A Goose Gate Interlude

By Stephen Best

Gilbert Clarke's photograph of Goose Gate and Hockley was taken, to judge from the evidence contained in it, on a summer afternoon in the late 1940s. A few pedestrians are about, but the neighbourhood is almost innocent of traffic: petrol rationing was to remain in force until early in 1950, and these streets did not, at this time, form part of any bus route. Goose Gate is seen here with a cobbled carriageway: Hockley possessed, a few years earlier, a wood block roadway, but one cannot be certain whether, in the picture, it still has this surface.

On the left stand nos. 41-51 Goose Gate, an interesting row of shops, each with former living quarters above, and displaying a rich variety of the signwriter's art. Nearest the camera is Walter Harris's ladies' hairdressing establishment, with the Bow Furniture Stores next door. This is liberally covered with advertising matter, most of which, sadly, is indecipherable here. The window appears to bear the name 'Lee's', (which I cannot account for), and a white sticker, reading 'Furniture'. The third shop is the County Wallpaper Co., a sample of whose wares can be seen unrolled in the window. Beyond the narrow gap in the buildings which is the entrance to Hart's Yard comes Maurice's Store, clothiers, its window apparently well stocked with garments. This is Maurice's Store, as advertised', reads the sign: Maurice's later moved across the street to no. 38. At no. 49 is William Wilcock Taylor's boot and shoe shop, and, at the end of the row, its goods protected from the evidently strong sun, stands Walsgrove & Co., described on an insurance plan of 1946 as 'toys and fancy goods', but on its signboard offering 'Prams, Folders, Cribs, High Chairs'. This row of buildings was pulled down in 1975. its site now being occupied by residential property, in the shape of Brightmoor Court. The Evening Post of June 1 1976 reported an an element of knockabout comedy in this demolition. The organizers of a national competition - a paint firm and a magazine - had asked the City Council to suggest sites suitable for 'low-cost improvements of eyesores'. The Nottingham authorities had put forward the Goose Gate-Carlton Street area, sending the only relevant photo in their possession, which happened to feature 39-51 Goose Gate. These buildings were indeed chosen for the face-lift treatment, but then declared structurally unsound, and demolished. The organizers gamely expressed delight that the old buildings had been knocked down, and promised a warm welcome for anything more attractive that might be built in their place.

Some of the shops seen in our photograph were long established businesses. Harris's had traded at no. 41 since just after the Great War, when Mrs Nance Harris had a draper's shop here. She later set up as a hairdresser, together with Walter Harris, whose address in 1932 was 'Rear of 41 Goose Gate'. Number 45 had been a paperhangings dealer's since the first decade of the century; on either side of the first World War it had done, business under the names of, first, Horace Simon, and then Joseph Rosenblatt, before becoming the County Wallpaper Co. William Wilcock Taylor had, in the mid 1890s, taken over the family bootmaking concern at no. 49 from his relation, James Wilcock, while the Walsgroves had for a similar period occupied no. 51, Thomas Walsgrove first appearing at that address in the late 1890s, as a haberdasher.

Behind Walsgrove's chimney pots is the 'Burton' sign on the comparatively new building at the corner of Cranbrook Street. This was erected after the demolition of old property in February 1937, and sited further back than its predecessors, making a short stretch at the bottom of Goose Gate as wide as Hockley. Luckily for the townscape, the more recent Brightmoor Court was built to follow the old, narrow Goose Gate building line. One of the old shops cleared away in 1937 had been the premises of the Bow Furniture Stores, which quickly moved a few doors up the street, to form part of the row of shops in the picture. Above Burton's shop were offices and a dancing school: the celebrated tailors have not occupied 55-61 Goose Gate since the middle of the 1970s, and the store has for a number of years now been Emmanuel House day centre. Traces of the building's origins can be found today in the 'Burton' motifs on the metal grilles below the ground floor windows, and in the carved name. 'Montague Burton Chambers', above the door just round the corner in Cranbrook Street.

Standing on the other side of this street is Woolworth's bazaar, which opened in the late 'twenties, and closed its doors in August 1973. This building has seen a variety of occupants since then, and is at the time of writing (1991) Uncle Sam's American clothing shop. Below Woolworth's, and. like it, sporting sun blinds, is Harrison's outfitters at 3-13 Hockley. Rebuilt between the wars, as were all the buildings on the north side of Hockley, Harrison's, as seen here, is a rather grander affair than the shop which stood on this site in the 1890s, when John Harrison, 'hosier and fancy draper', was running the business. The premises now accommodate Nottinghamshire County Council Social Services, the Maharani Restaurant, James' tailors, and Carlsbro Sound Centres. Next to Harrison's in the picture is Arthur H. Seymour's pork butcher's (still trading here), beyond which are Morris & Son, drapers: and Prosser's the tailors.

In the right foreground, two young women are walking up past the premises of Wigfalls, and Freeman, Hardy & Willis (nowadays the home of Kingsway Furniture). Behind them is an advertisement for Wills's 'Star' cigarettes on Claude Smith's confectionery shop. Mr Smith occupied part of the frontage of what had. until June 1932, been Hockley Chapel. Opened in 1783, it had been used in turn by Wesleyan Methodist, Methodist New Connexion, and Primitive Methodist congregations. John Wesley himself preached here on several occasions. After closure the chapel was sold, William Olds of Nottingham establishing here his first Midland Ideal Homes store. The building has for some years been the premises of the Nottingham Sewing Machine Co. and, more recently, of the Work House health and fitness studio. Although its frontage is considerably altered, it can still easily be recognized as a former place of worship.

The existence of narrow openings off the south side of Goose Gate and Hockley is revealed by gaps in the shadows on the roadway. The one opposite Woolworth's is Mill Alley, so named from the existence here, in the eighteenth century, of Arkwright, Need & Strutt’s cotton mill. The name lives on today in The Mill pub, which may be the building erected in its place after Arkwright's Mill had been destroyed by fire in November 1781. Regular readers of Sneinton Magazine may remember the full and vivid coverage accorded by the Nottingham newspapers to a number of 18th and 19th century fires in the Sneinton neighbourhood, whose story has been told in earlier issues. In describing this one. the Nottingham Journal was in characteristic mood:

'Thursday morning, between four and five o'clock, a dreadful fire broke out in the cotton mill, at Hockley, which raged with such fury as in two hours to destroy all but the outside wall. All the machines, wheels, spindles, &c., employed for spinning and winding cotton, were consumed, and not a single article contained therein (the books excepted) could possibly be saved, notwithstanding the exertions of many inhabitants, who tried their utmost to preserve it and adjacent homes from inevitable destruction . . . The clock belonging to the mill struck four for the last time, previous to . . . the most awful scene ... we ever remember viewing; the fire being then at its height, the lead melted and showered down, glass flew in all directions, the flames rushed from every window, and out at the chimney tops; within were large pieces of timber cracking and falling even to the ground. To this dreadful event we have to add, that about the same time, the working people engaged at the mill were coming from different parts of the town to earn their daily bread. Such pictures of distress naturally excited pity in the breast of every spectator, very few of them having temporary resources to fly to, but on the other hand are reduced to penury and want.'

Mill Alley was swept away at the beginning of the 1970s, to make way for the construction of Belward Street, which was cut through the street frontage between 60 Goose Gate and 14 Hockley. Perhaps the best remembered casualty of this development was Ashmore's at 6-12 Hockley, with its famous arcade, which offered an Aladdin's cave of household goods. A family firm, Ashmore's had been here since about 1930; the shop was extended several times, and claimed to sell 'everything from kitchen utensils to wallpaper and carpeting'.

Goose Gate and Hockley lie just outside the line of the wall which protected the Anglo-Danish settlement on St Mary's Hill (a twin settlement to the one at Sneinton). An earth bank with a ditch outside, this fortification ran between the line of Warser Gate/Woolpack Lane and Carlton Street/Goose Gate. Sadly for the colourful tales of geese being driven up the street to Goose Fair, the name has nothing to do with these birds. It comes from Robert Gos, or le Gos, a goldsmith or jeweller, first mentioned here about 1300. The name has evolved through Gossegatte, Goussegatte, Gosegate and Gusegate, to Goose Gate.

Cranbrook Street was so named as recently as January 1936, when, following widespread redevelopment and street widening in the eastern part of central Nottingham, the old name, Coalpit Lane, was, regrettably, dropped. This name was first recorded in 1575: coal from the Wollaton pits came into Nottingham for consumption by the townspeople, and much of it was also conveyed to Lincolnshire by way of the Trent. Loads of coal were brought from the pits, through the town to the river, along Backside (Parliament Street), Coalpit Lane (Cranbrook Street), and the Flood Road (London Road).

Hockley, though much older than Cranbrook Street, is not the street's original name. In earlier times the place was known as Walker Gate, being the home of some fullers, who 'walked' or stamped on newly woven cloth, to make it 'full' or felty. In the 17th century it acquired its present name, in reference to Hockley-in-the-Hole, which lay in a dip on Watling Street, and was the scene of frequent highway robberies. It is, perhaps, worth mentioning that, although the name Hockley is often used loosely nowadays to describe the whole length of Carlton Street-Goose Gate-Hockley, and even appears on the name boards of a pub some two hundred yards away, it properly applies only to the short bit of road linking Goose Gate and Lower Parliament Street.

After this digression, it is time to return to the photograph. At the bottom of Hockley, behind the more distant of the cars, is the end wall of the building in Lower Parliament Street (formerly Sneinton Street), accommodating Pullman's noted draper's shop, still with many years to go before its eventual demolition, and replacement by the dismally dull block which includes Sun Valley amusement arcade. Beyond, in Nelson Street, can be seen one of the avenues of Sneinton Wholesale Market. This was opened in 1938-39 on the site of six streets of back-to-back houses, which the Corporation had long wanted to pull down. Nelson Street was the only one of the six to retain its name in the market development.

With the aid of a magnifying glass, it is possible to pick out further features of interest in the distance. To the left of Pullman's is the gable of St Alban's church, one of three in Sneinton founded by its famous vicar, Canon Vernon Wollaston Hutton. Designed by the firm of Bodley and Garner, it was consecrated in 1887. The parish was merged with St Stephen's in 1961, and a few years later St Alban's ceased to be used by the Church of England. A Uniat Catholic congregation now worships there. Beyond the church are the crowded roofs of the streets between Sneinton Road and Walker Street; almost all of these houses were demolished in the wholesale redevelopment of this area in the late 1950s and 1960s, to be replaced by a mixture of houses and low-rise blocks.

The building with the balustraded flat roof, just visible above the market, presented something of a challenge in identification. It is, in fact, the Wheatsheaf public house at the corner of Carlton Road and Sneinton Road, another local landmark obliterated in the virtual rebuilding of New Sneinton. There had been a Wheatsheaf at the bottom of Sneinton Road for generations (one is listed in the directory for 1815), but the pub glimpsed here is a comparative newcomer. It was superseded on October 24 1966, by the opening of another Wheatsheaf: this, however, is on the spot formerly occupied by the New Inn, at the corner of Haywood Street.

Anyone contemplating a visit to Goose Gate, in order to compare the scene today with the one reproduced here, is advised to do so in wintertime. The trees which now line Hockley are undeniably a major asset to the townscape, but in summer they almost entirely blot out the distant prospect captured by the camera more than forty years ago.