Fink Hill Street, White Rent Street

Fink Hill Street which gets its name from the word "Finch" has a history associated with the water supply of Nottingham as we have already seen when considering the neighbourhood of Trent Bridge, for it was at the foot of Fink Hill Street that in 1695 the Water Company took supplies of water from the River Leen and pumped it by means of a hydraulic engine into their reservoir at the top of Park Row. The river Leen rises near Newstead Abbey and used to join the Trent somewhere at the end of Trent Lane in Lenton, in fact traces of its ancient bed can still be distinguished in that neighbourhood, but sometime about the Conquest, possibly by Peveril, its course was diverted to Nottingham in order to bring water, both for drinking and power purposes, for the accommodation of the fortress upon the Castle Cliff. The new course ran along the foot of the old cliff to the south of the Park and as far as the Hermitage only one bank was required for this new bed. At the Hermitage the stream had to leave the rock side and for the rest of its course it was held in position by two banks. It was passed along, more or less where Castle Boulevard now runs and at the foot of the Castle Rock, somewhere near the junction of Wilford Road with the Boulevard, it was utilised to turn the Castle Mill. It then flowed along Canal Street and Leenside, turning in its course sundry other mills for the accommodation of the town and eventually found its way into the Trent. It remained open to the skies until 1829 when the portion of it that flowed through the town was arched over. Nowadays of course, all this is abandoned and the Leen enters the canal at Lenton. It is interesting to remember that so long ago as 1346 we find that the Castle Mill was not in royal hands, but was leased to a certain Geoffrey Kniverton.

Mortimer, Isabella, March, Edward and Eland streets remind us of the arrest of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, under such dramatic circumstances by Edward III. in Nottingham Castle on October 19th, 1330, and in Mortimer Street there is a curious arrangement of houses to be noticed. Castle Terrace is very much higher than Mortimer Street and at one or two places the houses in Castle Terrace are actually built upon those in Mortimer Street. But by far the most interesting objects in this neighbourhood are a series of caves some of which are used for the storage of wine and spirits. They were anciently called "The Bug Holes," a name which clung to them so late as 1744. This name may be a reflection of the fact that the family of Ralph Bugge held property hereabouts, but it is more likely to be a corruption of "Bog Holes" for the banked up Leen had made the whole district marshy and boggy. Whatever the origin of their name, the use to which they were put is extremely interesting for they were the plague hospital of early Nottingham.

Although the first allusion to the visitation of the plague in Nottingham does not occur until 1510, it is extremely likely that for centuries before that date it had been a terror to our forefathers. There were no bye-laws to deal with the terrible visitations and beyond the fact that it was advisable to isolate patients, our forefathers had made little progress in combating the disease. The folk thus isolated were housed in these caves, while county cases were deposited in similar caves in Brew House Yard, for Brew House Yard being outside the borough was a suitable place for depositing stricken people from the neighbouring Wapentakes. As time went on a more humane method of dealing with these unfortunates prevailed and huts for their accommodation were built upon Gorsey Close, where Gorsey Road now joins Mapperley Road and Woodborough Road.

Mr. Stevenson has collected quite a number of references to the plague in Nottingham from which I cull the following information. In 1541 Richard Dawson sued Mark Fredence for not curing him of the plague, while in 1541 Thomas Guymer was paid 2/- by the order of the Mayor for visiting folk in the Bog Holes. In 1582 a man who was suspected of being afflicted was paid 10d. to leave the town. In 1603 after in vain attempting to isolate the town and put it in quarantine, plague broke out and a collection was made for nine weeks for the support of the stricken for whose accommodation cabins were then first erected on Gorsey Close. Six years later in 1609 the plague again broke out, but the cabins were erected this time in Trough Close, the lower part of Sycamore Road, but almost at the same time, namely 1610, Robert Rotherham objected to his children who had died of the plague being buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard, which looks very much as if the Bog Holes were still being used for the parish of St. Nicholas. At the same time (1610) Rushcliffe, Bingham, Thurgarton and Broxtowe made contributions for the relief of people isolated with the plague in Brew House Yard. Numerous references are made in the records as to the harbouring of strangers and at last in 1647 animals came under suspicion and it was enacted that all swine, dogs and cats should be kept up.

Just at the foot of Fink Hill Street is White Rent Street whose name is all that is left of the White Rent Hospitals which were standing in the open area at the end of Castle Boulevard down to the last quarter of the 19th century. These alms houses have a curious history, in 1613 William Gregory the Town Clerk of Nottingham died and left eleven tenements on the south side and at the bottom of Hounds Gate for the benefit of the poor of the town. These tenements were amongst the last which paid the quit rent to the Peveril family as the lords of the Manor. This quit rent was usually paid in silver or white money and so the name of White Rents was gradually substituted for Quit Rents. As the whole town was to benefit from this charity the Corporation were appointed as trustees and guardians, but for some reason or other they proceeded to divide the tenements into three portions and allotted one portion to each of the three parishes of the town. St. Peter's Parish used their share as a workhouse and by degrees the others fell into disrepair for there appears to have been no funds for their upkeep, and gradually the whole habitation became a rendezvous of evil doers and a veritable thieves' kitchen. Eventually, it became such a nuisance that in 1788 the whole site was sold and the proceeds divided amongst the three parishes. St. Mary's built twelve single-roomed tenements in York Street, St. Peter's procured a site in Broad Marsh upon which to erect their workhouse and St. Nicholas erected eight single-roomed tenements which retained the ancient name of White Rent and which stood upon the site that we are now considering.