Ztan Zmith is the pen name of Stan Smith of Brinsley, Chairman of
the Nottingham Writers Club and also Chairman of Basford and District
Local History Society.
Stan has written many articles, short stories and poems which have
been featured in a variety of publications and on Radio Nottingham.
He also writes about fascinating local characters from the past
who lived in extraordinary times which has led to the publication
of four books for the Heritage Press and three books based on his
home village of Brinsley.
Stan is also editor of The Basford Bystander
a by-monthly Community Newspaper devoted to Nostalgia and local
History in and around Basford, Nottingham.
Writer's Work - Pieman
Simple Simon met a Pieman going
to the fair,
Said Simple Simon to the Pieman: "Let me taste your ware. "
Said the Pieman unto Simon: "Show me first your penny. "
Said Simple Simon to the Pieman: "Sir 1 have not any."
Radford in Nottingham had its own Pieman, who may
or may not have met Simple Simon. But, just like that Pieman, he
carried a tray of pies strung round his neck and rang a handbell
to attract customers. His name was Mr. Gaskell.
"Pies. Hot pies," he would cry ringing his bell. "They're
tasty. Buy them while they're hot."
At the onset of every autumn and the start of the cold, wet, wintry
months, street vendors have always done a roaring trade with hot
foods, especially roasted chestnuts, baked potatoes and hot meat
Georgian ladies in sweeping dresses and their menfolk in greatcoats
and mufflers were no different from the common folk. They too developed
a taste for hot, nineteenth century outdoor fast foods. Mr. Gaskell
of Radford, Nottingham, knew how to exploit this. In a few short
years he amassed a considerable fortune from selling penny meat
Using locally butchered meat and flour ground at one of the many
windmills on the Forest, the Penny Pieman couldn't put a foot wrong.
Not only were his pies popular, they were cheap and filling and
just the thing for the housewives to pack up for their men folk
to take down the local pits.
Eventually, the Pieman rang his bell for the last time. Having sold
sufficient pies and saved enough money to build his own house and
he chose to live within sight of the thirteen windmills on the Forest.
Inevitably his house became known as Penny Pie Hall.
Mr. Gaskell, the original Pieman, was a strong character and after
his death a succession of owners lived in Penny Pie Hall in Radford.
Most were unusual to say the least.
One of them, it is said, was often to be seen in his front garden,
enjoying a ride on the back of a pig. His mount meant more to him
as a steed than as a filling for meat pies. No wonder the ghostly
sound of a Pieman's bell was said to be heard on a dark, moonless
Ownership of Penny Pie Hall passed to Alderman Burton, who was very
concerned about the local poor and, at every opportunity, he would
buy as many boots and shoes as he could afford, to distribute to
his less fortunate neighbours. in the winter time.
After his death his executors discovered thousands of pairs of boots
and shoes stored in every room and every nook and cranny of Penny
A later owner divided the house into two flats and each family lived
in 'Half Penny Pie Hall."
At the turn of the century Penny Pie Hall was demolished and it
was said that, at dusk, for many months, there could be heard the
mournful tones of a Pieman's handbell.
The bricks of Penny Pie Hall, however were preserved and were built
into a house on Mapperley Plains in Nottingham. In a sense, Penny
Pie Hall lives on.
So, the next time you stop to buy hot mushy peas or a baked potato
from a street vendor think of Mr. Gaskell, the Penny Pie Man. The
man who serves you your hot, fast food may well be saving for his
own Penny Pie Hall.