This is a shortened note of a talk given by Christine Drew at a joint meeting of Alexandra Park Residents Association and the Very Local History Group at Nottinghamshire Hospice on 9 November 2011. This note only covers the period up to the building of the first four large houses in 1857/8; full text available from Christine. For reasons of space, sources and illustrations are also not included; photographs and illustrations of the interiors and exteriors of many Alexandra park houses can be found on the Picture-the-Past website.
Early history of the area:
As shown on Sanderson’s 1835 map of Twenty Miles Around Mansfield, prior to 1850 there was only a track (Goosewong Lane) from Nottingham up to Mapperley; the main route for horse-drawn traffic was up Red Lane (later Redcliffe Road) and even this was impassable in winter because of the steep hills.
Prior to the 1877 boundary extension, Red Lane and the ridge of Mapperley Hills (the course of the present Woodborough Road) were the northern boundary of the old Nottingham Borough. The land on the eastern side of Mapperley Hills was part of the ancient Thorney Wood (part of Sherwood Forest owned by the Crown) and known as the Coppices. A letter dated 1 July 1610 in Nottinghamshire Archives shows that in 1610 James I granted the Coppices to Nottingham Borough.
From then onwards Nottingham Corporation owned the whole of the eastern side of Mapperley Hills. The Coppices became the 107 acres Chamber Estate (used for the general benefit of the borough council) and the Bridge Estate (held in trust for the maintenance of Trent Bridge). The gradual clearing of the Coppices and leasing of the land for pasture can be traced in the Borough Records; for example, in 1742, 6.5 acres was leased to the Overseer of the Poor for St Nicholas Parish, for 999 years at 1/- per annum, to provide milk for the parish workhouse.
In the 1830s parts of the Bridge Estate were developed as Hunger Hill Gardens and Gorsey Close Gardens to provided detached pleasure gardens for traders and professionals without gardens in over-densely-developed Nottingham. Between these two gardens were the two fields, known as Trough Closes, and the Free School Estate (now Sycamore Road recreation ground).
Along the hill top, on the extremity of the Borough, was Mapperley Hills Common, a narrow strip of steeply-sloping, uncultivated land, shown on the map accompanying Thomas Hawksley’s 1845 Health Of Towns Report as “commonable all the year round”. Periodic prosecutions for illegal clay-digging on this land appear in the Borough Records; brick kilns in the area are shown on Sanderson’s 1835 map. Later commentators remembered it as a brown-field site littered with hollows and rubble-heaps.
1845 Nottingham Enclosure:
In the 1845 Nottingham Enclosure Award, Mapperley Hill Common and Trough Closes were declared ‘waste’ land and not awarded to anybody. The Enclosure map shows this land was divided into three plots (163-165) which were sold off to William Smith (a builder in Sneinton) for £5 in 1848.
Mapperley Hills Road (now Woodborough Road) was created in 1850 as part of the enclosure improvements, cutting straight through Gorsey Close Gardens; this made plot 163 potentially more attractive because it was slightly more accessible from Nottingham.
In August 1853 Smith sold the southern 27 acres (plot 163 on Enclosure Award Map) to Thomas Chambers Hine and his brother John for £5,946-12s.
The Hine Family:
The Hines were a prosperous old family from Beaminster in Dorset. Jonathon Hine (senior) came to Nottingham in 1795 and became a successful hosiery manufacturer. In 1803 he married Mary Chambers, daughter of Thomas Chambers, who had started as a framework knitter and rose to become a senior partner in Chambers, Wilson & Morley, later to become the famous I & R Morley company.
Ten years later in 1813 their eldest son Thomas Chambers Hine was born. Instead of joining the family firm, he was articled to a London architect, returning to Nottingham in 1834 to establish his own practice, initially in partnership with a local builder, William Patterson. By the 1850s he was regarded as Nottingham’s best and busiest architect. By 1850 Nottingham’s lace trade was at its zenith with many nouveau-riche manufacturers seeking homes outside the town to display their new wealth and status.
The Hine’s Plan For Plot 163:
The Hine brothers drew up a provisional ambitious plan for plot 163, shown on Frederick Jackson’s 1861 map, but they immediately started to run into difficulties. Less than 6 months after purchasing plot 163, in January 1854, Thomas accepted the post of surveyor to develop the Duke of Newcastle’s Park Estate; this occupied his attention for the next 30 years; his office were responsible for 200 of the 650 houses constructed. He was also busy enlarging the General Hospital (at the invitation of Thomas Birkin), designing the Coppice Hospital, and with country houses commissions (including his 1851-7 work on Flintham Hall.) Thomas almost immediately sold his interest in plot 163 to his brother John.
John Hine’s Plan for Plot 163:
John took out two large loans, to buy-out his brother, and to purchase some additional land (extending north to Ransom Road) from the enclosure commissioners, costing £2,858. By October 1855 John was in serious financial difficulties and unable to meet the loan repayments; it looked as if the intended development would not proceed. The family firm of Hine & Mundella had also run into difficulties; the main factory was burnt down and, although it was rebuilt, by 1864 the firm was absorbed into Nottingham Manufacturing Company.
T C Hine had already established a reputation for developing rather unprepossessing sites but the proposed estate was possibly not so attractive to clients because, although Woodborough Road had been created, until it was levelled in 1886, it was so steep that horse drawn carriages could reach the entrance to the estate only with difficulty. The Park in Nottingham was more attractive because, in addition to being more accessible, it was extra-parochial and not subject to the Poor Law Rate of other local taxes.
In 1857 John managed to start the first four large houses at the southern end of the estate – Enderleigh, Fernleigh, Springfield and Sunnyholm (later Trent House). These four houses were designed by T C Hine and were strategically positioned with views down Trough Close and over Hunger Hill Gardens. Enderleigh was intended as John’s family home but he never lived in it and in 1862 he moved away to London. He held onto the undeveloped land (west of Albert Road and north to Ransom Road) until 1881 when he sold it to the council.
The entrance to the estate was gated with a lodge. The winding road into the estate was originally called Park Drive, later changed to The Crescent. It was extended northwards in 1862, the extension being named Albert Road to commemorate Prince Albert’s death in December 1861. Originally the estate was confusingly called Mapperley Park but this was changed to Alexandra Park after 1871 to commemorate the marriage of Prince Edward to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The names of other roads in the area (Dagmar, Denmark, Coberg, Mickelborough, etc.) reflect the local popularity of the couple, who were invited to open the Castle Museum & Art Gallery in 1878.
The name Mapperley Park was then adopted for the separate estate of the Wright family at Mapperley House (later Mapperley Hall); in 1875 the name appears on a plan by Evans & Jolley, the architects who refurbished the Hall and built a new lodge that year.
Access remained an issue; by the Borough Extension in 1877, only a handful more houses were built in Alexandra Park (shown on Marriott Ogle Tarbotton’s 1878 map). In 1886 Woodborough Road was lowered and levelled (the high retaining walls are still in place.) During this work, traffic had to be diverted through Alexandra Park. The original lodge (then owned by William Farmer at Fernleigh) was damaged; the minutes of the Corporation Works Committee of 9 April 1886 record the need to replace it. The 1901 OS 6” Map shows that by 1901 there was still only about 25 houses built in Alexandra Park. After 1902 the electric trams up Woodborough Road accelerated development in the area.
The Alexandra Park plots were all large and originally restricted to single family houses of a minimum rateable value of £40. All ‘trade, industrial premises and steam engines’ were prohibited. From the outset the community was socially homogenous; most were self-made manufacturers or professionals; many were prominent in public life and connected through political, church or business relationships.
The first four houses built in 1857/8:
Designed by T C Hine for his brother Benjamin Hornbuckle Hine (of Hine & Mundella, hosiery manufacturers). In the 1861 census Benjamin (age 46) was recorded there with his wife Mary (35), mother-in-law (herself a property owner), two sons [Walter (6) and John (3)], (the latter later became Bishop of Grantham), two daughters [Mary (1) & Violet (1 mth)], Emma Woodhead (an adopted destitute orphan aged 11) and five servants, including a governess and a monthly nurse. The family remained there until 1873. For a short period, from 1874 to 1876, the house was rented to James Allen (of Allen, Solly & Co).
From 1876 to 1900 it was the home of John Turney (of Turney Bros, Trent Bridge Leather Works). Turney was a member of the Council for 23 years, became Sheriff in 1878, Mayor in 1886-8, and was knighted in 1890. He was a director and chairman of many companies including Raleigh Cycles. At the end of the C19th he moved to Gedling House.
John Turney married his first wife, Helen Nicholson, in 1865 but she died the following year. He remarried to Juliette and produced 4 sons and 5 daughters. In the 1881 census, at age 42, he was recorded as a leather manufacturer employing 300 hands, living at Springfield with Juliette (33) and 6 children under 8 yrs – two daughters [Helena (8) & Marguerite (7)], and four sons [John (6), Leonard (3), Alfred (2) & Bernard (10mths)]. Thankfully they had a governess and four other servants!
By 1891, 3 more girls had joined the family [Kathleen (9), Audrey (7) & Maud (5)] but John, Leonard & Alfred were not recorded, presumably because they were away at school.
In 1891, as well as 4 house-servants, the family have a resident gardener, Thomas Beeton. He had a wife and two grown-up daughters (employed elsewhere as a shirt machinist and a hosiery worker), all recorded as living at Springfield.
From 1900 to 1934 Springfield was occupied by Sir Arthur William Black, of Jacques, Black & Co Ltd. He also was an MP, JP, Sheriff and Mayor, and one of the founders of the Albert Hall Wesleyan Mission. He gave Springfield to National Children’s Homes in 1934. It opened as a boys home in 1935, joined by girls in 1967. After it closed in 1982, it was sold and converted into apartments.
T C Hine designed Enderleigh for his brother John Green Hine, but he never lived there. In 1861 it was occupied by Daniel Underwood, aged 49, a cigar manufacturer and tobacconist in Pelham Street, living with his wife Elizabeth (49), two daughters (Mary 11 & Elizabeth 5) and three sons (Ben 11, Richard 9 & Daniel 7), and two servants.
The Underwoods left in 1880 and by the 1881 census Enderleigh was occupied by William Hutchinson Farmer. Farmer previously lived in Alexander Street (off Sherwood Rise) and owned a lace factory in North Sherwood Street. By age 35 in 1881 he was managing director of the Midland Lace Company, employing 600 workers, and living at Enderleigh with his wife Jane, three sons [William (14), Charles (13) & Walter (10)] with 3 servants.
From 1887 to 1895 Enderleigh was occupied by George Creassey, a lace manufacturer from East Retford. In the 1891 census, age 61, he was living with his wife Annie (57), and three unmarried grown-up sons [John (26), a farm agent, Frank (23), employed as a lace designer, & Herbert (21), a solicitor’s articled clerk]. An unrelated elderly widow lived with them and they had on servant.
In May 1895, at age 66, George made an unpleasant exit. He blew up the drawing room and set his dressing gown on fire in an explosion while lighting the gas chandelier, dying a few days later.
By 1901, Thomas Mason, a 57 year old manufacturing chemist lived at Enderleigh with his wife Betsy (51), two middle-aged spinsters from Southampton and a couple of servants. Directories show he was still there on 1908 and his widow still there in 1915.
It is unclear who then occupied Enderleigh in the early C20th. By 1958 it housed Nottingham’s Gordon Boys Home. The local Gordon Boys Home was established in 1855 for 20 boys in Shakespeare Street; in 1890 they moved to Peel Street and in 1904 to Cranmer Street before moving to Enderleigh in 1958.
After Gordon Boys closed December 1965, Enderleigh was sold for £1800. The City Council Children’s Department used it as a home for female juvenile offenders, and after 1971 the Social Services Department used it as an Intermediate Treatment Centre for juvenile offenders and for staff training and management meetings. It became surplus to requirements, probably in the late1980s, and has been standing empty and deteriorating ever since. (Planning permission to replace the house with two blocks of flats was refused but the developers, expecting an unrealistic pre-recession price, have failed to sell-on the site.) The proximity of Alexandra Court also detracts from the original attractiveness.
Fernleigh was designed by T C Hine for William Windley. He was born in 1822, the eldest child of Thomas Windley (a dyer from London) and Jane Hutchinson who had married the previous year. At age 29, William was recorded in the 1851 census as a silk throwster employing 221 persons, living near his parents in Park Valley with his wife Elizabeth (29), their son Thomas (11 mths) and three servants. (Elizabeth came from Broughton and brought a substantial estate to the marriage.)
In July 1854 William Windley bought 10,449 sq yds of land from John Hine for £767 and about 1857 Fernleigh was built; in the 1861 census Windley, now as aged 39 and a widower, was recorded as a silk merchant (Windley & Barwick) employing 385 people, living at Fernleigh with three young sons [Thomas (10), John (8) & William (16 mths)], a daughter Jane (6) and four resident servants (including a groom and a 13 yr old lad, William Sissons, described as a labourer.) His first wife Elizabeth had died and a few years later, about 1863, he married again to Frances Crosland.
In 1863, about the time of his second marriage, Windley purchased a further 5659 sq yds of land from John Hine, on the southern side of The Crescent, to use as a kitchen garden, and the estate entrance lodge. He also purchased a substantial piece of land on the opposite side of Woodborough Road from the Wright family at Mapperley Hall. (This land later became the site of some very substantial houses including Beechwood and Park House.) This was possibly investing the money Frances brought to the marriage.
Windley was a staunch Conservative and strong supporter of the Anglican church. He donated about £20,000 for the building of All Saints Church and School in 1864 (also designed by T C Hine), were he continued to worship for the rest of his life. He was also a substantial benefactor of St Andrew’s and St Jude’s.
In the 1871 census Windley, now employing only 220 persons, was still at Fernleigh with his second wife Frances, now aged 44. His eldest son Thomas (20) and his daughter Jane (16) were there on census night, but three new young sons [Edward (7), Frank (6) & Chadwick (1)] had joined the family. They had five servants, including a 13 yr old boy, Joseph Keays, employed as a general helper.
In 1877 Windley died suddenly at age 54 after a short illness. His funeral was at All Saints where he was buried. His estate was valued at £30,000. Frances, his widow, continued to live at Fernleigh; in the 1881 census she is recorded there, aged 54. William’s second son John, now aged 28, was still at home, having taken over the business (recorded as a silk throwster & cotton merchant employing 275). Also still at home was Edward, the eldest son of the second marriage, now 17 and described as a lace warehouseman. Frances’s widowed mother, Amelia (86) and her widowed sister, also Amelia (57) had joined the household and they had three servants.
Two years later in 1883 Frances was recorded living in a more modest house at 30 Waterloo Road where she died in February 1884. It is not entirely clear who rented Fernleigh from the Windley’s from 1883 to 1885, probably William H Willet, a solicitor whose son, Sir Hugh Willet, became Secretary General of the Arts Council and founder of Nottingham Playhouse in 1975.
In 1885, after Frances Windley had died, Fernleigh (and the lodge and the land south of The Crescent) were sold for £5800 to William Farmer (who had been renting Enderleigh across the road for the previous four years).
William Farmer, and his neighbour John Turney at Springfield, were Liberal supporters. Farmer was president of East Nottingham Liberal Association and the founding president of the Nottingham Gladstone Club. When William Gladstone came to address a political meeting in Nottingham in 1887, the Turneys entertained him at Springfield while the Farmers at Fernleigh entertained some of his entourage, including the Marquis of Ripon, who later became a government minister.
In the 1891 census, Farmer, aged 48, was still living at Fernleigh with his wife Jane, his 3 sons [William (24), Charles (23) & Walter (20)]. All three boys have foolishly followed their father into lace manufacturing when the industry was declining. The three daughters [Jane (18), Nellie (15) and Florence (13)] are recorded as scholars. By then they had only two servants.
In the 1890s the lace trade went into depression, taking William Farmer with it. In December 1894 he resigned as Managing Director of the Midland Lace Company on Stoney Street. On Sunday night he went into the office and committed suicide by shooting himself. His estate was valued at £12,280. He had taken out two large mortgages to purchase Fernleigh; in 1896 one of the lenders, a Nottingham solicitor, William Wadsworth, sold Fernleigh at the knock down price of £4,000 to John Dane Player.
John Player senior founded the tobacco business. He had two sons, John Dane and William Goodacre. When he died in 1884, he stipulated that the boys could not inherit the firm until 1891 when they were both aged 25 and more experienced in the trade. In 1889, while still a humble employee, John Dane married Margaret Page; they never had any children. In 1895 the brothers made the firm a limited company and with the proceeds they were both able to buy a prestigious home. William commissioned the architect Arthur Marshall to design Leahurst, now part of Nottingham University main campus. John purchased Fernleigh but delayed moving in for three years while Arthur Marshall altered and extended it (including adding the present tile-cladding). In 1899 Arthur Marshall also designed the stable and carriage house (the turreted building on Fernleigh’s kitchen garden on the south side of The Crescent, fronting Woodborough Road.)
By the 1901 census John (then 36) and Margaret Player were settled at Fernleigh with three servants. They remained there for the rest of their lives. Margaret died in 1849 and John placed a magnificent alabaster memorial in St Andrew’s church. The following year John died aged 86, leaving an estate of £2.5 million.
Nottingham Children’s Hospital moved from Postern Street into Forest House (donated Thomas Birkin) in 1900, remaining there until it was absorbed into University Hospital in 1974. The hospital records show that John Dane Player (who retired from the tobacco firm in 1926) was a trustee of the hospital and gave a total of £50,000 to extend it. He served on the management committee, attending weekly meetings and visiting the children almost daily for the rest of his life. He was totally opposed to the newly-created NHS taking over the hospital in 1948…. this may have hastened his death.
In 1950 Nottingham Corporation bought Fernleigh; the Welfare Department used it as a home for old people. In 1960, the former kitchen garden was used to build Alexandra Court; initially it was intended as a hostel for working girls, but because of insufficient demand, most of it was used for single males. It gradually deteriorated before being sold to a private landlord and refurbishment in recent years.
In 1971 Fernleigh passed to the newly created Social Services Department and, on local government reorganisation in 1974, it passed to the County Council. It no longer met the needs of elderly people and was briefly used for other purposes before being declared redundant and leased to Nottinghamshire Hospice in 1980.
There are photographs of the interior of Fernleigh when it was a family home on the Picture-the-Past website.
Sunnyholm (later Trent House):
The first resident was Thomas Woodhouse, a lace manufacturer. In 1861 at age 47 he was recorded living with his wife, Elizabeth (40), five daughters [Edith (14), Elizabeth (10), Lilian (9), Jane (6) & Susan (7 mths)], one son, Thomas (10) and three servants.
From 1868 to 1877 it was occupied by Edward Turney while his brother and partner in Turney Bros Leather Works was resident at Springfield. Edward also had leather works in Basford. In the 1871 census he is recorded as age 36, living with his wife Susan two sons [Edward (11) & John (9)] and a daughter, Ellen (8) and one servant. In July 1876 he applied for planning permission to build a coach-house, stables and piggery but it is not clear if this happened before he moved away the following year.
It is unclear who lived in Sunnyholm in the later C19th. By the 1901 census it was occupied by Arthur Durose, a 38 yr old chartered accountant (Hubbart & Durose), his wife Annie, son Sydney (8) and daughter Irene (5), with two servants. They were still there in 1908 but it is not clear who else may have lived there before Sunnyholme became a Probation Hostel and was renamed Trent House.