From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 33
March - April 1985
Birth Of The Boulevard
The map above is a section of The Plan of the Borough of Nottingham (as extended and determined
by the Act of 1877) compiled by the Borough Engineer, Marriott Ogle Tarbotton, in 1876, and showing
part of the land between Nottingham and New Lenton.
By just a matter of months, we have missed out commemorating the hundredth birthday of the road known as Castle Boulevard. With belated best wishes, we turn the spotlight on this thoroughfare and show in the course of the article how its birth was closely linked with Nottingham's efforts to extend its boundaries in the 1870s.
As the population of Nottingham and its surrounding villages began to increase during the first half of the nineteenth century, common problems of sewage disposal, new road construction, fresh water supplies, policing and other communal matters were also growing. A disinterested observer would probably have advocated that the best way to deal with these problems lay in the creation of one overall authority; an enlarged Borough with the neighbouring parishes incorporated within the Town's boundaries. The main difficulty was convincing the people who mattered that this proposal was in their best interests. The first opportunity to do this occurred in a parliamentary bill drawn up in 1838, proposing that Sneinton, Brewhouse Yard, Standard Hill and a portion of Lenton become part of Nottingham. There was so much public opposition, however, that the bill never got off the ground and was withdrawn before Parliament could even consider its merits. It took time for attitudes to change and it was only in the 1870s that the Nottingham Borough Extension Act found popular local support and achieved parliamentary approval. The clauses of this 1877 Act were to bring within Nottingham's boundaries, the parishes of Sneinton, Lenton, Radford, Basford, Bulwell, Standard Hill, Brewhouse Yard and the area of the Castle, Wilford north of the Trent, and part of Gedling parish.
The Town Council's proposals to extend the Borough were announced in 1816 and initially there was substantial opposition. For instance, the Trustees of the Gregory Estate didn't favour the incorporation of their lands within an enlarged Nottingham. But they were won over by the Council's promise to construct a thoroughfare from Mansfield Road across Gregory Estate land to Alfreton Road. This promise was kept and the full length Gregory Boulevard was finally opened to traffic in late 1883 or early 1884. The members of the Lenton Local Board were none too happy at the prospect of losing control of parish matters and in similar fashion the Town Council proffered the inducement of a new low-level road linking Lenton with Nottingham. At this time the Derby Road was effectively the only route between the two places and the steep inclines into and out of the town were forever causing problems for horse drawn carriages and wagons.
A new low-level road would enable traffic to avoid the hill and would also provide a much more direct route between Lenton and the Midland Station. Even so, it appears that this was insufficient to sway the minds of the Lenton Board. At a public meeting of Lenton owners and ratepayers called to discuss the proposed Borough extension, the board expressed their objections to the scheme. Theirs was found to be the minority view and the majority of those present favoured the road to amalgamation and to the Midland Station. Consequently the Lenton Board were constitutionally bound to support the parliamentary bill.
This photograph, courtesy of the Local Studies Library, shows the
River Leen as it flows beside the Castle Rock, prior to its diversion
into the canal in 1883.
Once Lenton and the other parishes became part of Nottingham, the new Town Council's Improvement Committee began to discuss the construction of this new low-level road that had been promised. Negotiations were opened with the Trustees of the Duke of Newcastle across whose land the road would have to pass. Discussions were held as to the best line for the road. Tarbotton, the Borough Engineer, argued that it should be sited to the north of the canal in place of the river Leen, which would have to be rerouted. T.C. Hine, acting for the Duke's Estate, put forward the suggestion that it might be sited to the south of the canal, allowing the river Leen to be retained as a scenic attraction for the town. After due consideration it was realised that this latter scheme would require the construction of expensive bridgeworks to take the road over the railway line. A check with the railway company convinced the Committee that it was out of the question to contemplate the rerouting of the line to avoid the need for a bridge. As a result the Committee found in favour of Tarbotton's scheme. Another consideration for the Improvement Committee to discuss was where the road should start and finish. One proposal had the highway starting at the back of the Lace Market and carrying on to Gregory Street. The Committee, however, finally decided that it should begin in Nottingham at Canal Street and continue on as far as the Lenton Board School buildings where it would turn northwards and run along what was then known as School Street.
The line and length of the proposed new road had been decided on by October 1878, but it was almost five more years before construction work began. The stumbling block appears to have been the negotiations over the price of the land needed for the road. The Trustees of the Duke of Newcastle's Estate evidently held out for as much as they thought they could get for the land. For instance in June 1880 the Town Clerk had written to them offering £1,000 for the land. Yet by March 1883 the offer had been increased to £5,500 with a further £500 as compensation for the diversion of the river Leen. This sum must have finally proved satisfactory as shortly afterwards advertisements were placed requesting the submission of tenders for carrying out the road works.
Contractors were asked to include in their tenders both the cost of the construction of the road and of the work involved in diverting the river Leen. The estimates showed a tremendous variation. They ranged from £34,400 requested by a Wigan firm to £18,612 required by W. Cordon of Nottingham. A newspaper report at the time, commenting on the fourteen tenders received, considered that the large discrepancy in the size of the tenders was accounted for by the ease or otherwise with which the contractors could obtain the 70,000 cubic yards of material needed to bring the road up to the necessary level and fill in the disused bed of the Leen. W. Cordon, evidently had a ready supply of material and as his was the lowest tender he got the job. The Borough Engineer's estimate was some three thousand pounds more than Cordon's offer, and in the light of subsequent events it seems Mr. Cordon was a little over optimistic about how cheaply he could complete the contract.
One of Mr. Cordon's first tasks was to deal with the Leen. This was achieved by diverting the river into the canal just before it reached the railway line, where the waters mixed with those of the canal. Just before the Castle Lock the excess water was drained off by means of an overflow and joined the Tinker's Leen which flowed on out through the Meadows to the Trent. Once this work had been finished, the construction of the road could start. But at the beginning of 1884, everything stopped when Mr. Cordon found himself declared bankrupt. The remainder of the contract was taken away from him and fresh tenders sought for the completion of the road. S. Thumbs apparently calculated it down to the last penny and offered to do the job for £10,986 13s. 3d. As this was the lowest tender, it was accepted by the Town Council.
In the course of the year the road was completed and on September 18th the Mayor, councillors and other interested parties gathered at Canal Street in order formally to open the new road. The party walked in procession the entire length of the road, and then listened while the Mayor and Alderman Worth commented on this latest piece of civic enterprise. The latter gentleman considered that the new road would be a great advance on the Derby Road where as he stated you choked with dust in summer and in winter was forced to go on foot when frost or snow was about. The orations completed, the company adjourned for lunch at the Sheriff's house in the Park.
The Mayor and his party had come to a halt at the junction with Church Street, for this was the extent of the new road; as yet there was no continuation to Derby Road. There were plans for its completion, but not by the Council. The Town Council had decided to construct Gregory Boulevard in order to gain the agreement of the Trustees of the Gregory Estate to the Borough extensions, but the Council indicated that it had no plans at that time to join up Gregory Boulevard with the new low-level road. The Council was evidently leaving the way open for the Gregory Estate, who owned most of the land in between, to step in and offer to provide the linking section of road. The Borough Records indicate that the Town Council purchased the property found to be in the way of the linking road, but we are not sure whether there were any other civic contributions towards the costs of making the link road. Certainly a reference in the Records makes it clear that the cost of carrying the new low-level road on from Church Street to Derby Road fell to the Gregory Estate.
Until now, with the exception of Gregory Boulevard, we have not given these roads a name. We did this to avoid confusion, for the various stretches of road have undergone certain name changes in the ensuing years. The entire stretch of road, which the Mayor had walked along in September 1884, was called 'Lenton Boulevard', and the extension to Derby Road, opened in 1885, bore the same name. But the stretch from the Derby Road to Gregory Boulevard was known as 'Radford Boulevard'. Some time between 1905 and 1907 'Lenton Boulevard' underwent a change. We are not sure quite why, but the City Council decided that it preferred 'Castle Boulevard' for the section of road we know by that name today. 'Lenton Boulevard' was then restricted to the short section from the Schools to Derby Road. It was to recoup some of its lost yardage in 1911 when the stretch of Radford Boulevard from Derby Road to Ilkeston Road was renamed 'Lenton Boulevard'. Thereafter Council workmen could rest easy so far as the Boulevards sign plates were concerned, for the street names have remained resolutely unchanged.