Nottingham Lace Market Tour with Ezekial Bone – review
Recently we joined Ezekial Bone on a walking tour of Nottingham’s famous Lace Market and surrounding areas. We were looking forward to growing our knowledge about the history of the textile industry in Nottingham, from the poverty of the Framework Knitters to the glories of the lace empire.
The Nottingham Lace Walking Tour is an initiative started by the Creative Quarter to educate both visitors and residents, and to encourage them to broaden their knowledge about the industry that put Nottingham on the map of the lace manufacturing industry.
The Lace Market area is undergoing massive regeneration. Home to a D.I.Y culture of independent shops, boutiques, bars, clubs and restaurants, it’s also becoming a centre for creative and digital industries. The Lace Market Creative Quarter area is being given a new lease of life as Nottingham comes out of the past and looks to the future.
Most of us don’t really realise how steeped in history Nottingham really is. Every time I go on a tour with Ezekial Bone I learn something new about our beautiful city. It never ceases to surprise me how wealthy Nottingham’s history really is.
We started our tour at the Nottingham Contemporary and were told stories about what stood there in the past and how the art gallery building came to be. Nottingham Contemporary was designed by the award winning architect Caruso St John. One inspiration for its design was the surrounding Lace Market, specifically the bold, elegant design of the warehouses that serviced the city’s world famous trade, lace manufacturing, in the 19th century. We were admiring Nottingham Contemporary’s lace finish which gives this modern building a lace feeling.
We continued our walk along High Pavement with our guide telling us the fascinating past of the surrounding town houses. Most of them were at some point in time used as warehouses for lace, and lace-making factories. Along the way we stopped by the famous Pitcher & Piano. Before it became a well loved watering hole it was a place of worship for many famous people such as Lord Byron and D.H Lawrence. It was so strongly engraved in the minds of people that D.H Lawrence himself decided to mention it in his famous novel Sons and Lovers, the main character walked the famous spire at Pitcher & Piano.
We continued our Lace Market walk to the Galleries of Justice Museum where our guide told us really chilling stories related to this amazing building, and some rather interesting and amusing facts about the life of a judge who used to live just opposite the Galleries in one of the townhouses.
One day he didn’t turn up for one of the trials, and Galleries of Justice workers got worried. They sent someone to check on him and he was found dead in his bed with a big smile on his face. Rumors were circulating about the judge being an enthusiast of night-time entertainment, and later people were talking about seeing his body being carried to his house at night before Galleries of Justice workers found it in the morning.
The tour continues to St Mary’s Church where we were told about the times before lace-making began in Nottingham. Our guide painted a picture for us of the beautiful garden city of Nottingham before the dark times and overpopulation began. People were flocking to the city to work in lace factories and warehouses, Nottingham was a a sought-after location for employment but the town couldn’t cope with the demand. Later in time town borders were extended to accommodate the ever-growing manufacturing industry. I could easily picture everything that the guide was telling us about, at times it felt like we’re right there in the past living all of those stories.
The history of lace-making in Nottingham is fascinating, and there is so much that I’ve learned during this tour. It was the best 1 hour and 40 minutes I could have spent on a sunny afternoon.
If you’ve ever visited Nottingham before, chances are you’ll be familiar with Ezekial Bone, who stalks the city as Robin Hood, showing visitors from across the world the sights of Nottingham.
The historian behind this hugely popular, character-led tour has been busy, and he’s currently working up a new tour to add to his roster, in conjunction with Nottingham’s Creative Quarter.
Alongside his Halloween themed Blood and Guts tour, and backstage tours of the Theatre Royal, the new guided walk is designed to show off the incredible history and heritage of the Lace Market, as well as the dynamism of areas like the vibrant Hockley.
Ezekial was quick to stress that the tour was a work in progress, and that he’s going to be working on and refining over the coming weeks and months, but it quickly became apparent that he has so much interest and intrigue to share, that condensing it all down won’t be an easy challenge!
We met outside the Nottingham Contemporary, to take a look at the architecture of this modern building, which pays tribute to the lace industry that Nottinghamshire was famous for, and features intricate patterns imprinted on its exterior walls.
After that, it was on-wards to the cobbled streets of the Lace Market, where former lace warehouses and offices rise up and tower over the old streets, which run through the heart of the old Saxon town of Snottingham – the settlement from which modern Nottingham grew.
As we continued on, we learned of grisly tales from the Galleries of Justice, how Nottingham’s lace industry saw the population exploding out of control, and the origins of the oft-repeated tale that Nottingham has seven times as many women than men.
We also stopped in to take a look at St Mary’s Church, which has a fascinating history as one of the few remaining Medieval buildings in Nottingham, and is mentioned in a ballad that details how Robin Hood was once captured here, before later escaping.
We rounded off this early tour on the S-shaped bend of the impressive Broadway street, which was at the heart of Nottingham’s lace empire, with a great deal more knowledge about the area, and it’s important role in Nottingham’s past. As ever Ezekial Bone was on from with some great theatrics and deep knowledge keeping the audience hooked.
Keep an eye on the Experience Notts website and social media for updates on when you can take the Lace Market Tour.