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The History of Nottingham


Nottingham began in the 6th century as a small Saxon settlement called Snotta inga ham. The Saxon word ham meant village. The word inga meant 'belonging to' and Snotta was a man. So its name meant the village owned by Snotta. Gradually its name changed to Snottingham then just Nottingham.

It was inevitable that sooner of later Nottingham would grow into a town as it is the first point where the Trent can be forded but the river is also navigable this far inland.

In the late 9th century the Danes conquered North East and Eastern England. They turned Nottingham into a fortified settlement or burgh. Nottingham had a ditch around it and an earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top.

In 920 the English king recaptured Nottingham and he built a bridge across the Trent. By the 10th century Nottingham was a busy little town though with a population of only several hundred. The Western limit of the Nottingham stood roughly where Bridlesmith Gate is today. From the 10th century Nottingham had a mint.


In 1067 William the Conqueror built a wooden castle to guard Nottingham. (It was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century). Nottingham grew rapidly after the Norman Conquest. A new area was created between the old town and the castle. It was called the French borough because most of those who lived there were Norman French. The old town was called the English borough. The two areas had separate administrations until about 1300. The ditch and rampart around Nottingham were extended to surround the new area. Later, in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, they were replaced by stone walls.

Nottingham may have had a population of around 1,500 at the time of the Norman Conquest. By the 14th century it may have grown to 3,000. By the standards of the time Nottingham was a fair sized town. However it was not large or important nationally.

In 1155 the king gave Nottingham a charter. In the Middle Ages a charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights. Nottingham gained its first mayor in 1284 and it gained its first sheriff in 1449.

In the Middle Ages Nottingham had a weekly market. It also had an annual fair. From 1284 it had two. In those days a fair was like a market but was it was held only once a year for a period of a few days. Buyers and sellers would come from all over Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire to attend one.

In Medieval Nottingham the main industry was wool making. The raw wool was woven. It was then fulled. This means it was pounded in a mixture of water and clay to clean and thicken it. Wooden hammers worked by watermills pounded the wool. There were also some tilers and potters in Nottingham as well as goldsmiths.

There were also the same craftsmen you would find in any Medieval town. These included brewers, bakers, carpenters, shoemakers and blacksmiths. There were obviously, bridlesmiths who gave a street its name and wheelwrights who did the same. Fletchergate is named after fletchers (arrow makers) who once worked there.

In the 13th century friars arrived in Nottingham. The friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. There were Franciscans known as grey friars because of their grey habits and Carmelite friars known as white friars. In the Middle Ages the church ran the only hospitals. In Nottingham there was a hospital dedicated to St Thomas. In it monks cared for the sick and the poor as best they could. There were also 2 leper hostels outside the gates of Nottingham, dedicated to St Leonard and St Mary.

In the 12th and 13th centuries there was also a Jewish community in Nottingham. However all Jews were forced to leave England in 1290.

Robin Hood is supposed to have lived in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham. The story of Robin Hood is first recorded in the 14th century and it is likely it is based on real person or possibly several real people. However the town of Notthingham did not get its own sheriff until 1449.

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