their wives driving in their traps for the day and, of course, cattle being driven to and from. There was always carts and wagons about, taking feeds to the cattle in the fields etc. The Blacksmiths [8] was a great attraction and we spent quite a time watching the horses being shod. There was the joiners nearby where all farm carts wagons, etc were repaired.

The working people were rather poor but food was cheap. We did not have much meat but there was plenty of rabbits about. Milk was 1½d (less than 1p) a pint.

One-day-old one-penny butter was one shilling (5p) a pound and eggs 24 for a shilling (5p). Quite a few people had allotments to grow potatoes and other veg. and one could pick baskets full of mushrooms and, of course, lots of blackberries.

The one great event of the year was the Feast in June [9]. We girls had our new summer best dress and hat. How I loved marching with the Band (after a Church Service on the Monday) to the Inn at Normanton and then to the garden of Mr and Mrs Hill [10] where there was dancing on the lawn. Later in the day there were swings and roundabouts in the field behind the Griffin.

Another thing we liked was in the summer Sunday School parties came out from Nottingham to the Griffin where they had tea in the barn and their sports in the field. There was always a sweet stall and an ice cream one and when the parties had gone we were allowed to go and buy sweets and ice cream - a great treat.

If anyone was ill in my early years, someone had to walk to Keyworth to get the Doctor and medicine, later a few bicycles got around.

My father was a Railway man and was responsible to the Plumtree length of the Railway. His wage was twenty four shillings (£1.20) a week.

There was a second Public House in those days. 'The Farmer's Arms' [11] run by Mr and Mrs Price [12] which also had a farm attached. In the summer wagonette parties came here and there was dancing in the garden. We sat on the wall to watch.

At the back there was a skittle alley and matches were played. My brothers earned pennies for setting up the skittles during the matches. A carrier went each week to Nottingham. He would get any shopping for the village people who could not get into the town. He had a sort of covered wagonette and could take one or two people. I often went because I had an aunt in Nottingham who liked to have me for the week-end. She met me at the Inn where he put up his horse [13].

Sundays we went to Sunday School each week the collect [14] had to be learned. After the lessons we walked up the hill to Morning Service and stayed through it all. I liked going because I loved the singing. After dinner there was the afternoon class at the School or Bible class at the Rectory [15] for the older ones. In the Spring and Summer we went walks and roamed the fields picking lovely white and blue violets, cowslips, etc. especially in fields down Sheepwash Lane [16]. Then home to tea where lovely tea cakes on the hearth. The Rector then was the Rev. Samuel Browne. He must have been wealthy because there was a full indoor staff; Butler, Footman, Housemaids, Ladies Maid, Cook, Kitchen and scullery maids, Stable with coachman and Groom, and they had hunting horses [17]. There was also Gardeners.

I left Plumtree to work in London when I was thirteen and did not return to live there again, but of course spent all my holidays at home.

I nearly forgot to say that I remember the first motor car that came through Plumtree - quite an event!

The old Post Office [18] was a creeper-covered old place in the main road and it was also Mr. Grice's Saddlers shop [19].

[1] Kate was baptised on 10th February 1895 in Plumtree Church by the Curate, J P Hales.

Kate's baptism register entry


[2] From the Plumtree Church registers, it transpires that Kate's parents, George and Sophia Murden actually had ten children:

Name Baptism Registered Death Registered Age
George 11 October 1885 13 October 1885 6 hours
Samuel William 26 December 1886 07 January 1888 13 months
Sarah Lizzie 04 October 1888    
Harold 16 November 1890 18 December 1890 9 weeks
Frederick 25 October 1891 01 November 1974 83 years
John William1 22 January 1893    
Kate 10 February 1895    
Horace 27 June 1897 19 October 19702 73 years
Percy 05 July 1903 08 March 1973 69 years
Ethel  21 December 1904  24 December 1904 1 day
  1. John William married Annie Trafford at Keyworth on 19 June 1920; subsequently moved to Barnsley. They had two children who were born in Barnsley and baptised at Keyworth.
  2. Horace's death was registered at Keyworth


[3] George was previously married to Sarah (née Langham) from Bunny; the service was held on 30th January 1881 in Bunny Church. George and Sarah had one child, Elizabeth, who was baptised at Plumtree on 9th July 1882; sadly she died in December 1884, aged 2.  Sarah died in October 1882, aged 29.

George Murden was born in May 1853; his parents were Samuel and Mary Murden (née Horton) who were married in Plumtree Church on January 29th 1849.

According to the Plumtree Church registers, Samuel and Mary Murden had eight children:

Name Baptism Registered Death Registered Age
Elizabeth 19 August 1849 18 April 1851 2 years
Mary 23 March 1851    
George 15 May 1853 27 April 1925  72 years
Elizabeth 27 May 1855 26 June 1920 65 years
Ann 10 May 1857 05 October 1880 23 years
Eliza Horton 12 February 1860    
Fanny 24 August 1862 02 December 1887 25 years
Kate  24 September 1865    

George Murden died in April 1925, aged 72. Sophia Murden died on 16th April 1944, aged 78.


[4] Until the end of the 20th century, the surnames 'Murden' and 'Astill' were the most common names in the Plumtree Church registers.

Murdens first appear in the Plumtree Church registers on the following dates:

12 June 1733 – entry in the Register of Baptisms for Mary Murden

02 October 1747 – entry in the Register of Marriages for the wedding of Jeremiah Murden and Mary Green

26 April 1731 – entry in the Register of Burials for Mary Murden (of Willoughby)

The number of Murdens who appear in the 1841 – 1911 Plumtree and Normanton censuses are as follows:

1841 - 54
1851 - 53
1861 - 57
1871 - 53
1881 - 33
1891 - 27
1901 - 23
1911 - 18


Plumtree School[5] This was Plumtree School which stands at the crossroads in the centre of the village. A plaque on the wall bears the inscription: "Plumtree School, erected by W. E. Elliott Esq. A.D. 1840".

As well as serving Plumtree the school had pupils from Normanton, Clipston and, until 1957, Tollerton. In 1904 the school was extended and, in 1951, it became a Church of England Controlled School, which it remained until it was closed in 1974.

Plumtree School is now an Independent School with children mainly coming from the surrounding area rather than from Plumtree village.


[6] Samuel Benjamin Browne, BA was rector of Plumtree Church from 19 October 1883 until his death on 17 September 1906, aged 75.

His wife was called Mary. She died on 23 November 1932, aged 82.

They are buried in Plumtree churchyard, near the north gate.


[7] These farms included:

  • Chestnut Farm (Station Road, still working)
  • Hall Farm (Church Hill)
  • Manor Farm (Church Lane)
  • Plumtree House Farm (corner of Bradmore Lane and Station Road)
  • Rectory Farm (land now Bradley's Yard)
  • Griffin Inn Farm (corner of Bradmore Lane and Main Road)
  • Farmers Arms Farm (Main Road)
  • Poplars Farm (Station Road)
  • Cottage Farm (adjacent to The Forge, Main Road)
  • Flawford Farm (Flawforth)


The Forge[8] The blacksmith worked in the Forge or Smithy which was identified by the brick horseshoe over the doorway (the building is now a Solicitor's office).

Fred Spouge was the blacksmith when Kate was a child. From around 1916 until the smithy closed in the 1950s James Barnett continued the tradition. As well as shoeing the local horses, the blacksmith would be able to mend farm implements and make other metal tools.

The smithy was an exciting place for an observer but involved hard work and great physical strength from the blacksmith.


[9] The annual village feast was held on the second Sunday after Whitsuntide. It usually started around 10am at the Griffin Inn where bread, cheese and ale were served. This was followed by a service in church. In the early years a fine was levied on those who did not attend the service. At about 2pm a cold meat dinner began after which toasts were drunk.

A cricket match against another local club took place during the afternoon. This was followed by an evening's drinking at the Griffin. However, anyone found guilty of disorderly conduct was fined. Some years there was the attraction of dancing or fairground rides. The feast continued to be held until 1939.


[10] The 1891 and 1901 censuses show Thomas Arthur Hill and his wife Norah Montgomerie Hill living in Normanton House. There is a tablet commemorating Thomas, on the south aisle wall of Plumtree Church, which reads:

Thomas Arthur Hill memorial tablet "To the Glory of God and in ever Loving Memory of Thomas Arthur Hill, M.A. of Normanton House, Plumtree. Younger son of Thomas Hill, J.P. Notts. For 35 years churchwarden of St Mary's Plumtree and Guardian of the Poor of this Parish. A Justice of The Peace for Notts, and late Major of the South Notts Hussars. Died Sunday May 3rd 1931 Aged 76. His unfailing courtesy and kindness endeared him to all who knew him."

Norah’s full name was Norah Montgomerie Margaret Maynard Hill and she was the daughter of General Henry Hopkinson (who is buried in Plumtree churchyard, and to whom a window in the church is dedicated).


[11] Before 1840 there were two public houses in Plumtree: the Farmers’ Arms and the Plough. Both had farms attached.

The Plough was rebuilt by W. E. Elliott in 1843 and was renamed the Griffin.

During the First World War the Farmers' Arms lost its licence (as it was deemed not to be required since Plumtree only had a population of 230 and the Griffin was only 120 yards away). It was then used as a prisoner of war camp. After the war it was divided into two properties of which one remained a smallholding for several years. It is now a private house.


[12] The 1891 census shows the Farmers Arms being occupied by Thomas Price and Eliza Ann Price. Eliza Ann died on 26 April 1891, aged 32, and is buried in Plumtree churchyard.

Thomas remarried and in the 1901 census, the Farmers Arms are occupied by Thomas Price and Sarah Price. This is the couple Kate would have known.

Thomas died on 2 February 1924, aged 73, and Sarah on 3 April 1949, aged 86, they are also buried in Plumtree churchyard.


[13] This may have been William Astill, who went from 'near the fish stalls, Market Place, Nottingham' on Saturdays at 3 pm.  In 1832 his depot was the Wheat Sheaf Inn.


[14] Sunday school lessons consisted of bible reading, instruction and righteous stories with a moral theme and learning the collect (a single prayer appropriate to a particular day of the church season).


[15] The Rectory referred to here is the large one adjacent to Plumtree Church. When John Burnside became Rector in December 1816 he organised a major rebuilding of the Rectory which is substantially unchanged today (although the original twelve bedrooms have been reduced to nine).

Both the Old Rectory and the wall and gateway that surround its grounds to the west have Grade II listing. The stable block further down Church Hill was refurbished in the late 1990s and won a design award from Rushcliffe Borough Council.

In 1937 the Old Rectory was sold, and the new owners installed central heating and indoor plumbing.

In 1938, a new rectory was built at the corner of Bradley's Yard and Church Hill; until October 2020 this was the residence of Plumtree Church's incumbent.


[16] 'Sheepwash Lane' was the locals' name for Clipston Lane in Normanton.

The farmers used to dam the stream (at the junction of what is now Clipston Lane and Church Gate, circled below) and use the water to wash the sheep.

Old map showing location of Sheepwash Lane
Historical map courtesy of Nottingham City Council GIS Mapping (


[17] The 1901 census shows the following people living in The Rectory (Mrs Browne must have been away at the time).

Surname Forename Relation to Head Age Occupation
Browne Samuel Benjamin Head 69 Clergyman (Church of England)
Browne Percival Leathley Son 17  
Browne Eleanor D Daughter 20  
Stafford Ernest Servant 24 Footman
Wedd Harry Servant 20 Footman
Bonsall Elize Servant 29 Housemaid
Wiltshire Bessie Servant 31 Cook
Francis Grace Servant 20 Housemaid
Eluson Jane Servant 21 Kitchen Maid
Frost Mabel H Servant 15 Scullery Maid
Garret William Servant 28 Groom


[18] The Post Office was built in 1905 on the corner of the crossroads between Main Street and Church Hill, opposite Plumtree School.


[19] William Grice appears in the 1891 census as head of the "Post Office", married to Sarah Grice and citing as his occupation as "gamekeeper and harnessmaker".

Sarah Grice died in 1899 and, by the time of the 1901 census, William has remarried (Jane Exton Cross) and his occupation is "saddlemaker and sub-postmaster".