260 years ago


Ken Brand from The Nottingham Civic Society writes about the heritage of the Creative Quarter.

Creative Quarter covers an area of third of a square mile and encompasses the historic Lace Market, Nottingham’s former traditional manufacturing centre and Hockley, a thriving independent retail and leisure centre as well as the Sneinton Market and the Island Site.
The Lace Market area was once the centre of the world’s lace industry. World beating textiles design and manufacture drove the Nottingham economy at this time, providing thousands of jobs for local people. Famous industrialists like William Lee and Richard Arkwright made this area the commercial heart of the city. The Lace Market is symbolic of the city’s history of linking design, innovation and commerce in order to bring wealth to the city in the 19th century.
Walking around the Lace market one can see that it still retains much of its 19th century industrial architecture including buildings that once held salesrooms and warehouses for lace. The Adams Building which now houses New College Nottingham was designed by Thomas Chambers. St. Mary’s Church, on Low Pavement, was itself completed in 1474. A recent £250,000 restoration replaced decaying stonework and large sections of the roofing.

Adjoining the Lace Market is Hockley. Originally called Walker Gate, Hockley was also a centre for lace production. On Heathcote Street, People’s Hall was originally built as a school of art & design, founded in 1854 by George Gill as a place for philanthropic purposes, and symbolising Hockley’s status as a place of cultural creativity and people power.

Further down the road you will find Sneinton Market, which since the mid 19th century has not only been a thriving food and flower market but also a meeting point for local traders and residents alike. Now the area provides an eclectic mix of food and retail and home to many Nottingham designers and makers workshops.

Our thanks go to Ken Brand for supplying the maps below and their accompanying text, which illustrate some of the many changes which have taken place:

Ken Brand

Lacemarket 1677

Thoroton 1677 (Estimated population less than 6,000)At this time Nottingham was a compact town, the main streets were set out in this area, the centre shown being approximately the bounds of the Anglo Saxon settlement; and the future Lace Market.

Among the recognisable streets, numbers correspond to an off map key. 1. St Mary’s Church, 4. Stoney Street, 5. Hollowstone, 8. Barker Gate, 9. Bellar Gate, 11. Short Hill, 12. Malin Hill, 15. High Pavement, 16. Weekday Cross, 17. Middle Pavement, 18. Low Pavement, 31. St Mary’s Gate, 52. Bridlesmith Gate, 72. Goose Gate, 73. Hockley, 74. Woolpack LaneBadder and Peat 1744 (Estimated population c. 10,305 [Deering’s History 1751] )
The streets are now named. There is a more precise attempt to show the outline of buildings and gardens. Notice the run of gardens south of High Pavement/Narrow Marsh stretching down to Leen Side. There is evidence enough to realise why Nottingham was famed for its gardens. Plumptre House is shown (above St. Mary’s Church, No. 16). Byard Lane is 13, the original Weekday Cross is 14, the first Blue Coat School (demolished) is 15

Ken Brand

Lacemarket 1820

Wild and Smith 1820 (Population 1821 census 40,190)
While this is a rather stark map, it does show that many of the town’s key buildings are located in the area shown. To the south the canal is in place. Some of the principal numbered buildings, there is a key in a corner of the full map, are:
21. Unitarian Chapel (rebuilt), 27. Unitarian Sunday and Day School, the start of High Pavement School (rebuilt, later relocated), 28. Blue Coat School (demolished/relocated), 29 Free Grammar School, Stoney Street (hard to spot) the start of the Nottingham Boys’ High School (demolished/relocated), 33. Warser Gate Hospital (demolished), 39 Wartnaby’s Hospital (demolished), 40. Pilcher Gate Hospital (demolished), 48. County (Shire) Hall and Gaol (Galleries of Justice), 49. Town Hall and Gaol (demolished)
Notice the infill of housing mostly of poor quality, literally thrown up, to cater for the large scale influx of people from the surrounding country districts. The population ever increasing but the town remained within its medieval bounds.
NOTE: ‘Hospital’ here indicates alms-houses.

Ken Brand

Lacemarket 1844

William Dearden 1844, based on Staveley & Wood 1831 (Population 1841 census 52,164)
The overall impression is the infilling of available space, outside of the three St. Mary’s burial grounds the only available space is north of St. Mary’s Church. The house immediately north of the church is Plumptre House. Within ten years the house would be demolished and a new street Broadway cut through its grounds by the architect T.C. Hine who subsequently lined the new street with warehouses – and was responsible for the grand Adams & Page building on Stoney Street (now the City Centre Campus of New College Nottingham). The railway had arrived in 1839, the station is just off this extract’s south western corner. Notice the tightly packed housing to the north east, towards Sneinton and to the south beyond Narrow Marsh.

Ken Brand

Lacemarket 1861

Edward Salmon 1861 (Population 1861 census 74,693)
This is a very finely drawn map, it does not reduce clearly. However Broadway can be seen linking St. Mary’s Gate with Stoney Street, its curve, which gives the illusion of a cul-de-sac when viewed from either end, is apparent. The principal buildings are alas at this scale recognisable only by their dark colouring. It is worth finding the E outline of the Adams building just north of Broadway, showing it to be larger than the other warehouses. Note the densely packed poor quality housing south of Red Lion Street (formerly Narrow Marsh) and also to the east and north east of this extract. The railway station is now on Station Street, just off the southern edge of this map. The overall impression is building has taken place on every piece of available space. To the north east the Baths and Wash Houses can be seen, together with the luxury of a Cricket Ground and yet another burial ground for St. Mary’s.

The main enclosure of Nottingham’s three Common Fields: the Sandfield, west of Mansfield Road; the Clayfield, east of Mansfield Road; and the Meadows, south of the canal; took place in 1845. The northern boundary was roughly the northern side of the Forest. Releasing this land for building purposes – and thus easing the pressure on the overcrowded town – was so complex it took 20 years to reach an unfinished conclusion. The cricket field noted above was but one achievement made possible by enclosure. The greater Lace Market area, so named c. 1843, was part of Old Nottingham. The recently enclosed areas came to be referred to as ‘New Nottingham’. Before 1845 the town’s area was 928 acres together with 1,068 acres of unenclosed common land, so after enclosure the town’s area hot up to 1,996 acres. The Borough Extension Act of 1877, brought some of the surrounding parishes within the town, increasing its area to 10, 935 acres and at the 1881 census the population was now a formidable 186,575.

(The Common Fields were protected by statute/tradition against building as they provided among other functions common grazing land)

Ken Brand.