Historic Nottingham - Part 7 - High Pavement
w/e 11 November 2007
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

I started the previous part in our walk through historic Nottingham by saying that we would take a pause to see a little more of St Mary's Church. That pause, due to some unforeseen circumstances not least my sprained ankle which severely curtailed my walking for quite a while, lasted much longer than I envisaged at the time but we can resume now on the steps of the Church as we continue into High Pavement.

Shire Hall

There are three "Pavements" in Nottingham, High, Middle and Low, all of which we'll cover as we make our way High Pavementback to Nottingham Castle. When most streets in Nottingham were simply mud tracks the Pavements were the three mediaeval streets that were cobbled. It was between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries that some of the great Nottingham families took up residency in High Pavement in what became the "select" part of town. We join High Pavement about half way along its length and the imposing building that immediately draws the eye is Shire Hall. This is now a museum and tourist attraction and as the "Galleries of Justice" takes visitors on a journey through 300 years of Crime and Punishment on the site. The facade of building by James Gandon dates from 1770-2 but the building was extended and remodelled by T. C. Hine between 1876 and 1879.
Gaol & Gallows

There is a very interesting and comprehensive article about the Shire Hall on the Nottinghamshire History website (link) but suffice it to say here that the site was in use as courts and prisons from the 1780s to the mid 1980s although there has been a court here since at least 1375 and a prison since 1449. The Shire Hall is now a Grade II listed building but two features at the front of the building could so easily be missed with just a casual glance. First if you look carefully at the words "County Gaol" over the basement door, you will notice that the original stonemason transposed two of the letters which were later corrected. Hopefully he achieved his goal and escaped with his life, thus avoiding the gallows that stood in front of the building. The holes where the gallows stood are now concrete filled but their positions can still be seen on the steps.
The Blue Lamp

Standing next to the Shire Hall is another Grade II listed building, that of the former police station of 1905. This Edwardian building still has the blue lamp over the door and leaves you in no doubt as to the building's use. A blue lamp traditionally hung outside police stations and in 1950, Ealing Studios actually released a crime film titled "The Blue Lamp". The star of the film was Jack Warner and as George Dixon, he dies at the end of the film. This didn't stop him being resurrected though for a television series "Dixon Of Dock Green" that ran for twenty one years between 1955 and 1976 with Warner still in the title role. Although the film has nothing to do with Nottingham, the sight of the blue lamp on High Pavement would evoke similar memories with those old enough to remember George Dixon. But in real life it seems that summary justice could be seen to be meted out on High Pavement - from police station to court, gaol or the gallows in quick succession.
Former Church

This part of Nottingham is more than well endowed with listed buildings and the former Unitarian Church built in 1876 is yet another to add to the list on High Pavement. At the time of publication of Malcolm Sales' "100 Walks In Nottinghamshire" ten years ago, the building was being used as a lace industry museum and exhibition centre and was known as the Lace Hall. The west tower and octagonal spire still stands high above the street but the intervening period has seen the church transformed into "The Pitcher and Piano" bar serving food and drinks. Malcolm Sales' book at this point becomes a little sketchy referring to information boards giving the history of the area. Boards near the former church though have been removed - hopefully only on a temporary basis - whilst construction work is carried out in the adjacent site.
Business Centre

When the lace museum closed it transferred across the road into an eighteenth century town house (yes, it's listed too) but its stay here was short-lived and the building is currently the High Pavement Business Centre. Nottingham still has its lace museum though and we passed it in Part 1 of this series near the Castle.
Weekday Cross

High Pavement meets Low Pavement at Weekday Cross which was once the site of the mediaeval Town Hall and weekday market dating back to Saxon times. The stone cross that stood in the open market place gave the place its name which has survived to the present day. Over time, market trading and new civic buildings grew up a little further away around the Great Market Place (now known as the Old Market Square) and the importance of Weekday CrossWeekday Cross gradually declined. Eventually the old Town Hall was demolished in 1894 to make way for the Great Central Railway.

After the Norman Conquest, Nottingham Castle was built on the hill to the west and the valley between was settled by Frenchmen. Trade between residents of the English and French boroughs took place at a Saturday market in the Great Market Place which eventually became the town centre but in the next part we will continue to that French quarter along Middle Pavement and into Low Pavement.

Back To Part 6
 Historic Nottingham Index
 Forward to Part 8

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