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Some Facts about Sneinton, its Market and Surroundings, Placed on a Timeline (1558 – 2010)

Supplied By DAVE ABLITT from the Sneinton Environmental Society.

a-guide-to-old-sneinton1: “All the tithes of corn in Nottingham and Sneynton yearly accruing, which had belonged to the priory of Lenton, and were then valued at £20 per annum, were in 1599 granted by Queen Elizabeth to Henry Pierponte…” (Robert Mellors: Old Nottingham Suburbs, 1914)

2: Dr. Plot records a violent storm during the reign of Elizabeth’s older sister, Queen Mary I, in which many of the houses and both the churches of the parishes of Sneinton and Wilford were blown down. Water and mud from the Trent was carried a quarter of a mile, and cast against trees with such force that they were torn up by their roots. This storm is said to have taken place on the 7th of July 1558, and was accompanied with a tremendous hail, some of whose stones were said to have reached up to 15 inches in circumference.

3: It is said that, in 1826, a fine old tree in the grounds of St Stephen’s Church on Sneinton Road was so agitated by tempestuous winds and so buffeted by unusually forceful storms that by the friction of its own boughs the tree set itself alight and burned to a stump.

4: Modern historians suggest that their forebears may have been prone to some occasional exaggeration.

5: Samuel Savage was the last night watchman in Sneinton. He went about his duties with a lantern raised, and would periodically call out the hour and the weather for the benefit of residents and those passing through: “Half-past eleven and wet tonight…”. The Clocktower, now part of Victoria Leisure Centre, was completed in 1896, calling time at last on the more picturesque rounds of Mr Savage and his kind.

6: Most of the marriages registered in Sneinton between 1655 and 1812 were among non-parishioners: “The village being secluded, removed from any main road…was the scene of many clandestine weddings” observe the historians Phillimore & Blagg in a study of parish records dating back to 1650. The ground beneath these paving stones was indeed criss-crossed by many passionate eloping couples in those not-so distant times.

map-of-old-sneinton7: Tramways were latecomers to Sneinton, only arriving around 1910. “The three lines are a great convenience and by prospective extensions towards Carlton may one day take people in the direction of a thousand gardens where fruits, vegetables and flowers grow abundantly. If the extensions proceed further, they will lead to Colwick Park, where are to be found charming hill and dale, and fine views over the Trent Valley.” (Robert Mellors: Old Nottingham Suburbs, 1914)

8: The oak choir stalls at St Stephen’s Church are late medieval. They were removed from St Mary’s Church in 1848, at which time (the story goes) a local banker named Mr W.H. Wilcockson saw them for sale in Sneinton Market, bought them, and gave them to the church where he served as organist: they were finally installed there in 1909. The importance of these stalls lies in the misericords which, when lifted, show such carved figures as a monkey holding a begging cup, a rat out hunting while riding a dog, a goat grooming itself and a traditional Green Man.
9: The wholesale fruit and vegetable market of Sneinton has roots in the 1850s, but was officially moved to this new site only in 1900 to make way for electric trams around its former location in the Old Market Square. The market remained here until it was once again relocated – this time to Meadow Lane – in the early 1990s.

10: The Peggers Inn, formerly known as The Fox and Grapes, has the local nickname of Pretty Windows. The figures carved onto the exterior of the building show Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, pleasure and festivity, surrounded by grapes and vines. Appropriately enough, for a pub that once served the fruit and vegetable wholesalers from the earliest hours of dawn, Dionysus also presides over the world of vegetation in Greek mythology.

11: “Sneinton Market occupies an open space of 2¼ acres, now mainly taken by the stalls of wholesale fruit, vegetable, fish, poultry and game merchants. There are about 45 of these traders with permanent standings, having a total frontage of 1,400 feet. There is, in addition, a piece of land adjoining, used by market gardeners daily for the sale of their produce by wholesale. On Mondays the same site is covered with stalls and used as a General Retail Market. The Wholesale Market is the distributing centre, not only for the city, but for a large surrounding area…” (from Nottingham: The Queen City of the Midlands, 1927)

12: Shepherd’s Race stood on Sneinton Common, formerly a woodland. It was reputedly a maze cut out of flat turf, in an exceedingly intricate manner, requiring great agility and dexterity to find the way out, and it provided much exercise and amusement as locals negotiated a winding of 535 yards folded into a plot of land covering an area of only 324 square yards. It is said that many waxed hot with indignation that a spot of earth so long devoted to rustic sport should have been, through the Acts of Inclosure, ploughed up on the 27th February, 1797, after the land was allotted to John Musters, Esq.

13: Prior to the establishment of the market in the 1850s, its site was occupied by the clay pipe workshop of Mr Thomas Edwards. The presence of extensive clay fields were also the reason for the presence of a large brickworks on Sneinton Dale, from whose products much of the housing and other building stock in the area was made.

14: The original market sat in open space and among temporary sheds, but slum clearances in 1938 allowed a new market to be built from brick, with four double rows of stalls divided by three main avenues. This is the pattern of streets still seen today. Further buildings opened in January 1957, including the former Fyffes banana warehouse, in its day one of the biggest importers and distributors of bananas in Europe.

15: On August 16, 2010, a unit run by a local charity was discovered to contain a book most apposite to the area in which we find ourselves: a volume published in 1980 and titled Unknown England. While its cover featured foxgloves and daisies by a dry-stone wall it might just as well have shown a scene of the kind you will see in this marketplace, right now, as you emerge from the steel-shuttered unit with its stacked settees and boxed videotapes, its heaped magazines and tea-chests of ornaments, into the sunlight outside. There, perhaps right here and now, you might pause, look around, remember the events placed somewhat arbitrarily on this timeline. This place, too, is a corner of England still largely unknown.