Two intrepid reporters. Five stateside locations. One giant waste of time. This is the whirlwind story of our investigation into how the name of our great city made its way across the New World. This is the United States of Notts…
Stop One: Nottingham, New Hampshire
Like our pilgrim forefathers before us, our journey into the Nottinghams of America took us to the country’s East Coast and into the quaint wilderness of New Hampshire. Armed with nothing but a sense of adventure, a list of questions and a wafer-thin idea for a magazine article, we stumbled across the first name-sake on our quest, where we tasked Leanne Gast, of the Nottingham New Hampshire Historical Society, with telling us a bit more about the town.
“Nottingham is a quiet rural town, located about an hour from the White Mountains and Boston,” she told us, “There is no public transportation. You have to own a car to get anywhere.” Gast went on to tell us a little about the town’s history, “In 1721, the proprietors petitioned the King of England to create a new town, consisting of a ten mile square piece of land,” she said, “it was named after the second Earl of Nottingham, and the charter was issued on May 10, 1722.” The current population stands at around 5,600 people, and local residents have something of a milestone to feel excited about in their near future; “We will be celebrating our 300th anniversary in 2022, and we welcome visitors from our namesake city in the UK!” See you in three years, Leanne.
Stop Two: Nottingham, Hamilton Township, New Jersey
With the fresh New Hampshire air still in our lungs and with no time to waste, our journey swept us southeast to New Jersey, where we discovered a Nottingham in Hamilton Township. It was there that we talked to local historian Tom Glover, who was keen to tell us that his website has close to a million hits. “Nottingham is in our blood,” he told us with burning intensity rivalled only by the sun itself, “ I have always felt that we should have changed the name of Hamilton Township to Nottingham, but unfortunately it never happened.”
Armed with an initial list of six potential Nottinghams, we were crestfallen to learn that this one didn’t even exist anymore. Why anyone would want to ditch the glorious name is beyond us, and we shared Glover’s sense of dismay. But, after further research showed that the town didn’t have a huge amount going on, we soon got over it. Plus, the area is still colloquially referred to as Nottingham, so all is not lost.
Stop Three: Nottingham, Maryland
Dejected, we headed to the third stop on our journey of discovery, to the tough streets of Baltimore, Maryland, where a half-arsed Google search provided us with several Nottingham, MD phone numbers. Unfortunately, those who did answer were less than responsive to our intrepid efforts. “Huh?” Michael, an employee of Value City Furniture in the area told us, “I don’t know why you’re calling. This is a business. No one lives here. There’s nothing to tell you buddy.”
At yet another dead end, we discovered that Nottingham, Maryland was essentially a glorified industrial estate, and immediately demanded that they remove our glorious name from their crummy area.
Stop Four: Nottingham Township, Pennsylvania
With hope fading fast, we headed west and straight into the heart of Pennsylvania. It was there that our journey finally took a turn for the positive, stumbling upon the enchanting Candace Miller, the Secretary and Treasurer of Nottingham Township.
“We are a small community of about 2,700 residents located halfway between Philadelphia and Baltimore,” she told us, “it’s primarily a rural area, but we have some amazing things happen here!” Chief amongst them, she informed us, was Nottingham playing home to Herr’s potato chips and snacks and former citizen Hugh Williamson being one of the signatories to the U.S. Constitution.
The township also has a decent film history, being utilised as a location for some of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, and providing the real story behind At Close Range, which starred Madonna and Sean Penn. “The best thing about living here is all of the open space, and being able to see the stars at night,” Miller enthused, “the average resident is hard working and patriotic.” It’s not all good news for the residents of Nottingham, Pennsylvania, however. Like the plot of an 80s b-movie, the land is constantly targeted by greedy property developers. “It’s the worst thing about living here,” she tells us, “it’s an open space for development.”
There was only one thing for it: if you can’t find a good Nottingham, at least find a crap Derby…
Stop Five: Nottingham Township, Ohio
Reinvigorated, our odyssey took us further west still and into the arms of Ohio. But more tragedy awaited us, as we missed out on visiting Nottingham Township by a mere 107 years. Originally located in the Euclid Township, Cuyahoga County, it was one of a string of villages that ran along the railroad from Cleveland, the city to which it was annexed in 1912. Unlike its British namesake, we learnt that the nerds that used to live there had voted to ban the sale of alcohol at one point. Based on that alone, we made the decision that Nottingham Township, Ohio, was not worth our valuable time.
Stop Six: Nottingham, Saskatchewan, Canada
If we thought that a town that didn’t exist was the low-point on our pilgrimage, we were sadly mistaken. Travelling so far north that we were technically no longer in the US, our crusade led us to the literal wasteland of Nottingham, Saskatchewan. Local highlights include the fact that there used to be a post office and a general store. That’s right, dear reader. Used to. We’d inadvertently stumbled across the Ilkeston of North America.
Our quest to find a town worthy of the Nottingham name had come to its unsatisfactory conclusion. While we had encountered some charming people and places along the way, our journey hadn’t quite had the impact that we’d hoped. There was only one thing for it: if you can’t find a good Nottingham, at least find a crap Derby…
Stop Seven: Derby, New Haven, Connecticut
Without wanting to forget our friends to the west, we discovered a Derby in New Haven, Connecticut. It has one of the highest crime rates per capita in the state, and notable former-residents include Lydia Sherman, also known as The Derby Poisoner, who murdered three husbands and eight children between 1865-1871, and Derek Roseboro, who stabbed three people to death in 1989.
Famous events from the town’s illustrious past include the flood of 1955, which killed 87 people, the 1985 River Restaurant Explosion, the Caroline Street Fire of 1991 and, who can forget, 2001 Anthrax Attacks. Must be something in the name.