“A man of keen perception and brilliant parts, the late Mr Patchitt was greatly esteemed for his knowledge of County Council law and the criminal statutes and he was frequently a witness before special Commissions at Westminster” “A man of fine physique and fond of athletic pursuits representing Notts. in the cricket field both at home and at Brighton, at the Oval and at Lords”.

(Nottingham Evening Post 7th Feb. 1888)

My interest in EP originated from his ownership of Forest House and his acquisition of the triangle of land between Mansfield Road, Redcliffe Road, Mapperley Road and Elm Bank from the early 1850s which became known as Patchitt’s Park. Edwin Patchitt earned his place in “Great Men of Nottinghamshire” (Robert Mellors), however, for his work as a solicitor and the influential role he played in public life from the 1830s to his death in 1888. The official records are liable to hagiography but whatever interpretation we put on his motivation, he was indubitably a highly intelligent man with vision for improving Nottingham.

Early Life

Patchitt was the son of a barge coal-dealer in Middle Marsh. For a short time assisted in the business.

  • First went to a small school in St. James’ Street but subsequently obtained admission to the Blue Coat School “where was laid the foundation of an education which Mr Patchitt spared no pains in his leisure hours to improve and extend”.
  • Employed as an office boy to Messrs. W. & R Sculthorpe, W.Sculthorpe was Clerk to the County Magistrates, and the County Treasurer. EP “had made rapid progress in his employer’s office, regularly attending the court and while in his teens becoming conversant with the routine of magisterial business.”..
  • Remained with the firm after he passed his articles and gradually the magisterial side of the business was committed to his care. Became one of four guarantors of £500 each which the County Treasurer had to give to the magistrates. Sculthorpe got into financial difficulties and the guarantors were asked to pay. Sculthorpe lost his office and EP was appointed in his place, which brought him into frequent and close contact with the magistracy and leading county folk.
  • Oct 1831 Rode through the streets with the magistrates and the troops and read the Riot Act to the rioters protesting about the rejection of the Reform Bill. EP fell among the burning ruins and had it not been for an old Sneinton constable would have been killed. Unsurprisingly, worked hard to prosecute a number of the rioters and himself wrote down the depositions of the witnesses at the inquiry which preceeded the Assize trial which resulted in the hanging of three of the malefactors and the transportation of others.
  • 1837 Married Miss Speed, sister of the Deputy Registrar of the Nottingham courts.
  • 1838 Admitted to practice as a solicitor and established his own office in St Peter’s Gate
  • 1839 Appointed first clerk to the Nottingham Court of Requests, a tribunal empowered to deal with debts up to £15. EP’s quick promotion was not welcomed by everyone in the professions nor was he popular with political activists because of his role in the 1831 riots. A Nottingham newspaper was strongly opposed to him and made frequent contemptuous references to “that boy Patchitt”
  • 1840 -1843 member of Nottingham county cricket team, representing Notts. in the cricket field both at home and at Brighton, at the Oval and at Lords.
  • Liked the theatre and a member of an amateur theatrical group which visited Grantham, Retford, Mansfield and many other towns.

His role in enclosure and town improvement

  • Nov. 1844 a group of private individuals announced that they were going to promote an enclosure bill. They were men of substance each having subscribed sums of money. They included EP from whose solicitors’ office the notice was issued. The total cost is unknown but the enclosure committee took immediate steps to reimburse Wadsworth and Patchitt £1000 and in 1847 paid them a further £2,675 as the balance of their accounts for obtaining the bill. (NAO CA 7751). The Journal and the Review welcomed the news but the burgesses believed they could count on the support of the corporation as a number of members were owners of slum dwellings and would lose out if more land was released for building.
  • Nottingham Tories supported enclosure but canvassed for a separate Improvement measure to complement enclosure. The main point of the legislation was to make available development land in the old Sand Field and Clay Field.
  • Despite fierce opposition, the corporation decided to throw in its lot with the private initiative.
  • 3rd March 1845 Bill went to the Commons.
  • 1844 and spring 1845 the enclosure issue was vigorously debated in the town.
  • 30th June 1845 the bill became law. The promoters saw the bill as an instrument of ‘social, moral, sanitary, commercial and agricultural’ reform and many of its clauses were to do with building standards, the width of streets, the laying of sewers and the standards to be used in future housing construction. New houses built on the enclosed land were not to adjoin another property on more than two sides, they were to be provided with a garden or yard of not less than 30 square feet, they were to have proper bedrooms, a privy, dustpit and water supply and to have walls not less than two bricks thick.
  • August 1845 Appointed clerk to the three enclosure commissioners.
  • Jan 1846 Commissioners ready to hear claims.
  • 1849 Commissioners organised the sale of the land on the western side of the Forest for development.
  • EP bought Patchitt’s Park. EP bought the original small, four-roomed house and gradually acquired the property around it. Eventually its boundaries became roughly those formed by Redcliffe Road, Mapperley Road and Mansfield road, an area of some 30 acres. He built a new enlarged decorated Forest House “he was 20 years building or altering for he was fond of building and fancied himself an architect by nature but his work in the church cemetery and in the new High School was rudely upset by his successors”. The house itself was extremely altered until by 1855 it had been transformed into a sizeable, ornately decorated mansion and its grounds had become famous locally as ‘Patchitt’s Park’. The general public had little opportunity to view the grounds except on the rare occasions when they were loaned for openair entertainment connected with local charities.
  • 1851 Jackson’s survey of the lands to be enclosed completed. Land released in the fields for road construction, for public open spaces, and for the development of residential and business premises. 120 acres were allotted to the Corporation for the people of Nottingham for public baths and walks, cricket and football grounds and 4 acres for an Anglican and non-conformist cemeteries.
  • 1851 The Church Cemetery Company added further 9 acres to the Rock cemetery. Designed by EP it took several years to build and wasn’t finished when it opened in 1856.
  • 1852-3 long discussions about the delay in road building took place between the commissioners and the Enclosure Committee, the body appointed by the Council to look after those areas assigned to it such as the Forest and the Arboretum. The Council passed a resolution that the Enclosure Committee demand that the commissioners should start building the roads they had proposed. The Corporation still controlled the old town but the commissioners had responsibility for the new areas until they completed the award. Council refused to accept any financial responsibility for roads in the new areas. By mid 1850s impasse.
  • By 1857 the commissioners were under pressure to release land for building. But majority of the occupants of the new houses released were migrants not from the slum dwellings.
  • By 1861 large areas of the Clay and Sand Fields were already well covered in houses but commissioners found themselves building inadequate roads with little public support and without the necessary powers to complete the proposed network.
  • EP realised he needed to take the political argument for “improvement” into the Council so
  • 1852 stood for election to the Council for St Ann’s Ward but was narrowly defeated.
  • (The post 1835 Corporation still dominated by Whigs and inherited more than £20,000 in debts – twice its annual income, a sum which was not finally redeemed until 1853 – and it had no mandate to do anything about environmental conditions or about enclosure. The corporation was squeezed between the obstructive burgesses on the one hand and a group of freeholders who wanted to go further and promote a general enclosure on the other. 1839 2 bills enclosing the West Croft and Lammas Lands, 18 acres between Park Row and Derby Road, passed.
  • Dec 1839 an “Association for the Improvement of the town of Nottingham” was formed under the chairmanship of Ichabod Wright, the banker. Its main function was to lobby the council to take action over what it considered to be the crisis threatening the local transport system because of the narrow lanes and alleys, which hampered the free flow of commerce. Sheep Lane from the market place to Parliament Street was only 10 ft wide and Bridlesmith Gate and Pelham Street were less than five yards wide. Notice was also given to the council of a private attempt to promote a general enclosure bill. The corporation responded to this by establishing its own Improvement Committee which proposed to widen Lister Gate but aborted as too expensive.)
  • 1853 EP elected unopposed for St Mary’s ward.
  • Feb 1854 EP presented a plan involving the passing of an Improvement Act primarily designed to widen streets in the old town with a view to linking them to new streets in the enclosed areas. (In 1839 the Council had established an Improvement Committee and a proposal had been brought forward to apply to Parliament for legislation but the proposals had been rejected. There was a clash of interest between the Whigs, pro-enclosure and almost permanently the party in power, and the Tories, lukewarm about enclosure but supportive of the improvement measure). Once the Enclosure Act was passed (1845) the improvement issue was dropped especially as the Sanitary Committee seemed capable of achieving improvement.
  • Feb 1854 (3 months after his election) EP prepared a scheme for an Improvement Act brought to the Council. An Improvement Committee was appointed to look at the practicality of the scheme and it reported on 14th August 1854 recommending a series of road widening and development schemes, costing £115,000 specifically “a great arterial route” to link the Mansfield turnpike road through a widened highway along Clumber Street and Bridlesmith Gate and a new road from Low Pavement across the R. Leen and the canal to the Midland Station. This was too expensive for the Corporation which threw it out.
  • 1855 As chairman of the Council’s Inclosure Committee as well as clerk to the commissioners EP in a unique position to see what was needed in terms of road planning.
  • 30th June 1857 EP proposed another motion, seconded by Birkin, to consider applying to Parliament for an Improvement Bill for Nottingham. His vision was of an enclosure award and Improvement Act jointly helping to bring about a New Nottingham, linking north south along a main road. It was agreed to establish a committee to prepare the bill and the members included EP, Birkin, Cullen, Felkin, Heymann, Reckless and John Wadsworth.
  • 7th Sept. 1857 Committee reported back to a meeting of the full Council. EP in the Chair. The committee recommended an application to Parliament for an Improvement Act which would give the Council sweeping new powers to redevelop the old town. It had considered traffic flow and a number of proposals were put forward for inclusion in the proposed Bill relating to the improvement of various streets, including paving and lighting. Committee sought to alter the terms and conditions of the operation of the Enclosure Act. EP wanted to bring the different authorities, the old town and the new enclosed lands together. Proposed regulations for the erection of buildings in the old town which should be brought under the control of the same authority as changes connected to the new enclosures. The post of referee to the commissioners to be abolished. Proposed clause re the Arboretum supported by petitions from 12,000 inhabitants that charges for admission should be rescinded. To pay for these improvements.
  • (Exact proposals from RBN page 125; NRB page 3). To avoid raising money through tax proposed that all the fields and property belonging to the Corporation should be put up and sold leasehold OR the money borrowed on the security of the town property.
  • 21st, 23 28th Sept proposals discussed at Council meetings and accepted with EP’s persuasion.
  • 1st Oct EP moved “that the powers of the several Highway Boards in the town be vested in the Council by the Improvement Bill”.
  • 12th Oct EP defeated when proposed that the powers of the Town Lighting Committee be vested in the Council by the Improvement Bill.
  • 19th Oct Council Meeting expected to pass remaining clauses. EP began with a defence of the cost of the project and of the means of raising the money but opponents said it would exceed his estimates and proposed to put the whole scheme back to the Improvement Committee which EP argued was “in effect putting an end to the Improvement Bill”. Despite an impassioned last stand by EP this amendment was passed by 14 votes to 12 (the Review) 14 to 13 with 2 abstentions (Journal). The Council broke up in disorder, a number of gentlemen gathering round EP and condoling with him upon the result. EP did not resume the campaign.
  • 9th Nov 1858 EP elected mayor, 1st Conservative for more than fifty years.
  • EP sponsor and supporter of Robin Hood Rifles, a new volunteer corps, issued handbills and circulars inviting volunteers to give him their names. Large numbers joined up and the first field day of the new regiment (25th August 1958?) took place outside EP’s house on Mansfield Road with 400 taking part. On this day the mayoress gave the regiment their name of “The Robin Hoods.” Shortly after EP fell out with their commanding officer.
  • June 1859 As mayor, assured the Council that the enclosure commissioners intended to provide the drainage in the Meadows as recommended by the Sanitary Committee Report.
  • 9th Nov 1859 elected mayor for second term.
  • 19th Nov 1860 elected deputy mayor.
  • 19th Feb 1861 as clerk and secretary to the commissioners EP replied to the enclosure committee’s complaints on the tardiness of the award,. EP said many of the subjects complained of beyond their control and that they were proceeding as rapidly as funds permitted.
  • May 1861 appointed as a Charitable Trustee.
  • 1861 elected chair of National Board of Guardians. Eventually became clerk.
  • 1862 Ill for some months.
  • Jan 1863 EP again raised the improvement issue, this time in conjunction with a proposal to amalgamate the Bridge and Chamber Estates. In the words of the Review “his plan was for alerations in the Inclosure Act which would have the effect of placing the whole town under one law”. EP introduced a report from the Improvement Committee repeating his belief in the need for a central route to the stations – a great arterial street from Clumber Street to the railway stations”. Since Sheep Lane had still to become Market Street, access to the town to the north was still restricted. The scheme made no further progress.
  • June 1865 The enclosure award was finally completed.
  • May 1864 The Highway Committee stated that an additional watering station had been constructed in Mapperley Road and (“through the kindness of Mr Patchitt at the corner of his Park”) for the supply of Mansfield Rd.
  • Jan 1865 made a JP.
  • August 1868 Retired from the Corporation. Had been member of the Finance Committee.
  • 1878 Following the Borough Extension Act (1877), EP sought and was granted increased compensation for the loss of his office as clerk to the county magistrates asking for £5000 not £4,500.
  • Nov 1868 Recommended as JP again.
  • 1868 Appointed clerk to Trustees of Nottingham High School when it moved to Arboretum Street. Served till 1884.
  • 1888 died in Hastings. Buried in Forest Road cemetery. His wife survived him. He had no children and left most of his estate to his nephew Edwin Chester Patchitt, to inherit after the death of his wife. Forest House passed into the care of his trustees from whom it was purchased by Mr T I Birkin of Ruddington Grange. His will included bequests to Sarah Hall the housemaid of £3000 together with a house in the Ropewalk and £5000 together with a house in Bingham to Elizabeth Watson, Mrs’ P’s maid.

Structure of local government (Politics and Society in Nottingham by Malcolm Thomis 1969)

1833: Mayor, one of seven Aldermen, who also acted as town magistrates; the Aldermen were themselves chosen from 18 Senior Councillors. The election of the latter was theoretically in the hands of the burgesses as a whole (3000 in 1833) but in practice contested elections were rare by this date. The only people eligible for election were members of the “clothing” or “livery”. These were people who had served in the office of Chamberlain or Sheriff of the town, both of which offices were in the gift of the mayor. It was this power of the mayor and the charter-provision restricting Senior Councillors to the “clothing” which ensured the closed nature of Nottingham Corporation. The clothing also elected the Aldermen from the ranks of the Senior Councillors.. Stranglehold of this oligarchy and elections mere formalities. Members dominated by hosiers, lace manufacturers, and tradesmen-shopkeeper category and relative absence of professional men.

Who tended to be Tory. The Whig oligardchy of leading families were sufficiently wealthy to spurn the gentry who opposed their views. 6 Junior Councillors had to be burgesses and were elected but too few to make much impact. 1785-1835 these were all Tories, anti Corporation oligarchy. 1835 there was a lively contest between 2 Tories, the issue being enclosure and the anti-enclosure supporter inevitably defeated. The Corporation Whigs were content that the Tories should fight it out with radicals or Whig malcontents for positions which, when attained, gave members no practical control or influence over affairs.

Financial mismanagement: 1833 Commissioners complained of the extravagance and failure to show recompense for money spent. The Corporation had responsibility for administering a large amount of property which created a very large income but never had to submit public accounts. Entitled to levy a town rate since 1795 and raised it to be one of the highest in the country. Despite this by 1833 Corporation in debt of almost £19,000.

Enclosure: the 1833 Commission recommended the enclosure of the common lands around the town, over which the burgesses exercised rights. The issue of enclosure was the most consistently recurring theme of all Nottingham elections, local and parliamentary throughout 1785-1835. The burgesses were resolute against enclosure because of their hope one day of acquiring a “burgess part” of land for their own private exploitation which they might until death turn into a steady income and because of their ironical concern for the health of the town. The corporation did not need the support of the burgesses in local elections. The ruling oligarchy was self-perpetuating and needed no popular sanction to retain control. The selfish private interests (the ownership of slum dwellings in the town centre which might lose its monopoly value if alternative, better accommodation were offered through new building developments and the wish to keep artificially high property and site values in the town) of the members led the Corporation to use the known opposition of the burgesses as an excuse for holding back a development of vital necessity to the town’s well-being. The Corporation had in its control over the commons, a source of patronage and power which could be exercised over the burgess body. BUT the pro enclosure stance of the freeholders was dictated by their own economic sel-interest e.g. William Parsons stood for election to the Junior Council to advocate enclosure policies as he owned 7 acres in the Sand Field which was expected to fetch 20 to 30 shillings per square yard.

Liberal stance of the Corporation: during the reform movements of the 1820s and 1830s the Corporation was prominent in its advocacy of and petitioning for Parliamentary reform and all measures to relieve religious minorities! I.e. Corporation were dissenters. Time when civil and religious dissent went together. In 1833, High Pavement Presbyterians provided the town clerk, 20 other members of the livery and 4/5 officers of the Corporation.

Further References

  • Enclosure, Improvement and the Rise of New Nottingham, 1845-67
  • Nottingham Red Book 1889
  • Great Men of Nottinghamshire by Robert Mellors
  • Records of the Borough of Nottingham

© Megan Zadik