Sunday, 15 August 2010

Nottingham View Points 1: Mapperley Top

Woodthorpe Court and Winchester Court

This is partly in response to Sheffield Publicity Department's recent series of guides to local view points, which are accessible to the public. But it is also in awarenewss that civic vistas play an important role in town planning and a recent local study has correctly identified a few of these in my home town but alas, not all. So I intend to add to the list with my own series of Nottingham View Points and first up is Mapperley Top, where the Keupar Marl Clay lowlands of the Midlands meet the undulating sandstone hills of the North. At 400ft above sea level this is the most elevated part of the city and a painfully steep area which is relieved only by the excellent Bread and Bitter public house. Incidentally, I currently have five complete Castle Rock reward cards squirreled away!

Facing South East
: Towards the Trent

There are hardly any views on Mapperley Top itself and it is only when you begin to descend what is simply a huge ridge, that you are met with an impressive panorama. The two sides of the ridge are different: one faces south east and the alluvial flood plain of the Trent Valley, while the other faces the undulating sandstone hills of Sherwood Forest and the coalfields of the north west.

Porchester Rd, Thorneywood

Looking down the steep Porchester Road you are met with the lush green and blue horizon of the Trent Valley. Notice how the council housing does little to add to this sense of place, though it is perhaps fair to suggest that these buildings certainly appeared more bucolic when they were first built.

Ransom Drive, St Ann's

From here you can see how the city has grown from its original site as the principle crossing point of the Trent. Yet despite this view being sited on land owned by the local authority the view is only accessible via a small grassy knoll. It's also feared that the council may be selling off some of this property for cheap housing development.

Kent Road, Porchester

Here the Keupar Marl contorts into peculiar steep little valleys, which populate the Porchester Estate. Like parts of Hyson Green, this housing estate begun life as a series of allotment plots developed by Nottingham workers and according to Geoffrey Oldfield the shape of some of the plots are still visible, while the streets were named after the original committee members:

The Porchester Estate, with its 800 gardens, subscribed for by instalments paid over 10 years, with the patronage of Ald. Bennett, Sir John Robinson, and Messrs. Whittingham, Haywood, and others, is a valuable institution, showing the power of self-help, of co-operation, of thrift, of the desire to live in quietness with healthy garden surroundings. These gardens were inspected by Lord Salisbury, the prime minister, when in 1889 he on a visit to Nottingham took occasion to announce free education.
(Robert Mellors Historical Articles 1914).

In those days Nottingham was surrounded by allotments, not in their hundreds but in their tens of thousands, and the great Dean Hole…estimated that in his day, about a hundred years ago, there were some 20,000 of them scattered around what was then an important town but not yet a city, and the home of under 200,000 people - an allotment for about every third family.
(Harry Wheatcroft, My life with Roses, 1959)

From Carlton Forum Park you can get a good impression of the hidden valley of the Porchester Estate. To the right of the picture is Mapperley Top and the hospital, while to the left the land slopes towards the Trent. The background and foreground show how the valley dips into a hidden crevice - I think it is safe to guess that this is one of the first of a series of dumbles which mold the clay lands east of the city.

Facing North West
: Towards Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Vale, Sherwood

From this escarpment we are no longer met with a lush valley of clay and alluvium but rather the dark and looming heathland of Sherwood Forest.

Nearby on Morley Avenue (a street name which lured me in for numerous historical reasons) is one of the last remaining Nottingham lace factories originally built out of a clay pit from a nearby brick works. It is important to remember the phrase 'Nottingham was built on Mapperley Hills' and indeed so is St Pancras Station.

Breckhill Park, Woodthorpe Drive

Old Norse, for 'slope' is fairly common in Lancashire and of very occasional appearance in some other northern counties
(Margaret Gelling, Place-Names in the the Landscape, 1984, p.129)

Woodthorpe Grange Park

One of my favourite parks in the city was given via the varied actions of a string of liberal industrialists which reads like a Who's Who of early twentieth century Nottingham: the eccentric Julien Cahn, Gripper the brick maker, methodist & chemist Jesse Boot, the railway builder Edward Parry and Henry Ashwell J.P., who ran a dyeing company and was an early member of the Thoroton Society. There are many stories of interest here which will have to wait for another time, not least is the Nottingham Suburban Railway, which was again thanks to those civic conscious industrialists. In the distance is Daybrook and the central sandstone watershed of Nottinghamshire.

Woodthrope Grange Park (towards Winchester St)

Woodthorpe and Winchester Court tower blocks overlook the Leen Valley and out towards Sherwood Forest. I think it is safe to assume that these are the same postwar standard 1001/6 Wimpey build as those on Manvers Street in Sneinton; brick walls, concrete panels and square balconies. Neither inspiring nor tasteless, though unlike Sneinton the design is flattered with a rolling public park.

Woodthrope Grange Park

According to the British Association for the Advancement of Science Nottingham is the most geologically complex city in the UK, save for Bristol. Some of this varied topography will be revealed in future views of the eastern clay lands, the Trent Valley, the western coalfields and the sandstone hills of the north, though I may struggle to find a view on the thinly veiled Limestone escarpment. I have previously regurgitated R. M. Butler's Thoroton article on how the modern city's street layout owes much to its geology and medieval field system but this will be a chance to follow a more aesthetic dérive. It is certainly exciting to think that the city has such an interesting topography on which to develop (or grow), though it is perhaps upsetting that it is not always realised.


  1. Wow

    A fascinating, informative and colorful illustration. Lovely to read about these places, most of which I am familiar, now a little more so.

    Thanks Chris Matthews

    Dorian Conway

  2. The places which are given in this blog are very interesting.

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