Tag Archives: Trent Bridge

The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (2)

Recently, I wrote about the Great Flood of 1875, described by a person standing on the terrace at Nottingham Castle, looking across the valley of the River Trent. Here is an old oil painting of old Nottingham. It shows beautifully the castle on its cliff and, just in front of it, a brightly shining St Mary’s Church. You can also see the River Trent and the old Trent Bridge, just to the right of the tree trunk.

In 1499 Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes Mellers, founder of the High School, is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair this particular bridge which I believe was known back then as “The Bridge of Hethbeth”, although I’m not 100% certain of that.

In the centre of the picture, fairly distant,  is the church at Wilford:

Last time I couldn’t stop myself looking at the streets of old Nottingham and how,  in modern times, they have either disappeared, or have been made to disappear. I suppose really I was asking myself the question: “Would our journeys today be better if we could follow the same routes as Victorian roads did?

Here is one of the maps from last time. The orange arrow points to a thoroughfare no longer within our use. By a carefully planned coincidence, it is the road barely seen on the old oil painting of old Nottingham above, leading to distant Wilford Church (centre). The diagonal, all white, thoroughfare on the map, if continued to the north eastern, top right corner, would arrive at St Mary’s Church. In the other direction, that same straight road stretches southwards, straight as a die, to the River Trent and the Toll Bridge at Wilford on the left hand side. On the Ordnance Survey map, that very same route is highlighted by our trusty friend, the orange arrow. Nowadays, it would make a marvellous road into the city, especially for bicycles and even electric cars.

Personally, I do wonder if 130% of our traffic problems are down to planners who have completely disregarded those old streets which used to run, straight and wide, from one side of the city to the other.  The worst obstruction to traffic flow in this area is the Broadmarsh Centre, a huge shopping mall which blocks so many of the old medieval and Victorian thoroughfares:

I do apologise for his absence, incidentally, but the orange arrow is currently on strike for better pay and more beautiful places to point to. Here is the 1970s car park for what was then the new shopping centre. It takes seven years or so to get a degree in architecture:

I had almost forgotten that I was writing about the Great Flood of 1875 as well as traffic flow. Well, nothing, including the Broadmarsh Centre if it had been there,  could have stopped the vast floods of water from cascading through the city of Nottingham:

Wilford-road was the scene of a sad disaster, involving the loss of several lives. The flood was so deep that the only means of communication with Briar-street and the houses near it was by boats or vehicles; in the evening a man with a cart got about a dozen people into it in order to take them to places of less danger. They got out of Briar-street on to Wilford-road safely; but the posts on the road side being covered and only the street lamps to guide the driver, he got too near the edge of the road, which had been raised considerably, the cart was upset into the field on the east side, and six of the passengers were drowned. Next morning a man named Asher rode into the flood in the same neighbourhood in order to bring off a horse which was in an outlying shed, but was himself carried away and drowned. At Wilford the river overflowed the banks, washing down some of the cottages, and standing eight feet deep in many of the houses The traffic on the railway was much hindered, the trains from Trent having to be sent by the Derby, Codnor Park, and Mansfield lines.

Briar-street does not seem to exist any more. Wilford Road is the eventual continuation of Wilford Street towards the top left/centre of the map. It used to run southwards straight as an orange arrow to Wilford Ferry Bridge, at the bottom of the map. Most of that direct route is no longer there or is no longer usable. It has been interrupted, mostly by housing and parts of Robin Hood Way and Sheriff’s Way:

We already know Wilford and its famous ferry, replaced eventually by a bridge:

The Kannibal Killer Kaptain John Deane used to live just the other side of the bridge from Nottingham:


This was definitely THE flood in Nottingham. As the book says:

“This flood of 1875 was 5½ inches higher than that of 1852, 23½ inches higher than the floods of 1869 and July, 1875, 28 inches higher than the flood of January, 1877, 36 inches higher than the Floods of 1857 and 1872, and 39 inches higher than that of 1864”

The heights of those floods are recorded underneath present day Trent Bridge:

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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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More and more water, most of it under Trent Bridge (2)

Last time, I left you awaiting the arrival of Ragnar Lothbrok and his rather fierce friends in Anglo-Saxon Nottingham.

Well, by 867, Anglo-Saxon Nottingham had been well and truly captured by the Vikings and it became one of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw. There may have been little in the way of extreme weather in this era, but their names were fabulous. The Five Boroughs of the Danelaw is a striking enough phrase, but the name of the army which made Snotingaham, at sword point, an offer they could not refuse, is, quite simply, wonderful. A thousand years before Heavy Metal bands, they rejoiced in the name of “The Great Heathen Army“. And here they are. They’re really quite handsome, aren’t they?

Then again, I really don’t see them as a group of people capable of waiting quietly for a bus: vikingsaaaa Another episode of extreme weather on the rain front came in 1141 when there was another Great Flood. And once again, the flooding was caused, as in 1947, by the mechanism of a sudden melt of large quantities of snow after prodigious amounts of rain. People in 1141 looked like this. Around this time there was clearly a significant risk for everybody of just rusting solid into one great mass:

NormanAdvanceIn 1309, Hethbeth Bridge, the medieval precursor of today’s Trent Bridge, was washed away by severe winter floods.  A small fragment of this old bridge is still visible on the road island at the southern end of the modern Trent Bridge: 771942beth heth xxxxxxxxxxx If you go to see it, be very careful. Traffic nowadays is much more dangerous than “The Great Heathen Army”. Look for the orange arrow:

trent

In 1346, little detail has come down to us, other than:

“from mid-summer to Christmas, the rains fell almost without intermission”.

The River Trent duly experienced:

“One of the earliest recorded floods.”

In 1499 Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes Mellers, of High School fame, is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair one of an apparent succession of Hethbeth Bridges, but it was pretty much in vain, as the Great Flood of 1683 washed a good proportion of it away. Here are two men in 1683. That’s not a look you can just throw together:

Cavaliersxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The worst ever flood in Nottingham was the so-called “Candlemas Flood” of February 1795, when two months of continuous ice and snow all melted extremely rapidly. Every single bridge on the entire River Trent was either damaged or washed away, including the Hethbeth Bridge for the umpteenth time. In the Narrow Marsh area of the city, around what is nowadays Canal Street and the land to the south of St Mary’s Church, the residents were all trapped in the upstairs of their houses and had to be given food from boats. At Wilford, up to 100 sheep were drowned and ten cows perished in West Bridgford. That doesn’t sound much, but they only had twelve.

The late eighteenth century provided some wonderfully ornate dresses, all guaranteed to keep you afloat until help arrived:

1255636099-marie_antoinette

Another less severe flood came in November 1852 when the peak flow of the Trent was measured at some 38,200 cubic feet per second, between twelve and thirteen times the normal levels. A second, slightly worse Victorian inundation came in October 1875 when floodwater was up to six feet deep. During this latter flood the peak flow of the Trent was 45,000 cubic feet per second, fifteen times the normal levels. On Wilford Road an overcrowded cart was washed away and six people were killed. Higher up the river, huge numbers of farm animals were drowned and they must have been a ghastly sight as they floated down to the sea past Trent Bridge:

image_update_24bd582809133d58_1342017794_9j-4aaqsk

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More and more water, most of it under Trent Bridge (1)

In a previous article, I wrote about the flooding of Nottingham during  the modern era, and the ways in which we have learnt lessons from the floods of 1947 and constructed concrete embankments and sluices so that the River Trent is nowadays, to all intents and purposes, relatively tame. (“relatively” being the operative word.) If you walk down to Trent Bridge and look underneath the bridge on the City side, directly beneath the Riverbank Bar and Kitchen, however, you will see how the flood levels of previous years of watery disaster have been recorded. They are scarily impressive and well worth a visit:

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The very first records of floods in Nottingham are more a case of inference than anything else. According to the (Royal) Journal of the Statistical Society, Volume XLI and “The Insurance Cyclopaedia” by Cornelius Walford (I need to get out more):

“29 A.D. There was a great overflow of the River Trent in England”.

In 214 A.D. the entire River Trent was again in flood and overflowed its banks by some 20 miles on each side from the normal course of its flow. Many people were drowned as the whole Trent valley was awash and there was great destruction. Both of these dates are during the Roman era, although Nottingham was not, as far as I know, a Roman town. Perhaps they knew that an underlying band of hard rock could be used to ford the river and its adjacent marshes. Just to establish our dates firmly, here is a Roman. Like every single Roman, he is a legionnaire, although he doesn’t look particularly ill to me, but that hat is really something: Centurion_2_Boulzzzzzzz In 525 A.D. the entire Trent again burst its banks and a great number of cattle were drowned. The locals at his time may well have been Celts since we know that Nottingham, in the Brythonic Celtic language was called “Tigguo Cobauc”, meaning “The Place of Caves”. The Welsh may have been aware of Nottingham’s existence since they called it “Y Ty Ogofog” and even the distant Irish had a word or two for it, namely “Na Tithe Uaimh”, “The Cavey Dwelling”. Here are some Celts, managing to appear very, very fierce indeed, although admittedly, there is more than a dash of Village People in the overall look, especially the one at the front who may have no clothes on at all: gug7 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Whoever the locals were in 530 A.D., they would certainly have got extremely wet at some point. The mighty River Humber is known to have flooded extensively onto adjacent low-lying ground and most of the region’s cattle were drowned. Much of that excess of water, of course, was bound to have come from the River Trent, which feeds into the Humber. It is difficult to see how Nottingham, at the side of the River Trent, of course, could have escaped floods of such severity. It was slightly after this date that Nottingham, by now a small group of wooden huts and a line of washing, came under the sway of the wonderfully named “Snot”, an Anglo-Saxon chieftain. The place where “The Mighty Snot” lived was immediately called “Snotingaham”, the “home of the people of Snot the Magnificent”. At this time, “Snotingaham”, was part of the Kingdom of Elmet. Here is an Anglo-Saxon chief and his friend. What impressive elmets they are wearing: saxnb zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I just couldn’t resist that!

Next time, we will see what happens when Ragnar Lothbrok and his pals arrive in Nottingham on a seven-day-cruise in 867AD.

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“Go straight to Hell ! Do not pass Go ! ” Part Two

In the first part of this article, I demonstrated how Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes, was, at best, a fairly unscrupulous businessman. I ended by relating how, in 1507, Richard had received a pardon for having committed offenses against the statutes of weights and measures. This charge related to problems with the purity of his bells. The metal, apparently, was just not as valuable as he said it was. Richard’s pardon would have been granted because of his previous position as Mayor of Nottingham. A less prestigious person would have been in very, very, serious trouble:

Church-bells-001

Dame Agnes, of course, may well have known absolutely nothing whatsoever about any of this rather serious matter. Like many, many husbands over the centuries, Richard may have decided, quite simply, to tell her nothing at all about it. And if she did know about her husband’s cheating and double dealing, then, like many, many wives over the centuries, she may perhaps have turned a blind eye to it, hoping that one day her errant husband would rejoin the forces of light.

He didn’t though. At least not for long, because on or about Sunday, June 16th 1507, Richard Mellers died, with the ink on the pardon if not still wet, then certainly recognisably damp. I think Dame Agnes would have seen his sudden demise as a direct consequence of his previous wrongdoing. She must have thought that her husband’s death so soon after receiving a pardon was the true verdict from on high.

In more modern, medical, terms, Richard may well just have hastened a natural death by continually feeling guilty or by worrying too much about the outcome of the affair. He may, quite simply, have been a victim of early sixteenth century stress. Irrespective of the clinical truth, though, for a devout woman in Tudor times, these events must have seemed like a clear judgement from Heaven.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, it would have been completely impossible for a sincere and devout Roman Catholic to be in any conceivable way ignorant of the rôle played by Hell in the scheme of things. How can Dame Agnes have possibly thought back about her husband’s life, misdemeanours and sudden death, and not have seen him as the proud possessor of a “Go straight to Hell, Do not pass Go, Do not collect a ticket to Heaven” card?

That must have been a very, very real fear in her mind.

Here’s how the Rock Combo “AC/DC” saw the situation, firstly on an album cover:

hqdefault

And then on stage:

More or less straightway after his death, therefore, Dame Agnes, the grieving widow, became a “vowess”. She resolved never to remarry, and instead to devote herself to the service of the church.

A “vowess” is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as:

“a woman who has vowed chastity or devotion to a religious life; a nun”.

Other dictionaries tell pretty much the same tale. One other interesting detail about vowesses is given in “The Customs of Old England” by F. J. Snell. Writing about how a vowess would view her obligations, he states that:

“Whatever fasts a vowess might neglect as non-obligatory, it seems probable that she would not willingly forgo any opportunity of showing reverence to the Blessed Virgin.”

More of this later.

Immediately after her husband’s death, Dame Agnes tried to repay many of his victims. She literally gave them back the exact sums of money which she was worried they had lost to her husband.

She then decided to spend the rest of Richard’s money on charitable causes. Most important of all, she decided to found a school. Or alternatively, she decided to fund a school which was already in existence and was clearly in need of financial assistance. She must have known that this one simple act would benefit the citizens of Nottingham in the long term, and make up for the occasions when, for short term gain, her late husband had cheated them. Here is the grateful city in 1610. St Mary’s church is marked with the letter “A”. Keep looking. It is there:

speed-map

Before the official first day of her school, February 2nd 1513, there had already been eleven apparent references to a “Nottingham Grammar School” between 1289 and 1513. At this point in time, of course, it is impossible to tell what connection, if any, there is, with Dame Agnes’ school. Indeed, we do not even know if the eleven schools mentioned before 1513 have a continuous history, or whether they were all short lived affairs.

Having said that, though, Dame Agnes may well have decided to develop an ancient original grammar school into her own school. This original establishment may have depended solely on fees paid by the pupils. Dame Agnes perhaps thought it would be a good idea to establish a foundation, which would then ensure a much better financial future for the school. Equally, she may well have wished to take personal dcontrol of an older school, and then, as a loyal Catholic, to bring it under the control of St Mary’s Church.

Whatever the details of founding, funding, refounding or whatever, from Dame Agnes’ point of view, the most important thing was that the school  should remain closely linked to St Mary’s Church. This, of course, carries out the words of F. J. Snell. Her efforts with this school clearly showed that Dame Agnes would “not willingly forgo any opportunity of showing reverence to the Blessed Virgin”. Here is St Mary’s Church nowadays:

ch 4

All this sounds like heresy now, of course, after a whole series of celebrations have commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the school, and books have been published, but these ideas are not actually mine own. In “The Nottinghamian” for 1924, for example, there was a clear connection stated in the school magazine between the older schools from before 1513 and the then Nottingham High School. Dr James Gow, the school’s greatest Headmaster, had died this particular year:

dr gow

In his obituary, it was said that:

“he was appointed Headmaster of the Nottingham High School, an ancient Grammar School, already existing in the thirteenth century, and refounded and endowed by Dame Agnes Mellers, under a Charter of King Henry VIII, in 1513.”

These words are anonymous, but were most probably written by Mr “Sammy” Corner who had been the school’s Deputy Headmaster until his retirement in 1914. Mr Corner had spent much of his spare time researching school history and had become a great expert. Much of this knowledge was to appear in the school magazine which he edited for many years, and which at one point had contained a serialised history of the school. After his retirement, the plan was that Mr Corner would finish writing his history of the High School.

Alas, this popular member of staff was destined never to write his book, as the Great War broke out only a month after he was due to start work, and, despite his advanced age, Mr Corner went off to do his bit for the war effort. At the end of the conflict, Mr Corner moved from Nottingham to Croydon, but his life’s work was to remain forever uncompleted, a source of great regret, as he later told Mr Reynolds, the Headmaster, in a letter. This is the great Sammy Corner in 1913, showing off the school’s charter in the 400th anniversary celebrations in 1913:

sammy corner s

On the afternoon of Monday, November 13th, 1933, similar ideas about the school’s history to those in Dr Gow’s obituary were being expressed by the Duke of Portland, when he performed the formal opening ceremony for two new High School buildings, the Gymnasium and the newly converted Library.

This very same interpretation was obviously still current around this time, when Mr.C.L.Reynolds, the Headmaster, wrote his own brief history of “The Buildings of Nottingham High School”. He described the events of 1513 as “…the re-foundation or endowment of the School by Dame Agnes Mellers.” Here is Mr Reynolds, seen with the prefects, in an unknown year, probably in the 1930s:

reynolds

Furthermore, a document more contemporary to Dame Agnes’ time said that what Dame Agnes was doing was to “…unite, create and establishe a Free Scole” as if there were some definite connection between her school and the Nottingham schools of previous centuries. Similarly, she is referred to in a number of other early documents not as a “foundress” but as a “fundress”, as if she were building and strengthening what was already there.

If this is the case, then it would give the High School a history of some seven hundred years, making it one of the oldest schools in the country. But not the oldest.

How that fear of the “Go straight to Hell, Do not pass Go, Do not collect a ticket to Heaven” card must have haunted Dame Agnes. As well as her wonderful achievements with the school, she also laid down that a service of commemoration for her deceased husband should be held every year on June 16th. This latter date is thought to have been chosen because it was the Feast Day of St Richard of Gloucester. Interestingly enough, St Richard’s shrine in Chichester Cathedral, at this time, was a magnificently decorated and popular destination for the Tudor Pilgrim. Perhaps Dame Agnes had been there herself as a dedicated vowess:

Chichester_Cathedral_epodkopaev

The ceremony which Dame Agnes had requested was, of course, a solemn Roman Catholic mass for the soul of her dear departed husband. It is thought that this mass was probably celebrated for about thirty five years, until such services were abolished by order of the then king, Edward VI. This same type of mass may then possibly have been revived under the Catholic Queen Mary, but it certainly would have disappeared for ever when the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558.

Even in the 1660s though, some hundred and fifty years after Dame Agnes, the students still went every Friday during the period of Lent, with their teachers, to visit St.Mary’s church, and kneel in front of the tombs of Richard and Agnes Mellers, and say prayers for their souls, and the souls of all their relatives. And even nowadays, every year on Founder’s Day, the congregation still says prayers for the souls of Dame Agnes, and more importantly perhaps, her husband, Richard. This is Founder’s Day in 1957, a beautiful backlit day:

founders dfay

This is the Cheese and Ale Ceremony in the same year:

cheese and ale 1933

They’re going to get very drunk very quickly if they fill those tankards too frequently. Here is the traditional Cricket Match on that sunlit afternoon in 1957:

cricket 1957

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“Go straight to Hell ! Do not pass Go ! ” Part One

Having explored the history of the High School for more than twenty five years, I have always thought that the school’s beginnings are shrouded in mystery. For me, the High School has always been very like the Soviet Union:

“a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”

What do we know about the founder of the school, Dame Agnes Mellers, for example? What was she like as a person? There are a very few illustrations which are thought to be her. This is the school’s charter:

charter

And here is a close-up of Dame Agnes and King Henry VIII:

charter001

This is the charter changed into a line drawing:

agnes

For me, there have always seemed to have been two enormously important motivating forces in her character. The first was her staunch religious faith as a Roman Catholic with a sincere love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Dame Agnes seems in many ways to have been an uncomplicated soul, who viewed the world in a simple direct way. She tried to be a good person, with the sincere belief that we should all try to make things better rather than worse, that we should do good things rather than evil and that we should always strive to be on the side of the Angels.

The second motivation for her was the love she had for her husband, Richard, which seems as sincere and unswerving as her love for the Church. Richard was, as his name suggests, a rich man. He was at one time or another, Sheriff of Nottingham (1472-1473), Chamberlain (1484-1485) and Royal Commissioner and Mayor of Nottingham (1499-1500 and again in 1506). In 1499, he is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair the Hethbeth Bridge, as Trent Bridge’s predecessor was called. Here is one of the last photographs ever taken of the old bridge before it was superseded by the present Trent Bridge. You can certainly see why it was easier for the river to freeze up in those days:

old-trent-bridge-1871xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

This is all that remains of the Hethbeth Bridge nowadays:

771942beth heth xxxxxxxxxxx

It is in the middle of a road island to the south of Trent Bridge. If you decide to take a look at it, be very careful of the traffic and use the proper crossings. Look for the (camouflaged) orange arrow in the centre of the (red) road junction:

trent

Richard Mellers was a brazier, and probably a potter, and he had certainly dealt in metal pots and dishes. Most important of all, he owned the largest church bell-foundry in the region. The site of his premises has long disappeared, but its exact location is still known today.

From 1888 onwards, just a very few yards north of the city centre, steps began to clear away:

“a curious V-shaped slice of slum property…a most unhygienic and immoral neighbourhood and nothing good could be said for it”.

This slum clearance took a number of years, and resulted in the formation of King Street and Queen Street, the latter being opened on June 22nd, 1892.

During this time, it was inevitable that, along with all the slums and all the undesirable features, a few other more reputable premises were destined to disappear. Among these was Richard Mellers’ Bell Foundry, which is known to have stood more or less exactly on the site of the present day Queen Street Post Office. The orange arrow points to the general area, and the letters PO stand for the purple edged Post Office:

king street

Perhaps it was working so close to such an “immoral neighbourhood” that deflected Richard away from the straight and narrow. He had, for example, already paid out £20 to be the Mayor of  Nottingham for twelve months. There wasn’t really much of the democratic process involved here, or indeed, much evidence of any genuine interest in the workings of democracy. That payment of £20, a rather sizeable sum of money by modern standards, may well have been the reason that, in the very same year, Richard had been so keen to do a good deed by paying  for the upkeep of the ever ailing Hethbeth Bridge.

Richard was certainly widely known as a fairly unscrupulous businessman. During his lifetime, in his efforts to acquire great personal wealth, he certainly seems to have cheated many of his bell buying customers. In 1507, for example, we know that Richard had received a pardon for having committed offenses against the statutes of weights and measures. This charge is believed to have related to problems with the purity of his bells and the metal they contained. The pardon would only have been granted because of his previous position as Mayor of Nottingham. A less prestigious person would have been in very, very, serious trouble. These bells, though, are all 100% the real peal:

100911_Lowell_bells_147.jpg

To be continued……………………….

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When the mighty Trent turned into a tiny stream…

In a couple of previous articles, I have mentioned two different extremes of weather at Trent Bridge, namely freezing ice and snow and then, quite frequently straight afterwards, horrific floods, when a sudden melt of huge snowdrifts overfills the river. Such a sequence of events may raise the water level by twelve or fifteen feet above normal and increase the rate of flow to a situation when 45,000 cubic feet of floodwater go past the bridge every second, as opposed to the more normal figure of 3,000. What I have not mentioned so far though, is a complete lack of rainfall and the consequent drought.

Almost a thousand years ago, in 1101, Nottingham experienced a terrifying earthquake. Here are some people in 1100. Can you spot Robin Hood? (He is wearing a cunning, yet comfortable disguise in his traditional Lincoln Green.)

1000-1100,_Norman_

Bizarrely, once the earthquake had stopped, the River Trent dried up and then ceased to flow for several hours, presumably as it drained into, and then eventually filled up, a huge crack or cavern in the ground that the earthquake had created somewhere upstream from Nottingham. Once that was done, the waters returned to normal.  Another source gives the date of this amazing event as 1110 and says that the River Trent was dry at Nottingham for 24 hours. Strictly speaking, though, that is not a genuine bona fide drought.

Two hundred years or so later though, in 1354, the weather was extremely dry in the whole of England:

“This year, the country was affected with a great drought, in which Nottinghamshire, from its peculiar geographical position, suffered extremely; in both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire no rain had fallen from the latter end of March until the close of July.”

It is difficult to believe that this prolonged lack of rain would not have affected the amount of water flowing under Hethbeth Bridge. Here are some people in 1354. It looks like the start of a football match to me:

participants in mediaeval costume on field at the Corsa all'anello in Narni Umbria

The four years of 1538-1541 produced extreme drought throughout the whole country, with three successive fine and hot summers from 1538-1540. In the latter year, cherries could be picked and eaten by the beginning of June. Grapes were ripe by early July. Both 1540 and 1541 were exceptionally dry years overall, and in both summers, the River Thames was so low that sea water backed up above London Bridge. It would be interesting to know what effect such amazingly hot and dry weather must have had on the River Trent. Here are some people of this period, waiting for a shower of rain, but looking a little worried that global warming has perhaps started five hundred years too early. I wouldn’t have liked the hat with the feather:

tudor

That dry summer of 1540 was the warmest until 2003, and countries in Western Europe christened it the ‘Big Sun Year’. Very high temperatures prevailed from Germany to the Netherlands and no rain fell in Rome for at least nine months. Many people died of heat stroke and heart failure. Reportedly the waters of the River Rhine were so low that the river could be crossed on horseback. People could walk across the River Seine in Paris without getting their feet wet. In England during these four years:

“rivers and streams were drying out in parts. A remarkable series of droughts, with a burning sun during the summer”.

In 1541:

“At Nottingham a remarkable drought; almost all the small rivers dried up, and the River Trent diminished to a straggling brook. Many cattle died for want of water, especially in the county of Nottinghamshire, and many thousands of persons died from grievous diarrhoea and dysentery.”

“Trent a straggling brook”

I could not find any pictures of the Trent as a “straggling brook”, but this is close. And no, the hot weather did not attract any elephants to Nottingham:

elephsnts

Forty years later, in 1581 the River Trent apparently “dried up completely” but further details of this event are not very much in evidence, beyond the rather strange date when it was supposed to have occurred, supposedly December 21st. Perhaps a build up of ice higher upstream brought the river’s flow to a stop.

Ten years later, in 1591,

“A severe drought destroyed practically all the crops and vegetation in the areas around Nottingham. The rivers Trent and Erewash, plus other rivers, were almost without water.”

People actually remarked how like Texas the landscape had become:

cow

There was another “uncommon drought in Nottinghamshire” in the spring of 1592. In the summer there were strong westerly winds to dry the land even further, and hardly any rain fell.

“The Trent and other rivers were almost without water. In summer, the Thames was so shallow that horsemen could ride across near London Bridge & the River Trent was also said to be almost dry.”

This is the old London Bridge of this period:

london bridge zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

After this, there is then a hiatus of some three or four hundred years until the twentieth century. I have been unable to trace any other noticeably dry periods during this intervening time. The next striking piece of dry weather comes in the mid-1970s, with an absolutely scorching summer in 1975. This initial heat and drought was followed by a very dry winter, and then the unforgettable drought conditions of the summer of 1976. These periods of extreme weather saw the River Trent during the end of the month of August 1976 at its very lowest level in modern times. Indeed, this summer produced what was called the Great European Drought with the lowest soil moisture readings in London since 1698.

Unfortunately nobody in Nottingham seems to have thought of preserving this amazing weather with their camera. Instead, I will just show you one or two typical scenes. Here is an unknown reservoir which should have been a vast lake. Flap those flares:

_72775633_1976-drought

Here is a reservoir at Huddersfield in Yorkshire:

hudd ressser

Here is a lock on what should have been a brim full canal:

foxton lock

This is the River Thames at Kew near London. The River Trent at Nottingham would presumably have been comparable:

r thames kew

And finally, here is Walton Reservoir in Surrey, being monitored by the least appropriately dressed man in 1976:

reser at walton thsame ssurrey

 

 

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Wildlife and Nature