Tag Archives: Clifton Estate

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:

 

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The Nottinghamshire UFO flap of July 1967

I have already mentioned in a previous article, the wonderfully titled “A Werewolf in Cambridgeshire. Run away!!” that I had received “Haunted Skies Volume One” by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway as a Christmas present in 2013.

The following year, for Christmas 2014, I was lucky enough to be given Volumes 2-6, which covered the history of British UFOs from 1960-1977. And I have read the lot! It has taken me until April 2015, but I have, more or less, made it. I now sit eagerly at home awaiting the arrival of the last four volumes in the series, which I ordered last Sunday. These will complete the full set.

The ten volumes are an absolute tour de force and a total labour of love which will become a modern classic. If anything, the books have become better and better as the volumes have gone by. I would urge you strongly to have a look at the two authors’ pages on Amazon, if you find this topic at all interesting.
When a number of UFOs are sighted in a particular locality over a fairly short period of time, this is known as a “flap”. Over the years, around the world, there have been more flaps than you could shake a little green man at. In 1967, there was one in Nottingham.

It started, perhaps, on February 13, 1967 in Radford, an area of mainly Victorian terraced houses a very short distance to the north west of the city centre. Look for the orange arrow, near the “O” of Nottingham:

mapof radford

It was ten minutes to nine in the evening and Frank Earp and Gerald Montague were hard at it on their allotment. It must have been almost totally dark, dark enough, at least, to see a diamond shaped object motionless in the night sky. It had a red light underneath and suddenly changed shape before flying off at fantastic speed. This. hopefully, is similar to what Frank and Gerald saw:

dimond redlight zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Five months later, on July 2nd 1967, reports came in of a bright light with three prongs, motionless in the sky over Knighton Park in nearby Leicester, only 28 miles away from the “Queen of the Midlands”.
The main highlight of the Nottingham Flap came three days later during the evening of Wednesday, July 5th 1967.  An absolutely classic flying saucer was seen by a very large number of witnesses. It was motionless over the Clifton Estate, just above the horizon.

classic_flying_saucer_Clifton Estate is to the south west of the city centre. For the most part, Clifton is a council estate built from 1952 onwards, largely to rehouse the slum areas of the Meadows where, as late as the mid-sixties, barefooted children were by no means unusual. At one time Clifton was the largest council estate in Europe. Look for the orange arrow:

nap of clifton

Eventually, that balmy summer’s evening, somebody called the police, possibly for the protection of any little green men that might emerge from their spacecraft. By now, well in excess of a hundred would-be ufologists were eagerly awaiting developments on the rising ground near to the local Fairham Comprehensive School:

bars gate

If my memory serves me well, this was a very large all boys’ school, which has now been closed down:

far school

Years later, an old boys’ reunion got a little out of hand:burning school

When they eventually arrived at the UFO landing site, the boys in blue, of course, did not see any UFOs and told the locals that they were the hapless victims of an optical illusion. Mrs Marjorie Cowdell, however, would have none of it. She insisted to the Fighters of Crime that she had seen a flying saucer “swim” down to the ground.

This was big enough news that a host of reporters were sent to investigate by the national press (in actual fact, the Daily Sketch, which has now, alas, gone exactly the same way as Fairham Comprehensive School).

Here is the story, which appeared in this most intellectual of red top tabloids (presumably the reason it folded) on Thursday, July 6th, 1967:

100 SAY WE SAW A FLYING SAUCER LAND

More than 100 people claimed yesterday that they saw a flying saucer land.
They were “spotting” on high ground near Fairham Comprehensive School in Clifton, Nottingham.
Housewives rushed from their homes when it was reported that a flying saucer about 30 feet in diameter had come down. Many people said that the object was disk shaped and silvery.
Police searched the area but found no trace of anything having landed. A spokesman said, “It must have been an optical illusion caused by sunlight and a cloud of dust.”

Mrs Marjorie Cowdell of High Bank, Clifton said, “I don’t care what the police say. I saw a flying saucer swoop to the ground.”

The stream, almost a flood, of “Close Encounters of the First Kind” continued, this time at Wellow, near Ollerton, some twenty miles to the north of Nottingham. On Saturday, July 8, 1967, schoolteacher Bernard Day and his wife, from Newark-on-Trent, were driving along just after nine o’clock in the evening. Suddenly they saw, according to the Nottingham Evening Post, what looked like:

braxzil top

“A child’s top, spinning in the night sky, from one side to an upright position, for over forty minutes, surrounded by bright light. I fetched Police Constable E.Holmes, from Welland Police Station, who had a look through binoculars and said, “I wouldn’t even be able to guess its identity. I’ll have to inform Inspector R. Street. He will make some enquiries.”

What was presumably the same incident is featured on a rather interesting website I found. No exact details are given, but it would seem to be the same series of events. It reads:

“July 1967. 2110 hours. Saturday. Location – Nottingham, Nottinghamshire. A member of the public, teacher Mr Doy, reported seeing a UFO over a local school and a PC HOLMES attended the school  and confirmed the object in the sky. He then reported the sighting to his duty officer, Inspector R .Street.

PC HOLMES stated that the object was a bright light spinning on its own axis in a stationary position above the school. The police could not offer any explanation for the UFO.

UFO CLASSIFICATION – NL (NOCTURNAL LIGHT).

On Duty sighting. 1 Officer.”

I’m not entirely satisfied with a policeman called R. Street and what about PC Holmes? Surely all of his mates must have called him Sherlock?

Whatever the case, the Nottingham Roswell Saga went on. On Monday, July 10th, only four days later, a bright white triangle was seen over Radcliffe-on-Trent at half past eight in the morning:

amsterdam 28 oct 2013

Radcliffe-on-Trent is to the east of the city, a mere two or three miles away from the very centre. Look for the orange arrow:

map of radclff on trent

Interestingly, the locations of all three sightings are visible on this map. The orange arrow points to Radcliffe-on-Trent and Clifton is in the bottom left of the map. Radford is below the big, black N-O of Nottingham.

The very final case I can find comes from Newark-on-Trent (just over twenty two miles from Nottingham). It was August 10th and around 10:15 in the late evening. For some unknown reason, Dave Robinson was taking a stroll with his girlfriend in what must have been almost pitch black woodland at Stapleford Woods. Look for the orange arrow:

stapleford map

The two young lovers had just reached a clearing at the edge of the woods when the young lady noticed two lights in the sky. They were possibly round, possibly oval, and yellow in colour, resembling paper. Some six feet and five feet across respectively, they were motionless over a line of trees around half a mile in the distance. I managed to find these likely contenders on the Internet:

After the event, William Blythe of Mansfield interviewed them. Let Dave take up the story:

“Within minutes they disappeared, replaced by a flashing red light, which moved to our right, climbing up and over some trees. Five minutes later we saw the lights again in the sky, now on our right, coming towards us, about a quarter of a mile away.

My curiosity aroused, I drove slowly towards the lights, losing sight of them as I drove around the bend. When I reached the spot where I had seen them, I flashed my headlights and this craft appeared over the trees. Astonished, I stopped the car and listened. Still no sound.

We watched the craft with amazement, as it hovered 20 feet away from us at about the same height off the ground, allowing us to see it had a curved bottom and top, with three squared windows, spilling orange light, and a brilliant light projecting downwards from the top.

As it moved overhead, I became frightened and drove away, fearing what
was going to happen next.”

And that’s it. This was quite impressive by the standards of the middle 1960s, especially when compared to nowadays, when 84% of all programmes on Satellite TV are devoted to aliens, UFOs and government cover ups. If you find this topic of any interest, don’t forget the “Haunted Skies” books by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. They really are worth a look.  This is the edition which set me off on the trail of the Nottingham Flap and Mrs Marjorie Cowdell:

hauntyed skies 3 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Next time there will be a host of Internet sites to look at when I try to track down the UFO that crashed just south of Mansfield. That was a very, very, brave thing to do!

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