On forgotten bus stations and taking local history personally

I’m more intrigued by pre-me Nottingham than the Nottingham I remember from my youth. I guess it seems more mysterious, and I have an sentimental affection for places that would have constituted the world experienced by my parents, grandparents and beyond.

I saw this image on Picture the Past and felt a little frustration that I couldn’t quite place it, despite a detailed caption. I’ve added some number labels that will be explained later.

pic1 bus stations blog

The caption read: Looking NE from King Edward Street. The bus station was first used on 1st January 1930. Note the early presence of traffic lights at this busy junction. The main bus station re-located into Victoria Centre in the 1970’s (sic), and this bus station gradually became unused. The location now houses furniture showrooms and small business units.

I walk down King Edward Street (at the side of Ritzy’s/Oceana/Palais de Danse) most days, and so felt I must be able to visualise the modern scene. Regular blog readers won’t be surprised to hear that my next port-of-call was Insight Mapping. I viewed the map of King Edward Street in the 1930s and looked to the area north-east of that, lead by the photo caption. It was quickly clear where the bus station was situated. I was able to place the scene not by the structure of the bus station itself, but by those neighbouring it. The buildings I’ve labelled (2) and (3) on the photo seem pretty clear on the old map, whilst a zoom-in on my photo software showed (1) to likely be the old car park.

pic2 bus stations blog

My last job (and often the most intriguing) in any piece of historical sleuthing is to discover what occupies the site now, and what (if anything) remains of the past. Occupying the site of the bus station now is the Litmus Building, whilst the car park (1) is incorporated within the area until recently occupied by the big Staples sationary store. Most exciting for me are the parts of the photo that remain. I’m ashamed not to have recognised them sooner, but (2) and (3) still stand proudly at the St Ann’s Well Road roundabout. Like King Edward Street, I pass them most days. (2) is pretty functional, and my daily view limited by Litmus itself. (3), however, is a wonderful red-brick structure that now houses The Depot Climbing Centre.

pic3 bus stations blogSo, in the 1930s picture two structures are present that I’m pretty familiar with nearly ninety years later, though the scene had initially seemed alien. This is fact, backed-up with maps and the image itself. The sentimentalist in me also wonders about the people in the picture, and whether the bus station brought any of my ancestors to Nottingham, or took them elsewhere around the country. Maybe some of the people crossing the road are ancestors of mine, or yours. A significant portion will have descendants alive today and there’s a chance one will be us. Actually, have a closer look at that one near the front in the long coat; I might be wrong, but I can see a lot of you in them.


The Case of the Missing Shopping Centre

Knowing my penchant for archive images of Nottingham, a friend forwarded me an photograph from the 1970s the other day and asked if I could place it. I was fleetingly stumped. Certain bits were incredibly familiar, but I couldn’t understand where the photographer could have stood to have captured them all in one shot. Was that Broadmarsh? And surely that was Lister Gate, wasn’t it? I’ll put the image below. My friend had grabbed it off Facebook and hadn’t noted any credit details. If it’s your image, or if you can reference whose image it is, let me know and I’ll credit it properly.20151208_214626000_iOS

After a while, I realised the flaw in my attempts to discern the scene. I hadn’t allowed for the possibility that one building at the heart of the scene was only partially built, and so now – about four decades after the initial image was captured – that same view was significantly different.

I went to test my theory, and found it correct. The shot is a view from the multi-storey car park above Broadmarsh bus station, looking towards a pedestrian crossing on Colin Street. I couldn’t copy the original image exactly, since the photographer’s viewpoint seems to have been on the ‘wrong’ side of the car parks wall – possibly on scaffolding.

Broadmarsh itself was largely missing from the original picture, which is what had initially confounded me. I took a few images of my own that illustrate the difference between the scene now and then. I’ve posted the most demonstrative below alongside the original, with little markers highlighting the same spot on each. I’ve also posted a rough composite image I cobbled together showing the old foreground with the modern background limiting the view.

All photographs are special since they capture a unique moment. Any features in the scene, such as clouds, traffic, or people, will never again fall into the exact same poses or configuration, and so each image is a reflection of a moment that has already passed. Photographs featuring a half-built or half-demolished structure accentuate the ennui, since the physical environment itself is undergoing change.

Colin St sidebyside

Colin St composite