The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Middleton Boulevard - Wollaton Park

Photographs | What's the story behind Crown Island | Memories


Once Nottingham Corporation had acquired Wollaton Hall and the associated parkland from Lord Middleton in the mid-1920s it commissioned plans for a housing estate to constructed on the eastern portion of the parkland. Running across the middle of the Wollaton Park Estate, as it became known, was a major arterial road which would ultimately form part of Nottingham's outer ring road. This was named Middleton Boulevard. Initially all this new road did was provide a linkage between Derby Road and Wollaton Road. It would be some years before work would actually began on the adjacent sections - Western Boulevard and Clifton Boulevard.

Photograph courtesy of Google Earth

This aerial photograph, courtesy of Google Earth, shows the full extent of Middleton Boulevard which we have picked out in red. Either side of it is the Wollaton Park Housing Estate. On the left of the photograph is the junction with Wollaton Road and the 'Crown Island.' On the right is the Derby Road junction which now includes the underpass and beyond which lies the Queen's Medical Centre and the northern edge of the main campus of Nottingham University.

The top right of this undated photograph (probably taken sometime in the late 1940s/early 1950s) shows the junction of Clifton Boulevard, Derby Road and Middleton Boulevard which was then negotiated by means of a roundabout.

A view of Middleton Boulevard as it was nearing completion back in 1927.

Photograph courtesy of Google Earth

Photograph by Gerry Gamble

Photograph by Paul Bexon - 2005

A 2019 aerial photograph, courtesy of Google Earth, focusing on the underpass used by motorists as they drive from Clifton Boulevard on to Middleton Boulevard and vice-versa. Those accessing Derby Road do so via the circular roundabout seen here but there is little resemblance between it and the earlier version seen in the photograph above.

Gerry Gamble happened to have his camera with him and took this picture when passing the nearly completed underpass that takes traffic under Derby Road. We think this must have been in the late 1980s but if anyone can be more precise we should be delighted to hear from them.

Looking along the Middleton Boulevard section of the underpass that takes traffic under Derby Road in 2005.

Photograph by Rod Bramley

Photograph by Rod Bramley

Having travelled from Trent Bridge through the Meadows area into the city centre the No.45 trolleybus service made its way out along Derby Road. It subsequently turned into Middleton Boulevard and terminated part way along the boulevard. After an appropriate manoeuvre the trolley bus driver would restart his return journey on the other side of the boulevard making its way back along the Derby Road into the city centre and out again to Trent Bridge. This photograph of a No.45 trolley bus heading towards the terminus on Middleton Boulevard was taken in 1962.

Probably taken on the same day as the previous photograph this one shows the No.45 trolleybus making its way up Middleton Boulevard as it heads back along Derby Road and back out to Trent Bridge.

On this page we feature several sepia-tinged photographs which were originally produced as picture postcards. Each one features a slightly different portion of Middleton Boulevard. We have yet to pinpoint quite when they were produced. Almost certainly they were published at the same time. If anyone has one of this series that has been sent through the post and has a readable postmark we would be very interested to hear from them. Given the general height of the trees we are probably looking at 1940s/1950s. In this shot the junction with Harby Drive is in the middle distance off to the left.

In the second of this series the cameraman was turned round and has photographed the same side of Middleton Boulevard but looking back toward Wollaton Road and the 'Crown Island.'

In this 1962 photograph we are also looking back towards the Wollaton Road and taking in much the same stretch of Middleton Boulevard as is included in the previous photograph. There are two trolleybuses in the photograph. The one nearest to us may well be a No.45 waiting to make its way along Middleton Boulevard and on to Derby Road but the one behind it could well be a No.39 trolleybus which, having also reached its terminus on Middleton Boulevard, would turn round and head back up the Ilkeston Road into the city centre and then out to Carlton.

This photograph of a trolleybus waiting on Middleton Boulevard was taken in the early days of the Second World War. The bumpers and wheel arches on the vehicle have been painted white so that other road users and pedestrians might better see it during any night-time blackout restrictions.

Photograph by Rod Bramley

This trolleybus is parked up on Middleton Boulevard beside the junction with Harrow Road. Given that the group of individuals are boarding the vehicle which is apparently 'Not in Service' we can assume that the trolleybus is undertaking a private commission - what that might be is at present unknown.

This is the third of our sepia-tinted picture postcards. In this one the cameraman is looking towards the parade of Middleton Boulevard shops located at its junction with Wollaton Road.

An aerial view of the Wollaton Road end of Middleton Boulevard which somewhat predates those to be found on Google Earth. The start of Western Boulevard with the Crown public house can be seen in the top half of the image. The junction of Wollaton Road and Middleton Boulevard occupies the bottom half of the photograph. Off to the right there is a glimpse of the Nottingham canal as it goes under Wollaton Road.

Photograph courtesy of Google Earth

This second aerial shot shows Middleton Boulevard going off on the upper right of the photograph with the start of Western Boulevard in the upper left. The two triangular refuges in the previous photograph have now been changed to circular plots. It would still be some time before the traffic flow and pedestrian access would need to be controlled by sets of traffic lights.

The Wollaton Road end of Middleton Boulevard as it looks today, courtesy of Google Earth. Student accommodation making up a small part of the new Jubilee Campus now features prominently in this final aerial view.

Back on the ground this current view focuses on the junction of Middleton Boulevard with Wollaton Road.

This aerial view taken in November 2018 shows Crown Island junction after its recent reconstruction as part of the £12.8m improvement project carried out by Thomas Bow which included the widening of the northbound carriageway from two to three lanes and widening the southbound section of Middleton Boulevard from Crown Island to the Derby Road underpass.

This 1971 shot of the traffic on Wollaton Road from Crown Island stretching back to Triumph Road and beyond. A dominant feature in the background is several of Player's bonded warehouses - the site of which is now incorporated into an expanded campus for Nottingham University.

Middleton Boulevard 1970s - Derby Road End

These ten photographs, sent to us by Greg Poole, focus on the stretch of Middleton Boulevard between Derby Road and Wollaton Hall Drive. They show how it looked in the early 1970s with all the trees in situ all of which would later have to be removed in order to make way for the Derby Road Underpass.

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Photograph courtesy of Greg Poole

Middleton Boulevard 5th June 2018 - The Underpass

At 8.20 a.m. on 5 June 2018 the top of a mechanical digger being transported on a lorry caught the underside of the underpass. Not only did it damage the fabric of the bridge but the digger toppled off the lorry on to the road. Initially this meant the north bound section of the road had to be closed off. Once the team charged with removing the digger were in place both sections of the road beneath the underpass had to close to through traffic. This sequence of photographs shows what happened in the course of that day. The final image reveals the snarl up of traffic on Middleton Boulevard until the underpass was finally reopened at 4.30 p.m.

What's the story behind Crown Island

Tune in to local radio any weekday morning or evening and you hear how traffic is backing up at the Crown Island along Middleton Boulevard. Professor John Beckett of the University of Nottingham explains how this awkward junction came into being.

Anyone who drives along Nottingham's ring road knows that one of the most likely hold-ups will be at the Crown Island, where two traffic islands create a dog-leg connection between Middleton and Western Boulevards. It is an awkward junction that makes little sense ... so why is it there?

The answer lies in some city council economy measures of the 1920s. At that time, the council planned an outer ring road linking Mansfield Road to the north of the town, with Derby Road in the south-west, allowing for an extension towards Clifton in the future. Valley Road, the first part of the ring road, was built in 1920-22, but further progress was delayed.

In 1925 the city council acquired Wollaton Hall and the surrounding park, and this gave an impetus to the ring road plan. The Estates Committee approved a plan to cut a new road through the park, which would eventually link to the north with a road coming from Valley Road, and to the south with a new road towards Clifton. The original idea was for the new road through the park to be a straight highway north from Derby Road, with one roundabout (now the Charnock Avenue turn-off) to cross the canal and meet Wollaton Road. The crossing would have been more or less opposite the southern end of the proposed new boulevard coming from the Aspley direction, now Western Boulevard.

Unfortunately costs were a significant factor. The plan agreed by the city council in July 1925 underwent significant alterations before it was implemented the following year. The General Works and Highways Committee was concerned about the state of the Wollaton Road bridge over the canal. Built at the time the canal opened in the 1790s, it was only 20ft wide and had no pavements. The increase in traffic meant that it was "very unsatisfactory", and in March 1927 the committee recommended a new bridge, 91ft wide, which would 'make an effective junction with Middleton Boulevard'. The cost was estimated at £22,000. Although the council expected to recoup £11,000 from the Ministry of Transport, they were still worried about the overall expenditure the project would involve. After debate, councillors decided that rather than build two bridges, one to replace the existing canal bridge, and another for Middleton Boulevard to reach Wollaton Road across the Nottingham canal, they would find a compromise. This involved altering the route of Middleton Boulevard.

The planned straight line between Derby Road and Wollaton Road was changed so that north of the Charnock Avenue roundabout, Middleton Boulevard was bent westwards to meet Wollaton Road approximately 60 yards to the west of the existing canal bridge. This ensured that traffic coming along Middleton Boulevard could use the same bridge as traffic on Wollaton Road. With these changes of plan, work on the new road was delayed, but during the course of 1927 and 1928 both Middleton Boulevard and the new bridge were under construction.

The bridge opened on June 20, 1928. It was described in a newspaper report of the opening as providing "a suitable crossing of Wollaton Road from the proposed new arterial road of which Middleton Boulevard forms the first instalment". Middleton Boulevard opened in 1929, without ceremony. In August 1929, the city council gave the green light to the development of Western Boulevard, officially opened by the Minister of Transport on November 21, 1932. The final section of the planned road, Clifton Boulevard, opened only in late 1938, and until then the route south from Derby Road was along Sandy Lane and Abbey Lane to Dunkirk.

Given the traffic flows of the 1920s, and the continuing role of the canal, the decisions about the link between Middleton and Western Boulevards made some sense. But in the longer term they were a disaster. The canal was abandoned in the 1930s, drained and filled in the 1950s and 1960s, while post-war private car ownership meant many more vehicles began to travel along the ring road. The result is what we see today, an awkward junction which causes endless frustration and delay for motorists. If only the city council had known in the 1920s what life would be like in the early 21st Century!



Let us know your memories of Middleton Boulevard

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