The whole of the Marsh precipice seems to have given our forefathers trouble, for it had a nasty habit of falling down and several hairbreadth escapes are recorded. Great sections of it above "The Loggerheads" and elsewhere have fallen down, but curiously enough nobody seems to have been hurt. There is rather an amusing story told of one of these land slides. A boy was trespassing after flowers on the top of the cliff and to his horror he found the ground underneath him giving way, and he knew that he was about to be precipitated into space, and if he escaped with a broken leg he would be lucky. In his extremity glancing down into the Marsh below he was aware that two men directly under him were carrying a "sow" a great open tub full of ale. In sheer desperation he jumped for it and by a miracle he landed right in the middle of this ale and so saved his bones at the expense of the enormous astonishment of the two men.

"The Ten Bells," which is now used as a mission room, was a public house with rather shady customers. It was the resort of another of the Dick Turpin gang, a gentleman called Captain Daniel Mead. He appears to have been a smuggler running in and out of the port of Boston. At any rate in 1732 and probably upon other occasions also he proceeded to Nottingham to spend some of his illgotten gains. Tobias' diary gives an account of one such visit which Mead made to Nottingham in company with Tobias himself, and they seem to have had quite a cheerful time and also a profitable one for they succeeded in disposing of certain property which had been mysteriously acquired. In the course of their stay in Nottingham "Dinah" another member of the underworld turns up and at once vanishes again into limbo.

At the corner of Narrow Marsh and Middle Marsh stood in ancient days the hospital of St. Leonard. Very little is known about it and of course nothing remains above ground. It is shown on Speed's map, dated 1610, but its use even in that far off time was so far forgotten that it is not indicated in any way. Blackner writing in 1815, speaks of it as "the church-like building which has been removed in part.and partly re-occupied with new buildings during the last fifteen years." It was an establishment for the refuge of lepers and I think that its age is guaranteed by the curious twist in the line of thoroughfare through the town, for Broad Marsh does not align with Narrow Marsh, but is joined by a short street which we call Middle Marsh, and I think that this curious kink in the run of the roads was probably to get round St. Leonard's Hospital. I only know of two ancient records connected with it. In 1226 the inmates were allowed to gather dead wood in the forest of Nottingham, and in 1358, they held half an acre of land in a place called Owswell, which is described as being near the hermitage though where that is I have been unable to trace. St. Leonard was a very favourite patron of hospitals and particularly for leper hospitals, and his invocation occurs all over England.

The old "Red Lion" public house from which presumably the name of Red Lion Street springs is neither an interesting building nor has it any romantic story to tell us. The only thing that I have been able to find out about it is that in 1786 it was kept by a man called Spencer, who was instrumental in bringing a sheep stealer called John Lister to the gallows. The story is rather sordid, but it is interesting as it shows us the legal outlook of the times and we learn from it how very little evidence was sufficient to satisfy our forefathers and to condemn a man to death. It appears that Spencer had missed some malt which he suspected had been taken from a stock on his premises by a young man aged twenty-one, called John Lister. Without more ado he proceeded to search Lister's premises in Woolpack Lane, but he did not find any malt; however, he found a portion of the carcases of two sheep and these carcases were sworn to as being part of sheep that had been stolen from the flock of a certain Mr. Deverill, at Wilford. It seems to me that one sheep is very much like another sheep, particularly when turned into mutton, but at any rate Mr. Deverill swore to these carcases and the judge and jury accepted his evidence which was sufficient to hang the wretched Lister. The missing malt was eventually run to earth in a stable rented by Lister elsewhere. It is difficult to believe that such a tragic event as this occurred only a hundred-and-fifty years ago.

Long Stairs in the 1920s.
Long Stairs in the 1920s.

Long Stairs are extremely picturesque to-day, and they are of the very highest antiquity. They probably began life as a covered way from the summit of St. Mary's rock. The rise is from right to left which shows that they were constructed at a time when the upper part of the cliff was defended and their history is connected with Malin Hill. In 1531 a certain Edward Chamberlayne paid 2s. 8d. for a little house and a pinfold on Long Stairs, though I have not the remotest idea what he wanted it for unless it was to use it as a pig stye. There were two other pinfolds in Nottingham, one was somewhere near Plumtre Square, and the other one was on the Sand Fields about where the modern Woodborough Road joins Mansfield Road. There was a well at the foot of Long Stairs which must have been very conveniently situated for collecting the drainage that came down the precipice, and also the outflow from the horrible tanners yards. At any rate, we are not surprised to find that in 1632 the Mickleton jury whose business it was to keep their eyes on nuisances and encroachments presented this well in the quaint language of the times as being "exceedingly annoyed and harmfull," and one is rather glad to find that it was filled up and folk were prevented from poisoning themselves by drinking its waters.

And now we come to Malin Hill and its tributary Short Stairs which latter is a short cut to the summit of the cliff. Malin Hill was a bridle road all through the middle ages and seems to connect up with Stoney Street though how it managed to join on to Stoney Street it is difficult to explain, particularly when one knows the later history of Stoney Street. There is no doubt that Malin Hill is a primeval track which has come down to our days. Like Long Stairs it ascended the precipice from right to left thus exposing the sword side and rendering the shield useless. It led straight into the heart of the Saxon fortress which probably replaced the older British enclosure and the still more ancient prehistoric village and it connected this settlement with the trackway across the Marsh which led to the ford or later bridge over the Trent.

It comes by its name because in 1303 there lived in it a certain George Malin or Malyne. Beyond his name nothing is known but he must have been of considerable importance in his generation to have so impressed his name upon this thoroughfare.

Like most other ancient mediaeval roads it has its ghastly tragedy. In 1800 a certain George Caunt who is described as a "respectable hairdresser," living in St. James's Street, was accused of having stolen a set of window curtains. Whether the accusation was true or false I do not know, but if he were condemned it would have been a hanging matter or at the best transportation, which meant virtual slavery. He escaped from the constable who arrested him and took refuge in the house of a friend living on Malin Hill. The police of those days did not proceed to arrest him at this house, but instead, patrolled both ends of the street and for some days Caunt remained a prisoner. At last getting sick of imprisonment he armed himself with a great horse-pistol, and issuing forth from his sanctuary declared that he would defend himself if molested. Immediately upon his appearance he was accosted by a constable called George Bell, who got shot by the refugee for his pains. In the excitement Caunt slipped away and took refuge at Alfreton, where he was afterwards arrested, but not before he had had time to swallow a dose of poison. The Coroner's jury returned a verdict of "felo de se" upon him and his body was buried without Christian rites in the usual burial place of suicides at the top of Derby Road. However, it was recovered by his friends and re-interred in the general Baptist burial ground, Stoney Street, the graveyard which we know as St. Mary's.