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An exceeding pleasant shire.
- John Evelyn, 17th Century Diarist
Nottinghamshire (or Notts) lies in the eastern-central area of England (also known as the East Midlands) and has sometimes been referred to as 'the heart of England'. The county borders South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. The actual shire of Nottingham was created between the late 9th Century and the early 11th Century, being given county status by King Henry VI in 1448. The central city of Nottingham that gives its name to the shire, was originally known as Snotengaham1. The Normans later dropped the embarrassing 's' and the city became Nottingham. Most famous for the legend of Robin Hood and his adventures around Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire has much more to offer than 'merry men' and evil sheriffs. With a population of about 1,029,3002 the county has a very high female to male ratio with much being said of the natural beauty of the local women. Confined to an area of around 2,160 sq. km, the scenery is best looked out upon from atop Newtonwood Lane, the highest point in the district at 204 metres (669 feet).
Main Towns and Cities
The major cities within Nottinghamshire are:
Nottingham, given 'city' status in 1897, is the county centre. Much of Nottinghamshire's attractions are to be found in the city with Nottingham itself having a fascinating history. More can be discovered by visiting the city, either on a day trip or for a longer period, using it as a base of operations when travelling around the rest of the county.
Most famous for its castle, Newark (or Newark-on-Trent) is also a market town and offers antiques alongside other decently priced commodities. Originally a centre for the wool and cloth trade in Nottinghamshire, it was later industrialised with an iron works, a sugar refinery and brewing companies established. During the English Civil War, Newark was a mainstay of the royalist cause, the King having raised the standard in nearby Nottingham. Under siege many times during the war, Newark only surrendered when ordered to by King Charles I. The church of St Mary Magdalene in the town was also said to be the marriage place of Robin Hood and Maid Marian; and W E Gladstone, later UK Prime Minister, was once MP for Newark. Sometimes home to many 'travelling' families, the town also provides an insight into true Nottinghamshire culture.
A market town taking its name from the nearby river Maun, Mansfield is a working class colliery town with a decent football side and some of the best curry houses in the country. It has often been bemoaned by many, including writer Daniel Defoe3:
I came to Mansfield, a market town but without remarkables.
However despite such bad press, the town was once capital of the Royal Forest of Sherwood and nearby lies the ancestral seat of Lord Byron, Newstead Abbey.
Worksop is known as the Gateway to the Dukeries, so called for the number of ducal residences in the area such as Clumber Park, Thoresby Hall and Wollaton Hall and Park. Discovery of coal seams in the early 19th century created large collieries and much industry for the town, until the early 1990s when the coal seams dried up. The town was also the setting for the children's television show, Maid Marian and her Merry Men, where it was depicted largely as a mass of mud. Those tiny cubes that make gravy, Oxo, are also manufactured in Worksop by Campbell Soup UK.
Travel within Nottinghamshire is fairly standard. Road4, rail and air can bring you into the county, while in Nottingham itself, there is a modern tram system in use5. If travelling by car to Nottingham, the issue of parking is important. A well established 'Park and Ride' system enables easier commuting to inner city businesses and there is also reliable public transport in situ, the two major bus companies being Trent Barton and Nottingham City Transport6. A number of taxi fleets operate within the city and county also.
Places of Interest
Nottinghamshire has a wealth of historical landmarks, many in the city of Nottingham itself. There are numerous connections to royalty, literary figures and sporting greats.
Nottingham Castle - Built after the Norman Conquest, the castle saw the raising of Charles I's standard which marked the start of the English Civil War. The original Norman castle was dismantled in the mid 17th century and a Tudor mansion was built on the ruins. This is currently an art gallery and museum.
Caves of Nottingham - The soft sandstone in Nottingham allowed the digging of cellars, even with medieval technology. More than 400 caves where cut out of the rock and have been used as storerooms, tanneries, pub cellars, houses and even Second World War air raid shelters.
The River Trent - Travelling through the county and Nottingham City, the river has provided trade to the community but also areas of scenic beauty.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem - Lays claim to being the oldest English pub, apparently dating back to 1189 AD. The 'Trip' is partly carved out of the soft rock underneath Nottingham castle, and many of the doorways and ceilings inside the pub can pose a challenge to the taller modern drinker..!
Wollaton Park and Hall - Built in 1588 by Sir Francis Willoughby, Wollaton Hall is one of the finest Elizabethan houses in England. Located to the West of the City, the Hall stands on a hill in 500 acres of parkland in which both red and fallow deer roam. The Hall and Park also once billeted members of the US 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment awaiting D-Day.
The Old Market Square, Council House and 'lions' - The central area of Nottingham City, the Council House lions are a convenient meeting place for anyone wanting to tour the City Centre.
The Galleries of Justice - A museum of Crime and Punishment within Nottinghamshire, the Galleries of Justice offer an educational and sometimes frightening experience concerning the justice system.
The Lace Market - The once thriving centre of the lace industry in Nottingham now offers much more, boasting a cross-section of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, office space and even loft apartments.
Maid Marion Way - once voted one of the worst roads in Europe.
Queens Medical Centre - Teaching Hospital of the region, the QMC has one of the busiest Emergency Departments in Europe.
Nottingham City Hospital - The 'City' prides itself on being a friendly hospital, offering many services to the county.
Nottingham University - Founded by Jesse Boot, the University offers comprehensive learning in the fields of arts, science and medicine and a beautiful boating lake open to the public.
Nottingham Trent University - A former polytechnic, this education facility offers a variety of courses.
Newstead Abbey - An historic house set in a landscape of gardens and parkland, the Abbey was founded in the late 12th century, and later became the seat of the Byron family in 1540. With connections to the poet Byron and a number of ghost stories, Newstead Abbey can even be hired for weddings.
Clumber Park - Once the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle, the park includes a Victorian chapel, a Gothic 'mini-cathedral', 19th century glasshouses, vineries and a working apiary (bee hives).
Rufford Abbey - The remains of a 17th century country house, built on the foundations of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey are found in the Rufford Country Park.
Welbeck Abbey - Remains of a 12th century Abbey, the woodland and gardens also contain tunnels created in the late 19th century by John Bentick, the Duke of Portland.
Thoresby Hall & Park - Located near Newark, the mansion and parklands of Thoresby Hall are simply breathtaking.
Newark Castle - The ruins of this 12th century castle, said to be where King John passed away, offers a scenic garden and views of the River Trent.
Newark Air Museum - Aircraft Museum including transport, training and reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters and a selection of jet fighters and bombers from all over the world, amongst them ex-soviet MiGs and the pride of the fleet - an Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber.
Creswell Crags - There is evidence dating back to 43,000 BC of human habitation in Nottinghamshire at Creswell Crags.
Trade and Commerce
Nottinghamshire's prosperity originally depended greatly on the River Trent and Trent Bridge. As well as being used for transporting materials and finished goods, an additional source of income was gained by charging tolls for people travelling across the Bridge. Coal, wool dyeing, ceramics and brewing were some of the county's earliest industries.
By the mid 18th century Nottinghamshire had a thriving textile industry, but the lace trade soon gave way to coal mining, with large deposits found throughout the county, particularly near Mansfield and Worksop. Entire communities flourished from the rich deposits, but it was not to last.
Nottinghamshire's industry has been dominated by three major companies during the 20th Century: John Player & Sons Tobacco Company; the Raleigh Cycle Company7, founded by R. M. Woodhead and Paul Angois; and Boots Chemists, created by Jesse Boot.
The BBC has its East Midlands headquarters in Nottingham. ITV also operated from Nottingham (Lenton Boulevard, Beeston), up until early 2005 when the company closed down its studios there and moved to Birmingham. The ITV studios once had the ostensibly prestigious Crossroads in production along with some mostly forgettable sitcoms and cooking shows. A number of radio stations also broadcast across the county, the most popular being BBC Radio Nottingham and Trent FM. There are several newspapers running in the county, the largest being Nottingham's Evening Post.
The people of Nottinghamshire have always been proud of their sporting achievements, and rightly so. The following teams and arenas are the major ones:
Notts County Football Club (oldest league club in the country, founded 1862)
Nottingham Panthers Ice Hockey team
Other tourist attractions in the area include:
The annual Goose Fair travelling funfair is held in Nottingham's Forest Recreation Ground. One of Europe's biggest travelling funfairs, it is currently (2005) in its 711th year.
The Nottingham Princess river cruiser.
Green's Mill & Science Centre is an historic mill in Sneinton which offers tours and science fun.
The old joke about yoghurt8 is rife within the county, but with a large student population9 and a wide range of events, attractions and venues, there are many opportunities for culture vultures to indulge in the finer things in life...
Lakeside Arts Centre - performing arts
The Royal Centre - musicals, drama, concerts
Nottingham Playhouse - drama, experimental theatre, panto
Broadway Centre - indie cinema
Nottingham Arena - concerts, comedy, sports
The Cornerhouse - cinema
Nottingham City has several indoor shopping centres, including the vast Victoria Centre, the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, and the Exchange Arcade. It's also worth spending a little while pottering around the many shops in the Hockley Village area.
Outside of Nottingham, the market towns of Mansfield, Eastwood, Retford, Worksop, Newark and Southwell offer anything from fresh fruits to imported luxuries10.
Places to Eat, Drink and be Merry11
Places to eat in Nottinghamshire are wide and varied. In Nottingham itself there are many establishments to choose from, an assortment follow:
Pubs, Clubs and Bars
Due to a large amount of nightclubs, bars and other such venues, the city of Nottingham has of late earned a reputation as one of the Stag and Hen Night capitals of England. It is also popular with students and sporting clubs' end-of-season parties. An ever-changing selection of drinking establishments are to be found in Nottingham, some good, some okay and some downright horrific. A selection of each follows:
The Good: Dogma, Via Fossa, Cookie Club (popular with the indie scene), Pitcher and Piano, Horn in the Hand (student pub), Revolution (vodka theme bar), Scruffy's, Slug and Lettuce, Bar None, Flares (70s theme), Lloyds, Tantra, Lizard Lounge, Ye Olde Salutation, Synergy, The Waterfront, Moog, Casa and @d2.
The Okay: The Irish (you MUST either already be drunk, or work/study locally to drink here), Rock City (or as it is known locally Rock Sh**ty), Temple Bar, Goose on the Square, Walkabout (Aussie theme pub), Bar Oz, Reflex, Rose and Crown (usually full of staff and students from the Queens Medical Centre and the University), Bar Humbug, The Bell Inn, Jumpin' Jaks (VERY noisy, but a laugh), The Sir John (good 'meeting before clubbing' pub), the Rig (next door to Rock City), Jongleurs, Pit & Pendulum (for the Goths), Media (for dance), Squares and the Ropewalk.
The Bad: Long Island (expensive, expect your drink to be spiked or unexpectedly snog an underage drinker), Ocean (more of the former), Number 10 ('chav' city), Yates (expect a fight), Liberty's, The Palais ('grab a granny') and Isis.
Nottinghamshire has its fair share of famous (and infamous) people, these being some of the more well-known:
Robin Hood13 (legend)
Lord Byron (poet)
D.H Lawrence (author of Lady Chatterley's Lover)
Jesse Boot (founded Boots the Chemists)
William Booth (founded the Salvation Army)
Albert Ball (WWI flying ace)
William 'Bendigo' Thompson (boxer)
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (Olympic and World Champion Ice Dancers)
Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest Football Club Manager)
Alan Sillitoe (writer)
Richard Beckinsale (actor in Porridge)
Barry Foster (actor)
Donald Pleasence (actor)
Bruce Dickinson (singer in the heavy metal band Iron Maiden)
Paul Smith (fashion designer)
Richard Bacon (television presenter)
John Ogden (classical pianist)