Eastwood, surrounded by the beautiful countryside that D.H. Lawrence described as “The country of my heart”, is a charming town. In this week’s literary locations, we visit some of the venues that shaped the mind and matter of one of our greatest writers.
The D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum
“The flat fronted red brick house in Victoria Street”
Founded in 1976 by local enthusiasts, the birthplace museum incorporates its neighbour, 8a Victoria Street, the two-up two-down that was the first of the Lawrence family’s homes. Built around 1850 for miners, the Lawrences lived here between 1883 and 1887. It was the first of their four Eastwood homes, and their fourth child David Herbert Richards Lawrence was born here on 11th September 1885.
In addition to their usual guided tours, the Birthplace Museum is now offering self-guided tours. This begins in a video room with a 10-minute film on Lawrence’s formative years in Eastwood. Then it’s time to explore the building with lots of information and leaflets to help you on your way.
The next room is full of art and artefacts. These include a trunk with D. H. L inscribed on the side. It’s one of the trunks that travelled the world with Lawrence (and his wife Frieda). Lawrence’s sister Ada Clarke donated the trunk to a local scout group in 1948 before it was donated to the museum. The trunk is cited as visual evidence of Lawrence’s “absolute necessity to move”. It was one of four trunks, “one household trunk, one book trunk, F’s and mine…” said Lawrence.
The desk is from Haywood’s Factory where Lawrence “suffered tortures of shyness when, at half past eight, the Factory girls from upstairs trooped past him”.
To one side is a pebbled headstone in Lawrence’s phoenix emblem. This was commissioned by Frieda and stood on Lawrence’s grave until 1935 when she had his body exhumed. Several of Lawrence’s paintings are also on display as is a nice portrait of the writer.
From here the tour moves into 8a Victoria Street and the very room in which Lawrence was born. As a baby he may well have slept in the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers. The second bedroom would have slept his siblings (he was the 4th of 5 children) and there is an attic room.
The kitchen would have been the hub of the house with the front ‘best’ room seldom used. It was Lawrence’s mother Lydia that would have played the piano here. Lydia had received some education herself and didn’t want her children to be “condemned to manual labour”. Lawrence’s father Arthur took a different view; he hated books, “hated the sight of anyone reading or writing”. Sons born in Eastwood in the 1880s were destined for a life down mine and yet none of the five Lawrence offspring ended up as miners or married to one.
The museum is well worth a visit. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and there’s plenty to see.
Whilst in Eastwood you might wish to take the Blue Line Tour of some key Lawrence locations. Here are a few of them:
From Victoria Street the Lawrences moved to a slightly better house, something they did with each house move.
“It was a little less common to live in the Breach”
Lawrence was two years of age when he moved to The Breach (now 28 Garden Road). The Breach is known to readers of Sons and Lovers as ‘The Bottoms’. Lawrence lived here until 1891. As it was an end terrace house it provided some extra space with a porch and relatively large garden. The house had belonged to the colliery owners that Arthur worked for and it cost sixpence (2½ pence) more a week to rent than their former abode.
In 1891 the Lawrences moved to a brand-new rented house on Walker Street, one not belonging to the colliery company. With its elevated position they didn’t have to walk far for the great view Lawrence knew “better than any in the world… That’s the country of my heart”. The houses were known locally as ‘piano row’ due to prosperity of the occupants. It was here that Bert’s (DHL’s) brother Ernest Lawrence died. Lydia transferred her hopes and dreams to Bert after Ernest’s death. The family moved from here in 1905.
The Three Tuns
“Moon and Stars”
This was Arthur Lawrence’s favourite local pub. He would stop in on the way home from Brinsley Colliery. The pub appears in Sons and Lovers as the Moon and Stars and played host to the wakes in the novel.
The Lawrences’ last Eastwood home was on Lynncroft, where they moved in 1905 and stayed until 1911. It was here that Lydia died, leaving the bereft Lawrence without his “love of loves”.
“These offices were quite handsome: a new, red-brick building, almost like a mansion, standing in its own well-kept grounds at the end of Greenhill Road. The waiting room was a hall, a long, bare room paved with blue brick, and having a seat all round, against the wall”
One of Eastwood’s most impressive buildings is Durban House, where Lawrence used to collect his father’s wages. Until 2016 it housed a Lawrence heritage and exhibition centre but it was closed by Broxtowe Borough Council. It became a spa centre but that now seems to have closed leaving the building empty, for now.
Phoenix Snooker was the Mechanics Hall and housed a library used by Lawrence and written about in Sons and Lovers.
Next to Iceland (which is on the site of the former Congregational Chapel (demolished in 1971) where Lawrence first met Jessie Chambers) is The Lady Chatterley Pub inside which are a couple of nice tributes to Lawrence. Not far from here there used to be the British School where Lawrence attended readings and literary society meetings, and taught between 1902 and 1905. “Three years savage teaching of collier lads”.
It may have lost Durban House but with its blue line, fine museum and nods to Lawrence, Eastwood is keeping the Phoenix rising.
We enjoyed our visit to Eastwood and found its residents to be friendly of nature. One such local was Evelyn, a 95-year-old Lawrence fan and active member of the D.H. Lawrence Society. She told me about the society’s regular guest speakers: “These experts know what Lawrence was doing on October 15th 1907 at 6pm but all I really want to know about are the stories,” she said.