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British Towns and Cities: Nottingham

J.D. Chambers pays an historical visit to the regional capital of the English East Midlands.

“Nottingham: a magnificent town full of improbable splendours.” Why improbable? The Anglian chief, Snot, leading the Snotenga folk up the steep escarpment of St. Mary’s Hill—Snotingaham to them—some fourteen hundred years ago, and stopping to survey the broad Vale of Trent below and the warm sandstone slope behind him, might have thought its splendours pre-ordained. He had chosen wisely, and his descendants and those of their conquerors, the Danes and the Normans, built well, so that by the high Middle Ages Nottingham was a thriving centre of trade, a high stake in national politics and a favourite of Kings, both lawful and pretending. Visitors in later times liked it, and many said so. Michael Drayton, called it “that high exalted seat with rich embroyderies drest”; a susceptible visitor during the Commonwealth was reminded of “A Lady sitting delicately among the Rocks, in collem sub montibus (sic.) her chair flanked with hills, East, West and North”... to be compared, indeed only to Wisdom in Proverbs 3, “for at my right hand is length of days and upon my left hand riches and honour Defoe found it “one of the most pleasant and beautiful towns in England”; and the German doctor, Charles Deering, who settled in the town in 1735 after a long and varied experience of the Continent as well as England, described it as “an exquisite spot to build a town upon”, and loved it so well that he spent his last years of poverty and loneliness in collecting materials for its history.

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