When I was a lad, living near the town centre in Ilkeston, the town seemed a busy and vibrant place.
If I tell you that my early childhood was during the Second World War, you will be unsurprised to know that there have been many changes to date.
Buses used to stand on the Market Place, except on Saturday, when it was transformed by a large, bustling market that continued till towards 6pm.
Single-deck trolley buses, always called ‘tracklesses’ after the demise of the trams, ran up and down Bath Street, ferrying shoppers into town from Cotmanhay and Hallam Fields.
In those days there was great variation in the types of shop, many of them small locally owned businesses. Our milk was delivered to the door by churn, carried on a wheeled contraption.
Children could safely play on the side streets, with scarcely a car to be seen. The town’s prosperity was, of course, based on its industries –several pits, Stanton Ironworks, hosiery and clothing manufacturers and a host of smaller businesses. Ilkeston was proudly known as ‘Queen of the Erewash Valley’ and rightly so.
Contrast all that with today; a walk down Bath Street is, in the main, a depressing experience. Many of the shops have gone, leaving decaying and unattractive buildings, seemingly just waiting for demolition.
The reason is not hard to spot; retail habits have changed to ‘out of town’ complexes and supermarkets and all the large industries have long since ceased to be. Like everyone else, I mourn the demise of a prosperous town but the past of my childhood has gone.
Life progresses, sometimes at a startling rate and we find it difficult to adjust to change; but change must be accepted and managed and that’s the key – a complete review of town centres is required.
It is not acceptable merely to let them decay.
Forward looking strategies are needed from town planners and I need to keep my memories where they belong, in the past.