Section I: Nottingham

Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Volume 2, Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby. Originally published by J Throsby, Nottingham, 1790.

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Robert Thoroton, 'Section I: Nottingham', in Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Volume 2, Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby, ed. John Throsby( Nottingham, 1790), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

Robert Thoroton, 'Section I: Nottingham', in Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Volume 2, Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby. Edited by John Throsby( Nottingham, 1790), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

Robert Thoroton. "Section I: Nottingham". Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Volume 2, Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby. Ed. John Throsby(Nottingham, 1790), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

NOTTINGHAM. (Snodengaham).

Unhappily the accounts of the origin of this place, like many others, (altho given by men of ingenuity, penetration, and much learning; and notwithstanding what hereafter may be written on such subjects) we may fear will remain in doubt and obscurity. The lapse of time has cast such a veil over the transactions of our early progenitors, that the venerable image of those distant times, which to view, through the medium of an unclouded sun, would be glorious, is covered with halituous vapour. Man with all his boasted acquirements, in such pursuits, often wanders from the smooth path way into the thicket, and from the thicket into a labyrinth of perplexity and confusion. Perhaps Deering is not much in the wrong, where he says "the farther an author retires into the dark recesses of antiquity the more he clouds his subject, and too often renders his veracity in other particulars suspected."

Thoroton's early account of this place is as follows.

(fn. 1) John Rowse, canon of Osney, in his history written to King Henry the Seventh, faith, that King Ebranc builded Nottingham upon Trent upon a dolorous hill, so called from the grief of the Brytans, of whom King Humber made there a very great slaughter in the reign of Albanact.

If it was so the British name is utterly lost, for nothing can be more manifest than that this is of Saxon original, importing a woody, or (fn. 2) forest dwelling, or habitations in dens or Caves cut in the rock, whereof there are very many still to be seen.

This John Rowse, (who was also a monk of Warwick as well as canon of Osney,) whom Thoroton quotes, places the antiquity of Nottingham, so high as 980 years before the birth of Christ. Deering, to shew the improbability of Rowse's relation, reverts to the condition of the Britains in the time of Julius Cæsar, immediately preceding the birth of Christ; when they were found living in scattered huts of the simplest formation, and almost in a state of nature, particularly in the inland parts of this country. (fn. 3) This gentleman conjectures that on account of the convenient situation of that part of the forest, which lies near the town of Nottingham, or on the site of the present town, there might have been formed colonies of the Britons, "where they were cherished by a warm southern air as well as plentifully provided with water."

Other accounts, which have but little to support them, would have us understand that a British King, whose name was Coilus, was buried here about a thousand years before the Christian æra. However no one can doubt but that the rock-apartments which have been discovered near Nottingham, and those still visible, are monuments of men's labour at very distant ages. (fn. 4)

Dr. Deering, in his introduction to the history of Nottingham informs us, that the then Lord Middleton, about the year 1740, from motives truly laudable, caused an hollow-way between two sand hills to be levelled, which stood near the entrance of the town on the Derby road. The labourers, having removed a great portion of sand from one of those eminences, found here and there a solid rock which, in some parts, appeared like partition walls of several rooms, cut out of the rock. "These," he says, "having no mark of Roman contrivance, nor any thing being found there to give room to suppose it, I take to be British." To support this conjecture he brings another not more plausible: which is that because the sand which covered these supposed rocky dwellings must have been carried hither, it was taken from the rock on which the town stands in forming the vaults, cellars, &c. of that place. The best support of his opinion, I think, is that where he says that these habitations, and others that have been discovered under similar hills, are all without the boundaries of the old wall, made in the Saxon's time by Edward the Elder, when he fortified this place. But this, till it be proved that those hollows in the rock, were ever human abodes, must rank with other opinions of writers, to use his own words, "who are fond of the marvellous," and "have recourse to the fertility of their own brains."

The rock-holes in the park, near Nottingham, close to the river Leen, are described thus by Stukeley. A representation of which is annexed.

"One may easily guess (says the Doctor) Nottingham to have been an ancient town of the Britons; as soon as they had proper tools they fell to work upon the rocks, which every where offer themselves so commodiously to make houses in, and I doubt not here was a considerable collection of colonies of this sort; that which I have described in plate 39. will give us an idea of them; 'tis in the Duke of Newcastle's park: What is visible at present, is not of so old a date as their time, yet I see no reason to doubt but it is formed upon theirs.—This is a ledge of perpendicular rock, hewn out into a church, houses, chambers, dove-houses, &c. The church is like those in the rocks of Bethlehem, and other places in the holy-land; the altar is natural rock, and there has been painting upon the wall, a steeple I suppose where a bell hung, and regular pillars; the river winding about makes a fortification to it, for it comes at both ends of the cliff, leaving a plain in the middle, the way into it was by a gate cut out of the rock, and with an oblique entrance for more safety; without is a plain with three niches, which I fancy their place of judicature, or the like; there is regularity in it, and it seems to resemble that square called the Temple in the Pictish castle, plate 38. in Scotland. Between this and the castle is an hermitage of like workmanship."

Various have been the opinions of this "ancient pile of building," as Deering is pleased to call it. These hollows in the rock are called by the people of Nottingham, generally, Papish-Holes, (fn. 5) they are formed, but not built, and have the appearance of a ruin of magnitude, destitute of design: they neither afford the mind an idea of grandeur nor simplicity. Here the chisel seems to have attempted something and there nothing. There is not any thing, upon the whole, to gratify or disgust. Art appears to have destroyed the effects of nature; or rather, together, they have formed an hermaphroditical rock on a site pictorial.—Of the town-wall and ditch Deering thus speaks.

Edward the elder for the better security and defence of this place, incircled it with a strong wall, about the year of Christ 910. And William I. in the second year of his reign did build a castle on the same rock where the old tower stood. The wall of the town did join the outer wall of the castle and thence ran Northward to Chappel Bar. Of this are manifest footsteps remaining. About the midway between the castle and Chappel-Bar in part of the ditch where now a reservoir is made, (of which in another place) are some ruins still to be seen of a postern which was erected in obedience to a precept of Henry III. dated October 18. 56 Henry III. whereby he commands "his bai liffs and burgesses of Nottingham without delay to make a postern in the wall of the said town, near the castle towards Lenton, of such a breadth and height that two armed horsemen carrying two lances on their shoulders might go in and out, where William Archbishop of York had appointed it, who made the King understand that it was expedient for him and his heirs, and for the castle and town." From this Postern a bridge went over the town ditch, which place though now filled up as well as the whole ditch between this and Chappel-Bar, bears to this day the name of Boston-Bridge a corruption of Postern Bridge. The ditch itself is now converted into kitchen gardens, and is called at this time Butt-Dyke, from some neighbouring butts where the townsmen used to exercise themselves, in shooting at a mark with bows and arrows.

From Chappel-Bar farther North and round to the East, the true ancient wall is not to be traced above ground, however, there are very old persons still living, who being labourers have within these 20 years, met when digging, with that old wall in different places, and by what they have shewn me, I may reasonably conjecture that from the Bar it went slanting through a close called Roper's close and the next to it, thence crossing the Mansfield road, along behind the North of the Backside, cross Boot-Lane by or under a summer-house called Dr. Greave's summer-house, through a close called Panier close cross the North road and Back-side excluding the House of Correction, along part of Coalpit-lane and through a cherry orchard at present the property of John Sherwin Esq. and on the outside of two closes belonging to the same gentleman, where a ditch is observed to run towards the Newark road, thence it mounted again and crossing at the end of Cartergate, extending Westward along the rock by the coal-yard to the HollowStone, where a portion of the wall was lately visible. The Hollow-Stone being a narrow passage cut out of the rock, the South entrance into the town, was secured by a strong port cullise, of which not long ago there were plain marks to be seen; within this gate on the left hand going up to the town, just turning the elbow of the Hollow-stone, there was a cavity cut into the rock, able to hold about 20 men, with a fire place in it and benches fixed, besides a stair-case cut out of the same rock; this had been a guard-house, and the stair case leading up to the top of the rock, was for centinels to spy the enemy at a distance; this no doubt was of good service to the parliament party during the civil war, if it was not contrived by them A little farther up the Hollow-stone, against and upon the rock there stood an house the property of his grace the Duke of Kingston, who upon application made to him, has given leave to the corporation to pull it down, being generously willing to forward their design of making the hollow-stone a more gradual descent and enlarging the South entrance into the town, so that two or more carriages may conveniently pass each other, to which purpose men were set to work on Tuesday the 17th of December 1740, and this useful and pleasant way into the town was compleated in a few weeks. On the top of the rocks on the left side of the passage into Nottingham town, the workmen met with a portion of the town-wall, the stones of which were so well cemented, that the mortar exceeded them in hardness. Hence the wall extended itself along Short-Hill and the High Pavement, at the lower end of which it runs down a hill called Brightmore-Hill, and at the bottom forms an acute angle, and runs again up Mont-lane, in a kind of a curve to the Week-day-Cross; both these passages are open, and it is difficult to guess how they were formerly secured, or whether they are of a more modern date, as well as the Long-stairs by Malin hill. The wall continued along behind the houses of the Middle Pavement and over against Bridlesmithgate, there stood an ancient postern, 'till within these 10 years, on the East side of which where now the Bull's head is, was a gatehouse, where a guard was kept, as is to this day plainly to be seen; on the West side stood an house formerly called Vout-Hall, (fn. 6) once the mansion house of the family of the Plumptre's, after in the possession of Alderman Drury, whose eldest son Mr. William Drury, sold it to Mr. Gawthern, the present proprietor. From this gate the wall goes to Lister gate the bottom of the Low-Pavement, where tho' built upon, it is still visible in divers places. Here, I mean at the end of Lister-gate, over against Peter-lane, in the remembrance of some old persons were to be seen the marks of a stone gate leading towards the river Leen. From hence the wall on account of the buildings in Castle gate is quite hid, but it seems more than probable, that it went along the South side of Castle gate, including St. Nicholas's church-yard, and so run upon the rock West to join the castle near Brewhouse-yard. Insomuch that Cartergate, Fishergate, the Narrow and Broad-Marsh, and all other streets and buildings, between the meadows and the South rock of the town, made a suburb. And this is what I have been able to gather concerning the ancient wall of this town, which was built so long ago as 830 years. But I should not forget to take notice of a wall of less antiquity which runs from Chappel Bar in a straight line Northward to Coalpit-lane and excluded part of the ground between Chappel-Bar and Broad-lane. This wall is plainly discernible, it serving for a foundation to many houses between the gate and Cow-lane, and where now a middle row of houses is built at the end of Cow-lane, there stood a gate facing the North, and the town wall is still to be seen in the cellars of these houses. Probably this wall was erected in Henry II. reign, after Robert Duke of Gloucester had demolished it, in the war between King Stephen and Empress Maud. Deering.

Before we pass to the history of times, in which we are less liable to be deceived either by artifice, conjecture, or romance, it may not be amiss to remark that there appears some injustice in opposing reason to relation, which is often done of transactions handed down to us of these remote times; particularly by those who live at this distant period. Have not the most wonderful things come to pass, in our day, which have astonished the world, that even nothing short of a supernatural power had the least reason to suspect? of such an enormity are they, of such a long continuance, and in such a rapid succession have they followed each other, that posterity will unwillingly give credit to the recital. And yet, forsooth, because we meet with some relations of antient times, in history or tradition, which agree not with our calm reasoning in a closet, we must reject them as romance or fable. Many things which we meet with in early story, were as much likely to have happened as the astonishing events which have recently taken place in Europe, the most enlightened part of the world, where philosophy was to have erected a paradise, and reason shut out crimes. But alas, what has it done? It has made a human slaughter house of one of its grand divisions, and destroyed the glorious fabric of religion; and with it those comforts which support declining life, in the prospect of a glorious eternity!

It undoubtedly appears strange, that men of the present day should possess art and sagacity, sufficient to give us better information of events, which happened a thousand years since, than those who lived five or six centuries ago, and who were undoubtedly as solicitous to come at truths perhaps as we are at present. What a clamour is sometimes raised up against Monks and other learned men, who have given us testimonies of certain facts they have related, from then accepted evidence, and often from their own knowledge. Truth, all must allow, is lovely and desirable; but, I am afraid, we have little less temptation and inclination to deviate from that desirable object than our ancestors. As to imposition, in this our boasted enlightened time, we find some men wittily apt at, and others as credulous in receiving, as those in days of yore. Witness the trick, a few years since, played off upon the learned body of Antiquaries with the Hardicanute-stone. I mean this as no reflection upon that body of gentlemen to whom the world, I am persuaded, are under considerable obligations. For my own part, I am confident, that I am possessed of too small a portion of antiquarian knowledge to oppose tricks of much less credibility.

Nottinghamshire, before the Roman invasion, constituted a part of the portion of Britain inhabited by a race of men called the Coritani.

Proceed we now to the times of the Romans, when this country became subject to imperial sway; leaving the uncertainty of prior events to the discussion of those, whose penetration makes rocks and mountains subservient to their will.

The learned Dr. Gale, Dean of York, in his Commentaries upon Antoninus' Itinerary thro' Britain, places Gausennæ at Nottingham. (fn. 7) This rout of Antoninus is from Duroliponte to Agelocum i. e. from Gormanchester to Littleburgh. Baxter places Grantham in this route instead of Nottingham, thus:

Antoninus. Gale. Baxter.
Duroliponte. Gormanchester. Gormanchester.
Durobrivis 35. M. Brigcasterton 35. M. Caster 22. M.
Causennis 30. No tingham 30. Grantham 24.
Lindom 26. Lincoln 26. Lincoln 26.
Agelocum 14. Littleburgh 14. Littleburgh 15.
Total 105. 105. 85.

Altho' Gale perfectly agrees with Antoninus, with respect to distance, and Baxter differs materially; yet distance is not at all times to be depended upon. But where distance nearly agrees with the Roman admeasurement, and the place fixed upon abounds with Roman relics; such as coins, pottery &c. there is but little reason to doubt of that being a station. But I cannot reconcile myself to Deering's opinion that "antiquarians should have some exact standard to go by, they should either insist upon distances and marks of antiquity together, or should at least hold to distances." This seems to carry absurdity on the face of it; the contrariety of judgement among the learned evince it; for some who have chosen distance as their infalliable guide, have been flatly contradicted by others, who regardless of distance, fix on places where nothing but marks of Roman antiquity are to be found to support their assertions, and vice versa. There is reason, doubtless, to support opinions where a place fixed on, is not at any considerable distance from the line of the route, and where evidences abound; but when a site is chosen which leaves the line at a material distance, with scarcely a single testimony of antiquity to support the choice, its agreeing with distance alone, will appear, to every unprejudiced mind, a weak foundation for opinion or conjecture: the superstructure built thereon, must fall with the first contending power. We may therefore reasonably conclude, that the pretensions of Nottingham to Roman honours are but slightly supported. Ingenuity and learning, when combined, are insufficient to impress the mind with ideas favourable to an hypothesis of this sort.

Thoroton observes, and perhaps justly, that if it were a place of note in times preceding the Saxons, its name must have been lost, for nothing, he observes, can be more manifest than that this places is of Saxon original, importing a woody, or forest dwelling or habitation in dens or caves cut in the rock, whereof there are very many still to be seen.

Deering, in his introduction to his history of Nottingham, says "I he Saxons who were next possessors of Britain, affords us a more satisfactory account concerning our town, and tho' history does not furnish us with the name of the founder, or the exact year it was begun to be built in; yet all our best historians agree, that it was a considerable place in the 8th century, provided with a strong tower, that it was called by the Saxons in the time of the Heptarchy Snoden-gaham as Dr. Thoroton has it, or rather Snottengaham from Snottenga Caves, and Ham Home or Dwelling place. Camden and others gives us a British translation of it, viz. Tui ogo bauc, or more rightly as Mr. Baxter has it, Din ogo vaiic or Din ogoboco, which however none pretends to be the ancient British name. This Saxon name was doubtless given to it by that people, from the condition they found the neighbourhood in, before they themselves made improvements by building. It belonged to the kingdom of Mercia, and a part of that kingdom took afterwards in King Alfred's reign, its name from this town Snottengabam-Scyre, now Nottinghamshire."

"Before I proceed to the time of the Saxon Kings of all England, I must take notice that in several parts of Nottingham, structures of a very considerable extent, arched in a regular manner, and supported by columns with carved capitals, &c. framed for places of worship, hewn out of the rock, have been discovered by workmen when digging for foundations, with very obscure entrances, hardly to be suspected, and also other apartments for lodging places, such were observed under diverse houses on the row, on the south-side of the great Market place called Timber-Hill, and one Edward Goddard, a bricklayer yet living, assures me, that when he was an apprentice being at work on the East-side of the Weekday-Cross, he there got into one of these subterraneous fabricks, which he found supported and adorned with pillars as has been mentioned, and that he made his way from one spacious place to another till he came as far as the upper end of Pilchergate, and under a small close at present the property of John Sherwin, Esq. one of his Majesty's Justices of the peace for the county of Nottingham at large, and opposite to his dwelling house: he the said Goddard says, that in one of these places, he found a wooden cup and a wooden can, which seemed to be found and whole, but that when he took hold of them, they mouldered into dust. These places being of the Gothic order, I conjecture to have been contrived in the time of the Heptarchy, when the Danes who were Pagans, made frequent inroads into the kingdom of Mercia, where they in a more extraordinary manner exercised their cruelty upon Nuns and Friars, and indeed Christian Priests of all kinds. To these they might in time of danger betake themselves as places of refuge, and where they might exercise their religious functions, without being exposed to the fury of those persecuting idolaters."

"Edward Senior, between 919 and 924 according to Marianus Scotus did build a Bridge over the Trent, and on the other side a little town over-against the old town of Nottingham, now called Bridgeford. (fn. 8) "

In another place in his introduction is this passage; "For my part if I consider that the Fosse way is on the South of the river Trent, and that the Romans always made their Vallum on the South-side and where the ground was rising, I can hardly forbear thinking that there was a station in that neighbourhood, where now West-Bridgeford stands, (almost directly over-against Nottingham,) a little town not built till many ages after, and that from the remarkableness of the many caves in the opposite rock they might give the station the name of Causennæ or Causennæ, and what seems to add to my conjecture, is what Dr. Stukely informs us of, that one Mr. Cooper, a man of 72 years of age, told him, that there was found at Wilford a pot of Roman coins, a town which lies on the same side of the river, and at a very little distance from Bridgeford, the high road only, parting the parishes."

We find in Dr Deering's appendix, page 286, some very sensible and judicious remarks, made by a gentleman relating to Dr. Gale's opinion, that Nottingham was a Roman Station, occasioned by his perusal of Deering's introduction. These remarks, altho' connected with them, there be some extra matter, I cannot withold from the public.

"Concerning Roman remains, I have never yet met with any thing to induce me to believe there are any. And Dr. Gale's endeavours to fix Antoninus's Causennæ at Nottingham have not at all been agreed to by later writers, viz. Baxter, Stukely, Salmon, Horsely. His subterraneous cavities you justly disallow to have any of the Roman taste in them; and there are no appearances of a Roman road leading from the southward to Nottingham, or from Lindum (Lincoln) northward. Nor perhaps has the doctor any advantage over Mr. Baxter, from the number of miles in the iter: If I understand you right, the miles you set down from Mr. Baxter are the present computed miles; and antiquaries by comparing these with miles in the itinerary in places about which there are no doubts, have found that the itinerary miles are to be computed most commonly at 4 to 3, but sometimes at 5 to 4, and according to this last reckoning 105 in the itinerary make 84 computed miles, which is within one of your number from Baxter."

"If by the arguments which have been brought against Dr. Gale, Nottingham be thrown out of the iter, they will hold equally strong against Bridgeford's being in the iter. And as to its having been a station, if ever it was one, it must have been only a statio æstiva, as it lies a considerable distance from any military way; but as there are no indications remaining of any station thereabouts, except the pot of money found at Wilford; the evidence seems too slight to prove one; and especially considering that Dr. Stukely is a man extremely liable to mistakes I have not his book here in the country, but I remember three from amongst several, that have fallen accidentally under my observation. In speaking of the garden in Stoney-street, he mentions it as belonging to one Hurst, a name never heard of there; he says that at Chester there are but four churches, when I was there, I had ten named to me, exclusive (I think) of St. Oswald's, which is in a cross-isle of the cathedral, separated from the rest by a flight partition; and in some editions of Camden's Britannia it is expressly said Chester has eleven parishes. In describing the famous inscription on Julius Vitallis's tomb stone at Bath, the doctor gives a reading of one part of it, which is not only different from what plainly appears there, but inconsistent with any sense of grammatical construction."

"These instances shew how superficial an observer he was; and therefore in this account of the pot of money, I should be glad of a little farther satisfaction, as whether the old man who told him of it, was one who could distinguish roman from any other ancient coin, and indeed whether he named any sort of coin at all, but upon its being found in a pot, the doctor's own strong imagination, full of antiquarian ideas, might presently convert the pot into an urn, and the money into roman coin."

"Upon which I took the liberty with all due submission to offer to that most judicious gentleman's farther consideration,—This Reply:"

"I readily agree that Dr. Stukely commits many errors, where he has only cast a transitory eye upon places and things, or not maturely weighed every circumstance. I could mention a number of mistakes, besides those you have pointed out, one only shall suffice at this time, which if it is not a wilful one, shews the utmost degree of indolence. He says p. 113. That below Rochester bridge there lie about 50 of our biggest first rate men of war: when by asking any common sailor he might have been informed, that we have but seven of that rate: Yet in other places where he has bestowed due attention, his observations are not to be slighted, which I take to be likewise your opinion of the doctor, since among other late writers you are pleased to make use of his name against the dean."

"For my part I always read him with caution, as appears by some of my notes, which probably may have escaped your notice. So much of the doctor."

I frankly confess I never yet could find any roman remains at Nottingham, (tho' I have seen a considerable number of roman coins, said to be found in the parish of Plumtre) but I may notwithstanding be allowed with some eminent antiquaries, Dr. Plot, Somner, and others, to be of opinion that distance, and the neighbourhood of military ways are not very slight proofs. All antiquaries agree that East-Bridgeford was a roman station; they also allow that the distance from one station to another is commonly observed to have been 8, 9 to 10 miles, this being granted, would not one reasonably conjecture our Bridgeford conveniently situated near the river Trent, and not quite 5 itinerary miles N. W. of the Fosse-way, and between 8 and 9 itinerary miles distant from the other Bridgeford, to have also been a station? The distance from the Fosse-way ought not to be looked upon as a great one, for the Romans did not always place their stations near their roads as is plainly apparent in Littleburgh, which lies upwards of 9 computed miles N. W. of the Roman highway, and would perhaps not have been made a station had it not been situated so near the river Trent, which same reason favours our Bridgeford, and if besides the pot of coin Dr. Stukey speaks of, should prove to have been Roman, our title will not be so weak as it may at first appear; nor is it very improbable, if we consider that the roman coins found about East-Bridgeford and elsewhere are most of them brass, pretty large, and thick, and the British and Saxon coins generally smaller and thinner, and most of the latter silver or mixed metal, and that they are commonly found scattered and in small quantities, and seldom in pots or urns; to which if we add, that upon finding this pot, doubtless divers people were acquainted with it, and the clergyman of the parish, or some person more knowing than the old man, might have told him that the coin was roman."

"As to what relates to the miles, you will find upon examination that Gale and Baxter use much the same measure, be they therefore itinerary or computed ones, the dean in this particular holds the same advantage over Baxter as before, and consequently it does not clearly appear that Nottingham is fairly thrown out of the iter."

"In order to be the better satisfied, which of these two learned gentlemen's conjecture is the best founded, it will not be amiss to let Mr. Baxter speak for himself: p. 65. he says:

Cantennis: Ita enim ausus sum reponere in Antonino pro vitioso Causennis vel Gausennis ut edidit simlerus, quod nihil esse necesse est. Solute quis scripseret cant en (vel an) isc, five embitus vel flexura aquæ. Hæc urbs bodie Grantham est in majoribus icenis five Lindensi conventu. Siquidem idem sonat Britannis Grant quod & Cant sicuti supr a docuimus in voce ad Tavum: Et Grantham etiam ibrida compositione profertur pro Grant avon. Amnis scilicet cur vatura."

"Now having set down the opinions of these two authors in their own words, the case stands thus:"

"Dr. Gale with a very small and allowable alteration, changes Causennas into Causennas, and without straining makes the etymology suit Nottingham, he supports this opinion by making his distances agree with the itinerary, besides which it may be said in favour of him, that the station, East-Bridgeford, is at a proper distance for Nottingham or West Bridgeford either, to be likewise one, and that the Fosse-way coming from Lindum (Lincoln) runs at an inconsiderable distance on the left hand of it, not to say one word of the pot of coin."

"Mr. Baxter assumes an authority, hardly (if at all) allowable, to make a very considerable alteration in the name, when in favour of his Grantham he turns Causennas into Cantennas, and from the turning of the river near Grantham and no other concurring circumstance, he positively affirms Cantennas to be Grantham, tho' there be no Roman road from Gormanchester to Grantham, at the same that, using the same measure of miles with Doctor Gale, he is no less than 20 miles short of the itinerary."

"You mention that later writers have not at all agreed with Dr. Gale, this (with humble submission) is pleading authority. I would willingly read these modern gentlemen with as little prejudice in their favour as I do those who have gone before them, especialiy when I find some of them commit grosser errors than their predecessors. I cannot help wondering to see such a palpable mistake as a certain dignified author in his additions to Camden makes, about the situation of Flawford church; speaking of Lenton he says: "At a little distance from hence there stands in a large field, a church with a spiresteeple, called Flawford church, the burying place of Ruddington a great country town above half a mile west from it, &c." whereas Lenton lies on the north side of Trent, and the church he speaks of stands near three miles south of that river, and that large country town is but a village: besides talking of Stanford, he immediately mentions its neighbour Clifton, which neighbour is at least between five and six statute miles distant from it. Another antiquary would fain make Lenton (a village a mile distant from Nottingham, known only for a priory of cluniac monks) the noted Lindum of the Romans; I wave bringing any more instances of this kind, tho' it were easy for me to produce a many. Some of the late writers of antiquities are strangely carried away by the fertility of their own imagination, all are highly beholden to the old ones for the solid foundation of their inquiries, and it is too frequently seen that when a new antiquary is at a loss for new discoveries in certain places, rather than be thought a meer transcriber of the labours of others, he racks his brain to advance something contradictory to what has been said by other men."

"That you have observed this in the course of your reading of authors of this class, I dare not doubt. What I have said upon this subject will I hope not draw upon me the imputation of being tenacious of my own opinion, for far from desiring that any one should acquiesce with what I offer unless upon good grounds; I am so fond of the beauty of truth in any respect, that I would at all times gladly embrace it, tho' it should lay open to me the vanity and fruitlessness of my application for seven years past, and that I do not only fancy myself so, but am really of that mind, I conclude from these signs: In the first place, that I can look upon things as yet with an unaltered eye, and take in objects as they really appear to the senses; and in the second place, that my imagination hitherto is not over-stock'd with antiquarian ideas, and that I see myself still at a vast distance from the enthusiasm of that study, which I look upon to be a great happiness."

That portion of the country, it may be just remarked, which the Romans called Coritani was afterwards included, in the Saxons time, in the kingdom of Mercia. But not intending to swell this section with things which belong more particularly to the history of England, than to this province, we will pass on to notice some events which happened at this place upon record.

In the year of Christ, 868, the Danes who had invaded the kindom of Mercia, and during the winter, had entrenched themselves at Nottingham, were besieged by Buthred, king of Mercia, and Ethelred, king of the west Saxons; but an accommodation took place without much blood-sheding. (fn. 9) Shortly after the Danes plundered this part of the kingdom of Mercia, in consequence Buthred the king retired to Rome where he died. (fn. 10) In 942 the Danes were in possession of Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln, Stamford and Derby, which they held till king Edmund, in 944, retook them. But in 1017 these places, with the whole kingdom, became subject to the dominion of the Danes, under Canutus.

Doomsday Book, that pure source of knowledge of ancient things, like the luminary of the earth is beneficent. This testimony of long past times is highly propitious to provincial as well as national story: view it on a large scale, it is of the utmost national consequence and dignity; on a more contracted, or in its division, it is grand and benevolent. (fn. 11) Extracts that relate to Nottingham, from Doomsday Book, are both in Thoroton and Deering.

The former says "In the time of King Edward the confessour in the burrough of Snotingeham were one hundred seventy and three burgesses, and nineteen villains (or husbandmen). To this borough lay six carucats of land to (or for) the kings geld (or tax), and one meadow, and small wood six quarentens long, and five broad. This land was parted between thirty eight burgesses, and of the rate or rent [censu] of the land and of the works of the burgesses yielded 75s 7d. and of two minters [Monetar.] 40s. Within it had Earl Tosti one carucat of land, of the soc of which land the king was to have two-pence, and the earl himself the third. (Afterwards when William the conqueror surveyed) Hugh the sheriff, the son of (or Fitz) Baldric, found one hundred thirty six men dwelling there, (when Doomsday Book was made, towards the latter end of his reign) there were sixteen less. Yet that Hugh himself made thirteen dwellings or mansions in the land of the earl, in the new borough, which were not there before, putting them in the cense or rate of the old borough.

In Snottingham in the demesne of the king was one church, in which lay three mansions of the borough, and five bovats of land of the above said six carucats, with sac and soc, and to the same church five acres of land and half, of which the king had sac and soc. The burgesses had six carucats to plow, and twenty bordars, and fourteen carucats (plows, carts, draughts, teams, or plowlands.) They were wont to fish in the water of Trent, and at that time made complaint that they were prohibited to fish.

In the time of king Edward (the confessour) Snottingham yielded in rent 181. when Doomsday Book was made 30l. and 10l. of the mint, [de moneta.]

Roger de Busly had in Snottingham three mansions, in which were seated eleven houses. The rent 4s. 7d.

William Peverel had forty eight merchants houses (or tradesmens.) The rent 36s. and thirteen houses of knights (or horsemen) [equitum] and eight bordars.

Raph de Burun had thirteen houses of knights, in one of these dwelt one merchant.

Guilbert four houses.

Raph, son of (or Fitz-) Hubert, had eleven houses, in these remained (or dwelt) three merchants (shopkeepers or tradesmen.)

Goisfrid de Alselin had twenty one houses.

Acadus the priest [Presbyter] two houses. In the croft of the priest were sixty houses, and in these had the king sac and soc.

The church with all things which belonged to it, was 100s. per annum value.

Richard Fresle had four houses.

In the ditch [fossata] of the borough were seventeen houses, and other six houses.

The king granted to William Peverel ten acres of land to make an orchard.

In Snottingham had king Edward one carucat of land, with the geld. The land two carucats. There (when the survey of Doomsday Book was made) the king had eleven villains (or husbandmen) having four carucats, and twelve acres of meadow, in Demesne nothing. In the time of king Edward the confessor, and then likewise the value of this was 3l. which is now called Sneinton."

It appears also by this valuable book that in Snottinghamshire, if any person should plough or make a ditch in the king's highway, viz. the fosse road to York, within two perches, he should be fined 81. two thirds to the king and one to the earl whose office then was not only honorary but of great power. The Trent and the road was taken care of by Nottingham. It appears by this book also that the Trent was navigable before the conquest.

And now with the end "of the Saxon government in England, ended also the Saxon name of this town, being thenceforth called Nottingham i. e. from the time of William Peverel, natural son of William I. was made lord of it, who in his foundation deed of the priory of Lenton calls it by that name, where he gives to that monastery among other things of greater importance the tythe of the fish of the fishing of Nottingham. Some will have the alteration of the name of this town, taken from the vast quantity of hassels growing about and near this place, Nuttingham, nor does it seem very improbable, since we have a like instance in a neighbouring seat of Sir Charles Sedley, situated about three miles north-west of this town, which upon that acount, bears the name of Nuthall."

About the year of christ, A. D. 910, the town was fortified and enclosed with a strong wall, by the elder Edward. (fn. 12) On the rock whereon the castle stands, we are told, stood a grand tower, prior to the walling of the town. (fn. 13)

Thus briefly is shewn the state and condition of Nottingham prior to the conquest, from authorities, in general, which time has stamped with some degree of credit. A slight review of that period which has been noticed, in this introductory section; or rather a transient glance at the origin, condition, &c. of our ancestors, may not be considered as improper here, before we bring into view, particulars respecting Nottingham subsequent to the conquest:

The English are descended, it is known, from a variety of nations: the Aborigines of the land, the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans have respectively had a share in the propagation of that people, but none in so eminent a degree as the Saxons who were originally of the German race. The Welch in their native tongue still call them Saisons, the Scotch Sasons and the Irish Saxonach. (fn. 14) Their language is a medley of many; the Welch, only, retain that of the ancient Britons.

In war the Saxons were brave, they used the bowing broad-sword, a short shield and the cross-bow. (fn. 15) They sacrificed to and worshiped idols, antecedent to their receiving the christian faith. They counted time by nights from which practise we still retain the expression of sennight and fortnight. In doubtful cases they tried offenders by the ordeal, which was by combat, red-hot-iron, hot water, and cold; that of hot iron was the most severe: the party accused and denying the fact, was obliged to take up red-hot-iron with his bare hand, or be adjudged guilty. (fn. 16)

As Egbert the subduer of the seven petty kingdoms of the Saxons about the year 800 gave the name of England to all, so the great Alfred divided the whole into shires, and gave them appropriate names. This great man has the reputation of associating into small bodies, consisting of ten men each, all the freemen of the realm; who were mutually bound by an oath to inspect into the conduct, and answer for the crimes of each other. (fn. 17)

It appears that our Saxon ancestors distinguished the places of burial of those slain in battle from the ordinary ones by raising over their bodies clods and turves of earth, these places are visible in many counties in England, and are now called Burrows and by some Barrows. About a mile from Nottingham, at a place called Nottingham-hill, are some lines of fortification, between which are three or four of these fort of eminences, which are now called Burrows, in one of which have been found great quantities of human bones.

Of Saxon names still in frequent use among us we may include the following, Allin or Allen, Arnold, Baldwin, Barnard, Charles, Edmund, Edward, Eric or Herick, Everard, Franc, Frederyc, Gerard, Gilbert, Darman, Henry, Herbert, Hugh, Humfrey, Lambhart, or Lambart, Leonard, Osmund, Oswin, Richard, Robert, Roger, Rosamund, Rowland, Walter, Williams, Wine and many others, which in a great measure shews the influence and power of this people in Britain.

Of customs still remaining amongst us, whose origin may be said to be saxon one I will notice, but will not assert that it had its origin before the conquest.

"Shrive is an old Saxon word, of which Shrove is a corruption and signifies confession. Tuesday on which day all the people in every parish through England, during the Romish times, were obliged to confess their sins, one by one, to their own priest, and in his own parish church; and that this might be done the more regularly, the great bell in every parish was rung at ten o'clock, or perhaps sooner, that it might be heard by all, and that they might attend according to the custom then in use. And altho' the Romish religion has given way, in our opinion, to a much better, yet the custom of ringing the bell, in our ancient churches, at least in some of them, still remains, and has obtained by some means the name of pancake-bell. Perhaps after confession it might be customary for people, on that day, to refrain from meat, and dine on pancakes and fritters, or such like provisions, whence the custom of dining on pancakes on Shrove Tuesday still remains in many parts of England." (fn. 18)

Speaking of a religious ceremony leads me to say a word or two of our ancient church architecture. The sometimes beautiful, formal zigzagged semicircle arches, which are to be met with in our old churches, are generally attributed to our saxon ancestors; but many attribute them to Norman origin, be this as it may, they doubtless are indications of the highest church antiquity in this island. These, says Dr. Warton, in his pleasing specimen of local history, that of Kiddington in Oxfordshire, parochial churches, seldom consisted of more than one aisle or pace. In this I must differ in opinion from that gentleman, for in my visits to churches in this county, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Bedfordshire, I have seen several containing a nave and side aisles, built originally with the churches. To be sure some of them were not originally parish churches; but were members of religious houses, which have been, since the reformation, converted into parish churches. The series of rude grotesque ornaments, in stones, resembling the heads of terrific animals &c. is a strong mark of church antiquity. They are doubtless the sculpture of a remote period. And as our saxon ancestors built these churches, frequently, on the scites of heathen temples, so they might retain some imitation of their rude sculpture in the churches, as ornaments.

Of old fonts in churches, some of which are curious relics of early baptism, the largest, or rather the most capacious, within, are esteemed the most ancient. The total immersion of the infant was long in practice. In larger towns few of those remain; but very capacious ones are frequently to be seen in village churches, especially where the hand of what is called improvement has not removed them.


  • 1. Ex Hist. J. Rows. Warwicens.
  • 2. Diction. Sax. Someri.
  • 3. How often, even at this distant period, do we meet with wretched dwellings in some of our villages, but little better than those described by Cæfar. Two parallel dirt walls, a dirt floor and thatched roof constitute the abode that shelters human forms, almost without cloathing, from the inclement seasons of each revolving year.
  • 4. "Nottingham. The name is nothing but a soft contraction of the Saxon word Snottengaham, so called by the Saxons, from the caves and passages under ground, which the ancients for their retreat and habitation, mined under the steep rocks of the south parts, toward the river Lind, whence it is that affertion renders the Saxon word, Snotteng-ham, speluncarum domum, and in the British language it is tui ogo hanc which signifies the same, viz. a house of Dens." Deering.
  • 5. In the time of the civil wars, in the last century, it is said, that the parliament's forces destroyed a part of them as being relics of popery, Dr. Salmon supposes them to have been British store-houses for grain.
  • 6. It had its name from very large vaults which were under it, where in the time of the staple of Calais, great quantities of wool used to be lodged. In one of these vaults, in the reign of King Charles II the diffenters privately met for the exercise of their religion, as they did after the act of toleration publicly, in a house at the upper end of Pilchergate, which is since pulled down, and a new one built in its room, the property and present mansion house of John Sherwin, Esq. this place on account of Mr. Whitlock's and Reynold's (displaced minister of St. Mary's) officiating in it, obtained the by-name of Little St. Mary's.
  • 7. Causenna itaq; lego, per illas autem intelligo Nottingham. De illa Cambdenus: "A præruptis Saxis in australi parte fluviol an Linum de spectatet Casturm sublime in rupe surget. Nec dubito quin operolæ illæ cryptæ, concamerationes, cavernæ subterraneæ è vivo Saxo excisæ, romanam loquantur magnificentiam, uti ut illæ aliæ quæ Devæ et Iscæ Silurtum celebrantui eosdem Authores habuerint, adde his supputationem distantiæ, â Causennis ad Durobrivas (Nottingham et Bridgcasterton) pulchrè cum numeris Antonini concordare, uti etiam cum illis quos. inter Causennas at Lindum locat. Causennis aliter Gausennis rectius Gosennis vel Govennis. Ceven et Govennæ et Covennæ sunt rupes conglomeratæ. In Comitatu Eboracensi rupes prope Ottely dicuntur the Cheven. In illo Cantii, oppidum Savennoc i. e. Chevennoc ito dicitur â vicinis collibus. Gevennus est tum mons tum fluvius in agro Monmouthensi unde Gobanium Antonino. Saxonibus suit oppidum hoc Snottengham Speluncarum Domus. Britannis in antiquis Kaff vel Kaou Caverna. Si itaq; minus arrideat conjectura nostra quæ Gauvennas a Ceven deduxit, originem istius dictionis a Kaff vel Kaou petas licet quod non minus nostram confirmabit Sententiam de situ hujus Stationis. Iter Britanniarum Commentariis illustratum. 1709. p. 95. 96. Gale.
  • 8. Thoroton, p. 6z. seems to be somewhat too hasty in taking up Mr. Camden for saying it was Bridgeford which Edward the elder built over against Nottingham;—his words are these: "That might likely enough be, if that was not mistaken for some buildings, which may have been within Nottingham on the south side of Trent, where there is ground enough within the limits of it, near the Bridge-end for such a purpose; and I rather suspect it, because before the Saxon government was changed, I find Bridgeford a Member of Clifton soc and not of Nottingham, &c." Stow is express that Edward the elder, built a new town over against the old town of Nottingham, and a Bridge over the Trent, between the two towns. A few stragling houses which only may have been, cannot with any colour be called a town, and a town being built opposite to Nottingham, does no ways infer that it must needs belong to Nottingham, besides Nottingham has not ground enough to build a town upon near the end of the Trent-Bridge."
  • 9. Saxon Ann.
  • 10. ibid.
  • 11. This book was, by the order of William the Conqueror in 1080 begun. It contains a survey of the lands, goods and chattels of all his subjects what each was wont to pay in the Saxons times. It was completed in 1086.
  • 12. Nothing of this wall now remains. Its appendage, the ditch, is to be traced at this distant period, near the castle hill, to which it joined and extended northward towards Chapel bar.
  • 13. See the next Section for an account of the castle.
  • 14. Verstegan, on the original of nations.
  • 15. Bow from boughs of trees of which bows were originally made.
  • 16. Emma, the mother of king Edward the Confessor, was accused of adultry with Alwine, bishop of Winchester, she was in consequence, led blindfolded to a place where glowing hot irons were laid at certain distances, and passed over them bare-foot to prove her guilt or innocence. She having passed them all without injury was pronounced innocent.
  • 17. English is supposed to be derived from the Teutonic tongue. If you ask a Dutchman how he would in his language call an angel like man, he would answer ein-English-man. The particular names of shires were given, many of them, from situations, as Buckinghamshire from Buken or Beachen, trees and Essex from the east Saxons. Verstegan. f. Ibbetson.
  • 18. Gent. Mag.