Thursday, April 27, 2006


I have been speaking to my mother on the subject of the ‘Sons and Lovers’ film and she has provided the following memories, which I hope you will be able to use on your excellent site.

My mother is something of a local authority on D H Lawrence and actually took me down to the filming at Brinsley Colliery, though, being only two at the time, I don’t have any first-hand recollections.

We started talking about contributing these notes when I came across your site whilst surfing the net and, quite bizarrely, the release on DVD of the film was announced within a couple of weeks. I’ve obtained a copy and my Mother has had the opportunity to view it – happy memories.

If you can use the notes, I would be grateful if you could note my mother’s name, Betty Gill, as the contributor as I’m only the e-messenger as it were!

Thanks – and keep up the good work with your most informative site.
Ian Gill

Sons and Lovers notes.

The black and white version of “Sons and Lovers” (filmed in 1959/60) was the perfect medium for the book.

Parts of the film were filmed on location in Nottinghamshire, in the town of Eastwood – D H Lawrence’s birthplace - and Brinsley, a small village a mile or so to North.

The ‘pit accident’ in the film took place at the disused Brinsley Colliery (Ordnance Survey Map Grid reference SK4648). Although the colliery was no longer in use, the headstocks were still in situ. Some 20 years later, the headstocks were actually moved to form part of the exhibits at the Lound Hall Mining Museum near Retford in North Nottinghamshire. They were later brought back to the, by now, landscaped colliery site and re-erected, though in a slightly different location to the original position they occupied when the mine was operational – some 10 metres further North.

Many of the ‘extras’ for the ‘pit accident’ scenes were local people from Brinsley and Eastwood and the village of Underwood – three miles North of Eastwood.

From recollection, I believe the Brinsley Colliery scenes were filmed in or around December 1959 and I went to watch the filming.

Word had got around a few months earlier that filming was to take place and that ‘extras’ would be required. A list of ‘applicants’ was held by the Pit Manager at the Underwood Colliery, which was still operational at the time and ‘intending’ actors had to contact him.

Some members of my immediate family were taken on as ‘extras’. Uncles Wilf and Alec (White), who had both been miners but were now retired, together with Aunt Edna (Jepson) were in the film. Aunt Edna was actually at school with Jessie Chambers who features greatly in the life of DH Lawrence. After the filming had taken place, a photograph of the ‘extras’ was published in the Nottingham Evening Post and Aunt Edna was highlighted. Enquiries were made by the newspaper as to who the ‘extra’ was and a later follow-up article on her picked out her link to Jessie Chambers.

The costumes for the ‘pit disaster’ scenes were held in the Underwood Miners’ Welfare and Institute (still in existence today) and it was, apparently, a bit chaotic getting everyone suitably attired. Once everyone was ‘in costume’ they were taken the couple of miles to the Brinsley Colliery site by coach.

The ‘extras’ were paid £8 a day – which seemed a fortune to the villagers – and filming took place over two days. The ‘extras’ were kept busy as there were numerous ‘takes’ of them running towards pit headstocks.

The scenes where the women are shown running to the pit, having heard the wail of the alarm siren, were filmed in Wellington Street in Eastwood (a street running parallel with Victoria Street, which is where DH Lawrence was born – at No. 8A – and where the Lawrence Birthplace Museum is now situated).

The Nottingham Evening Post of Friday, 24th June 1960 carried the following headline and story;

“City Premiere of Lawrence Film” – Local scenes in “Sons and Lovers.”

On the strength of the visit in December of location cameras, it is likely that bulk of Eastwood and a big slice of Nottingham will go to see “Sons and Lovers”, the 20th Century Fox version of the D H Lawrence story.

Several hundred people saw it last night at The Elite, Nottingham, when the Nottingham Students’ Charity Carnival Committee secured a simultaneous midnight matinee with the London premiere.

The event is expected to raise £400. Among the guests were Mrs. Edna Jepson (74) of Broad Lane, Brinsley, who was one of the Eastwood extras and Mr William Ernest Lawrence, nephew of D H Lawrence.

Mrs Jepson was at school at the same time as Jessie Chambers – believed to have been the inspiration for the character of Miriam in the novel “Sons and Lovers”.

Mr Jepson remembers working in the pit with Lawrence’s father. He recalls a sports day in which he raced against the future novelist. The young Lawrence beat him.

Mr W E Lawrence’s father – now aged 90 and living in New Milton, near Bournemouth – is depicted in the novel as Morell.

“I remember Bert very well,” says Mr Lawrence. “He was an effeminate type, but had a vitriolic tongue with which he used to defend himself against the lads of Eastwood. He loved flowers and the countryside.

His mother was an autocratic sort, snobbish and ruled Eastwood with a rod of iron. But his father, unlike the character in “Sons and Lovers” was one of the finest men who ever walked.”

Directed by ex-cameraman, Jack Cardiff, whose photography is excellent even though his deep focus on the story is not so sure. “Sons and Lovers” opens with a shot of Eastwood overshadowed by the gaunt, clanking wheels of Brinsley Colliery pithead.

Miners coming off shift clatter down the cobbles of Wellington Street (Victoria Street, where the writer was born, was not suitable for filming. Wellington Street had changed so little in half a century that the film men had only to remove the television aerials).

One way and another, the three weeks work in Eastwood and Nottingham amount to something like a couple of minutes screentime. There’s a view of Nottingham, a brief moment of Drury Hill as the young Paul Morell starts work at Jordan’s, the surgical hosiery factory; and the railway arches at the bottom of the hill.

The Suffragette meeting on a ‘typical Nottingham canal bank’ is a film fake – a picture of Nottingham Castle was superimposed on shots of Harefield, Middlesex. But the pit accident rings true; for here the people of Eastwood play themselves. As the disaster siren croaks its warning, they scuttle anxiously out of their houses and hurry to the colliery, huddling in black shawls, hobnails echoing on the cobbles.

The lined faces of Eastwood – full of character, strained with anxiety – form a fleeting but powerful fragment of photography.

Betty Gill

Well, we couldn’t ask for more, thanks Betty and Ian for sharing with us this amazing information.

Best wishes
John Tunstill