An itinerary of Nottingham

Chapel Bar

Chapel Bar in 1740.
Chapel Bar in 1740.

CHAPEL BAR was the old west gate into the  walled enclosure of Nottingham and it was erected some time about 1154 (that is early in Henry II.'s reign). There are, of course, no traces of it left, but there are illustrations which show it to have been just an ordinary normal town gateway with two drum towers flanking an entrance passage which would be closed by a door possibly reinforced with a portcullis. Its appearance must have been very similar to that of the Castle Gateway which we know so well. Its name of "Bar" is interesting, for "bar," is a Scandinavian word for what we should call a gate, and it reflects the fact that Nottingham was an important Danish settlement. In addition to Chapel Bar there are other gateways in Nottingham. There was one at the end of Clumber Street, possibly another at the end of Broad Street and another at the bottom of Hollowstone. All these appear to have been protected by chains which could be quickly tightened and, stretching across the roadway, would prevent sudden rushes.

The origin of the name Chapel Bar is obscure. Some people think that it is derived from the fact that the northern bastion of the gatehouse was used as a chapel, while there are others who are of the opinion that the whole division of the town in which it stood and which included Angel Row, St. James's Street, Friar Lane and so forth, was called Chapel Ward because of the mysterious St. James's Chapel which stood within its bounds, and that Chapel Bar takes its name from this division of the town. As the public safety and the general internal peacefulness of the country grew the value of the walls and the gates of the town diminished, and by about 1700 Chapel Bar had become little better than a ruin, and in the space above the gateway was dumped a whole lot of earth which had to be got rid of when the Market Place was smartened up. A certain man called Armitage who lived in a house adjacent to the Bar on its south side and who traded as a gardener and seedsman used this earth for advertising purposes; planting in it great quantities of tulips which made a beautiful show in Spring, and constructed an arbour under a small sycamore tree upon the summit of the old arch where folk could regale themselves and enjoy a close view of the flowers. The old gateway was so much in the way of traffic that in 1743 it was entirely demolished, and two years later, in 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie had got as near to the town as Derby, the authorities wished very heartily that they had not pulled it down.

It marked the limit of the town in this direction although outside it there were a few rock dwellings which were destroyed in 1749, but it was not until 1729 that any house was erected outside it, which gives us a very good idea of the smallness of ancient Nottingham.

On the northern side of the site occupied by this ancient fortification stands a house at the corner of Chapel Bar and Parliament Street at present occupied as wine and spirit vaults, which was erected in 1714, the year in which George I. came to the throne. It seems to have been successor to an older inn which, under the name of "The Eagle and Child" was the inn of the Lords of Derby, but in 1745 this present house was occupied by Alderman Hawkesley, who was Mayor of Nottingham, but who was a firm Jacobite. He so allowed his feelings to run away with him that he drank the health of the Pretender upon his bare knees, an act of disloyalty which led to his deprivation and imprison­ment. He instituted three actions against the legislators for imprisoning him and lost them all and this cost him £2,000. However, he became the hero of the local Jacobites, and the green bed-curtains which he used while in prison were made use of as rallying flags for the local partisans of the Stuarts.

Of course Tobias could not keep away from here and accordingly we find him stopping in this house in 1728. This time however, it does not seem to have been concerned with Turpin, but he made a deal with another highwayman called Barratt, well known about Newark. He paid Barratt £14 for goods which Coney was to sell at Derby. Barratt appears to have accepted the £14 with a bad grace which looks as if Tobias had driven a hard bargain, but eventually Tobias threw in a bottle of good wine and Barratt went away satisfied. The whole of this visit of Tobias to Nottingham seems to have been frought with interest. He had proposed to stop at "The Dolphin" just outside Chapel Bar and which stood near where Messrs. Mitchell's garage is to-day. But the landlord of that inn had requested him not to come to his house, for he was tired of Tobias" visits particularly of "the bedizened ladies from the fair," and so Tobias stopped elsewhere, and to get even, brought Martha disguised, as was her wont upon state occasions, as a parson's lady in a veil, a black mantilla and gloves to call upon the landlord of the Dolphin and his daughter.

The street now called Chapel Bar was known as Bar Gate until 1750, and as we have seen there was an orchard at its southern side, the trees of which stretched their branches over the thoroughfare and the fruit hanging therefrom must have been a sore temptation to the small boys of 18th century Nottingham. In 1832 a slice of this orchard was taken off, the road was materially widened and the present houses were built.

At No. 17 about 1842 was established the printing firm of Messrs. Ingram and Cook, and to Mr. Ingram occurred the idea of publishing illustrations in a newspaper. I believe that his first illustration was a fire at Hamburg, but at any rate the idea seemed to him excellent and he removed from Nottingham to London and started the Illustrated London News which was the first illustrated periodical in the world.