I first started getting into Nottingham's history when I lived in Viccy Centre flats as a young man. From the living room window we had a brilliant view of the red-brick clock tower, and a slightly less brilliant view of the back of the Hilton Hotel, which was all air-con units and fire escapes. Both were part of the old Victoria Station and I got into the habit of nipping to the library when I had a spare afternoon and looking at pictures of the station. I'm not a ‘trainspotter’, I just enjoyed trying to understand how it had fitted into the city I knew then. Although Victoria was my first point of interest, I found it impossible not to get sucked into looking at other photographs or reading other articles about places all around the city. I saw blurred pictures of indistinct men and women in hats and bonnets and wondered if I might be related to any of them.
The old newspapers and clippings files at the library are amazing. I like poring over them and cherry-picking information to form the story of the street or building. Newspaper reports are 'of the moment' but viewed in hindsight they form the brushstrokes of a bigger picture. Over the years I've collected stacks of information on loads of different places around the city, just because they struck a chord with me. Often I'd be really into places I either knew or imagined my ancestors had visited. Lost Nottingham is an attempt to gather some of my notes together. It's quite general, but to give it a structure I've organised the places discussed in the order they were demolished, or abandoned from their original use.
The book features Holy Trinity (which gave Trinity Square and Trinity Row their names), St Stephen’s (a church within the slum that eventually became Victoria Centre), abandoned railway tunnels, Drury Hill (demolished to make way for Broadmarsh Centre), and the Elite, the grandest multiplex Nottingham has ever seen. I've heard about people wandering around Nottingham with the book on their iPhone, checking-out some of the references to modern Nottingham. I love that, it's awesome! It's important though to say that Lost Nottingham is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the city's history. It's just a taster. There are countless more quirky facts I haven't included, or simply don’t know. I don't pretend to know it all, but I reckon the stuff I've included is pretty special.
Holy Trinity and St Stephens are important because they reflect how the city used to be, a residential area rather than a shopping centre. They are kind of like twins living in different neighbourhoods. Trinity Square had a higher class of worshipper, and nicer surroundings. St Stephen's existed very nearby, but in a squalid neighbourhood between Milton Street and Lower Parliament Street. It was a strange place with very few main streets running through it. Residents got around by going through alleyways between the housing. That whole slum was wiped-out to make way for Nottingham Victoria, which in itself was demolished to prepare for Victoria Centre, so nothing remains of the slum nowadays. Only Newcastle Street and Clare Street offer any real clues to the past. They're short and seemingly useless but back in the 1800s they cut into the slum from Lower Parliament Street, Newcastle Street stretching as far as Charlotte Street, which is roughly mirrored by the route across Victoria Centre from the clock tower entrance through to Glasshouse Street.
The Elite's one of my favourites. There's something sad about the building nowadays, with weeds sprouting-out between its tiles and the statues looking down to the street wistfully. It houses Gatecrasher, a gym equipment shop, a bookies and a jewellers, but back in the 20s the whole thing was a cinema and restaurant complex. Many people nowadays think the Cornerhouse is the pinnacle of entertainment, but the guys who started the Elite had a much more lavish vision. There was no Subway in the Elite, and no noisy kids running up and down escalators! It's awesome that the Elite's still standing. You can actually see the history right there in front of your eyes. Apart from the abandoned railway tunnels, the other places in Lost Nottingham have sadly been demolished but I've included as much information as I can about their position in relation to modern streets and buildings.
I think the next book in the series will be on Nottingham Victoria. I think it’s a really intriguing tale of a slum that got swept aside to make way for the train station, which in itself suffered a bit of an ignominious end given what a glorious building it had been. I love writing and self-publishing information on places like this, it’s a good chance to record the past and preserve Nottingham's proud heritage.
You can download Lost Nottingham (Kindle edition) from Amazon.co.uk