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Nottingham Lace History

The Lace Market area is probably the oldest part of the city of Nottingham, with evidence of the earliest rural settlement have been found around Belward Street and Bellar Gate near the current site of the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham and National Ice Centre dating from fifth and sixth centuries.

Pre-dating the arrival of the Normans, the Lace Market was the Saxon area of Nottingham. This is apparent from existing place names as the word ‘Gate’ arose from the Danish ‘gata’ meaning street. A Norman area of the town - centred around the castle - emerged following the Norman Conquest, and it was then that the city became merged.

The Lace Market then became the administrative area of the city and developed into the commercial and cultural sector in the Middle Ages. This can be seen in place names such as Fisher Gate (fish sellers) and Fletcher Gate (butchers). Shire Hall became the administrative centre for the county from 1449 and takes its name from the Sheriff. The current building, now a museum, was built in 1770.

The invention of the knitting frame by William Lee of Calverton in Nottinghamshire radically changed the area and eventually gave the Lace Market its name. Richard Arkwright established a small cotton mill in Hockley in 1768 and this led to the development of back to back housing for mill workers. Lace was manufactured on a frame adapted from that of William Lee and was further improved by John Heathcote and John Levers in the early 19 century. By the 1840s lace making was changing from a domestic industry into an international export.

This resulted in the high density warehouses and narrow streets that are characteristic of the area today. You can still see great Victorian buildings such as the Adams building on Stoney Street and Barker Gate House, designed by the famous architect Watson Fothergill.

You’ll find more information on specific buildings and areas of the Lace Market in the Places to see section.

Heritage audio tours are available from the Galleries of Justice Museum for just £2.95 each and the self-guided tour takes around 30-45 minutes.

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