Department of History

Local history seminars

The Department of History organises local history seminars which take place on Saturdays between October and March. They are open to all with an interest in local and regional history. Booking is not necessary and the entry fee of £5 includes refreshments.

The seminars start promptly at 10am and finish at 12.30pm, and are held in Lenton Grove, accessed via the West Entrance of the University Park campus. Lenton Grove is building no.5 on the campus map. There is limited parking outside the Department of History, and roadside parking 100m beyond Lenton Grove, just past the Humanities Building.

For more information contact Professor John Beckett (Department of History, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD).

Local History Seminar Image

Autumn 2017-18 Seminar Dates

14 October 2017

Jenny Alexander (University of Warwick)

Public or Private Ritual Space? Lincoln's Angel Choir in the later-medieval period

Lincoln Cathedral's Angel Choir was built in the second half of the 13th century both to provide a site for St Hugh's shrine and to promote his cult. By the end of the Middle Ages the part of the choir closest to the shrine had become the chosen burial site for royalty, senior clergy, and the nobility and this impacted on the role of the shrine within the building. Not all of the tombs survive but they can be reconstructed from drawings in the Book of Monuments and from other sources and it is now possible to re-examine both the form of the tombs and their relationship to the new building work underway in the cathedral during the 14th century.

Dr Alexander is Principal Teaching Fellow, History of Art, at the University of Warwick.

11 November 2017

Richard Gaunt (University of Nottingham)

Trials and The Retribution: The Fate of the Pentrich Rebels

The Pentrich Rebellion failed in its intended purpose of triggering a nationwide revolution on the evening of 9–10 June 1817. However, the story does not end there. In this seminar, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the execution of three of the Pentrich ringleaders, Dr Richard Gaunt reconsiders the aftermath of the rebellion. Using evidence provided by court transcripts, newspapers, spy evidence, and estate records he investigates not only what happened to the identified rebels themselves but to the families and villagers of Pentrich and district whom they left behind.

Dr Gaunt is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Nottingham

9 December 2017

Sarah Holland (University of Nottingham) 

Asylum and Hospital Farms

Farms and farm labour were at the heart of asylums and mental hospitals between 1845 and 1955. This seminar explores how the economy of the institution and therapeutic wellbeing of patients converged on the farm. It focuses on the patient experience of farm work, and includes a discussion of case studies and primary sources.

Dr Sarah Holland (University of Nottingham) is a nineteenth and twentieth century British historian, whose research focuses on rural history and health histories.

13 January 2018

David Crook (University of Nottingham)

Robin Hood: the local legend and the sources

An illustrated talk about the origins of the legend associating the outlaw with the Nottinghamshire village of Edwinstowe, followed by an introduction to some of the sources for the history and geographical location of the legend in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire and elsewhere.

Dr David Crook is an Honorary Research Fellow in History at the University of Nottingham following a career at The National Archives. He is engaged in writing a book on the origins of the Robin Hood legend.

10 February 2018

James Wright

The Newly Built Personality of Ralph, Lord Cromwell

Rising from a Lincolnshire family of limited political influence, Ralph Cromwell became one of the most significant figures of the mid-fifteenth century. Linking structure to biography, the personality of a man on the rise from Lord of the Manor to Lord Treasurer of England is reflected in the power statements of his castles, great houses and ecclesiastical buildings. This can be contrasted with glimpses of the vulnerabilities and status anxieties bound up in his social identity with emphatic, yet revealing architectural statements revolving around his motto, heraldry, livery badges and repeated architectural devices. Those structures which he commissioned then went on to have an extraordinarily powerful legacy which lasted for over 150 years of English architecture. 

James Wright is an expert on castles, and is currently doing a PhD at the University of Nottingham. 

10 March 2018

Stephen Walker

The Robinson mills in the Leen Valley: a thread in the web of industrialisation

In the 18th century, the Robinson family established mills to produce cotton thread. They created one of the earliest large-scale industrial complexes in Nottinghamshire. In 1785, they were the first in the world to apply a steam engine to a factory. This session will describe the extent of the physical remains, review evidence for the operation of the mills, and details about the workforce.

Dr Walker is a retired school teacher who recently completed his PhD at the University of Nottingham. For many years he has been researching the development and operation of the mills, and he has been chair of the Friends of Moor Pond Woods. His work spans historical geography, industrial archaeology, and social history. 

Past seminars


Ordinary Lives?
8 Oct 2016    

Speaker: Derek Wileman 

This seminar will describe the stories of some of the people who went into Southwell Workhouse, and attempt to show why they were admitted, what happened while they were there, and what happened to them afterwards. There will be a discussion of the documents available to give information for such stories, and the way they can be linked to tell a social history of the people concerned.

Derek Wileman’s first degree was in Physics and Maths. After 30 years teaching Physics he worked as Clinical Audit Officer in Medicine at Nottingham City Hospital. Since retiring he has spent the last 18 years as a volunteer researcher with the National Trust at Southwell Workhouse. At the age of 67 he studied for an MA in English Local History at Leicester University.

Ground-based archaeological remote sensing
12 Nov 2016

Speaker: Chris Brooke

Techniques for the non-destructive examination and analysis of historic buildings and archaeological sites under excavation using electromagnetic sensing methods were first developed at this University during the 1980s. They comprise techniques that can be used to investigate non-visible information including hidden wall paintings and illegible inscriptions.

Dr Christopher Brooke has been an Associate in the Department of History at the University of Nottingham for many years where he is also joint editor for the Southwell and Nottingham Church History project. He is additionally an Hon. Research Fellow at the University of Durham where he continues to develop ground-based and aerial remote sensing techniques for use in archaeology and the study of historic buildings.

Radcliffe on Trent U3A First World War Group
10 Dec 2016

Speakers: Marion Caunt, Rosemary Collins and Pauline Woodhouse

Since 2013 a U3A and Heritage Lottery Funded project has been exploring the impact of the First World War on Radcliffe on Trent in Nottinghamshire. Researchers have identified nearly 400 servicemen connected to Radcliffe, written their biographies and explored what happened locally, including the role of village women, opening of war hospitals and creation of a memorial park in memory of an officer who died at Paschendaele. The paper addresses three questions: How do we discover what ordinary people did in the war? How do we present their stories? How was the war experienced by those who participated?


Bromley House and
Regions of Enlightenment: Women and Scientific Culture in the East Midlands during the Nineteenth Century 

14 Jan 2017

Two sessions:

Session 1 - Bromley House

Speaker: John Beckett

The role of the private subscription library in Nottingham in the development of scientific thinking in the early 19th century. The paper also looks at how over time the library was superseded by other specialist societies and organisations, which themselves linked eventually to the University College which opened in 1881.

Session 2 - Regions of Enlightenment: Women and Scientific Culture in the East Midlands during the Nineteenth Century

Speaker: Paul Elliott 

In Family Fortunes, their well-known study of English middle-class family life, Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall argued that an ideology of the private domestic sphere became prominent between 1780 and 1850 and circumscribed female behaviour, while men dominated the public sphere life of the arts and government. This paper examines the degree to which the experience of women in scientific culture between 1780 and 1850 conformed to the separate spheres model.

The Charnwood Forest Roots Project
11 Feb 2017

Speaker: Julie Attard

Dr Julie Attard is Project Development Officer for the HLF-funded Charnwood Roots project based at the University of Leicester. The project is part of the ongoing work in Leicestershire for the Victoria County History. In this seminar she will be talking about the project, its origins and current organisation, and looking at what is coming out of the ongoing research into this area of north-west Leicestershire.


Farming on the Templar estates in Lincolnshire following the arrest of the Order in 1308 and

Public Ritual in English Towns, c.1630-1670

11 Mar 2017

Two sessions:

Session 1 - Farming on the Templar estates in Lincolnshire following the arrest of the Order in 1308

Speaker: Mike Jefferson

After the arrest of the Templars on 10 January 1308 their estates fell into the hands of Edward II and were managed through his agents. The estates’ accounts from the period 1308–13 give a detailed insight into the farming practised by the Order and initially continued by the king's agents. It is the response of the Templars to the Lincolnshire landscape which forms the focus of the presentation.

Session 2 - Public Ritual in English Towns, c.1630–1670

Speaker: Amy Calladine

The period 1630–1670 was characterised by intense political and religious dislocation as Britain experienced civil war, republican rule and, finally, Restoration of the Monarchy. At such times, urban centres used moments of large-scale ritual practice to negotiate these unfamiliar circumstances. Focusing on a number of ceremonial forms including civic entries, public procession and the marking of regime change, the talk explores the nature of ritual performance with a special focus on East Midlands towns.



Nottingham Castle redevelopment; Recent research into Robin Hood 

Speaker: Cal Warren (10 Oct 2015)

On the anniversary of the burning of Nottingham Castle in 1831, this session considered the £24m Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment of the Castle, and explored some of the issues which face curators and gallery designers, in transforming the site into a worldclass visitor attraction.

Speaker: Dr Judith Mills

Judith reflected on her recent research into Robin Hood, and considered his changing role in popular legend as a champion of social justice.

Past Futures Or Heritage Futures Or A Future for the Past

Speaker: Sir Neil Cossons (14 Nov 2015)

The future of museums and how we care for historic places is the subject of animated debate, the result of changing tastes and attitudes and severe reductions in public funding. What do we wish to take forward from the past to illuminate and inspire the future? Are we burdened by too much? And, who pays and how?

Sir Neil Cossons, former Chairman of English Heritage, surveyed the options.

Beresford’s Lost Villages Website

Speaker: Dr Helen Fenwick (12 Dec 2015)

The Beresford's Lost Villages website was made possible by a generous legacy bequeathed to the University of Hull by Professor Maurice Beresford, and initially it concentrated on settlements identified in his 1971 volume Deserted Medieval Villages. The seminar reviewed the work undertaken creating the website and the sources used to investigate deserted medieval settlement, considered the task of updating the original gazetteer and the question, ‘Is the study of deserted settlement still relevant today?’

Helen is co-director of the ‘Beresford’s Lost Villages’ project. Her main research interests include medieval settlements and landscape. She lectures in Archaeology at Hull.

From local studies of ancient animals to global natural and cultural history

Speaker: Dr Naomi Sykes (30 Jan 2016)

Very little of the fauna that we see around us today is ‘native’. Most of the animal species found in Britain arrived from elsewhere: some brought purposefully by migrating peoples, some arriving as stowaways, whilst others were sent as gifts from far-off lands. Whatever the case, each animal is a reflection of British cultural history. However, as many animals arrived in the long-forgotten past, reconstructing the timing, circumstances and impact of their introduction cannot be achieved through a single discipline, it requires the integration of different sources of evidence. The seminar reviewed the methods and results of recent research on animal introductions to Britain, considering when, how and, most importantly, why these animals were brought here.

Naomi is senior lecturer in zooarchaeology (the study of ancient animals) in the Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham, also director of the AHRC-funded ‘Fallow Deer Project’ and co-director of the AHRC-funded ‘Chicken Project’.

The East Midlands and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–19; Methodism in 19th-century South Nottinghamshire

Speaker: Dr Joan Knight (20 Feb 2015)

In the summer of 1918, as the First World War was entering its final stages, a great plague of influenza erupted and spread around the globe, killing millions. This session considered how the pandemic entered the East Midlands, from its first appearance amongst the troops on the battlefields of Europe, and how it affected the region's civilian population.

Joan is a tutor at Loughborough University and is currently involved in the Victoria County History Trust's Charnwood Roots project.

Speaker: Dr Anne Woodcock

Methodist membership was an important personal commitment, both initially and on a continuing basis. However, the circuit records relating to four parishes in south Nottinghamshire reveal that much of it was short-term and often conceal a significant level of turnover.

Anne Woodcock is retired, interested in local history, and has recently completed her doctorate on Methodism in south Nottinghamshire.

After the Storm: the British Civil Wars and the Restoration

Speaker: Dr Dave Appleby (19 Mar 2015)

David Appleby talked about his research into the demobilised soldiery of the British Civil Wars, both in the 1640s and after the Restoration, and how this research has fed into the creation and future plans of the new National Civil War Centre in Newark. The discussion then moved on to consider the current state of Civil War and Restoration historiography.

Dr Appleby is Lecturer in Early Modern British History at the University of Nottingham, and an historical adviser to the National Civil War Centre.



The Burgage of Southwell – an oddity in a peculiar place

Speaker: Ellis Morgan (11 Oct 2014)

Ellis joined the Southwell Community Archaeology Group in 2012/3 and their All our Stories project on the history and archaeology of the Burgage Green area of the town.

Ellis led the history research group and his colleague, Matt Beresford, the archaeology group. The seminar covered such questions as what was discovered, how it was found, how not to organise a history group, and why archaeologists need historians and vice versa!

Writing up the Writer: Joseph Woolley, Sir Gervase Clifton and the Law

Speaker: Professor Carolyn Steedman (8 Nov 2014)

How do you write about the local, when you’re not a local? How do you determine a context to one working man’s life, lived out in Nottinghamshire in the era of Luddism?

The seminar explored the questions and decisions that framed Professor Steedman’s account of Joseph Woolley (c.1770–1840) the framework knitter from Clifton who lived close to magistrate Sir Gervase Clifton who also kept records of a working life, though of a very different kind.

Carolyn Steedman is Emeritus Professor of History at Warwick University.

The Welbeck Atlas

Speaker: Steph Mastoris (13 Dec 2014)

The Welbeck Atlas comprises more than 80 maps based on surveys of the extensive estates of William Cavendish, Earl (and, later, Duke) of Newcastle. These were commissioned from the surveyor William Senior between 1629 and 1640 and provide an important source for landscape studies in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and four other English counties. This seminar described the origins and structure of the Atlas and its relationship to Senior's written surveys.

Steph Mastoris currently works for the National Museum of Wales.

Researching and Claiming the Lost Ways of the East Midlands

Speaker: Dr Steve Hollowell (3 Jan 2015)

New legislation places a time limit on claiming lost ways and having them placed on the Definitive Map – the legal record of public rights of way. While Parliamentary inclosure provides strong evidence for the existence of these lost routes, there are many other historical sources which are able to add to the story. We examined the historical background to the early ways and the legal jungle of proving their existence in order to have them restored.

Steven Hollowell is an historian and Public Rights of Way Consultant.

The White Book of Southwell

Speaker: Professor Michael Jones and team (14 Feb 2015)

The White Book is a collection of the privileges, title deeds and other records relating to the Collegiate church of St Mary, Southwell, the Chapter which governed it and their estates.

Begun around 1335, it was largely completed by 1460. Many relate to lands acquired by the Chapter, especially along the Vale of Trent. The White Book thus furnishes valuable evidence not simply for medieval ecclesiastical history but for social and economic developments, including local impacts during the period of the Black Death.

Crime, Communities and Magistrates 1750–1850

Speaker: Brian Davey (14 Mar 2015)

The seminar surveyed the debate about law, magistrates and summary justice in the 18th century as the context for the study of the notebooks of Thomas Dixon of Riby (1787–1798). The second part of the seminar examined the unusually full sources available for the study of crime, courts and policing in the wapentake of Bradley Haverstoe (the rural hinterland of Grimsby) between 1830 and 1850.

Brian Davey is a local historian with a special interest in crime and policing. He taught Regional and Local History courses for the University of Hull and the University of Lincoln.


Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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