Hockley, Goose Gate, Platt Street, Coalpit Lane and Holland Street

In 1285 and earlier, Hockley is referred to as Walker Gate, or the residence of the cloth fullers, from the practise of "walking," or stamping upon cloth to make it "full" or felty after weaving. The cloth industry is one of Nottingham's oldest trades, and of such importance was it that as early as 1199 a charter of King John established a merchant Guild in the town, to whom was given the exclusive privilege of manufacturing dyed cloth within a radius of ten miles of the town. This Guild flourished exceedingly, and from 1343 to 1345 the price of wool in Nottingham Market was taken as the standard for all England.

When the street first was called Hockley I do not know, nor can I tell why it should have been thought advisable to give it the same name as Hockley-in-the-Hole close to Clerkenwell in London, which was a nest of thieves and other law-breakers, and a rendezvous for bear-baiting and the like sports. Hockley Chapel is the only interesting building in it, and it has a rather remarkable story. After the first establishment of Methodism in Nottingham, the Methodists built the Octagon Chapel, as we have seen, but in 1782 they sold it to the General Baptists and removed to this new Hockley Chapel which was opened in 1783 by Mr. Wesley and Dr. Coke, and within whose walls Mr. Wesley preached his last sermon in Nottingham. It was about this chapel that so much trouble arose in 1791.

The laymen of the connection felt that they ought to have more voice in the management of the finances of their church than was given to them, and this feeling focussed, as far as Nottingham was concerned, on the actions of the Rev. J. Moon. This gentleman collected money for the erection of a minister's house, and without in any way impuning his honesty a committee of subscribers asked to see his account. He refused to produce it, saying that he was responsible only to God, his conscience and the Conference. This produced a serious dispute, which eventually lead to the ejectment of Mr. Moon and the old Methodists, and to the Chapel remaining in the hands of the Methodist New Connection. In 1817, however, they in their turn were dispossessed by a lawsuit in favour of the Methodists of the Old Connection.

In 1806 Hockley Chapel was the burial place of a strange eccentric named George Wright who had lived near St. Mary's burial ground called "Paradise," and who for years had kept his coffin in his room. Occasionally he used to try it to see that it fitted, and he had it inscribed "George Wright, who died when God pleased."

Goose Gate, which, together with Hockley, formed the ancient Walker Gate, gets its name from Robert-le-Gos, who was a goldsmith living here about 1300. He was a man of considerable importance in his generation, and was elected Bailiff no fewer than eight times. It must be remembered that between 1284 and 1448 two bailiffs were elected annually, who practically ruled the town.

Platt Street is really of great antiquity, for it represents an ancient north road constructed to pass the east side of the enclosure on St. Mary's Hill, and its line is continued by Millstone Lane, Windsor Street and Huntingdon Street. The land between Platt Street and the now vanished Beck streamlet used to be called the Meadow Platts or Bottoms, because of their lowly situation. Leading from the end of Platt Street is Cur Lane, which in turn leads to Coalpit Lane. The derivation of Cur Lane is obscure, but as "cur" originally meant a watch-dog, and as this lane was the last habitation on the way to the agricultural lands in St. Ann's valley, there may be a connection.

Coalpit Lane we have seen to be part of the route chosen to bring coal from the Wollaton pits to the Trent wharfs. One of the earliest references to coal in the neighbourhood occurs in 1257, when Henry Ill's queen was compelled to leave Nottingham Castle on account of the offensive smell of the burning "sea-coal." She would, of course, be used to the smokeless charcoal, which was extensively manufactured in Sherwood Forest, and the smoke from the novel "pit-coal" would trouble her. In 1348, mention is made of a mine at Cossall, and in 1483 one is noted at Selston. Wollaton pits are heard of in 1549, and between 1580 and 1588 Wollaton coal was exchanged for the Ancaster stone used in building Wollaton Hall. In 1750 Mr. Sherwin had a large cherry orchard on both sides of Coalpit Lane, hence Cherry Street, Sherwin Court, etc.

Holland Street has nothing interesting about it, except its name, which is in honour of the Right Hon. Richard Vassall Fox, Lord Holland, who was Recorder of Nottingham, and who died in 1840.

The People's Hall, Heathcote Street (A Nicholson, 2004).The People's Hall, Heathcote Street (A Nicholson, 2004).

Heathcote Street was first so called in 1874, and its name commemorates the founder of the machine-made lace trade. John Heathcote was born at Duffield in 1783, and at an early age migrated to Hathern, where he was educated at the village school. His father became blind, and Heathcote's early days were marked by poverty. He was apprenticed to a stockinger called William Shepherd, and became thoroughly conversant with the mechanics of the stocking frame. While at Hathern he watched a Northamptonshire woman making lace on a pillow, and determined to reproduce her movements by machinery. His next move was to Nottingham, where he found employment with Leonard Elliott, whose workshop was between Broad Street and what we call Heathcote Street. Being an exceedingly skilled mechanic he was soon able to buy the business, and his old idea of making lace by machinery once more occupied his attention. Eventually he sold his Nottingham business and entered into partnership with his brother-in-law Samuel Caldwell, at Hathern. At last, in 1809 he produced the bobbin lace machine, and shortly afterwards set up in business as a lace manufacturer at Loughborough, in partnership with a Mr. Boden. But his troubles were not over, for in 1816 the ignorant mob, fearing that his invention would take away their livelihood, attacked his premises and wrecked thirty-seven lace machines. This so exasperated Heathcote that he decided to move his industry as far away from his enemies as possible, and so he established new works at Tiverton, which were the foundation of the machine-made lace trade in that part of the country.

But Heathcote Street has an older story to tell than the introduction of the lace machine. As long ago as 1387, it was called Beck Lane, and was part of an old agricultural road that led by the side of the Beck rivulet, away to the fields on either side of the valley now occupied by St. Ann's Well Road, and so to the coppice and woods and uncultivated lands on Mapperley Plains. At the foot of Beck Lane, where it now joins St. John's Street, was placed one of the town gates, which was called Swine Bar, for through it the town swineherd was wont to conduct his charges to their pannage under the trees of the coppice. Until about 1874, Beck Lane was an unimportant thoroughfare. It was passable for vehicles to about as far as High Cross Street, but after that it was a mere paved footway. In 1874, it was much widened, chiefly on its eastern side and re-christened Heathcote Street, after John Heathcote.

The People's Hall was founded in 1854 by Mr. George Gill. He purchased the interesting mansion that had been used as a School of Art and Design, and he altered it and enlarged it and used it for a variety of useful and philanthropic purposes. It contains a library of some ten thousand volumes, but somehow its rooms do not command the popularity that they deserve. The house has an interesting history. It was built in 1737 by Charles Morley, whose pottery, which stood on the site now occupied by Messrs. Cowen's Ironworks, produced the beautiful Nottingham brown-ware, of which there is such an excellent collection in the Castle Museum. When the house was built, it had an open courtyard fronting Beck Lane, which was swept away to make room for the modern street, and on the opposite side of the road was left an open space, or "Vista," upon which Wesley Chapel was built in 1838. The house still contains some extremely fine ceilings, and what is probably the most magnificent staircase in the whole of Nottingham, while in front of its side court is a run of very fine and carefully tended wrought-iron railings with their gateway.