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 ...

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