A History of English Places: VCH Smartphone App

Do you want to explore England’s Past? Are you interested in maps? Then the Victoria County History’s App for mobile devices, ‘A History of English Places’ brings both these things together.

The app allows you to see thishistory and the layered archaeology of the landscape in front of you with fresh eyes and the convenience of the modern world. Why not try it today?  

Download the app here.

A History of English Places is a map-based smartphone app for discovering the rich history of places in England. Information is drawn from the Topographical Dictionary of England (compiled by Samuel Lewis, 1848) and the place-by-place histories of the Victoria County History (VCH), published between 1901 and the present day.

The app is navigated by a map interface or a search option and also tracks your location to present the 10 nearest entries, making it an excellent historical guide when travelling. 

Hoskins Landscapes of England

The BBC Landscapes of England series is now available on DVD

First broadcast on BBC Two in 1976, Hoskins travels from Cornwall to Northumberland – and everywhere in between – exploring and explaining the origins of the country’s extraordinary landscapes. 

Professor W.G. Hoskins’ 1955 book The Making of The English Landscape examined the human influence on England’s landscapes at a regional level. These two series became a visual accompaniment to his ground-breaking work.

Series 1 

Hoskins explores the heaths, valleys and villages of Dorset and provides fascinating insights on the history of the relationships between the landscapes and the people. He ventures further afield to explore the Lake District, Norfolk, Kent and Staffordshire. Lastly, he explores countryside near Banbury highlighting why it has been untouched for over a century.

Series 2 

It opens with the tourist’s dream that is Cornwall and how the granite, sea and fiercely independent people have combined to shape the regions landscapes. Later in the series he explores the Lake District, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Northumberland and Breckland. His final port of call is his home county of Devon, where he reminisces about the locations that first ignited his passion.

Directed and produced by BAFTA winner Peter Jones (The Trials of Life)

Nottingham Roosevelt Memorial Travelling Scholarship 2020

The Nottingham Roosevelt Memorial Travelling Scholarship, in conjunction with Nottinghamshire County Council, is looking for an ambitious and driven individual to research and bring back to Nottinghamshire stories about the lives and legacies of the Nottinghamshire Pilgrims as part of the Mayflower 2020 campaign.

The campaign commemorates 400 years since the Mayflower Pilgrims sailed to America, with many settlers aboard the ship hailing from Nottinghamshire. In the hope of bringing a fresh perspective to the Mayflower project we are looking for applicants who are inquisitive, resourceful and can identify new perspectives.

Extensive knowledge of the Pilgrims is not a pre-requisite to applying. We welcome applications from heritage professionals, journalists, academics, story tellers and creative individuals. The deadline for applications is 3rd January 2020 with interviews scheduled for the evenings of 9th and 23rd January 2020 at County Hall, West Bridgford.

The Nottingham Roosevelt Memorial Travelling Scholarship is a Nottinghamshire based charity, established in 1946 in honour of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the contribution he made to ending WWII. The object of the scholarship is to promote further education, particularly of the history and way of life of the American people, with a view to building stronger links between Nottinghamshire and the US.

In 2020 we are providing the opportunity for a unique four week Mayflower scholarship in conjunction with Nottinghamshire County Council. The project will entail researching the life stories and legacies of some of the pilgrims who left Nottinghamshire on the Mayflower, bound for New England. The successful applicant will arrange to meet with descendants of these original settlers on the East Coast of the USA as well as with non-descendants and members of the Wampanoag tribe and will be expected to feed back their findings to the people of Nottinghamshire upon their return. The Mayflower Scholar will be awarded a scholarship of up to £2,000 plus the cost of a return flight to Boston. Further support may be available to individuals upon their return to the UK to ensure unique ways of effectively feeding back their findings. The successful applicant will be assigned a mentor to help them plan their trip, as well as being introduced to various County experts on the Pilgrims and being briefed on the history of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

This is a wonderful opportunity for self-development, to learn about a major part of Nottinghamshire and US history, to develop contacts within the US and to become a leading authority on the Mayflower Pilgrims.

We will be holding drop-in sessions for prospective applicants at Blend Café in Sneinton Market on Saturday mornings in November from 10am to 12 noon. Further details, including fascinating history and links to external websites, are available on our website
or by contacting us directly at

News from Nottingham Books

The Bookcase has launched its Christmas promotion featuring books available with a Nottinghamshire flavour – many recently published and some old favourites. In addition, there are also some special offers available online only.

Recently Published

50 Gems of Nottinghamshire by Dave Mooney looks at the history and heritage of the county’s most iconic places. The author explores the many places that make Nottinghamshire so special, including natural features, buildings, annual celebrations and events unique to the county together with places of historical interest, all beautifully illustrated with coloured photographs. Paperback £14.99

Edwardian Nottinghamshire  by Brian Lund contains an amazing selection of picture postcards featuring Nottingham and South Nottinghamshire from a series published between 1904 and 1908, with up-to-date comparative photographs. Paperback, £11.95

The Historic and Heritage Trees of Sherwood Forest by Ian Rotherham is intended as a testament to the heritage of wonderful old trees surviving today in Sherwood Forest, and also an attempt to answer some questions concerning these enigmatic giants – how did they get to be that way and was it nature or human management that shaped them?  Also included are wonderful pictures of Sherwood’s trees, past and present, some never published before. Paperback £25. Our Price £20

Oxton, Nottinghamshire. A History by Robert Cooper. This history of Oxton was originally intended to form part of the history of Nottinghamshire in the Victoria County History series, but has now been published as a “one off”. Broad subjects covered are land ownership, economic history, social history, local government and religious history. Paperback £9.99

The Mansfield and Pinxon Railway by John Vanags tells the background story of this railway, a bold early venture in heavy goods transportation, built across a terrain where a canal would have been impractical, at a time when the most cost effective motive power for a railway was the horse.  Paperback £4.50 

The Mansfield Railway by Robert Western looks at another railway that is no more. The Mansfield Railway came into being thanks to some determined local individuals and opened in 1916.  Its prime purpose was to carry coal from the east Nottinghamshire coalfield, but it was also on the route for the “fast fish” trains from Grimsby to London. In addition it connected the coalfield towns with seaside resorts enabling holidays and day trips for the mining communities.  As services were cut, the railway gradually became a truncated line serving only the colleries and with the demise of the coal industry, the end was inevitable. Paperback £17.95

Old Favourites

Nottinghamshire Quirky and Unusual by Andrew Beardmore is a “travel” book containing conventional facts about Nottinghamshire – maps, key industries, population, famous people, a history from the Stone Age – along with a section titled Quirky Nottinghamshire devoted to bizarre happenings and strange events, and all sorts of other extraordinary facts and figures about 50 or so different places with numerous illustrations. Hardcover £19.99

John Henry Spree’s Nottinghamshire by Alan Spree is a collection of images of Nottingham and the surrounding area of Nottinghamshire from around the Edwardian era to the start of the 1930s by one photographer, John Henry Spree.  These photographs show many of the well-known landmarks of the area, but also reveal how much these places and the life of their inhabitants have changed in the last century. Paperback, £14.99

Lost Tramways, Nottingham by Peter Waller documents Nottingham’s two traditional electric tramway operations, that of the corporation and that of the Notts & Derby company, which were dominant for the first 25 years of the  20th century. This guide provides fascinating visual insight into the city at the time of operation through a range of archive photography, much of which is appearing in print for the first time. Hardcover £8.99

In Byron’s Wake by Miranda Seymour describes the turbulent lives of Lord Byron’s wife, Annabella Milbanke and his only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace and is a masterful portrait of two remarkable women, showing how, even long after Byron’s death, he still continued to shape their lives and reputations. Paperback, £12.99

Special Offers

Lost Nottingham in Colourby Ian Rotherham captures the city in its various incarnations from the late 17th century to the latter half of the 19th century using historic photos, paintings and postcards. Paperback, £15.99 Special Offer £14

Central England Signal Boxes by Dafydd Whyles is a record of the signal boxes of Central England in existence before the start of Network Rail’s major re-signalling programme. Every signal box mentioned is described in detail and illustrated by colour photographs. Lines covered include the Nottingham to Newark line, Worksop to Nottingham and Nottingham to Grantham. Paperback, £14.99 Special Offer £12

Nottinghamshire Place Names by Anthony Poulton-Smith. This dictionary of Nottinghamshire place names examines their origins and meanings.  It includes not only towns, villages and hamlets, but also rivers, streams, hills, fields and woods, as well as streets buildings and pubs. Paperback, £12.99 Special Offer £10

Robin Hood by Jim Bradbury claims to be the real story of the English outlaw, exploring both myth and fact from the present day back to the medieval period.  Paperback, 14.99 Special Offer £10

Nottingham by Ian Rotherham and Christine Handley. This  history, illustrated with unique images from the archives of Historic England,  provides a nostalgic look at Nottingham’s past and highlights the special character of some of its most important historic sites. Paperback, £14.99 Special Offer £12

Nottinghamshire’s Lost Railways by Neil Burgess. The fate of Nottinghamshire’s railway network was closely linked to the rise and fall of the coal industry. This book describes twenty closed lines and many more closed stations, the text being profusely illustrated with period photographs. Paperback, £16 Special Offer £14

Nottingham City Transport Buses: From Daimler to Scania by Daryl Hempsall gives an overview of the buses used by Nottingham City Transport since the 1980s, looking in particular at the development of the “Nottingham Standard” type bus and its impact on modern day vehicles.  The book includes personal memories and anecdotes from the men who drove them, along with numerous diagrams, illustrations and photographs. Hardcover, £19.95  Special Offer £15

All these books can of course be ordered online at where you will find many more interesting local books to browse through.

Geoffrey Bond and Thoroton Society Research Award

The Research Awards are again available in 2020 for those undertaking research into Nottingham or Nottinghamshire’s archaeology or history. 1st September 2020 is the date on which applications are due to be considered for a research grant from the Geoffrey Bond and Thoroton Society fund. So if you are a researchers or a group of researchers finding the need for some financial support for your research activities you are invited to send in an application. The conditions of the award are on the Society’s website at

Barbara Cast, Honorary Secretary, Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire

Steaming Back to Kirkby

Memories of Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Sheds and Sidings (1903-1970)

A proposed heritage project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of Kirkby-in-Ashfield M.P.D.

The Kirkby Living Memory Group based at Kirkby Heritage Centre will act as the bidding group for a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to do an eighteen-month heritage project about Kirkby Loco Sheds and Sidings based around the 50th anniversary of its closure. A Project Steering Group has been formed who meet on a regular basis at the Heritage Centre. Plans are to run the project from early 2020 through to the summer of 2021.

Some facts about Kirkby Loco Sheds

  • Opened in 1903 by the Midland Railway (M.R) Company.
  • Built as a ‘Garage Shed’ to serve the local collieries in the then rapidly expanding East Midlands & South Yorkshire coalfields.
  • At the Grouping in 1923 it came under the auspices of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).
  • At Nationalisation in 1948 it came under the British Railways (London Midland Region) with a shed code of firstly 16C, then 16B and finally 16E.
  • In WW2 oil firing equipment was installed to replace coal because of expected shortages but it never came into use.
  • A concrete Coaling Tower and an Ash Plant were installed in 1957 as part of the 1955 Modernisation Plan.
  • In 1959 an incident took place which saw 8F Class No.48193 ending up in the turntable pit at an angle of 45 degrees!
  • Folk Singer, Dave Goulder, worked as a Fireman at Kirkby in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. He wrote many railway folk songs.
  • Kirkby officially finished as a Motive Power Depot on 31st December 1966 and the last steam locos left in early 1967.
  • It became a D16 diesel stabling point until final closure in early October 1970.

Activities and events planned as part of the project include:

  • A book supported by a dedicated website & social-media
  • A 50th anniversary commemorative event in Oct 2020
  • Out Reach Provision including illustrated talks & schools
  • Railway heritage walks around Kirkby
  • Oral history interviews with former railway workers, rail enthusiasts and members of the Kirkby public

If you would like to be involved with the project and / or be kept informed about the 50th anniversary events & commemorations taking place during 2020-2021 please download the attached flyer and complete and return the ‘response’ page.

Click here for the flyernewsletter

Community history project explores the links between the Derwent Valley Mills and Nottingham’s textile industry

Local people are being invited to take part in a community history project called Legacy Makers – exploring the cotton mill which the Evans family ran in Darley Abbey, now part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.  As well as investigating the history of the mill and discovering more about the people that worked in it, the project is also attempting to trace the journey of goods supplied to the mill including the sources of raw cotton from the Americas.  In addition, the project is exploring who the mill’s customers were and where they were located.   Archival research has led project volunteers to identify some of the Nottingham hosiers who were the mill’s customers during the late eighteenth century.  They hope to build on this research and trace other customers during the nineteenth century.  

The Legacy Makers project is therefore reflecting more widely on the lives of the cotton mill owners, cotton spinners, hosiers and framework knitters in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire as well as the lives of the enslaved people who grew the cotton in the Americas.  The project is building a ‘story bank’ of information relating to individual people and families who worked in the textile industries in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire during the late eighteenth century through to the mid-nineteenth century as well as those involved in the supply of raw cotton.   Legacy Makers is keen to not only tell the story of powerful, well-connected people like the Evans family but also the forgotten people whose lives were intrinsically shaped by their work with cotton.   If you have a story to share about your Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire ancestors who worked in or supplied these industries or have discovered information relating to people who lived in your town or village (c. 1780s-1850s), please get in touch with Dr Helen Bates, Research Lead, by emailing  Helen is also keen to hear from anyone interested in volunteering to help with archival research or genealogical research.

November 2019 – Nottingham Hero Celebrated in New Musical!

Nottingham 2019 meets Nottingham 1847 in a time travel history adventure. An original musical written by Brian Lund.

In a corner of Nottingham’s Arboretum stands a statue of a man with a parchment in his hand. Most people walking by hardly give him a second glance, and those who look rarely take in the significance of the structure. Few people in Nottingham have heard of or know anything about the man with the parchment, who was a member of parliament for Nottingham from 1847-52 and an inspiration for people nationwide, during his lifetime and afterwards. He has been largely airbrushed out of the city’s history.

But now, over a century and a half later, that man – Feargus O’Connor, and the parchment he is holding, the Chartist petition of 1848 – is celebrated in an original musical looking at his philosophy and achievements, linking it to contemporary Nottingham and the love lives of four students.

The all-singing, all-dancing show, Feargus The Musical is based on the attachment to this period in history of present-day university student Adam, who travels back in time, intrigued by O’Connor and the Chartist movement and becomes entangled in the dangers inherent in Chartism, the first working class national political movement.
There are some parallels to this in the experiences of the writer of this musical, Brian Lund (minus the time travel!), from Keyworth, who studied history at Nottingham University and included a module on Chartism in his studies. He said,

“I always thought Feargus O ‘Connor was a great piece of Nottingham’s history, but he has never been in the city’s consciousness – long been forgotten despite the importance of what he stood for”.

Local history publisher and songwriter Brian went on to say,

“I intended to write a biography of O’Connor over the years but there were too many other distractions. The idea of Feargus The Musical just came to me in 2017 in a sudden flash of inspiration because I thought some songs I’d recently written would fit in well once I’d thought about setting it in the present with students as central characters. The rest is history…”

The city of Nottingham is the focal point of the musical, along with some London scenes, as the present day and 19th century meet though a web of fantastic characters. There are plenty of moments of comedy and drama included, and Brian has written the complete script and songs himself. Nottingham’s most famous landmarks, people (including icons Robin Hood and Brian Clough!) and even the tram network, are acknowledged in the show through its catchy numbers.

Feargus The Musical, was premiered in the South Nottinghamshire village of Keyworth in November 2018 and proved to be a big hit with local audiences during its four-night run.

Audience feedback included;

“It captivated me with its mesmerising all-singing, all-dancing cast”

“A phenomenal achievement and a superb history lesson”

“Excellent cast and music. Learnt a lot about local history and in a fun way”

“The direction, acting, singing, music, dance and choreography were excellent”

“Time travel, romance and a big heaping of history blended together in a tale that surprised as much as it entertained”

Brian said,

“The feedback was so encouraging that the city of Nottingham was of course the next port of call for Feargus The Musical”.

The original cast are returning, this time to the Nottingham Arts Theatre, George Street, Hockley on 8th and 9th November 2019, including acting talent with an age range from 11 to 72, a RADA-trained actor and a Shakespearean veteran, as well as new-to-acting performers. Dancers are from Keyworth School of Theatre Dance and a brilliant live band supplies the music. Director is Ros Jones, who has vast experience of directing stage plays, including Shakespeare dramas, and musicals.

Chartism and its significance have featured heavily in the media recently, particularly around the 200th year anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester (which partly inspired the Chartist movement), and has been brought to a mainstream audience through ITV’s Victoria and BBC1’s Gentleman Jack. Even comedian Jack Whitehall has got in on the action when he discovered through BBC 1’s ‘Who Do you think you are’ that his ancestor was a prosecutor of Chartists after the 1839 Newport Rising. And as the musical reveals, Chartism has many parallels with the politics of today.

The musical celebrates in dialogue and music this long-forgotten hero. Feargus O’Connor’s funeral procession was accompanied by tens of thousands of people before his burial in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. A statue to him was erected in the Arboretum here in Nottingham, its unveiling attended by vast crowds, despite the opposition of the town corporation. O’Connor’s role as an inspiring campaigner for political reform and his ideas for improving the lot of the poorest in society deserves much more recognition, especially here in Nottingham, than it has ever received. Feargus The Musical is helping to restore what should be his legacy. If you want to see his charismatic charm recreated then don’t miss this show!

Tickets for the show on 8th and 9th November are available from The Nottingham Arts Theatre and the Nottingham Tourist Information.
Ticket price: £14 (concessions £11, groups of 10 £9 pp)
Further information can also be found on the Feargus The Musical Facebook page: @FeargusTheMusical

Park Life

Annual exhibition by the Arnold Local History Group

Arnot Hill Park 100 years, 1919-2019

2nd – 22nd November 2019 at Arnold Library, Front Street, Arnold