Sooty Hall Cottage
The cottage in the photograph taken in the early 1980’s was fortunately not demolished and is now an admirably renovated private dwelling house with the address of 31, Top Road, Griffydam. This building is very important historically, and has a very interesting past. When the lower walls of the property were exposed during renovation work it was observed that the lower courses were constructed of Charnwood granite blocks, probably taken off the fields. It is likely that it would have had a thatched roof initially, before being tiled at some point.
From old lease and release indentures and abstract of title documents, we can prove that this cottage originally dates back to the occupation and ownership of William Dexter in 1720. The chapel and part of the cemetery are also on land once owned by William Dexter.
31 Top Road thought to be Griffydam's oldest surviving building
The house later became 3 cottages with gardens. From what can be ascertained from the various documents, the cottage from 1823 was always rented out by the various owners
James (Sooty) Hall rented one of the two-bedroomed cottages here in the 1880s. He had 7 children: Wilfred, Percy, Raymond, Jack, Grace, Ivy and Annie. All the children were partially deaf like their father. He worked in the coal mines and as a chimney sweep. He was a well-known character who travelled around the nearby villages in his pony and trap.
Three of his sons followed their father’s trade: Percy cared for the pit ponies which were used to haul coal in the local mine and Jack worked on the railways.
In the Diary of Sam Hodges, a Japanese POW from Griffydam, he recalls during his youth playing darts at Mr Hall's (Sooty) with his pals in the winter evenings.
The three daughters moved away when they married. Percy and Jack continued to live here and they bought the cottage in 1965. In 1966 Percy was tragically killed in a road accident on his way home from the Waggon and Horses pub on Rempstone Road. Jack Hall continued to live here until his death in 1980.
THE FOLLOWING IS BASED UPON AN ARTICLE WHICH APPEARED IN A COPY OF THE COALVILLE TIMES AND WRITTEN BY BOB UNDERWOOD WHO WAS THE GREAT GRAND SON OF JAMES HALL
James Hall was born into relative poverty in the 1880’s. Sadly he inherited the burden of deafness that was also to afflict his seven children.
Jimmy, as he was known, was determined to make his way in the world, and worked in the local coal mines. To supplement his income, Jimmy established a flourishing local chimney sweep business around the local area, travelling to his customers in his trusty pony and trap.
The rest of the family, his wife and seven children (four sons and three daughters) rented and lived in the confines of the cottage. Imagine how difficult life would have been. Three of the sons Wilfred, Percy and Raymond followed their father into the local coal mining industry and Percy looked after the pit ponies that were used to haul the tubs of coal.
Bob Underwood relates that come any family gathering, the talk would inevitably turn to reminiscences about long lost childhoods, no doubt forgetting the harsh times and concentrating more on Sunday rides out in the pony and trap. Mention was always made of getting dressed-up in order to attend the Wesleyan Chapel, which was only a stones throw from his cottage, and thereafter, line abreast, the family would be led by James Hall to the Traveller’s Rest, there to imbibe a pre-lunch pint and whatever was appropriate for the ladies.
Apparently, all of the family, apart from Grace, were buried in the Wesleyan Chapel graveyard, although details of only three Halls can currently be found, Presumably others were buried in unmarked graves.
We believe that Jimmy, presumably with his wife, had left the rented Griffydam cottage by the mid 1950’s to live in a thatched cottage in the spinney opposite New Lount Colliery. This modernised property is still there.
Son Jack was employed on the railways. As years passed by, and his father and siblings moved away, Jack found himself and his brother Percy, both bachelors, living together. They were tragically parted when Percy was killed by an errant car driver as he walked from the Waggon & Horses public house in 1966 having purchased the cottage in 1965 which was previously rented. Percy died intestate.
The sisters, Grace, Ivy and Annie had left home to be married but, as was the norm at that time, they did not stray far.
Jack continued to live on in the property but sadly died in 1983. Whilst Jack was alive there was always a water tub outside the front of the property (see photograph of cottage) into which the downpipe from the roof ran, and he always propped his bike up against this. He had chickens in the back garden and a little dog called Bobby. His rhubarb thrived and was delicious in pies as he watered it from his “night bucket”. His sister visited him on occasions. Jack did his own cooking on the iron fire range in the main room which had a solid floor with rag / pegged rugs on it and he possessed a TV. He used to go to Redhall’s Garage at Pegg’s Green and Holmes Butchers in Swannington for his shopping. When he was too infirm to ride his bike, Mr. Holmes used to deliver meat to him.
In the back garden, and still there, a soft water tank was discovered which was covered by a metal plate. Apparently these were found in most village properties in the area.
After Jack died, a yoke was found upstairs which was used to carry water from Griffy Well before mains water was provided in the 1950/60s.
The yoke is now in the possession of Mr and Mrs Mason who live near Griffy Well. Mrs Mason was the granddaughter of James Hall and she relates that her mother used to go down to Griffy Well to fetch water.
A yoke found in the property used to carry water from Griffy Well