The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 8 - May 1993

Society Snips


Geoffrey Oldfield was back in our midst for the first meeting of 1993. He had been invited to come and talk to the Society on the history of Nottingham's Lace Market. Geoffrey is the author of Nottingham Civic Society's latest publication The Lace Market - Nottingham in their 'Get to know Nottingham' series.

He began by looking at the area's early history. The Lace Market area was once the location of Nottingham's Anglian burh - or fortified site. Geoffrey showed us slides which highlighted the extent of the cliff face to be found above Cliff Road and this cliff was the main reason the Anglians chose the spot. Little is known about life in the Anglian burh but by the ninth century it had grown into a small but strategically important town. In the 1960s archaeological excavations at Halifax Place revealed evidence of this settlement. Among the finds were a metal staff boss and a belt buckle that the British Museum would have relished adding to their collection.

Mr Oldfield then quickly moved the story on. A map, reconstructed from various sources by Maurice Barley and I .F. Straw, revealed what the Lace Market area would have looked like c.1800. The gardens and pasture had now been reduced in size when compared with Badder & Peat's earlier map of 1744 pointing to quite a lot of recent building. There was, however, still quite a lot of open space. As with many other English towns, Nottingham experienced a rapid increase in population from the 1750s onwards. With no opportunity to expand, new building had to be contained within existing limits. A fair amount of this took place in the gardens and pastures of the Lace Market area. Many of the gentry, who had previously resided there, preferred to move out of town and into their large mansions came hosiers who not only lived in the properties but also used them for their businesses. A number of these large properties were also demolished in order to make way for industrial premises.

Far greater changes awaited the area in the next century. It was now that the term 'Lace Market' came into use. Once a technique for mechanically producing lace was devised by John Heathcote the industry quickly spread in and around Nottingham. The Lace Market was not so much a place where lace was made as the location for all the finishing processes such as singeing, gassing, mending, bleaching, dyeing and embroidering, plus a base from which the finished product could be despatched to customers. The large mansions were gradually ceded to lace manufacturers by the hosiers and these provided sufficient space for a while. But then in the 1850s two huge lace warehouses were erected. Plumtre House had been demolished and its place Richard Birkin employed T.C. Hine to design him a new building beside a totally new street, Broadway. This was laid between St. Mary's Gate and Stoney Street. Although less than 100 yards long the street was deliberately designed with a curve at its centre, so that when viewed from either end it gave the appearance of a cul-de-sac. This visual trick was conceived as a means to impress customers and Birkin's business associates. The other new lace warehouse was also designed by T.C Hine and built on Stoney Street for Adams and Page. Way ahead of its time the building included such facilities for the workers as a library, schoolroom, tearoom and chapel.

These two warehouses rather set the tone for later developments and with land at a premium the obvious direction for building was up. By 1914 the Lace Market had been built up to such an extent that it remained practically unchanged for the next fifty years. Despite periodic peaks and troughs the demand for lace had remained fairly strong up to the onset of the First World War. Hostilities disrupted the trade and the decline of Nottingham's lace industry can be dated from then. Changes in fashion and the failure to re- establish itself in foreign markets lead to the general closure of many of the Lace Market firms. In their place came businesses with no connection with lace.

The buildings themselves entered a similar decline and after the Second World War it looked highly likely that the Lace Market would undergo wholesale demolition. As we all know this didn't happen. In the 1960s a national concern was growing about the destruction of many buildings with historic or architectural interest. The government responded by introducing the 'listed building' scheme and by 1972 some 35 buildings or groups of buildings in the Lace Market had received listed status.

Many of these buildings featured in Mr. Oldfield's slides and he concluded the evening by outlining in words and pictures the way in which the area had undergone substantial refurbishment in last twenty years. It proved a most enjoyable and informative evening which may well prompt many in his audience to make their own private tour of the Lace Market in the coming months.


An invaluable source of information for family historians searching for their ancestors, census returns also provide the means to explore changes in the make-up of a local population. Val Clark and Sheila and Ray Howard spoke at our March meeting of the work they have undertaken on the census material for the village of Ruddington.

First instituted in England in 1801 there have been censuses every ten years with the exception of 1941 when the War ruled it out. The first three were not completed in a form that generated individual detail; instead the material was converted directly into various population statistics. It was only with the 1841 returns that the local historian could begin to get excited. A hundred year embargo on the release of personal information applies which means that the 1891 Census is the latest that we are entitled to consult. So the focus of interest for historians such as our three speakers are the set of six censuses between 1841 and 1891.

Sheila Howard provided us with an introduction to this national survey. She outlined how it was carried out and described the personal details that were contained within the enumerators' returns. Not everyone made their way into these returns. Just as certain poll tax evaders ensured that they weren't included in the 1991 Census returns, in the nineteenth century there were similar fears that officialdom might use the returns to identify tax evaders or those trying to avoid military conscription. Each successive census has tended to include more information than its predecessor so the 1841 Census can frustrate the researcher with its overall lack of detail. For instance the Ruddington local historians are particularly interested in the changing proportion of framework knitters within the village. The 1841 Census, however merely lists the occupations of head of household. More often than not these were men; the employment of their wives and children goes undeclared. The opportunity to gain a complete picture of framework knitting is therefore lost, at least until the 1851 Census.

Before the others joined the project Sheila Howard had ploughed a lonely furrow transcribing the details of each Ruddington resident on to separate index cards. The task completed, she was then in a position to use the raw data for the construction of age and occupation profiles. Once assembled for each census these profiles could be examined to see how the village was changing over time. The index card system, however, was far from ideal, being bulky and tedious to use. With the release of the 1891 Census only a little while off it was decided to change to computers. Ray Howard spoke briefly about how the team set about the task using two personal computers and a database programme called 'Mini-Office'. A dummy run was undertaken using sample data drawn from an earlier census and once the bugs had all been ironed out of the programme they were ready and waiting for the 1891 Census. This arrived in June last year and Val Clark told us of the trials and tribulations involved in keying in all the information for some 2,370 people. Entering the data may have been just as tedious a process as in the days of the index cards but the advantage of the computer lies in the speed with which it can sort the information. The Ruddington residents can now be listed in alphabetical order or sorted for framework knitters, agricultural workers, women in service, all those over sixty years of age, or whatever; and it's all done in a figurative twinkling of an eye!

Anyone researching a family or local history connection with the village is welcome to contact Ruddington Local History and Amenity Society and gain access to this 1891 Census material. While these requests come in the team won't be resting on their laurels. Instead they plan to return to the earlier censuses and put these on to computer disc. Clearly a most commendable effort and one that we might some day wish to emulate here in Lenton.


The week of events held last October at the parish church to celebrate Holy Trinity’s 150th anniversary passed off most successfully. For its part the Society mounted a photographic exhibition which encompassed various aspects of Lenton's past. The display seems to have been very well received and a number of people came back for second and even third visits to examine it in more detail. Several visitors regretted that the exhibition wasn't on for more than its allotted span of a week, as they would have liked to have told friends and relations about it.

For all those of you who missed it the first time there is now a second opportunity to see the exhibition on Saturday 3rd July when the Priory Church holds its Summer Fete. It is anticipated that the Fete will start at 2.00 pm and last for about three hours. Weather permitting, in the course of the afternoon there is expected to be impromptu performances of country dancing and a re-enactment of a mummers' play in the church yard. A range of refreshments will be available and a good time should be had by all.

As most readers will be aware the Priory Church has recently had a most attractive extension built. The fete will provide a golden opportunity for those who are not among the congregation to have a good look at what's been done. It was following this building work that architect's plans for the 1883/4 restoration came to light in an old cupboard and it is hoped it will be possible to have some of these on display during the fete.


For several years now a couple of members from the Society have been diligently searching through the old papers (held on microfilm at the Local Studies Library) for items of Lenton interest. The years 1830 to 1840 have now been completed and work has started on the next decade. If there is anyone else who would like to join in with this work we would be most grateful if they could contact our Secretary, Cliff Voisey.


Dear Sir,

Shortly after reading Issue No.7 of Lenton Times I had occasion to visit the town of Ashboume in Derbyshire. I found a convenient car parking space in the market place and parked close by the structure in the photograph. As I was walking past the aforementioned structure I happened to glance at the inscription which indicated that this memorial had been erected in memory of a certain Francis Wright.

On enquiry I discovered that this was indeed the same Francis Wright as I had just been leaming about in the pages of your magazine. I later returned to my car, retrieved my camera and took this photograph which you are welcome to keep for your archives. Monica Fowkes, Beechdale Road, Bilborough

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