The wall that once crossed the Old Market Square


Today, the Nottingham Slab Square is just that. A flat and uninterrupted town square that has hosted countless fairs, festivals and markets.

But centuries ago, the old market square was divided by a wall that separated the different parts of where the city market was held.

The Old Market Square has a history dating back to the 11th century and the area was where the Saxon and Norman sides of the city – the latter arriving after the Norman Conquest in 1066 – converged.

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More recently it was adjacent to where Nottingham City Council was based, and now the markings on the square’s flagstones indicate where the separation wall is believed to have run.

When exactly one wall was first built in the middle of the Old Market Square remains a mystery, but the earliest reference dates from 1530 and it seems likely that it was not built until the end of the period. medieval.

Scott Lomax, city archaeologist at Nottingham City Council, said: “Previous documents relating to the market do not refer to this wall. The wall needed to be repaired with copings in 1579.

“The wall is shown on John Speede’s Map of Nottingham (1610) and Robert Thoroton’s Map of Nottingham (1677). It was partially demolished in 1714, and demolition was completed in 1728.

“It was originally a stone structure, with the use of bricks for repairs or modifications towards the end of its use. It was described in 1677 as being at ‘chest height’, with several openings , and it skirted part of Long Ramez before changing orientation to run roughly east to west over much of the market square.

“It was assumed that the wall was in place to separate the cattle from the produce, or that it was a way of trying to keep the two populations (from the English and French boroughs) from fighting, well that its relatively short height suggests otherwise.

Nottingham Old Market Square today

“Research undertaken by a former documentary historian Steph Mastoris who worked for Nottingham City Council, suggested that this most likely formed a border between those who lived in the English and French boroughs and provided a border so that any offense committed on the market can be awarded the right arrondissement. “

Interestingly, the wall was demolished the same year the distinction between the two arrondissements ceased.

Archaeological excavations were undertaken at Old Market Square in 1941 and 2006. In 1941, the foundations for the wall were found near Market Street, but no description was given.

A length of ditch, about 2.5m wide and 1.5m deep was also found and it was assumed that at one point there had been a ditch forming a boundary, with the wall built later.

In 2006, the remains of a brick wall were found on the projected route of the market wall and it was believed to be a partial reconstruction of the wall, possibly in the 17th or early 18th century .

A series of small pits adjacent to the remains of the wall were possible evidence for the presence of a wooden fence.

Old Market Square from the 1920s

Joe Earp, who lives in Beeston, is a local historian who has looked at Nottingham in the early Middle Ages in several books and also as the refounder of the Nottingham Hidden History Team.

He added: There is evidence that the place was there 1000 years ago. The market square was divided in two by a wall that stretched largely from east to west.

“It was most likely there to separate the different parts of the market. There was a part of the market for hardware, clothing and small goods, to the east was groceries and vegetables, to the south was where the animals were kept, and in the center there was wood sold by carpenters.

“One of the sites of the current Council House at the height of the market – so from the 1200s onwards – was the Shambles, which is what the original dating market was called.

“The market would have been much bigger then and would span King Street and Market Street. Goose Fair was obviously going on there as well.

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“It was a time of major cultural change because the Normans obviously spoke Norman French and introduced new laws. I cleared up both groups of people over time.

“The original stock exchange building was constructed in 1724 and demolished in 1926 when it was replaced by the Maison du Conseil.”

Old Market Square was not the site of Saxon Nottingham’s original weekday market.

It was at Weekday Cross, near where the Nottingham Contemporary is located. But there was often friction when the Norman population from the vicinity of the castle had to enter the Saxon town.

In 2006, the Old Market Square was redesigned and a stainless steel drainage channel was added to the center of the square – on the same line that the old wall would have divided along.

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