The sheriffs and knitters of Nottingham

This post was written “live” on Friday April 25th but posted today.

Harris hawk at St Pancras

I am writing this on the train. We are in Nottingham today on another courier run. Tigger had to take the 6:30 train and I reluctantly booked a cheaper ticket at 9:30.

I took the photo of this couple in St Pancras Station. The one wearing feathers is a female Harris hawk. They are there for pigeon control. I asked how many they catch and was relieved when the answer was “Oh, none.” The presence of the hawk is sufficient deterrent.

The train has left on time and there are no reports of problems. Tigger has already let me know that she has delivered her package safely and notified base. Might this turn out to be a trouble-free day? Time will tell.

The journey was uneventful without any hold-ups. Tigger was waiting for me at the station we set off to explore without more ado.The photos below show some of the sights noticed on the way.

When we arrived at the Council House (which I think corresponds to the town hall in other cities) we found that a free exhibition was being held, so in we went to see it. The edifice was built in 1929 and it is rather splendid. They are justly proud that none of the cost has been met from taxes. Instead, the building includes an elegant shopping arcade, income from which enabled a mortgage to be taken out and repaid over 60 years.

The interior decor is splendid. An intriguing feature is the many tassels hanging from lamps and other features. We were invited to guess what they were made of. I suggested silk but I was wrong: each tassel is a solid casting of brass.

The exhibition featured historical views of the roles of Lord Mayor and Sheriff. There were also copies and facsimiles of charters given by the various monarchs from the 1100s to Queen Victoria.

We got talking to an alderman, splendid in green jacket and red sash. Hearing how enthusiastic we were about the decor and appointments, he proposed taking us on a tour of some of the less public parts of the House and a very competent and amenable guide he was.

With another couple. we visited the apartments of the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff. The Sheriff of Nottingham is of course well known as the villain of the stories of Robin Hood. What is less well known is that at that time there were in fact not one but two Sheriffs, one for the English part of the city and the other for the Normans. It would have been the latter who was the enemy of Master Hood.

These days, both roles have been combined in a single person and the two ceremonial maces have also been welded together to form a single object.

We also visited the Council Chamber where Tigger was permitted to sit on the Lord Mayor’s throne. While visiting the Mayor’s suite, Tigger was also allowed to put on one of the mayoral gowns. It suited her, I think.

In the past, the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff lived in their apartments in the House and this explains why these are so comfortable and well appointed. This practice ended in the 1960s, I believe, and is unlikely ever to be revived.

The kindness and affability of the alderman was reflected in other people we met and contributed to the good impression of Nottingham we bring back with us.

There are many places worth seeing in the city but our time was limited and we will have to return to see more. After a rather disappointing lunch at a Turkish restaurant, we took a bus (number 10) to Ruddington to visit the Ruddington Framework Knitters’ Museum.

RuddingtonUntil today, I had no idea what Framework Knitting was. It has almost disappeared, replaced by modern industrial garment making and, as far as I know, there remains only one company today using the methods and producing specialty goods.

RuddingtonFramework Knitting was the production of garments and fabrics using machines. It was a cottage industry and entire families worked at it. They were poorly paid and had to rent the machines and maintain them and make replacement needles at their own expense. Machine operators would work for 16 hours a day and children would be involved in supporting tasks but even so, these families lived in poverty.

The special feature of the Ruddington site is that it consisted of a group of 4 cottages, occupied by families who shared facilities. It is therefore well preserved and at least one frame machine has been restored and can still be operated, though for demonstrations only.

The visit was entertaining and educational and the staff were at pains to explain everything to us and to encourage us to explore the workshops and cottages.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a cup of tea in the tiny cafe and enjoyed a long conversation with the lady who guided our tour of the site. This was another example of the friendliness that we met throughout the day.

Back in town, we climbed the hill to the castle. As it was closed, we had to make do with seeing it from the outside. Then we walked down to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. According to the management, this pub is “the oldest inn in England” and takes its name from the no doubt apocryphal story that Richard the Lion Heart’s crusaders (having gathered at the castle up the hill) called at the pub before setting out.

Returning to the station, we just missed a London train and consoled ourselves with tea and coffee while awaiting the 19:07 for St Pancras.

Although we only explored a few places, we explored them well and it feels like a substantial day out. All being well, Tigger will be sent to Nottingham again soon or we will manage to go there under our own steam.

I am writing this on the train, looking forward to getting back to London and rounding off a good day with a pleasant supper.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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