Little John of Nottingham- The 10 Tonne Chiming Bell

by Joseph Earp 

Housed within the dome of the Nottingham Council House is the affectionately-nicknamed ‘Little John’ bell. For years this bell has been heard hour by hour by many generations of residents and visitors to Nottingham. For many years the bell was the deepest toned clock bell in the United Kingdom.Weighing over 10 tonnes, on a clear day its strike can be heard up to a distance of seven and a half miles.

Nottingham is famous for its local hero Robin Hood whose favourite Lieutenant was called Little John in reference to his large stature. It is with this connection that the bell was named ‘Little John’. It is hung in the great dome of the Council House in the Market Square in the centre of the city.

The building which is the home of ‘Little John’ is the Nottingham Council House. The Council House was commissioned to replace the former Nottingham Exchange. It was designed by Thomas Cecil Howitt in the Neo-Baroque style and built between 1927 and 1929. The foundation stone (behind the left-hand lion as you approach the building) was laid by Alderman Herbert Bowles (Chairman of the Estates Committee), on 17 March 1927. The total cost of the building at the time was £502,876. The building was officially opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and subsequently the Duke of Windsor) on 22 May 1929.

The hour bell has been named ‘Little John’ since the building opened. The bell was cast in 1928, by the world-famous bellfounders John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough. The clock weighs 10 and a half tons. Within this dome is also a clock which was made in 1926 by William Cope the nephew of the founders of G. & F. Cope. ( clockmakers of Nottingham). He managed to combine the movement of this clock to the striking of the bell from which it has chimed on time constantly and is considered one of the largest most accurate chiming clocks in the world.

David Lyon was the ‘custodian’ of the council house which involved manually winding up the clock mechanism once a week since 1985. Mr Lyon was responsible for keeping Nottingham on time with the unmistakable sound of Little John chiming on the hour for 32 years. Mr Lyon finally climbed the 77 steps into the clock tower for the last time on Friday 22 September 2017 at 8.30am. For the last time he wound up the mechanism which operates the clock and bells beneath the council house dome.

Upon the announcement of his retirement Mr Lyon, in an interview with the Nottingham Post back in 2017, said about the bell: “It is considered to be the best set of clock bells in the country. The main bell here is Little John. It is 10.5 tonnes and on a clear day you can hear it seven-and-a-half miles away down the Trent valley. It’s got a beautiful tone – far better than Big Ben because Big Ben was cracked when it was put in and has never been altered. It has rather a tinny sound unlike Little John which is mellow.”

A certificate marking Mr Lyon’s long service to the city of Nottingham was placed in the clock tower and a copy presented to him by the then lord mayor of Nottingham, Councillor Mike Edwards. Mr Edwards back in 2017 said: “Keeping the council house clock, and therefore Nottingham, running on time for 32 years is a huge responsibility and we’re very grateful to David for his dedication and expertise”.

Little John Bell, cast in 1928 by John Taylor & Co
Posted in Nottingham History | 1 Comment

The Boggart

A Close Encounter of the ‘Furred’ Kind’

by Frank E Earp

This is the story of my encounter with a boggart, although I did not know it as such at the time. I first published this story in the journal of Northern Earth Mysteries Group, in early 1981. It was ‘picked up’ by the Ufologist Jenny Randels and appeared in the part-work magazine, the Unexplained in 1983. In 1989, Paul Devereux used it in support of his theory on the U.F.O. phenomenon, in his book, ‘Earth Lights’. From then on it quickly passed into modern folklore and now appears on several web-sites.

In the mid 1960’s Britain was in the grip of U.F.O. fever. Up and down the country there were reports of lights in of sky and other unidentified objects. For several weeks the media reported strange goings-on in the town of Warminster, in Wiltshire. Nottingham too had its’ fair share of U.F.O. activity. This was a fascination to a boy in his early teens and together with a group of around 10 school friends, we started a U.F.O. Club. Well, at least it kept us out of mischief, – but it lead to many a strange adventure. The adventure related here happened with two of my fellow club members, – whom I will call W. and M.

On a fine autumn afternoon my friend W. and I walked the mile or so up Chalbury Road to meet with fellow club member M. It was our intention to carry out what is known as a ‘sky watch’, – looking for U.F.Os. From M’s house, the three of us crossed Woodyard Lane walk along the north bank of the disused Wollaton cannel to the site of the Wollaton Colliery. Here the old ‘slag-heaps’ line the cannel bank and we thought it would be a good vantage point for our activity.

We spent the next couple of hours scaling and sliding down the heaps and swinging out over the cannel on a rope tied to the branch of a tree, – always with an eye on the sky. At about 4 o’clock as daylight gave way to twilight, we decided, – as we had seen no ‘flying sauces’, – to head back to M’s house and perhaps play some records.

At this site, the cannel opens into a wide oval basin, – a former passing place for the coal barges. Although the cannel had been drained the old bed was still marshy with a small channel of water running down the centre. As we crossed the basin to the opposite south bank, we were aware of a slight ground mist starting to rise within the basin.

Climbing up the wall and bank onto the tow-path, we stood watching the mist as it began to thicken. As we watched a ‘cloud’ of mist, – doughnut shaped, around the size of a fair ground dodgem car, – formed and rose above the bed to the height of around 4ft. The remaining body of mist, which now covered most of the basin, stayed within inches of the ground.

The cloud began to sparkle with a myriad of tiny pearl coloured lights which blinked on and off with an incandescent glow. At this point I suggested this was the natural phenomenon known as ‘corpse candles’ or ‘will o’ the wisp’, – the spontaneous combustion of methane gas.

Suddenly, the cloud began to slowly move towards the bank and two balls of light, – the size of water melons and around two and 3ft. apart, – formed at its centre. In a controlled way, the cloud came to a halt on the tow-path around 30ft. Away.

All around, afternoon was giving-way to evening. In the growing darkness the spheres became more obvious, seeming to ‘bob’ up and down like corks on water. No malevolence appeared to emanate from the cloud, just curiosity. It seemed that we, as observers, where in-turn being observed. However, discretion got the better of valour and turning in unison we walk away. After a few paces curiosity got the better of us and we stopped to look back. To our horror, the cloud had followed us and was now just 20ft away. Panic now set in and we retreated, this time at a jogging pace.

The cannel now took a gentle turn and then a straight course to a point where Old Coach Road once crossed via a stone bridge. The bridge had long since disappeared and the road was now carried over the cannel on a high bank, which the tow-path climbed over on either side.

I had the sudden feeling that the ‘thing’ would not follow us across the road and voiced this fact to my friends. Frequent glances over our shoulders told us that the cloud was keeping pace behind; – in fact it was gaining with every step.

Reaching the bank, we turned to see our pursuer was now just a few feet behind us. Seconds later, we mounted the bank and found ourselves looking down on the cloud, which had moved to the foot of the bank.

It seemed that the cloud would not follow us further. With relief, we crossed the road and descended onto the path. Now, with the bank between us, we felt safe to stand and look back. For a few seconds the road above was clear and then slowly the cloud came into view. Now hovering over the road at the top of the bank, ‘it’ was looking down at us!

We took-off in full retreat, running in terror, the cloud still gliding effortlessly behind. At the pace we were travelling, it was not long before we reached Wood Yard Lane and the end of this part of the cannel.

Here we turned to face our pursuer, – now only 6ft. away – safe in the knowledge that just across the lane was M’s house. With me in the middle, we stood in silence, like gunfighters waiting for the next move. I broke the spell as tacking a step forward I said, “If you are a friend come forward”.

A few seconds silence followed as I paused for a response. With my eyes fixed on the swaying orbs I began to say “If you are an enemy ….” My words were cut short as B. tapped me on the shoulder and saying in my ear, “When I say run, run!!” My eyes followed his pointing finger to the hedge on my left.

There only feet in front of M., – silhouetted by the light from the orbs, – was the black shape of a hairy figure. Around 6ft. tall, its head appeared to be directly on its shoulders, whilst its arms, – which seemed to be long, – tapered to a single finger. Each of these ‘fingers’ curved inward around a glowing red rod the size of a pencil. The legs seemed to disappear from around the mid calve and something of the mist from the cloud swirled around where the feet should have been.

I had absorbed all of this information in seconds, for in an instant B. had shouted the word ‘run’ and like an Olympic athlete taken off. I followed with the same turn of speed, leaving M. alone calling out repeatedly, “Can you see it lads? Can you see it?”

M. must have quickly realised he was alone and soon caught us up. The other two began to blurt-out their experience. I silenced them saying that we should independently draw what we had seen. It turned out that the three of us drew identical pictures of the cloud, whilst B. and I drew almost identical pictures of the figure. Because his attention had been entirely on the cloud M. hadn’t seen the figure.

Years later I was to discover that our encounter had not been with some alien being. The ‘hairy creature’ fitted the classic description of a class of ‘fairy’ known as a ‘Boggart’.

 

Posted in Nottinghamshire Folklore | Leave a comment

The Wollaton Park Gnomes

Consider a different kind of ‘Fairy Tale’

by Frank E Earp 

Gnomes & Boggarts

Over the last few years the Wollaton Park Gnomes, (WPG), has become what is perhaps the most famous case of a modern ‘fairy encounter.’ This in no small way has been due to the hard work of Simon Young, who has made the case his own However, Simon’s accounts of and research into the case, are based for the most part on the transcripts of taped interviews with the child witnesses. Although the case has been the centre of much academic debate, every published account has been based solely on Simon’s with its reliance on tapes and transcripts. As far as I’m aware, research into the case has always been ‘desk topped’ and very few additional facts/factors have ever been considered. Although the original tapes and subsequent transcript give us a wonderful ‘picture’ of what the witnesses allegedly saw, – without supporting evidence, it is all simply a ‘fairy tale’ told by children.

 

Again as far as I’m aware I am the only researcher with an intimate knowledge of Wollaton Park and other aspects of the case, to take take an academic interest in the WPG. I was 28 in 1979 when I first investigated the WPG. By this time I had been a published ufologist, folklorist and local historian for 12 years. I must say that my interest in U.F.O’s has never been in what is referred to as ‘nuts and bolts space craft’, but, – as a folklorist, – rather the phycology of phenomena itself! In my book ‘Paranormal Nottingham’(2016), I draw comparisons between the three main categories of so-called paranormal phenomena: U.F.O’s, Ghost and Fairies. These are based entirely on my own research, observations and experiences. It is against this background that I offer this brief insight into my original historic research into the WPG.

It was something in the first reports of the case in the local papers that captured my attention and led me to make direct comparisons to my own 1967 encounter with a different kind of fairy entity, a ‘Boggart’, (Boggart encounter). As I recall, these news reports placed more emphasis on the lights or ‘orbs’ in the trees, than any contemporary study. I noted that it was these ‘twinkling’ illuminations which first captured the attention of the child witnesses. The description of the site of the children’s encounter with the gnomes was precise enough for anyone with a good knowledge of the Park, – which I have, – to identify all the individual topographical features; wood/trees, path, fence, school, gate and more interesting to me at the time, a marshy area. The day after reading the report I made a ‘timed’ visit to the Park to check out the site I thought to be the place of the encounter. Including the chronology of events, everything fitted the descriptions. Having established my own ‘working model’ of the events, I was content in my own mind that this was indeed the area the children had witnessed the strange events now know as the WPG. Following this ‘field work’, my next step involved literally putting the site on the map.

At that stage, my investigation had enabled me to established that there were direct correlations between the WPG and my Boggart encounter; Both had taken place at the same time of year and the same time of day, with similar atmospheric conditions: In comparing the sites, both incidences had occurred on land formally belonging to the Willoughby Estate, – the WPG within the original Deer Park of Wollaton Hall and the Boggart encounter, within yards of the site of Halfway House, an important Estate Cottage. [I remember thinking at the time that, – given the Willoughbys involvement in coal mining, – a sighting of gnomes on what was formally their land, was most appropriate]: Making further comparisons, the sites of both encounters are found to be close to location noted for traditional or historic hauntings; – the WPG, the Tudor Wollaton Hall, and the , Halfway House, [suspected as having Tudor foundation]: Common to both cases was the appearance of ‘twinkling lights’, hovering or suspended over marshy ground pre-empting the appearance of fairy entities. Theses pale ligh Boggart encounter ts and orbs have for centuries been a common feature of all three of the main paranormal phenomena, particularly when associated with marshland.

Halfway House, Wollaton, Nottingham, C early 1960s.
Photograph Credit: Frank Earp- Nottingham Hidden History Team.

The site of the WPG encounter is not a particularly special place in terms of the Park itself, but when we consider the wider landscape it appears as just one of many places where strange events have taken place. Within a few square miles of the Park, including those mentioned, are an exceptional number of sites of interest to the folklorist. These include the enigmatic Hemlock Stone where tales of Giants, Goblins and the Devil abound. An explanation for this clustering is given by Paul Devereux in his book ‘Earth Lights’: [21 Oct. 1982]. In this work he suggest that Earth Lights ral faults in the rock strata. These faults generate or cause changes in the Earths electro-magnetic field. Under the right phenomena, – strange lights and orbs like those which accompanied the WPG and my Boggart encounter, – occur at sites above natural conditions, these forces produce the unexplained phenomena witnessed at the sites. Devereux uses my account of my Boggart encounter as an example of the phenomena occurring above faults in the Wollaton coal-field. This same coal-field, – exploited by the Willoughbys’, – extends under Wollaton Park!

The Witnesses

Having said something on the site of the WPG encounter, I now turn the attention to the witnesses in the case. Today, reliance on the tapes and their transcripts gives us something of a second or even third-hand account of the events, in-that we can’t question the witnesses. However, by applying a little ‘local knowledge’, it is possible to gain an incite into their character and nature. The group consisted of children, siblings and friends, all of ‘primary school’ age. They were from Radford, which at that time was a working-class suburb of Nottingham. We must not judge by today’s standards, but quite simply they were ‘latch-key kids’ out on an adventure just over 2 miles from home. They were certainly not strolling in the park as some accounts would have us believe. When questioned as to what they had been doing immediately before their encounter with the gnomes, Patrick, one of the older children reluctantly admits that they had been trespassing on the grounds of the secondary school on the edge of the park. This kind of trespass by children seeking an adventure they could latter brag about to fiends was relatively common given the schools long boundary with the park.

Between the children interviewed we are precented with a very detailed account of the encounter. However, there are a number of small variants, – in colouring of the gnomes hats and beards for example – which might be expected of eyewitness accounts given by any group. There is even a hint of exaggeration typical of children of their age. It is also in the fact that the encounter with with the gnomes became ‘the talk of their school playground,’ rather than their trespass is indicative of some sort of ‘collective experience’ having taken place. Can we consider then, that this was a true ‘fairy’ encounter in the strict sense of the meaning? If so, then we are also to except the fact that fairies in this case gnomes, have over the centuries, been able to make technical advancements in the form of vehicles.

The children with their headmaster. Photograph Credit: Nottingham Post.

The Wollaton Park ‘Fairies’

Mark Fox is friend of mine both actual and on social media, who quite often corresponds with me over articles I publish on the Nottinghamshire Hidden History Team web page. The following communication is the result of a discussion on the WPG:-

“Mark Fox: Is this the”little people” that people have claimed to see ?”

“My Aunt Alma was a very respectable lady who lived in a large house on the Embankment. She was very rational person and would politely laugh at any suggestion of the supernatural. However, she once recalled to us at a family gathering a memory about trip she made to Wollaton Park as a child in the 1930s with a friend. They were enjoying a picnic by the lake when they noticed, in her words, “little people no taller than a doll” that cautiously appeared from out of the bushes. All dressed in fancy clothes. She claimed to have watched them go across the lake on a tiny boat and disappear into bushes on the other side.

To be honest we joked about it after she had left but it always struck me that she had no need to lie or make up such a story as it was totally out of character for her.

Twenty years later my friend was visiting from university with his new girlfriend. They lived in Wales so were keen to look at the Castle, Newstead Abbey and Wollaton Park. After their trip to Wollaton Park they arrived back at my house and as we were having dinner I asked them what they thought of the Park because I hadn’t been there for a few years and was planning a visit myself. “Lovely” they said, “except for the weird experience we had when we some ‘Lilliputian’

type people by the lake”. At this point his girlfriend actually began to look a bit embarrassed and swore blind that she’d seen these little people, all dressed in waistcoats, pretty dresses and all wearing hats.

All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I heard this because I immediately remembered my Aunt Almas story.

“Were they by the lake” I asked.

Both replied with a cautious nod of their heads.

“Did they disappear into the bushes when you noticed them”

Again, a nodded yes.

I asked them exactly what they had seen and they told me pretty much the same story my aunt had with the exception of the boat. They said it had just been on land around the bushes near the lake. When I told them the story my aunt Alma had told me I could see them both look physically shaken and my friend girlfriend actually cried.

They had never heard anything prior about Wollaton except that it was a beautiful old mansion with “loads of deer” roaming around. To think that both incidents happened nearly 60 years apart and the people who told me had never even met or heard of each other, it really does make me believe there’s a large amount of truth in there!”

If we except this story as some thing more than an anecdotal tale, there is something very special about Wollaton Park as a place for seeing fairy-folk!

Have We All Been ‘Conan Doyled’?

Have we academics and researchers, – like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and ‘The Cottingley Fairies’, – been taken in by a child’s story?

In the weeks before writing this piece I decided to attempt to do something that no other writer on the subject has, so far, been able to do, – ‘make contact with one of the witnesses involved in the case, or at least someone who could provide a first hand account’! Using social media, I put up a post on the page of a ‘group’ I am a member of, – ‘Radfordtonians, – Friends Past, – Friends Present’.

Author’s Post: “I’m a published folklorist/historian and I know it’s a long-shot, but I’m hoping that the good folk on this page will be able to help me pull-off a coupe in my research. In 1979 a group of young children from Radford had a remarkable adventure on Wollaton Park. They had an encounter with Gnomes driving little bubble-cars. When it happened it had couple of write-ups in the Post over the following week. However, the day after it had become the talk of the playground and the Head Master of the school took an interest. Very sympathetically he managed to do a tape-recorded interview with the children. Since then, certainly over the last few years, the case of The Wollaton Park Gnomes has become world famous among folklorist, No one so far has manage to track down anyone involved to get an updated interview. Does anyone have memories of the incident or know of any one involved!”

Response To Author’s Post:

A.M. “One of the lads that was there, his name was Patrick (can’t remember his last name) told me it was all made up”.

M.P. To A.M. “That’s right hence the people don’t want interviewing, they were just kids having a laugh “.

Messages Between Author & A.M:

Author To A.M: “Is there anything more that you can tell me about Patrick please? Can you remember when he told you that it was all made up”!

A.M. To Author: “Patrick was one of the lads l knew in Radford, he was a few years younger than me. I worked with him in the mid 80s. I remembered the story about the gnomes so asked him about it. He told me it was all Angela’s (a friend of his) idea & that they made it all up. I’ve just googled ‘gnomes of wollaton park’ & one of the items actually gives the childrens names. I distinctly remember them being on central tv talking about it. Hope this helps with your research.”

Author To A.M: That helps me very much thank you! Can I use this in my piece. I won’t mention your name, – just your initials.

A.M. To Author: “Yeah that’s fine. The last l heard of Patrick was that he was in prison. but that was about 25 years ago.”

The finally the question we must ask ourselves is – ‘Is Patrick’s confession the real truth’ – or are we to cling to the hope that it was made in an attempt, – out of embarrassment, – to disassociate himself from the whole affair?

A drawing by one of the children. Image Credit: John Knifton.
A drawing by one of the children. Image Credit: John Knifton

Note: Full names and copies of ‘Messenger text will be made available for serious academic research

Posted in Nottinghamshire Folklore, Nottinghamshire Suburbs, Wollaton | Leave a comment

Robin Hood and his Place Names In Nottinghamshire

by Frank E Earp

The first literary references to Robin Hood appear in a series of 14th- and 15th-century ballads about a violent yeoman who lived in Sherwood Forest with his men and frequently clashed with the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin Hood is a legendary heroic outlaw originally depicted in English folklore and subsequently featured in literature and film. According to legend, he was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. In some versions of the legend, he is depicted as being of noble birth, and in modern retellings he is sometimes depicted as having fought in the Crusades before returning to England to find his lands taken by the Sheriff. In the oldest known versions he is instead a member of the yeoman class. Traditionally depicted dressed in Lincoln green, he is said to have robbed from the rich and given to the poor.

Woodcut of Robin Hood, from a 17th-century broadside

There are 23 English counties, from Westmorland and Yorkshire in the north, to Somerset in the south, where Robin Hood appears as the part of the name of a feature or object in the landscape. Most have only one or two examples, however, the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire all have numbers running into double figures. And why shouldn’t they? After all didn’t Robin come from around these parts?

Artists ‘modern’ depiction of Robin Hood, this was created on the old bus station toilets in Beeston, Nottingahmshire (now demolished). Photo Credit: Joe Earp

Buildings:

ROBIN HOOD FARM: The farm is around 6 miles north of Nottingham on the Ollerton Road. It is so names on C. and J. Greenwood’s 1826 Map of the County of Nottingham. The building is associated with a nearby linier earthwork of unknown date, which is named on a Tithe Award c. 1840, as ‘Robin Hood Bank’.

Caves and Holes in the Ground:

ROBIN HOOD’S CAVE – CRESWELL CRAGS: Formally known as ‘Robin Hood’s Hall’ this natural cave has four chambers connected by short passages. It is the largest of the caves at ‘Creswell Crags’, a limestone gorge on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. As such, it is by far the oldest of all of the sites with a Robin Hood place name prefix. Creswell Crags is a ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. Evidence of human occupation, – including rock art, – which dates back over 43,000 and 10,000 years, has been found in these caves. When this particular cave gained a tile associating it with Nottingham’s famous ‘outlaw’ is uncertain.

ROBIN HOOD’S CAVE, -ANNESLEY (1836 O.S. map Robin Hood’s Cabin): A cave at the foot of ‘The Robin Hood Hills’ is said to have once been the entrance to a vast labyrinth of caves and tunnels, – one of which led to Annesley Hall. The cave mouth, which has always been difficult to find, was long-ago filled up, supposedly to prevent the unwary from becoming lost amongst the many passages which were reputed to contain wells and running streams of water. Legend says that if perused into the cave by the Sheriff or his men, Robin could easily escape is enemies by losing them in this underground world. (See; ‘Robin Hood Hills’ and ‘Robin Hood’s Chair’).

ROBIN HOOD’S CAVE – OLLERTON: This cave, – a mere scrape in the ground compared to others of the same name, – is around 2 miles north of Ollerton in the parish of Walesby. It lies directly on the banks of the river Maun just above the water. Close by is the Old London to York Road. Local legend states that Robin and his men would hide in this cave ready to ambush unwary travellers passing along the road above.

ROBIN HOOD’S ‘GRAVE’: MANSFIELD: Although referred to as a ‘grave,’ this site is in-fact a cave around 7 miles north of Mansfield in the parish of Holbeck. The name appears in a Tithe Award of c.1840, but does not feature on any other maps of the County.

ROBIN HOOD’S STABLE – NOTTINGHAM: Just north of the City along-side the Mansfield Road is ‘Rock Cemetery’. The Cemetery has been built on the southern slopes of the high ground overlooking the Forest Recreation Ground, – the site of Nottingham’s famous ‘Goose Fair’. The Cemetery, – originally to be called ‘Church Cemetery’, – takes its modern name from the fact that many of its graves are located in a rectangular enclosure bounded by high sandstone cliffs. On the north western side of this enclosed space is a large cave, ‘Robin Hoods Stable’, which existed long before the idea of the Cemetery was even conceived. The cave mouth leads into a vast underground complex of tunnels on two levels. Accepted opinion has it that this labyrinth is the product of 17th century sand-mining. However, legend says that the cave was used by Robin and his Merry Men 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. See: ‘O. Oliver, Rev. George’. ‘Rev. Dr George Oliver and Nottingham’s Druid Temple’.

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

ROBIN HOOD’S STABLE(S)-PAPPLEWICK: This rock cut edifice is in the grounds of a private house in the village of Papplewick, some 8 miles north of Nottingham. Evidence suggests that the cave was indeed used as a stable from around 15th century, although the body of the cave could be much earlier. Here legend says that Robin kept one of his fastest horses to patrol ‘The King’s Great Way’ (Mansfield Road). Papplewick was once one of Sherwood Forest main administration centres. The American writer Washington Irving visited the cave whilst staying with his friend Col. Wildman at Newstead Abbey in 1817. His description is perhaps the most evocative ever given; “It is in the breast of a hill, scooped out of brown freestone, with rude attempt at columns and arches. Within are two niches, which served, it is said, as stalls for the bold outlaw’s horses. To this retreat he retired when hotly pursued by the law, for the place was a secret even from his band. The cave is overshadowed by an oak and alder, and is hardly discoverable even at the present day; but when the country was overrun with forest it must have been completely concealed”.

Other Natural Feature:

ROBIN HOOD’S ACRE – NOTTINGHAM: The name appears in the 1624-5 ‘Records of the Borough of Nottingham’

R0BIN HOOD BANK: See; ‘Robin Hood’s Farm’.

ROBIN HOOD’S CLOSE– NOTTINGHAM: A ‘close’ or small enclosed pasture, is described as ‘Robynhode Close’ in the ‘Nottingham Civic Chamberlains Accounts’ for 1485, 1486 and 1500. This is the earliest reference to a Robin Hood place name in the County.

ROBIN HOOD HILLS – ANNESLEY: Once a part of Sherwood Forest, the Robin Hood Hills are a range of hills running roughly east – west, around a mile north of Annesley. They are so named on Chapman and Andre’s map of 1775, and contains a ‘Robin Hood’s Cave’ and ‘Robin Hoods Chair’. The Hills are in the district of ‘Hollin Well’ which takes its name from a ‘holy well’ on the south-east slopes. The Hills are now covered by a golf course and the spring, which still flows, is close to the 8th tee. Legend has it that Robin kept a look-out for the Sheriff whilst sitting on his ‘Chair’ on the top of the highest peak in the range. Also known as the Annesley Hills, a path across the top of the Hills was one of the favourite haunts of the poet Lord Byron.

ROBIN HOOD’S MEADOW – PERLTHORPE: A book on ‘English Field-Names’ contains a reference to there being a Robin Hood’s Meadow close to Perlthorpe, – 2 mile north of Ollerton. 

ROBIN HOOD’S HILL – OXTON: Also mistakenly called ‘Robin Hood’s Pot’ or ‘Pit’, the hill is an artificial mound, a Bronze Age Tumulus close to Oldox earth work one mile north of Oxton.

Stones:

ROBIN HOOD’S CHAIR: Robin Hood’s Chair is an artificial rock-cut feature rather than a stone or boulder. Again it is to Irving that we must turn for our best description; “Another of these rambling rides in quest of popular antiquities, was to a chain of rocky cliffs, called the Kirkby Crags, which skirt the Robin Hood hills. Here, leaving my horse at the foot of the crags, I scaled their rugged sides, and seated myself in a niche of the rocks, called Robin Hood’s chair. It commands a wide prospect over the valley of Newstead, and here the bold outlaw is said to have taken his seat, and kept a look-out upon the roads below, watching for merchants, and bishops, and other wealthy travellers, upon whom to pounce down, like an eagle from his eyrie”. The original ‘chair’ is believed to have been destroyed by workmen building the Great Central railway-line whilst cutting the Kirby to Annesley tunnel around 1849. The feature we see today is their replacement.

ROBIN HOOD’S CROSS – PLEASELEY: A number of 17th century documents refer to a ‘Robin Hood’s Cross’ located in Pleaseley. It is likely that this was the cross erected around 1284 by the then Lord of the manor Thomas Bek after being granted a charter by the King to hold a market and two fairs. The remains of the cross can still be seen on its site close to Pleaseley Mill.

ROBIN HOOD’S STONE: The only historical reference to this stone is John Ogilby’s map of 1675. A newspaper article of 1912 claims that the stone still existed, but there is no supporting evidence of this fact. Its’ position on the map indicates that it was beside the old Mansfield Road, which formally ran through the grounds of Newstead Abbey. This would place the stone somewhere around the modern gates to the Abbey. The stone was likely to have been one of the ‘Great Guide Stones’ which marked the old Mansfield Road’s progress through the wilds of Sherwood Forest.

ROBIN HOOD’S PISS POT – OXTON: This was a ‘basin shaped’ stone and is likely to have been the base of a wayside cross. The stone was sone 11 miles north of Nottingham and stood on the eastern side of the A 614 Ollerton Road just south-west of the cross roads between Oxton and Blidworth. It marks a point exactly halfway between the two villages and may once have been a part of a parish boundary. The stone is mark on Sanderson’s map of 1835 and on the 1836 Ordinance Survey Map, but not on the 1899 edition.

ROBIN HOOD’S WETSTONE: Whetstones were and are used for sharpening ‘edged implements’ like blades and arrows and if the name is to be believed this former boundary stone was used for that purpose by Robin Hood. Along with the Abbot’s Stone, – further north-east and closer to Rufford Abbey, – this and several other un-named stones once marked the important boundary between the Abbey and the Royal Forest of Clipstone. It appears on a 1630 estate map as a parish boundary marker or ‘meer stone’. The stone stands next to the old Mansfield to Tuxford Road (part of the Great North Road), – now a forest track. The site is now marked by a small stone bearing the letter ‘R’ on one face.

Trees.

ROBIN HOOD’S LARDER: Also known as ‘The Shambles Tree’ or ‘Shambles Oak’, ‘Robin Hood’s Larder’ was an ancient hollow oak tree in the Birklands area of Sherwood Forest around 3 miles west of Ollerton. The hollow interior contained a number of iron hooks from which Robin is said to have hung venison and other wild meat. However, it is unlikely that the tree was anything more than a sapling in the days of Robin Hood and the hooks were a relic of much later hunting parties. The tree was badly damaged by storms in the 1960 and leading to its demolishion.

Wells and Springs

ROBIN HOOD’S WELL – BEAUVALE: The well is in High Park Wood around 7 miles north-west of Nottingham. The historian Sloane says it is only “….a bowshot from Beauvale Priory”.

ROBIN HOOD’S WELL – NOTTINGHAM: See; W. Well. ‘Robin Hood’s or St. Ann’s well. Nottingham’s Great Spring’

St Ann’s Well c 1860
Credit: The Paul Nix Collection
Posted in Nottinghamshire People, Legends and Characters | 1 Comment

The Last Public Execution in Nottingham

by Joseph Earp

The principal sites used in Nottingham for public executions over the centuries were Gallows Hill (near the entrance to Rock Cemetery) County Gaol (Shire Hall), The House of Correction and Bagthorpe Gaol (Perry Road Prison).

Ogilby’s map of 1674 depicts the town’s permanent gallows as standing at the summit of the forest ridge, the position being at the juncture of the present Mapperley Road. There can be little doubt that it was the common place of execution for centuries. The prior of Lenton was probably hanged here in 1538, and executions were contiued here (or in later times across the road where the Church Rock Cemetery gates now stand) until 1827. It was not unusual for the bodies of hanged persons to be buried at the foot of the gallows, and when some levelling work was done here in 1826 more than 15 skeletons were exhumed. In 1871 St Andrew’s Church was erected on the site.


Ogilby’s map of 1674 depicts the town’s permanent gallows as standing at the summit of the forest ridge, the position being at the juncture of the present Mapperley Road (now the site of the church). It was not unusual for the bodies of hanged persons to be buried at the foot of the gallows. In 1826 more than 15 skeletons were exhumed on the site shown in the above photograph. In 1871 St Andrew’s Church was erected on the site. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

The execution of Richard Thomas Parker in 1864 was the last public execution in Nottingham. He was executed at the County Gaol (Shire Hall). The earliest confirmed use of the site for official purposes was by the Normans, who appointed sheriffs to keep the peace and collect taxes; hence the site was sometimes referred to as the Sheriff’s Hall, the County Hall or the King’s Hall. The first written record of the site being used as a law court dates from 1375. The first written reference to its use as a prison is in 1449.

The hall was rebuilt between 1769 and 1772. The architect was James Gandon of London and cost around £2,500. Executions were held on a scaffold erected over the stone steps in front of the central doorway, within the small enclosure created by closing the gates of the iron railings. The drop was described as approximately level with the lintel of the door. After the abolition of public executions in 1868, most hangings took place at the Borough Gaol but on 21 November 1877 Thomas Gray was hanged in the yard at the rear of the Shire Hall.

Richard Thomas Parker, 29 years of age, was the only son of his mother’s second marriage and was “so blindly indulged from infancy that he may truly be said to have been ruined by indulgence”. He was hung for the murder of his Mother, originally a Miss Tutbury of Bingham, who was in her 76th year of age.

He had been apprenticed to a Mr Bee, Butcher of Sneinton Street, Nottingham. At the expiration of his engagement he commenced business at Fiskerton where “he might have succeeded well but for his reckless and dissipated conduct”.

He attended a cricket match at Newark. He had been drinking heavily all day and (as he was known to do when intoxicated) was getting into ‘drunken’ arguments with others at the match. When he returned home it is known that he had a violent argument with his father, who after left the family home. His mother ran out to warn father that “our Tom” had a gun. Parker shot both his parents from a top room window of the house. His father eventually recovered but his mother died some weeks later.

After his trial he was hanged outside the County Gaol at 8am on Wednesday, 10th August 1864. The executioner was a Mr Asken of York. He was immediately buried in the precincts of the gaol. This was the last public execution in Nottingham.

The old Shire Hall and County Gaol now the National Justice Museum. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

Posted in Nottinghamshire Crime and Punishment | Leave a comment

Nell Gwyn’s Bestwood

by Frank E Earp

Eleanor ‘Nell’ Gwyn, (1650 – 1687) has been described as one of Restoration England’s most celebrated actresses and more famously was the long-term mistress of Charles II. Three Cities claim to be her birthplace, Hereford, London, and Oxford. Of these, London, or more precisely Covent Garden, – where Nell spent her childhood, – is deemed to be the most likely.

Nell’s father is recorded by some biographers as being of minor Welsh Gentry and the son of ‘Thomas Guine a Cap’. A poem of 1681 indicates that he died in an Oxford prison. Whatever the truth, he disappears from any account of Nell’s life from the time of her early childhood in Covent Garden.

To say that Nell Gwyn had an unconventional childhood is an understatement. She was raised in a London ‘bawdy house’ – a brothel, – ran by her mother ‘Madam’ or ‘Old Ma Gwyn’. From an early age Nell and her notorious elder sister Rose, were involved in the family business. Nell at a tender age probable acted as a servant girl, attending the rich clients who frequented the ‘house’. Even at this stage she was renowned for her beauty and quick wit.

In 1662, Nell escaped her life in the bawdy house by taking a lover, a man named Duncan or Dugan, who moved her to rooms in Maypole Ally.

During the period of the Commonwealth, under Oliver Cromwell, theatres, – along with many other, – entertainments, – was band. With the Restoration in 1660, Charles II quickly set about establishing new theatrical groups. In 1663, one of these, – the Kings Company under Thomas Killigrew, – opened a new playhouse, The Theatre in Bridge Street, – later rebuilt as the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

It was here that Nell was to take on one of her most famous roles, that of an ‘orange seller’. A friend of Madam Gwyn’s and former prostitute Mary Meggs, – nicknamed ‘Orange Moll’ was granted a licence by the King to; ‘vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and confectioners wares,’ Nell and her sister were hired by Meggs as scantily clad ‘orange-girls’ selling their wares at six pence each to the theatre audience.

Nell did not remain an ‘orange seller’ for long. Her beauty, quick wit and obvious talent soon brought her to the attention of the ‘theatre company’. The rest as they say, is history and Nell became one of the most successful and popular actresses of her time. Moving now in Court circles she came to the attention of the King, Charles I (Old Rolly).

No one knows if it was love at first sight, but Nell became the Kings most famous long-term mistress. The inevitable happened and in 1670, Nell gave birth to her first son by Charles. A handsome young man, he was given the name Charles Beauclerk. A year later, in 1671, Nell gave birth to her second son James Beauclerk.

Nell Gwyn, portrait by Peter Lely
Charles II, portrait by John Michael Wright

When Charles Beauclerk was 6 years old, in 1676, the King issued a warrant granting him the ‘dignities’ of Baron of Heddington, co. Oxford and Earl Burford in the same county. A few weeks later, his brother James, was granted the title of Lord Beauclerk.

On 5th January 1684, shortly after the death of Henry Jermyn, 1st Duke of St. Albans, the King gave the title to Charles along with an allowance of £1,000 a year. Amongst the estates that the newly created Duke acquired was the Royal Hunting Lodge at Bestwood in Nottinghamshire.

On the edge of Bestwood Park, – to the north, – is the site of Bestwood Colliery. Its old ‘Engine House’ still stands as a testament to this once thriving Pit. Known locally as ‘the miner’s path’, the course of an old railway siding leads in a straight line from the Colliery into the wooded slopes of the Park.

Where the old line terminates at the foot of a steep slope, a modern path climbs further into the Park. By the side of this path is an unremarkable Ashlar (a boundary stone) known as the Centre Stone. The stone is roughly 2’ by 1’ and protrudes from the ground around 18’’ to 2’, – although this may be the top of a much larger stone and further investigation is needed.

Whatever the origin and original purpose of the Centre Stone, – if local legend is to be believed, – it played its part in the story of how Charles Beauclerk, – natural son of Charles II and Nell Gwynn, – acquired the Bestwood Estate as the ‘seat’ of the Dukes of St. Albans.

The story tells how during their many years together, Charles and Nell favoured Bestwood as one of their preferred trysting places. Charles was a king who enjoyed the traditional hunt at Bestwood and he would routinely take Nell with him.

It is said that when Nell gave birth to their son, Charles Beauclerk, the King refused to acknowledge him with a title and name. History tells us that this part of the story is true, for it was six years before the young Charles was given the title Baron of Heddington, co. Oxford and Earl Burford. However, the local legend states that the shrewd Nell Gwynn gained her son status by her own efforts and persistence to the King.

Eventually, frustrated with her lover’s response to her pliés, she dangled the infant out of a window and told the King that she would rather the child died than see him live without a future. Charles relented and being equally shrewd told Nell that the boy would be granted ‘all of the land Nell could ride around before breakfast’. The King was aware that Nell was seldom an early riser and believed he had set her an impossible task. However, Nell was up before dawn the very next morning and with a host of witnesses, – including lawyers, – she set off to ride the bounds of the Bestwood Estate.

As conformation of her course she dropped a coloured silk handkerchief on or by each of the many boundary marks. Completing the entire boundary she carefully placed the last handkerchief on the top of the Centre Stone. At breakfast she confronted the King with what she had done, stating that she had completed her part of the bargain. The astonished Charles is said to have uttered the words, “I can’t believe it! You have taken my best wood (Bestwood?)” He was forced to keep his side of the bargain and granted his son the Estate and the title Duke of St. Albans.

How true is this charming local story? The incident where Nell dangled the child from the window is certainly recorded as true, but not at Bestwood. Some years ago I told this story at a talk I was giving on the subject of Nottingham’s ‘Old Stones’. After the lecture I was approached by a couple whose house adjoined Bestwood Park. They informed me that at the bottom of their garden was an ancient bridle path, – from which they had recovered many horse shoes. The deeds to their property recorded the story of Nell’s early morning ride and went on to say that the path, – the boundary between their property and Bestwood, – had been established by this very act!

Bestwood Lodge

Posted in Bestwood, Nottinghamshire Suburbs | 1 Comment

The Cadland

By Joseph Earp

The Cadland in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, is believed to be the only pub in the UK bearing that name.

What we know of the Cadland has probably been a public house since the late 18th century-possibly earlier- but has only been known by that name since 1828. It was in that year, or very shortly afterwards, that the landlord changed the name to The Cadland, in recognition of the horse that won the Derby in May that year.

Cadland (1825–1837) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a career that lasted from April 1828 to 1831 he ran twenty-five times and won fifteen races, with several of his wins being walkovers in which all of his opponents were withdrawn. In the summer of 1828 he ran a dead heat with The Colonel in the Derby, before winning the race in a deciding run-off. He went on to have a long and successful racing career, winning a further eleven races before his retirement, and developing a notable rivalry with his contemporary Zinganee. Cadland was disappointing as a sire of winners in England and was exported to France, where he was much more successful. He died in 1837.

The Cadland Thoroughbred Racehorse, circa 1828

Local legend has it that the landlord named the pub after the horse because it was supposedly trained around the fields of Chilwell. This legend is dubious as records show the horse was never trained around Nottinghamshire and most probably never set a single horse shoe on a field in Chilwell. Another legend states that the landlord at the time named the pub after the horse after winning a very large sum of money betting on Cadland. Again this is only conjecture.

What we do know is that surviving licences show that between 1810 and 1825 the pub was known as The Bulls Head and that throughout this period the landlord was John Felton.

Unfortunately, no further licences survive for subsequent years, but White’s Trade Directory for 1832 indicates that the landlord was John Hopewell. It is not known exactly when he took over from John Felton, but one of these landlords was presumably the one who changed the name of the pub.

The Cadland Public House, October 2017.
Posted in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire Suburbs | Leave a comment

Attenborough Nature Reserve

by Joseph Earp

Attenborough Nature Reserve is a complex of flooded gravel pits and islands, covering one hundred and forty five hectares. The reserve lies to the south west of Nottinghamshire. The nature reserve was established in 1966 and opened by Sir David Attenborough. A process of decolonisation over some forty years has created a wide range of aquatic and waterside habitats. Other drier areas include scrub and grasslands as well as areas of native Willow and Old Stream Courses. The reserve has a wide range of fish and invertebrates including rare species of Great Diving Beetle, Damselflies, Dragonflies and Amphibians.

Excavations started on the floodplain of the River Trent at Attenborough in 1929 and gravel workings, including the fully restored areas, now cover more than 365 acres. The Process of mineral extraction has led to the creation of many areas of open water. Most of the soil removed in order to reach the gravel has been deposited back into the water-filled excavations creating a patchwork of lakes and islands. The many islands created over the years provide shelter, food and perhaps most importantly, freedom from disturbance, creating ideal conditions for the many species of wildlife that thrive here. As the vegetation has matured, so has the type and variety of habitats.

One of the many areas of the reserve created from gravel extraction. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

Since recording began in 1944, over 250 species of birds have been sighted here, from swans and starlings, to the elusive kingfisher and the even rarer bittern. The site is particularly noted for the wide range of waterfowl which can be found. Many species are migrants passing through on their way to spend the winter in warmer climates. Others return to their breeding grounds here each spring. In 1982, the site was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the importance of its over-wintering waterfowl population, particularly pochard and shoveler.

Other wildlife includes foxes, stoats, toads, newts, and many species of butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. The network of islands and paths is home to a wide range of trees, shrubs and wildflowers such as water forget-me-not which grows at the water’s edge. Recently otters have been recorded in the Attenborough area and it is hoped that they will establish a breeding population in the future.

In addition to being a haven for wildlife, the site is very popular with visitors, many of whom come to enjoy the wildlife or simply to relax in the peaceful surroundings of the nature reserve. Within the gravel pit complex there are a number of areas set aside for activities such as sailing, water-sports, horse riding, fishing and walking. The various pressures placed upon the site are managed to protect its wildlife value.

Attenborough Nature Centre is a great place to visit and learn more about the reserve. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

Attenborough Nature Reserve forms part of what was ‘Attenborough Quarry; and is a result of over seventy years mineral extraction from the River Trent washlands. Quarrying from this site has supplied significant quantities of raw materials from which much of the infrastructure of Nottingham has been built. Whether found in house, hospital or highway the products of the industry are very visible.

The site was used as gravel pits between 1929 and 1967, and was latterly still owned by CEMEX, the gravel extraction company, who continue to extract sand and gravel from neighbouring areas. As sections of the site are worked out they are restored as wetland. In 2010 an area known as Thrumpton’s Land was restored in this way.

In late 2019, the owners announced their desire to sell the site, and an appeal backed by Sir David Attenborough, whose family traditionally hail from the area, was launched to raise one million pounds needed to enable transfer of ownership to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which had helped to maintain the site with the owners for 60 years.

The purchase of Attenborough Nature Reserve from Cemex UK was concluded in December 2020, following a £750,000 grant allocated as part of the Landfill Communities Fund from Biffa Award. The derelict concrete plant owned by Cemex and located on Long Lane was sold to developers in 2020. The former Cemex site will include 20 new homes on the land. Property consultants Fisher German agreed the sale of the old CEMEX site off Long Lane, in Attenborough, to the Staffordshire-based Cameron Homes. CEMEX previously operated a concrete plant at the site in Long Lane, Attenborough, alongside a satellite office and concrete testing laboratory for its Midlands operation.

Demolition under way of the old derelict concrete plant owned by Cemex. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

With the sale of the reserve to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust the future of the site looks safe and secure. Speaking on behalf of the Trust, chief executive Paul Wilkinson said: ‘The support of Biffa Award and the backing of the public and our supporters has delivered a prize that we have been working with CEMEX to achieve for some time. ‘Attenborough is a cherished site where so many come to connect with nature. Our aspiration has always been to take the site into our ownership so that we can plan for its long-term future, and that future begins today. ‘We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone that has made it possible, including Biffa Award, our supporters and CEMEX.’

Attenborough Nature Reserve is a cherished site where so many come to connect with nature. The future of the reserve begins today. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

Posted in Attenborough, Nottinghamshire Suburbs | Leave a comment

Nottingham’s Great Victoria Station

by Bill Carson 

Nottingham Victoria Station opened on the 24th May 1900- over a year after the start of main line services from London to Sheffield were passing through it.

The construction was on a grand scale- around 700,000 cubic yards of sandstone rock was excavated from its cavernous site. Some 1300 houses and 24 public houses previously on the site had to be demolished. The site was approximately 13 acres big and 650 yards long from north to south. It had an average width of 110 yards with a tunnel at each end of it for access.

Construction works for the then new Victoria Station, circa 1899/ early 1900? Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Both the Great Central and Great Northern railways shared the station (they split into two lines at Weekday Cross junction) and this, after much argument, was why it was called Nottingham ‘Victoria’ rather than ‘Central’.

The main station building was in true Victorian splendour. It was constructed using the best quality faced bricks and Darley Dale stone with space out in front for Hackney carriages which was covered by a canopy. The three story building had a large 100 feet clock tower in it’s centre topped with a cupola and weather vane. At the north end of the building access could be gained to the parcels office via two large metal gates.

Inside the building, on the ground floor, you reached the spacious booking office. It was over 100ft long and 66ft wide and contained the best quality pine and a hard wearing oak floor along with a balcony to gain access to offices.

The station itself had two large island platforms, each 1270 feet long, with four bays for local traffic giving a total of 12 platforms. Large steel pillars held up an enormous 3-part canopy – the two outer sections being 63 feet across the central one being 84 feet across. These were glazed and gave the station a very impressive ‘cathedral’ look. The main station building was located on Milton Street along with the station hotel.

The platforms both had very similar buildings with a variety of facilities including a telegraph office, refreshment rooms, toilets, many waiting rooms and even a ladies only tea room! The station boasted many facilities for the comfort of passengers – far more than many other stations in the area.

Nottingham Victoria Station circa 1906. Photo Credit: Ed Dexter.

A subway system, below track level, could be used for the movement of luggage in order to avoid carrying it over the footbridges. The station had passing loops round all platforms (for freight), two signal boxes and its own turntable. The two signal boxes were positioned at the north and south ends of the station and controlled entry and exit to the tunnels that allowed entry to the complex.

The traffic that passed through was very varied. It included London-Manchester expresses, local services, cross-country services (from say York to Bristol via Oxford) as well as freight workings. As the station was shared with The Great Northern Railway (already well established when Victoria opened) a superb network of lines going to many destinations was available from the one station.

In its hey-day it was a busy, friendly and grand station which many people loved and thought would last forever. But this was not to be. During the 1960’s the whole Great Central route was being run down by diverting services away from it, cutting others and slowing down expresses to very slack timetables. Locomotives and rolling stock was unreliable and old- the line did not benefit from British Rail’s new diesel locomotives. As passenger numbers fell, either going by car or other lines, closure seemed inevitable. The last through service from Nottingham to London ran on 3rd September 1966. All that was left was a DMU service between Nottingham and Rugby.

The now largely silent Victoria station was finally closed on 4 September 1967 and demolished leaving only the clocktower to survive amongst the Victoria Shopping Centre and flats. The loss of the station was described as one of the worst blights on any UK city. The superb grand station which, if still in existence, would be in great need has now been transformed beyond all recognition.. The clocktower was spared but does not blend into its surroundings at all and stands as an overlooked monument to a once truly great station.

The Clock Tower June 2015.

The Clock Tower June 2015. The clocktower was spared but does not blend into its surroundings at all and stands as an overlooked monument to a once truly great station. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

Posted in Nottinghamshire Industrial History | Leave a comment

Nottingham’s Last Antiquarian and Second-hand Bookshop

by Joseph Earp

The Mansfield Road has always been the main road out of Nottingham, it is still true today. This in mind, the section of road now within the City has become a very busy shopping thoroughfare. The Mansfield Road was once renowned for the number of ‘antique’ and specialist bookshops. By the 2000’s only one of these bookshops would remain, Jermy and Westerman.

The bookshop was established in 1978, by original owners Pete Jermy and Roger Westerman. The bookshop was ran by one of the owners, Pete Jermy. Roger Westerman acted as a ‘sleeping partner’, he would work one weekend a month. By the mid 1980s Pete Jermy decided to move to Tasmania to be closer to family. Pete would later set up a small bookshop ‘Pete Jermy Antiquarian & Second Hand Books Services’ in Ulverstone, Tasmania.

With Pete Jermy now living abroad the shop was put up for sale. The shop was for sale for two years with no buyers. That was until retired Coal Miner Geoff Blore brought the bookshop in 1987. Geoff saw the potential in the business and set up shop with his son Richard Blore. Already running their successful bookshop in Sherwood, Father and Son, were more than experienced for the new business venture.

Jermy & Westerman, 203 Mansfield Rd, Nottingham NG1 3FS – Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

The shop covered two floors and had a collection covering all subjects from popular reading to rare and interesting books, magazines and comics. The ground floor housed antiquarian books of local relevance as well as a tearoom. As the stairs climbed upwards, so did the eclectic mix of books, which covered every wall and crevice. The shop had been host venue for the Nottingham Poetry Festival, showcasing performances from the likes of Rosie Garner and Henry Normal.

Jermy and Westerman Interior- Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

The shop would become very successful through the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000’s. Richard Blore remembers “books would come in from local auctions in their volumes. We are talking tonnage, that we would get through in a week. People would come into the bookshop needing a book on cookery, gardening or something relating to school work for their children. So they would come in and ask have you got this and that. We had customers coming in since the shop was started. When we first started our customer base was regional, but it was also national. We had regulars we knew would travel to Nottingham just to come to our bookshop. When we first started there were eight second hand bookshops in Nottingham as well as numerous book dealers. We were the last to survive”.

By the early 2000s antiquarian and second hand bookshops started to struggle for trade and to survive. Before the internet came along you could see the impact on the trade from CD-ROMS. People who had computers could now access books through their computers. Then the internet was born, websites with information on every subject you could think of impacted on the second hand book trade. In general a reference book will be better than a website on a subject area. It is the convenience of the internet which has won. You can now access literally any subject from your computer and phone, books have now in some cases become obsolete.

In 2019, after over 30 years of trading, Geoff and Richard Blore decided to close their Mansfield Road shop. Geoff had already closed his Sherwood book shop a number of years before that because of competition from over ten charity shops in the area. They officially announced the closure of the shop on their Instagram page on the 7 June 2019: We are very sorry to announce our closure this month, Jermy & Westerman’s last day will be June 15th. We would like to thank all of our customers for their support over the years and we hope that our followers here have enjoyed the images of the shop. We will be open until the 15th June and will continue to post on here until then – Richard & Geoff”.

Notice Announcing the Shop’s Closure- Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

Although the bookshop has closed Geoff and Richard continue to sell books through the internet. With the closure of Jermy and Westerman, Nottingham in a way has lost a great part of it’s retail history. For hundreds of years second hand bookshops were to be found in every village, town and city in Great Britain. Nottingham had at one time over eight bookshops in the city. It is sad to see Jermy and Westerman go but happy memories of the bookshop will live on for many years to come.

Posted in Nottingham History | Leave a comment