People of Arnold:

William Herbert Higginbottom 

James Shirtcliffe

W. H. Higginbottom - Architect


William Herbert Higginbottom was born in Leeds in 1868 but before William's 1st birth day he had left Leeds, with his father Anthony and mother Elizabeth for Arnold. His father, having moved the family to Arnold, on being appointed the Headmaster of the British School. This school was then situated on the site now occupied by the Arnold Market. The Higginbottoms took up residence in Deans Cottage at 20 Hallams Lane, Arnold. The property also no longer exists as it was demolished to make way for the original Sainsburys (now a Wilkinsons store).

As well as a teacher, Anthony was also an amateur draughtsman, producing plans for several projects in the Arnold area. This interest prompted his son to study architecture and to eventually qualify as an architect and surveyor. William married a local girl, also named Elizabeth, and eventually opened an architectural practice which had offices at both 120 Front Street, Arnold and 2 Friar Yard, Friar Lane, Nottingham.


During his career he designed many of Arnold's best and monumental buildings including The Carnegie Library, Church Drive School, the St Albans Picturedrome, the Empress Cinema, He also designed The Mission Church at Daybrook (which became the school rooms for St Pauls.) The Sir John Robinson Alms Houses, also at Daybrook,  the War Memorial in Arnot Hill Park, Cross Street Baptist Chapel, Daybrook Baptist Chapel, and the Wesleyan Chapel in Arnold, in addition he was responsible for many houses and lesser projects which included my own house.

Some other notable buildings included, the Victoria Cinema, Carlton,  Ruddington Public Hall, Chilwell War Memorial, Beeston War Memorial Cross, United Methodist Church, Sneinton, Stapleford Schools, Park House, Carlton and several factories in the Lace Market. Unfortunately, very few of his large output of public and private buildings still exist today.

He was for many years very active as a local Councillor on the Arnold Urban District Council and became Chairman from April 1911 to April 1913. He was a Member of Nottinghamshire County Council, for the Bestwood Park Division, where he worked on the old age pension and highways committees.

He served on the local military tribunal during World War One assessing men’s eligibility for service in the army. He also served as a Justice of the Peace .

A Methodist, he was a lifelong very energetic member of the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, (now Arnold Methodist Church).

An amateur sportsman of some renown, he was a keen cricketer, being a member of Bestwood Cricket Club, for whom he played regularly. He was presented with a gold watch on his retirement, having also been secretary of the club for 29 years.

He died on the 6 th  December, 1929 at the age of 61 after a long illness and is buried in  Redhill cemetery  , in an unmarked grave, next to that of his father and mother.


James  Shirtcliff

In 1831, James Shirtcliff was the first child born to John and Ann Shirtcliff. They were from an Arnold family of framework Knitters who were at the time living at Church Side.

As James grew, he joined in the business becoming a framework knitter himself. It was a very hard life and he was always on the lookout for a way to better his lot. During a visit to Nottingham on 23 rd  February, 1847 at the age of 16, he enlisted in the Royal Marines, by giving his age as 18, and was posted to Woolwich as a Private.

On the 2nd  November, 1847 he was posted to 96th C ompany, Royal Marines aboard HMS Alert an eight-gun Packet Brig. Slavery had recently been abolished by Britain and HMS Alert was one of 22 ships which then sailed to West Africa to prevent the capture of slaves in the area of Sierra Leone. HMS Alert destroyed several slaving establishments on the Bussa River and freed over 1100 slaves during its time on station; Shirtcliff taking part in all these actions. In November, 1849 the ship returned to England and on the 12th  December, Shirtcliff was promoted to Corporal. He was now based back at Woolwich during which time he became ill. This disease was diagnosed as Pneumonia in Phthisis, a form of Tuberculosis.  His ill health now caused his early discharge from the service on the 13th  October, 1851. He returned to Arnold and his family and took up his old profession of framework knitting. His illness dogged him all the rest of his life and as a result he often struggled to make ends meet. In June, 1853 he married a local girl Ellen and they had five children, James the oldest, born in 1855, Mary, William, John and the youngest Alfred being born in 1870.

During his time in the Marines he had learned to read and write and took to studying, further educating himself, a course he continued all his life.

In Arnold he acted as the village scribe writing letters and sorting out legal forms for those who couldn’t read and write. He was passionately interested in education and served for many years on the Arnold School Board acting as a link with the working people of Arnold. A Methodist, he trained as a local  preacher and was out most Sundays preaching in Arnold and the surrounding villages. He often acted in matters relating to the various charities, obtaining help for those in difficult times. His father, who was 15 years older than his mother, died around 1870 and James then became the head of the family with a widowed mother to care for. By 1881, the family had moved to 106 Spout Lane (now known as Coppice Rd).and they then moved again in approximately 1890 to a house in High Street, next door to the Druids Tavern public house. Shortly thereafter in 1893, the illness he had fought all his life overcame him and he died at the age of 62, the loss of a well liked and well respected man of the people.

All articles © Bob Massey

W H Higginbottom