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Gotham – A History

Gotham is actually pronounced Goat-em and not, as many would presume, in the same way as the fictional city Batman calls home. Gotham might be a quiet village in the rural heart of Nottinghamshire, but it has an intriguing past and a rich historical heritage that does see it linked to the name given to the city used in DC Comics. As well as this, Gotham has also been called home to the descendants of a few American presidents over the years. And there is of course the story about the ‘Mad Men of Gotham’ and the ‘Wise Men of Gotham’ – a tale that helped inspire not only Washington Irving to label New York as Gotham, but eventually leading to the creation of the fictional Gotham City.

It really is no coincidence that Gotham (in Nottinghamshire) and Gotham in the Batman stories share the same name. Washington Irving, a famous US writer from the 19th century, had heard a tale from over the Atlantic of the Mad Men of Gotham. The tale has us believe that when King John, also known as the villain in the Robin Hood stories, travelled the country and passed through Gotham, the villagers would fake madness to deter him from passing through. Madness was perceived to be infectious and so no royalty would want to be in the vicinity of people suffering from the condition. Unbelievably the trick worked and as a result, coined the saying: "There are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it."

Villagers were also dubbed the Wise Men of Gotham, because of their trickery and clever means of keeping royalty at bay. The story was subsequently passed from generation to generation and was written in a book entitled ‘The Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham’ in 1565. Irving famously referred to New York as Gotham in his journalistic work and New Yorkers saw the positives from this connotation and subsequently ever since, New York has been referred to as Gotham (Goth-am) and New Yorkers as Gothamites. Gotham parish council have tried in the past to have the Nottinghamshire village twinned with the Big Apple, but to no-avail.

So where does Batman come in to all this? Well in the early comics, no name was given to the city used as the backdrop. However, the plot centred on an asylum being built where all mad people could be kept. The inspiration behind the name was not revealed until 1996 in a comic entitled ‘Cityscape’. In this particular story, a character utters a line announcing that the city was named "after a village in England where, according to common belief, all are bereft of their wits". This explains why the city in the novels was called Gotham City – stemming from Washington Irving bringing the story of the Mad Men of Gotham over the Atlantic. It also explains why we have Batman and Robin – Robin being taken from the stories relating to King John and Robin Hood. Of course, Nottinghamshire's ties to Batman now run even deeper, with filming of The Dark Knight Rises having taken place at Wollaton Hall. The historic Nottinghamshire attraction was used as the setting for Wayne Manor.

Another claim to fame for the village is the fact that rumour has it that descendents of several American presidents have called Gotham home over the course of history. George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush can all trace their roots back to the village.

In September 2013, a sculpture was built to remember the historical links the village boasts. On the sculpture, Batman is seen climbing up the outside, as well as references to the Mad Med of Gotham and all the connotations relating to them, including the story of the Mad Men, or Wise Men if you want to perceive them this way, building a fence around a bush to prevent a cuckoo escaping. This is why the village boasts a pub called the Cuckoo Bush.



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