The humbler dwellings in the town were plain square structures, having brick walls and tile roofs.1 “Swart, cold looking, slates” from Wales’ were never seen until transport was made easy, by the introduction of canals early in the 19th century.

John Blackner says :—The Houses of the working class at the present time (1815) generally consist of a cellar, a room to dwell in, called the house place, a chamber, a shop over it to work in, a room in the roof called a cock-loft, and a small pantry; though in the manner of building there are many exceptions, some for the better and some for the worse; and they are generally composed of plaster floors, lightly timbered with deal.”

Numerous houses answering to this description may be found, and many of them, especially those “with exceptions for the worse,” are now occupying the attention of the Housing Committee. It is only fair to say, however, that their present condition is partly due to the faults and failings of the occupants, rather than to inherent defects in the buildings, and partly to the fact that the town has grown beyond them to such an extent, as to leave rows and terraces of houses, once pleasantly situate on the outskirts of the town, in the midst of dense slum areas; and while the advance of sanitary science has left them a long way behind the times, the workmanship is irreproachable and commands respect, in spite of their present sordid surroundings. I have seen houses, that have been condemned as unfit for habitation, wherein the artificers’ work is far in advance of the work being executed to-day in the same class of buildings.

Collin's Hospital, Park Street. North Front.
Collin's Hospital, Park Street. (North front).

One block of small dwellings, however, cannot be allowed to pass without notice. Collin’s Hospital, or as it was originally called “the New Hospital in Fryer Lane,” built in 1709 by Thomas Smith under the Will of Abel Collin, has been fittingly described as “an Ornamental and yet at the same time Suitable Fabrick for the Habitation of 24 poor Men and Women.” The main block comprises twenty houses, ranged round a quadrangle, each house being two storeys high and containing two apartments, with a detached chapel at the rear of the block, and four other houses, two on either side of the entrance from Hounds Gate.

The elevation of the main block towards the north (Friar Lane) has a vaulted entrance in the centre, and an ornamental panel above it, containing an inscription, appropriate both in regard to the matter and manner of it. The elevations to the south and east are similar in design, save that the panel facing south contains a sun­dial—“Our days on the earth are as a shadow,”—and the one facing east an achievement of the Arms of Collin. The west front, partly hidden by adjoining premises, is quite plain. The treatment throughout is simple and none but ordinary materials are used—plain brickwork set upon a stone base, flat-gauged arches over doors and casement windows, door and window-frames set flush with the face of wall, projecting stone quoins to emphasize the angles and arched entrances, a stone string course at the first floor level, overhanging eaves-cornice and red tile roofs— the effect is harmonious and eminently pleasing.

Collin's Hospital. Sun-dial on south front. "Our days on the earth are as a shadow".
Collin's Hospital. Sun-dial on south front. "Our days on the earth are as a shadow".

The charming bits of relief in the centre of each façade transform what would otherwise be a plain building without interest, into a very successful architectural composition, while the lettering on the memorial panel, the carved and painted shield, helmet and mantling, and the metal gnomon of the sun-dial, are details worthy of careful study.

Country cottages in the surrounding districts have retained their picturesque appearance, being little affected by the manner of building in vogue in the town.

A cottage at Clifton with initials and date (1707) in the gable, having brick walls and thatched roof, is characteristic, but calls for no special remark.

A cottage at Wilford, partly re-built during the same period, is not only a picturesque “bit” beloved by local artists, but it also perpetuates in the older portion of it, a very primitive mode of construction. In the gable end two curved pieces of timber are seen set wide apart at the base, and united at the summit, approximating the form of a gothic arch. This method of erection prevailed from the early Middle Ages down to the time of Henry VIII. A pair of “crocks” or “crooks” (as these timbers were called) were sawn from an oak tree having a trunk naturally bent, and taken to the site where they were framed together on the ground, and then reared up in pairs at either end of the building to form supports for the ridge-pole or roof-tree. Posts were then set up at each corner, with a tie across the ends at the wall-plate level. In this way a framework of timber was made which only required to be filled in—walls with “stud and mud” (or at a later period with brickwork), roof with rafters made from boughs of trees thatched with reeds or straw.

Cottage at Wilford.
Cottage at Wilford.

Cottage at Clifton
Cottage at Clifton.

Although this system of erection has long since gone out of use, we still speak of houses having been reared,” when we really mean that they have been built, and the present day workman still looks for a “rearing supper” so soon as the ridge-piece is fixed.

Examples of this mediaeval manner of cottage building may be met with in outlying country places, but so far as I know, the cottage at Wilford is the only instance within easy reach of the city.

We may obtain some information respecting the conditions of labour at the time when these old houses were being built from the accounts kept at the Public Record Office, and from the “Borough Records.” It would appear from numerous entries that Saturday was the usual pay-day. “Payde to the Carpenters on Saterdaye the ixth” day of Ffebruary,” &c., &c. Although in some of the earlier accounts Sunday’ is mentioned as pay-day. The work was sometimes “letten to them by Taske,” but more frequently by the day “Artyficers and laborers ther workyng as well by the day as by Task,” and it would also appear that the baneful system of “hogging,” i.e., asking for payment on account before the proper pay-day was not unknown—Redy money payde in prest (i.e., in advance) unto sundry Carpenters in party of payment of serteyn fframes taske worke.”

According to the Chamberlain’s accounts (Nottingham 1726) the wages then paid were one shilling and sixpence per day for artificers and one shilling per day for laborers; the number of working hours per week varied from fifty-nine to sixty-four. By the end of the century joiners and bricklayers were getting on an average ten shillings and sixpence per week and laborers nine shillings per week. Strikes were threatened and stop­pages occurred then, as they do now, owing to jealousy among the workers; for instance,the wrights,or carpenters in the 18th century objected to joiners,—who were then looked upon as upholsterers and cabinet makers,—being employed about the buildings.

Statue of Jonas Hanway. 9, Pelham Street.
Statue of Jonas Hanway. 9, Pelham Street.

The picturesque costume of the period is well illustrated by a wooden statue of Jonas Hanway (1712-1786) fixed above a shop door, 9, Pelham Street. It was care­fully carved and painted under the direction of the late Mr. Samuel Page, for many years a member of the Council of this Society. The figure has lost all its significance now, owing to a change in the tenancy of the premises, but it was appropriate when first set up, for this shop was then noted for the sale of umbrellas, and Jonas Hanway was the first Englishman who made a practice of carrying an umbrella in the streets (of London). “After persevering for thirty years, in spite of the jeers of the passengers, and the clamour of the ‘chair-men’ and hackney-coach men, he saw his own practice generally adopted not in London only but eventually in the provinces.” It was in the year 1777 that parasols and umbrellas were first seen in the streets of Nottingham.

There are two contemporary stone figures on the Blue-coat School, Mansfield Road. These were originally fixed on the old school building erected on High Pave­ment in 1723—and transferred to their present position when the new schools were built in 1853.

A peep in the vicinity of Trinity Square on a market day when carriers’ carts and tilted wagons are loading up for the return journey into the country districts reveals a lingering old time service.

Two centuries ago—and even until the introduction of the canal system a century ago—this was the chief means of transport, not only for the nearer towns and villages, but also for towns remote—” three waggons which weekly set out from hence, early on Tuesday morning for London and return on Friday in the evening,” other carts journeyed as far as York, Leeds, Sheffield, &c., &c., while one enterprising proprietor in the district advertised his willingness to carry parcels and passengers to “all parts of the world and Bingham” The rising generation will never know the joy of a journey into the country in a jolting van with an inspiring motto brightly blazoned on each side—” Perseverance,” “Accommodation,” or “Live and let live,”—for motor lorries are rapidly driving these picturesque and leisurely vehicles off the road.

To judge by the present trend of affairs, our hand­writing is in imminent danger of being scheduled as a thing of the past. It is refreshing in these type-writing days to turn up a lease or conveyance, and feast our eyes upon the beautiful script and quaint phraseology of the days that are gone.

In the eighteenth century it was said of our town “That it has undergone both Fire and Sword, and weathered all the Vicissitudes of Time, holding up its Head, ever Trading, hardly at any Time wanting some profitable Manufactury or other employ of the poor, constantly advancing, and at this time enjoying the most prosperous State it ever was blessed with, or any inland Town can hope for.”3

My endeavour has been to place before you a review as comprehensive as the limit of time would admit, of the work in which our ancestors took such delight. If, in regard to their designs, I have been compelled to withhold a full measure of admiration, I have bestowed unstinted praise upon the excellence of the workmanship, and if I have succeeded in giving a true and faithful account of their work, I have thereby portrayed the character of the people.

Kipling says:—Men and women may sometimes, after great effort, achieve a creditable lie; but the house, which is their temple, cannot say anything save the truth of those who have lived in it.”

When we likewise come to be judged by the houses in which we have lived, what will future generations have to say of us?


The following pedigree will be interesting :—

John Smith, of Cropwell Boteler, parish of Titheby, co. Nottm., by his wife Elizabeth had a son,

Thomas Smith, of Nottingham and Gaddesby, co. Leicester, bapt. 1 Nov., 1631, who married I. Mary Hooper, by whom he had an only child Mary (m. John Eggleton).

II. Fortune, daughter of Laurence Collin, and sister of Abel Collin, of Nottingham, and had issue three sons : I.Thomas, of Broxtowe; II. Samuel, ancestor of the family of Dorrien-Smiths ; III. Abel.

Abel Smith, of East Stoke and of Nottingham, Banker, who married, 1713, Jane, daughter of George Beaumont, of Chapelthorpe, co. York., and had issue, the eldest son.

George Smith, married I. Mary, only daughter and heiress of Major William Howe, of Epperston, co. Nottm., and had issue, He was created a baronet 31st October, 1757. Lady Smith died in 1761, and in 1768 Sir George married II. Catherine, daughter of the Rev. William Vyse, archdeacon of Lichfield. No issue from this match. The only surviving son of the first marriage was

Sir George Smith, II. Bart. Bapt. i8 August, 1753. Married the Hon. Esther Curzon, eldest daughter of Assheton, Viscount Curzon, 8 January, 1778. Sir George assumed by sign-manual, 7 February, 1778, the name of Bromley, and by Royal licence, 6 April, 1803, the name and arms of Pauncefote. He died 17 August, 1808, and was succeeded by his son.

Sir Robert Howe Bromley, III. Bart., Admiral of the White, who married, 8 June, 1812, Anne, second daughter and co-heir of Daniel Wilson, of Dallam Tower, Westmoreland, and was ancestor of the Bromley-Wilsons.

Mary Howe was a descendant of Elizabeth, the only daughter of His Majesty King James I., who married Frederick V., King of Bohemia.

Sir John Howe, I. Bart., married Bridget, daughter of Thomas Rich, one of the Masters in Chancery, whose second son

John Grubham Howe, m.p. for co. of Gloucester, married Annabella, natural daughter and co-heir of Emanuel Scrope, Lord Scrope of Bolton and Earl of Sunderland, by Martha Jeanes. Charles II., in 1663, granted to Mrs. Howe, the precedency of an Earl's legitimate daughter—she became thenceforward Lady Annabella Howe, of Langar, co. Nottingham. She died 21 March, 1703. The fourth son of this union—

Emanuel Scrope Howe, lieut.-gen. and envoy at Hanover, married Ruperta, natural daughter of Rupert of Bavaria, Prince Palatine of the Rhine, created by his uncle Charles I., Baron of Kendal, Earl of Holder-ness and Duke of Cumberland, K.G. (He died unmarried in 1682, leaving issue—a son, Dudley Rupert, by Frances, daughter and co-heir of Henry Bard, Viscount Bellamont of Ireland, and by Mrs. Margaret Hughes, a daughter, Ruperta, as above.) Their eldest son

William Howe, major in the army, married Elizabeth Pauncefote, third daughter and co-heir of William Pauncefote, of Carswell, co, Gloucester.

Major Howe died 28 July, 1733, leaving an only daughter, Mary, bapt. 3 November, 1725, and married at Langar, co. Nottm., by licence, 18 August, 1747, to Mr., afterwards Sir George Smith, of Bromley House, Nottingham.

George P. Gascoyne,
Sherwood, Nottingham.

6 January, 1913.

(1) Red tiles appear to have been the predominant roof covering in Nottingham in the 18th century. Westmoreland slates in diminishing courses, and Swithland slates were seldom used.
(2) Louth spire, c. 1500, wages paid on Sundays.
(3) Deering, p. 13.