Just after I first moved to Nottingham – which is around nine months ago now – a very lovely friend and colleague bought me this book which she’d found in a second hand shop in Folkestone (thanks Bev).
Having completed my little creative corner in my lounge (see the header picture) yesterday, I now have a whole little treasure trove of interesting stuff unpacked on shelves and in drawers within grasping range of my favourite chair, so I thought I’d take a proper look at it.
I absolutely love these old guides, I love that some places you can still recognise instantly but others are well and truly consigned to the past. This one still has it’s fold-out maps intact and pretty much undamaged (I’m a little bit of a map freak too).
I had a bit of difficulty dating the book. It’s the revised sixth edition. The most up-to-date dating evidence in the book is a footnote – that I guess was probably one of the revisions – which says: “In November 1919 the Corporation decided on a scheme for the extension of the Guildhall, which involved the demolition of the Machanic’s [sic] Institution and its erection on another site.”
I did search online and found a sixth edition dated 1922 and this advert in the back of my copy…
… is advertising a book published on January 1 1922.
In my revised edition the text says that Wollaton Hall is ‘the property of Lord Middleton’. Now Wollaton Hall was bought by the council in 1925 so that narrows down the date of my book to sometime between the end of 1922 and the end of 1925. That’s good enough for me.
So we are between the two world wars; a time of considerable change, of flapper girls and dance halls, the beginning of the end for the landed gentry and our upper and lower class society; a time of railways, and a time when working-class people could explore beyond the confines of their towns and villages for leisure thanks to improved transport links. Hence the need for these guides in the first place.
The book describes Nottingham as a hub of industry – paying particular attention to lacemaking, hosiery and coal mines. But it goes on to say: “Although Nottingham is a great manufacturing centre, there is an agreeable absence of smoke and griminess” and then adds: ‘The death-rate shows that Nottingham is one of the healthiest manufacturing cities in the kingdom”.
It has a section on the legend of Robin Hood (obviously) and a history section that rather annoyingly told me the first Mayor of Nottingham was elected in 1284 without telling me who he was so I had to go and look it up (it was Roger de Crophill).
Under the heading Local Worthies, we have a list of people I am now going to have to find out more about: poets Henry Kirke White and Philip James Bailey, and William and Mary Howitt, artist Richard Parkes Bonington, General Booth and a gentleman called Herbert Ingram who brought out the London Illustrated News.
And then it says this: “Other notables were Paul Sandby, the inventor of the watercolour painting…” Now that statement certainly merits further investigation.
And after it has finished with its preamble about history and people, this lovely little guide then proceeds to do just that – it guides you around the city and looks at notable places. I think I may have to follow its trail (a bit like Michael Portillo does with the Bradshaw Guides) and see what’s changed and what hasn’t – that sounds like a fun sunny day activity to me, watch this space…
One thing that has certainly changed is this. Why did I not know that the Victoria Centre stood on the site of a former railway station? I’ve seen the clocktower and still did not twig. Not to self: try and be a little more observant!
There’s a lot of blog ammunition in this little book so I have no doubt I will be returning to it time and time again.
As an aside, I have started a little collection of postcards of Nottingham.
It’s not huge (yet!) but it’s definitely got to the stage where I ought to think about purchasing an album to put them in. Some of them I have bought because I liked the photographs and some because I love reading the words on the back.
Like this one.
It is postmarked Long Eaton 1905 and was sent to Miss Macdonald in Gregory Street, Old Lenton, but it’s not signed.
It says: “I say you will wonder what now, well it’s just to pass the time on. I just hope you will send me a postcard before long, I have not had any from you lately, pls don’t forget.”
Our unnamed scribe sounds like a bit of a stalker. I wonder if Miss Macdonald wrote back?