Category Archives: Nottingham

The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (1)

I have always been fascinated by extreme weather, as many of you will have noticed. I recently came across an account of the Great Flood of Nottingham in 1875. It was in “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood” started by Mr John Frost Sutton and then continued by Henry Field.
The detailed account of the flood is particularly fascinating because it involves many streets which no longer exist. I was able to trace all of them on my Old Ordnance Survey Map for Nottingham (South) 1880. You can buy these on ebay or from a company run by Alan Godfrey .

The account begins with:

“October 22nd 1875
The greatest flood that has occurred in this century at Nottingham reached its height shortly before midnight, and, as viewed from the terrace of the Castle, was a scene never to be forgotten. Turn which way you would, the south side of town resembled a great sea, with here and there trees, factories, or blocks of houses standing out. The left portion had quite a Venetian aspect: people were moving to and fro, some on planks, some on hastily constructed rafts, fetching out their goods or those of some unfortunate neighbour, and floating them to higher parts.”

The castle has a tremendous view from the top of the cliff on which it stands:

Here’s the terrace and a very poor view of the view:

The description continues with particular reference to individual streets, using the peculiar way of writing them as “Downing-street” for example. Many of them are no longer there in their ancient form, such as Arkwright-street and Kirke White-street. We only have the fossilised fragments of what they once were:      `

“The Queen’s-walk was rendered impassable, and many of the houses on the sides had at least six feet of water in them. In parts of Queen’s-road, Arkwright-street, and Kirke White-street people were conveyed to and fro in carts. The water stood in the cellars of many of the houses in Leen-side, Carrington-street, Greyfriars-gate, and several other streets.”

Let’s take a look at these more obscure Nottingham streets, because if a magic wand could be waved and they were reinstated, quite a few of Nottingham’s current traffic problems might be solved.

On the map below the orange arrow points to  Queen’s Walk which I think is where the Manchester United footballer Andrew Cole originally came from. Queen’s Road, mentioned in the account of the flooding, is north east of the orange arrow and runs down the side of the station. Looking at the map, Queen’s Walk, still in white right next to the orange arrow, used to be a splendidly direct route out of the city to the south. Alas, it is now pedestrianized:

In the map below, Arkwright-street used to be a very big and important thoroughfare. It ran south of the station and curved gently but directly to Trent Bridge. It is there nowadays in a similar fossilised form. Find the red dot that marks the station at the top of the map below and follow it south eastwards towards the river in a long, long curve past the orange arrow and across to Trent Bridge, with the road number A60 on it. Nowadays, alas, this is not a continuous route for cars:

Kirke White-street was equally important. It ran from the canal on London Road straight as an (orange) arrow until it reached Wilford Road in the west. Kirke White-street crossed right through The Meadows, which were some of the most impressive slums in the whole British Empire. Even in 1970, children could be seen barefoot here, In the 19th century, its inhabitants provided the huge crowds that kept Notts County in the First Division and helped them to win the FA Cup:

After World War Two the inhabitants of the Meadows were moved en masse to Clifton Estate, some three or four miles outside the City.

Kirke White-street was a much used east to west route across the city and then out via Wilford Street and Wilford Road to Birmingham and the south west. On the map below, the long lost fossilised path of Kirke White-street is very roughly the red dotted  line going east to west. Wilford Street and then Wilford Road is in the top left corner. It very quickly changes into the A453 which was the old main road to Birmingham:

Leen-side is the eastwards continuation of Canal-street to London Road where the BBC is now situated. It ran to the south of Narrow Marsh, where the Nottingham police never dared to go. It was an area generally reckoned to be the absolute very worst slums in the whole British Empire. People who lived there used to queue up to live in the old Meadows. I found a picture of them queuing on the Internet. It’s hard to believe that on the right that group is just one family, but that’s what slums are all about:

Here is Leen-side, marked with the orange arrow. Just to the north of Canal Street, it used to form an excellent east-west route through the city, and linked well with the route leading south via London Road and the other one going past the red dot of the modern station:

Carrington-street was exactly where it is now and you can see it to the west of the railway station on the map below. In Victorian times, though, it ran a lot further north to a junction with Greyfriars Gate and Broad Marsh, much of which is now covered by the Broad Marsh Centre. Only a small part of Greyfriars Gate remains, between Wilford Street and the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. I suspect that it used to link up with Lister Gate. I have marked it with our old friend, the Orange Arrow:

There will be more pointed accusations of the slack jawed local planners of the 1960s, and their pathetic and repeated failures to use their brains next time, although I do promise not to mention the fact that they demolished this wonderful old coaching inn and World War II RAF knocking shop without hesitation:

They replaced it with one of the finest examples of sixties architecture in the city:




Filed under History, Nottingham

Vandalism in the School Archives? Or is it Art?

A few months ago, I went into the School Archives to photograph the School Lists. They are quite boring little booklets to be brutally honest, but they are very informative and record the names of all the members of all the forms in the School for every year. The oldest ones date from the late 1860s, but because I was researching the school’s casualties in World War II, I started my James Bond activities with 1892 and then went forwards as far as 1950. Just for the sake of argument, here’s one, with a particularly famous ex-pupil on it:

With all that information, it is actually a Victorian Excel Spreadsheet!

The only thing out of the ordinary that I found in 3.96 GB of School Lists was in the edition for 1941:

Once again, some young man was feeling the ‘Call of the Skies’:

Below the printers’ name, he had knocked out a couple of bombers;

Here’s the larger of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 320 and has a range of 3,000 miles, with an endurance, I think he means, not ‘duration’, of 6 hours 8 minutes and a bomb load of 3,000lbs. It also has 8 machine guns. Looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines.

Here’s the smaller of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 350 and has a range of 1,000 miles, with no armament. It looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines. Here’s one I prepared earlier:

I have also tried hard to blow up the first of the fighters:

It has one 1 inch cannon, in the propeller boss, by the look of it, and 8 machine guns.

The other fighter is rather Spitfire like:

It is called the 398 and has 4 cannon, 4 machine guns, an endurance of 5 hours and a range of 3,000 miles. I’m sorry to say that Maths was not necessarily this young man’s strong point! The German fighter has no names or specifications:

For me, it is mainly Focke Wulf Fw 190, but there is a little dash of Mitsubishi Zero in it as well perhaps.

I often think that we regret what we do not do far more than what we do do. When I was in the Sixth Form at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Boys’ Grammar School, we used to have French lessons in a smaller room because there were only 12 of us. One of the desks had a fantastic carving of a B-17 Flying Fortress, deep into the wood of the lid, with all the ailerons, all the machine guns and all the ventilation holes in the gun barrels. It was fabulous. This is the closest I can find on the Internet:Looking back at how much money the school had, I suspect it dated from  1943 rather than 1963 and the Airfix kit of that era:

My regret is that I did not find any way of preserving this work of art rather than it be thrown into a skip in the middle 70s.

Not much survives of the pupils in any school. And what does would have been classified as vandalism at the time. Such as this example from 1922:

or this one from 1942:

or this one from a young man who upset the High School more than he could ever imagine:




Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

My Book (3)

I am still quite proud of the fact that I have found out so much information about the vast majority of these young men. I feel that I have done them all justice and that I have done my very best to keep them in people’s memories, even as they seem to be receding further and further into the anonymous grey mists of time. Here is the School Rugby team in 1926-1927:

I have made great efforts to drag the complete ghost out of the past and to write not just about their fiery deaths but to try and unfold the full and energetic lives they led. It’s only too easy to see a name on a war memorial, to read that name and then to forget it, all in the same moment. For that reason I have tried to describe their families, their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and sisters. I have tried to find out what their father did as a job, where the family lived, in some cases occupying just one or two houses in their lifetime, in others half a dozen. What were their houses like? How might they have travelled to the High School? I have tracked their Forms, their teachers, what they did at School, how their exams went, what position they came in class and what prizes they won, all the things that would have been so important to them at the time. I have written about what their Form Masters were like and talked about their careers. This is Mr Kennard. He definitely took no prisoners:

I have tried to find out what sports our future heroes played:

What school plays they were in. The French farce of the 1920s, “Dr Knock”, perhaps? And which one of these boys became the war hero?:

Or perhaps a play with a chance to wear a lovely frock and a string of pearls? :

Which person collected stamps and who loved to make home movies? I have tried to identify other boys in their Forms who might have been their friends, even if that is just a case of saying who won the Form Prize and where they lived, what job their father did and so on. Here is a class of really small boys, eight and nine year olds, before the First World War:

The worst thing I could have done would have been to have written three thousand words about their death and thirty about their lives. So whatever I could find, I have included. Their sports, their hobbies, their jobs between school and the forces, and, if possible, what their abilities and talents were.
By doing this I revealed, even to myself, just how many different places have provided High School pupils over these years and just how many hundreds of different jobs their fathers have done, some of them long gone and requiring a search on the Internet.

At least one High School hero of Bomber Command had come straight from Waring & Gillow’s shop to fly his Lancaster. He apparently said one day in the shop that selling double beds and three piece suites was not a worthy job for a man when his country was at war, and off he went. Waring & Gillow sold luxury furniture of all kinds, and they appear to have made a lot themselves, because here is their factory. :

And when I have written about the boys’ streets and houses, some simple directions are usually included. Without them, which of us could ever locate Balfour Road or Conway Avenue or Derby Terrace or Florence Road? And many old streets have completely disappeared. This is a very different Forest Recreation Ground, only a few decades before the first of the World War Two casualties was born. Look at the windmills, and the race course for horses. It was one of the very few ever to be a figure-of-eight, in the hope of some juicy crashes:

It is, of course, the young readers who are my ultimate target audience. It would be a tragedy indeed if they were never to realise who died for their right not to be brainwashed, not to speak German as their first language, not to be slave labourers in a foreign land and to have the right to make their own decisions at all the different stages of their young lives. Freedom does not come cheap, and I’m not talking about money. The situation is perhaps best summed up by what one Old Nottinghamian war hero has inscribed on his grave:



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

My Book (2)

With the books that I eventually produce, my main intention will be to preserve our knowledge of the sacrifices made by these men, but at the same time, I do feel that I have one other main aim, which is to demonstrate that, as we live our own lives, we are surrounded by history of all kinds.

History is always there, hiding in the streets we walk down and in the houses we walk past. It is there, hiding in the buildings of a great city and it is hiding even in the corridors and rooms of the High School. It hides behind the modern frontage of the Park Salon and Quality4Students on Derby Road, up near Canning Circus:

History even hides behind the steamed up windows of the City Chicken Cafe and the Istanbul Off Licence on Mansfield Road:

It hides catastrophic defeats:

And it hides catastrophic accidents:


There’s no blue plaque to remember Peter Vernon, though. No flag flies over the home of “Watty” Watson. We have no statue in Edwards Lane of “Farmer” Richardson. No films are ever shown on our televisions of George Brown, the young man:

“whose fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump was so devastating on its day.”

But I do not want this secret history of ordinary people to be forgotten. The modest men in these books all died for our freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from racism, freedom from random prejudice, from arrest without reason, from chance execution, from a quick death in a gas chamber or a slow death as a slave labourer :

They saved us from a society without free speech, without choice and with no discussion of the future of us all:

They saved us from a political system which, at the end of the war, was quite willing to kill a substantial percentage of its own citizens as the best way forward towards a better life.
In this book, therefore, you will find as much as I could discover about well over a hundred men from Nottingham High School who gave their lives willingly in the cause of freedom.
That sounds a great many people and it was, for a school with total numbers of between five and six hundred at any one moment during the period under review.

The criteria for being added to the list were, for the most part, inclusion in the long list kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which uses its own date limits for the casualty’s death of September 3rd 1939 to December 31st 1947. I did stretch the definition slightly to include the men who died while working to support the Allied cause. A university lecturer who is killed in an aircraft crash as he travels from place to place on a lecture tour around the Mediterranean theatre will be in the list, just as much as the man who organises food for a million refugees in India and who prevents the outbreak of a typhoid epidemic. Both are clearly making contributions to the war effort. They are both, to quote a famous football manager, “Getting us closer to the top of the hill.”


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

My Book (1)

It is a long time since I shared with you what I was up to, away from the knockabout world of blog posting. Some of you will know that for the last four years at least I have been researching the boys of the High School who gave their lives in the Second World War. At first, it was seven days a week, four hours a day, but I am now down to six days a week with three hours as a minimum and the usual being around three and a half hours. It’s difficult to describe what a huge job it was:

I began this mammoth task because as far as I was aware, nobody had ever carried out any research whatsoever about the brave Old Nottinghamians who gave their lives during the Second World War. At the moment I have around 120 people to include in an eventual book, of which 110 are men who qualify 100% as war casualties. Because of the volume of information I have discovered, hundreds of thousands of words, the final work is likely to be in three volumes if not four:

The majority of research I have carried out on the Internet which has supplied me with details which have never been known before. Most of all, I have discovered a large number of former pupils who deserve to be recognised as Old Nottinghamian war casualties but who were not included when the original lists were being compiled:

That is far from a criticism. In the late 1940s, how could anybody have found out that a little boy of eight or nine who spent just a couple of terms in the Preparatory School in the early 1920s had been killed in a tank three miles east of Hamburg five years before? Communication by letter:

and communication by postcard:

with other information distributed in newspapers could not possibly have coped with demands of this kind:

On occasion, the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, got me started with my researches, but overall, the solutions were largely provided by the men who have dedicated their entire lives to the recording of the minutest details of the Second World War. Men who have recorded the names of every RAF man killed in an aircraft of Bomber Command. Men who have recorded the names of every sailor who did not come home from the sea in World War Two. Every U-boat captain and his every kill. Every nightfighter pilot and every bomber he shot down:

I just felt that, unless I did produced some committed and detailed research of my own right now, there was a real risk that nothing would have been done by the time we reached the centenary of the beginning of the conflict in 2039.
In many ways, that absence of detailed research by others might even be seen as a bonus, because there would be very few people out there who could contradict what I had written. On the other hand, I do feel that after so many thousands of hours working on the project, there should be no huge errors in what I have produced. (Touch wood). Even my best guesses have often proved later to be quite reasonable ones, based on what, in many cases, is a paucity of actual facts.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

Sports Day : the race that lasted 20 years

The Reverend Stephens provides us here with yet another journey into “a foreign country; they do things differently there” (L.P.Hartley). And sixty years back in the past, it’s the start of the race in 1957. It’s late in the day, judging by the shadows. I think that the starter is Oswald Lush and look how each team has a differently coloured sash for identification purposes:

The next race started, I think, in 1969. None of those rather young little boys will be nervous, just because thousands of people are watching them and if anybody in the race slips and falls over, everybody will laugh at them and remember the event for the rest of their lives:

And here are the finishes. This one comes from 1957:

And here’s another tight finish from the same era:

The finishing judges display great concentration, especially Mr Lush on the right:

And the winner is…..No 22. Except he’s twelve years late, because this is 1969:

Some finishes in 1969 seem to have been based on folk dances:

The finish in 1977 was a lot more decisive:

And talking of individuals, this is thought to be B Watchorn in 1957. Just look at where there used to be a cricket scorebox:

And finally, here is a young man thought to be called Burney winning the mile in 1954:

This was possibly John Murray Burney from Gedling. He will be over 80 years old if he’s still out there somewhere. I hope he is.


Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Sports Day : they also serve who stand and wait

One of the best things about old photographs is that we don’t necessarily look at them with the same interpretation of what is happening as the person who took the photograph in the first place. And at sports events, the activities might seem a little boring but the spectators never are. The Reverend Stephens has left us here a good few glimpses of the School Sports Days of the past…and the people who watched them. Here are Messrs Madden, Neville and Foster in 1957:

On the same day, he snapped Messrs Chett, Symonds, Grauberg and Lush. But just look at the cars! Left to right, a Ford Prefect, a Hillman Minx, a Morris Minor 1000 and I really don’t have a clue, but it’s definitely old:

By 1960, things haven’t changed very much. The starter signals that he is ready and everybody else waits for the bang:

Mr Powell doesn’t look too happy as he goes off to see somebody at the other end of the track:

Things were very similar in  1961. One thing that I can’t understand in this picture is the leg in the same lane as the athlete finishing second:

But what’s attracting all the attention in 1957? A small crowd seems to have formed:

Why! It’s a baby!! And Mr AJ Walker just can’t resist!

And how could he resist a child who can lick a finger in a world class way?

Of all the photographs we have of Sports Day, these two are the most thrilling. Why did this not happen when I was working at the High School ? Let me point out too, as you gasp at the size of the queue, that ice cream was not rationed at this point. It’s just a wonderful thing to eat, the Food of the Gods:

Here it is again!:

I cannot explain why there is this sudden rush. I would like to say that the ice cream man’s buxom young daughter has had a wardrobe malfunction, but I really don’t know.


Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School