Nottinghamshire and the surrounding Counties are rich in local history and we hope to share and to enable members to discover this rich tapestry on their doorstep.
Frequency : We aim to arrange a visit approximately once a month, at various times, depending on the availability of the venues.
Contact : Jane Lowe, Denise Whitsed, Claire Wilkie, Liz Wilson or email Groups’ Coordinators
Nottingham Rock Cemetery
- Venue: Nottingham Rock Cemetery (Claire)
- Date: 21st September 2021
- Time: 1.00pm-2.15pm (Finish time approx).
Report on the visit to Nottingham Rock Cemetery.
On Tuesday last, a lucky thirteen of Sherwood u3a gathered at the Lodge of the Rock Cemetery for our tour of the thirteen acre site, which includes several catacombs. Dave Stretton, the Cemetery Manager, and his friend Allan, the tour guide, met us ready to start off at 1pm, when we were all given small torches to use in the catacombs and warned to be careful of the uneven ground.The Cemetery was constructed in the 1850s following the Enclosure Act, and was originally intended for the rich of Nottingham. It stands on the site of the City gallows, last used on this site in 1827.Allan told us that the executions had to stop because too much gambling was going on as to the victims’ behaviour while hanging! 13 Windmills also used to stand at the top of the area and much of the thirteen acres had formerly been a sand mine.The first burial on the site was that of a young boy, took place in 1856.
En route to the underground tunnels, intended as catacombs, our attention was drawn to an air raid shelter still in existence across the road from the Cemetery. It was the first time, in spite of hundreds of bus trips into Nottingham, that I’d ever noticed it! We made our way to Robin Hood’s Cave past several graves, including that of a mason, whose gravestone was, according to custom, in the form of a truncated pillar and past a section where the former mine had been blown up. The Cave itself, which was wrongly associated with Robin Hood, is in the form of two large areas. In one, sand stood on a table, and we were encouraged to feel its texture- evidently it was used in the glassworks on site. Surprisingly, the sand came from Leicester, dating back to when that city was a desert! In the other section of the cave was a round hole, where a well had once operated and the walls were covered by inscribed dates.
As we made our way to the catacombs, several specific graves were pointed out to us: those of the Fish family, plus a sixteen foot deep vault containing eight people and the grave of Sir Frank Bowden, who, on returning from Hong Kong obtained a bike to help his poor health and ended up founding the Raleigh Factory. Thomas Hines, the architect of the restored Nottingham Castle and Nottingham High School, had only a low-key metal cross on his grave. We entered the catacombs through a metal gate, which had a partner at the other end of the tunnel or cave. Where candles had formerly been fixed to the walls, the clay was still wet, and as we turned left into a darker tunnel and turned off the torches, the blackness was total and a little unnerving.
There are actually several mined corridors in this area and occasionally what are classed as ‘family rooms’- areas cut into the walls which were intended for family grouped coffins. At the end of the main tunnel is a section of wall which shows how all mining was carried out, Allan described the process to us in detail, then we turned and made our way back out, exiting by the other metal gate. Before we left, we were told to turn and look at the walls behind, which had been shaped to resemble church vaulting – proof that the whole subterranean area was intended as catacombs, but never used as such because the area was too spacious.
The outdoor area we emerged into was surrounded by arches, it was notable for the presence of pauper’s graves, some of which held up to twenty bodies, and one grave held the body of a child who, sadly, had lived for only five minutes. Several of the graves held victims of the Spanish flu pandemic of the last century, a problem heightened by cholera which hit Nottingham at the same time. There were also some regimental graves in this area.
We returned through the main catacomb tunnel into the main section of the Cemetery and our attention was drawn to the graves of John Mundella, the educationist and former Mayor of Nottingham, Watson Fothergill, the architect, who reversed his original name to keep his mother’s maiden name alive and James Shipstone, the beer magnate. There were now graves lining the paths, as the normal Cemetery space had been filled, and we were shown where the Mortuary Chapel had stood before it was removed by the authorities to avoid paying taxes on it. Near to that was the grave of someone who had been buried standing up, a practice also to be found in church graveyards where people were literally standing up for their religion.
Finally, we came upon the graves, or vaults, of the moneyed citizens of Nottingham, with great crosses, angels and other large symbols marking their resting places, which were very close together. One particularly large cross had been erected on the grave of a nine year old boy in 1920 to show his parents’ love for him. Allan had included many other anecdotes in his tour and it had been an absolutely fascinating two hours.
One of our number, Anne Lyons, put it perfectly in an email afterwards: “I just wanted to say once again how much Phil and I enjoyed the Rock Cemetery visit on Tuesday. We found it absolutely fascinating and so much more to see and hear about than we had anticipated – particularly going into such a long dark cave to hear about the mining. The flat graves in the quiet little hollow told such a sad story compared to the magnificent graves and headstones of the great and the good of Nottingham.”
Thank you, Dave and Allan, for your super tour of such a very intriguing site.
Museum of Time Keeping
- Venue: Museum of Time Keeping – Upton (Liz). Full.
- Date: 12th November.
- Time: 10.30am – 12.30am.
- Cost: Price £12.50 includes tea/coffee on arrival and a personally conducted tour, (highly recommended).
- After visiting museum and grounds we can move next door to the Clock House Cafe, this is optional.
- Those members making their own way there you must arrive by 10.30am for coffee and biscuits in the Great Hall, followed by a 2 hours tour.
- For those wanting a lift – pick up at Morrison’s (Woodhouse) 9.30am. (Liz will ring all of you nearer the time to ascertain who requires transport!)
- Bookings can be made at September or October monthly meeting. (Change of date due to Covid restrictions).
24th November – Denby Pottery – Jane
February – Hodsocks Priory – Denise
March – Pheasantry Brewery Tour – Jane
April – William Booth Birthplace – Liz
May – Nottingham Castle – Claire
June – Chesterfield Canal and Boat Trip – Denise
July – Gold Star Guided Tour – Liz
Ideas for future visits
National Civil War Museum
Magpie Mines near Bakewell
Lincoln Medieval Bishop’s Palace
Crich Tramway Museum
Wentworth Castle and Gardens
Mining Museum near Wakefield
Museum of Timekeeping Upton
Papplewick Pumping Station
Nottingham Industrial Museum
Pheasantry Brewery Tour
Chesterfield Canal and Boat Trip
Newark Air Museum
Southwell Minster and Bishop’s Palace
William Booth Birthplace
Gold Star and Blue Badge Guides do tours such as Sculptures and Carvings in Nottingham and Nottingham Booklovers Walk