Radford Grove

by Frank E Earp

It is hard to imagine Radford as anything other than what it is today, – a large suburb of Nottingham with all the associated attributes of such an area. Within my life-time, Radford was a place thriving with industry, – including some of Nottingham’s well-known names, – Players and Raleigh. Along with these sites, – rows of terrace houses, pubs, shops, a railway station, colliery, cinema, and several textile factories. This was the world of author Alan Sillitoe. With time and ‘progress’ much of this has now disappeared.

Strictly speaking however, most of this area was counted as New Radford and Radford Woodhouse, which only came into being in the 1850s. The earliest reference to the village of Radford comes from the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as the Anglo/Saxon village of Redeford – literally ‘the red ford. The name is derived from the place where the road on the north side of the village – now Alfreton Road- crossed the River Leen. This ford was flanked on one-side by a high ‘red’ sandstone cliff. A second ford existed on the south side – the bottom end of St. Peters Street, – where Ilkeston Road crosses the river. The medieval village developed as a cluster of houses around the ford and the church of St. Peter.

The earliest medieval reference to Radford, – ‘the Outgoings of Radford’ – comes from 1488, (see Hyson Green). Over the centuries the earlier buildings were replaced with more substantial dwellings and by 1914 the oldest building, -with the exception of the church, – was the White Horse public-house which had a date of 1661.

By 1790 the village appears to be in a state of some decline. St. Peters church is described as being in a ‘ruinous state’. The church continued in this way for a further 20 years until 1810 to 1812 when it was largely rebuilt at the cost of £2,000. A new chancel was added much later in 1877.

In St. Peters church-yard is the grave of William Elliot, – died in 1792, – the man who bestowed on Radford what became one of the wonders of Nottinghamshire. In 1780, Elliot purchased a substantial tract of land along the east bank of the River Leen – west of St. Peters Street and Radford Boulevard. Here, – at great cost, – he built a substantial property set on the edge of a landscaped garden. It was this ‘park’ which amazed his social piers and became Elliot’s legacy to the good folk of Nottingham.

Work began on the site by first excavating a large lake with a central island, which was filled by diverting part of the River Leen. Elliot had his ‘park’ planted with mature trees and exotic plants and constructed various buildings. The grounds were surrounded by a high wooden fence and entered by an ornamental wooden bridge over the river. A second equally ornate bridge crossed the lake to the island. Upon the island was a large octagonal brick tower with a pagoda style top. The fence, buildings and bridges were all painted white.

For a few short years the public enjoyed visits to Elliot’s wondrous park. It would seem that Elliot may have overstretched his finances and it is likely that both his health and state of mind began to suffer the beautiful place began to decline. People began to refer to the place as ‘Elliot’s F’oily’ or Radford Folly and a poet penned the line-“Famed Badford Folly left with pious haste”.

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Radford Folly
Credit: The Paul Nix Collection

The neglect and disinterest were to continue until Elliot’s death in 1792 and there matters might have ended and Radford Folly disappeared. However, newspaper magnet Mr R. Sutton purchased Elliot’s entire estate and work began on reviving the Folly, with plans to open it as a ‘public pleasure grounds’. The lake was re-stocked with fish and rare birds. All of the buildings and other structures had a fresh coat of white paint. The inside of the fence by the lake was painted with a mural, -with 3D cut-out buildings, – representing the Bay of Naples. At night, this was illuminated with hundreds of tiny coloured oil lamps. A ‘tea room’ was opened in the octagonal tower and other garden buildings adapted for the needs of the paying public.

Sutton leased the whole venture to a Mr Parr and Elliot’s Folly became known as Radford Grove, – perhaps with reference to the success of ‘Clifton Grove’.

For many years the people of Nottingham enjoyed the pleasures of Radford Grove. In the summer lavish entertainments were held with performers like the tight-rope walker ‘The Great Blondin’. Fishing and boating on the lake, – with boats at 1s. per hour, – were always popular, as was the fire-work displays. In short, Radford Grove became Nottingham’s premier place of entertainment, – of which the poet Henry Sutton wrote, – “There is a spot of earth supremely blest. A dear and sweater spot than all the rest.”

NTGM016206

Radford Folly, Radford, Nottingham, 1913 by Thomas William Hammond
Credit: The Paul Nix Collection

After a few years of success, the popularity of Radford Grove began to decline. Its owner Mr R Sutton decided to cut his losses. He closed the grounds to the public, had extensive alterations made to the house and once again it became a private residence. For several years Sutton and his family resided in Radford. On his death, the estate was sold to local mill owner Mr Harrison and the fame and glory of Radford Grove was overtaken by industry and grime. Harrison filled in the lake and destroyed much of the grounds. He later sold the land to the local colliery company, who were to build an engine-house and coal wharf on the site. The octagonal tower remained until recent times, a sad reminder of what once was.

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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.
This entry was posted in Nottinghamshire Suburbs, Radford. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Radford Grove

  1. Paul says:

    It is a sad thing that nottingham council seem determined to encourage and grant planning permissions. to destroy what bit of history is left in nottingham and replace it with glass concrete and synthetic ticky tacky. Then to add insult to injury put conservation orders on property that is no way unique causing problems for the financially struggling. owners
    Paul

  2. Coral Mary Reynolds says:

    Oh I so agree . Even though I no longer live in the UK , Im fascinated by the history of my home town.I well remember a school walking tour of the caves under Nottingham, starting , I think on Mansfield Road ?

    • Hi Coral,

      Thanks for your comments.The City has literally hundreds of separate caves, we always tell visitors to Nottingham not to stamp their feet, as they never quite know
      where they will end up! Thanks for your support.

      Kind regards

      The Nottingham Hidden History Team.

  3. jennifer davies says:

    Love to read about Radford Grove Lane.Lived on there for many years. Overlooking the church.Happy days.

  4. Mr. Derek king says:

    I was born at 15 Denton Street Old Radford just off Denman Street in 1946, I’ve not been back to that area for at least 43 years but my old friends from Kennington Road keep me in touch, it’s so nice to be reminded the good old times (yes I mean the good old times) when you had nothing but you had everything like family good close friends and neighbours and proper food on the table.

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