Much is made of the destruction of legendery architect Fothergill Watson’s Black Boy Hotel on Long Row East and it’s replacement by the functional concrete box that now houses Primark. Terms such as ‘bureacratic vandalism’ are often employed in criticism of the Council (or Corporation) on the matter. However, the Black Boy was not the only glorious Fothergill building to be whisked away and replaced by a nonedescript cuboid.
Huntingdon Street – along with the streets that spring from it – is an unofficial museum of both architectural forms, and Nottingham social history. Flat-fronted terraced houses rub shoulders with tarmacked car parks, deserted print shops neighbouring shisha lounges face high rise student housing, and large 1970s retail buildings are positioned opposite steam-stained brick walls from a Victorian train station. This patchwork quilt, along with the Robin Hood allusion in its name (presumably from the outlaw’s historically dubious title, ‘the Earl of Huntingdon’) makes Huntingdon Street a neat micrososm of Nottingham as a whole.
On the eastern side of Huntingdon Street, between Watkin Street and Wellington Street, is a building that houses digital printing business John E Wright. The building’s exterior is a bland, brown brick affair and stands on the site of Fothergill’s old St Mark’s Hall. I found a picture of St Mark’s Hall on Picture The Past and this morning went and took a photograph from a similar viewpoint. I’ve put them side by side below. You’ll notice that the house on the left of both images (at the top of Wellington Street) remains largely unchanged, much like the house on the right.
You don’t hear many people talking about St Mark’s Hall by Fothergill Watson, even when discussing the great man’s impressive portfolio. For all new buildings there’s a chance that something more beautiful was swept aside to accomodate it. This is both inevitable and subjective, but it’s a shame to me that something as wonderful as St Mark’s Hall can disappear without many of us even knowing of its existence.