From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 43
December 1986 - January 1987
If you haven't been along the canal towpath recently, then you will probably have missed seeing the superb mural in our photograph, which adorns the end wall of the Chippendale Street terrace of houses. Commissioned by the Nottingham Community Housing Association, it has been designed by Mandy Rowland-Smith and John Clark (also known as 'Brick') and carried out by the six artists in the Brick Muralling Company. Its canal side position prompted John Clark & Co. to create the picture of a rural idyll - but one that also gives some broad hints to aspects of the area's past.
The river Leen now comes nowhere near, but once it ran beside the canal as its waters flowed towards Nottingham and on into the Trent. The Leen's 'disappearance' in 1883 was caused by its rerouting into the canal in order to facilitate the construction of Castle Boulevard the following year. Until then, the banks of the river Leen had provided Nottingham folk with a picturesque walk along which to stroll when they wanted to escape the bustle of town life. It is two such promenaders who are depicted as gazing back at the struggling fish. The fish in question is a brown trout, caught we are reliably informed, by an angler using a barb-less dry fly. In later years the waters of the Leen were to become badly polluted, but the history books inform us that this was not always so and that its 'limpid waters' were once home for fish such as the trout.
Apart from the struggler that so catches the eye, the title also recalls the public house shown on the left. 'The Struggler' once stood close to the canal somewhere near the line of Grove Road, before the time when Grove Road or Castle Boulevard was constructed. The following advertisement placed in the Nottingham Journal for the year 1822 gives some flavour of the attractions on offer there.
'F. Glaskin (at the Struggler) returns thanks to his friends for past favours; and begs leave to inform them, that he has laid in store excellent Bottle and Draught Porter, Cider, Ale (own brewing) with spirituous Liquors, which he hopes will merit approbation, and ensure the visits of the Public.
The large room will be open for Dancing. THE BATH - Persons desirous of subscribing for its use during the season, will only be charged Half a Guinea, and opened for their accommodation every day in the week, Sunday excepted. Non-subscribers three pence each. Private Tea Garden Persons may be accommodated with Tea, Coffee etc. on liberal terms.'
Quite how many locals or Nottingham people were attracted along to use Mr. Glaskin's open air bath is not clear, though he assured readers in another advert that the water was uncommonly fine, and that the strength of the underground springs, which supplied the water, was such as to provide a change of water every five hours. Complete modesty could be guaranteed with the 'comfortable dressing rooms' alongside.
In about 1830 The Struggler underwent a change of identity. Its new proprietor, John Ward, decided that it was time for a change and renamed it The Grove Tavern. The pub remained part of the Lenton scene until the arrival of Castle Boulevard, when it came down to make way for the houses in the Grove Road area. There has been a little artistic license taken by the muralling team when they painted the pub, but the main outlines of the building follow a pencil sketch of The Grove Tavern made by the Victorian artist, T.C. Moore, some time prior to its demolition.
The struggling trout may be the creature that first catches the eye, but once you begin to scrutinize the mural a little more closely, other animals soon become apparent. Clustered to the right are a ringlet butterfly (RB), a dragonfly (DR), a damselfly (DA) and a vole. The last mentioned was one of the pieces of local handiwork carried out by enthusiastic volunteers who offered their services to the muralling team. Overhead a flock of geese can be seen making their westward way across the sky. The botanical interest depicted has been carefully selected as examples of plants likely to have been found in this locality in years gone by. They include meadow sweet (MS), marsh marigold (MM), purple loose strife (PL), great spearwort (GS), and pansies (P). In the background weeping willows (WW), white willows (WhW) and a smoothed leaved elm (E) can all be seen.
Many readers are already aware that various youths felt obliged to despoil the mural only days after its completion. Many will find such an act unintelligible - we certainly do!
[The intervening years since this article first appeared have seen the growth of vegetation in front of the mural to such an extent that the whole of its right-hand side is now obscured from view.]