I found Hyde Park Cemetery in Doncaster was surrounded by a busy road, houses, flats and light industry. From the road I could see the cemetery but I could not reach it. I had to spin around some roundabouts three times and then dart down a road leading to industrial buildings. Thankfully I saw a narrow entrance to the cemetery. It had taken a while to get here - Doncaster Racecourse was holding a meeting and I’d nudged slowly through heavy traffic overtaken by women in smart frocks and hats and men in suits (two in top hats.)
I was here to look for the bones of William Nuttall, a rich businessman and philanthropist who brought Minto’s to millions of sweet-suckers like myself (also Liquorice Lumps.) I grew up in a shop that bore a respectable array of sweets at low level. Extra Strong Mints were too sharp and Polos lasted fleetingly but Nuttall’s Minto’s were hard and chewy enough to sustain themselves for a while.
I couldn’t find single photograph of William who was a big boy in Doncaster despite him dying in 1934. Nor could I find a potted history of his life or thumbnail sketch of his rags-to-riches story. Like other confectionary kings he’d built up a mammoth company William Nuttal Ltd that was a steaming pumping noisy smelly industry employing hundreds of Doncaster folk. The millions poured inward and William decided to give it away to needy folk.
Like George Cadbury had done William built homes and communal grounds for workers. Spinsters, hospitals, orphanage and, ex-servicemen's organisations also have William (and later his son) to thank for countless benefactions. He set up William Nuttall Trust that purchased land in Bennetthorpe from the council on to build homes for the disadvantaged. Almshouses were erected in 1930, until then the area between Bennetthorpe and the racecourse had been relatively undeveloped.
William died aged 75 and, having already gave millions away, he left £221,000 which equates to about £15 million now. The William Nuttall Cottage Homes development remains relatively unchanged today and continues to have the use for which it was originally intended. Within the conservation area there are no listed structures but all the buildings are considered to be key unlisted buildings.
Later William Nuttall's Limited was taken over by Callard and Bowser who continued to sell the sweets under the Nuttall's name.
I couldn’t find the grave initially as I was looking in the wrong section of the cemetery. Close to the church are the big bold headstones of the wealthy who are jostling for social position even though they’re long gone. I found a non-fussy headstone in a portion of the cemetery that cared less for ostentation. The “N” on the cross was as grand as it got. You would think there’d be a waterproof plastic board summarising Nuttall’s life for people strolling on the nearby path but I saw nothing.
Just before I left the gate I spotted a red wreath on some poor kid (Gunner Clifford Bray) who’d died aged 18 in the Second World War. Life’s only just getting into first gear at 18. Poor kid. I did a hearty salute and put a Coke can that had been discarded on the path into a bin. “Hey you,” an old woman said behind me in a Yorkshire accent, “We want more of you round ‘ere doing that.” I stopped to chat to two old women who had relatives in the cemetery and did their best to keep it tidy. They said I could join “Friends Of Hyde Park Cemetery” but I said I was just a grave-geek from Manchester passing through. A relative had been buried nearby in a certain spot facing a certain way so he could see the pub he’d drank in most days but it had long been demolished.
I spotted the grave of 18-year-old Gunner Clifford Bray who died in the Second world War…
The old Nuttall empire is feeling sorry for itself nowadays…