Friday, 15 February 2013

Nottingham Architecture and Urban Design

BFTF has long been fascinated by the architecture of Nottingham, and has a (no doubt annoying) tendency to point out any buildings that have date plaques on them to the kids, "Hey look, that building was built in 1902! being a typical refrain.

Given that BFTF has approximately zero knowledge of urban planning, architecture or any related subjects it was wonderful to find a treasure trove of architectural blogs on the Internet (intially via a link on the Nottingham section of Reddit) and really wanted to share them, together with pictures from around the city, and sometimes a bit further afield ...


Nov 2017
Love this brickwork on the building at the corner of Russell Street and Newgate Street. The Historic England entry for this listed building says that was built in 1872 and is alternatively known as "Kirks Factory" (with additions in 1879 and 1894) and was originally a lace factory with boilerhouse and chimmney, later converted to a tobacco factory around 1900. It is now student accomodation.

So much going on in this brickwork.

You and read more about lace related buildings in Nottingham here.

Interestingly, the other four storey building towards the other end of Russell Street was one of the first homes of Raleigh Bicycles!


Oct 2016
Interesting time at the 2016 Martinmas Fair at Priory Church, Lenton, recently....

Inside Priory Church

Many of the attractions from the 2015 Fair were there again this year, along with some newcomers as well.

BFTF was particularly interested in a display by the Nottingham City Museums artifacts collection, who had (amongst much else) some hand made medieval nails on display. The chap at the stall explained that nails of the period were known by the price for 100 - for example "10 penny nails", and that handmade nails (hence the surname "Naylor") largely disappeared with the introduction of mechanisation in the 19th Century

Looking into this further, BFTF was surprised to learn how over 800,000 nails were left buried in a pit by a Roman garrison prior to abandoning their fortress in Inchtuthil, Scotland.

Looking into this further, it seems that a key introduction was that of the slitter mill which converted a sheet of iron into nail sized strips ready to be chopped up and formed. This was a big industry, with some 50,000 people involved in the nailmaking industry at its peak in Birmingham around 1830.

Hand made nails are still manufactured in some locations, often for restoration projects.


Meanwhile, at the Galleries of Justice Stall, they had some examples of old punishment equipment, including this Scolds Bridle, which the convict would have to wear for up to a few days.

Scolds Bridle

Also interesting was a discussion with a team describing how clothing was made. They explained that it might take 1,80manhours of effort to convert wool into a high quality coat, so these were very significant purchases, often being gifted to descendants in wills. BFTF also learnt that many people had only the clothing they were standing in.

An interesting "price list" of medieval goods can be found here.

Posh Medieval clothes, made of wool
At the Nottingham Hidden History stall, BFTF leant that the Nottingham area has been inhabited since the last ice age and at many times before. Reading up on this later, was shocked by the rapid climate change (several degrees centigrade in just a few years) that occurred in the Younger Dryas cooling period ~13,000 years ago. The cooling was caused by large flows of meltwater stopping the Gulf Stream - which is something that could happen again as the icesheets on Greenland melt.

Caves at Cresswell Crags

BFTF has long wanted to take up archery (but suspects that is lacking a bit in upper body strength), so was interested to see the Bulwell Foresters Target Archery Club at the event...

Shoot three arrows for free with the £1 entrance fee

Image Sources
All BFTF except Cresswell Crags


Oct 2016
BFTF and No3 Son recently visited St Anns Allotments on their annual Open Day. It was a lovely event with a number of speakers and the opportunity to have a good look around.

But, for BFTF, there was one clear star of the show - Archie Ologist

Archie explained that, unlike most archaeologists, he wasn't interested in the past - instead he was interested in the future !

He asked No3 Son for his thoughts on what the future held for topics such as transport, housing, food and energy.

It was really interesting approach and BFTF was fascinated by what No3 Son had to say (which included cloud cities to free up land for farming, meals-in-a-pill and virtual reality instead of going to the movies).

BFTF would really like to know what other responses Archie got and strongly advises Nottingham City Council to give Archie a spot at other community events.

Archie Ologist talks to No3 Son


Oct 2016
Nottingham Castle, famously, isn't really a castle any more. But it certainly used to be, and inside the stately home that now occupies the site is a model of the castle in its glory days....




More information on the castle and it's history can be found here, here and here.


Oct 2017
Road subsurface

Nearby road was dug up for gas main replacement, thought the layers through the road were mildly interesting.


Oct 2017
Iron work

Loved this ornate iron work in a park in German


Jun 2017
Noticed a little alley opposite Nottingham Contemporary and had a look in the Syson Gallery - a nice lady explained that the glazed brickwork was common in the courtyards and narrow lanes of the Lace Market area as a way of maximising the daylight that reached down to the lace workers. Apparently, similar tiles can be found in the New York meat packing district - in that case presumably for their easy-wipe-down charateristics.

Glazed Bricks - Lace Market, Jun 2017
Also noticed this weather station on Queens Drive, near the Retail Park - wonder who it is collecting data for...

Weather Station, Queens Drive, nr Retail Park, June 2017


May 2017
Saw some interesting buildings while cycling today...

Jubilee Campus GSK Centre for Sustainable Chemistry, May 2017

Jubilee Campus GSK Centre for Sustainable Chemistry, May 2017

This did make me chuckle, on the Sustainable Chemistry Bldg

Wonder if the greenery coming through the paving is a feature or a fault?

Jubilee Campus "Ingenuity Building", May 2017


"Imperial Tobacco" - incredible example of brutalist architecture


Having a bit of a morning ride and noticed the Hemlock Stone for the first time. It is located near the Bramcote Leisure Centre and composed of the same Nottingham Castle Sandstone that underlies much of central Nottingham.

The Hemlock Stone

Scientists are not sure whether the surrounding sandstone has been worn away or quarried, however the fact that the top is dark (from Industrial Revolution pollution) while the bottom is sandy coloured (due to having been worn away) suggests that erosion is uneven and that the stone will eventually become unstable and fall.

The fascinating information board describes how, at the time the sandstone was laid down in the Triassic, the UK was

"all the world's continents were joined together into a single huge landmass called Pangea...Britain was landlocked in the interior of Pangea and sweltered under a hot and humid climate. Heavy monsoonal rains fell on an ancient mountain range to the south of Britan and fed a vast seasonal river that flowed northwards across England, despositing a 400 metre thick layer of bedded, pebbly sand. Many tens of millions of years later Pangea split into several continents and the sea advanced and retreated many times across southern Britain, burying the Triassic sands beneath several hundred metres of overlying sediment. Under this enormous sediment the sands were crushed and cemented into rock - the Nottingham Castle Sandstone."

It is only over the past 20 million years that erosion has removed the younger overlying rocks to reveal the sandstone again.


Must have cycled past this dozens of times without noticing it...

A WW2 era pillbox on Trowell Moor.
Would love to learn more about it's history.


Walked around Highfields Park recently - something that BFTF hasn't done for a long time since the kids got bigger and started making their own park arrangements. Some really nice stuff going on there.

Love the beautiful benches at Highfields Park

Look what Highfields Park has done to this tree stump!

It really is very clever and educational!


Makes it feel much safer cycling there in the evening.

New Streetlight, Victoria Embankment, Mar 2017


Dec 2016
New Lighting along Castle Boulevard, Nottingham, Dec 2016

BFTF often takes a walk of an evening and finds the new streetlighting on Castle Boulevard - with separate lamps to direct light towards the pavement - does a great job in making previously dark places much better lit. Very reassuring.

New Night Lighting, Castle Blvd, Dec 2016


Extraordinarily beautiful brickwork on the Hyson Green Community Centre.

Hyson Green Community Centre
(formerly Hyson Green Methodist Free Church, built 1985)

Window Detail


Aug 2016
Love this Mural - Map in Forest Fields 


Aug 2016
Sweet resurfacing on Caulton Street

Impressed with the very smooth and neat resurfacing on Caulton Street, just off Radford Road. Asked the council how they choose between the various available resurfacing options and got a response from the "Infrastructure Asset Manager" commenting that a good reference guide could be found here and explaining that :

"When formulating the forward maintenance programme we typically reference customer enquiries and comments from our team of highway maintenance inspectors. Caulton Street was highlighted by Ward Councillors in the Arboretum ward and was paid for by their Area Based Budget (which is also known as the Area Capital programme)."

See also here for info from Kent CC.
Very nice resurfacing - bravo Nottingham  Council !


Jul 2016
Dr Vladimir Jankovic (Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester) recently gave the Hayman Rooke Lecture in Environmental Humanities at the University of Nottingham. This post is based on the talk, together with some extra linkage and bloggage.

Poster for the talk

But first, the Hayman Who talk?

It turns out that Major Hayman Rooke (1723-1806) became an archaeologist in the Nottingham area and after whom the Major Oak is named. He was also interested in meterology, as shown in this article.

But, anyway, back to the talk at hand. Dr Jankovic began with a quote from mid-2th century artchitect Marston Fitch:
"the ultimate task of architecture is to act in favor of man: to interpose itself between man and the natural environment in which he finds himself, in such a way as to remove the gross environmental load from his shoulders."

A slightly overexposed Vladimir

The talk then described how pre-industrial houses were often constructed in ways that worked with their environment, a classic example being the mudwall buildings common in hot climates.

A mud walled building

Dr Jankovic then mentioned "The Invention of Comfort" by John E. Crowley (see also here), who describes how it was social and much as technological changes in the West that allowed technological innovations to be adopted in the home.

By the early 20th century there were two trends at work, one was for sealing off buildings from the outside world, and using technology to ensure that the interior was heated and ventilated. An example being the Larkin Building, echoing the earlier views of William Chambers who said :
"In countries where men live in woods, in caves or miserable huts, exposed to the inclemency of seasons and under continual apprehensions of heat, cold, tempests, rains or snow, they are indolent, stupid and abject, their faculties are benumbed, and all their views limited to the supplying their immediate wants;

but in places where the inhabitants are provided with commodious dwellings, in which they may breath a temperate air, amidst the summer's heat and winter's cold, sleep when nature calls, at ease and in security; study unmolested, and taste the sweets of every social enjoyment, we find them active, inventive and enterprising"

The Larkin Building

The other trend was the direct opposite, aimed to expose building inhabitants to the outside environment as much as possible. Some examples of this can be found in the Lovell Beach House, Villa Savoye and the Open Air School Movement

Villa Savoye

Dr Jankovic also described how, in the 1950's, and with high energy prices a concern, architects such as Victor and Aladar Olgyay designed buildings fitted into the local climate and were more economical to keep cool during hot summers. House orientation was a big factor and the Olgyays used a dome shaped machine called a "Thermodelidon" to test building models (some details buried in here)

They were actually some of the pioneers of the modern "Green Building" movement but interest waned somewhat as energy costs fell and the answer to climate control for American buildings, especially those in hot areas, increasingly became simply to install air-conditioning. (see here for a fascinating LSE paper about historical energy costs)

Closing the talk pointed out that while the developing world was focussed on "big architecture" and its effect on people, there were billions around the world who were still cooking over oven fires and suffering from the local air polloution this causes. The WHO states that :

Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.

Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.

More than 50% of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 are caused by the particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

3.8 million premature deaths annually from noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are attributed to exposure to household air pollution

Extra Stuff
While compiling this post, BFTF noticed, or was made aware of, a few items that seemed relevant...

Climate controls are far from a modern practice, the Romans used a form of underfloor central heating called a "Hypocaust"

A  Hypocauste

William Strut and Charles Sylvester, both from the Derbyshire / Sheffield area were innovators in the use of central heating in buildings, most notably the Derby Infirmary, built in 1819 and featuring fire-proof construction and novel heating that allowed the patients to breathe fresh heated air whilst old air was channelled up to a glass and iron dome at the centre.

Derby Infirmary

Angier Perkins was another innovator in the field of steam central heating. His first steam heating system was installed in 1832 in the home of Governor of the Bank of England John Horley Palmer so that the owner could grow grapes!

A long and relentlessly interesting article on the history of internal building heating can be found here.

Image Sources
Mud Home, Larkin Building, Villa Savoye, Derby Infirmary Hypocauste


May 2016
Been reading up about the Big Belly bins that have been installed in Nottingham for a while now. Turns out that their combination of compaction and "empty on demand" is claimed to reduce the number of waste collections by up to 80% and largely eliminate the problem of overflowing bins, especially by fast food outlets. You can read more here.

A Big Belly bin, yesterday


Nov 2015
Cobbles, Thoresby Street, NG1 (Nov 2015)

Nottingham - a town of many architectures


Oct 2014
The detailing on the houses of Radford Road (built in 1879) caught the eye of BFTF a while back...

Radford Road

Lovely details at the top of the houses

BFTF likes the intricate tiling, and wonders who this bloke is!


Feb 2014
Rather wonderful list of events in Nottinghams history at MumblingNerds Blog
And there is some great material at Nottingham Archives


Dec 13
Worth mentioning that this report on a talk about the Hyson Green Eco House covers some important issues regarding how those most in need of energy efficient housing are often those least able to access eco-grants.

And also that there are some very charming photo-essays on the nooks and hidden corners of Nottingham city centre at Thom's Blog


There is a wonderful post at Internet Curtains on how Nottingham dodged a bullet in the 50s and 60s by being late to redevelop its town centre and clear nearby slums - a delay that allowed it to escape having motorways carving up the heart of the city, as was the case in Birmingham. BFTF would like to talk about this post more but , to be honest the original author has done such a good job, and included so much interesting information, that I beseech you to go directly there right now!

But there is a lot, lot more Nottingham related content at Internet Curtains :
A History of the Trent Lane Depot
A car-free route from Bulwell to Basford
The architecture and desing of Mapperley Top
The Industrial Heritage of Colwick Industrial Estate
The history of the site now occupied by Nottingham Contemporary

A rather arty view of the Ring Road

Meanwhile, at Jones the Planner, there is a great post on Nottingham Contemporary (BFTF is gobsmacked to find that it had not noticed the lace effect exterior panels when visiting) and also a post giving a general overview of Nottinghams urban design.

A rainy day in Radford

And Jonathan Clarkes blog called Landscape Ping! has a post that considers, in some detail, the architecture of the University of Nottingham's Jubilee Campus.

One of Nottingham's rather wonderful trams

And lastly (for now), and also somewhat more tangentially, the Pathetic Motorways site provides a wonderful insight into the thinking behind, and development of, the UK's arterial road network.


Oct 2015
Not related to Nottingham, but loved this wall of coloured glass at Washington Dulles Airport

Lovely colours

Image Sources Images all BFTF's own