Historic Nottingham - Part 8 - Middle Pavement and Low Pavement
w/e 18 November 2007
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

In the Middle Ages most streets in Nottingham were just mud tracks but the Pavements were cobbled and in the previous part to this series we looked at High Pavement. In this part we will continue past Weekday Cross to look at the other two Pavements, Middle and Low and discover that the architecture standing on these ancient byways is now mainly Georgian in origin interspersed with more recent buildings.

Middle Pavement

Weekday CrossMiddle Pavement is only a very short street and we can see the whole of it from Weekday Cross (left) . As in High Pavement, there is a glut of listed buildings in the area and this building above dates from 1907 being restored in the late twentieth century. It is described as being built in the Free Baroque style and among the architectural features to note are the flat roofed bay windows in the attics and the round-arched central entrance on the ground floor with original wrought-iron gates. The light coloured building on the left of the picture dates from the eighteenth century and is at the corner of Bridlesmith Gate.
Drury Hill

Opposite Bridlesmith Gate is one of the entrances to a construction of the 1960s and 70s - the Broadmarsh Centre. During the construction of this shopping mall many old buildings were demolished and the old mediaeval thoroughfare of Drury Hill was also lost, although the name plate for the street can still be seen just right of centre in this image. Drury Hill was a steep and narrow descent that I remember walking down to the old bus station when I worked in the city in the mid 1960s. It was named after Alderman Drury, a prominent shoe manufacturer of his time and the street was eventually demolished in 1968. Beneath the Broadmarsh Centre and now a popular tourist attraction are some of the caves of Nottingham but these too would have been lost had it not been for the intervention of the Nottingham Hidden History Team. Another interesting but totally unrelated historical fact is that the poet Philip James Bailey (1816 - 1902), best known for his copious work "Festus", lived for a while on Middle Pavement. He was born and died in Nottingham and during his life, after studying in Glasgow, lived in Jersey, Ilfracombe and London as well as travelling extensively in Europe.
Bridlesmith Gate

My first job when I left school was with a life assurance company in Nottingham but after about a year I left to take up a position in the Motor Department of another company, based at that time in the red brick building in the centre of this picture of Bridlesmith Gate as seen from the jucntion with Middle Pavement and Low Pavement. Eighteen months there was enough for me to decide that a lifetime in insurance was not for me so I moved on. At that time, to my shame, I had little interest in local history or I may have learnt a lot more about Bridlesmith Gate.

Low PavementIt was part of the coach route between London and Leeds that ran along High Pavement, Weekday Cross, Middle Pavement, Bridlesmith Gate and High Street. Its name is ancient - there is evidence of the name in the early 1300s - and shows the importance of smiths in the city. It was once the main shopping street in Nottingham and when there were only ten gas lamps in Nottingham in 1819, five of them were in Bridlesmith Gate. There is probably enough history associated with Bridlesmith Gate to fill a whole volume but on this walk we are only passing the end of it as we continue into Low Pavement (right).
Virtually the whole of the south side of Low Pavement is occupied by listed buildings. The first that can be seen in the photo of the Broadmarsh Centre and Drury Hill higher up the page stands on the site of the Vault Hall above extensive rock cellars which were used for storage and also as a secret meeting place during the religious persecutions in Stuart times for Christians who later founded the High Pavement Chapel. The Vault House changed hands in 1645 and was sold to Alderman Drury whose grandson re-sold the house in 1733. It was partially rebuilt but appears today more or less the same as it did then.

Willoughby House

Its neighbour and set back further from the road is Willoughby House, pictured immediately above. This was built by the Hon. Rothwell Willoughby brother of Lord Middleton (of Wollaton Hall fame) about 1738. Again the house stands above extensive rock cellars and architecturally is noteworthy for its doorway framed with a broken pediment and Ionic columns. Also worthy of note is the parapet which was incorporated into the building as a safety feature to allow parties and promenading on the roof. Modern ironwork in front of Willoughby House has been sympathetically installed in keeping with the rest of the building.
Assembly Rooms & Bank

Savings BankWe'll see more of the south side of Low Pavement in the composite image below but on the other side of the road are two more buildings of interest. The facade with four fluted Corinthian columns was added to the old Assembly Rooms in 1836. Monthly assemblies for cards and dancing were held here from 1739 onwards and became more frequent when this hall was built. It was repaired and enlarged in 1807. The Bank next door, another listed building, was built about the same time as the columns were added to the Assembly Rooms in the mid 1830s and although it has undergone modernisation, its outward appearance has changed little.
The South Side of Low Pavement

Turning back to the south side of Low Pavement and it is almost like a trip through the centuries. Moving on from the 1700s of the buildings seen previously, these buildings in the left hand half of the composite above, from left to right, date from the early nineteenth century, 1876, 1903 and 1920 respectively. The bottom right hand picture shows the same buildings from further down the hill whilst the top right hand segment is a close up of the window on the Atlas Building of 1876. On a nearby information board this window is described as "a charming example of Victorian Gothic architecture" but wherever you look in this area, our ancestors have left us a worthwhile, interesting and aesthetically pleasing legacy.

We have now reached the bottom of the hill and the end of Low Pavement which was Castle Gatecalled by this name as early as 1348 although in ancient documents it was sometimes referred to as Nether Pavement. Here though we have reached a crossroad in our walk. To the left is Lister Gate with the lure of the Broadmarsh Centre whilst to the right more shops beckon and Albert Street leads in the direction of the Old Market Square. Either way will reveal more of Nottingham's historic buildings but as we are following the route described in Malcolm Sales' book of Nottinghamshire walks, we must resist the temptation to deviate and proceed straight ahead to the final stages of the route into Castle Gate (right).

Back To Part 7
 Historic Nottingham Index
 Forward to Part 9

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