Friday, 18 November 2016

Introduction the Wheelergate Nottingham Ceiling.

The Magnificent Baroque Plaster Ceiling
 circa 1680. 
Removed From Armitage's Oriental Cafe, 
Formerly the Sign of the Feathers.
Wheelergate, Nottingham 
prior to the demolition in 1961.
Rescued and restored by Peter Hone with the able assistance of the author.
After long deliberation it has now (November 2016) regretfully been decided that the Museum at Nottingham Castle cannot afford to take on this project, given the current straightened circumstances.
A space has been allocated for it and Peter Hone is very keen to find sponsorship for its purchase and installation at the Castle.
If this cannot be achieved there is a buyer who wishes to install it in Sydney Australia but it would be a poetic conclusion to its history if this most peripatetic of ceilings were to return to Nottingham.
After all it was the people of Nottingham who paid for its safe removal in 1961.

Photograph of the Ceiling in Armitage's Oriental Café prior to its removal in 1961.

4-6 Wheelergate post 1941 showing the cleared site to thew west of the Old Moot Hall Wine Vaults on the corner of Friar Lane destroyed by a German Bomb on 8/9th May, 1941.

In January of 1961 Nottingham City Council, after some local opposition and protest demolished the two properties at 4 - 6 Wheelergate, originally an important five bay town house fronted with brick with stone dressings and three Dutch Gables of circa 1670 /80. The last house of its type to remain in the city. 

The next door property The Old Moot Hall Wine Vaults - no.2 Wheeler Gate, which had been rebuilt in a sort of mock Tudor style in 1900, was destroyed by a German bomb in 1941, which narrowly missed destroying the ceiling as well.

The Feathers buildings were built on two burgage plots, in a very prominent city position facing the Market Square at the Northern most end of Wheelergate next to the corner of Friar Lane (formerly Moot Hall Gate). It is believed that the original medievil building had been refronted in the late 17th century. Wheelergate is first mentioned in the fourteeenth century (1308) as Vicus Pistorium later Baxter Gate (Street of the bakery). There were almost certainly structures on the site prior to this.

The Sign of the Feathers is first mentioned in the 17th Century. It appears that these buildings were probably united at the beginning of the 18th Century when the Old Moot Hall (the Town Hall of the French Borough) became redundant and was demolished in 1714.

These buildings were united as The Sign of the Feathers, from about the mid 17th Century until 1801 when it became the  private house of John Ashwell, Mayor of Nottingham in 1815, but by 1820 the corner building had become the Old Moot Hall Wine Vaults. The part of the building on the corner of Wheeler Gate and Friar Lane which was once the Moot Hall of the French Borough of Nottingham which was united with the English Borough in 1714 and was no longer needed although chambers in the Sign of the Feathers continued in use as a meeting house and assembly rooms.
The Sign of The  Feathers, Wheelergate and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
Extract from - The Date Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events Connected with Nottingham ..By John Frost Sutton - 1852. copied in turn from - Nottinghamia vetus et nova: or, An historical account of the ancient and ... - By Charles Deering, Rupert Cecil Chicken. 1750.

"The Feathers is perhaps most famous as the place where Lord Delamere stayed in November 1688 and the conspicuous position assigned to Nottingham in the Glorious Revolution of 1688".

“ there are men still living in the town (1751), who well remember that ten days before the celebrated declaration dated ‘Nottingham, 23rd of November, 1688  the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Stamford, the Lord Howe, and other noblemen, and abundance of the gentry of the county of Nottingham, resorted to this town, and went to meet one another at their respective inns, daily increasing in number, and continued at Nottingham till the arrival of Lord Delamere, with between four or five hundred horse.
This noble-man quartered at the Feathers Inn, whither all the rest of the noblemen and gentlemen came to meet him ; and till this time the people of the town were unacquainted with the result of these frequent consultations, when the above-mentioned lord after he had stayed awhile in the town, having a mind to try the disposition of the populace, on a sudden ordered the trumpets to sound to arms, giving out that the King’s (James II.) forces were within four miles of Nottingham, whereupon the whole town was in alarm. Multitudes who had horses, mounted and accoutred themselves with such arms as they had, whilst others in vast numbers on foot appeared, some with firelocks, some with swords, some with other weapons, even pitchforks not excepted; and being told of the necessity of securing the passage over the Trent, they immediately drew all the boats that were near at hand, to the north bank of the river, and with them, and some timbers and boards on the wharf, with barrels and all the frames of the market-stalls, barricaded the north-side of the Trent. 

My Lord Delamere and his party, well pleased with the readiness of the people to give their assistance, his Lordship sent his men and some officers to the Prince of Orange, but himself, with a few officers, stayed till the next day, being Saturday, which is the principal market-day, when he, the Duke of Devonshire, the Lord Howe, etc., appeared at the Malt-cross, and in the face of a full market, the Lord Delamere, in a speech, declared to the people the danger their religion and liberty were in under the arbitrary proceedings of the King, and that Providence had sent his Highness the Prince of Orange, under God, to deliver them from Popery and slavery, for which reason, according to the Prince his declaration, they were for a free Parliament, and hoped their concurrence. This was seconded by a speech of the Duke of Devonshire, and also of the Lord Howe, and was followed by the shouts of the people, who cried out, ‘ A free Parliament! A free Parliament!’ This done, Lord Delamere departed to follow his troops, whilst the Duke and Lord Howe made it known that they were for raising horse in defence of their liberty, and would list such as were willing to be entertained, whereupon upwards of an hundred men, who offered themselves, were entered the sameday.”

* The Feathers inn was situated nearly at the top of the west side of Wheeler-gate.

Mr. T. Bailey (Annals of Nottinghamshire 1852 - 55 states that “ it was held up the yard now occupied by Mr. Bennett and Mr. Jones; but only removed there after it was given up by Mr. Prentice, who, if 1 mistake not, first occupied the premises of the present inn (the Old Moot Hall) as a private house. The original 'Feathers Inn* was undoubtedly the premises now' occupied by Mr. John Brown".
 Annals of Nottinghamshire - pub. London 1852 - 55  Thomas Bailey (1785 - 1856).
Thomas Bailey had his business at the Old Moot Hall, Wheelergate and is described in directories as Wine Merchant in 1826 and Hop Merchant in 1829.



This work also goes on to mention that Queen Anne whilst princess and escaping from her father in London, staying at the Feathers at around the same time and being served at table by the 18 year old Colley Cibber - the great 18th century actor.

The property has a long and complicated history of building, rebuilding and ownership including the Byrons of Newstead Abbey in the late 16th century, The Smith banker family and Lord Carrington in the 17th and 18th centuries and various Nottingham grandees including Aldermen Lawrence Athorpe in the 17th century and John Ashwell in the 18th century and the historian and publisher Thomas Bailey in the mid 19th century.

The ceiling of the ground floor of number 6 Wheeler Gate, which became Armitage's Oriental Cafe in about 1888 was of particular note, being a richly decorated, hand modeled example of approximately 18' x 12' above a deep cornice enriched with winged cherubs masks, and beribboned swags of fruit and flowers. It had a central oval panel, surrounded by four spandrel panels with three rectangular panels at each end. The spandrel panels were decorated with an armorial badger and the coat of arms of the Braddyll family of Brockholes and Portfield in Lancashire. The whole ceiling is profusely ornamented with flowers fruit acanthus and vines. It was extremely unusual to find such a magnificent and costly ceiling in what was a relatively small domestic situation.

Fortunately the ceiling was very carefully removed by the city engineers department, before demolition and put in store at their Eastcroft depot, where it remained gathering dust until the early 1980's - when in turn this building was demolished. It then found a new home with Mr Robin Brackenbury at Holmepierpont Hall a predominantly sixteenth century building, where it was installed on a job creation scheme.

In 1998 work commenced on the restoration of Holme Pierpont back to its sixteenth century appearance and the ceiling was once again carefully taken down and offered for sale.

It was at this point that it was rescued from almost certain destruction by Mr Peter Hone (with the aid of myself) who had spotted it for sale in Salvo magazine - the digest of the architectural salvage trade, and it was carefully transported to the restoration workshops of Messrs Taylor Pearce of New Cross, London where the painstaking task of removing over half an inch and some 30 layers of paint took place under the supervision of Keith Taylor and Matthew Nation. 

It is now ready for its final finishing and installation in a new home and currently can be viewed at the New Cross workshop.

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