The character from Nottinghamshire who took his pet badger everywhere – even on the bus!

The sight of a man walking his pet badger using a clothesline as a leash is definitely something you don’t see every day.

Unless you lived in the village of Cropwell Bishop in Nottinghamshire in the 1940s, in which case it was an everyday occurrence!

Well-known character Harry Smith used to walk his pet Brock most of the time – but although the 40-pound beast was a familiar sight, villagers often remained wary.

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The queues used to melt away when Harry shopped; women running from ‘the long rat’ straining at the end of a 30ft leash – which was actually Mrs Smith’s clothesline.

The children often tried to pet Brock, but Harry had seen those jaws break a piece of clothing, so he never let the youngsters get too close.

Harry Smith takes Brock the badger and Mick the greyhound for a walk near his home in Cropwell Bishop, near Nottingham, in 1946. The photograph has been colourised.

Harry, an airplane assembler, tamed the badger after saving it from the steel jaws of a poacher’s trap.

The unlikely couple became inseparable and even made national headlines in 1946, when the Daily Mirror ran a story about the duo’s bus trip to Nottingham.

The article read: “(the badger) was not a dog or a luggage, so the bus driver did not give him a ticket, and all the way to town he slept in Harry’s arms.

“But in Nottingham he did his turn of the queue and his master’s races were over within 20 minutes.”

Badgers usually sleep all day and hunt in the evening, but Brock rests in a barn at night and plays all day.

The animal lived mainly on table scraps, swallowing a few cod heads as a special treat.

Harry Smith takes pet badger Brock for a walk around town
Harry Smith takes pet badger Brock for a walk around town

Brock would never approach the 20 hens in the garden and the worst he ever did at home was steal a plum from a low branch.

But Harry said that on one of his walks, Brock caught a fish on a fisherman’s line and snacked on it.

Dealers routinely offered a high price for the animal thanks to its “anthrax-resistant” coat and valuable hide.

But, of course, Harry would never sell his friend.

A cut of the Daily Mirror article on Harry Smith and Brock the Badger, detailing the duo's adventure in Nottingham in 1946
A cut of the Daily Mirror article on Harry Smith and Brock the Badger, detailing the duo’s adventure in Nottingham in 1946

A local resident remembered Harry well.

She remembers her mother telling her all about Brock the badger.

The villager says Harry was quite the character and was told he once earned the school nickname ‘Rubber’ as he was always ‘rubbery’ in class to see what was going on behind him.

Harry was also very good at monologues and delighted audiences with his recital of ‘The Lion and Albert’ at Cropwell Bishop’s memorial in the 1970s.

Harry Smith of Cropwell Bishop, near Nottingham
Harry Smith of Cropwell Bishop, near Nottingham

Harry was one of six children born to George Shelton Smith and Winifred Smith née Groves.

There was Florrie, George, William, Ethel, Harry and Harold.

Harry lived with his family at number 8 Stockwell Lane.

The family home – Groves Cottage – was built in 1906 for his grandfather and grandmother.

When Harry got married he moved to number 14 Stockwell Lane.

Harry’s brother died in 2021, aged 96.

He was the last of this generation of his family.

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Cotgrave Country Park as it is now

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