Eastwood is a former coal mining town, eight miles north-west of Nottingham. It was important in the 19th century as a major producer of coal, but the last pit closed in 1985. The majority of the men who lived in Eastwood were coal miners, who could work in the pits from the age of fourteen. It is one of the few places where the distinctive dialect of East Midlands English can still be heard. Today, the town is famous for being the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and his home for the first twenty-three years of his life. As well as author of famous novels such as, ‘Sons and Lovers’, ‘Women in Love’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, he wrote short stories, over one thousand poems and was also a playwright. The town attracts many visitors from all over the world and there is a thriving tourist industry connected with David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930).
The coal mining boom ended in D.H. Lawrence’s childhood, but even in those days there were ten pits within walking distance of his home. Brinsley Colliery, where his father worked, was just outside the town and the site has now been reclaimed as a picnic site and conservation area, but the Colliery Headstocks and winding wheels have been installed to their original site, creating a very evocative scene.
On the town’s pavement, there is a “Blue Line Trail” which visitors can follow, as it connects many of the places in Eastwood associated with Lawrence’s early life. This includes his four family homes and the Durban House Heritage Centre from where, as a boy, D.H. Lawrence often collected his father’s wages from the mine owner, Barber Walker & Co. Durban House is now an exhibition and education centre, where Bert (as he was known) Lawrence’s life can be explored. The town is surrounded by farmland and woods. Half a mile to the west of the town, the River Erewash forms the boundary between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Although Lawrence travelled widely, it was Eastwood that had the most influence on his writings. How he felt about his birthplace varied with his age and mood. Shortly after his mother’s death in 1910, he claimed that he had always disliked the place and in his essay, ‘Nottingham and the Mining Country’, he describes Eastwood’s, ‘ugliness, ugliness, ugliness’, but in 1918, he wrote, ‘Eastwood. For the first time in my life I feel quite amiably towards it. I have always hated it. Now I don’t.’ The mining community that he grew up in, the town and the surrounding landscape, inspired him as an author in his short life. Many of the buildings that Lawrence wrote about have gone, but many remain.
D.H. Lawrence was born at 8a Victoria Street, Eastwood, on 11th September 1885 in this original mining cottage, which is now the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum. Guided tours are provided of his home where he lived until 1887, with his parents, two brothers and sister. In 1887, the family moved to Breach House, 28 Garden Road and remained until 1891. This is an end of terrace house with more space than Victoria Street. Although only six years of age, Lawrence, by the time he left, had absorbed sufficient memories to allow him to use the house as the location for “The Bottoms” in his novel, ‘Sons and Lovers’, when it was published in 1913. In 1891, the family moved upwards socially, to a brand new house, part of a block of six houses, in an elevated position in Walker Street. Lawrence called it “Bleak House” because it was open to the winds, but he loved the view from here across the fields and villages to the hills beyond. Years later, Lawrence, in a letter from abroad, stated, “I lived in that house from the age of 6 to 18, and I know that view better than any in the world … That’s the country of my heart.” Across the road from the houses, were fields known as “the canyons”, which were the source of clay for the Lynncroft Pottery. It is now a conservation area.
In 1905, the family moved again to a semi-detached house on a steep hillside, 97 Lynn Croft Road. This represented social and material improvement. It had a garden and Lawrence was proud of his new home. However, his mother, Lydia, died here in 1910 and having lost his “love of loves”, he became ill and had to give up teaching. Afterwards he supported himself by writing.
The Three Tuns pub was D.H. Lawrence’s father’s favourite pub, where he would drink after working at Brinsley Colliery. In the novel, ‘Sons and Lovers’, Lawrence changed the name to “the Moon and Stars”. There is a building in Scargill Walk which, in Lawrence’s childhood, was the Mechanics Institute, incorporating a lending library much used by Lawrence and his close friend, Jessie Chambers. In the 19th century, in order to accommodate the increasing number of miners, the local colliery company built great quadrangles of houses on the hillside. Princes Street formed the lower edge of a quadrangle and today, gives an indication of how “the squares” may have looked.
The family grave of Lawrence’s parents and brother, Ernest, who died in 1901 at Walker Street, is in Eastwood Cemetery. There is an inscription on the grave to D.H. Lawrence, but he was originally buried in Vence, in France. His wife, Frieda, had his body exhumed and cremated in 1935. The headstone from his grave was donated to the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum in Eastwood, where it is now on display.