Signs and Wonders 16: On the terraces

Evening Post, 31 Dec 2005

WHERE: Corner of Clarendon Street and Shakespeare Street

WHAT: Terrace Royal is a survivor. It was built in 1863 as a row of eight two-bedroom houses, for the likes of surgeons and lace merchants. But over the next couple of decades it found itself at the heart of a civic district — the Guildhall, University College and the College of Art all sprang up around it — and today it’s part of a virtual university campus. You’ll look hard around here for a building not connected to Nottingham Trent.

The key to its survival — and the reason for mentioning it here — is the beautiful carvings on its arched door and window frames, which stand comparison with anything on nearby official landmarks.

According to an 1863 article in The Builder, these are by “Mr Smith of Nottingham, late of Oxford”. A picture-caption with the same piece names the architects as Wilson and Dutton-Walker.

The street names inspire some of the carvings: on Clarendon Street we have the great historian the Earl of Clarendon, and a parade of kings and queens that includes Elizabeth I and Edward VI. Shakespeare Street heads are meant to include King Lear and his daughter Cordelia, as well as Queen Victoria and most of her family.

(This was Terrace Royal, incidentally, to mark the marriage of her eldest son: the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. You can see his feathered crest on the nameplate.)

All this is now offices for Nottingham Trent University, who have won awards for how well they keep it, but it appears only to have come to them relatively recently. Kind reader Ray Teece, who prompted me to write this, remembers childhood visits to the family GP here. It must have been almost worth a dose of the flu just to look at the carvings.