Monday, 15 September 2014

King Coal: Bestwood, Rise Park & Top Valley

Bestwood Colliery Rescue Team, c. 1911 (Courtesy Picture the Past)

“Two miners having finished work for the day mounted bicycles and, lurching forward round the angle of the gatepost, vanished into a little lane leading into the woodlands. I decided to follow them and was glad I did, for the scenery of the district is indeed enchanting”
Alex Wells, Nottingham Journal, 1934

Bestwood, c. 1880 (Courtesy Picture the Past)

The two most distinctive aspects of Bestwood are its royal associations and urban development from a colliery company village. But it also plays a part in the incredible northern growth of the city – onto an area which had been mostly farmers’ fields – throughout the twentieth century. Bestwood is so big that it becomes a difficult area to define, with a village, two council estates and a pumping station sharing the same name and some distance apart. The old maps reveal that Bestwood has always been huge, following the same contours since it was defined as a royal hunting park in the Middle Ages, stretching from Goosedale Ponds in the north, to Arnold Road in the south, and east to west between Bestwood Lane/Hucknall Rd and Mansfield Rd.

Bestwood Lodge, c. 1880s (Courtesy Picture the Past)

Bestwood takes a starring role in various episodes of royal history, from the Normans to the Stuarts. The Dukes of St Albans descended from the latter family which, in the seventeenth century, was granted Bestwood as its ancestral home. The 10th Duke took a particular interest in the site, building the fabulous Bestwood Lodge in the 1860s, which became frequented by the rich and powerful of late Victorian England. The following decade a very different Bestwood emerged: an industrial village planned around a coal mine and ironworks, with competing railway lines tripping over themselves to get here. By the end of Victoria’s reign the city was edging ever nearer with the building of Bestwood Pumping Station and the City Hospital. Yet it wasn’t until the 1930s that the first council housing emerged. The subsequent housing estates reveal the decade by decade changes in everyday life throughout that long century.

Bestwood Lodge today

1. Royalty & Aristocracy

After the Norman conquest, Bestwood (forming part of Sherwood Forest), became subject to Forest Law – an area vigorously protected by royal officials for both deer and timber. Grievances over access were bitter and likely it was these laws which led to the folk tales of Robin Hood. Despite this, it was hardly a landscape for developing densely populated communities with diverse economies; this was a hilly deserted landscape of dry sandy soils, grass, woodland and deer. Hunting, for Medieval kings, was not a necessity but a leisure pursuit, a game where a feudal society centred on military service and privilege could be played out. And it was some of the most vigorous of those kings who exercised that right here: Henry I, Henry III, Edward III (who built the first lodge), Edward IV and Richard III – who famously stayed the night here only 3 days before the Battle of Bosworth. In a sense the Woodside Riding School has revived this equestrian tradition at Bestwood. 

Woodside riding school

Alexandra Lodge – Bestwood Lodge gatehouse

Bestwood’s next and greatest feature within royal history did not emerge until the late seventeenth century, when the playboy king, Charles II, granted the lodge and grounds to his beloved mistress Nell Gwyn. “Poor Nelly” was the mother of his illegitimate son and Charles was concerned enough to endow him with a stable income and social position, entitling him ‘1st Duke of St Albans’. It was the 10th Duke, William Beauclerk, who had the most remarkable impact upon the estate, demolishing the medieval lodge and building an incredible mansion, gatehouse and stables throughout the 1860s. Designed in the gothic style by notable architect SS Teulon, the complex is stylistically the same as St Pancras Station (built the same decade). Bestwood was therefore a very attractive location for visiting dignitaries, such as Charles Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli. The Duke’s patrician approach can also be seen at the 1869 Emmanuel Church, built on the eastern fringes of Bestwood when it was still a small farming community.

Emmanuel Church, Bestwood (Courtesy Picture the Past)

Bestwood Winding Engine today

2. A Colliery Company Village

The 10th Duke’s next ambitious scheme involved a partnership with mining entrepreneur John Lancaster. This was the planning of an entire community centred on a coal mine and ironworks company. Bestwood quickly became one of the best provided colliery villages in the county, with a school, cottages, offices and the pit engine winding house built during the 1870s alone.

Miners' cottages, Bestwood village (Courtesy Picture the Past)

St Mark's Church, Bestwood

The Bestwood Institute pub, St Mark's church and cemetery were completed the following decades, but it is perhaps the little things which are most evocative of the Company’s paternalism. Notice the initials and date stone plaques on the cottages, walled gardens and the green square – originally laid out for allotments. Nevertheless the Duke liked to keep work and home life separate: the hedgerows along Colliers Way were grown tall to keep the blackened miners from sight.

Colliers' Way, Bestwood, looking towards Arnold

Great Northern Railway line towards Bestwood village

By 1901 Bestwood was so popular that there were three different railway company lines scrambling over themselves to feed on the iron and coal produced here. Most of this infrastructure was demolished following the Beeching axe of the 1960s but the cycle routes beside Hucknall Rd and Moor Road follow the old embankments. At its peak the Bestwood Coal & Iron Company employed around 2000 people, but by 1967 the coal mine was considered uneconomical and closed. In the decades that followed there begun a successful transformation of the ‘moonscape’ – the colliery slag heap – into a Country Park and the careful restoration of the engine winding house. The panoramic view from the top of the Country Park is one of the best in the county.

Bestwood Country Park, looking north

Named after a pioneer farmer of the nineteenth century

3. Farmers’ Fields & Bendigo’s Ring

Bestwood’s difficult soils were a magnet for have-a-go farmers from 1775 until they were covered in housing during the twentieth century. The estates and roads still recall the names of the various farms that stood here, such as Top Valley, Southglade, Bulwell Rise Farm, and Cherry Orchard Mount. Remarkably the hedgerows of Southglade Park beautifully preserves the field patterns of the old farm. The first pioneers failed because the soils were so light and pebbly but by the mid nineteenth century farmers such as George Lamin were highly regarded for developing new methods in manure and crop rotation.

Southglade Park today

The original hedgerows of Southglade Farm – still intact

Bendigo (Courtesy Picture the Past)

Just as these fields were carefully being tended to, a man with an athletic appearance would have been walking here, searching for a suitable hill to conduct a boxing match. According to historical records it appears that Sunrise Hill was the site of Bendigo’s Ring, rather than is popularly believed to be at nearby Glade Hill. Either way, it was one of these hills in Bestwood where twice champion bare-knuckle prize-fighter William Abednego Thompson, practiced and fought during the nineteenth century. He died in 1880 but lived an eventful life (politics, religion, drink) and was nationally famous.

The view looking west from from Sunrise Hill

1877 Boundary Marker, near Bestwood village

4. Growth of the City

By the end of the nineteenth century Nottingham was growing ever closer. Neighbouring Bulwell was incorporated in 1877 – notice the boundary markers – but the first real instance of the city starting to absorb Bestwood was the building of a fantastic pumping station by the Corporation in 1874. Taking advantage of the natural sandstone wells deep within Bestwood, the famous water engineer Thomas Hawksley saw this as an important step in supplying water to a growing industrial population. Yet this was not without some stipulation from the design conscious 10th Duke, who decided that the chimney should look like a church steeple!

Bestwood Pumping Station (Courtesy Picture the Past)

Bestwood Estate, built 1930s in the traditional garden city style

The City acquired Bestwood fields in the 1930s and spacious ‘garden city’ style houses were erected at Bestwood Estate. To the east, Bestwood Park Estate – with its incredible views – was 1959-1966, and though of similar style and materials to its predecessor you can spot subtle differences such as the brickwork and modernist porches.

Bestwood Park Estate - modern brickwork

Bestwood Park Estate, built 1959-66

Bestwood Park Estate - modern porches

By the 60s and 70s car ownership had grown enormously and local authorities throughout the country struggled to accommodate the growth in traffic and concern for safety. One approach – Radburn planning – involved the separation of vehicles from pedestrians and this can been seen in the ring roads, cul-de-sacs, green space, precincts and multiple subways of Top Valley.

Top Valley estate underpass

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

New Guide Books: Bulwell, Basford & Bestwood

New Booklets Launched 
This Friday, 12th September, 6pm at Bulwell Riverside
Freely available throughout the city, in public libraries and all good civic locations.

History Walks
Bulwell Riverside, Bulwell, 1pm, 13th September
Southglade Leisure Centre, Bestwood, 1pm, 4th October

I’ve just got back from a short holiday in the South West. Always feels like a different world down there – a real get away from it all break. This time however I couldn’t really get away from the Heritage and Tourism industry; shops full of tat, overpriced museums and affluent towns preserved in aspic. It felt atomised, alienating and hopeless. How are we going to solve problems of inequality, transport, housing and energy like this?

History is often associated with tourism and because I find interest in some of our under-appreciated towns, people often mutter, ‘do you really expect me to visit Basford or Bulwell?’. Well yes I think you should but I wouldn’t want those places to suffer the same fate as Bath or Wells – however impressive the townscape and conservation. And yes, there could be much more restoration in north Nottingham – such as those decaying tombs of our industrialist forebears – in fact don’t get me started. It seems the history of aristocratic life is pretty well looked after compared to the rise of democracy, education, mass employment and the improvement of working class standards of living. It is these lessor appreciated historic themes that you will find in abundance in Basford, Bulwell and Bestwood. And despite the decline of British industry, which was so central to peoples’ lives in this part of the world, those historic themes live on and offer hope for the future: such as the NET tram, the River Leen Greenway and the (nearly always) award winning NCT bus network.

I’m not the most confident in meeting people – historians are often shy characters who are more comfortable with dusty documents – but the most inspiring part has been talking with the local experts: Norman Wooton on the lost street of Old Bulwell (an amazing limestone world as yet completely uncatalgued by any other historian); The Rev Andy Morris & Councillor Jackie Morris deserve a PhD on North Nottingham; The Rev Elizabeth Snowden already is highly qualified on planning; so is David Amos on Bestwood and Nottinghamshire coal mining; Peter Sallis on the hosiery industry; Robert and Jillian Naylor on Bulwell St Mary’s and Mick Stafford at Basford St Leodigarious – who has done some excellent work in making the churchyard a beautiful garden.

In fact you really must see the beautiful slate headstones at St Leodigarious but there are other places too which I enjoy returning: The Prince of Wales Brewery is impressive from every angle; following the traces of Old Bulwell; seeing the summer holidays being well spent at the Bogs; the breathtaking views from Bestwood Country Park; and the neighbourly industrial life around Old Basford – you don’t get that in a business park. If history is not about such places and their historic themes of manufacture and democracy then it is a pretty shallow subject in my opinion.

Detailed blog posts about Bulwell, Basford and Bestwood coming soon ...

Monday, 7 July 2014

North Nottingham: Summer Walks & Events

Look out for the above leaflet advertising TravelRight's latest series of history walks and events in North Nottingham. Here's a breakdown of the walks and events – some of which I'm leading. Hope to see you there!

Aspley, Broxtowe and Cinderhill on foot
Using the 'Garden City' history guide as a starting point, historian Chris Matthews will lead you on a leisurely guided group walk.
• Meet at Aspley Library,
Saturday 19th July, 11am

Sheila Russell History and Fun Day
An event for young and old in the enchanting garden of the Sheila Russell Community Centre. The event will feature children’s activities, a guided historical tour of old Bilborough, buffet lunch plus creative activities for guests of all ages to share their memories of the area.
• Monday 28th July, 1-5pm

In search of abandoned canals
Explore the history of the old abandoned Nottingham Canal between Strelley and Trowell using the #35 bus guide. Includes a pub stop before returning. With Robert Howard.
• Saturday 16th August, Meet at Bulwell Bus Station at 11am, or Wigman Rd Top number 35 bus stop at 11:20am

Bulwell History Walk
enowned for its stone quarries, framework knitters, busy shopping streets and “the battle of the bogs”, Bulwell was central to the social and economic changes of the Victorian period. Historian Chris Matthews will lead you through ancient streets stretching from an important river crossing in an industrial valley.
• Meet at Bulwell Library. Saturday 23rd August, 11am

Old Basford Trail
This walk brings to life a close-knit community at the forefront of the industrial revolution in Nottingham: bleachers, millers, hosieriers, brewing, non-conformists and a once busy parade of shops which grew from an old street pattern of sleepy village life. Led by historian Chris Matthews.
• Meet at Basford Library, Saturday 30th August, 11am

Contact us
• To book places or for more info on any of our activities, please call 0115 883 3732
• Email:
• Visit our website:
• Like us on Facebook:
• Follow us on Twitter:

Sunday, 16 March 2014

New Guide Books: Aspley & Bilborough

This is my latest piece of work:

Two designed and authored historical guides to walking and cycling in Aspley & Bilborough. This project has been commissioned by TravelRight in North Nottingham, who's job it is to encourage sustainable travel and community engagement. Their research has shown that people want to see much more walking and cycling, and that people in Nottingham are mad keen on their local history - so with that in mind Andy Parkinson got in touch with me, because of my previous work for the River Leen Greenway and Big Track.

Launch Event!

Join us in the beautiful setting of Bilborough St John’s church for a talk about the history of the area including specially sourced archive film footage. Refreshments provided.

• Saturday 5th April, 6–8pm 

These new booklets will be freely available from most public libraries and community groups mentioned below. You can also get in touch with TravelRight directly and ask for you own copy.

Also available online:

A New World: Blog & Booklet
Garden City: Blog & Booklet

Thanks goes to:

I would like to acknowledge the following local people and organisations who helped to make these booklets possible - I apologise to them if this was not up to scratch but can assure that I tried my best! If I forgot to mention anyone here you are welcome to collar me at any time!

At the Church of St John the Baptist in Bilborough, Keith Wood (Secretary) and Margaret Wood (Reader) were kind enough to let me wonder around all parts of the building. Reverend Mandy Cartwright was also good enough to engage with the Twentieth Century Society, who visited in February 2013.

Elain Harwood from English Heritage. who arranged a lovely bus tour through Bilborough in 2012, and was very enlightening on the prefabricated schools and housing.

Nearby at St Hugh, Canon Edward Walker was very enthusiastic about the history of not only St Hugh but also the planning of the shops on Bracebridge Drive. I would also like to thank him for finding my camera case (!), and I apologise that images of St Hugh did not make the final booklet - but they are here in this blog.

Canon Edward Walker advised a visit to St Teresa of Aspley, and here Margaret Brown, (Pastoral Assistant) was very kind to arrange a visit and talk about the history of the church. Margaret interestingly pointed out how the church was often a port of call for Irish, Polish and Indian immigrants to the city.

At St Martin’s Church in Bilborough, Hilary Wheat (Churchwarden) and John Day (Reader), were a mine of information and very helpful. Let’s hope they are successful in restoring those Evelyn Gibbs murals. Terry Johnston was  also able to point me in the right direction for those bell pits, and will hopefully be publishing his own detailed histories of the area in the future.

Nearby, Marian Henshell at Strelley Hall and All Saints Church Strelley, kindly granted access to both the church and the hall. If you want to do the same, you are more than welcome, so get in touch.

The staff at Nottingham Central Library dug out all the very useful folders about the suburbs from the stack - all compiled by library staff over the years. What a great service.

Unfortunately The Land Registry did not get round to granting me access to take pictures of the Nuclear Bunker, but they did follow my enquiry for a while - I understand the difficulties involved.

I kept missing the Revd Joan Whysall at Christ Church Cinderhill - my apologies, I will have to arrange a visit some time in the future.

Farmer John Blant of Strelley Village knew everything about Strelley Village and if he didn’t, he knew someone who did.

The East Midlands Collection, The University of Nottingham - always very efficient and brilliantly useful.

I also must have drove the staff at Nottinghamshire Archives round the bend with all my odd requests - such as a record (akin to the Doomesday Book) on the Bilborough Council tenants from the 40s to the 60s. There is a mine of information there for future historians of the Twentieth Century. Chris Weir was also very hepful in my Bulwell requests.

At the Newcastle Arms Pub, Nuthall Road & Aspley Library they kindly allowed me to take photographs.

Nottingham City Council’s Insight and 'Nomad' GIS mapping service is an excellent tool for online historians.

Dora Wood at Portland Primary School was able to agree to my surprise visit, whereupon Dave Hoyles of the Westwick Road Residents Association was an unsurpassed guide to the area.

The Notts & Derbys public service, Picture the Past were able to supply and grant permission to use the archive photographs featured in the booklet. Special thanks here goes to Nick Tomlinson.

Norman Wooton, a Bulwell historian, who though by his own admission not an expert on these areas but was always encouraging about the history of North Nottingham in general.

Andy Parkinson and Juliet Line at TravelRight. I couldn't ask for a better client, both in terms values, and professionalism. 

Andy at Purely Digital of Derby was able see a better way of folding the booklets and advise on sustainable paper. Also Jack, Wayne, Sarah and Steve were very helpful in producing a very finely printed pair of booklets. 

A New World: Beechdale, Bilborough & Strelley

The interior of Bilborough St John

This area continued some of the Garden City ideals of Aspley, but here the outlook was altogether more like a 'New Town'. It was mainly built during late 1940s and early 50s, an era christened as a ‘New World', when innovation and optimism were needed to re-build Britain in the years immediately after the Second World War.

Video about the national thinking behind Bilborough

Many of the schools and council houses were built with the latest technology in pre-fabrication and Bilborough received royalty and cabinet ministers who were keen to see the important changes being made. The church of St John is most characteristic of the post-war period, while the nuclear bunker at Chalfont Drive is a stark reminder of that fading optimism. A part of the old Bilborough village can still be seen today, nestled around the medieval church of St Martin. Nearby, evidence of the preindustrial world of agriculture survives at Strelley Village. It is here where the city ends and the Green Belt begins: a ring of countryside earmarked to contain the city and conserve the countryside. Yet the treasure trove of medieval and Georgian buildings which survive here actually derived their wealth from one of the earliest coalfields in Nottinghamshire, where the seams rise close to the surface and shallow 'bell-pits' have left pock marks on the land.

1. A New World

Harvey Hadden Stadium, first built in the 1950s

Advert for the new Bracebridge Drive Co-op

The council determining the type of shop according to the local needs, as construction of the shops progressed the council invited tenders for the particular shop. The successful tenants being, No.79, Albert Padley Grocer, No. 81 Victor Thompson, shopkeeper with sub post office; No. 83, Henry Kenneth Baxter, hardware; No. 85, Harry Roberts fruiterer; No. 87, Frederick Abel Ltd, butcher; and No. 89, Albert Bambing, Fried Fish. Sites later being allocated to; - No. 59, the Nottingham Trustee Savings Bank; No. 67, J.H. Dewhurst, butcher; No. 69, J.D. Marsden, grocer; No.71, Boots Pharmacist and No. 73, the Nottingham Co-operative Society.
Lawrence Marson, A History of Bilborough (n.d.)

Part of the Glaisdale Drive Industrial Estate - this was originally Farrands, and latterly a printers 

The area of Bilborough, Beechdale and Strelley was planned with its own industries, a sports centre, a grammar school (now a college) and modernist schools and churches. Shops were conveniently planned in centres such as Bracebridge Drive, while Glaisdale Drive became one of the largest industrial estates in the city, with perhaps the most impressive structure originally built by Farrands the retail grocers. Built in 1955 Harvey Hadden quickly became the most important athletics ground in the city. Nearby, the former bus depot was complete only a few years before and is a reminder of the city's ambitions for an expanding bus network. Schools such as Robert Shaw Primary broke with tradition and were built with curved lines and flat roofs.

Bilborough St John, built in the 1950s

Interior - with many original furnishings

Ancient signs, modern murals - the one on the left represents man

The churches however are the most modern, even the old Bilborough St Martin didn't escape the times. This was painted with a mural by the artist Evelyn Gibbs, founder of the acclaimed Midland Group. Bilborough St John The Baptist is perhaps the city's finest example of the 1951 Festival of Britain style, designed by local architects Broadhead & Royle (Frank Broadhead also did the more widely known New Castle House, on Castle Boulevard). It features wonderful mosaics, which were actually early Christian symbols found during research for Coventry Cathedral. The original parish of St John migrated from Narrow Marsh after it was bombed in 1941. In Coventry the Tablets of the Word by the letter carver Ralph Beyer show similar ancient Christian signs. Beyer was influenced by family friend Rudoplh Koch who wrote a book on the subject and the same signs from his book (reprinted in 1955) can be seen at Bilborough St John - great stuff!

Parabolic roof #1 at Bilborough St Hugh

The Evelyn Gibbs murals at Bilborough St Martin - hopefully to be repaired soon

Parabolic roof #2 at Aspley St Teresa

Nearby the Catholic Church of St Hugh features an impressive parabolic (strong curve) roof designed by John Rochford and Partners, who were also responsible for the structurally adventurous St Teresa’s in Aspley. Both were complete during the 1960s. Yet that post-war optimism quickly faded as the cold war developed; the 50s concrete bunker "RSG3" at Chalfont Drive was one of 13 regional government bunkers to be built in case of nuclear fall-out.

2. Pre-fabrication

A currogated steel house in Bilborough - manufacture by BISF

The first BISF houses were let in the late months of 1947 at a rent of twenty one shillings and eleven pence, which included electricity at a concessionary rate since both the electricity and gas were then produced in the city by the Nottingham Corporation. A list of do’s and don’ts was supplied to each householder for strict observation. The first item being that the rent shall be paid promptly every Monday morning to the rent collector. In all there were sixteen items to be observed which included the height of the privet hedgerow not to exceed four feet; that the keeping of fowls, ducks, rabbits and pigeons was strictly forbidden and the attachment of outdoor wireless aerials to chimney stacks also forbidden.
Lawrence Marson, A History of Bilborough (n.d.)

The first bungalows along the western side of Wigman Road
(Courtesy Picture the Past)

The bungalows in their later years (Courtesy Picture the Past)

Some of the earliest aluminium bungalows at Beechdale - since bricked up

In the late 1940s pre-fabrication was necessary because 11,000 people were on the council's waiting list while materials and labour were scarce. So much in fact that prisoners of war were employed on-site for a time. Among the first to be built were the aluminium bungalows on the west side of Wigman Road. These houses could be mass produced at a factory and then erected within a week. Accompanying these came a thousand houses manufactured by the British Iron and Steel Federation, which were all-steel houses with a concrete base. These were being let by late 1947, by which time the order for "No Fines" houses was well underway.

A Terran Newland prefabricated concrete panel house 

Wimpey no-fines poured concrete houses along Bracebridge Drive

These were poured concrete houses made from a special concrete containing no fine aggregates (hence the name) and manufactured by Wimpey, at first on the upper part of Wigman Road. In the far west of the estate around Cockington Road are the Terran Newland houses, a prefabricated concrete panel house made by a firm based at Hull. Today most of these houses have been refaced with brick, but the original proportions (and some features) remain.

The aluminium Portland Primary school - made by an aeroplane company

The Bristol Aeroplane Company's designs from the 40s

The early 1950s traditional brick houses of Strelley estate

Even some of the schools were ready made; Portland School was built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, which specialised in aluminium buildings. Strelley housing estate meanwhile was built of brick in the early 50s and marks the point where materials were no longer as scarce.

3. Old Bilborough

Bilborough Village on the eve of change (Courtesy F W Stevenson and Picture the Past)

A pre-war sign directing the new council tenants to the church

The Old Forge - built of sandstone, quarried nearby

There was even a blacksmith in Bilborough Village, which I had to pass through to get to Strelley. He was a squat, surly malcontent who shouted at the estate kids to “clear off” if we poked our heads round the open door of his forge to watch, awestruck, as he hammered the red-hot shoes for the giant shire horses of Appleyard’s farm. The days past slowly in that first summer, and outside of the house the world had become a fascinating place’.
Derrick Buttress, ‘Broxtowe Boy’, (2004), writing about summer 1939

Old farm buildings nestling beside each other at Bilborough village

St Martin's Cottages, Bilborough

Situated off the beaten track is the original Bilborough village, an important historic reminder of agricultural life before the surrounding council houses were built. A number of buildings are listed, among the earliest being St Martin's Cottages and dating from at least the eighteenth century. Forge Cottages as its name suggests was the local blacksmith's from circa 1800, while the rectory is a somewhat grander building, built in 1842 to house the Rector of St Martin's. The Church of St Martin dates from the late fourteenth century, and houses some historic relics which are important in Nottinghamshire history. The Helwys memorial, dated from the 1590s, commemorates a family which founded the Baptist Church, while the Thomas Barber plaque reminds us of the origins of one of the big coal mining dynasties.

The medieval parish church of St Martin's Bilborough

Possibly mid-late Victorian door fitting at St Martin's Church

The church itself is similar to St Patrick's Nuthall with an impressive porch, gravestones from the eighteenth century and Victorian fittings. Surrounding the village there are further reminders of Bilborough's agricultural past, such as Manor Farm, and the Sheila Russell Community Centre, which both date from the nineteenth century. Spring Bank Cottages also dates from that time, while the site of Grange Farm has much older origins, possibly the middle ages.

4. Strelley & The Green Belt 

One of the finest parish churches in Nottinghamshire - Strelley All Saints

Alabaster monument - commisioned by the Strelley family, 1501

Brass of Isabel Strelley, 1487

Medieval townscape - the original site of Strelley Village

The stone slabs of 'Monks Way' more likely a packhorse route for coal, than a pilgrimage path

As the new housing estates spread out from the city in the 1920s and 30s, people became concerned about sprawl and the loss of farming land. In 1947 The Town & Country Planning Act designated areas of land known as a 'green belt', which could not be built on and would limit the spread of British cities. Strelley village marks the point when the Nottingham green belt begins and despite the M1 motorway (built during the 1960s) it is still surrounded by agricultural fields. Yet the ancient buildings and monuments here were also financed through coal mining. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century the profits gained from mining were managed by the Strelley family, who built the Church of All Saints - one of the finest medieval churches in the county. Strelley was one of the earliest coal fields in Notts with the remains of old bell pits visible from the field gate adjacent Broad Oak Farm House and south of the business park. Supposedly a pilgrimage path, Monks Way was more likely a packhorse route for distributing coal.

Strelley Hall, built by the Edge family in the 1790s

Entrance to Strelley Hall

The grounds Strelley Hall - landscaped during the 1790s

The later site of Strelley Village from the 1790s onwards

From the late seventeenth century the estate was looked after by the Edge family. In the 1790s T. W. Edge built Strelley Hall, which features an excellent cantilever staircase. For the sake of improvement, he also demolished the old village towards the church, built the present one and landscaped the grounds. This was a common practice known as 'emparking'.


  • Nottingham Local Studies Library, Bilborough Suburb Pack
  • Nottingham Local Studies Library, Strelley Village Pack
  • Lawrence Marson, A history of Bilborough from An Anglo Saxon settlement to a modern community (n.d.)
  • Geoffrey Oldfield, The illustrated history of Nottingham's suburbs, (2009) 
  • John Brunton and Andy Smart, Memories of the estates Aspley, Bilborough, Broxtowe & Strelley, Nottingham Bygones (2002)
  • N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire (1979)
  • J. Becket, A Centenary History of Nottingham (1997)
  • D. Kynaston, Austerity Britain 1945-51 (2008)