Thursday, 31 October 2013

A day in Nottingham without meeting
Robin Hood and his merry band

Robin Hood and his merry band ... forever associated with Nottingham

Patrick Comerford

What does Nottingham mean to you?

What images does the name conjure up for you?

In my childhood, I probably associated Nottingham with Robin Hood, a capricious Sheriff, and that roly-poly merry band in Sherwood Forest, including Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, Little John and Will Scarlett.

At a later stage in my childhood, I probably associated it with its two football clubs, Nottingham Forest and Notts County, or perhaps thought of it as the home of the Raleigh and Triumph bicycles, which seemed to be the only makes of bicycle any of us had as boys.

Still later, as my interests turned to cricket Nottingham was associated inseparably with Trent Bridge and test matches – and still is.

As an adult, I came to realise too that Nottingham was the home of DH Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Women in Love, and the poet Lord Byron lived nearby at Mucknell Abbey.

But, while I have passed through Nottingham occasionally on my way between the Midlands and the North, and while I once supervised a thesis for an MA at Nottingham University, I have been visiting Nottingham for the first time today.

I caught an early morning train from Lichfield Trent Valley, changed at Tamworth, and travelled through Burton-on-Trent and Derby before arriving at Nottingham before 9 a.m., for a day’s visit to Saint John’s College, meeting colleagues teaching in similar fields.

In the gardens at Saint John’s College, Nottingham, today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Nottingham is a city without an Anglican cathedral – it is part of the diocese of Southwell, and Southwell Minster is 23 km north-east of Nottingham. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Barnabas (1844), which I passed on the way from the train station to Bramcote, is a major work in the Gothic revival style by AWN Pugin.

Nottingham has the dubious distinction of being twinned with Harare, the capital of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Nottingham is also a new city – it received its charter as a city as recently as 1897.

Yet Nottingham is the home of well-known brand names such as Boots the chemists.

And Nottingham has not one but two universities – the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.

Apart from glimpsing Pugin’s cathedral this morning, this full and busy day at Saint John’s meant there was no opportunity to see three sights I must see in Nottingham in the future: Trent Bridge Stadium, Nottingham Castle, and Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem.

‘The Trip,’ as it is known locally, is partially built into a cave system beneath Nottingham Castle, and is one of the claimants to the title of “England’s Oldest Pub,” supposedly dating from 1189. However, this claim is challenged by The Bell Inn on the Old Market Square, and Ye Olde Salutation Inn on Maid Marian Way.

The Trip claims to date from 1189. According to local legend – probably of recent creation – it takes its name from crusades, when local knights who followed Richard the Lionheart to the Holy Land, stopped off here for a drink before beginning their journey to Jerusalem.

The legend, as it is spun in Nottingham, becomes linked with the legends about Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. But there was no time to explore these further before catching the train this evening back through Derby, Burton-on-Trent and Birmingham to Lichfield.

In the chapel at Saint John’s College, Nottingham, today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

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