From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bulwell Main Street, looking north - geograph.org.uk - 1465743.jpg
Main Street, Bulwell in 2009
Bulwell is located in Nottinghamshire
Location within Nottinghamshire
Population16,157 (ward. 2011)
OS grid referenceSK 53882 45189
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townNottingham
Postcode districtNG6
Dialling code0115
AmbulanceEast Midlands
EU ParliamentEast Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°00′04″N 1°11′49″W / 53.001°N 1.197°W / 53.001; -1.197Coordinates: 53°00′04″N 1°11′49″W / 53.001°N 1.197°W / 53.001; -1.197

Bulwell is an English market town about 4.5 miles (7 km) north-west of Nottingham city centre, on the northern edge of the city. The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed there were almost 30,000 people living in the Bulwell area, accounting for over 10 per cent of the population of the city of Nottingham; the 2011 census showed a population of 16,157 in the Bulwell ward of Nottingham City Council.[1] There is also an adjacent ward called Bulwell Forest (which includes Highbury Vale, Rise Park and the western area of Top Valley); the population of this ward at the same census was 13,614.[2]


Early settlers[edit]

The home land of Francis Needham[who?]. The earliest documented settlements in Bulwell appeared around 800 AD, and were most likely built around the same time as the first local bridge across the River Leen; the river was significantly narrower, shallower and slower-moving in Bulwell than in other potential locations along its length, and the threat of highwaymen was a very real danger on existing cross-country routes; thus a toll bridge was constructed at this outpost[clarification needed], allowing bona fide travellers a quicker and safer passage from north to south, but presenting an obstacle to others.

The bridge created a rare direct road to Nottingham from the northwest and therefore introduced regular traffic from across the country to the area for the first time.

A gatehouse was built for the toll-collectors; it also gave protection for travellers, and led to the foundation of the new settlement; the travellers were an almost captive market, and led to potential for trade, and the abundance of natural resources[which?] made it easy to build dwellings. As the volume of traffic using the road increased, so did the size and population of Bulwell.

Bulwell is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as "Buleuuelle" and classified as a village. Bulwell was by this time established as a small trading post for all kinds of goods and services, it had expanded to cater both for those living and working in the surrounding area and for those travelling further afield, and this encouraged many others to settle in the wider area.

Local people, particularly the poorer of the new settlers, often offered space in their homes to travellers requiring overnight stops. For a small price, travellers would share a home-cooked meal with their hosts and sleep in their rooms: a safer and perhaps more sociable arrangement than continuing to Nottingham. Using the river water, beer was produced locally; this perhaps led some guests to stay overnight unintentionally, and so require accommodation.

By around 1200 Bulwell had grown to provide all the facilities to accommodate animals and their drovers, becoming something of a one-stop service station on what was fast becoming a relatively major road. Trade thrived, and a steady stream of newcomers took advantage of the opportunities Bulwell had to offer.

However although trade was good for the local economy, the many new salesmen and tradesmen split the town in two: the established business owner, some of whom had incurred heavy costs to build and maintain premises, complained bitterly about an ever-growing number of roaming salesmen undercutting their prices and taking their trade. Since they were also paying rates{{clarify}] to the local landowner, they considered that they had a right to a monopoly. In response to the complaints, a local law was enacted (around 1320) forbidding anyone without "fixed... and at least part-covered premises" to sell goods or services close to the original businesses.[3][More detail of reference needed.]

However, the statute was badly worded: to circumvent it, the salesmen simply fixed posts into the ground, creating market stalls similar in design to their modern counterparts; the stalls were covered while in use and left uncovered in situ when not in use, thus both abiding by the law and designating a permanent venue for their sales. People using these facilities fought hard against the power of the richer businessmen and successfully defended the right of the marketeers to operate alongside them; the location of the Market Place remains virtually unchanged to this day and it still bustles on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.[4]


The population grew steadily throughout this period, but the town itself did not grow much in size: opportunities for betterment and the desire of many to live further away from the presumed unhealthy town centres ensured a relatively even flow of traffic in and out of Bulwell.

At some point, both the magnesium limestone and the sandstone (now known as Bulwell Sandstone) on which Bulwell sits began to be quarried; the strong, easily crafted durable rock, a dull yellow-orange magnesium limestone (not to be confused with the Bunter sandstone famously underlying Nottingham Castle), provided a perfect building material easy to quarry. Many houses, schools, churches and particularly garden walls built with Bulwell Stone stand to this day, extending for miles round Bulwell in all directions.

An early example can be found in sections of the wall surrounding Wollaton Hall, which was built using Bulwell stone in the late 16th century; the sheer quantities used there and elsewhere in the city suggest some kind of professional mining operation must already have been in operation by this time. Bulwell stone was later also used to repair the damage caused to the palaces of Westminster during the Second World War.

Coal is also found in abundance close to Bulwell. Running as part of much larger seams criss-crossing the region, the coal lies underneath the layers of sandstone and is in places only a few feet beneath the surface. Coalmines in the area around Bulwell were therefore among the first in the county to operate on a commercial basis, with large-scale mining from around 1500 onward.[5]

Fortunes were made at the time from the extraction of coal, including that of Sir Francis Willoughby. Coal-mining allowed Willoughby to build the extravagant Wollaton Hall. One of the world's first railway lines, completed in 1604 between nearby Strelley and Wollaton, was built by Willoughby's heir to aid transportation of the tons of coal produced from his mines. Horses and other beasts of burden were used to pull the rows of carts filled with coal, with the rails acting more as a guide and a smoother surface than the roads of the time.

The church on the hill overlooking Bulwell (built 1849–1850) occupies the site of an original Bulwell church dating back to at least the 13th century. Towering over most of North-East Nottingham, Bulwell Saint Mary the Virgin and All Souls can be seen from many miles away and its bells still ring across the area each weekend.


In 1667, George Strelley "built a school for the educating and teaching (of) young children of the Inhabitants of the said Parish", a building that survives to this day, along with many other houses built at this time, it is now used a private home, but retains many original features.[6] An 1852 act of Parliament allowed the extension of a gas pipeline from Basford and the south; this brought street lighting and commercial and domestic usage that effectively revolutionised life in the town. The earliest supply of water did not arrive until 1877, to replace many local springs, wells and the river providing for the needs of business and domestic use. Before 1877, water-borne diseases were rife and the river water highly polluted by industry and sewage, leading to high rates of infant mortality across the region; the percentage of children dying before their fifth birthday decreased by over 75 per cent in Bulwell between 1870 and 1890, although this resulted in overcrowding and even more demand for already overstretched services like housing. Health care again suffered through the insanitary living conditions, but the population continued to grow fast.

1843 brought bad weather that did irreparable damage to the earlier St Mary's Church. The architect of the present church was Henry Isaac Stevens. In 1885, a further church of St. John the Divine in Quarry Road was consecrated.

Bulwell Hall[edit]

Bulwell Hall in 1879, from The County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, by Francis Orpen Morris

Bulwell Hall (See picture here[7]) was a grand mansion house built in 1770 by landowner John Newton, it was set in its own large grounds to the north of Bulwell town centre, and was known as Pye Wipe Hall when first built; a name which stuck with local folk until the time of its demolition.

After passing through Newton's descendants, Bulwell Hall was sold at auction in 1864 to a man named Samuel Thomas Cooper, along with over 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land.[8]

Bulwell Hall was later employed variously as a sanatorium, an approved school for boys, and an Italian prisoner of war camp, before its eventual demolition in 1958.

S. T. Cooper and The National School[edit]

As a result of the sale of Bulwell Hall, Samuel Thomas Cooper became the "Lord of the Manor" of Bulwell and its larger areas. Cooper was a philanthropist and in 1866 paid £3000 for another school to be built for local children;[8] this National school provided education for up to 518 children – a remarkable feat for the size of the building. Remaining in use as the old building of St Mary's C of E Primary and Nursery School primary school, it is now listed, and houses many fewer pupils than at the time it was built. (See picture here.[9])

After Cooper's death, his widow, Annie Cooper, donated £600 to Bulwell St Mary's for a better organ. Still in use (though now operating by electric bellows), the organ houses a plaque marking Mrs Cooper's donation "in memory of (her) husband".

Some sources claim this was the same S. T. Cooper who later enclosed Bulwell Bogs as his own private ground, it is known that Cooper died in 1871, aged 39, and that the protest over the Bogs took place in 1872, but this does not preclude a protest taking place after his death for actions made whilst still alive. There is no other S. T. Cooper recorded as being Lord of the Manor of Bulwell, leading many to believe the man to be the same.

Boundary changes[edit]

The Deanery of Bulwell was created in 1888, four years after the creation of the Southwell diocese. Bulwell remained a town in its own right until a boundary change in the 1890s made it a part of the City of Nottingham; the 18th-century Old Town Hall, rendered vacant by the change, is now a retail outlet for fireplaces. More recently the top-floor dance floor, long disused and discarded, was converted into a factory for clothing garments, it is now being converted back to a place for dancing, in the form of a dance school for over 250 local children and adults alike. An earlier sign on the building has been replaced by one announcing the "old town hall home of Take 5 theatre school of dancing" in the same style and colours of the building's predecessor.

1900 – present day[edit]

Over the past century, Bulwell has grown vastly with the creation of housing estates such as Crabtree Farm, Snape Wood, Highbury Vale and Hempshill Vale.

Snape Wood and Sellers Wood were originally parts of a swathe of woodland that bordered the landfill site to the north-west of Bulwell, stretching down to the farmland that became Hempshill Vale estate to the south-west. Both woods were protected under Royal Warrants dating back to the 12th century, but the drastic shortage of housing in Bulwell in the 1960s and 1970s led to the protection being removed and the new estates being built.

A token remnant of Snape Wood left in the middle of the new estate amounts to little more than a fenced copse with three pathways leading through it. Owned by the local authority, Nottingham City Council, the site was designated a Local Nature Reserve, but years of neglect have left it rubbish-strewn and in need of a structured management plan. Despite constant fly-tipping and a lack of proactive conservation, this site surprisingly supports a wide variety of wildlife, from rare wildflowers to mammals such as grey squirrels, hedgehogs and urban foxes, as well as up to 20 different species of bird. In February 2009, plans to set up a community group to take on the maintenance and conservation of the site on behalf of the local authority were moved forward.[10]

A higher proportion of Sellers Wood remains, also with land designated as a Local Nature Reserve actively managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust on behalf of the local authority. Sellers Wood was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature in 1981, as "a fine example of broad-leaved semi-natural woodland... of regional importance".[11]

Bulwell no longer has a working quarry, landfill site, coalmine or brewery to employ its residents. Designated industrial areas such as those found in Greasley Street and Commercial Road were built in the latter half of the 20th century, followed in the 1980s and 1990s by smaller developments of offices and light industrial units, such as those in Pottery Way, off Sellers Wood Drive.

The larger developments for industry built in Sellers Wood in the 1980s (off Blenheim Lane, Camberley Road and Dabell Avenue) were further added to in the 1990s. Many other such buildings have sprung up in the surrounding area since and the larger area looks set to grow outwards once more in the near future; the industrial estate includes warehousing and distribution for national food retailers, printing factories, office blocks of all sizes, and small to medium-sized units for a variety of goods and services. A large Cash and Carry wholesalers recently joined the supermarket, petrol station and small row of fast-food outlets between this industrial estate and the rest of Bulwell; this utilises yet another piece of the land that was used for landfill until the 1960s–1970s, leaving only two large fields without any kind of development.

Next to the supermarket is a very steep hill that marks the edges of the long-abandoned limestone quarry.


Bordering Ashfield and Broxtowe districts, 'Greater' Bulwell stretches across an area of some 3.5 square miles, though many argue that Bulwell's 'catchment' should still include the Bestwood, Bestwood Park, Heathfield and Leen Valley estates, as it did in the past, increasing the size to some 5 square miles.

The Greater Bulwell area as designated by the City Council includes Top Valley, Heron Ridge, Crabtree Farm, Bulwell Hall, Snape Wood, Sellers Wood, Highbury Vale, Hempshill Vale, Bulwell Forest, Bulwell Central, Moorbridge and the area entitled Bulwell Village, and a significant amount of Rise Park.

Although the Bestwood estates were also originally suffixed Bulwell, ward and local-area boundaries have been changed to link the whole Greater Bestwood area with Basford and Sherwood; the seven fields between Bulwell and Bestwood have been largely developed, but the historic links between the areas remains. The newer estates covering the fields have just added to the satellite list.

Bulwell Bogs[edit]

Bulwell Bogs

The centre of Bulwell lies in a valley along the River Leen; the Bog area beside the Leen, known for over 900 years as "Bulwell Bogs", has been set aside as a place where children can play, paddle and fish.

After an 1872 attempt by the Lord of the Manor to enclose the land around the Bogs, the people of Bulwell staged a peaceful protest, massing in hundreds to protect their common land. Described in the official records as "impeccably well behaved and peaceable to a man; indeed rather joyous of spirit!" the people of Bulwell marched a short distance before enjoying lunch by the river. Thereafter the crowd is said to have "dispersed quietly and as directed with no further disturbance," later winning the fight to designate the land for the "pleasure and leisure of the people of Bulwell".[12]

The whole Bogs area was set to be demolished in 2002 to make way for a road bridge and transport interchange for buses, trams, taxis and trains. Fierce local opposition resulted in a campaign to prevent the plans, which the City Council eventually scrapped.[12] With help from local community groups and residents, the facilities at Bulwell Bogs were instead upgraded in 2003 to produce a bigger play-park, a safer paddling pool and a cleaner feel, and won a Green Flag Award in 2004 for work done to regenerate the area.[13]

There is a further area about a mile upstream near the present-day Moorbridge, which historically attracted children from miles around to play; this led to the nickname "Bulwell-on-Sea" being applied by other Nottingham residents. The building of the outdoor Lido pool nearby further strengthened the connection, with families travelling from across the city to spend a day by the water in Bulwell. Despite fierce local opposition, the Lido was demolished in 2006 and the land sold off to private housing developers.[14]


Bulwell is a transportation hub for the North Nottingham area. There are three stations serving Bulwell on the Nottingham Express Transit tram system: Bulwell, Bulwell Forest and Moor Bridge; these provide access to Nottingham and Hucknall.[15] Next to Bulwell tram Station is the railway station, where trains on the Robin Hood Line link Nottingham to Worksop. There is also a large bus station and a taxi rank, with two taxi firms based in Bulwell.


Schools around Bulwell have historically been among the UK's worst performers; the whole Bulwell area was designated an "Education Action Zone" in 1999 under a scheme to address the problems. Standards have risen slightly since, but major deficiencies persist;[16] the North Nottingham region has the UK's lowest level of students progressing to higher education.[17] The 2006–2007 league tables for secondary education showed Nottingham schools to be the country's second worst achievers.[18]

One Bulwell school, Hempshill Hall Primary, had a Head, Marcia Puckey, who was Britain's longest-serving school head on retiring in summer 2005, She received an OBE for her services to education in the Queen's New Year's Honours List 2006.[19][20]

Bulwell's flagship new school, The Bulwell Academy, was officially opened in September 2009, with all pupils from the former Henry Mellish School and the former Alderman Derbyshire School (later the River Leen School) moving into the new building by August 2010.

Bullwell is also home to the first and second Cherubs' Day Nursery; this chain of child-care centres is owned by a millionaire business woman, Susan Emma Mills, who was born in Bulwell, and husband Robert Everist. It owns a further 12 Nottingham sites.

Life in Bulwell[edit]

Despite officially being a part of a large city, there is still a distinct feel to Bulwell that belies its size and proximity to the Nottingham conurbation. Bulwell has many community-based initiatives focusing on improving the area, with volunteers playing a key role; the Bulwell Credit Union, Bulwell Vision and the active Brownies, Girl Guides, Rainbows and Cubs packs, the Bulwell and Basford Rotary Club and Bulwell Community Toy Library are just a few of the projects relying on local people.

There is a site for travellers of Irish heritage in Bulwell that exists as one of only a few permanent sites in the country catering for both roaming and static populations. Much work has been done by the nearby schools to ensure the integration of traveller children – work which has won praise from police, community leaders, and travellers' rights groups.

Bulwell has several pubs, one of which (The Scots' Grey, now closed) featured in a television programme on The Ten Hardest Pubs in Britain.[21] Housing a successful boxing club, it provided champion boxers such as Dominic Wilmot in 2008 and Aaron Brenton in 2009, and trained many hundreds of amateur boxers at all levels for generations. However, the pub's reputation for toughness comes as much from fights held outside the ring as in it, and stretches back many years. Fights were regularly held in the nearby Market Place after closing time on Saturday night, with scores being settled as well as money made or lost on the outcomes. Spectators formed a ring around the bare knuckle pugilists, who would fight to the knock out. Betting, challenging (i. e. money offered to any man able to knock down the "hero"), and "purses" offered by crowds were regular sidelines to the fights, which continued until as recently as the 1990s. Ironically the pub was closed recently because it was seen as too "rough" to control.

Despite the closure, the pub's football team (The Scots' Grey F.C.) continue to play, enjoying much success in the local Sunday League. It won all three senior trophies in Nottinghamshire for two years running, being the first team ever to accomplish the feat, coached by Steve "Ozzy" Osborne, it now hopes to become the first team ever to do the "treble treble", winning all three trophies three years running.


Crime levels are high in the area, compared to Nottingham and national averages.[22] In 2003 Bulwell gained national attention after a Nottingham PC, Ged Walker, was killed in the line of duty. Walker was dragged to his death as he tried to arrest the driver of a stolen taxi. Local resident David Parfitt was later sentenced to 13 years for manslaughter.[23] A memorial stone marking the spot where PC Walker died[23] was vandalised in January 2006, with a hammer being used to deface and damage the engravings.[24] Another officer was badly injured in a remarkably similar incident on 10 October 2006; the special constable required extensive reconstructive surgery after being dragged along the road by a car when trying to arrest a man on Bulwell Hall estate.[25] Four people were arrested.

The fatal shooting of the local Marvin Bradshaw outside a Bulwell pub in 2003 led to gangland-style reprisal attacks that attracted international interest.[26] A passenger in the car Bradshaw had been driving on the night of his murder, whilst unhurt in the attack, himself died within months of the event, leading friends and family members to seek revenge on his behalf;[27] the parents of Michael O'Brien, the man convicted of Bradshaw's murder, were targeted – despite moving into a "safe house" on the Lincolnshire coast, they were both murdered soon afterwards.

O'Brien had been sentenced to 24 years in prison for Bradshaw's murder. Three of the eight men arrested on charges of conspiracy to murder Mr and Mrs Stirland, O'Brien's parents, were found guilty, in a case still being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.[28] "Extremely serious matters" are said to have been found in the way the police handled the case.[29] It has since been shown that corrupt police officers implicated in the case had passed information to gang boss Colin Gunn about the time of the murders. Gunn received a sentence of 35 years for conspiracy to murder the Stirlands and a further nine years for bribery and corruption of police officers, he was also implicated and arrested, but never charged with the murder of Marian Bates, a jeweller.[30][31][32]

On 1 July 2006, the day after the three were sentenced for the Stirlands' murders, a riot broke out on the Bestwood estate, the former home of Gunn and his gang. Lasting several hours and causing an estimated £10,000 worth of damage, the riots were said to have been triggered by the outcome of the murder trial. Nine people were convicted in connection with the disturbances.[33]

On 7 August 2006, an 18-year-old local teenager died after being attacked outside the Moon & Stars pub: Aaron Smith suffered severe head injuries in the attack, which occurred on 3 August. A local 24-year-old man pleaded guilty to Smith's manslaughter.[34]

Another local man was shot in the neck and back outside the Lord Nelson pub in November 2006, then abducted, tied up, driven to a country road and left for dead. Three people were arrested and bailed in connection with the crime, which left the 27-year-old victim from Aspley with serious injuries.[35]


There are shops in the area to cater for most needs, although the town centre has suffered a decline over recent years; as elsewhere, many high-street chains have ceased trading, (e. g. Woolworths, Food Giant), merged (Lloyds' Bank and TSB Bank), moved out (Co-Op), or proved no longer financially viable (Godfreys' TV and radio repair shop, butcher's shops, photo developers, most pubs). Bulwell has its own library,[36] a swimming pool,[37] many churches, and several fast food restaurants. There are also two golf courses, a youth club, a police station and a Tudor-style shopping arcade hidden down an alleyway off the Market Place.

Origin of the name[edit]

Bulwell is locally pronounced as a monosyllabic "Bool".[38]

The name is supposed to derive from the spring called "Bull Well", which runs out of the Bunter sandstone over a bed of clay, near to the northern end of the forest. In The Place Names of Notts., it is suggested that the first part of the name may stand for an Anglo Saxon person called Bulla, or describe the bubbling sound produced by the flowing water of the spring.[39]

One legend has it that the town was named after a bull struck a sandstone rock causing it to seep water – a well; the now sealed well-housing, in the nature reserve off Bestwood Road, is said to be the original well. Both Bulwell St Mary's School and the Seventh-day Adventist church next door have illustrations of the tale relief-carved into sandstone blocks. Generations of Bulwell's children have grown up with the legend, and the city council recently erecting a statue of a bull goring a well in the market place.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "City of Nottingham Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  2. ^ "City of Nottingham Bulwe Forest ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  3. ^ Parish records.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ R. S. Smith, 1989, Early Coal Mining Around Nottingham 1500–1650, University of Nottingham.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ http://www.broxtowehundred.co.uk/bulwell.htm
  8. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 May 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ a b http://www.clarelittleford.net/updatemay02.htm[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 July 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/features/2004/05/swimming_pools.shtml
  15. ^ http://www.thetram.net/maps/bulwell.asp
  16. ^ [3][permanent dead link]
  17. ^ (Nottingham Evening Post, 8 September 2006)
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ "Seeing in new year with a gong", Nottingham Evening Post, 31 December 2005.
  20. ^ "New Year honours in education", The Guardian, 31 December 2005
  21. ^ "New lease of life for battle-hardened Scots Grey". Hucknall Dispatch. 1 May 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  22. ^ http://img.findaproperty.com/crimefacts.aspx?edid=00&salerent=1&areaid=6873.
  23. ^ a b [5]
  24. ^ [6]
  25. ^ [7]
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 December 2006. Retrieved 6 December 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ [8]
  28. ^ [9]
  29. ^ [10]
  30. ^ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2188274.ece How police set up band of "untouchables" to snare crime gang that held city in fear. The Times, 2 August 2007.
  31. ^ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article3419497.ece Couple killed in revenge attack after police failed to give proper protection. The Times, 23 February 2008.
  32. ^ [11]
  33. ^ [12]
  34. ^ [13][permanent dead link]
  35. ^ [14]
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 November 2006. Retrieved 6 December 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ Prof. G. Davies, 2009, Origins of local dialect around the Nottingham Area, University of Greenland.
  39. ^ [15]

External links[edit]