Thursday, 23 May 2019


Nottingham Council House (City Hall)

We are visiting our friends Sally and Malcolm near Nottingham which, in an unplanned way, offered a wonderful opportunity to progress my City Walks project. My goal is to take a walk in all of England's 51 cities (I have managed 38 so far). We based our walk on an excellent post on a blog called My Lifelong Holiday.

We started at the Nottingham playhouse. The current building was opened in 1963 and was the work of the architect Peter Moro. Its modernist style was controversial and in 1985 it was "refurbished" to be less brutalist. However, in 2005 it was restored in its original style.

On the left of the theatre is Anish Kapoor's astonishing sky mirror. It was installed in 2001 and voted the city's favourite landmark in 2007. It offers a rather wonderful upside-down view ... but of what?

The answer is the nearby Albert Hall. It was built as a concert hall, but from 1909 (when it was rebuilt) until 1984 it functioned as a Methodist Mission. Since then it has been a Conference Hall.

We turned left into Derby Road to see one of Nottingham's best sights (strangely not mentioned in the My Lifelong Holiday post): the (Roman Catholic) Cathedral of St Barnabas (1841-44), by the great Victorian architect A W N Pugin. Because of the position of the sun, this was the only viable angle to photograph the outside: you can deduce the existence of several chapels at the east end.

The nave is plainer than we expected. Most of Pugin's decorative scheme was destroyed in the upheaval that surrounded the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 (which can very briefly be summarised as a drive to modernise the Catholic church - Mass was now celebrated in English for example) when the old high altar was discarded, and most of the elaborate decorative scheme was painted over. To be honest, we thought the result was still quite attractive in its understated way.

However, when we visited the one part of the Cathedral which survives in its original state, the Blessed Sacrament chapel, we realised just how much had been lost. The chapel is an exquisite example of Pugin's style. It could of course equally be described as a bit over the top.

Leaving the Cathedral we continued up the road and then followed the surprising instruction to walk through a car park and into a dark entrance way. We emerged into the Park Tunnel - a seemingly little-known route, dating from 1855, to the area of Nottingham known as The Park which once the hunting grounds of the Castle.

We didn't go all the way through, but instead climbed some steps which brought us to Park Terrace, a fine residential street, which marks one side of The Park. Directly in front was this handsome Victorian house.

The rest of the street had large mansions on the right and this handsome group of uniform semis on the left hand side. (There are more out of shot.)

At the end we veered away from The Park, which was a shame as it would surely have repaid a gentle stroll, and headed towards Nottingham Castle, currently under restoration. The original castle was largely demolished after the Civil War and was set on fire in 1831 by rioters protesting against poor living standards. It was later rebuilt as a museum, which remains its role. This picture was taken through the protective wire mesh fence and into the sun, hence its poor quality.

We walked along Castle Road, passing a statue of Robin Hood dating from 1951. A bit of a cliché really.

Further along there was a fine view of Castle Rock (not to be confused with Casterly Rock in GoT).

Just beyond the rock is the celebrated Trip to Jerusalem pub, built in 1189 and famous as the oldest pub in England.

I took a small detour to the right soon after this to catch a glimpse of Fitzroy House, Castle Meadow Road, an HM Revenue and Customs Office which I often visited in my management consulting days. It was well-regarded as a piece of architecture in its day, but I always felt that the circular towers (which I think only contained staircases) had the character of a high security prison in the US. According to the Nottingham Post, it seems that that whole operation is to move into the city centre by 2021.

We now headed along Castle Gate and across Maid Marian Way, passing another old pub, The Royal Children (James I's children, that is). In the continuation of this street there was a wonderful Congregational Church.

At the cross-roads of Albert Street and Listergate I admired this wonderful building, although I have found out nothing about it.

We continued along the unusually named Low Pavement (Chesterfield is the only other town to have a street with the same name), passing  this lovely building, again name unknown. (You will have realised that by now we have departed from the My Lifelong Holiday post - time was running short.)

WE continued ahead to reach the majestic Adams Building, a former lace mill dating from the 1800’s now Nottingham (FE) College.

Continuing to the right we reached St Mary's church on our left, in the Lace Market district. It is the oldest religious foundation in the City (dating in its present form from the late 15th century), the largest church after St Barnabas RC Cathedral and the largest medieval building in the city.

We turned right into High Pavement passing, on our left, the National Justice Museum, established in 1995 and located in the former Shire Hall and County Gaol.

Further down on the left in the continuation of High Pavement, the wonderfully named Weekday Cross, is the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery which opened in 2009. The building, by Caruso St John Architects, was given a RIBA Award. I wasn't totally impressed, but it doubtless requires a visit before making a judgement.

Now up Fletchergate and into Victoria Street where we spotted this wonderful art nouveau shop on the right. A passerby very kindly informed us that the building was designed by Florence Boot, wife of Jessie Boot, founder of the Boots company. The top section of the ground floor windows is sublime.

Further down on the right, opposite the arcade which surprisingly runs through the middle of the Council House (i.e. City Hall) is Ye Flying Horse, established as a pub in the late 15th century. It is now (sadly) the entrance to a shopping mall, but still a splendid sight.

We emerged into the vast square which stands in front of the Council House, Old Market Square. The Council House (see photo at the head of this post) The Council House was designed by Thomas Howitt and built between 1927 and 1929.

In case you are wondering, the six-metre tall sculpture of a giant red and white hand (it is is catching an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 ball) is a temporary advertisement. It will remain in place for the duration of Trent Bridge’s Cricket World Cup fixtures. It also features a wristband with the emblems of the nations who are playing in Nottingham during the tournament; England, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh.

Over to the left of the Council House, as you look at, was this fine late Victorian building.

We unfortunately failed to see the statue of Brian Clough.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: maybe 3 miles.

Rating: five stars. Thoroughly enjoyable and interesting.

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