Street Tales: Narrow Marsh

Words: Joe Earp
Illustrations: Mike Driver
Tuesday 10 March 2015
reading time: min, words

We delve a little deeper into the history of our city’s streets to give you the tales they’d never have taught you at school...


J Holland Walker (1926) in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society, briefly discusses the early history of Narrow Marsh: “One hardly recognises Narrow Marsh under its modern name of Red Lion Street which was bestowed upon it in an excess of zeal in 1905. I think the authorities must have come to the conclusion that the cup of wickedness of Narrow Marsh was full, and that the very name had something unholy about it and so they thought that by changing the name they could change the character of the inhabitants.

“Well, their intentions no doubt are very praiseworthy, but in attempting to get rid of the name of Narrow Marsh, they have attempted to destroy an extremely interesting relic of the past, and in spite of the brand new name of Red Lion Street, the name of Narrow Marsh holds its own pretty firmly to-day, and this is not to be wondered at. It is the natural name of the thoroughfare situated between the River Leen and the foot of St Mary’s cliff, and it has been called Narrow Marsh with an astonishing variety of spelling ever since 1315, or the year after the battle of Bannockburn.

“In those far off days it was called Parvus Mariscus, ‘the little marsh’, and rather dignified it looks in its cloak of Latin. Its physical features are, of course, the great 70ft precipice which overhangs it on the north, and the River Leen which alas ! has now vanished, on the south.”

The Broad Marsh and Narrow Marsh areas - slums and all - were demolished in the thirties but redeveloped as piecemeal due to the intervention of the Second World War. Leenside was renamed Canal Street, which still exists as a major road in Nottingham. If you stand outside the BBC Nottingham building at the top of London Road and look towards St Mary’s Church, there’s a cliff of sandstone - the Narrow Marsh area was here, running eastwards towards what is now the tram viaduct.

For more on Nottingham History, check out the Nottingham Hidden History website.

Nottingham Hidden History website

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