Nottingham Street Tales: Shakespeare Street

by Joe Earp


Shakespeare Street in Nottingham is now famous for Nottingham Trent University and the great number of students that walk up and down the Street every day. But the Street has not always been so grand.

The natural position of Shakespeare Street stands lying  in the valley between two gently-sloping hills. J Holland Walker states that “it was conveniently placed to collect all the drainage from these hillsides and, consequently, was always notorious for its unpleasant condition. In fact, so bad did it get that it was called Mud Lane”.

In 1358 gallows used specifically for Jewish criminals stood roughly where the University now stands. Walker (1935) states that “no Christian could be hanged upon the same gallows as that which terminated the life of a Jew”.

In 1852 it was all tidied up and re-christened Shakespeare Street.

The original University college (now Nottingham Trent) opened on the 30th June 1881 by Prince Leopold ( eighth child and fourth son of Queen Victoria and he was given the title of Duke of Albany). The University College was established on Shakespeare Street to give educational lectures to the Mechanics Institute by University Extension Lecturers. 

Some of the famous students the College has produced have included no other than DH Lawrence. Lawrence received his teaching certificate after studying in the Arkwright building. In his novel The Rainbow (1915) Lawrence drew on his own memories of Arkwright for Ursula Brangwen’s first impressions of University College, with the lines: “The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with a rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful: she felt it remote, a magic-land.”


Lawrence, DH., 1915. The Rainbow. 1st edn. London: Methuen & Co.

Walker, JH., 1935.  An itinerary of Nottingham: Goldsmith Street, Clarendon Street and Sherwood Street. Nottingham: Transactions of the Thoroton Society.

About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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