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Nottingham today is a modern City steeped in history and legend. Situated in the heart of England, its relationship with the Robin Hood story is forever fixed in the hearts of people throughout the world.
Many religions are now represented in Nottinghamshire. Nottingham itself was the birthplace of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. He was born in Notintone Place, Sneinton, a suburb of the city. The Salvation Army now works throughout the world
The origins of Nottingham go back may years with the first evidence of settlement dating from pre Roman times although it is clear that the Romans too lived in the area.
Nottingham’s name as we know it now derives from later settlements which was built by Anglo-Saxon invaders after 6oo AD These settlements were named after their chieftain who was called Snot and who brought together his people in an area where the historic Lace Market in the City can now be found. Thus, Snot gave his name to Snotingaham - literally, "the town of Snot's people.
In 877AD Nottingham was captured by the Vikings only to be recaptured by the Anglo-Saxons 150 years later.
By 1066 the Anglo-Saxons were engaged in a fight with the invading Normans of William the Conqueror and their spirited resistance led to the establishment of twin settlements, with the Normans encamped on Castle Hill, where they built the Nottingham Castle in 1068, and the Anglo-Saxons taking the area where the Lace market can now be found. The Norman settlement became known as the "French Borough" and the Anglo-Saxon settlement as the "English Borough".
In Nottingham's twin city status which was retained for hundreds of years lies the reason for the town being granted two sheriffs by Henry IV in 1449, one each for the Norman and Anglo-Saxon boroughs, although today Nottingham has only one sheriff who performs a ceremonial role in the Civic affairs of the City
Nottingham is mentioned in The Doomsday Book as a place of 173 burgesses and 19 villagers. The record reveals that Hugh, who was the son of Baldric, the sheriff, built 13 new houses there. The start of cunning plan perhaps!
As the settlements grew, Nottingham became an important market town and regional center. By the 11th. Century, it had the status of a Royal "burh" and had huge defences constructed which ran around the area of what is today the Lace Market.
By 1086 Nottingham had a population of around 1000 which rose to around 3000 in 1300. After dipping back to around 2000 in 1400 the population continued to rise, reaching a figure of roughly 286,000 today.
The buildings in medieval Nottingham were mainly constructed of wood, the exceptions being stone constructions like the Castle, churches including St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s and St. Nicholas’s and a handful of other important buildings.
The town hosted two markets trading mainly leather, wool, cloth and pottery – a large affair on Saturdays in the market place and a weekday market at Weekday Cross near where the present Lace market now stands.
Through the years Nottingham grew from a thriving agricultural center, to an area of traditional trades based on both rich natural resources and the developing skills of local people. The soft water supply, filtered through the sandstone which forms the foundation of the city, was ideal for the industries of, tanning, wool-dying and brewing.
Despite the demise of Nottingham castle in the 17th century, the city continued to grow, and life for Nottingham citizens moved on into the approaching boom period of the Industrial Revolution.
Whilst this was a period of industrial achievement it was also a time of industrial unrest through the emergence of the Luddites or machine breakers who feared the loss of their livelihood to the advance of new technology. Even the famous Lord Byron was moved to speak out on this subject as destruction and conflict gripped the Country.
However, time moved on and Nottingham in the following century became a center of industrial achievement. Innovation gave a boost to the lace trade and engineering, spinning, dying and beer making continued to provide Nottingham people with a prosperous livelihood.
Nottingham Castle is a 12th century stone mote and bailey fortress, founded by William Peverel. The only surviving remains of the upper bailey is Mortimer's Hole, a passage which leads to the base of the rock below. In the middle bailey are the foundations of the Black Tower, King Richard's Tower and traces of the bailey curtain wall and ditch. The very large outer bailey retains part of its resorted curtain wall, with two round flanking towers and a huge twin-towered gatehouse. After the Civil War the castle was slighted and then all the standing remains were destroyed in the building of a 17th century Renaissance-style Palace.
The twentieth century begins
The early years of the twentieth century, mainly after the First World War, saw major slum clearance programmes and improvements in sanitation. The Council House, designed by Cecil Howitt, which with the great bell which chimes away the hours dominates the City Center today, was built on the site left vacant after razing the old Exchange. Some of the white facing stone used in the building is said to have been originally destined for St Paul's Cathedral in London. It had been cut and dressed but was not used, and so remained untouched in the quarry for over 200 years. The completed building was opened by the then Prince of Wales on 22nd May 1929. A covered market was opened in Nottingham in 1928 and in the same year the Goose Fair moved from the Old Market Square to its new site on the Forest. The stage was now set for the development of modern Nottingham.
The appalling overcrowding of the workers' back-to-back housing and the lack of sanitation meant that, even in the nineteenth century, cholera still had Nottingham firmly in its grip. There were outbreaks of the disease in 1832, 1848, 1853 and 1865. In the 1832 outbreak 1,110 cases were recorded, of which 289 proved fatal. The seriousness of this epidemic resulted in the establishment of a Board of Health, the chairman of which was Thomas Wakefield, a prominent member of the Corporation. Wakefield demonstrated his concern for the victims by visiting them in their slums, with little regard for his own safety. Thomas Wakefield was the son of Francis Wakefield, a notable philanthropist who did much to improve the lot of Nottingham's poor in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Francis was an active member of the congregation of St Peter's, and held every church and parish office over the period 1784-1818.