Noteworthy Nottingham - Visit the Lace Market

Travelsee By Travelsee, 6th Dec 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1dzqyzwo/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>The East Midlands

With the opening of Nottingham Contemporary last year, the Lace Market now has a cultural jewel

Nottingham Lace Market

With the opening of Nottingham Contemporary last year, the Lace Market now has a cultural jewel

Parts of Nottingham’s Lace Market are so frozen in the mid-19th century that after wandering through its streets for a while you feel as if you have stumbled on the set of a new BBC Dickens adaptation.

On a wintry Saturday afternoon, the paved Broadway is deserted apart from the four-storey red-brick warehouses on either side, all curved windows and proprietorial arches — a combination of grandeur, modesty and industry that only the Victorians could pull off.

This was the heart of Nottingham’s lace trade, which went into overdrive in the 19th century with the invention of steam-operated knitting machines.

Broadway was the brainchild of the lace manufacturer Richard Birkin, who in 1853 bought out the Plumptre family, knocked down their mansion and employed an architect to redesign the street, giving it a snaking curve in order to increase the buildings’ frontage and impress foreign buyers. His own warehouse is the finest — though if you peek inside the entrance, you can see that he has allowed the Plumptre coat of arms to remain.

The presentness of the past in the Lace Market quarter makes it a good focus for a couple of days’ exploring in Nottingham — in fact, it is here that the Saxon chieftain Snot founded the city with the un-PR-friendly name Snotingaham.

St Mary’s Church, an early landmark of the city (and where Robin Hood was supposedly arrested by the Sheriff’s men), is a towering 15th-century building in Perpendicular Gothic style, with all manner of crenellations and gargoyles; duck inside during a service and marvel at the way a 20-piece choir fills the vaulted space with sound.

Of course, lace makes its mark: one enormous stained-glass window is dedicated to the pious industrialist Thomas Adams, who built a chapel in the basement of his enormous lace warehouse on Stoney Street.

Lace is no longer big business, but fashion is — and five years ago Nottinghamshire’s most stylish son, Paul Smith, opened a stunning shop just outside the Lace Market, in the 18th-century former townhouse of the Willoughbys of Wollaton Hall.

We got chatting to a veteran of the company, who showed us the original wallpaper decaying behind the shutters and, fabulously incongruously, the pink sofa bought from an Italian brothel. The shop is well worth a visit — but if, like me, you can’t afford the beautiful £120 shirts, there are some good vintage shops nearby, including an Oxfam boutique and the Americana-flavoured Wild Clothing.

With the opening of Nottingham Contemporary last year, the Lace Market now has a cultural jewel. From the outside the building is love-it-or-loathe-it corrugated concrete; inside the four galleries are brilliantly lit, airy and manageably sized.

The curators of the David Hockney exhibition had the great idea of adding passages from his memoir to the paintings, so we get the story of how one early work, left to dry at college, received the mystery annotation “don’t give up yet”. Hockney left the graffiti — and kept painting.

Bed down at . . .

The Park Inn Hotel Nottingham is minutes from popular attractions in the city centre and close to major transport options, the Park Inn Nottingham is perfect for business and leisure guests.

The Lace Market Hotel is an elegant conversion of several Victorian townhouses, at one stage used as a lace mill. Service is friendly and we were upgraded to a comfortable, spacious “superior” room with an enormous free-standing bath. Double rooms from £139, including breakfast. Budget ho

Chow down at . . .

Merchants, the Lace Market Hotel restaurant, has a modern British menu and an award-winning wine list. My guinea fowl breast with pistachio ballotine was extremely tasty, though not cheap at £18.50. Across the road is Iberico, an informal tapas place tucked under the Galleries of Justice. The lime, salt and pepper squid (£5) is superb. Delilah, opposite Nottingham Contemporary, is a delightful deli and caf?.

More information

Secret spot . . . Take a bus or taxi three miles out from the city centre to reach Wollaton Hall, a magnificent Elizabethan house set in 500 acres (200ha) of parkland. On quiet days the park’s deer sometimes mill about in the open; if not, you can track them through the woodland. It’s a bit like being one of Robin’s Merry Men — just remember not to actually kill anything.

Getting there

East Midlands Trains (0845 7125678, eastmidlandstrains.co.uk) runs trains to London and stations throughout the East Midlands, including Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield and Derby.

Tags

East Midlands, Lace Market, Nottingham

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