Bagthorpe Gardens are between Haydn Road and Hucknall Road and have been cultivated since 1840s. The name Bagthorpe was in normal use to describe the part of Basford south of the ring road and bordered by Hucknall, Hadyn and Radford Roads, especially after the Basford Enclosure Act, 1792. (acknowledgements to Terry Fry’s The History of Carrington”)

Bagthorpe map

In 1066 the area was approximately in a small hamlet called Beagga presumably with an outlying farmhouse hence “thorpe”. Bagthorpe Field appears on maps from 1300 as part of Mapperley Lings an area of brushwood, gorse and heather stretching from the River Leen to the foot of Mapperley Hills. These common lands were used by subsistence farmers to graze their animals.

By the mid 1770s the mechanisation of the knitting industry after the invention of the stocking frame by William Lee (1569) had led to people moving from the countryside into the towns where conditions became increasingly cramped and unhealthy. After the 1792 Basford Enclosure Act , 1,500 acres of commons land was parcelled up and the lots sold off. Ichabod Wright, a philanthropic banker, who later built Mapperley Hall, was one of the first people to purchase large plots on both sides of the Mansfield Road. A lot of new houses, some back to back, were built on the newly enclosed area in Radford and Carrington to accommodate the growing workforce of lace knitters.

A trade slump in the 1830s and 40s coinciding with the potato blight meant that many workers were on the verge of starvation. Their plight fuelled two radical movements, the Chartists and The Labourer’s Friend Society which both proposed making land available to supplement the poor’s meagre income. The aim of the Labourer’s Friend Society was to transform the moral life and self respect of the poor by providing allotments of land to labourers. James Orange, the local representative of the LFS, tried to persuade landowners to donate land for these allotments. The Chartists mistrusted the moderate approach of the LFS as insufficiently radical and they never joined forces. The Chartists’ biggest petition, which called for six basic reforms to make the political system more democratic, was rejected in May 1842 and hundreds of excited strikers from Carrington and Sherwood, whipped up by Nottingham MP, Feargus O’Connor, marched up Mansfield Road to join another large contingent in Arnold. They were dispersed but assembled again on Mapperley Hills where 400 were arrested but most were set free and bound over to keep the peace. In 1845 O’Connor founded The Chartist Land Company with subscriptions which he used to buy smallholdings, with cottages, where a few poor workers, who won the lottery for homes, might live independent and morally improving lives free of their industrial employers. One of these sites near Watford was called O’Connorville. In November 1842, Nottingham Corporation, decided to convert 400 gardens of Hungerhill Gardens, then rented to artisans, to the Cottage Garden Plan. This was a big break through for the Cottage Garden movement in Nottingham.

An 1881 map shows Bagthorpe Gardens surrounded by fields, each plot had a bothy with pantiled roofs, (a few still exist), showing them as gardens rather than allotments. In 1903 Charles Ichabod Wright, the grandson of Ichabod Wright, sold the Loscoe Hill Estate which included Bagthorpe Gardens bought by his grandfather. The six trustees who bought the estate started selling off plots of land but not Bagthorpe Gardens perhaps because there was a clause protecting it? As late as 1932 some of the gardens were still owned by the trustees.

Paul Saxton acquired his first allotment in Bagthorpe Gardens in 1989 and realised the site was vulnerable to redevelopment. He and a group of other gardeners set up the Bagthorpe Gardens Association to help protect the site and restore the original feel of the gardens including repairing the remaining bothies. Some of the larger plots have been subdivided to increase access.

In recognition of the work of the Association, English Heritage has listed the gardens as Grade II* It has full occupancy and a waiting list of applicants for gardens.

Acknowledgements to Terry Fry for his research in “The History of Carrington”

© Paul Saxton