TRCH Soundstage

Rock City: The Caves of Nottingham

6 July 12 words: Paul Klotschkow
The best holes in town, according to the experts


Mortimer’s Hole
“This is Nottingham's most notorious cave; commemorating the capture in 1330 of Roger de Mortimer, who had seized the throne of England, by Edward III, the rightful King. His troops snuck into the Castle through a secret tunnel and took Mortimer by surprise. Except it almost certainly wasn't the tunnel now known as Mortimer's Hole, but was probably the North Western Passage, which runs into the Park and is now blocked at the Castle end.”

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8 - 10 Broadway, aka Propaganda Nightclub
“This is something really special - a completely intact medieval factory. Cool underground maltings like this allowed barley to be turned into malt for brewing all year round, rather than just in the winter months. This was a real technological edge for Nottingham, fuelling the medieval economy and boosting our fame as an ale town. And we're still famous for boozing 700 years later”

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Shire Hall Caves
“This was the County Gaol, with the Town Gaol just down the road at Nottingham Contemporary. Both sites had deep bottle-shaped dungeons accessible only from the top. The prison reformer John Howard visited these in the 1770s and found prisoners still held in these medieval dungeons. No light and no way out.”


Mansfield Road Air Raid Shelter
“These are some of the many underground sand mines in the Mansfield Road area, probably extracting sand for the glass industry round about 1800. They had a later life as air raid shelters during the War - fitted out with extra steel and corrugated iron roof supports, toilets and brick blast walls. Lots of the signage and ironwork still survives. The caves below the police station were also fitted out as the regional Civil Defence emergency headquarters during the Cold War.”

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Peel Street Caves
“The massive Peel Street sand mine caves were reopened as a tourist attraction in 1892 by an enterprising Victorian as 'Robin Hood's Mammoth Cave', 'illuminated with multitudes of coloured lamps'. Sadly there's no genuine connection with Robin Hood - there were no caves here until the 1780s.”

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Willoughby House, aka Paul Smith
“Willoughby House was built in 1740 by Rothwell Willoughby, younger brother of Lord Middleton of Wollaton Hall, and it’s a classic younger brother’s attempt to carve his own identity. The wonderful ‘circle court’ caves were probably used as a classy and original drinking den or VIP lounge, but there have always been rumours of quasi-religious ceremonies and symbolism here.”

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Castle Road
“These ‘doors into the rock’ lead to caves which have probably been here and occupied for a thousand years or more. They would probably have had house or shop frontages on them right into the Victorian period – anything from a timber and plaster hovel to a full brick building like the Trip.”

 

The Old Angel
“There are two sets of caves under the Angel, because the current building spans two medieval plots. Stoney Street was the main London to York road in the Anglo-Saxon period so there’s probably been a building here since at least 800AD. The Angel caves have evidence of more recent underground activity too, with carvings commemorating ‘The Mirror Sessions’. You’ll have to ask Shaun the landlord about that!”

 

Lenton Hermitage
“Lenton Hermitage, aka the Rock Chapel of St Mary, aka the ‘Papish Holes’, was used possibly as a hermitage in the 8th century, a chapel in the 13th century, a hunting lodge in the 16th century, a ‘haunt of the lowest of society’ in 1820, a bowling club with rock-cut skittle alley in the 1850s, an air-raid shelter in the 1940s, a caravan showroom office in the 1980s and a bicycle shed today. A very versatile Scheduled Ancient Monument.”

 

1-8 Maria Court, The Park
“More expressions of wealth and taste through rock-art. No-one knows exactly who did these carvings, or when, or for what purpose, but they’re probably a Victorian summerhouse or folly. There are carvings of Samson, Moses, a stone sofa, shields or coats of arms, and a serpentine beast. Like Willoughby House, it’s not difficult to imagine all sorts of goings-on in a place like this.”

Nottingham Caves Survey website

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