Nottingham stands on an outcrop of Triassic bunter sandstone on the north side of the River Trent, originally a Saxon settlement, which developed into a Norman stronghold by the year 1068. By the 1800s it had sprawled to occupy the greater extent of the sandstone outcrop, across the Trent floodplain, and beyond. Often associated with Robin Hood or its ridiculous gun culture, Nottingham is little is known for its most distinguishing physical feature.
It is the geological setting in which Nottingham is set that has enabled the city to be distinguished as Tigguo Cobauc, in ancient dialect, or the City of Caves, in normal English.
The city’s sandstone base has particular qualities that has allowed for excavation on a large scale. The stone is soft and easily sculpted, non-drip and provides a constant temperature. Therefore, due to these ideal circumstances the city hosts over 400 man-made caves, many of which are not apparent from first glance as they are mainly underground… stupid!
Nottingham would be the envy of prehistoric cavedwellers, a troglodyte’s wet dream. Generations of different cavers have left behind a warren of spaces beneath the city. The act of removing to create makes the area fascinating, with the appropriation of natural resources enabling this unique ‘negative’ typology without extra structure or overbearing labour. I really like the opportunistic nature of digging out the space you need.
The merry folk of Nottingham branched out to create all sorts of inhabitable areas, including tannerys, breweries, living quarters, cellars or storage space. During the Second World War the caves under Guild Hall were appropriated as air-raid shelters, and later were the proposed seat of local government should the cold war escalate into something nuclear.
Anyway here’s some images of the recently surveyed caves.