Rock Cemetery — at the corner of Mansfield Rd and Forest Rd West — is a much-loved Nottingham landmark, and one awash with history and legend.
In pre-Victorian times, the site was a sand mine. Sand was a household commodity in bygone days, used as a floor covering and an abrasive cleaning agent, and so the mine was an essential resource. An entrance to the mine can be located (but not accessed) on the opposite side of Mansfield Rd to the cemetery, hidden in plain sight behind bricks and a gateway. The mine is doubtless the source of several cave-based legends that surround Rock Cemetery. First-hand information recounted to me in 2014 has it that a tunnel stretches beneath the cemetery all the way to the old John Player factory in Radford, whilst the caves still visible in the sunken south-east corner of the cemetery were once known as Robin Hood’s caves as the famous outlaw was said to have taken refuge here in medieval times.
The site of the old town gallows is claimed by both St Andrew’s Church (whose rector tells me it was erected exactly where the modern font stands) and Rock Cemetery (with some claiming the noose and gibbet was situated on the relatively flat ground immediately beyond the modern gateway). Either way, visitors approaching Nottingham from the north would have seen some gruesome sights before they arrived at the town gate.
Several windmills once stood in the area, grinding flour for local bakers. Most were upon the land now occupied by the Forest Recreation Ground, but one was within boundaries of the modern cemetery. It was owned by Samuel Toyne, whose bakery was situated on what was then called Back Lane (now Wollaton Street).
The modern cemetery is a melancholy and eye-catching sight. There are crumbling angels, gothic headstones adorned with ivy, graves overgrown with grass and daisies, and caves that are now gated and inaccessible, but still visible. I created a slideshow of original photographs of the site accompanied by a version of Eternal Source of Light Divine by uber-talented local lass Rosie Abbot — entitled Rock Cemetery: Garden of Angels — that you can view on YouTube here: