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Nottingham in 1839

Nottingham is locally situated in the southern division of Broxtow hundred, on the north bank of the river Lene, about a mile north of the Trent. The borough constituted a county of itself, and comprehended, before the new arrangement of the municipal boundaries, an area of 2610 acres, with a population of 50,680 the additions lately made, pursuant to the recommendation of the Municipal Boundary Commissioners, may be considered as having raised the area to more than 4000 acres, and the population (calculated on the census of 1831) to more than 60,000, which now probably amounts to 70,000.

The early history of this place is involved in great obscurity. The excavations from which it is said to have gained its name (in Saxon) Snotenga ham, or Snotinga ham, which some interpret ‘the home of caverns’, are supposed to have had a British origin; and Gale contended for placing here the Roman station Causennae or Causennis, which however others place at Ancaster in Lincolnshire. Nottingham was included in the kingdom of Mercia: it was taken by the Danes, to whom it was confirmed by the treaty between Alfred and Guthrum (A.D. 878 or 880): it was one of their Mercian burghs which connected their Northum-brian and East Anglian dominions. It was taken and fortified by Edward the Elder, but the Danes afterwards regained and held it until they were conquered by Edmund I (A.D. 942). William the Conqueror built a castle here, the government of which he conferred of his natural son William Peverel. In the troubles of Stephen’s reign the town was taken and burnt by the partisans of the empress Maud; and it suf-fered a similar fate either in the later troubles of the same reign, or in the rebellion of prince Henry, son of Henry II, against his father. In the troubles of the reign of Richard I the castle, which was of great strength, was the object of contest; in those of the reign of John it was held throughout by the king. The seizure of Roger Mortimer, the paramour of queen Isabella, in Nottingham castle (A.D. 1330), is an incident well known. In the civil war of Charles I, that king set up his standard at Nottingham (August, 1642), but the place came next year into the hands of the parliament, who garrisoned the castle, of which Colonel Hutchinson (whom the ‘Memoirs’ of his lady have made so well known) was governor. During the Protectorate the castle was dismantled ; and after the Restoration the old building was replaced by the present one, which has nothing of a castle but the name. The only occurrences of any importance since have been the ‘Luddite’ disturbances in 1811-12, and the riot arising out of the political excitement of 1831, on which occasion the castle was burnt by the rioters.

The town is on a considerable slope on the north bank of the Lene, commanding an extensive view of the vale of Trent. It consists of a number of streets irregularly laid out but remarkably well paved. Those in the central and more ancient parts of the town are narrow; but considerable improvements have been effected of late years; the streets of modern erection are broader, and there are several ranges of good buildings. The castle is on a rock at the south-west corner of the town, overlooking the Lene. The market place is one of the largest and finest in the kingdom, surrounded with lofty buildings. The extension of the town has been checked by the right of common over the land to the north and south of it possessed by the freemen. This has led to the formation of groups of houses of considerable extent in the neighbouring parishes of Sneinton, Lenton and Radford, which may be regarded as suburbs of Nottingham, and have been by the late alteration included in the municipal limits. These outlying portions have a population of more than 20,000. There are several bridges in the town over the arms of the Lene or over the Nottingham canal and about a mile south of the town is ‘Trent Bridge’ of nineteen arches over the Trent, a very ancient structure, and exhibiting, from frequent repairs, great architectural variety : connected with this bridge are a causeway over the meadows and an embankment to protect the lower part of the town in the time of floods. The Trent is here about 200 feet wide. The environs of Nottingham are very pleasant.

Among the principal buildings are ‘the New Exchange’ at the east end of the market-place, a brick building erected early in the last century, and repaired and beautified in 1814. The lower part is appropriated to shops, behind which are the shambles ; the upper part contains a suite of noble rooms for the transaction of public business or for assemblies. The county-hall, rebuilt AD. 1770, is a commodious and handsome building, with two convenient courts, and apartments for the judges, jury, &c. The town-hall is a spacious edifice, of which the town gaol forms the ground-floor. There are a small plain theatre ; a grand stand on the race-course, which is to the north of the town, and is one of the finest in the kingdom ; extensive cavalry barracks in the castle park; and a building erected as a riding-house for the yeomanry, and now used as circus or for other public amusements.

The borough before its late enlargement comprehended the three parishes of St. Mary, St. Peter, and St. Nicholas. St. Mary’s church is in the central part of the town It is a large cross-church, with a fine tower at the intersection of the transepts, rising two stages above the roof of the church crowned with a battlement and eight crocketted pinnacles. The western end of the church has been modernised, but in very bad taste; the rest is of perpendicular character, and presents several peculiar features: it has a very large proportion of window light, perhaps greater than any other church in England. The interior is good, and contains some fine monuments. St. Peter’s church is near the market-place. It is a large church, originally of perpendicular character, but the greater part has been modernised. It has a plain western tower, surmounted by a lofty octangular crocketted spire. St. Nicholas’s church is in Castlegate Street near the castle : it is a plain brick building, with stone quoins and cornices, erected in the latter end of the seventeenth century, in place of one pulled down during the civil war of Charles I. St. James’s church or chapel is on Standard hill, in the extra-parochial district of the park: it is a neat modern edifice of perpendicular character, with a low embattled tower. St. Paul’s chapel, in St. Mary’s parish, is a modern Grecian building with a Doric portico. The church at Lenton is very small: it was built after the dissolution of the religious houses, but some portions of a more ancient building appear to have been employed in its erection. Radford and Sneinton churches are both small: the latter stands on the summit of an excavated rock, and commands an extensive view. A grant for a new church in Sneinton parish has been made by the commissioners for the erection of new churches. There are several dissenting places of worship in Nottingham, especially for Wesleyan Methodists, Independents, and Baptists. The Catholics, Jews, Quakers, Unitarians, and several other sects have each their place of worship; that of the Catholics is a handsome building of Grecian architecture.

There are several charitable institu-tions. Plumtree hospital for poor and aged widows is a neat brick building, coated with cement, rebuilt within a few years : beside the inmates, there are several out-pensioners. Collins’s hospital is for twenty-four aged widowers or widows, who have each a tenement of two or three rooms and a weekly allowance, beside coals : the hospital is a neat brick building. Lambley hospital for decayed burgesses or their widows is a neat building consisting of a centre and two wings, with a green in front. There are a number of other hospitals or almshouses. The general hospital on Standard Hill (built A.D. 1781), and the county lunatic asylum (in which other patients as well as paupers are received) are spacious and commodious buildings. Thurland Hall, an ancient house of the Elizabethan period, is still occasionally used for public dinners; it was the temporary residence of James I.

The principal manufactures carried on at Nottingham are bobbin-net and lace, and cotton and silk hosiery : nearly 7000 adult males were employed in these branches of industry in and about the town in 1831. There are several mills for spinning cotton and woollen yarn, and for throwing silk, and much cotton yarn is obtained from the mills of Derbyshire. The machines for making bobbin-net and lace are very expensive, are let out at a weekly rate to the workmen by capitalists, who invest a considerable sum in this kind of property. Steam-power has however been introduced of late into this manufacture. There are several dye-houses ; there are also white-lead works and an iron foundry. Wire-drawing, pin-making, and the manufacture of brass fenders are carried on to some extent ; malting and brewing are also carried on, and ‘Nottingham ale’ has a high reputation. There are several windmills on the common north of the town. There are coal-pits in Radford parish, which employ 100 adult males. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday for corn, cattle, and general provisions ; the Saturday market is one of the principal in the midland counties. There are several yearly fairs for cattle, cheese, and cloth : at one of these fairs, distinguished as ‘goose fair,’ a considerable number of geese are sold. The trade of the town is much promoted by its proximity to the Trent, which is navigable, and from the communication thus afforded with the various canals connected with that river. The Nottingham canal passes close to the town, and joins the Trent at Trent bridge, a mile distant.

The corporation under the Municipal Reform Act consists of fourteen aldermen and forty-two councillors. The borough in its present enlarged extent is divided into seven wards, St. Ann’s, Byron, Sneinton, Exchange, Canal, Radford, and Sherwood wards. Being a county, it has two sheriffs : there are a recorder, town-clerk, and other officers. The county magistrates have concurrent jurisdiction in the borough with the mayor and aldermen. Before the enlargement of the boundary, there was a police force of 100 men appointed by the magistrates at quarter-sessions ; and some watchmen were maintained by private subscription. Water is supplied by three companies in abundance and at a reasonable rate. The assizes and quarter-sessions for the county are held here ; also quarter-sessions for the borough ; and a Court of Record for the borough every fortnight, and a sheriff’s court every month for the recovery of small debts. The borough returns two members to parliament ; the sheriffs are the returning officers. Nottingham is a polling-place for the northern division of the county.

The livings of St. Nicholas and St. Peter are rectories, of the clear yearly value of £216. (with a glebe-house), and £336 respectively : that of St. Mary is a vicarage of the clear yearly value of £699, with a glebe-house. The perpetual curacy of St. James, Standard Hill, is of the yearly value of £200. Radford and Lenton are vicarages, of the clear yearly value of £293 and £139 respectively ; and Sneinton, a perpetual curacy of £227.

There were, in 1833, in the three parishes of Nottingham and those of Lenton, Radford, and Sneinton, five infant-schools, with 540 scholars ; eight boarding-schools, with 254 children; ninety-five day-schools (in a few of which boarders also were taken), with 4477 children ; and fourty-four Sunday-schools, with about 7840 children. Among the day-schools in this return were included the free grammar-school, with a valuable endowment, and 52 scholars ; the Blue-Coat School, with 60 boys and 20 girls ; a national school, with 573 children ; three Lancasterian schools, with 484 children ; and four other schools wholly or chiefly supported by charitable contributions.

There is a public library and news-room in the market-place ; the library consists of about 8000 volumes, besides a valuable collection of old books, kept separate from the rest, and a mineralogical cabinet : in the buildings of this institution are lecture, news, and billiard rooms, and a law library : a literary society meets in the lecture-room. There is a mechanics’ institute, established in 1824, which has a considerable library.