Much like language, arts or appetites, architecture is often unique to the culture or region, and helps to define the corners of our Small World. The Tianfeng Tower in Ningbo withstood centuries of aging and restoration. Our destination this month, Nottingham, England, has a newer piece of architecture as its focal point, the Nottingham Council House. Built in the late 1920s, the building sits as the center-piece of Old Town Square, the largest surviving square in the United Kingdom. Some 22,000 square meters, the square has been home to festivals, concerts and political gatherings since its inception. The Council House presides over the Old Town Square in a stately manner as it was reconfigured to allow the edifice its reverential due. In 2010, the Council House went in to a sort of retirement, its inhabitants moved administrative functions to the Loxley House, a building with far less character, but perhaps more modern amenities.
But what is that you say? The Council House isn’t the crown jewel of Nottingham? Then what is? Oh, that’s right, a legend about a man named Robin Hood. Synonymous with the Sherwood Forest, an area comprised of over 30 miles of lush foliage, wildlife and mystery, Nottingham gave birth to the legend of Robin Hood many claim. Hood was known as a supporter of Richard the Lionheart, and a foe of Richard’s brother, John, who became King of England while Richard was on the Crusades (and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham too!). Robin is fondly remembered as the man who ‘robbed from the rich to give to the poor’, and he is often used in metaphor or allegory in modern speech and political dialog. There is a statue commemorating the great memory of Hood just outside the market square.
Nottingham was originally part of Mercia, one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, and its name (Mercia) translates to “boundary folk” which is due to its struggle for land with the Welsh. As the centuries wore on, the city established itself as a leading exporter of textiles and cultural artifacts.
However, the ravages of time and poor leadership soon crippled the industries, and its reputation was sullied. The effects of both World Wars also greatly hampered the cities’ industries, and it took several decades after WWII for Nottingham to regroup and regain its footing in the world economy.
Nottingham Castle, often referred to as Castle Rock (not to be mistaken with Casterly Rock from the Game of Thrones), still stands in part in the old city. Mostly demolished in the 17th Century, and burned out in the mid-19th Century, portions of it still stand and serve as a museum of bygone eras. The castle is believed to be an architectural ancestor of the original Norman castles from the 10th Century onward, and there is debate whether this is the exact location of the original castles from the time of the Norman Conquests.
Nottingham really is a place of history and enchantment, and it has numerous stories to tell (if it could talk). One way the city keeps its history alive is through festivals such as the Nottingham Goose Festival. Dating back several centuries (some say 700 years), the Goose Festival is one of the oldest continuously running fairs in the UK. Named after the expulsion of geese from Lancashire to Nottingham, its origins were meant for the well-to-do and the original fairs focused on fine cheeses. Nowadays, it is more of a modern fair in the like of a circus with rides and games. The subject for many historical paintings and stories, the Festival seeks to tell the tales of the city and region for centuries to come, making this a fitting stop on our tour.