The landmark business built by German POWs
MANY thousands of motorists must have stopped for a tank of petrol, or brought their cars for service, at the old Gorse Hill Garage in Plains Road, Mapperley.
The garage closed more than 30 years ago but some of the original building still remains and, certainly for Ian Hastings, the memories live on.
It was Mr Hastings' grandfather Dennis Miles who built and opened the garage just after the Second World War and behind it is a fascinating story of how that generation emerged from the austerity of the post-war years.
Dennis Miles was an inspector of crashed and shot-down aircraft during the war.
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He had to travel round and inspect mainly Avro Lancasters to determine the cause of crash: whether due to enemy action or mechanical error.
With this background and knowledge of mechanical engineering, he decided that his future after the war would be running his own garage. Mr Hastings said: "He chose the site on Plains Road as I assumed it was cheap as the road then was not at all busy, not like today.
"I think it was almost in the middle of nowhere."
Dennis Miles had also chosen a site close to his Wood- thorpe home, convinced that the road would become a busy thoroughfare in the not-too-distant future and provide his business with the passing trade it would need.
However, Dennis Miles' confidence was not shared by potential investors and he could find no one prepared to back his vision.
Undeterred, and with the support of his brother-in-law Bill Allen, he was able to scrape together the funds to get the business started.
"So, and I am not sure how, my grandfather managed to source the materials, bricks and timber, etc, from bomb sites. I assume this must have been something that happened a lot with the waste materials then," said Mr Hastings.
Dennis Miles and his brother-in-law then recruited four German prisoners of war on the strict understanding that he was not allowed to pay them for their labour and, in 1946, this disparate team got the garage built.
"My grandfather did tell me how hard the men worked, how well mannered, respectful and dedicated they were," said Mr Hastings. "He built a relationship with them really.
"When the garage was complete a bus was sent to collect the Germans and take them back to Germany. My grandfather was extremely grateful and he gave them each a packet of cigarettes.
"They were, apparently, overjoyed and, as the bus left, they continued waving and thanking my grandfather. I think that would be the last time he ever saw them and I assume they were never in contact."
From such an unlikely beginning, the Gorse Hill Garage developed into a successful business as Plains Road became ever more busy.
Dennis Miles owned and ran the garage until 1980 when he sold it to Plumtree Mazda and retired, as many Notts people did, to the East Coast. In the time he owned the garage they predominately serviced and repaired cars as well as being a filling station.
"They always supplied Esso petrol and we still have some Esso tea towels," said Mr Hastings.
"My grandfather was also a dealer for Austin and sold cars such as the Mini and the Allegro as well as diversifying into stocking and supplying Howard Cultivators and ride-on lawn mowers.
"They extended the existing building in approximately 1970 to have a showroom for these products.
"I have memories of visiting the garage at weekends and being allowed to play in the showroom and it's amazing what your young mind can make out of a ride-on lawn mower. I know he was a recommended supplier for these and very often showed the latest models at the Newark and Lincolnshire show."
The garage made the news in 1969 when the Evening Post sent a reporter and photographer to capture the story of two blackbirds which had decided to build a nest in the wheel-arch of a car parked at the garage.
At the time, Mr Miles told the Post: "I have heard of nests being built in cars that have been standing for a long time, but never in one that is used every day."
As the success of the business grew Dennis Miles was able to build a handsome house in Egerton Road, Woodthorpe, for himself and wife Doris to raise their family before moving to Sandilands, near Skegness.
Mr Hastings lives just five minutes from the site of his grandfather's garage – and just a few minutes from his mum, Dennis's daughter Pamela Henson.