It’s not a bold or new claim to say that Raleigh has played an important part in Nottingham’s economy, society and pop culture since its inception in 1885. For me, its part in the city’s history was cemented when local lad Alan Sillitoe penned Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The novel featured Raleigh as the employer of its stubborn, working class anti-hero Arthur Seaton and his pals, many of whom lived in the sprawling terraces around the factories. We get a stark picture not only of their lives but also of Nottingham’s working class generally in the 1950s. We read of them bantering at work, getting smashed in the pub, bickering at home, and getting saucy wherever (and whenever) they can.
if you live on Sandpiper Way, Falcon Close, Hazlemere Grove, Braddock Close, Wicket Grove, Kittiwake Mews or Hinchin Brook in modern Nottingham, you’re living on a deeply significant site. I grabbed two images from one of my favourite websites (regular readers will not be surprised to learn this is Insight Mapping!) showing maps of the old Raleigh factory, and overlaid them. It’s a sizable site, and many people now reside where Seaton and his workmates toiled, moaned, sipped tea, quibbled, and played practical jokes involving dead rats. The second image (below) is a title frame from the film that was made of Sillitoe’s book. Several scenes feature shots inside the cycle works.
Visitors to our city will always look for the castle (good luck with that) and Robin Hood (good luck with that, too), but for us natives, I think the former Raleigh factory site holds much more immediate significance.