The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 5 - February 1991

Society Snips

Along the Cut

Gongoozler : An idle and inquisitive person who stands staring for prolonged periods at anything out of the common.

It was a warm August evening when Jack Cupit invited us to gongoozle with him along the Nottingham canal. With his usual thoroughness Jack prepared us for our journey by holding court at Turney's Quay and providing us with the historical background to inland water transport in the Nottingham area. We then began our journey along the ancient towpath of the Nottingham canal, which when it was finally opened in 1796 ran from the river Trent up to Langley Mill.

We took a close look, admittedly just from the outside, at the Trent Navigation Inn - built to provide accommodation for boatmen and stabling for their horses; a lonely outpost with no other buildings nearby when it was first erected. We examined a section of the stone bridge, rubbed hollow by taut barge ropes. We viewed the site of the gent's loo across on the other side (apparently the first public convenience established in Nottingham in 1850 was just for men; ladies had to wait until 1879 for theirs) and we were given further history lessons in the precincts of the Cattle Market and at Eastcroft. At the site of the Sanitary Wharf we were told that here was the dry dock from where over 23,000 tons of night soil had been loaded into barges and dumped out of town.

Then we walked by the London Road bridge, past the flood level mark of 1852, over the bridge by the Grand Central railway station and round the bend where we stood looking across to St. Mary‘s Church and close by the old Boots Power Station. Finally we went under Carrington Street Bridge, built in 1842 and on to the Fellows Morton & Clayton Wharf where Jack told us the story of the great explosion of 1818. It was now 9.15 pm and we had taken one hour forty five minutes to cover a distance of perhaps one and half miles. But if we didn't go far we all experienced a most enjoyable, entertaining and informative evening. Perhaps on a future occasion we could continue the canal walk on to Lenton and Dunkirk? (Myrtle Shaw)

The Park

The story Ken Brand had to tell those who went on his guided walk around The Park last September concerned the various Dukes of Newcastle, the Town Council and several architects, chief among them P.F. Robinson, T.C. Hine and Fothergill Watson (or Watson Fothergill as he later called himself). The huge mansion, built by the 1st Duke of Newcastle in the 1670s on the site of the ruined medieval castle, had soon been cold shouldered by those who came after him and in the latter part of the eighteenth century the building had been let off as apartments. At the same time as the ducal mansion was being built, the Park had been re—enclosed and restocked with deer but the herd was sold off in 1717 and local townspeople were later permitted to graze cattle there for a fee. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the only parts of the Park so far built upon were across in the north west corner where the Nottingham Barracks had been constructed in 1792-3 and the Fishpond Gardens area which had been given over to allotments and on which a number of people had erected summer houses.

In 1795 the 3rd Duke of Newcastle died at the age of 42. He had been Duke a mere fifteen months following the death of his father, the 2nd Duke. (The Newcastle title had been re-established in 1714 because the original male line had died out and the numbering had started from one again). The Duke's eldest son succeeded to the title but he was only nine years of age. Consequently the Duke's mother and a set of trustees ran his estates until he came of age. In 1802 the Duchess resolved to sell off the Standard Hill area for housing but for a variety of reasons this was not achieved until 1807. Streets were laid out and houses built but little now remains because of the encroachment of the General Hospital.

See in Lightbox
A view of the Park taken in the 1870s looking up
to some of the houses on Newcastle Drive and the Ropewalk.

When a local architect was engaged by the 4th Duke in 1822 to draw up plans it became clear that the Duke now envisaged a major development for the Park but nothing came of this initial scheme. Then in 1825 he obtained the services of Peter Frederick Robinson who had previously been employed to design part of Leamington Spa. Robinson produced a new set of plans of how the Park might be developed and in the next few years work began on houses in the Ropewalk and on what became known as Park Terrace, Derby Terrace and Park Valley. Although strictly speaking private property, townsfolk had long been allowed to walk out in the Park and the potential loss of this amenity generated local antagonism against the Duke. His political beliefs inclined the Duke to vote against the Reform Bill when it came before the Lords in October 1831 and, as most readers will be aware, the news of the Bill’s defeat was not well received in Nottingham. To show their displeasure a mob stormed the Duke's empty Castle and virtually destroyed the building by setting fire to it. The Duke subsequently won damages of £21,000 from the Hundred of Broxtowe.

In the next twenty years more houses were built in the Park but not all that many. Ken Brand suggests that the slow development of the Park at this time was partly a matter of money. The Duke was always rather strapped for cash and the Park's development required a definite investment in roads etc. before he could reap the profits. Ken also thought it was partly because the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 finally permitted Nottingham Town Council to set about the enclosure of burgess' land and the Duke, fearful that the resultant release of large amounts of potential building land would depress prices, preferred to keep most of his in the Park off the market for the time being.

In 1851 the 4th Duke died. His son, the 5th Duke, soon resolved to get the Park's development speeded up. The Nottingham architect, T.C. Hine, was appointed in 1854 as surveyor of the Newcastle Estates with particular responsibility for the Park. Hine changed Robinson‘s proposed layout quite drastically, introducing the pattern of crescents and circuses we know today. The rate at which new roads and buildings began to appear increased but progress was always somewhat in fits and starts. There was a variety of reasons for this and even up until the early 1890s there were odd building plots, as yet unoccupied, still dotted about the Park.

As Ken Brand took our party around the Park he introduced us to the history of its development and showed us some of the buildings designed by Robinson and Hine along with those by Watson Fothergill and other Nottingham architects. He pointed out architectural features of interest in these buildings - especially the detailing which makes the buildings of Hine and Fothergill so distinctive. We also learnt a little about one or two of the people who resided in these magnificent properties and the whole afternoon was a real eve opener as to what can be found on our own doorstep! Any readers who would like to discover more about the Park and its history are strongly advised to obtain Ken Brand's booklet, The Park Estate, Nottingham, produced by the Nottingham Civic Society and available from City centre bookshops and the Castle Gatehouse.

A Little Family Business

They say there has been a dramatic growth in those interested in family history and certainly our postbag suggests that this is indeed the case. One person writing to us about her family antecedents is Mrs K. Chaplin (nee Hudston) who lives in Narborough, Leicestershire. She had tracked her great grandparents to Lenton where she found them living in the 'Greaves Buildings' in the 1841 Census and Commercial Street in 1851 when John Hudston was described as a lace maker and his wife Mary a lace winder. By 1851 they had two children William aged 7 and Hannah 5. Ten years later they were all living round the corner in Spring Close and young William was now an apprentice plumber. Mrs Chaplin hasn't yet managed to locate their whereabouts at the time of the 1871 Census but in 1881 they were found living in Leicester. All that is except daughter Hannah who had died in 1864 at the age of 18 and was buried in Holy Trinity Churchyard in Lenton. Other sources show the Hudstons were in Leicester as early as 1876, but for the period 1864 to 1876 Mrs Chaplin has no idea where the family lived. She hoped the Society might just possibly be able to shed some light on the matter. So far we haven't come across anything but if any readers happen to turn up a John Hudston for the missing years we would be happy to pass on the information.

Home Entertainments

Members of the Society provided the speakers at the October meeting. The evening began with Stanley Wilson showing slides of some of the photographs he's taken in Lenton over the past ten years or so. Some were scenes that looked much the same as they do today. In others various differences from the present day were evident while probably the most interesting were those of buildings that had totally gone as in the case of Petersham Street and Crepe Sizes' Friar Street works. Here was a salutary lesson for those of us with cameras to keep an eye open for local developments and take photos where ever we thought there was going to be changes. Next on was Peter Holland. After telling us a little about how the 'profession' of monk had evolved and something of the different monastic orders that were once present in Nottinghamshire, Peter detailed how the monks at Lenton's Cluniac Priory probably carried out their devotions to God and went about the everyday business of running the Priory.

After the break Ted Wright recalled the Lenton Flower Show. This first started back in 1900 and until 1934 operated on the first weekend in September on a little of the land which now houses the medical residences attached to the University Hospital. It then moved to the Lakeside Pavilion site when part of the old Flower Show site was needed for the construction of Clifton Boulevard. The final Lenton Show took place there in 1950. Ted related some personal memories such as helping his grandfather, George Wilson, prepare produce for entry to the vegetable section of the Show. Grandfather might dig up a whole row of potatoes in the search for five 'perfect' spuds. Young Ted would then be handed the task of cleaning those choice specimens with the aid of a toothbrush. Ted concluded by reading a reminiscence of the Flower Show provided by Les Berry.

Several members of the Society have been working industriously at the Local Studies Library as they look for news items in the nineteenth century papers which have a Lenton bias. It is a fairly slow business but has already generated some fascinating material. Steve Zaleski revealed that there was another way of finding Lenton news stories. This is via the Nottingham Datebooks and the Journal Yearbooks. These contain chronological lists of local events. Among them are a percentage of Lenton stories. Steve had extracted these and went through some of them with the audience. A few were well known items; others came as a complete surprise. What now needs to be done is to return to the original newspaper accounts and get the full story behind the likes of '14 workers gassed at Lenton (1934 March 26), 'Man and woman rescued from the Lenton canal at midnight' (1909 Nov.28) and 'Great fire at Sampson's factory, Lenton Boulevard, damage estimated at £150,000' (1902 Jan 13).

More Lenton Connections

A Mr Drapkin from Nottingham Rugby Club recently contacted the Society to ask if we had come across any information about the Club. From the early part of this century onwards Nottingham Rugby Club has been based out at Beeston but prior to this Mr Drapkin believed that the Club had spent a number of years in Lenton. He wondered whether the Society could help him with his researches. It so happened that while searching the local papers for information that could be used in the article 'Nottingham Forest & Lenton' the following news item came to light:

Nottingham Journal September 5th 1885 'While the partisans of the Association game will flock to Trent Bridge, Parkside and other grounds not a few will find themselves on a Saturday afternoon in a field behind the White Hart Inn, Lenton, which is again engaged by the Notts Rugby Football Club.'

So we could confirm Mr Drapkin's belief and also provide a clear indication as to where the ground was situated (in the mimid-1880st least). Mr Drapkin hopes to produce a history of the Club so we shall eagerly wait to learn how significant a part Lenton played in the Club's past.

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