The Black Boy Hotel: Forgotten pearl of Nottingham architecture remembered in exhibition

Black_Boy_Hotel-Nottingham
The Black Boy Hotel stood on Long Row until its demolition in 1970.

One of Nottingham’s lost architectural gems is being commemorated by a new exhibition.

The historic Black Boy Hotel stood on Long Row, opposite Nottingham Council House, but was knocked down in 1970 to make way for new shops. Today the site is home to the city’s branch of Primark.

‘Gone but not forgotten’, hosted by Nottingham Industrial Museum at Wollaton Hall, is now charting the history of what was once of the city’s most famous landmarks.

The exhibition includes research by Richard Upton, a local history expert who wants to preserve the memory of building for future generations.

A scale model of the hotel appears in the exhibition. (Photo: Nottingham Industrial Museum)

The hotel came first to life in the 17th century but after being destroyed it was rebuilt in late 1880s by Watson Fothergill, the renowned architect born in Mansfield, who designed more than 100 buildings across Nottingham and the Midlands.

Inspired by Gothic Revival and Old English Vernacular architecture, Fothergill’s style stood out with an unusual combination of contrasting horizontal bands of blue and red bricks, balconies, turrets, stone carvings and dark timber eaves, which can be still admired in many surviving buildings in Nottingham.

Watson Fothergill
Queen’s Chambers, Old Market Square is another building designed by Fothergill.

Inspired by Gothic Revival and Old English Vernacular architecture Watson Fothergill’s style stood out with unusual combination of contrasting horizontal bands of blue and red bricks, balconies, turrets, stone carvings and dark timber eaves, which can be still admired in many preserved buildings in Nottingham.

The Black Boy Hotel earned fame for its luxury accommodation and catering services and it was mentioned in the 1939 Official Guide to Nottingham as “one of the most up-to-date hostelries in the Midlands.”

The Guide praised the outstanding facilities with 90 bedrooms fitted with cold and hot water and several bedrooms with private bathrooms.

“The Black Boy enjoys an unrivalled reputation for its catering and has excellent accommodation for banquets, balls and social functions if all kinds… There is a gentlemen’s hairdressing saloon, on the premises,” states the Guide.

In 1970 the building was demolished and was replaced by a modern construction –  the home of today’s Primark.

Nottingham Industrial Museum., Wollaton Hall.

The loss of the hotel is still considered one of Nottingham’s biggest architectural tragedies.

Ken Brandt, an author of books about urban development in Nottingham and an expert on Fothergill called the demolition of The Black Boy Hotel an act of “architectural vandalism”.

In 2011 Nottingham Civic Society decided to commemorate the building with a plaque – the first time it had bestowed the honour on a building instead of a person.

According to Helen Bowen, marketing and communications director at the museum, the exhibition has received a positive response, with two hundred people visiting on its opening weekend.

black boy hotel
Plaque founded by Nottingham Civic Society to commemorate The Black Boy Hotel

“The Black Boy Hotel is well-loved and remembered within Nottingham and many people have been reminiscing about staying there or visiting,” she said.

The exhibition is open until August 28.

Entrance to the exhibition is included as part of the normal museum entry charges of adults £3, concessions £2, children free.

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