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.


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