The Old Streets of Nottingham.

No. IV.

By James Granger.


IN my third paper some attention was given to matters relating to the land included in the block between Broad Lane (Broad Street) on the east and Cow Lane (Clumber Street) on the west. I now desire to continue my remarks on the thoroughfares in or near that locality, and to commence with that old, interesting, and in some respects singular roadway now known as Goose Gate; the name of which in the long period between 1400 and 1650 had gradually changed from Gosgate. From 1284 to 1448 there were two bailiffs in Nottingham elected annually, one for each of the two boroughs in the town. Between 1301-2 and 1311-12 one Robert Gos, otherwise Robert le Orfevere (Goldsmith) held this important position of bailiff no less than seven times, and in 1312-3, as Robert Aurifaber, he appears to have again held that office. Respecting this Robert Gos and the name of the highway under consideration I am generally in agreement with what is said on the subject by the editor of the Records (vol. i., p. 432), though I should have been glad if he could have given fuller extracts from some of the documents he refers to.

Gosgate is mentioned in connection with a sale of property in 1332. Then in 1314 there is reference to "a street called 'Robertgategos,'" and on p. 376, 1310, " the street leading from Robert Gos towards Gerard-well "is mentioned. On p. 386, 1327, " Robert Lane is now termed Sneinton Street was then entitled Newark Lane, a name which has been transferred to a small passage on the southern side. From Coalpit Lane to the end of what is now called Sneinton Street, was in Thoroton's time known as Hockley, which is still the case.

The next roadway to be brought under consideration is the one which in the last year of the 18th century was entitled Pelham Street. Strange to say, its previous name, for two centuries or more, had been Gridlesmith Gate, which undoubtedly is, in pronunciation, too near "Bridlesmith Gate" not to have frequently caused confusion and trouble; for the only difference between them is in their initial letters. Here is an old road; in age but little after Goose Gate; yet when this is said it must be understood, in reference to the earliest dates given in the Borough Records.

The first mention of it goes back 600 years. Afterwards, for nearly 300 years, it was known as Greytsmy-thisgate, Gretsmythgate, Vicus Magtiorum Fabrorutn, Greysmithgate, or, in modern parlance, Greatsmith Gate. See Records, vol. i., pages 432, 433. The change of name in this case is even more singular than that from Gosgate to Goosegate, for in the course of years Great-smithgate, gradually, and it might almost be said by the force of circumstances, was changed to "Gridlesmith Gate," or from two to three syllables, and at the same time in pronunciation so nearly approaching the name of a noted street near, that it must, undoubtedly, on numerous occasions, have originated considerable inconvenience.

The change of title is the more surprising from the fact that as regards what may be gathered in the Records, there is no appearance of any pressure being used during the modification to cause it. In 1581—see Records, vol. iv., page 437—" William Greaves, draper, and Mary, his wife, release to Richard Handley, of Wilford, yeoman, their right in a messuage in Greate Smythe Gate, alias Grydle-smyth gate." After this time, from what can be observed, the alteration of title went on at a somewhat accelerated rate; its designation at one period being Grylsmethe or Grylesmythgate, and Grydellsmyth Gate, from which no great effort was required to make it Gridlesmith Gate, its name previous to being entitled Pelham Street.

I was glad, a number of years back, when the Nottingham Council were enabled to come to terms with the Burgesses, and arrange in the near future that there shall only be one class of citizens ; but the pleasure was considerably increased when, after their searching through the town muniments for information respecting this matter, and thereby becoming acquainted with the great value and interest of these Records, the Corporation decided to make provision for their publication, and five volumes were issued. Those with a good knowledge of their contents will be well aware of the great amount of light reflected by them upon many dark points and matters connected with our local history, and of the great disadvantages under which our old historians laboured as compared with other writers during the last twenty-six or twenty-eight years.

I have noticed that a recent writer, when alluding to this street, and no doubt as regards the title given it before being called Pelham Street, always termed it " Girdlesmith Gate,"" which is inaccurate, for that name was not authoritatively applied to it at any time, as will be observed on reference to the Records, vol. i., pages 432-33, where the editor says, " See Gretsmythgate, Greitsmythgate, afterwards corrupted to Gridlesmithgate, now known as Pelham Street." I have no remembrance of ever seeing a reference to Girdlesmith Gate in any of the five volumes of the Records. Both Thoroton and Deering, the first on his map, and the last on page 12, also call it Gridlesmith Gate.

It is not only desirable to know the date when the title of an old street ceased to be used, but also when a new one commenced, and in this case, with the assistance of my unique plan of Nottingham (Stretton) I am glad to be able to give the date to one year or less in each case. The plan is undated, but the Hencross is shown upon it, which the Date Book tells us was pulled down in 1801, therefore the new name must have been taken before then, and during the two years ending 1800, for Pelham Street is entered upon it in place of Gridlesmith Gate; whilst , in Willoughby's rare little Directory, which was published in 1799, the latter name will be found, but "Pelham Street" unused. The rare Directory undoubtedly retained this, and many other old names to the latest period possible, and the old plan gives Pelham Street and other new names to various roadways at the earliest practicable date.

Deering, in his history, frequently quotes from what was written by an anonymous author respecting Nottingham, the year before the Civil War broke out (1641), and in it we get some quaint and interesting opinions respecting streets which, as being dated nearly 270 years since, will doubtless, as far as regards Gridlesmith Gate, and the curious ideas advanced, be generally read with pleasure. He gives a list of thirty-seven thoroughfares, together with six Rows. Four streets are mentioned, namely, " Stony Street, Pepper Street, St. Peter's Street, and Hencross Street." From our Records I am compelled to believe that St. Peter's Street is an error on the writer's part, and that it ought to be St. Peter's Gate. Respecting Hencross Street, this is the only place where I recollect it being so named, and I propose shortly to refer to it again.

Amongst the various highways specially noticed by the anonymous author was Gridlesmith Gate, and as proving the great advantage we now possess in the Borough Records, and other works of reference respecting old times, as compared with our ancestors, I will give an extract from what was written by him in 1641. In reference to the list of thirty-seven thoroughfares, &c., alluded to above, he says, "Here it may be objected that in this catalogue of them which I account streets, most of them are call'd Gates, Lanes, Hills, Rows, Pavements, &c ..... All which I suppose there is no wise man but he accounts them streets, though in their special and particular appellations the Word Street be not mentioned, . . . . "

"Among these streets in Nottingham I find two near in Sound, the Difference only in a Letter, Bridle Smith Gate, and Gridle Smith-Gate, but nothing agreeing in the Reason of their original Derivations, the first carrying its Etymology in its Forehead, so called no doubt by Reason of the Store of Smyths then dwelling therein; who made Bitts, Snaffles, and other Stuff for Bridles, of which Trade there are still some inhabiting that Street, though the greater number be worn out by Smyths of a rougher Stamp," ....

"Touching the Name of Gridle Smith-Gate I could never hear any sensible conceit of its original; If I may be allowed my Conjecture I would suppose it to be ment Girdle Smith Gate, and y' as Bridlesmith Gate had its Name from such therein as made Stuff for Bridles, so this from such as made Buckles, Hooks and other Stuff for Girdles, and that no man may think this to be a bare barren Supposition of mine own, my Conjecture is raised from this Ground; That in the Confines of Derby and Staffordshire ye com'on People who longest keep old Names do ordinarily call a Girdle a Griddle, with a double d, by which it is probable that when this Street first gained its Name, that which we now call a Girdle was then generally called a Griddle, and as probable that worm eaten Time, and Corruption of Speech, has sithence devoured one d, and made it instead of Griddle Smith Gate then, Gridle Smith Gate now, with a single d."

With our full knowledge of the facts, this singular idea or explanation will cause many to smile. Judging from memory, I believe it to have been about the year 1855 that the upper end of Pelham Street was sufficiently widened to allow of vehicles passing each other.