People of Mapperley

People of Mapperley:

Charles Bennett

Edward Gripper

Charles Bell Taylor

Dougie Byng


Charles Bennett

Driving down Woodborough Road towards Nottingham one passes a house on the corner of Bennett Street with a brick porch around the front door. This is the house which was built for Charles Bennett.

Charles Bennett was born in the parish of St Werburgh in Spondon, Derbyshire in 1832, the second child born to his mother, Elizabeth. The first, a girl called Eliza had been born in 1829 while the family was living in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire. Their father, Francis, was a brick maker, a member of the large Bennett family who were all well-known brick makers and workers in the Spondon brickworks. By 1841, the family had moved to Green Street in Derby and a third child, Henry had been born. Now aged ten years, Charles, with little or no education had started work, following his father i to the brickworks. Within the next ten years the family moved back to Spondon. Henry joined the brickworks as soon as he was able, with Eliza finding work as a house servant. During this time, Charles progressed in the brick works and married Mary Ann, a local girl, in 1854. A son, Francis, was born to them in 1855.  By 1861, Charles, his wife and son had moved to Mapperley, residing at 22 Mapperley Hill so that Charles could take up a forman’s position at the local brickworks. Tragedy appears to have beset the family at this stage as by 1869, Charles had become a widower and remarried. The new couple had a daughter, Edith, in 1870.

Charles himself continued to progress through the brickworks until becoming manager of the Nottingham Patent Brick Company. He then moved into a new house at 752 Woodborough Road, next door to a series of houses that had been built for the brickyard workers. His new standing allowed him to enter local politics, becoming a Nottingham Town Councillor about 1880, a position which he held for twenty-eight years, He was rewarded for this work by being elected as an Alderman and a Magistrate.

Bennett was a lifelong Methodist and when he had become manager of the brickworks he allowed services to take place in the brickyard offices, there being no Methodist church in Mapperley. In 1902, he was able to gift some land near the brickworks on which was then built the present Mapperley Methodist Church.

Charles was also the moving spirit in the purchase of the Porchester Estate, when he then arranged, along with Sir John Robinson, Mr Whittington and Mr Haywood to be turned into eight-hundred gardens or allotments, in order that his workers could grow their own plants and vegetables.

By 1901, he was again a widower living in his Woodborough Road home, looked after by his unmarried daughter, Edith and a servant, Rebecca Ingall. He died there in 1909 at the age of seventy-seven. Bennett Street and Bennett Road were named after him in his honour.


Edward Gripper

Edward Gripper was born at Layer Breton Hall near Kelvedon, Essex in 1815. He was the oldest of five children born to parents, Edward and Mary Gripper. The family farmed 526 acres around Layer Breton, the work being shared between Edward Jnr, his father and youngest brother Robert. His sisters Marianne, and Marie did not appear to have to work, being listed in the census simply as farmer’s daughters. His other brother, Joseph, had chosen to work  in the iron business and not on the farm.  In 1855, at the age of forty he decided to leave the farm in his brother’s hands and move to Nottingham.  Although having no obvious understanding of the trade he took charge of the Mapperley Top Brickyard, on his move to Nottingham. In 1866, after some ten years of running the brickyard, he, along with his fellow managers, negotiated for the exclusive local use of the Hoffmans continuous burning kiln. On installation, this resulted in a great increase in the output of bricks. Joining with a Mr Burgess he then formed the Patent Brick Company and oversaw the mechanisation of the processes which resulted in output rising to twenty-seven million bricks a year. These bricks were named Grippers Bricks in honour of Edward Gripper and were used in large scale construction projects including St Pancras Station.

A great believer in civic duty, he was elected to the Basford Local Board where he served with distinction. When the board was incorporated into the Nottingham Borough, he was made an Alderman and became chairman of the water committee.

In 1870, he became a member of the Nottingham School Board, becoming vice-chairman in 1870-73 and was then chairman for thirteen years. Over twenty schools were built during his time on the board and a further five added when the borough expanded. He became Mayor of Nottingham in 1879/81 during which time the University College (destined to become Nottingham Trent University) was opened on Shakespeare Street.

A man of great ability, with a gift for grasping detail, he was inflexible where justice was concerned and had a high sense of public duty. To this end, he devoted six hours a day to his council and other public works.

In 1885, he was the principle sponsor of the Nottingham Suburban Railway which was to service not only his brickworks but provide quick transport from the north-east of the city for the growing population in Mapperley and the surrounding area.

Edward Gripper never married, spending a bachelor life at his house, Ivy Bank at 144 Mansfield Road where he was looked after by his long-term cook housekeeper, Emma Walton and housemaid, Sarah Mulholland.

He died in 1894 at the age of seventy-nine and was buried in the Quaker Friends Burial Ground in Nottingham.


Charles Bell Taylor

Born in Nottingham in 1829, Bell Taylor was an eye surgeon living and working at Beechwood Hall, Mapperley Park. An expert on eye diseases as well as innovatory eye surgery, he had a worldwide reputation and his work is still revered today. He came from a line of medical men, his father, brother and nephews all being veterinary surgeons in Nottingham.

Charles studied medicine at Edinburgh University, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1854. He was appointed surgeon of the Nottingham Eye Infirmary in 1859, and filled that office with great distinction for nearly fifty years .His further studies led to a number of other qualifications, including becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1867. He was also President of the Parisian Medical Society.

As a surgeon he was without a rival at the time being the first to perform a cataract operation without leaving a scar.

He was a very hard worker and his consulting rooms were always crowded. He would conduct a hundred consultations a day together with up to ten operations. He was of a tall, dark and commanding appearance with piercing black eyes and a great individualist. He was however, a very kind man and his great skill was as freely given to the poor as to the rich, and beneath all the peculiarities of the man he was a mixture of real simplicity and kindliness.

Bel Taylor was a lecturer and many of these lectures were reported in the medical journal, The Lancet, during 1884 and 1895. One of the most famous was that on ‘Eye Diseases in General Practice’. These lectures the Lancet reported, ‘were models of simple, clear, and incisive style, and they were further illustrated with careful drawings, made and engraved upon wood and printed.’

He contributed papers to the Medical Times for over thirty years, his last being in 1909. only a month before his death.

His other passion in life was a great love of animals, never tiring of writing against vivisection. The Animals Guardian being his favourite magazine. All his public energy was devoted to this cause, appearing on many platforms during debates and adding expert advice.

He always used a carriage with two white horses which made him very recognisable when on his rounds. These horses were even used to draw his hearse at his funeral.

Charles Bell Taylor died, still at work at Beechwood Hall on the 14th April, 1909, aged eighty years. The British Medical Journal reporting on his death stated that the amount of work he did was enormous:

‘Probably, his abstemious mode of living, combined with his great vitality to produce this result; he never had more than two meals a day, and he abstained altogether from alcohol, tobacco, and even from tea and coffee. Certainly it is given to few men to perform as he did at 80 years of age, the most exacting operations, with a hand as steady as in his prime.’

After his funeral he was cremated and the ashes buried in the Nottingham General Cemetery. To the east of the top chapel, there is a striking monument, having a medallion portrait of Bell Taylor, with, at the foot, a dog in repose.


Dougie Byng

Douglas Coy Byng was the ninth of twelve children. His father, Joseph, who had moved from Middlesex to 11 Victoria Street Nottingham on his promotion around 1880, was a manager of Midland Counties District Bank. Douglas’s father’s further promotion enabled the family to move to Ebers House, Ebers Street, Mapperley around 1890 and it was here that Douglas was born on the 17th March, 1893. He was given the middle name of Coy which was the maiden name of his mother Mary, a former Governess from Spalding in Lincolnshire.

From an early age, Dougie was always dressing up and performing for the family and when aged eight he told his mother that he wanted to be an actor with her replying that ‘I hope dear it will never come to that’. At the age of ten he was sent to Germany to live with his older brother. Joseph Philip Byng who ran a lace factory . Here, he studied German and music but becoming intrigued by his brother’s trade and he then deciding to study fashion and design instead. Returning to England, by 1911, he worked for fashion designer Charles Alias in London. His desire to enter show business had never left him and in 1914 he became a light comedian in a concert party in Hastings. From then on he toured in musical comedy in various roles visiting over a hundred towns. In 1920 he played pantomime for the first time in Aladdin at the London Palladium and in 1924, played Eliza, the Dame, in Dick Whittington. This latter performance was to be the type of role for which he is best remembered.

He designed his own costumes, making the Dame his individual style, with outrageous as well as glamorous creations. This style has become accepted by all the pantomime dames from that time to today. He wrote his own songs described as ‘a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre’ and appeared in cabaret all over the world, commanding one of the highest salaries paid to an artist at that time. During World War Two he travelled with ENSA entertaining the troops . He appeared on the radio throughout the period but his songs were banned by the BBC as too risqué.

With the advent of television he appeared from time to time being noted for his performances in Before the Fringe, a celebration of the cabaret of the 1930s. His greatest love was however, the theatre and this he pursued for the rest of his life. He did appear in one film however Hotel Paradiso, repeating the role he had played in the stage production.

His last performance on stage was at  the National Theatre in a one-man show in 1987 to a sell-out audience. He died on the 24th August, 1987 at the age of ninety-four, having been performing for seventy-six years, the longest and most prolific career of any performer to date.

All articles © Bob Massey