Chapter 1 Men of Trent

When I first conceived the idea of writing a history of Nottingham fishing reels, I came up with what I thought was a great title – Men of Trent. In the 1950s, when I started fishing, I was living at Clifton near Nottingham, and the local pub was called Man of Trent, with the pub sign showing a man sitting on his creel fishing. My book would be called Men of Trent in homage to those who fished the river. Once I started researching the book, I was surprised that all the great Nottingham fishermen had fished less than a mile from the pub. I also discovered a proposed book titled Men of Trent by John Norman. My dilemma was that John Norman had died unexpectedly and never finished his manuscript. However, I decided that I would stick with my title. This chapter will introduce the reader to the book and the background. 

Chapter 2 William Bailey – Hi Heirs, Successors and Disciples

William Bailey had two sons involved in fishing, William and John, but he had started a revolution in the way that people fished and the way that people wrote about fishing. After Bailey, a lack of formal education when writing and describing fishing was sometimes seen as an asset because they “told it like it was.” This chapter will explain how the various local clubs adopted his style, the explosion in club membership and, in particular, the Wellington Angling Society, whose members included Bailey, Coxon, Wallis, and many other notable anglers. Ir will also look at another significant improvement in fishing reel evolution, the optional check mechanism.

Chapter 3 JW Martin – The Trent Otter

John William Martin was born on 8th February 1852 at Donington Lincolnshire, the first child of James and Ann Martin. As a prolific writer of angling books, he is held in high esteem by many traditional fishermen, many longing for a way of life and style of angling that is fast disappearing. It will explore his many arguments and disagreements during his life and reveal the true story of his tragic death.

Chapter 4 Henry Coxon

Henry Coxon, also called Harry, was born on 12th August 1849 in Lenton, Nottingham. Like many in Nottingham, his father, James, was involved in the lace industry. 

Over the years, there have been many words written about Coxon, his occupation, his exploration and the opening of the fishing on the Hampshire Avon; the “guardian of the Nottingham Style and Traditions” and the invention of the Coxon Aerial. However, over the years, some authors have written about Coxon, and they have been entirely wrong, and it will be corrected here. It will explore his explosive and vindictive pursuit of his enemies. It will also reveal the truth about his tragic later life.  

Chapter 5 David Slater

David Slater was one of the most significant figures in the history and development of fishing tackle, with two of his inventions still in use today. He was a renowned angler in aspects of the sport, a shooter, a member of the South Notts Yeomanry Band, a counsellor, and a property developer. He instigated the setting up of the local angling society that prominently promoted and discussed the introduction of the close season with the Fresh Waters Fisheries Act of 1878. He rented water in and around Newark, granted access to other angling clubs, and ran a lamprey fishing operation at Averham Weirs for many years. Above all, he was kind and considerate, regularly making charitable contributions, including Newark’s Bede Houses (Alms). He patented two items of fishing tackle still in use today. 

Chapter 6 William Henry Dingley

William Henry Dingley was born on 16th July 1860 in Coventry, Warwickshire, and there have, over the years, been many words written about him. My intention is not to cover this previously recorded ground in detail but to concentrate on the period he spent working for Slater in Newark on Trent and the effect that this had on his future reel-making.

This chapter will identify the reels he made at Heaton, the skills he took with him to Slater’s, and the reason he left Slater to work for Hardy Brothers, the Dingley reels made for Hardy’s and the centrepins reel he made under his own company.

Chapter 7 Wilkinson & Gurmley

Alfred Rouston Gumsley was apprenticed to David Slater as a fishing reel maker and eventually joined Henry Wilkinson to form Wilkinson and Gumsley. Henry Wilkinson was a wood turner, ideally suited to turn wood for rods and reels. However, in many parts of the country where tackle-making took place, employers left and started on their own, in competition with their former employees. Wilkinson & Gurmley were no different.

Chapter 8 FWK Wallis

Fredrick William Knowles Wallis was born in 1861 and died in 1959, aged ninety-eight, and was undoubtedly the greatest angler of his time. His grandfather was a farmer in Long Eaton on the Nottinghamshire Derbyshire border who sold some of his lands to provide the finance on which the future family fortune was built. Wallis’s father, William, started the lace manufacturing company of William Wallis & Sons, and FWK joined when he left school. It is unknown when Wallis began to fish, but the link between lace workers and fishing is well established. He started fishing at the ponds near Trent railway station close to his home; waters still fished today by Wallis’s last club Long Eaton Victoria.

He was not only an exceptional angler but excelled as a tournament caster and even had a cast named after him- The Wallis Cast.

Chapter 9 William Nightingale

The first time I saw a centre pin reel with nickel silver rims and coins inserted, I was intrigued, thinking it was a well-made reel by an accomplished amateur. Over the years, I saw a couple more; no one could tell me who made them or when, where, or who.

Someone told me they were Victorian as they had silver threepenny bits inserted in them with Victorian dates on them. One day a friend living near Derby called me and asked if I was interested in buying a William Nightingale reel. I told him I had never heard of the maker, and he described it. It was a “coin” reel. I purchased the reel from him and asked him about the maker. He was a well-known Derby angler and reel maker. 

The reel I purchased was inscribed with the owner’s name and W. Nightingale Derby 1925. He had seen other examples over the years and knew of other anglers who had the reels, and despite many attempts, we could not buy any of them to add to my collection. So this will tell the extraordinary story of a man born in Sneinton Nottingham who moved to Derby and the secret he thought he had taken to his grave.

Chapter 10 Aftermath

My grandfather was born in the same street that I was in Sneinton, not far from Pomfret Street, where the idea of the Nottingham Centre was conceived. He was a passionate angler, and weekends were for fishing. It cost him his marriage, and he moved back to Sneinton with his daughters to live with his parents. He continued to fish and shop at Tom Watson’s.

When he remarried, he moved to Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, not far from Stanton Ironworks, and he told me about a man who made Nottingham Centrepin reels at the Ironworks. That man was Harry Reynolds, an engineer who started making reels in 1938.