Events and excursions, Winter 2023-24

The Neville Hoskins Lecture - December 2023

'Queen Victoria and Nottingham'

Kevin Powell, local historian

Kevin is well known to members of the Thoroton Society and, since 2007 he has explored a great deal of Nottinghamshire history which has included writing articles and leading guided walks around historic Nottingham. Kevin therefore was an ideal speaker for the Neville Hoskins Lecture and he set about showing us the changes that came about in Nottingham during Queen Victoria's reign and the legacy Queen Victoria left by her reign on Nottingham.

Kevin was able to provide a full explanation by covering Victoria's right to sit on the throne inheriting her title from her uncle, William IV and gave us a brief explanation of the family line going back to George III. He then moved into the changes that came to Nottingham during her reign. He started with housing for both the rich and the poor. For the rich the development of the Park Estate and for the poor living in the Meadows, Narrow Marsh and St Anns. This was fascinating and having been on some of Kevin's guided walks it reinforced for me the difference in Nottingham's housing in the 19th century. With buildings in mind he then developed the building theme by speaking about Watson Fothergill and Thomas Chamber Hines. He gave examples of the buildings designed by them, which can still be seen today in Nottingham. Kevin then moved on to how new industries and the manufacturers, still well known today, were founded in Victorian times. Three notable men and their Victorian industries which are still known by us today were picked on to show how Victorian Nottingham became an important manufacturing town. Jesse Boot, John Player and Frank Bowden were chosen by Kevin. Household names still known today: Boots Chemists, Players Tobacco and Raleigh Bicycles.

He also spent some time talking about the development of the Lace Industry and the development of the Lace Market area. Having been on one of Kevin's walks around the Lace Market area this was a reminder for me of the heritage of the Nottingham Lace Industry. Education was next as Kevin described the changes and the coming of compulsory education in 1880s. and the School Board system. War and Poverty however in Victorian Nottingham with the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny being highlighted by Kevin. Poverty was shown by the descriptions of the creation of Bagthorpe workhouse and the Infirmary, which later became the City Hospital. Religion and non conformist religion was coved and the rise of William Booth and the Salvation Army in Nottingham. Transport in the 19th century was important throughout the British Isles and Kevin highlighted the coming of steam and the railways to Nottingham and the development of Victoria Railway station where today we find the Victoria Shopping Centre. In 1897 Queen Victoria had her Diamond Jubilee, and Kevin ended his splendid talk with a few other facts about Queen Victoria, her gift from Benjamin Disraeli, pushing parliament to make her an Empress in 1876 , her beloved husband Albert, and the fact that she only came to Nottingham once during her long reign.

This lecture was a splendid 60 minutes of Nottingham history and when you consider that by 1881 Nottingham had a population of 186,575 and Nottingham was the eighth largest town in the country, one could see how the changes in Victoria's reign were a necessity. Kevin's lecture helped highlight how the changes helped Nottingham develop in Victoria's reign.

Paul Baker

The Maurice Barley Lecture - January 2024

Commemorating the Bicentenary of Southwell's Workhouse

Fiona Lewin, Senior Collections & House Officer, National Trust

The Workhouse at Southwell was established in 1824 under the Poor Laws of the time and replaced a previous Parish Workhouse elsewhere in Southwell. Founded by Revd. John Becher, its design, although larger, followed the principles established in the previous workhouse, also run by Becher, to separate males and females in accommodation either side of a common space. The previous workhouse will be familiar to many, as it is now the Baptist Church on Nottingham Road. Our speaker, Fiona Lewin, has worked at Southwell workhouse and Infirmary, now in the care of the National Trust, for the last 15 years. Fiona continued her introduction by highlighting that Southwell became a model for several other Workhouses around the country that were established under the New Poor Law of 1834. This, and other successive legislation, established the principles of providing help and support to the poor, so that placement in the Workhouse became the option of last resort, when all others had failed, hence their fearsome reputation.

Fiona's recent work has been focussed on research to establish links between the Census of 1921 and the records made by the Workhouse of the inmates in their care at that time. This has raised a number of ethical issues over further links that may be found to people who are still alive today but may not be aware of connections to the Workhouse, only one or two generations removed. At about this time, the Workhouse adopted the use of the name 'Greet House' when legislation required death and, later, birth certificates to record the actual location as well as the Parish or town of the event. Over its lifetime, the Workhouse had undergone several expansions to include an Infirmary and other ancillary accommodation which appear to have softened the regime from the rigid disciplinarian style of the Victorian era to a softer one, but still with the enforced separation. This subtle change allowed some of the segregated spaces to be used as multi-generational bed-sit style accommodation. This type of accommodation was still in use in 1962 when a short television news report was broadcast, showing people and activities happening inside Greet House. Fiona had managed to obtain a copy of this broadcast and showed it to close her presentation, much to the amusement of many in the audience who were familiar with the clothing styles, hair styles, furniture and decoration seen on the screen!Anyone with information or memories that may contribute to the continuing research around the 1921 Census is welcome to contact Fiona at

David Hoskins