Nottingham’s majestic architecture includes the grand Grade II listed property that houses The Alchemist on King Street and the Arkwright building that belongs to Nottingham Trent University. Another notable construction is the Adams Building, the largest building in the Lace market.
Now used by Nottingham College, it was once a lace warehouse, designed by Thomas Chambers Hine, the man responsible for restoring the ruins of Nottingham Castle and turning it into the museum and art gallery it is today.
Hockley’s most striking building sits on George Street, incongruously surrounded by modern and less noticeable architecture that you wouldn’t give a second glance to. The magnificent 19th century property, a mix of Gothic, Old English and Bavarian influences, was designed by Nottingham’s most acclaimed architect, Watson Fothergill.
Who is the greatest Nottinghamian? Give us your opinion in our survey
The son of a wealthy lace merchant, he was born Fothergill Watson, but changed his names to keep his mother’s maiden name. The Mansfield-born architect’s breakthrough came when he won a competition to design Nottingham’s Temperance Hall, the original Albert Hall, which was his first large and important building.
Fothergill was behind over 100 unique buildings in Nottingham and the East Midlands. The now-demolished Black Boy Hotel, Queens Chambers, at the corner of Long Row and King Street, and the Violin-Making School in Newark are among his best works.
Lucy Brouwer, who gives tours of Fothergill buildings in the city centre, said: “I can’t think of another building quite like the Watson Fothergill office. So much of Fothergill is embedded in it – its style, skills and influences. made you want to know more about the person and his buildings.
“I think the office is unique to Nottingham. I enjoy showing people around and seeing them notice things that may have happened hundreds of times but never noticed or thought about before. Nottingham has some really interesting architecture which offers an opportunity to bring history to life.”
Fothergill drew up plans for his new workplace on George Street as his previous office had to be torn down. Lucy said: “Originally her office was on Clinton Street, however Clinton Street was demolished to make way for Victoria Station.”
Fothergill bought a building, possibly a country house, which he had demolished. He rented an office across the street to oversee the construction of the three-story building. Work began in 1894, and he moved into the office in 1895.
Lucy said: ‘From the wood-framed pediment and fretted barge planks, and wooden spire over the bay window to the large arched windows at the shop front, it’s a very personal statement carefully autographed in stone. above the entrance with his signature ‘Watson Fothergill Architect’ Gothic lettering in gold.
“The building acts as a showcase for Fothergill’s work. With decorative elements in wood, brick, stone and terracotta, it also pays homage to his architectural mentors. There are unnamed but dated busts of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and George Edmund Street, and the names and dates from architects George Gilbert Scott, William Burges and Richard Norman Shaw. Fothergill was not afraid to credit their influences, as his own singular style takes from them all but creates something unique to Nottingham.”
Fothergill’s office took over the top two floors of the building at number 15 and the shop on the ground floor at number 17 was leased. The building features four terracotta panels depicting the construction of classical, medieval and Elizabethan buildings , and Wollaton Hall under construction with its architect Robert Smythson.
A statue is a feature between the leaded light windows on the first floor. Lucy said: “The statue of a medieval architect with a stack of plans in his hands and the model of a cathedral at his feet, is this how Fothergill imagined himself? He certainly resembles the descriptions of the man with his complexion.” clear and dignified appearance”.
Lucy was lucky enough to see the inside of the Grade II listed building a few years ago. “The interior retains many of the details one would expect from a building with such an extravagant exterior. For example, the colorful Gothic-inspired stained glass windows in the lobby.”
Inside there are carvings and tiles with sunflowers and Gothic motifs in the lobby. At the bottom of the stairs is a carved quote from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of the Birds: “The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne, Th’ essay so hard, so sharp the conquistaynge” – a poem about love being difficult and painful and its demands for study and effort that he applied to the profession of architecture.
There is another quote in a stained glass window: “All true beauty is but the sacrament of goodness” from Frederick W. Farrar’s Life of Christ that reflects Fothergill’s religious belief.
In the 1920s, when Fothergill retired, his senior assistant, Lawrence George Summers, continued the work of the practice. Lucy believes it later became a silk agent’s office before being used by law firms from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Around 2001, University of Nottingham professors Terry Bennett and Sheila Gardiner bought the building privately with the ambition of opening a Fothergill Center celebrating not only Fothergill but also his architectural contemporaries. Despite great interest, it never came to fruition.
However, the building was restored, and in 2002 a giant crane lifted a 12-foot metal replica to the top of the spire to replace the corroded iron original. Lucy said: “I think he is influenced by the work of Antoni Gaudí, the architect whose buildings are famous in Barcelona.
“Maybe Fothergill is the Gaudi of Nottingham? Inside, Terry added Gothic lettering nameplates to the doors, assuming LG Summers had the biggest office and Fothergill the smallest and warmest in the tower.
The property was later sold to James Braga and the upper office floors were converted into a flat. The ground floor shop has always remained separate. It was Wilkinson’s Boutique in the late 1960s, The Damaged Carpet Co. in the 1970s and is now the home of the hairdressers, Hockley Hair Room.
The building suffered a disaster in 2015 when a truck turning onto George Street ran over the curb and severely damaged the bay window. Nottingham-based restoration experts Bonsers were commissioned to restore the building to its former glory, a painstakingly complex job that took a couple of years.
Every brick and stone detail was numbered and marked on a sketch to aid in the rebuilding process. Features that were damaged beyond repair, including special brick and stone details, were redone to match exactly.
Lucy, who has worked as a television researcher, library assistant and art listings editor, came up with the Watson Fothergill Walk in 2018 after attending a talk at the West Bridgford Library by architect David Turner, author of Fothergill: A Catalog of the Works. by Watson Fothergill.
“A lot of people were interested and I took a bunch of people following me on Twitter on the first tour, I found it naturally added humor to the story and my enthusiasm really came through,” he said.
He has also devised tours of buildings by Thomas Chambers Hine and the Carrington Crawl, looking at houses by Fothergill and his chief assistant LG Summers. Events are coming up in March and April. To reserve, go to watsonfothergillwalk.com.