The early history of the Wesleyan movement in Nottingham is full of adventure and of romance and Narrow Marsh is associated with a visit from the great John Nelson in 1745. John Nelson's autobiography is an astounding volume giving accounts of most terrible persecutions, and almost hair-breadth escapes from death and imprisonment, and it is difficult to understand how it was that the Methodist Ministers and preachers were so unpopular both with the officials, and with the multitude.

John Nelson came to Nottingham several times, but particularly in 1745, and I cannot do better than quote the actual words of Mr. Nelson himself, for they come hot from the man who actually suffered the things which he records. "When I got to Nottingham," says Nelson, "I preached to a peaceable congregation. About half-an-hour after I had done, as I and four or five more were sitting by the fire, the constable, with a mob at his heels, came rushing into the house, and said, 'Where is the preacher?' I said, 'I am he, sir,' He replied, 'You must go with me before the Mayor.' I said, 'Where is your warrant?' He replied, 'My staff is my warrant. Come lads, help me, for I will make him go before the Mayor.' I said, 'I am not afraid to go before him; but it is your business to take up that swearer; you hear there is another that swears, and if you do not take them up, it is in my power to make you pay forty shillings for not doing your duty.' He regarded not what I said, but haled me away. When we had got almost to the Mayor's house, a gentleman-like man said, 'Constable, where are you going with him? 'He said, 'To the Mayor.' He replied, 'Pray don't, for the Mayor is their friend, and says that he will put any one that disturbs them into the house of correction; therefore carry him before Alderman Hornbuckle and he will do him.' 'Then we must turn another way,' said he. But I said, 'I insist upon going before the Mayor.' But he replied, 'I'll make you go where I please.' I said, 'You told me you must carry me before the Mayor. I find you are a strange officer, to encourage swearing, and tell lies yourself.' Then the mob shouted and cried, 'Help us to guard the Methodist preacher to the house of correction.'

By the time we got to the Alderman's house, there were several hundreds gathered together and when we came there, he said, 'Whom have you brought, constable?' To me he said, 'I wonder you cannot stay in your own places; you might be convinced by this time that the mob of Nottingham will never let you preach quietly in this town.' I replied, 'I beg pardon, sir, I did not know before now that this town was governed by a mob, for most towns are governed by magistrates.' He blushed, and said, 'Do you think that we will protect Wesley and a pack of you? No, I believe you are the cause of all the commotions that have been in the land.' I replied, 'Sir, can you prove that one man that is joined to us did assist the Pretender with either men, money, or arms?' He said, 'It hath been observed that there was always such a preaching, bawling people, before any judgment came upon the land.' I replied, 'That it is the goodness of God towards the people for sending his messengers to warn them to repent.' The constable said, 'Do you think we will take warning by such a fellow as you? 'I said, 'If you will not you must feel the blow; for if there is not a reformation in the land, God will pour out his judgment upon man and beast; therefore I warn you all to look to the rod, for it is appointed to them that disobey the gospel.' Then the Alderman said, 'So, so, you must not preach here; I verily believe you are a good man.' Then he said, 'Constable, I will not send this man to the house of correction. I think, as you keep a public-house, you may let him lie there to-night, for he is on his journey.' The constable said, 'I beg that he may not be at my house.' 'Well then,' said he, 'he may go to Mary White's, where he came from.' I spoke a few more words to him, and wished him goodnight. He said, 'Mr. Nelson, I wish you well, wherever you go.'"

The Alderman Hornbuckle who is mentioned in this account lived in a house in Narrow Marsh whose site is now occupied by one of the railway arches, and he was really quite an important and useful man in the town.

The timber-framed house in Byron Yard, Narrow Marsh as drawn by Harry Gill in 1907.

In Kirke's Yard, off Byron Yard, remains one of the oldest houses in Nottingham which is very well known as "The Marsh Farm." It is a half-timbered construction, that is to say that in accordance with the times in which it was erected a frame-work of timber, outlining, as it were, the house was first constructed and the interstices were filled in with wattle and daub. The filling being perishable was replaced as time went on with brick, but the old timber work still remains. The wood framing is composed of timbers about six inches square, and the frame morticed and tenoned and secured with oak trenails. Originally the roof would be covered by thatch but it is now replaced by dreary slates. There is a little projecting annex which is spoken of as the "dairy" which is even to-day covered with ancient red tiles which must be amongst the oldest left in Nottingham. The frontage of the building facing Narrow Marsh has been refaced about a hundred-and-fifty years ago, but its rear portion still remains more or less as it was first constructed. There is no evidence to show by whom it was erected or what its purpose was, but it appears to have been known as the Marsh Farm for a very great number of years, and it is interesting to notice that its floor level is several feet below the modern street level which shows that the accumulation of a Town's refuse will eventually bury all traces of occupation, the greatest example of which is of course the Forum in Rome.

There is nothing particularly interesting about this house as a half-timbered house, for half-timbered houses abound in rural districts, but they are not very common in great industrial centres such as Nottingham, and we ought to cherish the four or five examples which still remain to us. Wood was the general building material of our forefathers, particularly in a district such as Nottingham where it was easily procured from Sherwood Forest, but we must always remember that while timber was plentiful, planks were scarce, for the process of sawing out planks from tree trunks in the old days of saw-pits, before the invention of the circular saw, must have been an extremely laborious and costly one. I think that the first type of wooden house would have its walls constructed by the mere piling on of one log upon another until a sufficient height was reached just as log cabins were constructed in the early days of the United States. A variation of this method was to saw the tree trunks down the middle thus forming two logs with flat faces and semi-circular outsides. These were placed in an upright position side by side and so formed a rather more convenient dwelling than the log-hut type of building. As a matter of fact one such building has come down to our own days for the church of Greenstead in Essex, which was built just before the Conquest, was constructed on this plan.

These upright baulks, as the time went on were tenoned, top and bottom into a retaining frame and in this frame we get the embryo of half-timbered construction. While wood was plentiful it was freely used and little filling was needed to close the apertures between the logs, but as timber got scarcer through trees being used either for building purposes or for fuel the logs were placed further and further apart and more and more filling came into use. As the amount of timber used in the buildings became less and less, the stability of the houses had to be ensured by the introduction of slanting cross-pieces which maintained the rectangle just as the cross-pieces in an ordinary field gate ensure its shape nowadays. These cross-pieces, as time went on and as artistic feeling developed, were carved and shaped into delightful forms and the "barge boards," as the timbers which protected the thatch at the gabled ends were called, were often carved with most beautiful designs. It was also found that the contrast between the colour of the wooden framing and the filling, whether that filling were of wattle and daub or of brick, was very pleasing and the greatest height to which this half-timbered construction soared was obtained just at the close of the middle ages, when we get the wood-work emphasized by its dark colour contrasted against the carefully plastered filling. This plaster was often coloured and had stencilled upon it most beautiful designs, but the more elaborate houses had this plaster work wrought into most beautiful embossed patterns and figures. This is called "pargetting" and there is an example in the Castle Museum of a piece of pargetting rescued from an old house pulled down on the Long Row just opposite to the end of Mount Street. Perhaps the finest example in the whole of England of this type of craftsmanship occurs in the well known Ancient House at Ipswich. At any rate one can get a useful idea of the age of a half-timbered building by observing the amount of wood used in its construction and whether it has cross-pieces or not. The late Mr. Harry Gill, who made a very careful examination of the Marsh Farm, attributed it to the 15th century. I, of course, bow to his authority, but without his guidance I should have placed it a hundred years later than that, but even upon my modest estimate of its age it must still be one of the oldest buildings within the confines of the city.