Department of History

Local history seminars

Local History Seminars return this autumn.

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.

More information contact: 
Dr Richard Gaunt 
Department of History, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

Busy forest scene painting including a king, hunter, Jester, sellers and more



Upcoming seminars

Saturday 13 November - Dr David Appleby (University of Nottingham)

Past seminars

Sat 9 October

Emeritus Professor John Beckett, Humanities Room A03

We're pleased to return to in-person seminars this autumn. The University strongely encourages the continued use of facemasks in seminar rooms unless you are exempt due to a medical condition. Hand sanitiser will be available and please give those outside of your bubble plenty of space.

Please note for this week the seminar will take place in a different room to usual!

Opposite the entrance of Lenton Grove you will find the Humanities building. The seminar will take place here in Room A03 on the ground floor, right hand side just before you reach the corridor. There will be clear signs directing you to the correct room and, as this Saturday is also a University Open Day, there will be a student representative in the foyer of Humanities who can direct you to the correct room.

Emeritus Professor John Beckett returns for our first Local History Seminar of the year to discuss his ongoing research and catch up in-person with regular attendees. Professor Beckett retired from university service in the summer of 2020 after running Local History Seminars for several years. This year he will be handing the proverbial baton of organiser to Dr Richard Gaunt but will still be attending many of the seminars and continuing his ongoing research into local history. 


2019–20 seminars

Sat 12 October 2019 - A man more sinned against than sinning? Reverend Henry Meriton and the beautification of Lutterworth church

Speaker: Dr Pam Fisher

John Nichols tells us that Henry Meriton was a broken man when he died in 1710. He had restored and ‘beautified’ Lutterworth church following damage from a lightning strike, but his parishioners pursued a legal case against him in Chancery for misapplying the money raised. Other evidence points to deeper motivations and grievances. The testimony of townsfolk in the local church court speaks vividly of the tensions between the Anglican rector and the nonconformists in the period immediately following the Toleration Act of 1689. Dr Fisher is Volunteer Project Manager for Leicestershire VCH and is currently working on the histories of Ibstock and Lutterworth, for publication in 2020 and 2021. 

Sat 9 November 2019 - Archaeological remote sensing from unmanned aerial vehicles in Notts, and ground-based thermal remote sensing

Speaker: Dr Chris Brooke

Dr Brooke will discuss his most recent work examining several archaeological sites in Nottinghamshire from the air using remote sensing. He will also present the results of recent ground-based thermal imaging, mainly in churches, to reveal hidden archaeological features.

Sat 14 December 2019 - Sutton Bonington Prisoner of War Camp, 1916-1919

Speaker: Professor John Beckett

At the end of 2019 John Beckett’s five year project on the First World War comes to an end. In this session he will be looking at one of the ‘hidden histories’ of the First World War, the use of what is now the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus as a POW camp for German officers, 1916-19.

Sat 11 January 2020 - Session 1 - A Place to Rest… in Peace

Speaker: Kevin Powell 

Kevin, who is a regular attender at Saturday morning seminars, will talk about his work on the General and Church Cemeteries in Nottingham, their history, and some of the people buried in them. Kevin leads the guided walks programme for Nottingham Civic Society.

Sat 11 January 2020 - Session 2 - Conscientious Objectors in the First World War

Speaker: Dr Denise Amos

Denise runs the Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway (a website hosted by the Thoroton Society), and has recently been working on the conscientious objectors of Nottingham and further afield following the introduction of conscription in 1916.

Sat 8 February 2020 - A Tale of Two Boroughs: Urbanisation in Nottingham during the Late Medieval period

Speaker: Scott Lomax, Nottingham City Archaeologist

This talk will provide a narrative of the processes of urbanisation in Nottingham during the late medieval period. It will examine some of the factors responsible for significant changes to the town, as well as some of the consequences of such changes upon the morphology of the town and the lives of those who inhabited it. The talk will focus upon the period 1300-1540, although, by way of background, relevant information for the earlier period of 1066-1300 will be presented. The methodology and results of ongoing archaeological and documentary research, including research for Scott’s ongoing PhD, will be discussed.

Sat 14 March 2020 - Civil War Petitions CANCELLED

*This event has been cancelled owing to concerns about the coronavirus epidemic*

Speaker: Dr David Appleby, University of Nottingham

Dave Appleby spoke to the seminar in 2016 on the subject of the British Civil Wars and the Restoration. Since then he has joined with Professor Andy Hopper at the University of Leicester in a major, AHRC funded project on Civil War Petitions, entitled ‘The Human Costs of the British Civil Wars’. The seminar will examine what petitions were, what they tell us about people caught up in the Civil Wars, and where the project is heading over the next few years. 


2018–19 seminars

Sat 13 October 2018 - Colonial links to Country Houses and their Owners

Speaker: Helen Bates

After giving an overview of some of the recent projects looking at colonial links to country houses and the physical legacies of this, Helen will present a case study on the 2nd Duke of Montagu's ill-fated quest to conquer part of the Caribbean for George I. She will focus particularly on how indentured servants played a key part in this conquest and how she traced the involvement of people like John Beeston, 'briches maker' of Bingham, Nottinghamshire.

Dr Bates is a lecturer in Public History and Heritage at the University of Derby and she is also based at Newstead Abbey as Academic-in-Residence exploring the colonial links to the estate. 

Sat 10 November 2018 - Poaching in the Nineteenth-Century East Midlands

Speaker: Rosemary Muge

Poaching increased from the mid-eighteenth century, and became a cause for concern for landowners and all those involved in upholding the law. Often referred to as the Poaching Wars, and dubbed 'The Long Affray' by one historian, the night-time fights between gamekeepers and poachers have entered into popular myth in some cases. The session will examine poaching in the East Midlands counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire from 1820 to 1900.

Dr Muge is a retired teacher, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham, and is a regular attendee at the local history seminars.

Sat 8 December 2018 - Technological innovations in Victorian and early Edwardian country houses

Speaker: Marilyn Palmer

In the second half of the 19th century, technology played an important role in enabling owners of country houses to achieve a comfortable home which functioned efficiently and largely invisibly. Dwindling personal finances from the late 19th century has meant that the physical evidence of these earliest examples of domestic innovations has often survived rather than being swept away by later modernisation, as was often the case in town houses and middle class dwellings. The owners of many houses, recognising the changing composition of their visiting public, have begun to open up the below stairs area as well as the state rooms and to conserve the remains of earlier technologies. 

Marilyn is now an Emeritus Professor of Industrial Archaeology at Leicester University having served as Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History from 2000 to 2006.

Sat 12 January 2019 - "Fake News" in the East Midlands press c.1790-1832

Speaker: Hannah Nicholson

Fake news is often thought of as being a modern phenomenon, spread with the help of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. However, sensationalism is nothing new. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, local newspaper editors used a variety of courses and tactics to fill the pages of their publications, spreading gossip and rumours, especially in the run-up to elections.

Dr Nicholson graduated from the University of Leicester, and subsequently completed an MA and PhD at the University of Nottingham. She has been a regular attendee at the Saturday morning seminars. 

Sat 12 January 2019 - Derby, 'Urban Enlightenment: class, culture and the industrial spirit, Derby 1720-1900'

Speaker: Michael Crane

Michael will be discussing some of the longer term changes and developments in Derby through the industrial revolution. The city has never really had a major academic study of its role in industrialisation, and Michael's work helps us to understand both the process, and the people involved.

After a career in teaching, Dr Crane has recently completed a PhD in the Department of History.

Sat 9 February 2019 - Death in the Town

Speaker: Professor David Stocker and Dr Paul Everson

A study, bringing together previous and some new published work, regarding what can be said about the establishment of urban churches, and therefore about urbanism more generally in the 10th-12th centuries, using the large body of new information made available through the cataloguing of the AHRC-funded Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture Project. Amongst other considerations, they argue that this alternative environment and legal background imposed unusual relationships on such monastic houses, both with their patrons and with the animals of the Chase.

Sat 9 March 2019 - Jesse Boot and Highfields

Speaker: John Beckett

Jesse Boot purchased the Highfields estate in 1919. Part 1 of this seminar will look at how the twin parks (University and Highfields) were constructed in the 1920s. Part 2 will be an exercise in reconstructing Boot's original motives, and why his initial plans had to be abandoned.

John Beckett has been researching the role of Jesse Boot in Nottingham since he started work on the University of Nottingham history published in 2016.


Past seminars


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

14 Oct 2017

Speaker: Jenny Alexander 

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.

Trials and The Retribution: The Fate of the Pentrich Rebels

11 November 2017

Speaker: Richard Gaunt 

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

Robin Hood: the local legend and the sources

13 Jan 2018

Speaker: David Crook

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.

The Newly Built Personality of Ralph, Lord Cromwell

10 Feb 2018

Speaker: James Wright

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. 

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

10 Mar 2018

Speaker: Stephen Walker

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. 



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 world-class 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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