Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Nottingham to the Sea: Trent Lane Depot

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Original article as follows:

Trent Lane Depot, Nottingham

Trent Lane Depot was Nottingham's ambitious attempt to connect with the trade of the North Sea during the inter war years of the twentieth century. During that time the Corporation of Nottingham took over management of the Nottingham - Newark stretch of the river. This was when the city was seeking to continue the diversification of its economy, especially since the local monopoly of the lace trade was then clearly at an end. But the corporation was also seeking permission from central government to extend the city boundary from beyond this very location (the eastern end of Sneinton) and eastward into Colwick. Any ambitious project on a national scale was sure to bring the city kudos at a time when it was struggling to shake off a reputation for slums. At first central government refused, on the grounds that the city had yet to clean up its social problems, and so the corporation solicited the help of local architect TC Howitt and begun building a series of 'garden suburbs' of both private and public housing. Nearby council houses off Colwick Road, are witness to this early stage of council house building in Notttingham. It is perhaps no co-incidence that TC Howit's civic centre, which was complete in 1929, was named 'The Council House'. Three years later the boundary was extended.

Corporation of Nottingham c.1930 

The warehouses on Trent Lane were constructed of reinforced concrete and at the time they were proudly considered by the corporation to be among the best in the UK. With a total of 9 floors for loading and discharging materials such as timber, metal, chemicals and manufactured goods. These would be carried by barge to and from Hull, where any international trade could then be transferred onto ships. The 1937 Nottingham handbook proudly states that during the previous year over 230,000 tons had been carried on the Trent and that Nottingham had successfully created a major inland port, boasting "from Nottingham to the sea". Although this is somewhat less than the two or three million tons carried by an international port such as Hull, it is still quite an achievement for a landlocked city.

Second warehouse and dock entrance

In the post war years, petrol was also carried down the Trent to a new depot at Colwick further down stream. It was the growth of the combustion engine coupled with the gradual silting up of the Trent at Stoke Bardolph, which was to bring about the end of Trent Lane by the 1980s. Of recent years there have been attempts to regenerate this area with waterside luxury apartments, although with the onset of the credit crunch, the planned demolition of this site appears to have been put on hold. When I was commissioned to do this walk by Hinterland in 2006, it seemed as though this landscape was going to become another symbol of a laissez-faire era dominated by finance and property. Instead, we are now returning to some traditional ideas set deep with the rotting concrete of Trent Lane: social housing and industry.


J. Giggs, Housing, Population and Transport, in J. Becket, (ed.), A Centenary History of Nottingham pp.435 – 462.
Nottingham City Council, The City of Nottingham Official Handbook, (Nottingham, 1937).

Originally written for Hinterland Projects Publication 2 (2009)


  1. You might be interested in this old ATV report which includes discussion of reviving the idea of a sea port in Nottm.


  2. A really interesting post - thanks.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    @ allnottinghambasearebelongtous:
    Yes have seen the video but happy to watch again. Shows the civic ambition in the pre-Thatcher era. Have alluded to that before in an article on Colwick Industrial Estate, see:

    It's interesting because alongside this we have lots of ambitious plans from provincial cities: The Northern Super City of Humberside, The Wash tidal barrier plan and Solent City. Obviously these were based on a strong industrial output and nearly all were highly speculative, but even so these plans cast a contrasting light on our own times. In one 1966 article in the Listener Magazine, the Super City of Humberside was seen as necessary to meet the demands of a growing population and to ease the strain placed on the infrastructure of London.

  4. Would anyone one know as to how many floor level the building shown int he pictures above, have. Including the ground floor, it seems it has three additional floors, but the warehouse dajacent o it has four, though they almsot look identical. Also, can anyone help me try and get pictures from the inside of this building, as nowadays, it is completely sealed off!

  5. River Trent Water Freight Feasibility Study http://bit.ly/wmXzaK will reduce road miles, tons of CO2 & make savings but needs investment

  6. Would any of you know who own's this building as I am very interested in using this as a location for a fashion shoot, but think maybe I'd rather have the owners permission to be there than breaking in :)

  7. Contact Nick Ebbs at Blueprint, he doesn't own it but he may able to help


  8. Save Trent Lane Depot - sign the petition here


  9. Thanks for this fascinating post. I have often wondered what that building was - you have really put it into context for me. And I have to say that it is touching to read the other comments. Makes me proud to be British, think I'm going to cry etc.

  10. Its all down now, we finished pulling it down last week. For the person who was asking about the floor layout. The first block to be dropped was 5 floors of the same height each. The second block was the same height, but the bottom floor was the same height as the bottom 2 of the first block. So 4 floors in all but a larger bottom floor with 3 more on top.