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History students contribute important research as part of Nottingham City Council heritage regeneration project

The group researched the history of the People’s Hall building in Hockley and the founding of NTU’s School of Art & Design in 1843

People's Hall Project Students
Jack Driver, Emma Allsop and Harriet Bird with their report at the People's Hall building

A group of three third year students studying BA (Hons) History and BA (Hons) History and Global Studies have impressed heritage professionals at Nottingham City Council as part of their ‘Real Life Work Project’ module. Emma Allsop, Harriet Bird and Jack Driver researched the historic People’s Hall building in Heathcoat Street in Hockley, Nottingham, which was where the Nottingham Trent University (NTU) School of Art & Design was first established in 1843.

The students compiled a report and three family trees as part of the research, which will contribute to Nottingham City Council’s Heritage Lottery Funded project, the Townscape Heritage Scheme. The scheme aims to involve the community in understanding and celebrating the history of Nottingham City Centre and making conservation a priority in the regeneration of buildings in this area. The council aim to organise heritage walks, tours around the area and family fun days in order to engage the local community with the history of the area.

The report includes research into the history of the Morley Family who lived in the building between 1750 and 1838. They are best known for the businesses of pottery and glassworks. The students then researched the establishment of the Nottingham School of Design in 1843, which was based in the same building on Beck Lane, now Heathcoat Street. The site went on to be named and opened as the People’s Hall in 1854, with the purpose to improve the lives of the working classes. The building provided a library, newsroom, adult Sunday School and held evening lectures for the community. The students used a wide range of primary and secondary sources such as records and registers from Nottingham history, sources from Nottinghamshire Archives and local newspaper articles from the time.

Greg Pickup, Townscape Heritage Project Manager, commended the students for their excellent work. He told us: “I am hugely impressed by the work of this team, who have gone far beyond any of those with whom I’ve previously worked on a number of projects over the last couple of years. The students’ work has significantly contributed to our understanding of an important local building. This is incredibly important both to our team working on plans to get the building’s history to a wider public audience through the People’s Hall project, but also in terms of the founding story of NTU itself as the College of Art and Design within this building in 1843.”

He continued: “The students have worked diligently, extensively and enthusiastically to enrich our understanding of a significant but currently unrecognised history that is central to both Nottingham’s story as a city and to NTU’s story as one of the great institutions of our city.”

The students commented on what they enjoyed most about the project. Harriet said: “I particularly enjoyed this project as it catered for my interest in family and local history, and one highlight for me was finding and transcribing the wills of some of the Morley family members that presented us with new and interesting information about the family.”

Jack Driver continued: “The opportunity to work on a project which had an immediate purpose was really exciting. I feel the group and I have made a considerable contribution to Nottingham heritage; we have employed crucial skills gained through our studies to create a project that will positively impact the city. The project also allowed each of us to develop crucial work place skills, which are highly sought after by future employers. As the project manager, I developed key management skills, including overseeing the project plan for the team.”

Emma Allsop added: “This project required dedication and the use of many skills that we’ve developed at university. One of these is problem solving, as we spent many hours following up dead ends and had to use our skills to discover the relevant materials. Furthermore, we had to use our organisation skills to store our research in order for it to be useful for us and future researchers to use. I am aspiring to be an archivist, so I really valued the time working in the archives with the primary sources”

History students contribute important research as part of Nottingham City Council heritage regeneration project

Published on 25 April 2019
  • Category: Current students; School of Arts and Humanities

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