Signs and Wonders No 6: Monkeys and other animals

WHERE: Pelham Street/Thurland Street
WHAT: I said last week that I'd write about an unusual feature of the old Nottingham and Notts Bank head office, the amazing display of Old English eccentricity that architect Watson Fothergill built between 1877 and 1882. And so I will. But it turns out I also have the chance to introduce you to the feature's family.
We are talking, of course, about the famous stone monkey (above, far right), which reader Sonya Rudd pointed me at. It perches by a brick chimney at the far end of the building's Thurland Street side -- you need to be the other side of the road before you can catch a glimpse of its tail. The joke, supposedly, is that "monkey" was a Victorian term for mortgage; it means either that Fothergill had a mortgage "on" the bank, or (in expert Ken Brand's version) that debt was a monkey on your back.
This week, however, for the first time since NatWest moved out five years ago, it became possible to enter the main banking hall, where a second, chained monkey lurks on a column. Underwear shop Bravissimo opened the old cashiers' area a while back; now swish fashion retailer All Saints has let us back into the rest of the ground floor.
Things have changed: the space is split, the windows are larger, and there's a giant crucifix of lightbulbs that doesn’t seem exactly Fothergill's style. But a great deal of his detailing can now be seen again. The rest of the stone menagerie shown above is all from the main hall. I wonder if "owl" or "pig" were slang for financial products?
There is much more to discover around this remarkable place, starting with the plaques of Notts industries and the crests of Notts towns. But those are subjects for other columns -- or your own explorations.