Tag Archives: Trent Bridge

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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Water, water everywhere, especially past Trent Bridge

In a recent blogpost, I mused about the cold past of our city, and how the River Trent had frozen over on a number of occasions in the nineteenth century, the last being in 1892. Previous years when similar brass monkey weather conditions had occurred were 1682, 1814, 1838 and 1855. In all of these winters, the River Trent at Nottingham had literally frozen over from one bank to the other. I found these extremes of weather really quite interesting, so I continued to do further research of my own. I duly found some extra details, such as, for example, the sad fact that:

“on 10 January 1814, seven boys drowned in the River Trent in England by the breaking of the ice.”

One or two more examples of extreme cold have since come to light, in years of which I had previously been completely ignorant. During the winter of 1092-1093, for example, when William Rufus was king:

“the River Thames and all the English rivers (were) heavily locked in with ice”. There was severe frost in this winter. English rivers (were) frozen so hard that horsemen and wagons could travel on them.”

When warmer weather finally came, however:

“drifting ice on the rivers destroyed bridges, and mills were carried away”.

Here is William Rufus, who was to be killed by an arrow in the New Forest:

4559818813_e810e0ca1c_z

Four hundred years later, the River Trent was frozen near Nottingham in the winter of 1485-1486. When the thaw finally came, “the bridge at Newark-on-Trent was swept away.” In 1766, on February 15th, a great snowstorm hit Nottinghamshire, which lasted fifty hours. That is a lot of snow!

Our old friend “Wikipedia” provided a great deal of historical detail about this kind of event, not all of it totally fascinating, although the word “palaeochannel” was new to me and it does contain three unusual vowels in a row. Here’s one I photographed earlier:

paleo chanaell zzzzzzz

I knew that Giant Floods generally follow any Big Freeze but it was interesting to see that, in the modern era, the worst flooding experienced in Nottingham came very soon after the vast snows of the winter of 1946-1947 had melted. This melt was extremely sudden because of continuous heavy rain throughout March. The result was extensive and severe flooding all along the valley of the Trent. During this flood the peak flow of the Trent was 39,100 cubic feet per second, thirteen times the norm. As many as 9,000 houses were flooded and almost one hundred industrial premises were awash, with floodwater up to the height of the first floor. Here are one or two photographs of the flooding. These are of West Bridgford:

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Here is Arkwright Street next to the railway station:

arkwright st

This is the aptly named Canal Street:

NTGM006755.tif

Here is a picture of the River Trent near the present day Harry Ramsden’s and Toys-r-us. On the left is Wilford Power Station, demolished in the 1980s, and on the right, Clifton Colliery which disappeared even before this (possibly through flooding?):clif colli wilf power station

Here is Beeston, looking remarkably like Venice:

NTGM016349.tif

This photograph is just about recognisable as Melton Road in West Bridgford:

220px-Melton_Road_in_the_floods_of_March_1947_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1537395

This natural disaster in 1947 was the beginning of our modern attempts to tame the river, by building concrete embankments and sluices in an effort to avoid the surging floods which had devastated Long Eaton, Beeston, the Meadows area, Colwick and West Bridgford on more than one occasion during this period. Here is the Trent, with early concrete steps visible only on the far side of the river, and just a grassy slope on this, southern, side:

before concrete

This photograph was probably taken in the 1950s, with concrete embankments on both sides. Trent Bridge is in the background, so we must be looking north:

nottinghamtrentbridge-620x413

Nowadays, the concrete steps near Wilford Suspension Bridge would stop a Soviet tank. Well, perhaps make them feel a little motion sick:

nearcounty hsall

Here’s the other side, looking north towards Trent Bridge and the green roof of County Hall:

concrete zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

These are the sluices on the river between Holme Pierrepont and Colwick, designed to hold back excessive flood water so that it can be released gradually at sensible intervals. By the way, firm promises have now been given that the next time they release fifty billion gallons of floodwater, not only will they look first to see if any anglers are fishing at the riverside, but they will also sound a warning klaxon:

colwick sluives zzzzzzzzzzz

This huge construction work of the modern era seems to have been completely successful. During the Millenium Flood of November 2000, the peak flow of the Trent was 36,000 cubic feet per second, around twelve times the norm, and certainly comparable to the conditions experienced in 1946-1947. But this time, the 15,000 homes at risk were completely unaffected and there was none of the widespread flooding seen in 1947 within the city:

flood 2000

In this photo the flooded Trent is, for the most part, still contained within its banks, although Nottingham Forest’s pitch does look as if it may be somewhat waterlogged.  All of the floodwater in the background, by the way, is, for the most part, lying harmlessly on playing fields.

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, Science, Wildlife and Nature

Notts £100 million striker (1877-1891) (first half)

Harry Cursham has scored more goals in the F.A Cup competition than any other soccer player in history.

Harry was born at Wilford Grange near Nottingham on November 27th 1859, one of the five sons of William George Cursham, a solicitor. He entered the High School at the age of nine on January 18th 1869, on the same day as his brother, Charles. Harry had three brothers in total. Like him, they all attended the High School. They were Arthur William Cursham, (born 1853), Charles Lambert Cursham, (born 1858), and William Cursham (born 1862). Here is the High School of Harry’s day:

first day

During his school career Harry played for the High School First Team, but only a very few editions of the school magazine, “The Forester”, have survived from this period. Unfortunately, the very few match reports are not particularly detailed, and there is no mention of Harry as a footballer.

Harry does appear as an athlete.  He won a 100 yards’ race for boys under eleven at the Annual Athletic Sports in September 1870. This major event in the social calendar of Victorian Nottingham took place at Trent Bridge, with the crowd entertained throughout the two days by the regimental band of the Robin Hood Rifles. “Cursham ii” won “a capital race” for second place, narrowly beating Brewill, “who ran remarkably well for so small a boy” by about two yards. It was only after the end of the race that the apparently easy winner, Anderson, was disqualified for being over age, thus leaving Harry in first place.

After leaving in 1875, Harry transferred to Repton School as a boarder. He remained there until Christmas 1876, and represented the school at both football and cricket. Harry returned to Nottingham in 1877 and joined Notts County for the 1877-1878 season. Both he, and his brother, Arthur, soon became very great favourites with the crowd. Harry was too young to have worn Notts’ wonderful “convict kit”:

notts_county_1872-1873

On November 3rd 1877, “…these splendidly built players…”, Harry and elder brother, Charles, played for County in their first ever F.A.Cup tie, against the Sheffield Club, for whom Arthur Cursham made an appearance. Arthur, of course, was normally a Notts County player. The match took place at Trent Bridge, and was drawn 1-1. Arthur scored for Sheffield, and Charles for Notts County. The County team included at least four Old Nottinghamians, namely Harry Cursham, Charles Cursham, Thomas Oliver, George Seals, and, possibly, Henry Jessop as a fifth.

In the replay, Arthur scored twice for Sheffield, and County lost 0-3, but Harry was seen as a promising débutant during the season, appearing in the prestigious friendly against Scottish club, Queen’s Park, at Hampden.

Harry soon became a high scoring forward, and scored well in excess of 200 goals in thirteen seasons. “The Football Annual” described him as…

“…one of the best forwards of the day, plays brilliantly on either wing but is particularly effective on the left.”

Elsewhere, he is described as having been:

“…at home on either wing or in the centre, and had good dribbling skills.”

In the 1880s, a third source said that Harry was

“…the most versatile player Notts had during that period, for he was at home anywhere, and was an indispensable member of the English eleven.”

Here is our hero:

cursham

On November 16th 1878, Harry played for Notts County in their First Round F.A.Cup tie against Nottingham Forest at Beeston Cricket Ground, Nottingham Forest having waived their right to host the game. The fact that the Forest Recreation Ground was public land meant that it was impossible to charge admission money. Forest won 3-1, in front of a crowd of some 500 spectators, with goals from Turner, Goodyer and Smith. The attendance was the highest ever recorded for a football match in Nottingham. Special excursion trains were used to take them out of the City.

On November 11th 1880, Harry returned to the High School, and appeared on the Forest for the School First XI  against the Bank. The match took place on a “merit half-holiday”, and the High School fielded six Old Boys, including Harry and Charles Cursham. The Bank’s team was formidable, with several “players of no small note in the local football world”. The game was fast and even, but the the High School’s players were on top form. They ran out the eventual winners by 4-1.

By now Harry had already played for England on one occasion, against Wales at Wrexham on March 15th 1880. As far as I can trace, this game against the Bank is the only occasion on which a current England international represented the High School in any sport.

In the 1881-1882 season, Harry played in the F.A.Cup tie between Notts County and Wednesbury Strollers, a game controversially refereed by Leonard Lindley, the brother of Tinsley Lindley. The visitors led by 2-0 at the interval, but an own goal, and two each from Arthur and Harry Cursham looked to have given Notts a 5-3 victory. Wednesbury were not happy though, with the fact that they had two hotly contested goals awarded against them, by a referee from the same town as their opponents. He was also a personal friend of the Notts County players. Wednesbury Strollers protested to the F.A., who ordered the first ever replay, on a neutral ground, with a neutral referee. This idea of a neutral referee was one which was soon to become fundamental to cup competitions, not just in England, but the whole world over.

The replay took place at Derby and the result was Notts County 11 Wednesbury Strollers 1. Official records state that Harry scored six goals, but he himself claimed throughout his life that he had got nine, explaining that the referee had confused him with his two brothers, Arthur and Charles. Nine goals in a single game would, over a century later, still remain a record for the F.A.Cup. This total was equalled by Ted MacDougall for Bournemouth against Margate in the First Round on Nov 20th 1971, but it has never been beaten:

ted macdouygall

By now, Harry was centre forward for County, and he continued his remarkable goal scoring feats. In the F.A.Cup in 1882-1883, County defeated the Sheffield Club  by 6-1, before beating Phoenix Bessemer of Rotherham by 4-1, and Sheffield Wednesday by the same score. They were then drawn against Aston Villa, with Notts County hanging on grimly to a 4-3 winning margin, Harry having grabbed a hat-trick. Villa protested, however, that in the dying minutes, Harry had fisted out what would have been an equalising goal. Harry appeared before the F.A. to discuss the “long-arm incident”. He explained that the goalkeeper had been hidden behind him, and that it must have been his hand that had knocked away the ball. Obviously, the F.A. were not used to dealing with High School boys, and their far-fetched excuses, and Harry was believed.

Here is the team photo for the semi-final. At least three of the players were surprise choices, and were pasted into the photograph later on:

county semi final

(back row) Arthur Ashwell (Umpire), Johnny Dixon, Herbert Emmitt, Billy Gunn, Harry Moore, Alf Dobson (second row) Mordecai Sherwin, Arthur Cursham, Stuart Macrae (front row) Charley Dobson, Harry Cursham, H.Chapman (his first name remains apparently unknown. Surely not Herbert?)

Arthur Ashwell, Arthur Cursham , Johnny Dixon and Harry were all ex-High School boys. In those days, the goalkeeper could be pushed physically into the net, so it paid him to maintain a healthy pie intake. Mordecai Sherwin (16 stone) though, had a long way to go to keep up with 22-stone Fatty Foulke in this Sheffield United team of 1901:

Sheffield_United_FC_1901_team

In the semi-final, Harry scored, but Notts County lost 1-2 against the Old Etonians, who included Lord Kinnaird, and Percy de Paravicini:

In 1883-1884, Harry scored a hat trick against Sheffield Heeley in the first round and then grabbed the winner in a fifth round tie against “The Swifts”. Along with Old Nottinghamian, John Dixon, Harry appeared in the semi-final against Blackburn Rovers but Notts County lost by the only goal of the game, as their goalkeeper, sixteen stone Mordecai Sherwin, was easily barged into the back of the net.

This is Notts’ oldest programme, against the Sheffield Club at Trent Bridge on January 3rd 1885,  watched by 5,000 spectators:

programme

The Old Nottinghamians in the team were Frederick Snook, Harry Jackson, Johnny Dixon and Harry Cursham. The game ended in a 5-0 victory, with County’s goals coming from Dobson, Gunn, Harry Jackson, Harry Cursham and Marshall.

On October 24th 1885, Harry scored four goals in County’s record F.A.Cup victory, a 15-0 rout of Rotherham Town in the First Round at Trent Bridge. Later that year, Harry Cursham appeared in a Sixth Round F.A.Cup tie against the previous season’s beaten finalists, Queen’s Park of Glasgow. The match was played at Trent Bridge before 17,000 spectators, many people having arrived by carriage  from early morning onwards. By the end of normal time the game was poised evenly at 2-2, but the Scottish captain refused to play extra time, because he claimed that the crowd had encroached onto the playing surface and delayed the end of the match. County duly kicked off, unopposed, and kicked the ball into the empty net. The F.A., however, ordered a replay at Derby, where Queen’s Park grabbed the winner in the second half. They duly went on to the final, where they lost to Blackburn Rovers.

Harry Cursham’s overall total in the F.A.Cup remains the all time goal scoring record. In his career, he managed an official 49 goals, or an unofficial 52 goals, both of which totals have only ever been approached by the peerless Denis Law (41):

law_2779943b

and the man who said that playing for Juventus was just like living in a foreign country, Ian Rush (42).

ian-rush-

In addition, many readers may feel that the two goals he scored in the original, void, game against Wednesbury Strollers should be incorporated in the overall total, giving Harry a record 54 goals in the F.A.Cup. Harry’s full F.A.Cup scoring record was…

Nov  3rd 1877         Notts County v  Sheffield                                     1-1               (1)
Nov  4th 1880         Notts County v Derbyshire F.C                          4-4              (2)
Nov  27th 1880       Notts County v Derbyshire F.C                          4-2              (2)
Nov  24th 1881       Notts County v Wednesbury Strollers               5-2              (2)
Dec  10th 1881        Notts County v Wednesbury Strollers              11-1              (6/9)
Jan   14th 1882       Notts County v Aston Villa                                   1-4              (1)
Nov  4th 1882         Notts County v Sheffield Club                             6-1              (2)
Dec 27th 1882        Notts County v Phoenix Bessemer                     4-1               (1)
Feb 12th 1883         Notts County v Sheffield Wednesday                4-1               (1)
Mar 3rd 1883          Notts County v Aston Villa                                  4-3              (3)
Mar 17th 1883        Notts County v Old Etonians                               1-2               (1)
Nov 10th 1883        Notts County v Sheffield Heeley                         3-1               (3)
Dec 15th 1883         Notts County v Grantham                                   4-0               (2)
Feb  9th 1884          Notts County v Swifts                                           1-1                (1)
Feb 14th 1884         Notts County v Swifts                                           1-0                (1)
Dec 6th 1884           Notts County v Staveley                                       2-0               (1)
Jan 3rd 1885           Notts County v Sheffield Club                             5-0               (1)
Feb 21st 1885          Notts County v Queens’ Park                              2-2                (1)
Oct 24th 1885         Notts County v Rotherham Town                     15-0               (4)
Nov 21st 1885         Notts County v Sheffield Club                             8-0               (1)
Dec 12th 1885        Notts County v Notts Rangers                              3-0               (3)
Oct 30th 1886        Notts County v Basford Rovers                           13-0              (1)
Nov 13th 1886        Notts County v Notts Rangers                              3-3               (1)
Nov 20th 1886       Notts County v Notts Rangers                              5-0               (3)
Dec 11th 1886         Notts County v Staveley                                         3-0               (1)
Jan 29th 1887        Notts County v Great Marlow                               5-2               (3)
Feb 19th 1887         Notts County v West Bromwich  Albion             1-4               (1)
Dec  8th 1888         Notts County v Staveley                                         3-1               (1)

Fittingly, Harry scored in his last ever F.A.Cup game as Notts County’s centre forward:

Feb 28th 1891        Notts County v Sunderland                                   3-3                (1)
Semi-final tie, played at Bramall Lane

This gave Harry an unprecedented career total of 52 goals in 44 F.A.Cup ties (or 54 in 45, if the first game against Wednesbury Strollers is incorporated in the totals.).

There has, of course, been criticism of the strength of the opposition against which Harry scored his F.A.Cup goals. It is worth mentioning, however, that, as an amateur, he may have chosen not to play in some cup ties where he would surely have scored even more goals…

1887-1888              Notts County  v Lincoln Ramblers                        9-0
1888-1889              Notts County  v Eckington                                      4-1
1888-1889              Notts County  v Beeston St.John’s                        4-2
1888-1889              Notts County  v Old Brightonians                         2-0

The F.A.Cup Ties against Eckington and Beeston St.John’s were both contested by Notts County’s reserve side. Harry may well have considered it beneath his dignity to play in these games, even though at this time he was by no means a regular First Team player. Harry also missed the Fourth Round of the F.A.Cup in 1884-1885. This was a 4-1 away win over Walsall Swifts, which took place in front of 5,000 spectators on January 4th 1885. Harry was unfortunately away on honeymoon, having got married in Wilford Church on January 20th. His team mates presented him with a silver plate to mark the occasion:

newsapaper

Harry’s last appearance for County in the F.A.Cup is linked extremely closely with his last appearance in the Football League on February 10th 1891, playing as a right full back, in a 4-0 home victory over Burnley. Harry had not appeared in the First Team for over two years, but the regular right back, Tom McLean, was injured, and the Team Management Committee decided to recall Harry.

The reason for this unexpected decision is that County had reached the Sixth Round of the F.A.Cup and had been drawn at home to Stoke. If Tom McLean was still injured, then Harry would be the ideal replacement. He was an older player, experienced with big games and large crowds.

In actual fact, Tom McLean was to return for the Stoke game, which County won by a single goal. McLean’s injury, however, must have flared up again, as Harry returned to the First Team for his last ever appearance in the F.A.Cup, on February 28th 1891, when he played as a right full back in the semi-final tie against Sunderland. The game was at Bramall Lane, and ended 3-3. Fittingly, some 25,000 spectators watched Harry play for the last time. By now, their kit was the familiar:

notts_county_1890-1900

For the replay, Harry was again replaced by Tom McLean. Tom’s injury cannot have healed properly, however, since he did not get into the team for the Final.

Neither did Harry, who was replaced by Alex “Sandy” Ferguson, a Scotsman from Rangers, who had played only twice previously. County’s only fixture before the Final was a League game against Blackburn Rovers, who would be County’s opponents in the Final. Notts won this League game with great ease, by 7-1. They then chose to keep the same side for the F.A.Cup Final at the Kennington Oval, and were never even remotely in the game. Blackburn won 3-1 with consummate ease:

blackburn-rovers-vs-notts-county-f-a-cup-final-1891_i-G-46-4625-3MOFG00Z

Perhaps the Team Management Committee wished that they had kept faith with Harry, who was surely the man for the big occasion. What a way it would have been to finish off his glorious career, winning the F.A.Cup for the first time ever. It was not until 1894 that Notts County finally won the F.A.Cup. And by one of life’s incredible ironies, it was on the day of the Final against Bolton Wanderers that the Nottingham Football News was able to announce the tragically premature death of Alex “Sandy” Ferguson, who had by now moved on to Newark Town.

By the way, the illustrations of the two football kits come from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all the boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

 

 

 

 

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