The Lace House

Just across from the entrance to Nottingham Castle stands the medieval ‘Lace House’ a timber framed medieval building which had been used as a small museum called the Nottingham Lace Centre where it depicted the history of lace production in Nottingham.  But since my last visit it has closed and the City Council now have the building up for sale.

Nottingham lace making was famous across the world. Lace making developed from knitting hosiery which started in Tudor times in Nottingham.  The invention of the stocking frame in 1589, reputedly by the local Rev. William Lee of Calverton, lay at the heart of industrialisation in the City.  By the late 1700’s hose production employed thousands of framework knitters in and around Nottingham.  Poor conditions in 1811 led to Luddite riots in the city, with many knitting frames being smashed.

Because of changes in fashions and increasing competition from the Lancashire cotton industry, the hosiery industry began to decline and framework knitting increasingly became a depressed industry. Local entrepreneurs looked to make lace on the stocking frame. Lace had for centuries been made by hand and it was hoped that the production on machines would be much speedier and cheaper.  In Victorian times saw a dramatic expansion of the lace industry and around St. Mary’s Church in Nottingham the streets were lined by towering lace warehouses which exported the material all over the world.  The industry declined after the First World War and this was exacerbated by the Second World War and many firms closed in the 1950s. Once the heart of the world’s lace industry during the days of the British Empire, the Lace Market area of the city is now an area of city apartments, with fashionable pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and hotels.

It doesn’t look like they will be displaying lace making in the Lace House anymore once it is sold.

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Onward to Nottingham Castle

After visiting Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem I walked up the hill to the castle.

Today’s castle is a disappointment if you are expecting to see a medieval fortress.  Whilst the castle has a colourful history unfortunately its ancient fortifications did not survive through to modern times.  Today inside a sandstone wall and gatehouse lies what looks like a large mansion house.

Nottingham Castle occupies a commanding position on the natural promontory known as “Castle Rock”. In the Middle Ages it was a major fortress and occasional royal residence.  In 1067 William the Conqueror built a wooden castle to guard Nottingham.  A stone castle was first built here during the reign of Henry II.  For centuries the castle was one of the most important in England due to its strategic position as well as being close to the royal hunting grounds in the Peak District and also the royal forests of Barnsdale and Sherwood Forest.  The castle also had its own deer park in the area immediately to the west, which is still known as The Park which is now an exclusive ‘gated’ community containing many up market homes and Victorian mansions.

Whilst Richard the Lionheart was away on the Third Crusade it was said that Nottingham Castle was left derelict.  In 1194, a historic battle took place at the castle when the supporters of Prince John captured it and the castle was occupied by the Sheriff of Nottingham and the famous Robin Hood stories grew up around these events. The castle was the site of a decisive siege when King Richard I returned to England and besieged the castle with the siege machines he had used at Jerusalem.  There are bronze statues of Robin Hood and what look like his not so merry men outside the ramparts as you walk up Castle Road.

The castle was used by successive kings of England and from 1403 until 1437 it was the main residence of Henry IV’s queen, Joan but after her residence maintenance was reduced and it became dilapidated.  With the Wars of the Roses the Castle was again used as a military stronghold.

Edward IV proclaimed himself King in Nottingham and in 1476 he ordered the construction of a new tower and royal apartments at the castle.  However by the 16th century the castle had declined and was largely demolished by 1649.  A duke’s mansion was built on the site but this was burnt down by rioters in 1831.  The mansion remained a derelict shell until it was restored in 1875 by Thomas Chambers Hine and opened in 1878 by the Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VII) as Nottingham Castle Museum, the first municipal art gallery in the UK outside London.

The gatehouse of the medieval castle and much of the walling of the outer bailey was retained as a garden wall for the Ducal mansion. However, the northernmost part of the outer bailey was lost when an approach road was constructed in the 1830s for the development of The Park Estate on the former deer park, and this part of the castle site was later used for the expansion of Nottingham General Hospital. Most of the stonework of the outer fortifications which is now visible dates from an Edwardian reconstruction.

A trip to Jerusalem…via Nottingham

This week I have been away further afield from the Wirral.  On a flying trip to Nottingham I took the opportunity to re-visit some old haunts.  Firstly to ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’.

‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ is purported to be the oldest pub in England.  It is carved into the rock below Nottingham Castle.  The pub is made up of a labyrinth of interconnected sandstone caves.  Nottingham is famous for its network of caves and there are further caves beneath the building which were originally used as a brewery.  They have been dated from around the time of the construction of the castle in 1067 AD.

In 1189AD King Richard I also known as Richard the Lionheart ascended to the throne of England.  One of his first acts as King was to crusade against the Saracens who at that time occupied the Holy Land of the Christian religion, Jerusalem.  Nottingham Castle was a stronghold favoured by the King and legend has it that the brave knights and their men at arms who rallied to his call to fight in this Third Crusade, gathered at the Castle to rest before journeying to Jerusalem.

The legend has it that the Crusaders stopped off at the inn at the foot of the Castle for refreshments.  In the Middle Ages, a ‘Trip’ was not a journey but rather a resting place where such a journey could be broken.  From these events the inn came to be called ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’.

Apart from Yorky’s Lounge the bar area, the Ward Room, Rock Lounge and Museum Room are all hewn out of the bunter sandstone which makes up the Castle Rock.  In the Rock Lounge you can peer up into the dark void between the sandstone blocks.

As you walk up the hill from the ‘Trip’ you come to the Nottingham castle.

Ultimate Nectar…

On the way to Nottingham we stopped off at Trowell Services on the M1.  The service station lies in the heart of the Nottinghamshire Countryside.  The petrol station had a vey large field of oilseed rape right next to the sign which advertised its Ultimate petrol and diesel prices and the fact that you can get points on your Nectar card.

Apparently with changes in farming over recent years large acreages of oilseed rape have provided an abundant and attractive source of nectar for honey bees. With the introduction of earlier and later varieties the flowering period of oilseed rape has been extended from a few weeks in May to between April and July. One beekeeper has said that his colonies adjacent to a field of oilseed rape produced over 100lbs of honey before the end of May.

Whilst oilseed rape has increasing yields of honey it is distracting bees from more traditional sources. So you can say it is the ultimate nectar…

The Wilson Trophy, West Kirby

I had a walk around West Kirby marine lake on Sunday morning on the third day of the annual Wilson Trophy which is organised by West Kirby Sailing Club.  The 2012 event is the 63rd Trophy race and it is being held over 11th, 12th and 13th of May when around 200 sailors in 30 teams compete on the marine lake.  The majority of teams competing this year are from the UK, but three come from Ireland and two have made the journey across from the USA for the three day long event.  The event takes the form of 300 short races in three-boat teams jostling on an area the size of a football pitch to earn the coveted title: “Wilson Trophy Champion”.

The marine lake is set on the very tip of the Wirral peninsula with stunning views of the Welsh Hills and the Dee Estuary.  It is a man-made saltwater lake 52 acres in size, 5 foot deep and totally enclosed and it is used for a variety of water sports.

Friday’s races were cancelled due to strong winds.  But with the ultra-short team races they caught up on Saturday and Sunday morning.  Wessex Exempt and Royal Thames Red led the event overnight on Saturday both claiming nine victories out of 11 races.

The teams sail using the event’s uniquely colour-coded Firefly sailing dinghies.  The Firefly is a two-sail dinghy with no spinnaker and is raced as a double hander.  It has high manoeuvrability and is easy handling.  Watching the teams on Sunday morning it was quite a spectacle as the dinghies jostle each other as they head around the marker buoys.  As they are all closely grouped together it is no surprise that there were a number of ‘comings together’ with the umpires who follow each race in speedy inflatable dinghies imposing penalties on the offenders.

The Firefly class is popular for the British Universities Sailing Association who have two teams in the event a long with a number of other competitors from university teams.  As I left the event at midday on Sunday the top places in the initial ‘round robin’ event had changed; West Kirby Hawks were leading with the New Forest Pirates in second place.

This was how it finished as the race committee decided that as the wind speed had risen to 30 knots and building, the event must be postponed with the finishing positions for the 2012 Wilson Trophy being those at the end of the round robin races rather than going ahead with the top eight teams competing head to head.

In the Forest now…a trip around Delamere

On a day off from work we set off for a walk around Delamere Forest.

Delamere Forest comprises over 950 hectares of mixed deciduous and evergreen forest, open grassland and wetlands. It is the largest wooded area in Cheshire and lies within the Mersey Forest.  It is a haven for wildlife including the beautiful small tortoiseshell butterfly, greater spotted woodpecker, white faced darter dragonfly, green woodpecker, siskin and southern hawker dragonfly.

Delamere derives from the French ‘of the meres’.  Tens of thousands of years ago kettleholes were formed by melting ice blocks left behind by the massive ice sheets that covered Britain in the last ice age.  These became the meres and wetlands that are found across Cheshire.

At Blakemere Moss the Forestry Commisssion have recreated the original lake.  It was originally two kettle holes but they gradually filled with peat.  The site was cleared and re-filled in 1998.  There is a colony of nesting black headed gulls on the lake.  You can hear them from a distance before you actually see them.

Delamere Forest is all that remains of the great hunting forests of Mara and Mondrum established after the Norman Conquest of England.

The forest lies on sandstone and has sandy soils.  The natural woodland was originally Sessile Oak mixed with birch, alder and some pine.  In the Eighteenth Century oak trees had been planted suitable for shipbuilding by the Government in woods owned by the Crown.  The oaks didn’t thrive and there was little timber produced for the navy. Following this land was claimed for agriculture but from the early 1900s the area was replanted with various species of pine.  Since the 1950’s Scots pines have been replaced with Corsican pine trees which grow faster and yield more timber.  The forest is managed and produces timber from thinning and felling which ensures there is a mix of mature, middle aged and young trees.

The forest has a network of walking and cycling trails.  The 34 mile Sanstone Trail long dstance footpath passes through Delamere Forest where it links Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch further south in Shropshire.

You can walk as far as you want to depending on which trails you choose to follow.

You just have to be careful that you don’t go round in circles and get lost.  We did realise our mistake and managed to get back to the car parked at Linmere Lodge.

Thingwall to Landican

Recently the road sign on Barnston Road has been changed as you drive into Thingwall from Heswall and Barnston.  Rather than plain ‘Thingwall’ the sign now refers to Thingwall’s ancient Norse origins. The original sign went missing and Viking expert Professor Stephen Harding asked the local council to prove it has pride in its Norse roots by replacing the road sign with one indicating the Viking link.  After some debate the Council has replaced the sign with an explanation of the area’s Viking heritage.

The word Thingwall is derived from ‘Ping-vollr’ which is old Norse for Assembly or Parliament. There were similar Viking assemblies in the British Isles in Tynwald on the Isle of Man, Dingwall in northern Scotland, and Tingwall on the Shetlands. The most famous Norse parliament was at Thingvellir in Iceland.  Thingwall is thought to be the site of the Viking “Ping” or “Parliament” which met around twice a year and ruled the whole Norse community throughout the 10th and 11th century.  Professor Stephen Harding from Nottingham University has carried out a lot of research on Wirral’s Viking heritage and he believes that the parliament is possibly the oldest in mainland Britain, predating Iceland’s Thingvellir by 30 years.

Evidence shows that Viking communities grew up in North Wirral and Saxons in the South of Wirral.  The hill on which the Vikings gathered in Thingwall is now known as Crosshill.  There’s not a lot to see here these days. On one side is a covered in reservoir and the other are rough fields with horses grazing.  Thingwall Reservoir was started before the First World War but worked ceased until 1918 when it resumed again.  Stone was brought from Thingwall Hill Quarry where Mill Road is today just off Pensby Road.

Getting off the main road, down Holmwood Drive and onto Lower Thingwall Lane you can walk down into what was the original hamlet of Thingwall.  The lane is quite narrow and runs beneath high banks and hedges.  The large three storey Woodfinlow House and smaller Woodfinlow Cottage were built in the 1860s.  The house was originally lived in by Joseph Basset who was the land owner and farmer.

Continuing down Lower Thingwall Lane there had been two or three farm houses but all that is left now are the buildings which made up Barn Farm.  These are directly behind the Basset Hound pub which would appear to be named after Joseph Basset.  The old barn has been converted into a house called Manor Barn and the farmhouse is now called Manor House.

At Thingwall Corner there is a busy roundabout.  On one corner is the Council estate built in the 1960s on the site of the former Thingwall Hall.  This had been built in 1849 by Captain John Lilley a merchant in the African trade a long with a lodge, coachhouse, cottages and out buildings.  The Hall was sold on many times and around the turn of the Twentieth Century it was acquired by Mr Edward Twigge.  In the 1920’s Mr Twigge’s daughter gave Thingwall Hall to the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital for convalescing children.  It ceased to be used by the hospital and was demolished in the 1960s to allow the building of the Council houses and flats we see today.

At Thingwall Corner opposite the Council estate there is a pathway over the fields to Landican.  Landican consists of a small group of cottages and farm buildings.  From the 2001 Census the community had a population of only 20.

The path runs across the fields and in the distance you can see across to the eastern ridge of Wirral toward Oxton and St Saviours Church on Bidston Road which can be clearly seen.

The fields between Thingwall, Landican and over to Storeton were the site of a tragedy from the Second World War.  An American Airforce B24 Liberator bomber returning from a training mission in Ireland to 703rd Bomb Squadron at Tibenham in Norfolk blew up over Landican.  The wreckage came down mainly in two fields, known locally as “The Seven Oaks” and “Top sheep field”.  The crash had brought down power lines blacking out Barnston and there are descriptions of the debris including tins of corned beef, money and other wreckage being scattered all across the local fields.  A memorial has been erected on Brook Way on the Durley Drive Trading Estate, not far from the crash site commemorating the 24 American Servicemen who died in the accident.

Landican has hardly changed over the last couple of centuries.  In 1085, Landican was recorded in the Domesday Book as Landechene.  ‘Llan’ meaning church or church enclosure.  Early names such as this suggest a pre-conquest religious site, which may pre-date the Saxon presence in Wirral.

The hamlet was a township in Woodchurch Parish part of the Wirral Hundred the ancient administrative area during the Middle Ages.  Landican was added to Birkenhead civil parish in 1933.  In 1930 there were thirteen dwellings in the hamlet all farms or farm workers’ cottages.  Seven are still standing today.

Thanks to Greg Dawson whose book ‘Tingvelle’ published in 1993 and the Oldwirral.com website pieced together much of the story of Thingwall that I have re-told here.