Bridge Over Troubled Water


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January 26th 2021
Published: February 4th 2021
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All the talk in the days before I took the photos for this blog was about the weather. Snow. Snow melt. Two days of torrential rain. The river would be rising. The River Trent. The deluge in Derbyshire would eventually make it's way downstream. The local news sent their roving reporters off up to Bakewell. The water was playing havoc in the heritage area of Derby city centre too. It would arrive in Nottinghamshire soon.

My last blog spoke of more lockdown. TFB has been looking at his science again and there will be no change until at least 8th March. A decision on how schools might re-open will be announced in late February. The rest of society will get a "roadmap" out of lockdown. It is unlikely to be a roadmap to go anywhere. Fresh from my account of the south bank of the Trent, the walks have now taken us further. We will now explore into the City on the north bank. The torrents of water head rapidly towards Newark, as I look down from the main Trent Bridge. A couple of ducks are having a great time. The current whisks them along at a serious pace. A free ride with little effort. Trent Bridge has been here in many forms for centuries. The current bridge was completed in 1871 at a cost in today's money of nearly £3 million. The project was entrusted to a Derbyshire company, which was possibly as contentious a decision as it would be today. There are now plans to turn one lane in each direction into a cycle lane, which will possibly only serve to increase congestion. At present though, there is no traffic with most shops and office blocks in the city centre remaining firmly closed.

The pub on the far side of the bridge is closed - again. The old Town Arms became The Aviary, Casa and then morphed into the Riverbank. The latest reincarnation is the Brewhouse & Kitchen. The high walls directly below the pub are inscribed with the height of the floods over the years. I would include a photograph, but the towpath was well under the water. The markings have been added for all floods since 1852. The markings show that it was a bit damp in 1947. The highest level in recent years was in 2000, which ranks as 11th in the all time list for high water. I note for all the press coverage we are nowhere near that mark. I was out of town for that one - enjoying a pre-blogging European double header in Prague, but that is another story.

I touched on the next pub just beyond the old Town Arms in my last blog. This Grade II listed building was once the second store in the Boots pharmacy empire. A number of their early flagship outlets were designed by an Albert Nelson Bromley and this one opened in 1907. In 1919, part of the building was taken over by the Boots Social Club - a place where the staff from the company could come to relax. It subsequently expanded into the whole building with the closure of the retail store in 1979. The Social Club was handily placed for the wide open sports grounds on the south side of the Trent, (now occupied as the Notts County Football Club training pitches). The Social Club is now no longer operated by Boots and is part of the Castle Rock Brewery chain. The pub retains its pharmacy links and features a bar called The Dispensary in the old retail side. Jesse Boot's office on the first floor is a function suite.

The huge building directly opposite the the former Boots, bears the inscription of the Turneys Brothers. It is commonly known as Turneys Quay and today the old factory forms of the basis of a residential estate of the same name. The old facade hides the modern houses behind on what was known as Sneinton Island. The canal flanks the houses on the far side. Nottingham was once home to many tanners, but the industry was practically non- existent when the Turneys set up their operations in 1861. They carved out a reputation for producing "fancy leather goods" - gloves, purses and the like. Whilst the title remained Turney Brothers, John was the driving force and brother Edward left the company. John had his hand in many industrial pies, ranging from coal to glue. He was the founder member of the Nottingham Rowing Club, so it is perhaps no surprise that the main rowing clubhouses are directly across the Trent from the Turney Brothers factory. The factory finally closed its doors after 120 years of production in 1981. It was a Players, a Raleigh or a Boots, but it was another piece of the Nottingham industrial heritage that would no longer be part of the future.

We walked down behind the old factory on to the towpath. An old marker to signify entry to the City of Nottingham lies almost forgotten next to the entrance to the final stretch of canal on the approach to the city centre. The Meadow Lane Lock system controls the water level between the canal and the Trent. A new high rise apartment block is under construction on the bank. Trent Bridge Quays is a fancy name. The apartments come with a fancy price. Its river frontage has a cracking view of the rear of the Trent End Stand of Nottingham Forest directly opposite. A large billboard advertises the availability, so you too can join this new community. We alighted from the canal towpath near the Trent Navigation pub. It now has it's own Navigation brewery in the old outbuildings occupied in years gone by the canal boat horses, but was once part of the Truman Hanbury Brewery empire of Buxton.

The pub is on Meadow Lane - home of Notts County Football Club. The two Nottingham football club grounds are a mere 274 metres apart as the crow flies - albeit with the River Trent in between. It isn't Dundee, but still close. Forest have their iconic management duo in Clough and Taylor and the Notts County counterparts are immortalized in statue form along from the pub. The statue of Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler stands on a plinth inscribed "Legends of the Lane". The pair masterminded the best periods of recent history for the Magpies and encouraged 1400 fans to contribute to making the statue a reality. Sirrel was a journeyman player, who started his career with 13 appearances for Glasgow Celtic. He moved into coaching at Brentford, before arriving for his first stint at Notts in 1969. Sirrel proclaimed that everybody knew about County being being the oldest league club in the world, but that people would know more about them when he had finished. He elevated their status from 4th Division also rans to an established 2nd Division side, before deciding to try his luck at a declining Sheffield United. He was back 2 seasons later. 1981 saw the promotion to the old First Division. Notts County would be playing at the highest level for the first time since 1926. I made my first visit to the Lane in that promotion campaign. Indeed, it was first visit to Nottingham - 29 November 1980 to be precise. It was of course to see the SW6 gang, who were mounting their own promotion campaign. However, Manager Geoff Hurst - legendary England striker - was busy building the team that couldn't score. A credible 1-1 draw was secured that day, but there would be precious few other goals scored on the road in the remainder of the season. They finished a distant 12th in the league table.

Meadow Lane has been full redeveloped since those days - the money from selling some of their finest playing assets was reinvested in the infrastructure, but the replacements on the pitch have not always lived up to expectations. After the initial highs of 1981, there were relegations and a somewhat unexpected return to the top flight. However the big bucks of the new Premier League eluded them - relegated from the "old" Division 1 to the "new" Division 1 - and some would say, it has been pretty much downhill ever since. The relegation into the National League ranks has seen them change their much heralded oldest football league club title taken away. What would Jimmy Sirrel make of it all?

The main gates were wide open to the ground, but there was little activity. A few players - it is hard to confirm these days, as they aren't exactly household names - were making their way to their cars after training. The club could do with asking Juventus to repay the 1903 favour and borrow a few players to get them out of their current predicament. Notts arguably had their biggest game in recent years, when they were invited by Juventus to play in the opening game of the Stadium in 2011. Lee Hughes starred in his own Italian Job, sneaking an equaliser to spoil the party. There was to be a big game the day following our wandering - behind closed of course. Torquay United, running away with league, were the visitors and it would be an opportunity to peg back the points difference. The club shop, ticket office and social club were all closed up with the lockdown in force. The social club is now called the Broken Wheelbarrow after the fans favourite song - quite ironic really. I am not sure about the wheelbarrow, but the wheels have certainly come off the wagon in recent times!

We crossed to the Cattle Market area over the road. The Cattle Market started life in 1886 and the current premises were opened in 1888. The first cow traded at a cost of £22 - which is £2,700 in 2021 prices. The 9 1/2 acre site had it's own railway sidings, bank branch and became none of the leading livestock auctions in the country. The hammer came down on the final beast in 1993. Today, the main tenants are Arthur Johnson who run 5 separate auctions each weekend. The heads of cattle still look down from the entrance gates. The old cattle pens are still in evidence. However, the Cattle Market Tavern - holders of an 'early" licence to satisfy the cattlemen - is now the Silly Sausage. It was here that I supped my first pint in Nottingham - 9 November 1982. I can be precise again, because I was also visiting Meadow Lane afterwards. The SW6 gang lost 2-0 in the old League Cup that night against the First Division "big boys" of Notts County. How times change!

It was time to retreat back to the Trent. The boarding platform for the Princess River Cruises by the Brewhouse and Kitchen was buckled under the pressure of the fast flowing river. The website proudly states, " Whatever The Weather". COVID has put a halt to operations, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have managed to set sail in this flood. The embankment was busy with those "home schooling", but none seemingly doing history by the War Memorial. The Monument was unveiled in 1927 on land donated by Jesse Boot. The 26 feet high Portland stone arch is the centre piece of a 36 acre area of parkland. The original inscription was that for the Great War and the 1939 - 1945 conflict was a later addition. The Memorial Garden behind houses a smaller monolith added in 2019 to commemorate the 13,501 people of Nottinghamshire killed in the First World War (including those civilians killed by Zeppelin raids and an explosion at the shell making factory in Chilwell). A statue of Queen Victoria is tucked away to the rear. The northern bank is officially the Victoria Embankment.

The Embankment normally has a series of
Legends of the Lane Statue, Meadow LaneLegends of the Lane Statue, Meadow LaneLegends of the Lane Statue, Meadow Lane

Notts County FC managerial duo, Jimmy Sirrel & Jack Wheeler
steps descending to the water. There were no steps today. If you fancied sitting on one of the many benches, you would need a pair of waders. The majority were 7 or 8 feet from shore. A group of Canada Geese were keeping their head down by the waters edge. The swans further up were waiting for a food handout. We walked on towards Wilford. There are two bridges across the river after Trent Bridge, before you reach the next major road crossing at Clifton. There are many that would dispute that it the latter is a functional road crossing, after the fiasco of the closures in the last 18 months. Highways England discovered it was basically dropping to bits during a routine inspection and paralysed the north-south city transport links by closing one of the sections. As I write, it still has not totally reopened. Working from home for many was a reality before COVID, rather than face a nightmare commute everyday.

The Suspension Bridge or Wilford Suspension Bridge (or the Welbeck Suspension Bridge as it was originally called) is a cycle and pedestrian link near the War Memorial. It opened in 1906 - not for the purpose of allowing the good citizens of West Bridgford to enjoy a Sunday afternoon stroll - but to carry a water main. The original purpose was to link to the Wilford Hill Reservoir. The bridge is not a right of way and can be closed by owners Severn Trent Water, if deemed necessary.

We followed the bend of the river towards the Wilford Toll Bridge. Today, it is a pedestrian crossing and also used by the trams heading south to Clifton. It was built in 1870 with Clifton in mind too. The original purpose was to take traffic to the Clifton Colliery and technically remained as a private crossing until 1969. The toll house at the northern end is now a cafe, but the board above entrance still shows the list of tolls that used to be charged. The 1862 Act allowed for horse drawn carriages to be charged at 6d (in old money). A dog cart and an Irish car, whatever they might be were the same rate. Cows and ox got away with just 1d. The bridge was commissioned by a Sir Robert Juckes Clifton - local landowner and MP. A statue of the man stands nearby. He succeeded to his title in 1852, but had a bit of colourful earlier life. He was apparently forced to live in France for a while, due to his gambling debts.

The water levels in the Trent began to recede in the few days after I took the first photographs for this blog. A full 4 steps were visible on the Embankment. The weather then went full circle. It snowed again and boy did it snow. The subsequent melt would bring yet more troubled water downstream.



Appendix 1

Notts County dominated the league leaders, but couldn't make a breakthrough and close the points difference.

Vanarama National League

Notts County FC 0 Torquay United FC 0

Venue: Meadow Lane, Nottingham. NG2 3HJ

Date: Saturday 23th January 2021 @ 1500 Hours

Attendance: Nil - Behind Closed Doors

Notts County: Slocombe, Rawlinson, Lacey, Brindley (Miller 87 Mins), Doyle, Reeves, Kelly-Evans, Boldewijn (O'Brien 76 Mins), Effiong (Sam 62 Mins), Wooton, Rodrigues

Torquay United: MacDonald, Warren ( Andrews 90 Mins), Moxey, Cameron, Sherring, Whitfield, Nemane, Randall, Sheaf (Little 65 Mins), Waters (Umerah 58 Mins), Lemonheigh-Evans



Appendix 2

Chelsea arrived sitting 2nd in the old Division 2 and looking good for promotion. The Johnny B equaliser turned out to be the last League goal scored away from home all season. 2nd at Christmas, Chelsea finished 12th in the Division. Notts County were promoted behind runaway leaders, West Ham United.

Division 2

Notts County FC 1 Chelsea FC 1

Venue: Meadow Lane, Nottingham. NG2 3HJ

Date: Saturday 29th November 1980 @ 1500 Hours

Attendance: 14,459

Scorers: 1-0 Harkouk 79 Mins (Notts County), 1-1 Bumstead 84 Mins (Chelsea)

Notts County: Avramovic, Benjamin, O'Brien, Kelly, Kilcline, Richards, McCulloch (Sub Harkouk 77 Mins), Christie, Hunt, Hooks

Chelsea: Brorota, Locke, Rofe, Bumstead, Droy, Chivers, DRiver, Britton, Lee, Walker, Rhoades-Brown

Appendix 3

1st Division Notts County proved too strong for a mid-table 2nd Division Chelsea. Chelsea slumped thereafter and avoided relegation to the 3rd Division on the final day of the season.

Milk Cup Round 3

Notts County FC 2 Chelsea FC 0

Venue: Meadow Lane, Nottingham. NG2 3HJ

Date: Tuesday 9th November 1982 @ 1930 Hours

Attendance: 8,852

Scorers: 1-0 Christie 26 Mins Pen (Notts County), 2-0 Hooks 45 Mins (Notts County)

Notts County: Avramovic, Goodwin, Worthington, Hooks, Kilcline (Sub: Lahtinen), Richards, Chiedozie, Christie, McCulloch, Clarke, Mair

Chelsea: Francis, Locke, Hutchings, Pates, Droy, Chivers, Cannoville, Bumstead, Lee, Speedie (Sub: Robson), Fillery


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Cattle Market, Nottingham Cattle Market, Nottingham
Cattle Market, Nottingham

Old Cattle Market Tavern


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