WOLLATON VILLAGE TRAIL
Transcribed 12th April 2023
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WOLLATON
Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, the manor of Olaveston, comprising some 180- acres, belonged to Ulfi the Saxon.
By 1176 Adam de Monteyn is described as Lord of Wollaton and his family lived in a house probably on the site of the Old Rectory. They were responsible for part of the building of the existing church which was completed in the fourteenth century by the Willoughbys who had acquired the Manor of Wollaton and adjoining parishes of Cossall and Trowell by purchase and by marriage after 1312.
It was not until the 1460s that the Willoughbys moved to Wollaton where they probably either rebuilt or expanded the Manor House. The Willoughby’s wealth derived from substantial coal mines in the parish as well as their extensive land holdings. Sir Henry Willoughby, who was buried in St Leonard’s Church in 1528, died one of the richest men in England. His great grandson, Sir Francis Willoughby set about building Wollaton Hall (1580-1588) on the top of a nearby hill, surrounded by a park.
The old Manor House was abandoned and by the mid 1600s it had fallen into ruin.
In 1711 Sir Francis’s great-great grandson became Baron Middleton. He substantially altered the interior of the Hall but like most of his successors spent little time there. The fifth Baron built the new stable block and may have been responsible for almost completely rebuilding the village after 1750. In 1871 there were 658 people living in a total of 121 houses.
In 1924 the village and estate were sold off. The Hall and the Park were bought by Nottingham City Council who proceeded to develop the eastern part of the park with a new road, Middleton Boulevard, with housing on either side. The remainder of the Estate was also similarly developed and in 1933 the whole of Wollaton Parish was absorbed within the boundary of the City of Nottingham.
Starting opposite Wollaton Library
THE VILLAGE DOVECOTE
Built around 1565 by Sir Francis Willoughby, it still has its original roof with pantiles. Dovecotes were an important source of food in the winter and were kept by most important people. In the 1800’s it became a stable and subsequently fell into decay. It was rescued and restored and re-opened in 1987 and now houses the Wollaton Historical & Conservation Society’s Dovecote Local History Museum. Open to the public on the second Sunday of the month May – September inclusive, group visits can also be arranged.
Bramcote Lane was formerly known as Noggy Lane, which led to the old coalmines and brickyard. Today on the north side you can see the Russell School built in 1865 (currently a pre-school nursery) and beyond that the old school house for the head teacher.
A little further beyond is The White House (1850’s) and a cottage originally part of the Nook Farm. Returning towards The Square, on the south side opposite the Old School House is a former farm building (1870s) now Bramcote Lodge on Smythson Drive (1980’s), named after the architect of Wollaton Hall who is buried in St Leonard’s Church.
In the centre is the Village Pump. Around the square are two-storey 18th century cottages. Those on the south are larger. In 1955, and again in 1969, applications were made to demolish these cottages and replace them with modern shops. The local opposition led to their preservation and the founding of the Wollaton Village Preservation Society in 1972, now the Wollaton Historical & Conservation Society.
In 1863, 59 people lived around The Square, so these houses would have been very overcrowded. The rent was just over a shilling per week. All the tenants worked for the Estate, either on the land, at the Hall or in the colliery. The Middletons were benevolent landlords paying good wages, providing their tenants with gardens so that they could grow potatoes, and also supplying them with free coal at Christmas.
Before entering Rectory Avenue (formerly Pig Lane) look at the house opposite, the Old Post House. Originally three cottages it was the Post Office in 1914.
Looking down Wollaton Road on the left is the Wright Institute (1900) named after the Middleton’s Estate Manager in the 1889s. He was involved in every aspect of village life, particularly cricket. Beyond the Cricket Ground was the Village Pound where stray animals were kept. Opposite is Old Dairy Cottage, one of a number of old cottages that still survive, the others being hidden behind the new houses on Trowell Road.
Before 1925 there was no Russell Drive (named after Rev Russell), this was just countryside.
RECTORY AVENUE (private road)
On the left are three cottages though the first seems to have been added later. The door to the second cottage is now a window. These are three-storied, though the distance between the 2nd and 3rd floor is very limited. The lane leads down to what was called Pig Yard, on the corner is the Old Piggery. Opposite is another old cottage and, to the right, the old stables of the Rectory, now a house.
THE ADMIRAL RODNEY
At the rear is the Old Barn. Referred to as an “old banqueting hall”, it became the village school in 1841 having 80 pupils aged 3–11 years. After the new school was built it became the Village Institute for the working men and later a lending library.
The pub was named after the Admiral Rodney, related to the Middletons by marriage, who had beaten the French in a great naval battle in the West Indies in 1784. It was one of two pubs in the Village, the other, the King’s Head on Trowell Road, was demolished in the 1920s.
DRIVEWAY TO THE OLD RECTORY (private road, no access)
This may lead to the site of the original Manor House. The present building, obscured by trees, dates from the 1800s and replaces an earlier rectory which was burnt down. In the 1850s the Rector was Charles Willoughby, who lived here with his 11 children and 5 staff. He was the brother of Lord Middleton and when he retired he was succeeded by Rev. Charles Russell, the brother-in-law of the next Baron.
ROW OF THREE COTTAGES
Just beyond the driveway is a fine row of three cottages with attic winos on the 3rd floor. In the 1800s the first house was the Village Shop, though there was only room for three people at any one time.
The far cottage, nearest to the Church, was the Police Station.
ST LEONARD'S CHURCH
Named, it is believed, as a result of the death of one of the Morteyn family on St Leonard’s day in 1284. Before 1880 it probably had just one aisle.
There are memorials to Sir Richard Willoughby (1491), Sir Henry and his four wives, the more sober memorials to the Middletons and the fine monument to Robert Smythson “architector”, the first person to be known as such.
The South Aisle was added after 1886 when some of the memorials were relocated. In the Baptistry is an electronic copy of the original Antiphonal. The original is housed at the University of Nottingham Archives. This illustrated prayer book was given to St Leonard’s in 1460. Somehow it survived the Reformation and ended up in the library of the Hall, from whence it was returned to the church in 1925.
Opposite the church is the Stone Cottage, the oldest house in the village dating back to the 1400s. It may have been a Chantry or the residence of the Priest, or the original school referred to in 1472. In the 1850s it was the Post Office.
Next door is Ivy Cottage with pointed, gothic windows. To its right is Wollaton House, occupied in the 1850s by Mr Lyon and his family. He had been in the Royal Navy with Lord Middleton.
The road down to the park used to be known as Church Hill, with the kennels off to the right on what is now Hurst Crescent.
Written by Andrew Hamilton.
Acknowledgements to Sheila Strauss, Keith Taylor and Maureen Jones.