Since I developed an interest in Nottingham history, I’ve learned to pay attention to short streets. Rather than having been built short, they usually indicate a change or development in the footprint of the surrounding area over time. Newcastle Street and Clare Street (both off Lower Parliament Street) are good examples. They used to stretch north through the poor neighbourhood beyond but were curtailed firstly when that area was demolished to make way for a train station, and then six or so decades later when Victoria Centre was constructed. Broad Marsh (off Lister Gate) is another. Now it seems to be a service area for the shopping centre that stole its name, but until the 1970s it was an important retail street in its own right, with a grand and impressive Burtons store dominating its western end.
In my day-to-day life I often pass Alfred Street South, between Stone Bridge Road and Carlton Road. As we all do with streets we frequent, I didn’t think much about it. One day, though, I was doing some research on another element of local history and I blundered upon the fact that Alfred Street used to connect Carlton Road, St Anns Well Road, and Mansfield Road. I took a walk up Mansfield Road and found Alfred Street North, Alfred Close, and Alfred Street Central. I realised that I had always known of these streets and glimpsed their signs many times, but had never made a connection with the fairly anonymous and slightly ramshackle southern portion. I consulted the amazing Insight Mapping website (click here when you have several hours to immerse yourself in historical maps of the city and suburbs) and found these fragments were once one huge thoroughfare, connecting three important Nottingham roads and linking neighbourhoods I’d always thought of as being very disparate. It looks densely populated, and that research which led me onto the subject in the first place informed me that there were many shops peppered along its length.
I’ve included an edit of these maps below. The old map is circa 1880, whilst the modern map is 2015. I’ve indicated the ends of Alfred Street with red dots on each. Things have to change over time, of course. We’d still be dwelling in caves and brandishing spears if they didn’t, but I enjoy noticing these little clues to the past. It seems odd walking alone along an almost deserted Alfred Street South now, and imaging what noise and bustle there must have been in the area in the past.
I created this image as part of a project called We Share These Streets in 2012. I found archive images and then took corresponding contemporary photographs from the same spot before blending them together using the superb Paint.net shareware (click here to download). The five images I created were exhibited at the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard. The archive photograph is courtesy of J Buist and – one of my favourite websites – Picture the Past.
On Thursday, February 21st 1935, the Nottingham Evening Post featured a letter from Mrs E A Garner of 11 Harley Street, Lenton. It was entitled, ‘More Memories Of Nottingham 60 Years Ago’ and so – based on the date of publication – we can surmise that it refers to Nottingham around 1875. Along with a footnote from the editor, the letter reveals some wonderful details of the bygone city centre. I’ve transcribed both the letter and the footnote here.
HAVING lived in Nottingham all my life – and I shall be 76 on May 1st next – Mr Lake’s reminiscences of the Nottingham of 60 years ago in Tuesday’s “Post” were of great interest to me, and I can endorse all that he says, except that I feel sure the Greyhound-lane, to which he refers, is the Greyhound-street, of which a part extending from Long-row to King-street still remains, but which at the time spoken of by Mr Lake ran right through from Long-row to Parliament-street. The site occupied by the “Guardian” Offices since their removal from Long Row in 1871 used to be called Wheatley’s Close, which had a wide entrance from North-street (now Forman-street), a little way up in which was situated a blacksmith’s forge. Farther on, it opened out into a green to which the neighbouring women used to take their household linen to dry, for a charge of a few coppers – a striking commentary on the very different character and aspect of the area at that time. Farther up Sherwood-street, a little past the present site of the “Guardian” Offices stood a railed-off pig-market, opposite to which, on the site now occupied by the Central Public Library buildings, was a piece of waste ground where a circus was occasionally pitched, with its accompaniment of cheap-jack travellers. The pig-market to which I refer fronted to Shakespeare-street. One side of Lower Parliament-street was then known as “Bunkers Hill” on which an archway led to the old St Stephen’s Church, which was an offshoot from Holy Trinity Church. The two sections of Lower Parliament-street were then separated by buildings, at the end of which, and fronting towards Theatre-square, was a baker’s shop. I am reminded by Mr Lake’s reference to Bendigo, that it was stated by a correspondent some time ago in your columns that there was no traceable record of Bendigo ever living in Union-road, but I can recall that he did live there with a sister, just above the Foxhound public-house, and on the opposite side. I remember the statement of Jimmy Dune that on the occasion of the prize-fighter’s conversion he found him at his “town residence in John-street” – otherwise the old town prison!
E A GARNER (Mrs).
11 Harley-street, Lenton.
(Old St Stephen’s Church on “Bunker’s Hill”, which was built in 1869, was pulled down about 1985 to make way for Victoria Station, and with the compensation money was built the present church of the same name on Bobbers Mill-road, consecrated in 1868 – Ed. “E P”)
This is one of the old Nottingham photographs that got me hooked on local history. I grabbed this image from the superlative Picture the Past, but first saw it in Victorian Nottingham: Victoria Station And Its Approaches by Richard Iliffe and Wilfred Baguley.
It reflects a stretch of Lower Parliament Street that most of us know well. The archway to the right is now the site of the entrance to Boots. The lamp-post roughly marks the eastern edge of the modern pedestrian crossing. The footbridge would dominate the middle horizontal portion of its older counterpart. Behind the lad on the right is now Urban Outfitters, whilst the young man on the left obscures the main entrance to Victoria Centre (currently being refurbished and spruced-up). Nowadays, it isn’t the neat right angle that we see circa 1890, but cuts across on a diagonal. The corner pub on the left of the photograph is now where Burger King sits. This isn’t precise, since roads and pavements can be widened or narrowed over time, but it gives you a good idea of the comparative location.
In the time of the photograph, the archway led to St Stephen’s church. The window-heavy building on the corner is the Milton’s Head Hotel, whilst the corner pub is the Unicorn Inn. Behind these buildings was a sprawl of ramshackle slum buildings that included some of the oldest residences in central Nottingham. You can read more about the area in my little Kindle guide, Nottingham Victoria: The story of a slum, a station and a shopping centre (click here to see it on Amazon).
Nottinghasm (noun) A joyous, unbridled and explosive outpouring of love for the city of Nottingham, its history and people.
Derivatives: Nottinghasmic (adjective), Nottinghasmically (adverb)