Watnall Hall gates

Watnall Hall gates

WATNALL HALL is a house of many charms, and it has been in the possession of the Rolleston family since the sixteenth century.

One of its best-known features are the beautiful wrought-iron gates which give access to the drive, and which in addition to the beauty of their artistry, have an historic interest, for they are generally believed to be the work of Huntingdon Shaw, of whom is the well-known jingle:

"The little smith of Nottingham
He does the work that no man can."

It may be that the importance of Nottingham Castle during the Middle Ages found work for skilled armourers and that when armour was no longer used, these craftsmen turned their attention to wrought iron work. There was a good deal of very beautiful ironwork produced in Nottingham in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, some of which may be seen in the Castle Museum.

The greatest Nottingham smith was Huntingdon Shaw, who was born in St. Peter’s parish in 1660, and who died at Hampton Court in 1710. There is a tradition that he was the designer of the magnificent gates at Hampton Court Palace, which cost £1,982 –a huge sum even in these days. But it seems more likely that the celebrated Jean Tigou was the actual designer of these masterpieces, and that Shaw worked with him upon their construction.

Whether Shaw actually designed the Hampton Court gates or not is not likely ever to be known, but enough of his work remains for us to realise that he was a very great artist. and one of whom Nottingham should be proud.