Wednesday, 18 April 2018

20th Century Notts, part one 1900-1909

The Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website is hosting 20th Century Notts, a weekly series looking back at our county’s history and heritage through a literary lens. These articles are, and will continue to be, first featured on the City of Literature website  three years at a time. Once each decade has been completed it will then appear here. So, as they are currently up to 1911, here is the opener, 1900 to 1909.


Book of the year: Willow the King: The Story of a Cricket Match by J. C. Snaith (1900)

In the year 1900, author J. C. Snaith played first-class cricket for Nottinghamshire, the same year in which his novel Willow the King was published. The book, about an annual cricket match between Little Clumpton and Hickory, has been described as ‘the best cricket story ever written’.

A Jack of all genres, Snaith wrote novels of romance, humour, history and crime. He is credited by the Oxford dictionary with the earliest use of the expression ‘street person’.
Between 1890 and 1913 there was an amateur cricket team called the Allahakbarries. This team often featured famous writers, with Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, A. A. Milne, A. E. W. Mason, E. W. Hornung and Walter Raleigh all turning out for the side set up by J. M. Barrie (pictured bowling). During one of their ‘friendly’ matches, Barrie’s wife took the crease and was promptly struck on the ankle by a yorker from left-hander J. C. Snaith, a ringer if ever there was one. Apparently, Snaith didn’t know whether to appeal for forgiveness or lbw.

It was in 1900 that the poet and playwright John Drinkwater became involved in Nottingham’s amateur theatre scene making an appearance in a performance at the Mechanics. At that time Drinkwater worked on the staff of the Northern Assurance Co. in Victoria Street. The young, cash-stripped office worker used to buy rotten fruit from the Market Place to bulk up his lunch.


Book of the year: Forest Folk by James Prior (1901)
J. M. Barrie commented that James Prior was a ‘fine writer’, and D. H. Lawrence rated him, but Prior never reached the heights his talent warranted.
Forest Folk is Nottingham born Prior’s best-known work. Full of the local vernacular it’s awash with believable characters coming together through the demands of country life, all taking place in North Notts during an eventful period of history that included the Napoleonic Wars and Luddite riots.
The former Forest Folk pub/hotel in Blidworth was one of the few named after a novel. Would Prior, a teetotaller, have approved?  
I were born an’ bred I’ th’ forest, and lay mysen to die here; it’s a fairish ordinary sort o’ soil to live on an’ be buried in. (from Forest Folk)
In 2017 Spokesman Books breathed new life into this lost local literary classic.


Book of the year: The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie (1902)

It was this adult novel that introduced the character Peter Pan, a magical boy who flies around with fairies. Between 1883 and 1884 Barrie had worked as a writer on the Nottingham Journal. It has been suggested that it was in Nottingham that he developed Peter Pan, apparently after witnessing a street urchin wandering through Clifton Grove. It’s more likely that his inspiration for a boy for whom death would be "an awfully big adventure" is likely to be traced back to the death of his brother who died in a skating accident. Barrie later said that his mother had taken some comfort from the thought that her golden boy would never grow up. Barrie did however take regular walks through the Arboretum which does share a few features with Neverland.
The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings. (from The Little White Bird)

Philip James Bailey died in this year. Nottingham-born Bailey is best-known for his epic poem Festus, initially written at Basford House (pictured) where his father lived. Festus was constantly being added to by Bailey who read his poem to the writers William and Mary Howitt at their Chemist’s shop in Nottingham.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart throbs: he most lives

Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

(from Festus)


Book of the year: The Management of Money by Lucy H. Yates (1903)

The daughter of a lace-maker, Lucy Helen Yates was born in Basford. She wrote for The Girls’ Own Paper, offering fiction and advice on housekeeping and cookery. One of her many books, The Management of Money, was published in 1903. It was a handbook of finance for women. Yates was a suffragist who lectured on 'The Financial Independence of Women’, advising women to read the money column in the newspapers.

Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orci (better-known as Baroness Orczy) struggled to find a publisher for her novel The Scarlet Pimpernel so she rewrote it as a play. This was first performed at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in 1903 where it received a lukewarm reception. However, the play’s stars, Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, had confidence in the play and, with a rewritten final act, took it to London’s West End to some success. This led to the novel’s publication in 1905, a book of influence on the mystery genre, arguably creating the ‘masked hero’ prototype: often a person of wealth with an alter ego who operates in the shadows. Zorro, Batman and other heroes have followed our Pimpernel’s lead.


Book of the year: Recollections of Old Nottingham by Anne Gilbert (1904)
Anne Gilbert’s Recollections of Old Nottingham was based on a lecture she had given three years earlier to a Nottingham literary society. In the book, Gilbert described Nottingham as it was in the 19th Century.
J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up premiered in this year at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. Nina Boucicault took the title role and Gerald du Maurier played Captain Hook. During his time in Nottingham, J. M. Barrie lived at 5 Birkland Avenue.
He worked for the Nottingham Journal on Pelham Street.
He was a member of the Nottingham Sette of Odde Volumes, a literary society that met fortnightly on Victoria Street to discuss and read literature. Barrie was said to have been moved when made an honorary member of the group co-founded by John Potter Briscoe. 


Book of the year: Bypaths of Nottinghamshire History by John Potter Briscoe (1905)
John Potter Briscoe, Principal Librarian of the Nottingham Free Public Libraries from 1869 to 1916, wrote many books on Nottingham, including Bypaths of Nottinghamshire.
Potter Briscoe was an original member of the Library Association and a leading figure in the development of professional librarianship. He extended Nottingham’s services to provide books especially for children, giving birth to the Nottingham Library for Boys and Girls.
‘The Hemlock Stone’ at Bramcote is one of the enigmas of the County, not only to the rank and file of its inhabitants but to the generally well-informed portion of our community. (from Bypaths of Nottinghamshire)

The sister of the writer Henry Septimus Sutton, and daughter of a publisher/bookseller Richard Sutton, Mrs. Eliza S. Oldham died in this year. Oldham was author of The Haunted House (1863) and By the Trent (1864), the latter being an award-winning novel set in a fictionalised Nottingham.
Upon the river the wind rode, and with playful hands turned back the ripples, and carved them curiously, and whipped their edges softy into foam. (from By the Trent)


Book of the year: The Clifton Book (Nottingham) by Rev. Rosslyn Bruce (1906)
The Rector of Clifton’s The Clifton Book (Nottingham) was published in Nottingham by Henry B. Saxton. Recording a thousand years of local history it was compiled by the Notts born writer, clergyman and animal rights campaigner Francis Rosslyn Courtenay Bruce (1871-1956).

Having been an uncertificated teacher at his local chapel in Eastwood, a twenty-one-year-old D. H. Lawrence took up a two-year teacher training course at University College, Nottingham.
‘The big college built of stone,’ at which Lawrence attended, is now NTU’s Arkwright Building. Lawrence was critical of his education here, writing that his professors ‘went on in such a miserable jogtrot, earn-your-money manner that I was startled… I came to feel that I might as well be taught by gramophones… I doubted them, I began to despise or distrust things.’
Lawrence did admit to gaining maturity from the experience, and it was during his time at University College that he began to write Laetitia later to become The White Peacock.

He was assessed as being ‘well-read, scholarly and refined.’ Whilst his professors thought he’d ‘make an excellent teacher of upper classes,’ they added, ‘but for a large class of boys in a rough district he would not have sufficient persistence and enthusiasm.’

The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with a rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful: she felt it remote, a magic-land. Ursula Brangwen’s view of University College, from D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915).


Book of the year: Gods and Heroes of the North by Alice Zimmern (1907)

Nottingham born Alice Zimmern was a writer, translator and suffragist whose books made a big contribution to the debate on the education and rights of women. Gods and Heroes of the North published by Longmans, Green and co. tells of the Gods worshipped by our English ancestors.
When the Angles and Saxons invaded Britain and gradually spread their rule over the greater part of this island, they brought with them their own customs and religion. (from Gods and Heroes of the North by Alice Zimmern)

Dudley Dexter Watkins (1907-1969) came to Nottingham as a three-year-old and spent his formative years here. A student at Nottingham’s School of Art, he went on to illustrate the Scottish comics The Broons and Oor Wullie.
He also created strips for The Beano, The Dandy and The Beezer, drawing characters such as Lord Snooty and Desperate Dan. Whilst working on the D. C. Thompson comics Watkins was the only artist allowed to sign his work.



Book of the year: The Children's Encyclopedia originated and edited by Arthur Mee (1908)
Stapleford-born Arthur Mee was a journalist at our Post and our Express, and he edited our Evening News. The founder of the Children’s Encyclopedia, Children’s Newspaper, Children’s Shakespeare and Children’s Bible, he produced over a million words a year. The son of a militant non-conformist, Mee refused an honorary title several times during his life.

His Children’s Encyclopedia broke new ground in its approach to education, aiming to make learning interesting and enjoyable. With clearly-written articles it intended to develop character and a sense of duty.
It is a Big Book for Little People, and it has come into the world to make your life happy and wise and good. That is what we are meant to be. That is what we will help each other to be, Your affectionate friend, Arthur Mee. (from The Children’s Encyclopedia)

The present Albert Hall was built in 1908 (after the first one was destroyed by a fire). The new hall was dedicated in March 1909 and a year later it was officially opened by Lady Florence Boot. This new Albert Hall Methodist Mission was built in the style of an Edwardian Theatre or Music Hall and, in the practice of temperance halls, concerts and other ‘suitable’ events were permitted to be staged in the building. 


Book of the year: God the Known and God the Unknown by Samuel Butler (1909)

Samuel Butler was born at the rectory in the village of Langar, near Bingham. God the Known and God the Unknown, a philosophical work of Butler’s, was published posthumously in this year. First serialised in The Examiner, the author discusses many topics, including spirituality, the existence of God, pantheism, and Orthodox theism. Though anti-Charles Darwin, Butler was not anti-evolution, and he rightly thought that Darwin took much from his grandfather, the Notts-born poet Erasmus Darwin, a man Butler had more time for.

Mankind has ever been ready to discuss matters in the inverse ratio of their importance, so that the more closely a question is felt to touch the hearts of all of us, the more incumbent it is considered upon prudent people to profess that it does not exist, to frown it down, to tell it to hold its tongue, to maintain that it has long been finally settled, so that there is now no question concerning it. (from God the Known and God the Unknown)
The son of a wine merchant, Geoffrey Trease was born in 1909 in Chaucer Street, in the Arboretum area. Trease was educated at Nottingham High School where he was head boy, leading to a scholarship to study Classics at Oxford, only to leave after a year to focus on his writing.

At one time, Trease had more books in print than any other British author. His many titles included children’s books, novels, autobiography, criticism and historical studies, such as Portrait of a Cavalier, the life of the duke who built Nottingham Castle.

Keep an eye on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website every Friday when the next instalment will be revealed. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

World Poetry Day and Granada

Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature has sent representatives to fellow creative city Granada for World Poetry Day. Nottingham poets Georgina Wilding and Leanne Moden are joining sixty other poets at an event which also features poetry from other UNESCO cities of literature.


Also in Granada is Sandeep Mahal, Director Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, who has said, "By celebrating poetry today, we celebrate our ability to join together, in a spirit of solidarity and passion to ignite creativity and bring more poetry into the world.”

Sixty years ago - in March 1958 - Alan Sillitoe was in Granada, as you can see from this notebook inscription.


As it is World Poetry Day here’s a little treat from the same notebook of Alan’s, written in 1958. It’s the first draft of one of his poems. The revised edition is typed below for comparison. Enjoy.

Picture of Loot

Certain dark underground eyes
Have been set upon
The vast emporiums of London.
Lids blink red
At glittering shops
Houses and museums
Shining at night,
Chandeliers of historic establishments
Showing interiors to Tartan eyes,
Certain dark underground eyes
Bearing bloodred sack
The wineskins of centuries
Look hungrily at London:
How many women in London?
A thousand thousand houses
Filled with the world’s high living
And fabulous knick-knacks;
Each small glossy machine
By beside or on table or in bathroom
Is the electrical soul of its owner
The finished heart responding
To needle of gentle current;
And still more houses, endlessly stacked
Asleep with people waiting
To be exploded
The world’s maidenhead supine for breaking
By corpuscle Tartars
To whom a toothbrush
Is a miracle;
What vast looting
What jewels of fires
What great cries
And long convoys
Of robbed and robbers leaving
The sack of rich great London.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

29 Seconds by T M Logan

NottsLit review of 29 Seconds by T M Logan

Nottingham resident T M Logan is at Waterstone’s tonight - 8th March, 7pm - speaking about his second thriller, 29 Seconds. Details of this FREE event HERE
I’ve read and, to a degree, enjoyed both of Logan’s bestselling thrillers. He undoubtedly writes to keep the reader reading, and he is rather good at it. His short chapters, most of which end with a tempting hook, make you want to know ‘what happens next’, whilst his characters are of the identifiable everyman/woman type. If the male hero of his first book, LIES, was a little too weak and easily baffled, the leading lady in 29 Seconds is a stronger, more believable character.

After Sarah - who works in a London university specialising in the poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe - saves a child in peril, she receives a Hitchcockesque opportunity from a dangerous Russian. It’s a timely offer as her boss is sexual harassing her. This Weinstein-like monster, Professor Lovelock, is using his power and position to make Sarah’s life hell, and she’s not the first woman he’s abused. When the Russian crime boss says he wants to repay his debt to her, it’s not hard to see where this is going, though it takes a little too long to get there.

Sarah is pushed to extremes by the bad professor and it’s easy to see why she’s tempted to accept the offer to remove him, but what if it all goes wrong? One thing is for sure, it’s not going to be that simple to make all her problems disappear.

The book adopts the idea that ‘everyone has a name to give’ if presented with such an opportunity. I’m not sure that’s true but Lovelock is suitably horrible. The opening section of 29 Seconds is superb, you’ll be well into the story before taking a breath. The middle explores the ‘what if?’ and ‘what would you do?’ angles well, if a little too indulgently. The final act is a nicely-crafted set piece but the surprise ending left me cold.

LIES and 29 Seconds are stand alone novels of the fast paced, page-turning type, set mainly in the south. Logan’s next thriller, SEVEN DAYS, is set in France. I’ll look out for it.
LIES ****
29 Seconds ****

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Words Best Sung

Comedy writer Lee Stuart Evans has written a book set in 1960’s Notts. There’s an article about Lee, his book and his comedy credits, on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website. You can read it via THIS LINK.

NottsLit also caught up with the local lad come Londoner. Here’s what he told us:

Why did you set your debut novel, Words Best Sung, in the 1960s?

“I’ve been a little bit obsessed with all things ‘60s ever since my uncle took me trainspotting when I was 11.”

Why does the decade appeal so much?

“When I was about 14 my mum let me stay up and watch all those “kitchen sink” films that always seemed to be on, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Taste of Honey, Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Billy Liar, Alfie. There’d always be a train whistle squealing somewhere in the background. I loved them. Also, if you were a teenager in the 80s, so many bands like The Smiths and The Jam talked a lot in interviews about great 60s groups (Kinks, Small Faces, Motown groups), films and books, and I gradually grew more interested in that time, the fashions, the politics, the cars, scooters. It still seems like an exciting time, although my mum insists Warsop was never very much like Carnaby Street.”

You mention the Sillitoe’s films. Another interest of yours is his writing and that of D H Lawrence?

“Probably the Lawrence I enjoy reading most of all these days are his letters. You get can hear all his many and contradictory moods, the different sides to his personality, the hurry in which he seems to live. He comes across as a lot more likeable and much funnier than you’d expect from a lot of what’s written about him. Although I can’t imagine him in Yates’s on a Friday night.”  

One man who might have been found in Yates’s on a Friday evening was Sillitoe. I understand you met him?

“I met Alan Sillitoe in 2002 at a Barbican screening of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and again in 2008 when he talked about the reissued A Start in Life at Foyle’s bookshop. He was very friendly on both occasions, and quietly chatted about the film and Nottingham while he signed my books. There was a huge queue to get to him both times, but you got the impression he would chat with each of you for as long as you liked. I felt too much of a fool to say how important his books had been to me.”

You've worked with and met many celebrities, is there one meeting you care to share with us?

“Once when I was writing in a London TV office, I nipped out for coffees and bumped into Sean Lock, who I’ve worked with a long time on 8 Out of 10 Cats. Sean’s telling me he’s heading to a meeting nearby, when suddenly he looks over my shoulder as this vaguely familiar voice says, “Hallo, Sean off the telly!”  Sean, in his usual casual manner, replies, “Oh, hallo, Paul.”  Thinking a friend of Sean’s is approaching, I turn round and there, standing bedside me with a big smile on his face, is Paul McCartney. He and Sean shake hands, and when Sean introduces me he says “Nice to meet you, I’m Paul. It was the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration, and Paul McCartney starts talking about what a wonderful, momentous occasion it was, and how interesting it would be to see how the world might change. After a minute or two, he apologises for going on and says, “My office is just down the road. I’d better be going. Nice talking to you lads. See you around.” Open-mouthed, I looked at Sean and said, “Wow! I didn’t know you were mates with Paul McCartney!” (You assume all famous people have met at some swanky do or other) And Sean, equally open-mouthed, shakes his head and says, “I’ve never set eyes on him before.” It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Sean Lock lost for words.” 

You also played guitar in a band. How does that compare to your experiences of performing stand up?  

“Playing with a band was by far the bigger buzz, and a lot more fun – for me, anyway. There’s a kind of safety in numbers in playing with a band, a sense that even if you’re absolutely terrible, you’re still having a laugh with your bandmates. I felt I could hide slightly, behind a guitar. Starting out in stand-up on the other hand, it’s just you, alone on a tiny stage, staring out into lots of drunken faces (or sometimes just 7 faces, as I once did) who are immediately disappointed because you’re not someone they know off the telly. They’ve no idea who you are, or what you’re about to say, yet they’ve mostly decided you’re probably going to be awful before you even open your mouth. You’ve got about 20 seconds to prove them wrong, get them on side, or you’re dead.”

It seems like you prefer to write for others?

“I loved writing stand-up. I did a lot of topical stuff, so it was always fresh untried material, which was exciting, but at the same time terrifying. I’d spend the morning writing, the next 10 hours worrying about not remembering it. Next thing, it’s 11pm and you’re coming home on the bus wondering what was the point of that. With comedy, the biggest buzz for me is always when writing with a proper comedian, you pitch a joke and it makes them laugh so much they want to use it in the show. That’s why you do the job. Or is it the money? It’s one of those things, anyway.”

So, the day job is writing for others, letting them grab the credit?

“I always say gag writers are a bit like spies: most people know we exist, but we’re not supposed to go on about it. And if we do, we’ll be found floating in the canal.”

Words Best Sung is published by Notts based Arundel Books.

The Blurb:

Set in mid-1960s England, Words Best Sung is the lively, bittersweet tale of Alastair Braymoor, a Nottinghamshire lad who for as long as he could remember had dreamed about two things: steam engines, and Charlotte, the tomboy from the top of the street.

But when he starts work on the railway, steam is just a few years from extinction and Charlotte has run away to the bright lights, leaving Alastair hopelessly in lust with gorgeous but uptight Mary.

After a seaside brawl leads to his pal playing drums for one of the hottest R&B groups in the country, at a concert with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, a boys' adventure to the capital proves a revelation in more ways than any of them could ever have imagined.

With its girls, groups and trains; scooters, Minis and beehive hair-dos, Words Best Sung is a funny and moving coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the changing atmosphere and attitudes of the mid-sixties, and what was surely the most exciting time ever to be young, daft and in love.


“Evoking the North Notts vernacular and humour, Lee Stuart Evans has penned a nostalgic coming of age novel that’ll transport you back to the sixties” NottsLit

“Hilarious, touching, romantic…a really cracking read.” Sally Lindsay

“A lovely, heartfelt story” Dave Johns, star of the Ken Loach BAFTA & Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Vote100, Commemorating the People Act of 1918

Get Involved with Nottingham Women’s History Group (NWHG) and their Vote 100 events.

On the 6th of February 2018 it is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 when all men over 21 and women over 30 years of age received the vote. Women over the age of 21 were also given the right to stand for election as an MP in the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act of 1918.

Vote 100 has been set up to mark this event and NWHG are coordinating events and activities locally. 

NWHG are commemorating and celebrating Vote 100 in Nottingham because it is about women and the ongoing debate about their rights and status in society. Whilst it is recognised that the Representation of the People Act in 1918 was only a partial victory, as the vote was only granted to women over the age of 30, it was an important watershed, and led eventually to all women gaining the same rights as men to vote in 1928. The vote was only won after a long and determined campaign for suffrage and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire women were key to this. New campaigns and feminist demands emerged after the end of WW1. These included the right for equal pay, the improvement of working conditions, decent housing and childcare, a list which continues to resonate with women today.

There will be a range of events and activities for you to participate in so keep track of their website and facebook page, and tweet with #Vote100Notts
The Nottslit Literary Trail Women of Words benefitted from the good work done by the NWHG whose research and celebration of women’s contribution to Nottingham is considerable.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Book Review Competition

LeftLion and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature have teamed up to bring you the chance to win a £25 book voucher, all for the effort of writing a short book review, providing yours is the best!

Rules? There are. You have no more than 200 words to tell the world about a book by a Notts writer, or one that’s set here, preferably both. The book could be a well-known classic or a little-known gem, it’s the quality of the review that counts. It could be funny, cutting, critical or glowing, just make it original.

The competition coincides with this month’s UNESCO City of Literature edition of LeftLion magazine

The deadline is January 29th. Email entries as attachments to with your name, address and the title and author of the book.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Thriller Tipped for the Top

Arnold author’s debut could be one of 2018’s biggest hits.

C. J. Tudor grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’ The road to fulfilling such a prophecy has seen Tudor work as a trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, and voiceover artist, as well as TV presenter (for Channel 4’s Moviewatch) interviewing many A-List actors. It now seems that she’s about to become that best-selling author with the release of her debut novel The Chalk Man.
Michael Joseph won the psychological thriller in a nine-way publisher auction, the book being the fastest-selling debut in the Madeleine Milburn Agency’s history. Tudor says it’s about "the darker side of childhood, the repercussions as an adult, and the idea that no one is ever entirely innocent".

One for Stephen King fans, the author was inspired to write the story after her own child drew a series of chalk figures on her driveway, and later that night opened the door to find chalk men everywhere, creating an eerie atmosphere.

The Blurb:
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he's put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank--until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Andrew Scott (Moriarty from the BBC’s Sherlock) narrates as Eddie for the audiobook.

Much of the novel was written in Nottingham’s Waterstones and it’s here that the book's launch takes place on Thursday 11th January at 7pm. Details. 

Nottingham in the Great War, a talk

Nottingham in the Great War

Local author Carol Lovejoy-Edwards is giving a speech on the contribution to the war effort made by Nottingham people, particularly those that stayed at home.

The talk is at Chilwell Memorial Institute, 129 High Road Chilwell, NG9 4AT

On Wednesday 17th January 2018. Doors open at 7:15 and the meeting commences at 7:30pm.

“Carol is an excellent public speaker” NottsLit

The years 1914-1918 cost many lives in the trenches of France and Belgium. Those trenches and the battles that were fought from them are well documented. But back home in towns and cities up and down the United Kingdom death and desperation were also apparent. Those left behind to carry on suffered from harsh winters, lack of food and fuel and flu epidemics. This is the story of the struggles of ordinary people with their everyday lives. It includes the opportunities presented to the criminal fraternity and the contribution that women made to the war effort by filling men's jobs and providing a home for the men to return to. If they were lucky enough to come home from the war.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Women of Words

On the Trail of Nottingham’s Women of Words

Updated 2018

Part One – Robin Hood goes to Jail

Begin at Nottingham Castle.

In Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, Bond girl Domino Vitali, a ‘beautiful, sexy, provocative, independent, self-willed, quick-tempered, and cruel’ Italian chain-smoker, describes the image of Nottingham Castle on her packet of Player’s as “…a doll’s house swimming in chocolate fudge…” More… 

Inside the colonnade you can see a portrait sculpture of the great Mary Howitt with her husband William.

Walk past Robin Hood.

At the top of Castle Gate is the Severns’ Building, a medieval dwelling that was re-erected on this site in 1968, and later became the Nottingham Lace Building.

Hilda Lewis (1896-1974) started writing her historical and children’s fiction when she moved to Nottingham in the 1920s. Her novel Penny Lace (1957), authentically featuring the city's Victorian lace industry, was reprinted with a Bromley House edition from Five Leaves Publications (2011).  

Lewis’s novel The Day is Ours (1946), about a young deaf girl, was the basis of the film Mandy. The book was inspired by the work of her husband, Professor M. Michael Lewis, who was a specialist in the education of the deaf at Nottingham University.

Proceed down Castle Gate..

Cross Maid Marion Way

Ann Gilbert (1782-1866) once lived in this house.

A literary critic, Gilbert also wrote poetry and hymns. Hymns for Infant Minds (1805) was an early collection of poems and songs written especially for children. Her younger sister and collaborator, Jane Taylor, wrote the words to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Annie Matheson (1853–1924) also lived on Castle Gate. Matheson was a poet of the British Victorian era who argued for the rights of working-class women to education. Her books included the collection The Religion of Humanity and other Poems (1890) and one of the first biographies of Florence Nightingale (1913).

Lucy Joynes (1782-1851) was a poet who described a changing Nottingham. At one time she lived and taught on Castle Gate (near the independent chapel). Her father was a clerk for St Nicholas’ Church..

On the corner is St Nicholas’ Church where the feminist writer Caroline Dexter (1819-1884) was married. Dexter migrated to Australia where she wrote her Ladies’ Almanack: The Southern Cross or Australian Album and New Year’s Gift (1858). A street in Canberra is named in her honour. There’s a book about her and her husband entitled Folie A Deux: William and Caroline Dexter in Colonial Australia (1999).  

Towards the bottom, on the left, is the Castle Gate Congregational Centre.

It was here that two lace workers, Matthew and Lucy, married. Their daughter, Alma Reville (1899-1982), an editor and scriptwriter, was born in Nottingham a few hours after her future husband and collaborator, Alfred Hitchcock, was born in Leytonstone. Reville was the only person to whom her husband would defer. She can even take credit for there being music during the famous shower scene in Psycho, as it was on her insistence that Hitchcock, who had wanted the scene played out in silence, changed his mind.

Turn left and head up Albert Street.

On the next corner (Hounds Gate/Albert Street) is the former studio of the renowned artist Evelyn Gibbs (1905-1991).

Gibbs taught at a school for handicapped children while writing an influential book on art entitled The Teaching of Art in Schools. The book was illustrated by her pupils. She moved to Nottingham during World War II where she created the Midlands Group of Artists.

Gibbs also illustrated several of Hilda Lewis’s books.

Look up Hounds Gate. About half way up, on the right-hand side, was the site of the Library for Females. 

To the right is Wheeler Gate.

About half way-up on the right-hand side, where Sainsbury’s Express now sits, was the home of a large bookshop (Sisson and Parker's, then Hudson’s, then Dillons, then Waterstone’s).

It was on Wheeler Gate in 1987 that Pushing On, a large-scale street performance for women, toddlers and wheelchair users was performed. This early 'flash mob' was created by the theatre-maker, actor and writer Tanya Myers. 

Myers is a co-founder and co-artistic director of Meeting Ground Theatre in Nottingham. Her daughter Lily Lowe-Myers is an actress, singer and playwright who has performed at The Nottingham Poetry Festival and at Nottingham Lakeside.  

Across from here is St Peter’s Church.

Anne Ayscough and her husband William are buried here. Together with John Collyer they became Nottingham’s first printers in 1710. A few years later the Ayscoughs and Collyer held rival businesses. The Ayscough’s producing the Nottingham Weekly Courant whilst Collyer printed the Nottingham Post.

And here lies a small Christian bookshop.

Turn right at Bridlesmith Gate, at one time the place to come for typewriters.

It’s about here, between St Peter’s Gate and Pepper Street, that the Ayscoughs established their printing press. The oldest known work printed in Nottingham was produced here in 1714, Sir Thomas Parkyn’s Inn-Play, all about wrestling. In 1717 the Ayscoughs printed Grammatical Commentaries by R. Johnson, Headmaster of Nottingham’s Free School.

At the end of Bridlesmith Gate is Low Pavement. From here you can see Jamie’s Italian Restaurant.

This is the former residence of Abigail Gawthern (1757-1822). Gawthern’s diaries were copied into one important volume, documenting how Nottingham's professional classes lived between 1751 to 1810, a time of much conflict. On this street was a ‘Ladies Assembly’, run by women but open to both genders, just not the working class. Gawthern died in this house. In 1798, Lord Byron and two Miss Parkyns spent the day here.

On the left exterior wall of this building is a sign for Drury Hill.  

Drury Hill was obliterated to make way for the Broadmarsh shopping centre. Next time you head down the escalator spare a thought for the narrow old street which featured in the film of D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. There used to be an independent bookshop on Drury Hill, called Bux, described as ‘the thinking sixth-former's alternative to Sisson and Parker's’. The shop had to move to Lincoln Street.

Head up Low Pavement and cross over at Weekday Cross (formerly Blow Bladder Street) where Nottingham Contemporary awaits.

The international art centre has a healthy book section and hosts many literary and spoken word events.

It was here in 2017 that Nottingham’s Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding presented a poem to HRH Prince Harry and his new fiancée Meghan Markle to mark their first official engagement. More… 

Georgina Wilding is Nottingham’s first Young Poet Laureate. More… 

Ruth Bryan is said to have lived and died here, in a cottage between the (now) Pitcher and Piano and the (now) National Justice Museum.

Bryan came to Nottingham after her father became a minister here. She began writing a diary aged seventeen, and continued writing regular entries all her life. Her diary and letters record a spiritual life of hardship from which she offers advice.    

Continue along High Pavement. On the right is the National Justice Museum, home of Nottingham’s historic Courthouse and Jail. 

It was on the steps that a Luddite became the first person to be hanged here, after being found guilty of the attempted murder of his employer. Christy Fearn's novel Framed tells the story of the Nottingham Luddites.

The Courtroom here saw the trial of Joan Phillips, a notorious local highwaywoman. This inspired Rebecca S. Buck's novel The Locket and the Flintlock; whilst her book Truths contains two narratives, both of which are set in fictional versions of the historic Shire Hall and County Gaol.

Next up is St Mary’s Church, a grand medieval building.

Part Two – St Mary’s to St Brian's

Dame Agnes Mellers established a Free School here in the parish of St Mary’s in 1513, partly as an act of atonement for her husband’s wrongdoings against the people of Nottingham. King Henry VIII sealed the foundation. The school later became the Nottingham Boys’ High School. After more than 500 years of teaching boys, the Nottingham High School is now a co-educational institution.

Lucy Joynes was baptised here; Jane Jerram was married here, and Abigail Gawthern is buried here.

Born in Radford, Jane Jerram wrote The Child’s Own Story Book (1837) as well as other books and poetry.

Cut up through St Mary’s Gate and take the next right into Broadway, perhaps Nottingham’s most attractive street.

Nottingham born Alice Zimmern (1855–1939) was a writer, translator and suffragist, whose books made a big contribution to the debate on the education and rights of women. She mixed with fellow suffragist authors Edith Bland, Eleanor Marx and Beatrix Potter. Alice also wrote popular children's books on ancient Greece. Collaborating with her sister Helen Zimmern (1846–1934), Alice opened up much European culture and thought to the British public. Their father was a German immigrant lace merchant.

Turn left and head along Stoney Street, where you can find the offices of Writing East Midlands. 

This area features in Jaq Hazell’s I Came to Find a Girl. More… 

On the left in the Adams Building, the largest and finest Victorian building in the Lace Market. T C Hine designed this building for Thomas Adams. The building housed a library and hosted a book club for its many lace workers.

New College Nottingham is now based here. Passing through the building you'll arrive on St. Mary's Gate.

Not far from the back of the Adams Building is Debbie Bryan, a craft shop with a tea room.

The poet and novelist Anne Holloway hosts poetry events here. Holloway is the founder and editor of the Nottingham publishing house Big White Shed. She also co-founded Mouthy Poets.

Pop back to Stoney Street, at the end of Woolpack Lane. Here is the wall of legends celebrating local favourites and, if you’re lucky, this talented busker.

If Nottingham auditioned for parents, we could do worse than cast Su Pollard and the hybrid ‘Byron Clough’ in the roles.  

It was on Woolpack Lane that William Ayscough moved his printing press in 1718. He died four years after moving here but Anne Ayscough continued the printing business.

Poetry is Dead Good have held their performances here.

Pass The Angel and the Chippy to Goosegate.

Take a right and head all the way down.

It was at the bottom end of Goosegate in 1826 that Susannah Wright opened a radical bookshop. It had to fight for its survival against violence and daily picketing from the Committee for the Suppression of Vice during which the shop was broken into, with attempts made to drag out the proprietor. Inciting the riots was Rev G Wilkins of St Mary's Church. Undeterred, Wright moved to a larger premises higher up Goosegate where she continued to promote free expression. She had arrived in Nottingham after being released from prison after serving time for blasphemy. Before Goosegate she sold books at Trademen’s Mart which was roughly where Argos is now. More… 

Cross St. Belward Street and continue to the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, on the corner with Lower Parliament Street.

Authors Paula Rawsthorne, Megan Taylor, and Alison Moore are all members of the writers' studio who contributed to These Seven, a collection of stories from Nottingham writers. More… 

Paula Rawsthorne is a multiple award-winning author of young adult novels. Her third book, SHELL (2018), is a tense and thought-provoking thriller.

Megan Taylor’s novels include The Dawning (2010), a domestic thriller published by local publisher Weathervane Press.

Alison Moore’s debut novel, The Lighthouse (2012), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Equally at home with literary fiction and horror her first children’s book, Sunny and the Ghosts, is out this year, as is her fourth novel, Missing. 

It's not far from here, on Sneinton Market's Freckingham Street, that Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature has its office (shared with LeftLion). Sandeep Mahal is the Director. More...

Return back up Goosegate. On the left is the site of the first Boots Store.

Turn right at Heathcote Street. On the right is Jam Café, host to a monthly poetry evening.

The premises now used by Jam Cafe and Paramount Pictures used to house Mushroom Bookshop (1972-1999) which had sections devoted to women's writing, to lesbian writing, and to feminism.

Take the next left (High Cross Street) and left again at Broad Street.

Note the Lord Roberts Pub, once the home to Tales from Two Cities, led by Sophie Snell.

Lee Rosy’s Tea Room, on the right, host regular poetry events.

Past performers here include Cleo Asabre-Holt.

Asabre-Holt is a spoken word poet and workshop facilitator who was awarded the prestigious M3C Scholarship to undertake a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. More… 

On the left is the Broadway Cinema.

Broadway hosts a popular Book Club, established by Pam McIlroy and currently run by Leanne Wain.

A film festival Shots in The Dark was held here through the 1990s. Incorporating crime fiction it paved the way for Nottingham to host Bouchercon XXVI in 1995. This was the last time the world’s largest crime/mystery convention crossed the Atlantic. Nottingham’s crime festivals attracted many best-selling authors including James Ellroy and Sara Paretsky.

Nottingham’s crime festival will return in 2018.

Continuing along, Rough Trade is on the right.

Supportive of literary events Rough Trade is also venue for live poetry, spoken word, book launches and readings.

Local poets Panya Banjoko, Becky Cullen (a Poet-in-Residence at Newstead Abbey), Di Slaney (prize-winning poet, animal lover and the co-owner Candlestick Press), Sue Dymoke, Aly Stoneman (Poetry Editor at LeftLion magazine and a Midlands3Cities AHRC-funded postgraduate researcher at NTU), and Bridie Squires (Editor LeftLion magazine), have all performed at Rough Trade.

Published widely, Panya Banjoko’s award-winning poems address issues of sexism, racism and social justice. Banjoko’s work with Nottingham Black Archive has helped document Nottingham’s black history, heritage and culture. More… 

A researcher and educator in the teaching of poetry, Sue Dymoke has her own collections The New Girls (2004) and Moon at the Park and Ride (2012), both published by Beeston’s Shoestring Press.

Veer right, up Goosegate and continue through trendy Hockley.

This area is featured in Caroline Bell-Foster’s The Cat Café. The Nottingham author and workshop leader is best known for her Call Me Royal series.

Off Carlton Street is Pelham Street, near the top of which is Wired

This café hosts The Hockley Book Club and poetry nights but it’s time to head left instead, down Victoria Street.

To the right is Boots corner where the Blackmore’s Head used to be. This is where Lord Byron’s body lay in state.

At the corner of Bridlesmith Gate and Bottle Lane there used to be a bookshop, of the Sutton family (also publishers). A member of this family, Eliza S Oldham (1822-1905), wrote the novel By The Trent (1864).

On the other side of Bottle Lane is Waterstone’s, the self-declared ‘finest bookshop in the Midlands’, and Nottingham’s largest, another fine Victorian building.

Waterstone’s feature a busy programme of events, including talks from top authors, such as local talents Mhairi McFarlane, Elizabeth Chadwick and Eve Makis

The multi-storey bookshop also hosts an annual LGBTQ literary festival called Bold Strokes.

Going right at High Street (surely one of the shortest High Streets), walk along to ZARA which sits on the corner with Pelham Street.

This area was once called Hen Cross, or Women’s Market (before 1812).

The gorgeous Art Nouveau building used to be Boots’ premier store, their first ‘wonderstore’, featuring book sections and a library, all thanks to the influence of Florence Boot (1863-1952). For 67 years Boots libraries brought books to the people, and it all began here. Boots Booklovers’ Library was once the largest library system of its type in the world. More… 

Now head down Smithy Row.

Immediately on the right is Primark. Right at the back of this store, on the right, is an entrance/exit with Maypole Yard (where a Jewellers is). It was here in 1825 that the ‘White Lady of Newstead’ lost her life. Her real name was Sophia Pyatt (or Hyett, or Hyatt depending on who you believe). Sophia was knocked down and killed by a carrier's cart. A poet and fan of Lord Byron, her remains were interred in Hucknall Church as close as possible to Byron's. She is the famous ‘White Lady’ whose ghost is said to have haunted Newstead Abbey.

A little farther along The Works bookshop is on the right.

Next to this is an alleyway down which is Five Leaves, one of the few independent bookshops to open in a UK city centre this century.

This radical bookshop includes a feminist section. Five Leaves hosts regular literary events. Deirdre O'Byrne, Giselle Leeb and Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang are among the many guest speakers to have appeared at the venue.

Five Leaves Publications, which started in 1995, operates from here. Pippa Hennessey, who worked on our bid for UNESCO status, works for Five Leaves who have published books by many local writers, including works from Hilda Lewis, Rose Fyleman, Clare Littleford, Nicola Monaghan and Helen Cresswell.

They also published Pauline Lucas’s biography of Evelyn Gibbs.

Down Five Leaves’ alley is where the author of Fair Rosamund (1839), Thomas Millar, had his premises.

Across the street is the Nottingham Tourism Centre which also sells a good selection of Notts-themed books.

At the next corner, turn right, where Speakers’ Corner awaits at the site of the Brian Clough Statue. It was in 2008 that the Speakers’ Corner Trust created their first Speakers’ Corner in the UK, right here, recognising Nottingham’s history of rebellion.

The bus behind Cloughie represents Rosie Garner’s book of poetry inspired by the various routes of Nottingham City Transport and the people and places that go with it.

Part Three – The Theatre to the Council House

Continue up Queen Street then cross Upper Parliament Street.

On the left is Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, Theatre Square.

The Theatre Royal held the world premiere of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

The 1952 premiere starred Sheila Sim along with her husband Richard Attenborough.

The Scarlet Pimpernel also made its first appearance here, two years before Baroness Orczy turned her play into a novel, spurning 13 sequels.

Cathy Grindrod runs a 55+ creative writing course at the Royal Centre, one of three writing courses for the over 55s at the Royal Centre and Nottingham Playhouse. Grindrod is an award-winning poet, formerly Derbyshire Poet Laureate, and the author of five published poetry collections. She is also a Coach for Writers.

It was here at the Theatre Royal that the dyslexia-friendly publisher Dayglo Books were launched by Gloria Morgan. More… 

Head up South Sherwood Street.

At Shakespeare Street and North Sherwood Street is the Nottingham Mechanics Institute, home to Nottingham Writers’ Club’s regular meetings.

The award-winning author Glenis Wilson is a member of the club which was established in 1927. Joan Wallace, author of four historical novels set in Nottingham, was also a member.

The Nottingham Poetry Society meet here. In 1941, Margery Smith and three other women formed the Nottingham Branch of the Poetry Society, which later became Nottingham Poetry Society. Current members include Cathy Grindrod.

Back along Shakespeare Street.

On the left is Nottingham Trent University’s Arkwright Building.

The MA in Creative Writing at NTU is one of the longest established postgraduate courses of its kind in the UK. The course's first leader was the novelist Sue Thomas. She later founded trAce Online Writing Centre (1995-2006) at NTU, an early global online community.

Former teachers on NTU's writing course include the biographers Katherine Frank and Kathryn Hughes, as well as the poets Catherine Byron and Clare MacDonald Shaw, former editor of the poetry magazine Quartz. The novelist, critic and cultural historian Elleke Boehmer also worked in NTU's English Department.

Among the current creative writing lecturers at NTU is Sarah Jackson.

Dr Sarah Jackson explores the intersections between creative and critical writing. Tactile Poetics: Touch and Contemporary Writing (2015), explores the relationship between text and tact in 20th and 21st-century literature and theory. Her poetry collection, Pelt (2012), won the Seamus Heaney Prize. In 2017 she edited Ten Poems on the Telephone. More… 

Dr Natalie Braber, who teaches in the School of Arts and Humanities within the subject area of Linguistics, is the author of Nottingham dialect books. More… 

The novelist, biographer and critic Miranda Seymour has been a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University.

Among the authors who have undertaken MA writing courses at NTU are Clare Littleford, Frances Thimann, and the award-winning authors Nicola Monaghan a.k.a. Niki Valentine and Kim Slater a.k.a. K L Slater.

Radford born Nicola Monaghan was brought up on Nottingham council estates, experiences that helped shape her debut novel, the Betty Trask winning The Killing Jar (2006). Monaghan was a driving force behind the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. She also writes psychological horror stories under the pseudonym Niki Valentine. A teacher of Creative and Professional Writing she has a crime novel awaiting publication in 2018. More… 

At one-time Monaghan was tutored by the Nottingham born Julia Alison Casterton (1952-2007), the writer of Writing Poetry - A Practical Guide (2005). Casterton has been described as a startlingly vivid lyric poet, her writing infused with the influences of feminism.

Kim Slater is a respected YA author and, as K. L. Slater, one of Nottingham’s bestselling novelists, the city in which her books are set. Her debut novel, Smart, picked up 10 awards and around 100 nominations. More… 

The Arkwright Building itself has been a public library and it was once University College at which Rose Fyleman (1877-1957) attended for a spell. She later taught in Nottingham and lived on Newcastle Road, The Park (if you fancy a detour, you can find the entrance to Newcastle Road if you head up Derby Road and look left).

Fyleman is best-known for her poem Fairies (There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!). She also wrote plays, short stories and a Nottingham-set fantasy.

At the next crossroads look over to the right. Across the road, at the end of Waverley Street, is the former Nottingham School of Art, now NTU’s Art & Design department.

Dorothy Hartley (1893–1985) was a social historian, skilled illustrator, and prominent author. She attended Nottingham Art School and later returned here as a teacher. Her books cover six centuries of English history but she’s best known as the author of Food in England (1954). Still in print it’s been described by Delia Smith as, ‘A classic book without a worthy successor – a must for any keen English cook.’

Laura Knight also attended the Art School, becoming their youngest ever student in 1890 after enrolling as an 'artisan student' paying no fees, aged just 13.

Dame Laura Knight has two autobiographies, Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936) and The Magic of a Line (1965). Knight was an official war artist whose work also focused on marginalized communities, including gypsies, circus performers, and workers in the American South.

You might want to pop up Waverley Street (a rare street named after a novel) and seek out 6 Arthur Street on which Anne Gilbert (born Anne Gee) (1830-1908) once lived. It was here that she also taught children, an endeavour from which grew an important school. Gilbert is the author of Recollections of Old Nottingham (1904). She was an authority on the flora of Nottingham and local history.

Now retrace your steps a short way, along Shakespeare Street, until the road joins with Goldsmith Street.

On the left is Boots Library.

This NTU library is open 24-7 during term time.

Nottingham University’s first hall of residence was named after Florence Boot (born Florence Rowe).

Just on from Blackwell’s University Bookshop is the office of Notts TV.

The former broadcast journalist and television producer Shreya Sen-Handley, author of Memoirs of My Body (2017), is a regular guest on Notts TV. More… 

Turn right and head up Chaucer Street. Towards the top, on the right, is the Nottingham Women's Centre, run by women, for women.

The only women’s library in the East Midlands, it contains many rare books and magazines. The library was relaunched in 2014 with special guest Kat Banyard, author and founder of UK Feminista. The redeveloped library, which is situated on the top floor, has become the hub of the National Feminist Archives and Libraries Network for the UK.

The poet and essayist Nicki Hastie used to work at the centre.

At the end of Chaucer Street turn left and head along Clarendon Street to Wollaton Street. Cross over to Vernon Street. From there cross Derby Road.

Here is St Barnabas' Cathedral.

Sarah Ann Agnes Turk (1859-1927) (a.k.a. Sheila Agnes Turk) had a Requiem Mass here at St Barnabas'. Turk was a local Catholic writer of diverse novels and short stories including spiritual, detective and romance stories.

Enter North Circus Street, with the Albert Hall on your left.

Just past the hall is Nottingham Playhouse.

The Nottingham Playhouse used to be in a converted cinema on the corner of Goldsmith Street and Talbot Street (between 1948 and 1963). It was previously known as the Little Theatre or New Repertory Theatre before becoming the Nottingham Playhouse. One of the reasons it moved from Goldsmith Street was the noisy traffic that could be heard by audiences.

There a modern sculpture on Maid Marion Way celebrating our theatres.

Host to several writing groups, the Nottingham Playhouse also features many plays from local writers; the Nottingham playwright Amanda Whittington being a Playhouse favourite.

Amanda Whittington is one of Britain’s most-performed playwrights. A former columnist for the Nottingham Evening Post, Whittington entered the mainstream with a string of popular and accessible plays featuring the experiences of women, including Amateur Girl, the story of a woman who lives in a Vicky Centre flat. More… 

The Mouthy Poets (2010-2016) performed at the Playhouse. The group’s director and founder is Debris Stevenson. More… 

Beth Steel’s play Wonderland made its successful Nottingham debut at the Playhouse this year.

Continue round and meet Oxford Street. No. 1 Oxford Street is site of the original Nottingham Girls High School founded in 1875.

Now on Arboretum Street, the High School’s former pupils include the authors Helen Cresswell, Dame Stella Rimington and Julie Myerson.

Dame Stella Rimington is the first woman to become Director General of the Security Service (MI5). She is the author of the Liz Carlyle thriller novels. 

Sherwood born Julie Myerson is an author and critic. Her book Home: The Story of Everyone Who Ever Lived in Our House (2004), revisits several of her Nottingham homes. Another memoir Not A Games Person (2005), covers her youth in Nottingham, including her time at the Girls’ High School.

On the corner with Regent Street is the former family home of the Hines.

Nottingham novelist Muriel Hine (1873-1949) features this home in some of her 'Lacingham' novels including A Great Adventure (1939). Hine also lived on the corner of Raleigh Street and Walter Street (off Alfreton Road).

It was at 15 Regent Street that Constance Penswick Smith (1878-1938) and her friend Ellen Porter, Superintendent of the Girls' Friendly Society Hostel, tried to re-establish the true Christian celebration of Mothering Sunday, a campaign which was to last for 30 years. Smith founded The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday in objection to the American Ann Jarvis's introduction of a commercialised Mother's Day. The book A Short History of Mothering Sunday (1921) by Constance Penswick Smith was published to promote the ancient Mothering Sunday customs from across the world.

At the top of Oxford Street turn left on The Ropewalk. Continue to the corner where the former Nottingham General Hospital (1782-1991) is.

In the mid-19th century the famous local architect T C Hine added a storey, the clock and the chapel. Hine’s granddaughter, Muriel Hine, achieved national fame as a novelist with her light fiction, which explored the challenges and expectations faced by women.

Move left down Park Row and then turn right into Postern Street leading to St James Terrace. Here is the site of The Royal Standard plaque, which marks the raising of the Royal Standard by Charles 1st, starting the English Civil War.

During this time, the Governor of Nottingham Castle’s wife was the biographer and translator Lucy Hutchinson, the writer of Order and Disorder, the first epic poem written in English by a woman. More… 

On the corner, at the top of St James Street, is no. 76, Newstead House, where Lord Byron lived between (1798-99).

Byron’s daughter Augusta Ada Byron, later known as Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), was a pioneer of computing science, taking part in writing the first published program.

Head down the historic St James Street, one of our most notorious thoroughfares.

On the right used to be the News House pub. In Victorian times you could gather in pubs like this to hear newspapers being read aloud for those unable to afford to buy a copy, or unable to read.

On the left is The Malt Cross, home of the James Joyce Reading Group led by Elizabeth Watkins, and various spoken word nights, including appearances from the Storytellers of Nottingham.

Leanne Moden runs Crosswords Open Mic night in the cave beneath the bar and kitchen.


Turn left on Angel Row.

The Bell Inn is on the left.

This is a former meeting place of Nottingham Writers’ Club whose former members include Helen Cresswell (1934-2005), author of Moondial.

Cresswell penned well over 100 stories for children. She created the character Lizzie Dripping and adapted the stories for a hit BBC TV drama. Of all her books The Winter of the Birds (1976) is said to have been her personal favourite.

A few doors along from The Bell is Bromley House Library, founded in 1816. Mary Howitt (1799-1888) and her husband William attended the library. Mary wrote: ‘The remarkable well-supplied library at Bromley House furnished us with the constant stores of literature.’

Melanie Duffill-Jeffs is the library's Director having previously managed the Nottingham Women's Centre. More… 

Tours of the historic library can be booked.

Current members include the author Rowena Edlin-White who has been a director here for twenty years. Edlin-White is the author of Exploring Nottinghamshire Writers. Spanning several centuries it’s the best guide-book to our county’s writers. More… 

A little farther on is Nottingham Central Library. Covering four floors this is the principal library of the East Midlands.

On the opposite side of the road is West End Arcade inside which is Books and Pieces, a second-hand bookshop owned by Jean Blacow.

Move back towards the Market Square and you’ll pass Yates’ Wine Lodge on your left-hand side.

Joan Adeney Easdale (a.k.a. Sophie Curley) (1913-1998) used to drink here. In the 1990s Sophie Curley was often to be found walking our streets, warming our benches and drinking in bars like Yates’. Thought to have become schizophrenic following a break down, Curley was a local eccentric. In her youth she had been destined for great things as a poet. Back then she was called Joan Easdale. Virginia Woolf described her as her 'discovery' and published some of her works. In the 1930s she wrote plays for the BBC. Her granddaughter Celia Robertson, wrote a book about her called Who Was Sophie?: The Two Lives of My Grandmother: Poet and Stranger (2008).

The final destination is the Old Market Square.

The most noticeable building here is the Council House with its stone lions.

This grand and official building has been the workplace of the City Councillor and author Catharine Arnold. More… 

In 2010 Gwen Grant was a guest speaker here at the Council House for a commemoration event for the late Alan Sillitoe. 

Worksop born Grant’s book The Revolutionary’ Daughter (1990) is set at the time of the Miners' Strike. Her picture book Jonpanda (1992) won a Nottinghamshire Libraries Acorn Award.

Note where Wetherspoons is, to the left as you look at the Council House. Next to the pub is a Nat West bank. Mary Howitt (1799-1888) lived around here in a fine old mansion. She considered herself ‘bound to no class’ and her writing was popular with both adults and children. In addition to her own prose and verse she translated the fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson and the novels of the feminist reformer Fredrika Bremer. The first volume of her autobiography recounts a fascinating period in our history. Wordsworth called her writing elegant. She’s now best known for The Spider and the Fly.

Dorothy Whipple (1892-1966), described by J B Priestly as the ‘Jane Austen of the 20th Century’ was once Nottingham’s best-known novelist and a big seller between the world wars.

Most of Whipple’s novels are set in Nottinghamshire, or as it appears, ‘Trentham’. Her novel They Knew Mr Knight (1934) was made into a 1946 movie partly filmed in the Market Square.

Two final city centre locations you might wish to visit:

Here’s the former home of Katharine ‘Mollie’ Morris (1910-1999)

She once lived at 22 Albert Grove (between Derby Road and Ilkeston Road). To supplement her family’s income Morris began to write children’s stories. Her daughter followed suit and had her first story published aged nine. The older Morris often set her own stories in Nottinghamshire. She became involved in PEN during the 1930s, the human rights organisation originally for ‘Poets, Essayists and Novelists. At her most prolific in the 1950s her books include The Vixen's Club (1951), The House by the Water (1957) and The Long Meadow (1958).

At the Forest Road/Mapperley Road/Mansfield Road junction was Gallows Hill. In 1802 Mary Voce was hanged at Gallows Hill. A Methodist woman called Elizabeth Evans visited Voce the day before her execution. Evans prayed with Voce through the night, heard her confession and accompanied her to the gallows the following day. Four decades later, Evans told this story to her niece, Mary Ann Evans (who later became the novelist George Eliot). 20 years after she heard the news, Eliot used it as inspiration for her first novel Adam Bede.

From here you’ll notice the General Cemetery where you can find the graves of Ruth Bryan, Ann Gilbert, Anne Gilbert, Annie Matheson and Sarah Agnes Turk.  


Take the Nottingham Booklovers Walk, with Felicity Whittle, award-winning Blue Badge Tourist Guide and founder of Gold Star Guides. This 2-hour guided walk celebrates some of the many writers associated with our UNESCO City of Literature. Book-list provided! More… 


The Nottingham Women's History Group. A valuable resource and celebration of women's achievements in the city and beyond. 

And finally:

Read Exploring Nottinghamshire Writers by Rowena Edlin-White. Many of our writers, past and present, famous and forgotten, are featured.