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Nottingham’s Secret Garden

May 4, 2012
Bromley House 1752

Bromley House 1752

The garden of Bromley House Library will be open on Saturday May 12 from 2.00pm – 5pm. to raise funds for Maggies, the cancer care charity, and conservation work at Bromley House.The walled garden is one of the last remaining gardens from the eighteenth century, when Nottingham was known as ‘the garden town’.

Bromley House was first built in 1752, for Sir George Smith, a Nottingham banker.  It became known as Bromley House after his son changed his name to Bromley. When he died the house was sold to the library.

The building originally had a basement that was accessible from the street, but this was compulsorily purchased by the council about 1920 for road widening. The entrance then became covered by the pavement as it is today.

Map of Nottingham city centre 1949

Map of Nottingham city centre 1949 (Notice the extensive tram system and looking at Bromley house in the 1940’s, it is possible to see a tram pole holding the overhead wires on the far left of the drawing).

Bromley House 1940's frontage

Bromley House 1940’s frontage

Bromley House the modern day view from the street

Bromley House the modern day view from the street

These days the view to the castle is obscured due to all the tall buildings surrounding it, but when the house was originally built its gardens extended into the land where the Odeon cinema used to be. Certainly an old street map of 1748  shows large properties near the site of Bromley house with extensive gardens.

In 1820 when the house was sold, the sale catalogue indicate a brewhouse on the ground floor wing and a stable in the south east corner of the garden. The layout of the present garden may have remained relatively unchanged  since 1752.

Comparing the view through the door today to that in 1916 it does not appear much different except for the increase in growth of the London Plane trees, which were originally planted in 1875. Four out of the six have survived. These types of trees were very popular in Victorian Britain due to problems with pollution. The bark sloughs off at regular intervals unblocking the pores, allowing the trees to breathe.

Looking out to the garden 1916

Looking out to the garden 1916

Looking out to garden modern day

Looking out to garden modern day

Sundial

Sundial

The unusual sundial in the garden is a heliochronometer.

On a hot summer’s day the garden is still a pleasure to sit in and have lunch, shaded by the generous leafy branches of the Plane trees. There is also plenty of wildlife, particularly a friendly robin, who waits patiently for scraps to be thrown his way.

The inside of the library is just as fascinating as the garden.

Main body of library modern day

Main body of library modern day (notice the suspended spiral staircase)

The gallery

The gallery

It is a working library, although the rooms have been converted from the    original rooms of the house with a gallery having been made for easy access to the other parts of the library.

The library is also a place were old books are continually cared for by a team of volunteer conservators.

Book conservators at work

Book conservators at work

Detail of book conservators at work

Detail of book conservators at work

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