Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Erected for Counsel and Welcome





This is my brother in 1946, perched on the paws of a rather disdainful stone lion. This isn’t just any old lion,  it’s the famous  Left Lion,  well know rendezvous in front of Nottingham's magnificent Council House in the Market Square. There is also a Right Lion, and the pair are know locally these days as Leo and Oscar. They were designed by Joseph Else, principal of the Nottingham School of Art.


There would have been an added significance at the time of this photo, as my grandfather  had worked as one of the team of builders who constructed the Council House almost twenty years earlier.


The above picture is taken from Arthur Mee’s 1938 ‘The King’s England: Nottinghamshire’, courtesy of the excellent ‘Notts History’ website * and where we can read a very detailed description of the new building and its significance for the ‘Queen of the Midlands’ as Nottingham was known. Mee uses the image to show how the old Market Square looked during the Council House construction; he then extols the virtues of the new Nottingham, which has tidied itself up, got rid of its slums and ‘shabby’ market and built many new houses, schools, hospitals, boulevards, parks and playing fields, making itself “one of the most wonderfully equipped cities in the kingdom."


The Council House official opening by the Prince of Wales, on 22nd May 1929** attracted large crowds. I wonder if my grandfather took his family along; perhaps they are somewhere in this picture. The market had been moved to an indoor venue and the old market square was laid out with lawns, flowers and marble walks. Perhaps that’s when the local nickname change to ‘Slab Square’.

Arthur Mee wrote in 1938 that: "The dome looks down from its 200 feet height to the floor of a spacious arcade of shops and offices, approached by great arches from the streets. Round the bottom of the dome we read that the Corporation of  Nottingham erected this building for Counsel and Welcome, and to show Merchandise and Crafts.”

This is how it looked in August 1994 in a picture taken by my father.


Over the years the square has changed several times. The picture above was taken sometime in the late 70s, early 80s, and where the iconic black and white taxis are lined up on the far side of the square, now runs part of the city’s vast new tramway.

Visiting in December 2012, for my father’s funeral, I took this picture. The Christmas Market was on and, for some reason, this is the only image I took; I found it curiously uplifting.


When I was there last month I took this picture, showing the new fountain/water feature. The flowerbeds and walkways are gone, but in their place is a large space which serves the city as a venue for celebrations, Christmas Markets, and other events. Sometimes it becomes an ice rink and sometimes it is filled with sand and becomes ‘Nottingham by the Sea’.


The Council House remains unchanged, and Leo is still there too.


In both the 1946 and the 2015 picture can be seen the plaque marking the laying of the foundation stone on 17th March 1927.

One of the themes suggested by this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt was construction work, tunnels or significant dates. Step back in time and see what other Sepians have found in their old photo albums.



*Andy Nicholson holds the copyright and in 2012 graciously granted me permission to use his pictures. Do go and have a look at his labour of love at nottshistory.org. The Arthur Mee volume was only added this year and is full of interesting information.

** Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

17 comments:

  1. Oh goodness your brother is adorable, and of course Leo is so handsome as well. This is an incredible place, thanks for sharing the information and such remarkable pictures. For a construction work theme this is quite clever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, that’s the first time I’ve heard my brother described as adorable - he’ll be very flattered!

      Delete
  2. A market or a beautiful pool? What's the better foreground for the Council House, I wonder? I think I prefer a busy market, but I guess it depends what it sells.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the expression on the lion's face. So handsome. And your brother looks so cute sitting on his paws. You, on the other hand, look quite smart in front of good old Leo! And what a neat idea to be able to change the 'face' of the market square when inspiration strikes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is quit a story about the building. Your dad being a part of something that will be there for so many years. It was so good to see it in the building's first stages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Quite" a story. I need to add that you have really great photos to go with your post.

      Delete
  5. How proud you must feel whenever you see the Council House, knowing your grandfather was part of it. Even though it changed many times, it hasn't lost its grandeur. I like the modern take on making it a gathering place .

    ReplyDelete
  6. My husband's uncle lives in Nottingham but I've only been there once once, back in 1992, when he took us somewhere connected to the Robin Hood legend. It was possibly the castle but not sure, as I don't seem to have any notes or photos about it. We probably drove past the town hall en route.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was going to suggest that Joseph Else might be a relative of mine, but I see his father's family were from Coleorton in Leicestershire, while my Else ancestors were from Ashover in Derbyshire. A real "stiff upper lip" lion, I might add.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A lovely post combining family history and local history.

    Family History Fun

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love Arthur Mee's encyclopaedias. We have a set at home. Some really interesting photos in them. A great selection of photos.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When seen from the angle in the first photo with your brother, the lion has an uncanny resemblancve to a human.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It must be satisfying having a connection to the Council House through your grandfather. Do you look at it and wonder what part(s) he worked on? Leo looks not just disdainful (and haughty) but also as if he's trying to decide whether to eat your brother -- or perhaps someone else a little further away. In the celebration day photo of the Council House it looks like there are people standing on the roof. What a view that would have been. The fountain looks enticing (as I sit here in the heat). How fun that they use it for so many purposes.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I imagine some ancient Egyptian brought their grandchild to sit on the paws of the Sphinx, pointed to the Great Pyramid and said, "your grandfather helped build that."

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nottingham is one of England's Jewels.You are rightly proud.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting to see the evolution of that space.
    That lion looks fierce!!
    :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. An impressive council house indeed! I notice the right lion looks angry as well.

    ReplyDelete