During the war years, Nottingham was a city which welcomed huge numbers of RAF men from all of the many airbases in Lincolnshire. One of the most famous pubs was the Black Boy, designed by Nottingham’s greatest architect, Watson Fothergill. The famous hotel is the very large building in the middle of the buildings on the left :
Alas, this wonderful, wonderful building was demolished to make way for a supermarket and a very ugly supermarket at that. The Black Boy was a hotel which was very convenient for the dashing Brylcreem Boys, who could easily get to Nottingham from their scores of bomber bases across Lincolnshire. Once they were there, they could get up to whatever they wanted and the Black Boy had enough bedrooms to accommodate all of them. I saw a programme recently which said that the rates of venereal disease among RAF aircrew were so high around this time that serious measures had to be taken. It was decided therefore that any man diagnosed with VD would have his mission total taken back to zero. Once you had done 30 missions, you were taken off combat flying, so if you had done a decent number, around 20, for example, this would have been a huge disaster, and a life threatening one at that.
Fred used Nottingham as a place to get a connection for Derby. When he was at Elsham Wolds, I think he must have caught a train at nearby Barnetby and then either got a connection at Lincoln or gone straight through to Nottingham. From there he could easily reach Derby or even Burton-on-Trent. The orange arrow points at Elsham Wolds and nearby Barnetby:
Fred was no fool and he soon discovered that there was a small railway station, almost in the centre of Nottingham, called, he thought, High Pavement. It was an open station which meant that there were never any inspectors there to check tickets as the passengers alighted from the train.
The smart thing to do therefore, if you were either coming to Nottingham to visit, or were just changing trains at Nottingham, was not to bother with buying a ticket, but just to get off, not at the main station, but at High Pavement. You could then either disappear into the city, or walk the short distance to the main station and then catch the train to Derby or to Burton-on-Trent.
In later life, Fred was to retain little memory of the details of High Pavement station except that there were lots of blue brick walls and you had to go down some steps on your way to the main bit of the station.
I don’t really know where he means, but this remaining railway-type blue brick wall may be something to do with a station in this area:
Fred often had a 24 hour pass, which would run from 00h00 to 23h59. He frequently used to travel, therefore, in the early hours of the night. At that time there were certainly very few welcoming faces on the platforms, except the members of the Salvation Army, who were always on hand to dispense cups of tea or plates of hot food, most welcome out in the damp fogs of autumn, or in the cold icy blasts of winter. In later life, Fred was always to say that the Salvation Army were the only religious organisation to show any practical interest whatsoever in the welfare of the forces. He would always try to give them a donation whenever he saw them, because they had done so much to help soldiers, sailors and airmen when they really needed it in the cold dark days of World War Two.
This strange tale is just one of many which I have found in a little gem of a book entitled “The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood, 1750-1879”. Its author was John Frost Sutton, and I have tried to make his account read a little bit more easily for the modern reader:
An extraordinary occurrence is stated to have happened this year at St Mary’s Church.
It was necessary to improve the passageway at the side of the churchyard leading down towards the County Hall. This could not be done without taking down some houses, and the churchyard wall on the south side of the building; in order to widen the road, it was also necessary to dig away a part of the churchyard. The cemetery was much higher there than the street and when the wall was removed, one night, a heavy shower of rain, washed away a considerable portion of the earth from the churchyard. In consequence of this, several coffins were left almost completely uncovered, and two or three of them fell out.
Here is a modern cemetery in South Carolina where exactly the same problem has occurred:
Back to the story:
Among these coffins was one which contained the remains of Mr William Moore, for some years landlord of the Black Swan public house, situated near the church. He had been dead for about twelve years.
The Black Swan used to stand in Goosegate. It was closed as a public house, and became a shop. This is the most recent picture of it that I can find:
Here is Goosegate, indicated, as always, by the orange arrow. St Mary’s Church is indicated as a “Place of Worship” by the letters PW on High Pavement, towards the bottom of the map:
And now, back to the shattered coffin:
“The coffin being broken, there was observed in his remains a concretion not unlike a pumice stone, but rather whiter, and as large as the liver of an ox.”
It took me a very long time indeed to find out the weight of a complete ox liver, but I eventually decided that a pound, sixteen ounces or half a kilo would be roughly right:
“Mr William Moore, the landlord of the Black Swan, was a remarkable man for having a very large belly, which projected more on one side than the other:
He had often said to his friends, that he thought a hard substance was beginning to form within him when only 22 years of age, and this continued to grow slowly until the day of his death He died about the age of 70. He had also been heard to say that it gave him little pain, though he found it troublesome; and it is worthy of remark, that the ribs on the side of the concretion bowed very much outwards.
Three local Doctors, Dr Hodges, Dr Neville and Dr Ford had examined Mr Moore several times and he had promised that whichever of them survived him should have permission to perform a post mortem on his body. But as Mr Moore survived all three of the doctors, no post mortem examination was ever made. Nothing therefore but an accident could possibly have brought the concretion to light.”
The Second XI had a pleasant and reasonably successful season back in 1980-1981, although it was possible to organise only seven fixtures. They lost their first match against Becket School, but were only to lose one more of the next five matches. Their record for the season of two wins, three draws and just two losses would have placed them comfortably in mid-table in the Premier League of today. Perhaps another Crystal Palace, Everton or West Ham. We drew games against High Pavement, Bramcote and Clarendon and then defeated Clarendon by 3-0 in the return and Bilborough by 5-2. Not a bad record for a team of eleven players picked from just nineteen available candidates:
The goalkeeper was Richard Clark:
And his deputy was, I think, David Lloyd:
In defence we had Chris Turner:
Alongside him was Julian Bower:
Ken Blecher was the sweeper. He was the Team Captain, so he had the shiny satin finish shirt:
For some reason, we played in fairly dark blue shirts of a shade called ‘Admiral’ or ‘Azure’ apparently. This had been worn as a change strip by Sunderland in the First Division a few years previously. The sleeves had a red and white design on them, as did the collars.
Now, back to the players.
Phil Sermon was a 100% team player who, although he was often a little quiet, always gave everything on the pitch:
Paul Chappell was almost surgical in the strength and calmness of his tackles:
Chris Batty was an accurate passer of the ball, with a powerful shot:
Bert Crisp was a strong runner and created many chances:
Phil Colley supplied energy in midfield:
Chris Ffinch played well in attack:
Robert Harwood was a confident goalscorer:
Stuart Burns also contributed well in attack:
On the team photograph, two players remain a mystery to me, although this all took place some 35 years ago now. The first is CD Richardson:
And the other is David Nowell, who, as you can see from the comments below, was the left full back, but who was unfortunately injured very early in the season :
Forgive me gentlemen.
Overall, the Nottinghamian reported that the players were “all keen to play and all contributed to a most enjoyable season. Everyone has done his best and given his all.”
A lot of my readers, of course, will not be familiar with any of these young men. Let them stand, therefore, for your own sporting efforts at school. Did you do your best and give it your all?
Perhaps you were not in a sports team of any kind. Well, just look at the faces of these sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year old young men. Look at their expressions. Their inner thoughts.
Nowadays they will be in their early fifties. Their team coach back in the day was in his late thirties. Well now, I am in my early sixties, and I just regret that I didn’t enter more Ché Guevara lookalike contests when I had the chance:
Overall, it must be said, the football team at the High School since 1968 has not really had a great deal of success. The exception to this, though, was the 1980-1981 season which was easily the most successful of the modern era. By the time the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, was published, the team were undefeated in twelve matches. This record was extended to the very last game of the season which was a most unfortunate defeat at home by High Pavement Second XI who managed to score two goals without reply.
Here is the team photograph:
(back row) Dr.D.A.Slack, Norman Garden, Robert Crisp, Richard Mousley, Jon Bullock, Simon Derrick, John Ellis
(front row) Rob Persey, Raich Growdridge, Chris Peers, Neil McLachlan, Nick Cope, Chris Ingle
The team’s goalkeeper was Richard Mousley, whom the school magazine described as “reliable, agile, and when needed, very courageous.”
They continued with the rest of the team:
In defence Richard Townsend was the left full back, replaced occasionally by Norman Garden. Both of them were deemed to be “consistently good players, and very determined in the tackle.” On the opposite side as right full back was Nick Cope, equally determined, and occasionally over-enthusiastic in the tackle:
Alas, Richard Townsend did not attend the team photograph on that coldish but fairly bright day in the Summer Term of 1981.
The central defenders included Raich Growdridge who was both team captain and sweeper. Raich was very skilful, with total commitment and a tenacious tackle. He was always capable of lifting the side when things were going against them. Raich had a trial with Derby County’s A team during the Spring Term, and is believed to have played perhaps three games for them. I was told by the Derby coach that had he not been over 18 years of age, they would have signed him for the club:
The other central defender was Jon Bullock who was extremely commanding in defence and particularly useful when attacking at corners. He actually scored a hat-trick at Bilborough, an extremely unusual feat for a defender:
In midfield, Tim Little was hard working and consistent. He also scored some very useful and well taken goals when he moved into a more attacking role:
Rob Persey was a tireless player, and a very determined tackler who possessed a great deal of skill when coming forward into attack. He was not the strongest defensive player, however:
John Ellis played on the right, and scored a number of remarkable, even unbelievable goals, from between fifteen and thirty yards out:
Chris Peers was a fine left footed player, who could dribble well past a succession of opponents. He was a particularly skilful taker of corner kicks:
Among the forwards, Simon Derrick was perhaps rather small, but very aggressive as a centre forward, with a lot of skill on the ground:
Chris Ingle was an excellent finisher, with tremendous pace. In the author’s humble opinion, he was the fastest High School forward of the modern era, with the possible exception of Leo Fisher. Chris scored nine goals in the season, with a hat-trick against St Hugh’s College, in Tollerton:
Other players to have figured in the squad included Neil McLachlan, who occasionally lacked total commitment, but had sufficient skill to play well as a replacement both in defence, midfield or attack. A veritable “Jack of All Positions”, the Nottinghamian called him and a valuable asset to the group!
Robert Crisp, universally known as “Bert” was a skilful midfielder, who never let the side down when called upon:
Both Ken Blecher and Chris Turner also played in the team:
Overall, the side played seventeen games and won eleven of them. Five games were drawn, and there was a single defeat, by 0-2, in controversial circumstances, if I remember correctly, against High Pavement 2nd XI. It is interesting to notice how many of these schools no longer exist nowadays, thirty four years later. The team’s victories came over Brunts of Mansfield (twice), Becket(twice), Bluecoat(twice), Forest Fields 2nd XI (twice), High Pavement 2nd XI, Bramcote, Bilborough and St Hugh’s College in Tollerton. Drawn games came against Bilborough, West Bridgford, Bramcote and twice against Trent Polytechnic.
The team’s goals were scored by Ingle 9, Ellis 8, Derrick 6, Bullock 3, Little 2, Persey 2, McLachlan 1 and two own goals.
The football report in the Nottinghamian paid the fullest tribute, and rightly so, to the endless support given to High School football by Tony Slack, who was retiring at the end of this splendid season:
He in turn generously praised the team’s achievements, despite the limitations of selecting a team from a very small number of players. Set against this, however, was the players’ commitment to the game, their willingness to work for each other, and their high level of team work, which, on many occasions, enabled them to defeat opponents who were, technically, far more skilled than they.
Nowadays, these young men will be in their early fifties. It would be interesting to find out where any of them are now, perhaps with a message in the “Comments” section?
Derby Road seems reasonably peaceful now, but not in 1701, when Timothy Buckley, a 29-year old criminal from Stamford, Lincolnshire, was arrested after a ferocious gun battle as he tried to rob a stagecoach on its way to Derby. The coach contained three gentlemen attended by two footmen. Buckley had previously been a shoemaker’s apprentice in London, but gradually became a more and more hardened criminal after his return to Nottinghamshire and the Wild North.
Beyond “two miles from Nottingham”, we do not know exactly where this gun battle took place, but usually, highwaymen would strike as the coach was moving uphill, and was therefore travelling at its very slowest pace.
To me, the steep slope near the present day St.Barnabas Cathedral is too close to the city centre, so my best guess would be that stretch of the A52 as it climbs steadily after the present-day Ring Road, between the back of Wollaton Park and the grounds of Nottingham University. On this map, look for the orange arrow which is over the green A52 road with the words “Lenton Abbey” written over it. If the incident was any further on, then it might have been on the shorter slope near to the present day Bramcote Leisure Centre.
No sooner had Buckley commanded the stagecoach to “Stand and Deliver, Your Money or your Life!”, than one of the passengers, unwilling “to submit to a single bravo”, blasted him with a blunderbuss. Buckley’s horse was shot out from under him, and died instantly.
A blunderbuss was a murderous weapon, used for close-in fighting, in the words of Wikipedia, “when it was unimportant to protect objects around the intended target”. This formidable firearm was loaded with shot and anything else the user thought might do the job, small pieces of metal, nails, bits of rock or stone, or even salt. It was flared at the muzzle, and was the 17th-19th century equivalent of the shotgun so beloved of Wells Fargo personnel.
Interestingly, the military term dragoon is taken from the fact that early blunderbusses (or should that be “blunderbi”?) were decorated with dragon’s heads around the muzzle, and the blast would seem a little like the fire of a real dragon.
Buckley was not lightly armed either. He was carrying eight horse pistols. The largest were up to twenty inches long, and were carried in holsters across the horse’s back just in front of the saddle. This seems an unlikely number of such large weapons, but perhaps some were coat pistols (carried in the pocket of a greatcoat) coach pistols, (carried in a saddlebag perhaps), or belt pistols, (carried on a belt, hanging from a hook).
In any case, Buckley was very attached to his favorite horse and enraged by its untimely demise, “a most desperate conflict ensued”. Buckley let fly with all his pistols.
One male passenger and a footman both fell dead, shot through the heart. Eventually, though, Buckley was overcome by the remaining occupants of the stagecoach, as he grew gradually weaker and weaker from loss of blood, caused by his eleven severe gunshot wounds.
After a brief trial at Nottingham Shire Hall, Buckley was found guilty and was later hanged. He was only 29 years of age, and he was sentenced also to be “hanged in chains”. I don’t know how long his rotting cadaver was left exposed to the elements, but as a birdwatcher, I certainly know that there was one famous case in Nottingham where a dead criminal decayed over the course of the winter, helped by passing crows and magpies, only to have, with the advent of spring, a pair of blue tits raise their young inside his empty skull, using his eye sockets to go in and out, perhaps even operating their own one-way system.
As these events all took place in 1701, Buckley would have been executed on what is now “The Forest Recreation Ground”. Centuries ago, “The Forest”, was called “The Lings” and was a very different place from what it is like nowadays. Largely covered by gorse and scrub, it was considered to be the southernmost part of Sherwood Forest itself. It was only as late as 1845 that, under the Nottingham Inclosure Act, some eighty acres of Sherwood Forest were set aside for recreational use. This area became “The Forest Recreation Ground” and to commemorate the event the Mayor of Nottingham planted a special Oak tree called the “Inclosure Oak” which can still be seen today at the Mansfield Road entrance. The orange arrow marks the oak tree:
Pretty well straightway, the area became a site for sports and shows, or a combination of the two.
In the summer of 1801, four butchers held their weddings there simultaneously, and decided who was to pay for the wedding picnic by holding a donkey race, with four animals, each equipped with mascots taken from the wardrobes of their respective owners’ new wives. The race was easily won by the donkey which had corsets attached to his tail with a bow of green ribbon. In second and third place were the animal with a pair of stockings around its neck, and another with a saddle made out of a nightgown. Needless to say, the donkey wearing a voluminous pair of ladies’ drawers was placed last.
By this time, the Forest had already been a horse racing course for well over a hundred years. Not long before that, bear baiting had taken place on the very site where the horse racing course was later to be constructed. In 1798, a new horse racing track in the form of a figure-of-eight was built. Unfortunately, this rather novel choice of layout, designed to give the maximum length of course in the smallest possible area, was not overly successful, as spectators did not have a sufficiently good view. Crashes between horses were apparently too infrequent to compensate for this.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, though, there were at least two major race meetings per year, in spring and autumn, and the area was beginning to attract the same kind of people who can still be found there nowadays, well over a hundred and fifty years later…
“…loiterers…policemen…tooting footmen…toddling children…enterprising
vendors… overcharging greenhorns…patterers, chanters and beggars…sailors without arms or legs… “downy blokes”…holiday makers….villains…detectives …boozers and nymphs of easy virtue…ministers of religion……“black sheep”…enterprising merchants…aristocratic swells… pleasure seekers…a few robberies, a few drunks, a few fights…married men, sitting in the drinking places at the Stand with an assemblage of whores…the unemployed poor…”
Indeed, with whisky at an all-time low of 75p a gallon, so unsavoury did the area become that in 1879, male members of Nottingham University staff were threatened with instant dismissal if they were ever found at the horse races.
Other sports were played there as well. From 1865-1879, Nottingham Forest both practiced and played soccer here, being known therefore as “Forest Football Club”. Cricket was widely played in the summer, as were types of field hockey known variously as bandy, shinney or shinty.
Apart from sport, alongside what is now Forest Road East, there was a long line of thirteen windmills, all taking advantage of the strong winds and updrafts which blew across the open ground lower down to the north.
The exact place where the gallows stood and where Tinothy Buckley met his Maker has not necessarily been recorded absolutely accurately. Public executions took place here until as recently as 1827, and I am fairly certain that, many years ago, I read that the gallows used to stand a little distance down Mansfield Road from St.Andrew’s Church, within the present day Rock Cemetery. This was to the south of the white, recently refurbished, Lodge House. Clearly, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, there was still some judicial rôle for this building to fulfil, as it was originally used as a Police or Keeper’s Lodge and a police cell can still be seen at basement level.
Others say that there was a gallows on the same site as present-day St.Andrew’s Church, and, indeed, when excavation work was done here in 1826 for the church foundations, more than fifteen apparently medieval skeletons were found. This was presumably connected with a much earlier era, when travellers left the City of Nottingham through the gate in the mediaeval wall near what is now the Victoria Centre branch of Boots the Chemist. As they climbed painfully slowly up the hill which is now Mansfield Road, stagecoach robbers and mere footpads would sometimes pounce at Forest Road: hence the gallows which were constructed here, and might even have concentrated the thieves’ minds a little as they waited to swoop upon their prey from behind the bushes.
“Garner’s Old Nottingham Notes” (date unknown) somehow contrive to be both illuminating and yet somehow confusing…
From information given, the gallows appear to have been erected on the level ground which now forms the upper portion of the Rock Cemetery, and it was probably 100 yards or rather more from Mansfield Road…..
Judging by the large old official map of the borough, measuring from the present Forest Road East, I consider it probable that, going northwards, the site of the gallows was about 100 yards from the southern boundary of the Rock Cemetery, and probably rather more from Mansfield Road, according to the contour of the ground, as depicted upon the official map. There is much likelihood that the gallows was erected near to where the last windmill on that side of the Forest then stood or was afterwards constructed.
It is certainly proper to state that I have seen two or more old maps on which the ground now covered by St Andrews Church, and southwards from there, is entitled Gallows Hill. The upper part of the ground is no doubt higher than any portion of the Rock Cemetery, and I have thought that this might possibly be the original place on which the gallows stored a few centuries back and perhaps afterwards were moved to the spot above designated.”
Wherever the exact location of the gallows, when convicted prisoners were to be hanged, they were usually brought from the County Hall in High Pavement, or the Town Hall at Week-day Cross, through the maze of streets in Hockley, and then walked along Clumber Street, Milton Street and finally up the hill along Mansfield Road. Prisoners were entitled to one last drink at the Nag’s Head Public House, which was traditionally paid for by the landlord.
There is, of course, a traditional tale, told no doubt, of every road with a set of gallows and a public house. One particular prisoner, who was a teetotaller, therefore, refused his last mug of ale at the Nag’s Head. He was taken straight on to the gallows and duly hanged. Seconds later a much flustered horse rider came galloping up the hill, and screamed to a halt by the little knot of people. He was waving a piece of paper which was, of course, the Royal Pardon for the Recently Hanged Man. Had the latter been just a little later in arriving at his place of execution, then he would have been saved. The “little later” of course, is exactly the time it takes to quaff a pint of ale.
The last person to be executed at these gallows on Forest Road was William Wells, a 45 year old native of Peterborough, who had robbed James Corden in Basford Lane and Mansfield Road on March 7th 1827. He was executed on April 2nd 1827.
Not all highwaymen meet with disaster however. Just occasionally one of them can make that leap from criminality to superstardom…
A second episode of blood soaked murder in the history of the old Free School was published in a series of “Reminiscences” in the High School Magazine in December 1929. They came from Mr John Braithwaite, of Bournemouth, who, at the time, was thought to be the School’s oldest Old Boy….
“I went to the old Grammar School in Stoney Street about Midsummer,1857, and left at Midsummer, 1862. The Rev. W. Butler was Headmaster.”
“The old building was very unsuitable, dull and cheerless. The upper school consisted of one large room and one small classroom. There were no cloakrooms or conveniences of any kind, and the sanitary arrangements in the small playground were most primitive.”
“The whole building sadly wanted painting, but no money was spent; the reason given was that the Trustees were saving up to have enough money to build a new school.”
“We began work at 8 o’clock and finished at 5 o’clock, or later, with two hours’ break at midday. In winter we had to use candles… “long eights” I think they were called. One candle was allowed between two boys, and lighting them was the signal for all sorts of play. We amused ourselves by blowing the candles out and in again, making a nasty smelling smoke.”
“About the autumn of 1859, a man was sentenced to death in the Nottinghamshire Courts for a murder in the northern part of the county.
Our headmaster, the Rev.W.Butler, as Chaplain of the County Gaol, was required to read the burial Service at the execution, which was fixed for 8 o’clock one morning at the County Gaol in the High Pavement.”
The main building on High Pavement, which dates from 1770, is quite imposing. The Normans were the first to use this site, appointing a Sheriff to preserve law and order in Nottingham, and to collect taxes. The oldest written mention of law courts comes in 1375.
The cells are below street level. They date back to at least 1449.
The scaffold used to be erected on the steps in front of the brown columns. There are special square holes cut in the stone steps to hold the wooden beams. They are still there to this day.
The dead hangees were buried in unconsecrated ground around the back of the building, their feet disrespectfully pointing towards Jerusalem.
“As usual we were at our desks at 8 o’clock on that particular morning, but the headmaster was absent. We all knew where he was, and each of us was thinking of him and visualising the dreadful scene which was being enacted only a short distance away. Back in school, the Deputy Master read prayers, and we waited, silent and awed. Presently the door was burst open, and poor Mr.Butler, with face white and drawn, stumbled in and staggered to his seat, almost spent. After resting awhile he stood up and said, “Boys, I have just come from….” and then he broke down. After recovering himself, he began again, and then he preached us a more impressive sermon than I have heard from any pulpit. As no one was in the mood for lessons we were sent home for the day…”
The hanged man was one John Fenton, a blacksmith and publican, executed at the age of thirty-seven for the murder of Charles Spencer at Walkeringham on March 6th 1860. This was a public execution, held on the front steps of what is now the Shire Hall in High Pavement.
The crowd, however, was a lot smaller than expected. This was because, even though it was fourteen years previously, the last public hanging in Nottingham had resulted in the crushing to death of seventeen people, almost all of them children.
Given this blood soaked past, it is no surprise to find that the Galleries of Justice have a plethora of ghosts. On some wet Tuesday afternoons, there can sometimes be as many ghosts as living tourists. Here is a selection of the ghosts I saw on my own visit…