A history tour of Nottingham

Whether you live, work, or just enjoy spending time in Nottingham city centre, there’s much more to our wonderful home than what meets the eye at a first glance. Over the years, Nottingham has undergone quite a transformation, turning from an early 20th-century market town into the modern and busy city that it is today. Join us as we take a historic tour around…

The history of Trinity Square

Cornerhouse Nottingham

The Cornerhouse and Trinity Square haven’t always been here, and long before the abundance of bars, restaurants and leisure venues were some pretty impressive historic structures! The Nottingham Evening Post building used to be in this exact spot; since then it has moved to Castle Boulevard and now Tollhouse Hill.

Trinity Square (where you’ll now find tamatanga and Gourmet Burger Kitchen) used to be dominated by Holy Trinity Church, which actually briefly boasted the tallest spire in Nottingham. This area has been redeveloped numerous times, including a new office block and multi-story car park in the 1960s, to what you see today which was completed in the early 2000s.

A royal act

Theatre Royal Nottingham

Next, we cross the road from The Cornerhouse, to the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall.  Originally opened in 1865, the front facade of the building has hardly changed. This is remarkable for saying it has survived two World Wars, coming off pretty much unscathed. Horse-drawn carriages were often spotted in the old Theatre Square, dropping off theatre goers, before it became Upper Parliament Street – today bustling with buses, trams and cars. Did you know that the Theatre Royal hosted the world premiere of the Mousetrap? The longest-running theatrical production in the world!

A very big market

Market Square Nottingham

Heading down Market Street, we find ourselves at Nottingham’s iconic Old Market Square. Stretching across approximately 130,000 square feet, it is one of the largest paved squares in the UK! It takes its name from the Saturday market that was a weekly occurrence for many Nottingham locals.

Those who know Nottingham well, will probably remember the Market Square’s nickname of ‘Slab Square’. This comes from the high number of concrete slabs used in its construction. You may even remember seeing the old, cracked slabs following the popular markets and heavy machinery moving around the square over the years – these were transformed in its most recent refurbishment in 2007.

The Lions

Standing proudly at the top of the square is Nottingham Council House, which has been in place since 1929. It houses the deepest toned clock bell in the UK, with strikes being heard up to seven miles away! In front of the Council House are Nottingham’s infamous Lions. These were built by Joseph Else in 1925 and are affectionately nicknamed Leo (left) and Oscar (right). It’s common in Nottingham to hear “meet you at The Left Lion” as it is a central meeting point for locals.

Getting around

As you walk across Old Market Square, you’ll likely hear the dinging of the tram bells of Nottingham’s award-winning tram network. Horses pulled trams from 1878 until 1901, when electric trams were installed in the city. The original network was closed in 1936, and the city didn’t see another tram until 2004, when the modern network that we see today was installed. No horses this time though!

A railway station-turned-shopping centre

It’s not just the old tram network that was demolished in the early 20th-century, the old Nottingham Victoria Railway Station was demolished in 1967, making way for the Victoria Centre shopping destination that was built from 1967-1972. As it opened, so did the world’s largest Boots store – on the Upper Parliament Street side of the building. Since its completion, it has undergone a wealth of refurbishments and expansions, and is now home to a large amount of high street shops, department stores and restaurants.