Goose Fair: Tickling the Taste Buds

At the Nottingham Goose Fair most people remember the fair for mushy peas, mint sauce, candy floss and of course the rides and beautiful show of lights.


Night Rides More Fun, Goose Fair 2003- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

These next few items are for those who can not “remember”, what they look like.


More Peas Going In, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The mushy pea stall with its smell of a coal fire and peas with mint sauce.


Adding the Mint Sauce, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The only other place I have had mushy peas with mint sauce was, some of you may remember, Central Market while out doing the Saturday shop.


“Dir yow want onions onit mi duck”, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The burgers, hot dogs with onions are one of my faviorite stalls but they seem to have sprung up every where.


Time to Rest, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.


The Tradional Cock on a Stick, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Ray Brooks at his Cocks-on-sticks stall established in 1890, possibly the oldest surviving stall at the fair.

We’re very sorry but the smell of the cooking burgers, Hot dogs, peas, and toffee apples has been removed from this web page as it was driving us nuts!

Original article by Pete Woodward (Broxtowe Hundred) and Paul Nix (Nottingham Hidden History Team) February 2003.

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Beeston: When the Stones Came Rolling In

by Joe Earp

When the Rolling Stones began playing gigs around London in 1962, the notion that a rock & roll band would last five years, let alone fifty, was seen as an impossible notion. After all how long would rock & roll, the latest teenage fad, last for? Other factors made it unlikely that such a momentous occasion would ever come to pass. “I didn’t expect to last until fifty myself, let alone with the Stones,” Keith Richards says with a laugh. “It’s incredible, really. In that sense we’re still living on borrowed time.”

“You have to put yourself back into that time,” Mick Jagger says about those early days when he and Keith and guitarist Brian Jones roomed together and were hustling gigs wherever they could find one. “Popular music wasn’t talked about on any kind of intellectual level. There was no such term as ‘popular culture.’ None of those things existed. Mick Jagger further commented that “suddenly popular music became bigger than it had ever been before. It became an important, perhaps the most important, art form of the period, after not at all being regarded as an art form before.”

Times and attitudes quickly changed, in short, and now over five decades later, the Rolling Stones are celebrating over fifty years in the business. With literally scores of genre-setting hits under the group’s belt — and fronted by two of rock’s biggest archetypes — the Rolling Stones have done more to define the look, attitude and sound of rock & roll than any other band in the genre’s history.

What is the band’s connection with Nottingham and more importantly with Beeston you might ask? Well, the band played just two shows in Nottingham, both during the early sixties. One was at the Odeon Cinema, Angel Row in October 1963. The second gig was at the Albert Hall in March 1964.

It was after the second gig when the band gate crashed a party in Beeston. The setting for the party was a house located in Elm Avenue, Beeston. The house belonged to Joan West, who was also ‘mine host’ for the evening. That night, the drummer Charlie Watts, took the phone call informing them that their single, All Over Now, had reached No. 1 in the US chart.


Elm Avenue, Beeston was the scene of a party in the early 1960s attended by the Rolling Stones- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

Joan who reported to the Nottingham Post in 2003 about the party commented that “”Charlie and Bill were fabulous, two of the most down-to-earth lads. Brian Jones was also there, but he was a bit rude. We ignored him. But kids got in the garden and shinned up the drainpipe to get at the Stones,” she said. At one point, they all fetched their guitars from the tour bus, sat in a circle in my lounge and began singing. I wish I had had a recorder. But no one got drunk, there wasn’t enough beer!”

Imagine the scene on Elm Avenue when the Stones soon got into the ‘swing of the party’. News of the bands presence soon spread and local fans were quickly descending on the house. The local police soon got wind of the Stones attendance and had to close Elm Avenue. The party was apparently a “very good one” and lasted into the early hours of the morning.

Years later the Stones can still remember the night. Wyman remembered the party, telling EG in 2002: “I met a girl there who was like a girlfriend on and off for two or three years.” Wyman himself has Nottingham connections, being a child evacuee during the Second World War. He was evacuated to Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire where he spent some time there. He later commented that he still has a soft spot for the area.

So next time you walk down Elm Avenue remember that the road is not just another piece of suburban Beeston. But it was once a venue for a party to the Rolling Stones.


Elm Avenue, Beeson, c 2010, not just another piece of suburban Beeston- Photo Credit: Geograph.

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Rev. George Oliver and Nottingham’s Druid Temple

by Frank E Earp

This is the story of one man’s efforts to preserve what he thought to be an important part of Nottingham’s history and something he considered a ‘National Treasure’. It is also the story of the clash of two men’s ambitions, – the Rev. George Oliver and Edwin Patchitt.

Nottingham is a City founded upon a system of ancient, fabricated sandstone caves. Beneath many of its streets are a veritable labyrinth of passages that if put together would stretch for many mile. There are three main groups of caves, which if marked on a map, form an isosceles triangle, with sides of around 3 miles. To the south west are the caves known variously as ‘Lenton Hermitage’ or the ‘Papish Holes’, – to the south east ‘Sneinton Hermitage, – to the north are the caves of Rock Cemetery, part of which was once known as ‘Robin Hood’s Cave or Stables’. The heart of the City of Nottingham lies within this triangle of caves, none of which are natural. It is the caves of Rock Cemetery, which concerns this article.

Having set the scene of the action our story starts with the Nottingham Enclosure Act of 1845. In order to compensate for the loss of open space created by this act, the City Council set aside over 130 acres of land for public parks and amenities.

By 1850, the population of the City had grown and along with the need for new housing came the need for other services, one of which was the provision of new burial grounds. Plans were drawn up for a new cemetery to be built on some of the land set aside in 1845. The new burial ground was to be called Church Cemetery and plans included catacombs cut into the natural rock and a large new church which would have rivalled anything in the City.

The land chosen for the new enterprise, – described as,”….a bare and barren hill,” – was part of a sandy ridge running roughly east-west. Here, the ancient north-south road out of the City, – now the A60, Mansfield Road, – traverses the ridge before entering the old Sherwood Forest. Known as Gallows Hill, the summit was the place of public executions until 1827. The original site of the gallows, which were moved to the steps of the Shire Hall, was just in-front of the Cemetery gates.


The view is taken from the top of the Mansfield Road looking into Nottingham, c early 1800s. The scrap of land which can be seen to the right of the image would be the site used for Edwin Patchitt’s Church Cemetery- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The Cemetery, – on the western side of the road, – now covers more than half of the northern slope of the ridge and overlooks the Forest Recreation Ground, which was developed around the same time from the land covered by the old Nottingham Race Course.

The Cemetery Company,’ composed of local business men, was set up to oversee the building work and facilitate its future operation. The Clerk to the Company, – solicitor and future mayor of Nottingham, – Edwin Patchitt, own a vast track of land, – known as Patchitt’s Park, – on the opposite side of the road. Whilst the Cemetery was under construction, he began to develop this land, building large ‘villas’ and fashionable houses for the wealthy middle class.

Money for the project began to run out and the over-ambitious plans were cutback. The church was never built and the burial ground became known as Rock Cemetery, from the bare sandstone rock into which part of it is cut. The Cemetery was still incomplete when it was opened in 1856.

The site was not completely the ‘bare and naked hill’ described. At the foot of the hill was a large cavern known as Robin Hood’s Cave or Stable. Tradition has it that this was used by Robin and his outlaw band to hide in and stable their horses. It was from this base that Robin is said to have rescued Will Stutly from the nearby gallows. The area had been used for rope making and there were a few rough buildings on the side of the hill and some small caves, one of which was being used to keep chickens in.


‘Robin Hood’s Cave or Stables located within the site of the Church (Rock) Cemetery- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

As excavation work began around a shallow depression or valley cut into the hill, a number of curious features began to be uncovered from under the layers of accumulated sand. Watching events was the Rev. George Oliver. As more and more oddities began to emerge, Oliver though he saw evidence of a recognisable structure, something he was to later call a ‘Druid Temple’.

It is hard to imagine that a ‘man of the cloth’ like Rev. Oliver might object to the building of Nottingham’s fine new church and cemetery on what amounted to wasteland beyond the City limits. Oliver did not object to the work as a whole, but to the possible destruction it might cause to caves and other strange feature close to the Mansfield Rd.

He believed these to be, ‘….a dilapidated structure of an age approximating on 3,000 years. Between 1858 and 1859, Oliver addressed his concerns in a series of seven of ‘open letters’ to Patchitt, – who by this time had become Lord Mayor of Nottingham, on office to which he served two conservative terms. These letter were published a book entitled; ‘Shadows Departed.’ A Few Conjectures on the British Antiquities in Nottingham and Vicinity.

This was by no means the first time Oliver had written on such a subject. In 1846 he published his letter addressed to Baronet Sir Edward Bromhead – prominent land owner and mathematician, – under the title of; ‘The Existing Remain of the Ancient Britons within a small district lying between Lincoln and Sleaford.’

Before going on to describe just what Oliver believed he had discovered it is important that we take a look at the man himself and establish his credentials on the subject.

Rev. George Oliver is described as; “….one of the most distinguished and learned of English Freemasons….” Oliver was born in the Nottinghamshire village of Paplewick in 1782. He was the eldest son of Samuel Oliver – rector of Lambley- and his wife Elizabeth. Like his father the young George Oliver was destined for the Church. After receiving what is described as a ‘liberal education’ he became a Deacon in 1813 and was ordained in 1815, taking the post of Chaplin to the Bishop of Lincoln.


The Reverend George Oliver- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Oliver’s approach to his calling was always a scholarly one. At the age of 54, in 1836 he became a Doctor of Divinity. But Oliver’s passions were not only for the Church. He inherited from his father a love of Freemasonry and went on to become one of the foremost Masonic writers. His list of publications are to numerous and involved to cover here. It is important to mention that Oliver’s Masonic interest lay in Masonic History and a subject known as ‘Mystic Masonry’.

Much of Oliver’s work involves what Freemason call the Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity. Freemasons believe that rituals and doctrine are subject to the divine influence of a single God and consider this to be True Freemasonry. In an ancient passed, Noah reviled the secrets of Freemasonry to the pagans who corrupted it to a less pure form. Oliver believed that the Druids where practitioners of Spurious Freemasonry.

It is to be remembered that Oliver was a Victorian antiquarian and his understanding was limited to the knowledge of the age. At this time, the archaeological practice of dividing the past into separate periods, – Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age etc. – had not been established. Victorian antiquarians considered that before the Romans arrived in Britain there had been but a single culture, which the referred to as the Ancient British.

. At the time of the first Roman conquest of 55 B.C. Britain, – along with most of Continental Europe, – was populated by a Celtic people. This period in history is now known as the Iron Age. Julius Caesar and others describe the priesthood of the Celts as being Druids. As Victorian antiquarians like Oliver took much of their information on earlier periods from Roman writers any ancient site considered being ritual, must have been built by the Druid.

We can see now Oliver’s confusion. His considered 3,000 year old site should be placed in the late Bronze Age and therefore would have had nothing to do with the Iron Age Druids.

Despite the fact that the land was virtually waste ground, clearing it proved no easy task. Particularly difficult was a small plot of land at the eastern end by the road. Here was the old rope-walk, – a rope making site, – a few tumbled-down buildings and a number of small caves. These were set in a shallow depression in the ground which ran parallel to the road, north-south up the hill.

Old Ropewalk Foot of Gallows Hill by Thomas Moore 1848

This painting by Thomas Moore circa 1848, shows what the area known as the ‘Ropewalk’ looked like before the cemetery was created. Note the many windmills which occupied the site- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Thousands of tons of sand were slowly remove from the hollow, revealing that it was no minor scar on the landscape but a ‘man-made’ feature. Running north south, parallel to the road on its eastern side, – a deep rectangular ‘quarry’ like trench emerged. At its southern end, – the steepest part of the hill, – the walls of this enclosure which are over 40’ in height, – form a semicircle.

It is worth saying here that this form of ‘excavation’ allowed the builders maximum access to a sheer cliff face, in a minimal space. Certainly, the builders had taken advantage of this fact and the three sides of the enclosure, – which is naturally open to the north, – are lined with caves.

The deepest of these caves are at the southern end, – what Oliver refers to as the ‘Head of the Temple’. On the western side is the original Robin Hood’s Cave, the mouth of which has several entrances. These lead to a complex of tunnels, – which are on two levels, – some of which run over a mile under the City and connect with the caves in the Park, known as The Papish Holes.


Inside Robin Hood’s Cave, which Oliver suggested made up the western side of ‘the druid temple’- Photo Credit: Geograph.

My own maternal grandfather lived in a house on Raleigh Street, Radford to the west of the cemetery caves. A short flight of stairs in the cellar of the house led to a cave tunnel which in-turn led into a network of further tunnels. Exploring these tunnels my grandfather found that they emerged in both the cemetery and cellars under the houses of the Park. For obvious reasons my grandfather kept these tunnels a close family secret.

It is possible to write a whole book on the subject of Robin Hood’s Cave. There is a story that a group of Victorian gentlemen exploring the complex of tunnels became lost and did not find the exit for several days. Within the complex are a group of caves with wall painted to resemble a church or chapel. Such is the skill of the artist, depicted are the effect of light shining through a window onto an alter complete with cross. Found elsewhere in this group of caves were carved niches in the walls containing human remains and a complete ornamental tomb.

The caves on the eastern side of the enclosure were found to be roofless, but their mouths still recognisable as magnificent arches. One of these tunnels, at the northern end, – once passed under the Mansfield Road, emerging in a cave on the other side in Patchitt’s Park. This cave is described by Oliver as being, ‘….a spacious cavern capable of holding over two hundred people.’ When work started on building the houses in the Park, 160 skeletons were found buried just yards from the mouth of this cave.

Down the centre of the enclosure a ‘serpentine path’ had been cut deep into the ground. At the northern end this divides into two, each branch terminating at the cave mouths. On the eastern side of the path at the southern end are the broken remains of yet more caves. Such is the appearance of the enclosure it has led several writers on the subject to suggest that the whole was roofed over forming one vast cavern.


The cave entrance to what Oliver described as ‘the serpentine path’- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Many of the features of Oliver’s supposed Druid Temple, – including the caves, – were incorporated into the new cemetery and can still be seen today. These are all to be found within the enclosed area, – the ‘Temple,’ – bounded by the sheer cliff faces from which the Rock Cemetery now takes its name.


A rare picture postcard showing the many rock features which Oliver described as being part of a ancient druid temple- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Oliver gives the dimensions of his Temple, – enclosure, – as being 140 yards in length with the semi-circular end as 35 yards in diameter. The floor of this area is now filled to capacity with graves, but amongst these can be found the details of Oliver’s temple. Descending into the enclosed space from the main gates is the Victorian path. However, the central path between the graves is Oliver’s original ‘serpentine path’.

Ignoring the graves, the path is lined on either side by 30 pits cut into the rock floor, which are described by Oliver as ‘holy water tanks’. These are generally rectangular in shape and vary in depth from 6’’ to 1’. It has been suggested that these were created as part of a medieval bleaching, dyeing or tanning works. However, all three of these industries require a constant supply of water, – in the case of bleaching, running water, – and adequate drainage. Both of these are missing from the cemetery site. Further, the containers or tanks used in these three processes are usually of uniformed depth. Comparing the medieval tannery in the Broadmarsh Caves it can be seen that these ‘tanks’ are clearly not for this purpose.

Within the semi-circular enclosure at the northern end, – Oliver’s ‘Head of the Temple’ are number of curious features. At the centre of the semi-circle, is a large stone ‘table’ with a rectangular shallow pit at its foot. Behind this is a neatly cut stone pillar which appears to have once been considerably taller. The top of this pillar is a semi-circular notch, giving the whole a forked appearance. If the pillar was indeed taller than it now is, this notch would be half of an oval hole cut through it. Oliver describes these as; The Alter, and the Tolmen, – holed stone.

Perhaps the most curious find, – which has now disappeared, having been broken-up by the cemetery workmen, – was what Oliver describes as a ‘Rocking Stone’. Rocking Stones are natural geological features, where erosion has caused a large boulder to be perfectly balanced on the surface of the ground. These boulders can be ‘rocked’ by the slightest of touch, but not toppled. Oliver states that the workmen had great fun with this stone, but found that they needed considerable effort to overturn it.

On the eastern side of the southern end of the enclosure, are the broken and uncovered remains of what appear to be yet more caves. Oliver declares these to be the ‘Archdruids Private Cell’ along with the remains of a dolmen, – a Neolithic chamber tomb, formed by three upright stones and a horizontal capping stone.


This is just one of the many strangely shaped features which Oliver described as being part of the temple. Many of the sandstone rock features can still be seen today scattered around the cemetery site.- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Along with a description of his Druid Temple, Oliver makes great effort to place it into the surrounding landscape. He declares that the site is at the apex of an isosceles triangle with sides of over a mile and a quarter. The base of this triangle is formed by the line between the caves of the Parish Holes to the west and Sneinton Hermitage to the east. These three cave systems do in fact form a triangle although a modern satellite map shows that it is not a perfect isosceles.

It is unfortunate that Oliver was unable to support his hypothesis with datable artefacts. However, when describing the triangle of caves he refers to a large hoard of Bronze Age axe heads, spear tips swords and daggers found by workmen, in Great Freeman Street, close to its junction with St. Ann’s Well Road. The site of this discovery is stated as being on an ‘eminence halfway along the line between the Temple and Sneinton Hermitage. Oliver notes that amongst this hoard of ‘war like implements’, were bronze tubes, – one of which was over 9’’ long. These he suggests were the ends of a staff of office used by a Druid Priest.

It has been suggested that the Druid Temple is the nothing more than a medieval bleach works and the caves the product of sand mining. Having described the enclosure and the vast complex of caverns, I will leave the reader to make their own decision as to whether this is the case.

Just a final twist to the tale. It is a strange coincidence or a deliberate choice that Edwin Patchitt, the man who designed the cemetery and who was mainly responsible for it in its early days, chose his family tomb to be located in what Geroge Oliver described as  being the  ‘Archdruids Private Cell’?

Edwin Patchitt was the man who designed the Rock Cemetery. He and his family are buried in quite an elaborate family plot. The location of the tomb is exactly positioned in what Oliver described as being the ‘arch druid’s cell’- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Posted in Nottingham Caves, Nottinghamshire Folklore | Leave a comment

St. James’s Street: A Great Medieval Thoroughfare

by Frank E Earp

A few weeks ago I visited Lincoln and took a guided walk through its ancient castle. Whilst on the castle walls I was impressed by the view across the roof tops of the city laid out between the castle and the cathedral. The crooked roof lines indicated timber-framed buildings masquerading beneath a shell of red brick as something more modern and their jumbled arrangement suggests a medieval town plan. I began to mentally compare the equivalent view from the walls of Nottingham Castle across the part of the city that would have been the old Norman town. The contrast is startling, for in Nottingham we have modern shops and officers, – many high-rise, – lining busy city streets. Gone is the original medieval town plan. Or has it? Dig a little deeper and we will find more than meets the naked eye.

The First Castle: The origins of both Lincoln and Nottingham castles and their accompanying towns are strikingly similar. Both castles began life as Norman ‘mote and baily’ castles on strategic sites, built William Peverel on the orders of his father William the Conqueror around the year 1068. Both were set to dominate existing settlements; Lincoln, a Viking commercial and trading settlement and Nottingham, a Saxon Borough on a neighbouring hill around the Lace Market. The Normans were super-efficient at building these timber and earth castles to a standard design adapted to fit the chosen site. Many of these supposed temporary structures lasted hundreds of year before the most important castles were rebuilt in stone, which in the case of Nottingham Castle, was over 60 years later in the reign of Henry II. By this time a whole new Norman town had grown up with streets stretching north-east from the castle gates to the open space of the market which separated it from the old Saxon Borough. This market was to grow into one of the largest in the country. John Leland (Leyland), writing in the reign of Henry VIII, describes the market as; “….the Fairest without exception in all England.”

Norman Town: To create their new town, the Normans first established a number of parallel lanes linking the castle to the open space of the market. On the castle side, these ran at right angles from the ancient earthwork known as the ‘Hollows’, – which by this time had become a sunken road, – now part of Castle Road. This arrangement formed a grid pattern with roughly rectangular building plots of land between the lanes. By far the largest plot of land within the Norman town was that enclosed by St. James Street and Friar Lane which form its two long sides and The Hollows – now Castle Road and Beast Market Hill, – now Angel Row/Wheeler Gate, which formed the two short sides. As commercial properties and private houses began to be built on these vacant plots, a network of interconnecting alleys, side roads and yards grew up to form the new town.

Although not now recognisable on the ground, the Norman layout is still visible on a modern street plan of the City and the original lanes may still be walked; Mount Street, St, James Street, Friar Lane, Hounds Gate and Castle Gate. Only one of the five original Norman lanes retains its earliest name. Now St. James Street, from its creation to the present day, this road has been known by many variants of the same name: ‘Seynt Jame Lane’, ‘Seynt Jamgate’, ‘Sent Jacobs Lane’ and ‘Vicus Sancti Jacobi’. There is good reason for this to be the case. When the Normans first laid-out their new town, the land between the Castle and the market was not entirely empty. On a site now occupied by Bromely House Library, stood two buildings which played an important role in both the development of the area and indeed, Nottingham as a city. These were a Saxon manor house known as The Red Hall and its attendant private chapel dedicated to St. James. It wasn’t long before those using the new road closest too and leading past the chapel called it ‘Seynt Jame Lane’ (St. James Lane).


Part of John Speed’s map of Nottingham, 1610.


Typical Norman Mote and Baily Castle

It was not military considerations alone which prompted England’s new king, – Duke William of Normandy, – to choose Nottingham for the site of a castle and new Norman town. By the year of the Conquest (1066) the little settlement of Snot’s, people, – ‘Snotingaham’, had grown into a thriving Saxon Borough, with an estimated population of 600 to 800 person. It had become an important ‘shire-town’ on the edge of a Royal forest with its own parish church, – St. Mary’s, – and a place that even minted its own coins. Leaving aside the importance and value of the Royal forest, Snotingaham, at this time returned annual tax revenue to the Crown of 75s. 7d. (£3. 15s. 7d.) with an additional 40s. (£2) from the two ‘moneyers’ (coin makers). To the west of Snotingaham was the manor and lands held for the Crown by the Saxon nobleman Earl Tostig. This manor contributed a further 3d. to the annual tax of the Borough, of which the King had 2d. and the Earl 1d.

A Saxon Manor: It is extremely likely that the Saxon great house known as the Red Hall, (mentioned in the first part of this article), was Tostig’s home. Like the lands and estates of every Saxon noble, Tostig’s manor had been forfeit at the time of the Conquest and was now in the hands of William Peverel. The convenience of having a manor house and chapel so close to the site of the castle was not overlooked by the Norman’s and the Red Hall was used by Peverel as both a dwelling and administration centre whilst the castle was under construction. Bounded on both sides by two of the new Norman lanes the Red Hall and the little chapel of St. James became the first significant buildings in the developing Norman town. The Domesday Book of 1086 records that Hugh Fitz Baldric had built 13 houses in the new township after he had taken the office of High Shire-Reeve (Sheriff) of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests in 1069.

The Chapel of St. James: Second only to the parish church of St Mary’s, the private manorial-chapel of St. James was the oldest Christian place of worship in Nottingham. There is evidence to show that the land around the chapel was still being used by inhabitants of the manor as a burial ground when the Normans ceased the property.

As time passed, a suitable residence and chapel were constructed within the confines of the castle wall and Red Hall was abandoned, slowly to decay into the pages of history. St. James chapel however survived and for a time became a ‘moot-hall’, – a kind of court-house, – of the Honour of Peverel. The various estates and manors own by feudal lords like Peverel, – who at this time held around 150 villages in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, – were collectively known as an Honour. Courts to settle legal disputes and disagreements between creditors and debtors and those seeking damages for trespass, were held in buildings known as moot halls.

St. James Chapel, which now became known as the Moothall, was accessible from both parallel lanes on either side. Having already given a name, ‘Seynt Jame Lane’ to the lane on the western side, that on the eastern side, (what is now Friar Lane), became known as ‘Moothall Gate’. The same building thus gave names to two of Nottingham’s streets. As a chapel it also gave its name to one of the City’s Wards, ‘Chapel Ward’, and to one of the gates in the medieval town walls, ‘Chapel Bar’.

Sometime between 1102 and 1108 William Peverel founded a Priory of the Cluniac Order in Lenton. The Moothall was given to the Prior and monks of Lenton and returned to its duties as a chapel and place of worship.

A reference to ‘the chapel of Nottingham’ in 1130-31 may well refer to St. James rather than the chapel within the Castle. The first reference to the chapel by name comes from documents of 1265-6, relating to ‘a certain chaplain at St. James’s outside the Castle’ who was given an annual stipend of 50s.


Typical (wooden) Saxon Hall and (stone) Chapel.

As villages and towns expanded and the need for new parish churches arose, it was customary wherever possible for private manorial chapels to receive parochial status. This does not appear to have been the case with the chapel of St. James. It would seem that when a new parish church was needed, St. James may not have been the only suitable chapel within the area. The foundation deeds of Lenton show that St. James was one of three private chapels given to the Priory along with the already established parish church of St. Marys; St. Nicholas and St. Peters being the other two. It was St. Nicholas on Castle Gate which was to become the first ‘new’ parish church in the mid-12th century, followed a few years later by St. Peters on Hounds Gate /St. Peters’ Street. This clearly demonstrates how rapidly the Norman town expanded.

The reason why St. James never developed into a parish church may be considered as both practical and political. Although it is referred to as a chapel with its own chaplain in 1265-6, the building continued to be used as a courthouse for the Peverel Court until 1328

The coming of the ‘White Friars’: In 1272 a small group of Carmelite Friars, – also known as White Friars from the colour of their habit, – acquired a plot of land to establish a new Friary between St. James Lane and Moothall Gate. They also acquired a row of houses which bounded their property to the north along the side of Beast Market Hill. The Friary itself was a modest group of buildings for the Carmelites were an order bound to a vow of poverty and relying on begging and charity for a living. Very quickly after the establishment of the Friary, Moothall Gate became known as Friar Lane, – a name by which it is still known today. The Friars where to remain on this site for the next 250 years.

Having acquired this valuable central plot of land the Friars were presented with a problem, part of the site was already occupied by a building they did not own. Documents of the time state that they; ‘found their way barred by the decayed chapel of St. James’. For the next 44 years there followed a protracted ‘battle’ between the White Friars and the monks of Lenton for ownership of the chapel. In 1308 the Friars received permission from the Archbishop of York to dedicate an alter to the Virgin Mary, but this is likely to have been in one of their own buildings and not within the chapel.

Finally in 1316, King Edward II signed a deed which transferred to the Friary; ‘a certain plot of land, with the Chapel of St. James on the same plot, in the town of Nottingham, which he, (the King) had of the gift and grant of the Prior and Convent of Lenton, and a little lane leading to the chapel aforesaid, which chapel and lane adjoin the house of the said Prior and brethren’. However, having acquired the chapel, the Friars were still had the problem of the Peverel Court. Although with the deed of transfer, the Court had been moved to the county hall, someone had neglected to tell the kings bailiffs who were still trying to access the site some 12 years later. In 1328 we find record that the bailiffs had made the complaint that the Friars had; ‘enclosed the said chapel with a wall within their house, and so they impede the king’s bailiffs of the aforesaid fee, so that they cannot hold court in the aforesaid place’. The dispute was settled and the Friars were at last discharged of any duties relating to the court. This is the last time that the ancient chapel is called by the name of St. James, although the original Norman road continued to be referred to as St. James Lane or one of its many variants. From this time on the chapel becomes known as the Church of the Friary.


Carmelite Friar in distinctive brown and white habit.

By the 12th century, Nottingham Castle had been completely rebuilt in stone and had become one of the finest royal residences and strongest fortresses in the Country. No wonder then it was the favourite residence of successive monarchs through to its destruction in the Civil War.

As the Castle grew and prospered, so did the new town at its foot. The little chapel of St. James, now the Church of the Friary, continued to play its role in the town’s life. It is extremely likely that the chapel played host to royalty from the time of the Conqueror himself. Records show that in August 1511, whilst staying at the Castle, Henry VIII attended divine service at the ‘Friar’s Church’ on three successive Sundays. Ordinary people too used the chapel and not always for the right reason. In 1393 we find that a man by the name of Henry de Whitley sought sanctuary from the law in the church after murdering his wife. The good Friars; ‘kept (him) to the church and (he) could not be taken.’ The will of Henry Fischer published in 1467 includes the request that he be buried; ‘In the church of the Friars Carmelite before the alter of St. Anne’.

Not all was peace and harmony in the Carmelite Friary. In 1441, a stone mason appropriately named John Mason, sued the White Friars for 2s 6d (half-a-crown); ‘….which the aforesaid prior owes and unjustly dertained from him, to wit, for his labour working on a stone wall’. Although the court ordered an inquiry, we do not know its outcome and weather John Mason received his money. In 1515 records show a reported attempted murder at the Friary. Seventeen years later in 1532 an actual murder took place, when the prior, Richard Sherwood, struck and killed one of his ‘brothers’ after a drunken quarrel.

The dispute between the Carmelite Friars and the monks of Lenton which had begun with the quarrel over the chapel seems to have rumbled on into the 16th century. At about the same time as Henry VIII visit, Dan Elingham, – ‘….a monke of Lenton, of St. Benedict’s order’, – was also visiting the Friary. He was dismayed to see a picture depicting John the Baptist dressed in Carmelite habit. In protest he wrote an open letter in Latin verse addressing the saint himself which began with the line; ‘Christa Baptist, this vesture does not become thee, he that clothed thee as a friar hath departed accursed’. An unknown White Friar replies in the same vain in a supposed answer from the Baptist, beginning with the line; ‘Elingham, thou liest, in metres both foolish and wonderful’. Concluding with the line; ‘I am a Carmelite by merit, but thou a Gehazite and false brother of Benedict, non benedictus, (not blessed)’.

After playing its part in the daily life of Nottingham for nearly 250 years, the end came for the Carmelite Friary on 5th February 1539 when the Friary and church were surrendered to the King’s Commissioners at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. By this time out of a thriving community, only the prior and six brothers remained in residence. With the friars gone, the abandoned ancient chapel and other friary building quickly fell into disrepair, a proses which was speeded up by the fact that the site was regularly plundered for stone and other building material. But this was not the end. The memory of the White Friars and the ancient chapel of St. James continued in the names of the adjoining roads, Friar Lane and St. James Street and the site of the friary, as we shall see, was reborn in a different guises.

Grey Friars: The White Friars were not the only friars to be seen within the town of Nottingham. Around 1230, shortly after their foundation Franciscan Friars, known as Grey Friars, acquired land on the south western edge of the Norman town. The area between Grey Friar Gate and Cannel Street is now occupied by the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The friary was originally built almost entirely of timber including oaks from Sherwood Forest, donated by King Henry III. The Friary church must have been a substantial building as records show the King donated 20 tiebeams for the construction of its roof. Around 1256, the church was rebuilt in stone taken from the Kings quarry in Nottingham. The nave and body of the church was completed in 1303, whilst the isles or side chapels were consecrated in 1310. The Grey Friars remained in Nottingham until 1539 when, just two days after the White Friars, the Warden (Prior) and seven friars surrendered the Friary surrendered to the King’s Commissioners


Franciscan Friar also known as a Grey Friars.

So far in this article we have seen how St. James Street developed from one of the original lanes of the new Norman town which grew-up in the shadow of the developing Nottingham Castle. We have also seen how, as a new road, its importance as one of the town’s main thoroughfares was guaranteed by two existing buildings, The Red Hall and the Chapel of St. James, – from which the street takes its name.

Medieval Thoroughfare: What of the street itself and the more humble commercial and private properties which lined its flanks? The Borough Records show that St. James Street developed in much the same way as any other medieval street Europe. Such streets were typified by half-timbered houses and tenements, (shops or business premises with second story accommodation above).

A network of yards, alleyways and passages connecting the original Norman lanes would have quickly developed. One such alley which became particularly notorious was Thoroughfare Yard, which connected St. James Street to the Market Square. This original passage survived well into the 1930’s.

The earliest reference to St. James Street by name comes from the Borough Records of 1315 and refers to a ‘messuage’ (a domestic dwelling and out buildings): ‘….in Vico Santi Jacobi next (to) the lane which leads towards the Berewordlane’. Berewordlane, now Mount Street, was another of the original Norman lanes. An entry in the Records for the year 1394 provides us with the name of one of St. James Street’s residence, John de Tannesley who acquired a tenement: ‘….in the direction of the Friars Carmelite on the eastern side (of the street) and the Redhall, on the western side’. We do not know what kind of business enterprise John operated from his tenement on St. James Street, but it must have been successful. We find that 16 years later, in 1410, the name John de Tannesley listed as Lord Mayor of Nottingham. A third reference in the Records of 1463 tells us of a grant of three cottages: ‘….lying together with gardens adjoining in Seynt Jamelane on the eastern side.’

With no proper sanitation the fact that overcrowded medieval streets could be dirty smelly places is attested too in our next reference. The Mickleton Jury of 1395 received a complaint that: ‘John de Blythe, fleshewer (butcher), blocks up Seynt Jame Lane with blood, entrails and issues, to the serious detriment of all the people passing’. Water supply for the residence and their domestic animals would have been supplied by both community and private wells of which there are around 300 listed in the town by the year 1700.

Dorothy Vernon’s House: As well as the half-timbered buildings there were more substantial stone buildings in St. James Street which were occupied by some of the towns more prominent citizens. By 1572, the Carmelite Friary lay in ruins and only the knave wall of St. James Chapel remained. However, the site, – known as Friar Yard, – appears to have remained undeveloped, for we find that in that year Sir John Manners (second son of Thomas Manners the 1st. Earl of Rutland), acquired the site together with an adjoining orchard and pastures. Incorporating the ruins Sir John built a substantial two storey ‘town house’. This house appears to have been somewhat unusual in that access to the second floor was via a spiral staircase in the outside front wall. Sir John’s wife was Dorothy Vernon daughter of Sir George Vernon of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire and the house quickly became known as Dorothy Vernon’s House. The story of Sir John Manners and his wife Dorothy Vernon is one for another article.

We have now concluded our brief history of St. James Street, from its Norman beginnings through to the end of the medieval period. However, the story does not end there. The streets role in the history and development of the City of Nottingham down to the present day will be the subject of a future article.


The Sevens Building.. A typical medieval house.

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A Brief History of Beeston Church- St John the Baptist

by Joe Earp

At the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066, the then village of Beeston had three Saxon Manors belonging to Alfag, Alwine and Ulchel. By 1086 these had passed to the Lordship of William Peverel. Although there is no mention of a church in Beeston at the time of the Domesday – 1086, – it is likely that one existed. When Peverel endowed his Priory at Lenton he gave the ‘living of the church’ and the right to appoint a vicar to the monks. Probably under their influence, the simple wattle and daub structure evolved into a substantial stone building on the site of the present church. The font to the church is ‘Early Englsih’ and dates to the first stone built church on the site, built around the thirteenth century.

For the next 400 years not only the Church but the whole of Beeston and its villagers came under the control of the powerful Lenton Priory. By the year 1583, – the year of the Priory’s Dissolution under Henry VIII, – the medieval building had reached its height. After the Dissolution the Crown retained possession of the advowson of the vicarage. It was in the 16th century when the plague carried a way a third of Beeston’s population of between 300 and 350 souls. Their bodies were interred in a communal grave inside the Churchyard, this later became known as ‘the plague hole’.

The church was rebuilt under Henry VIII, using stones from the fourteenth century church. It was in late perpendicular architectural style, with a nave, chancel and small tower on the south side. It could accommodate 270 people in enclosed pews, of which only 35 were free and unappropriated. There was a doorway in the south wall of the chancel, used at this time by priests, but it is now blocked by the choir stalls

The church, except the chancel, was rebuilt in 1843 by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The new church was built to seat 800 and cost approximately £3,500, of which £3,100 was raised by public subscription, thanks to the efforts of the Rev F.T.Wolley. Wolley’s wife laid the foundation stone for the rebuilding, but died before it was completed. The church was reconsecrated on 5 September 1844 by the Bishop of Lincoln, and a special train was laid on from Nottingham for the service, which included the consecration, morning prayer, Communion service and a confirmation.


St John the Baptist Parish Church, High Road, Beeston, c 1904- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

Since 1843, Sir George Gilbert Scott’s church has served the community of Beeston well. In 2007 a £860,000 re-ordering and renovation moved the main entrance to the west end, and cleaned the interior, with new heating, seating and a new organ. The next major stage of the restoration was in January 2012 and cost £5,000. This was to replace the lead on the roof after it had twice been targeted by thieves.

The final stage started in June 2013 and included cleaning of all masonry and re-pointing open joints, which cost £40,000. Stone restorer and cleaner Ivan Sorockyj reported to the Nottingham Post in January 2014: “I have worked on the project since the start and now it is finished it looks brilliant. We used a lime mortar as part of the restoration which is what was originally used when the church was built. The only problem we experienced was doing our work around the day-to-day running of the church because we obviously had to stop for services and funerals. It has been a great pleasure to work on and you can tell the difference.”


Beeston Church during the restoration and cleaning, August 2013- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Most recently the church has seen even more changes with the tram developments around the town. Part of the tram route goes past the church and leads to the Beeston Tram Station. It has been quite interesting to note how much of the tram tracks have taken up the churchyard.  Over the summer of 2013 a skeleton of a woman dating to the Victorian period was exhumed after it was discovered during the tram construction work. The Rev Wayne Plimmer, vicar at Beeston Parish Church, made a statement to the Nottingham Post regrading the skelton: “What has been discovered is the remains of a Victorian burial. Because it’s a full skeleton the contractors have to get the Ministry of Justice’s permission to exhume the remains. Part of that process is ascertaining if there are any living relatives. As long as the remains are treated with decency I’m philosophical about it. Any kind of activity around this body will be undertaken with dignity.”

The churchyard was closed for burials in the late 19th century, while gravestones were moved from the original plots to the sides of the graveyard in the mid 1950s. During the period of tram construction work around the church it is sad to see how many gravestones have been damaged and destroyed. Recently some more gravestones and a magnificent looking sandstone tomb were left broken up awaiting to be took away.


The photograph shows recent broken gravestones caused by the tram works, awaiting to be took away- Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Despite all of the recent works on the church and around the surrounding area, the future looks bright for the next chapter of the church’s history. The Rev Wayne Plimmer commented: “We are a thriving church. The churchyard is a feature of Beeston and when the tram comes it will be a focal point.”

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A Nottinghamshire Calendar – August – A month of Carnivals, processions and hopefully good weather!

by Ross Parish

August is another month in the year bereft of many customs; this was because it was the time for the harvest to begin, but more of that next month. However, in more recent years because of the weather (or usually hope for it) and the school holidays events have developed. The precursor of this was the Sunday school outings which were very popular in the 19th century and involved games and a picnic.

The most traditional based, if not traditional sounding, of these is Nottingham’s Pagan Pride. A new event, of only five years, but firmly based around the older and pagan tradition of commemorating Lammas which was a harvest celebration focused around the 1st August. The colourful appearance of hundreds of neo-pagans celebrating their faith is a welcome addition to the calendar as they process from the market square to the Arboretum.


The Pagan Pride Procession Leaves the Market Square to begin their Journey to the Nottingham Arboretum- Photo Credit: RB Parish.

However, there is an older Nottinghamshire tradition associated with Lammas. An account reads:                                                                                                                                         

“A novel, service was held at Selston, a mining village in England, recently. At one time Selston was fairly rich in charities, but about one hundred years ago they were allowed to lapse. Some of the charities consisted in the distribution of bread to the poor on Lammas, or Loafmass day……..This distribution took place from a tombstone in the parish churchyard. In order to revive this custom the rector held a similar service, when loaves presented by the parishioners were given away from the same tombstone, and in order to enhance their value and the interest attached, a silver coin was baked in the loaves.”

This is possibly a unique and certainly unusual custom, which sadly has since lapsed and there is no local knowledge of it. Interesting, its association with a grave suggests it may have originated as a form of sin eating a way of passing on the sins of the deceased a common pre-Reformation funeral custom mutated into the wake.

A more colourful affair is Nottingham’s Caribbean Carnival. This has run since 1974 and as such is, after the famous Notting Hill Carnival, the oldest in Europe. It originally was undertaken by the St. Kitts community of the Meadows in Nottingham. It continued, spasmodically through the 1980s and 1990s due to funding problems. The Carnival was cancelled in 1998, due to security and safety aspects but this prompted the City Council to get help from outside sources such as Tuntum Housing Association, who helped to create an infrastructure to help re-form the Carnival and it was revived the following year. The Carnival consists of a parade of mass bands and colourful costumes which snakes vibrantly through the city to the Forest recreation ground where there are stages and a fun fair.


Colourful Costumes at the Caribbean Carnival- Photo Credit: RB Parish.

A more traditional procession is to be seen at Egmanton on the weekend nearest to the 15th of August. This is the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Egmanton. This has been held since 1919 and consists of Mass and an outside afternoon procession of the effigy of Our Lady and benediction. It has been a popular pilgrimage for members of the Anglo Catholic movement and on its Golden Jubilee in 1979; the High Mass was undertaken by the Lord Bishop of Southwell, the Rt. Revd. John Denis Wakeling.

The fine weather meant that feasts and wakes were often undertaken in August especially with parishes with St. Mary as their patron. Radcliffe Feast was moved from August 20th to the day of Our Lady of Assumption as the old date fell in harvest time. Whilst, Papplewick Feast was on the first Sunday after their Sheep fair, which the last Tuesday in August. Today events such as  Nottingham’s Riverside and Bleasby Festival continue this trend of August fairs….and the hope of a fine August Bank Holiday Monday!

Edited and extracted from the forthcoming book A Nottinghamshire Calendar Pixyledpublications

Interested in customs

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A Brief History of the St Anns Allotments

by Joe Earp

Nottingham has a long history of allotment gardening. The St Anns Allotments are the oldest and largest detached town gardens in Britain, possibly the world. Their unique history and heritage has been recognised and it is a Grade 2* listed site.

The site has been in continuing use since the last 600 years. The name St Anns Allotments is a fairly modern name for the site and for many hundreds of years it was known as the Hungerhills. It has been suggested that the name Hungerhill comes from the Old English word ‘hungor’ which meant ‘sparse’ and was used to refer to bleak and bare hills. Another suggestion is that it derives from ‘hangar’ which meant a meadow or grass plot usually by the side of a road. A third suggestion is that it derives from ‘Hangra Hills’, which literally means hillside of clay. This third suggestion is quite probable as the whole site sits on a ancient filed which was known as the Clay Field.


This photo of the Hungerhill Gardens (c 1860s) gives a good impression what the site might of looked like in mediaeval times. – Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

The earliest reference to the site comes from a record transaction for a John and Anabilla releasing 2 acres of arable land to Ralph de Perewyche. Which explains: “The wronghlandis abutting upon the Becke Sike, or brokk and the other lies in lyngwolddale abutting upon Hongerhill”.

The land was originally owned by St Mary’s Church and the hospital of St John. In 1551 the land became the possession of the Nottingham Corporation who had acquired it from Edward VI. By 1605 there are records which show that the Nottingham Corporation leased two or three acres plots to 30 Burgesses or Freemen of the town of Nottingham. The plots were known  as Burgess Parts. This leasing of the land at £15 per year allowed the Corporation to use some of this money for the upkeep of the medieval Trent Bridge. The allotment of land to the Burgesses continued over the next 250 years.

By 1831 the population of Nottingham had grown from about 11,000 in 1750 to 50,000 by 1831. Most of the population of the town of Nottingham lived in the original medieval layout, which by the early 1800s,  was cramped and compact. The idea was quickly reconsigned that the Burgesses Parts, which were mainly used for grazing, could be turned into individual gardens and leased out to wealthy tenants. The Corporation to begin with were not happy about subletting and complained about these proposed gardens. However the idea was soon agreed and by 1832 30 Burgess Parts had become as many as 400 cultivated gardens.

These new detached gardens offered the wealthy Nottingham Victorians the chance to get out of the ever growing city and create their own pleasure gardens, within distance of the town. The plots were used and enjoyed by the shopkeepers and professional people who lived over their businesses in the town centre and so had little garden around their homes. Many had summerhouses where tenants could relax, enjoy their lawns and flower beds, make tea or a meal on the stove, and cultivate their fruit and vegetables. Glasshouses were also common.

Over time there was a slow transition moving away from gardens that were used by the middle classes for recreation towards allotment gardens for poorer workers. They offered low income families the opportunity to supplement their low wages by growing their own fruit and vegetables. Howit (1831) explained that many of the gardens had “excellent summerhouses and there they delight to go, and smoke a solitary pipe, as they look over the smiling face of their garden, or take a quiet stroll amongst their flowers; or to take a pipe with a friend; or to spend a Sunday afternoon, or a summer evening, with their families. The amount of enjoyment which these gardens afford to a great number of families, is not easy to be calculated – and then the health and improved taste!”


Hungerhill Gardens, St Ann’s, c 1860s- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

During the Second World War the gardens were used and were vital for the Dig for Victory Campaign. The Dig for Victory campaign encouraged people to transform gardens, parks and sports pitches into allotments to grow vegetables. People also kept their own chickens, rabbits and goats. Nine hundred pig clubs were set up and about 6000 pigs were raised in gardens. The Government knew the British people could be starved out by a sea blockade; as much imported food came from Canada and America, supplies were vulnerable to attack from the German navy. The British Merchant Navy also had to change its role, to be available for transporting troops and munitions. The campaign was spearheaded by Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, and it fired public enthusiasm via radio broadcasts. It introduced ‘Dr Carrot’ and ‘Potato Pete’; displayed iconic posters in stations, shops and offices; produced leaflets and recipes, as well as specially written songs and slogans, and even lists of recommended ‘food for free’ in the countryside.


Dig For Victory Became a Very Popular Campaign in Nottingham, with many local people being shown how to grow high-yielding varieties and how to convert lawns into vegetable plots. Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

From the 1950s the allotments fell into a slow decline, (there was some renewed interest in the 1960s and 1970s) and by the early 1990s the site was suffering from further neglect and decline.

In 1993 a group of allotment holders formed what is now STAA Ltd (previously knowns as the St Anns Allotment Campaign) to protect and improve the allotments and so began the process of reversing the decline and once more turning them into a vibrant centre of community activity. Today the site is a vibrant and beautiful setting.

So next time you are out that way why not drop into the visitor centre and have a tour of the St Anns Allotments. For more information regarding visiting the allotments please refer to the link below:


Today the St Anns Allotments is a vibrant and beautiful site- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.



Today the St Anns Allotments is a vibrant and beautiful site- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.



Today the St Anns Allotments is a vibrant and beautiful site- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.


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