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Bulwell Main Street, looking north - geograph.org.uk - 1465743.jpg
Main Street, Bulwell in 2009
Bulwell is located in Nottinghamshire
Location within Nottinghamshire
Population16,157 (ward. 2011)
OS grid referenceSK 53882 45189
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townNottingham
Postcode districtNG6
Dialling code0115
AmbulanceEast Midlands
EU ParliamentEast Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°00′04″N 1°11′49″W / 53.001°N 1.197°W / 53.001; -1.197Coordinates: 53°00′04″N 1°11′49″W / 53.001°N 1.197°W / 53.001; -1.197

Bulwell is an English market town about 4.5 miles (7 km) northwest of Nottingham city centre, on the northern edge of the city. The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed there were almost 30,000 people living in the Bulwell area, accounting for over 10% of the population of the city of Nottingham. The 2011 census showed a population of 16,157 in the Bulwell ward of Nottingham City Council.[1] There is also an adjacent ward called Bulwell Forest. The population of this ward at the same census was 13,614.[2]


Early settlers[edit]

The home land of Francis Needham. The earliest documented settlements in Bulwell appeared circa 800 A.D, and were most likely built around the same time as the first local bridge spanning across the River Leen. With the river being significantly narrower, shallower and slower-moving in Bulwell than in other potential locations along its length and the threat of highwaymen a very real danger on existing cross-country routes, a toll bridge was constructed in this outpost, allowing for a quicker and safer passage from north to south for travellers but providing an obstacle to less legitimate travellers.

The bridge created a rare direct road to Nottingham from the northwest and therefore introduced regular traffic from across the country to the area for the first time.

The tolls levied for crossing the new bridge required the building of a gatehouse for those collecting the levies and providing protection for people using the route: the creation of the toll house thereby inadvertently founding the new settlement. The almost captive market of the travelling parties provided endless potential for trade, and the abundance of natural resources made it easy to erect a dwelling. As the volume of traffic using the road increased, so did the size and population of Bulwell.

Bulwell is mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was compiled in 1086. [2] Recorded in the book as "Buleuuelle" and classified as a village, Bulwell had by this time become established as a small trading post for all kinds of goods and services. It had expanded to cater both for those living and working in the surrounding area and those travelling further afield, and this in itself encouraged many others to settle in the wider area.

Local people, particularly the poorer of the new settlers, often offered space in their homes to travellers requiring overnight stops. Paying a relatively small price, travellers would share a home-cooked meal with their hosts and sleep in their rooms - a much safer and infinitely more sociable arrangement than continuing onto Nottingham. The river provided local entrepreneurs with the facilities to make beer, a fact which it appears was exploited freely, and which perhaps led more 'guests' to become overnighters inadvertently and require accommodation.

Never slow to evolve, by around 1200 Bulwell had grown to provide all the facilities to accommodate animals and their masters alike in droves, becoming something of a one-stop 'service station' on what was fast becoming a relatively major road. Trade in this still relatively small and compact stopping post thrived, with a steady stream of newcomers attempting to exploit the opportunities Bulwell had to offer. Whilst the increase in trade was good for the local economy, the new-found abundance of salesmen and tradesmen split the town in two.

The owners of the 'official', original businesses, having in some cases incurred large expense to build and maintain premises, complained bitterly about an ever-growing number of roaming salesmen undercutting their prices and taking their trade. Since they were also paying rates to the local landowner, they considered their right to monopolise custom inalienable. In response to the complaints, a local law was enacted (circa 1320 AD) forbidding anyone without 'fixed... and at least part-covered premises' from selling goods or services close to the original businesses.[3]

However, the statute was badly worded: to circumnavigate the laws, the salesmen simply fixed posts into the ground, creating market stalls similar in design to their modern counterparts. The stalls were covered for use and left uncovered in situ when not in use, thus both abiding by the law and designating a permanent venue for their sales. The people using these facilities fought hard against the power of the richer businessmen and successfully defended the right of the marketeers to operate alongside them. The location of the Market Place remains virtually unchanged to this day and still houses a bustling market on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.[4]


The population grew steadily throughout this period, but the town itself did not grow much in size: opportunities for betterment and the desire of many to live further away from the 'unhealthy' town centres ensured a relatively even flow of traffic in and out of Bulwell.

At some point during this time, both the magnesium limestone and the sandstone (now known as Bulwell Sandstone) on which Bulwell sits began to be quarried. The strong easily crafted durable rock, a dull yellow-orange magnesium limestone (not to be confused with the Bunter sandstone famously underlying Nottingham Castle), provided a perfect building material which was also easy to quarry. Many houses, schools, churches and - particularly - garden walls built using Bulwell Stone still stand to this day, extending for miles around Bulwell in all directions.

An early example can be found in sections of the wall surrounding Wollaton Hall, which was built using Bulwell stone in the late 16th century. The sheer quantities used there - and elsewhere in the city - suggest some kind of professional mining operation must already have been in operation by this time. Bulwell stone was later also used to repair the damage caused to the palaces of Westminster during the second World War.

Coal is also found in abundance close to Bulwell. Running as part of much larger seams criss-crossing the region, the coal lies underneath the layers of sandstone and is in places only a few feet beneath the surface. Coalmines in the area around Bulwell were therefore among the first in the county to operate on a commercial basis, with large-scale mining from around 1500 onward.[5]

Many fortunes were made at the time from the extraction of coal, including that of Sir Francis Willoughby. Willoughby paid for the building of the extravagant Wollaton Hall (mentioned above) with money obtained through coal-mining. One of the world's first railway lines, completed in 1604 and leading between nearby Strelley and Wollaton, was built by Willoughby's heir to aid transportation of the tons of coal being produced from 'his' mines. Since the invention of the steam train was still some 200 years in the future, horses and other beasts of burden were used to pull the rows of carts filled with coal, with the rails acting more as a guide and as a smoother surface when compared with the roads of the time.

The church on the hill overlooking Bulwell (built 1849-1850) is on the site of the original Bulwell church, which dates back to at least the 13th century. Towering over most of North-East Nottingham, Bulwell Saint Mary the Virgin and All Souls (Known simply as St Mary's) can be seen from many miles away, and its bells still ring out across the area each weekend.


In 1667, George Strelley "built a school for the educating and teaching (of) young children of the Inhabitants of the said Parish", a stunning building that survives to this day, along with many of the other houses built at this time. The building is now used as a private home but retains many of the original features.[6] 1852 brought the act of Parliament allowing for the extension of the gas pipeline from Basford and the south. This allowed for street lighting, commercial and domestic use, and effectively revolutionised life in the town. The earliest supply of water was not to arrive until 1877, with the many local springs, wells and the river providing for the needs of both business and domestic use until this time. Before 1877, water-borne diseases were rife and the river water highly polluted by both industry and sewage, leading to very high rates of infant mortality across the region. The percentage of children dying before reaching their fifth birthday decreased by over 75% in Bulwell between 1870 and 1890 - a situation that led to dreadful overcrowding and even more demand for already overstretched services like housing. Health care again suffered as a result of the insanitary living conditions, but the population continued to grow apace.

1843 brought bad weather that did irreparable damage to Saint Mary's Church. The church in existence today was built in its place between 1849 and 1851; the architect was Henry Isaac Stevens. In 1885 the new church of St. John the Divine on Quarry Road was consecrated.

Bulwell Hall[edit]

Bulwell Hall in 1879, from The County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, by Francis Orpen Morris

Bulwell Hall (See picture here[7]) was a grand mansion house built in 1770 by landowner John Newton. It was set in its own large grounds to the north of Bulwell town centre, and was known as Pye Wipe Hall when first built; a name which stuck with local folk until the time of its demolition.

After passing through the hands of Newton's descendants for a time, Bulwell Hall was sold at auction in 1864, along with over 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land, to a man named Samuel Thomas Cooper.[8]

Bulwell Hall was later employed variously as a sanatorium, an 'approved school for boys' and an Italian prisoner of war camp, before its eventual demolition in 1958.

S.T Cooper and The National School[edit]

As a result of the above sale of Bulwell Hall, Samuel Thomas Cooper became the "Lord of the Manor" of Bulwell and its larger areas. Cooper was a philanthropist, and in 1866 he paid £3000 for another school to be built for the local children.[8] Then named the National school, it provided education for up to 518 children at a time; a remarkable feat considering the size of the building. Remaining in use as the "old building" of St. Mary's C of E Primary and Nursery School primary school, it is now listed, and houses many fewer pupils than at the time of its creation. (See picture here.[9])

After Cooper's death, his widow, Annie Cooper, donated £600 to Bulwell Saint Mary's church to provide for a better organ. Still in use (although now operating electrically powered bellows), the organ houses a plaque commemorating Mrs Cooper's donation, "in memory of (her) husband".

Some sources claim that this man was the same S.T. Cooper who later went on to enclose Bulwell Bogs as his own private ground. (See below.) It is known that Cooper died in 1871, aged 39, and also that the protest over the Bogs took place in 1872, but this does not show conclusively whether the protest taking place after his death was not down to his actions whilst still alive. There is no other "S.T. Cooper" recorded as being Lord of the Manor of Bulwell, leading many to believe the man to be the same.

Boundary changes[edit]

The Deanery of Bulwell was created in 1888, four years after the creation of the Southwell diocese. Bulwell then remained a town in its own right until a boundary change in the 1890s made it a part of the City of Nottingham. The beautiful Old Town Hall, rendered useless by the change and built in the 18th century, is now a retail outlet for fireplaces and more recently the top floor which houses the buildings old dance floor(which was unused and discarded for years) has had extensive refurbishment from what was a rundown space last being used as a factory for clothing garments, now being converted back to a place for its primary purpose to be a place for dancing.This is in the form of a dance school housing over 250 local children and adults alike. the buildings tired "old town hall" signage has now gone and a reproduction in its place, vibrant and proudly displaying "old town hall home of Take 5 theatre school of dancing" in the same style and colours of the buildings predecessor this is just one of the signs of the hard work and dedication of those that attend the school and their efforts to bring this landmark building of Bulwell back to life.

1900 - present day[edit]

Over the past century, Bulwell has grown enormously with the creation of housing estates such as Crabtree Farm, Snape Wood, Highbury Vale and Hempshill Vale.

Snape Wood and Sellers Wood were originally part of a swathe of woodland that bordered the landfill site to the north-west of Bulwell, stretching down to the farmland that became Hempshill Vale estate to the south-west.

Both woods were protected under Royal Warrants going back to the 12th century, but drastic shortage of housing in Bulwell in the 1960s and 1970s, as in Nottingham as a whole, led to the protection being removed and new housing estates being built.

A token remnant of Snape Wood was left behind in the middle of the new estate, amounting to little more than a small fenced-in copse with three pathways leading through it. Owned by the local authority, Nottingham City Council, the site was designated a Local Nature Reserve, but years of neglect have left the site rubbish-strewn and in need of a structured management plan. Despite constant fly-tipping and a lack of proactive conservation, this site surprisingly supports a wide variety of wildlife, from rare wildflowers to mammals such as grey squirrels, hedgehogs and urban foxes, as well as up to 20 different species of bird. In February 2009, plans to set up a community group to take ownership for the maintenance and conservation of the site on behalf of the local authority were moved forward.[10]

A larger proportion of Sellers Wood remains, with the land also designated as a Local Nature Reserve, actively managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust on behalf of the local authority, Nottingham City Council. Sellers Wood was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature in 1981, being cited as "a fine example of broad-leaved semi-natural woodland...of regional importance".[11]

Bulwell no longer has a working quarry, landfill site, coalmine or brewery to employ its residents. Designated industrial areas such as those found on Greasley Street and Commercial Road were constructed early in the latter half of the 20th century, followed in the 1980s and '90s by smaller developments of offices and light industrial units such as those on Pottery Way (off Sellers Wood Drive).

The larger developments for industry built in Sellers Wood in the 1980s (off Blenheim Lane/Camberley Road/Dabell Avenue) were further added to during the 1990s. Many other industrial buildings have sprung up in the surrounding area since then and the larger area looks set to grow outwards once more in the near future. The extended industrial estate includes warehousing and distribution for national food retailers, large printing factories, office blocks of all sizes and numerous small- to medium-sized units offering a variety of goods and services. A large Cash and Carry wholesalers recently joined the supermarket, petrol station and small row of fast-food outlets between this industrial estate and the rest of Bulwell. This utilises yet another piece of the land that was used for landfill until the 1960s/1970s; leaving only two large fields now without some kind of development.

Just next to the supermarket is a very steep hill which still marks out the edges of the long-abandoned limestone quarry.


Bordering Ashfield and Broxtowe districts, 'Greater' Bulwell stretches across an area of around 3.5 square miles (though many would argue that Bulwell's 'catchment' should still include the Bestwood, Bestwood Park, Heathfield and Leen Valley estates, as it did in the past, increasing the size to around 5 square miles.)

The Greater Bulwell area, as designated by the City Council, includes Top Valley, Heron Ridge, Crabtree Farm, Bulwell Hall, Snape Wood, Sellers Wood, Highbury Vale, Hempshill Vale, Bulwell Forest, Bulwell Central, Moorbridge and the area adopting the title 'Bulwell Village', and also a significant amount of Rise Park.

Although the addresses for the Bestwood estates were also originally suffixed 'Bulwell', ward and local area boundaries have been changed to instead link the entire 'Greater Bestwood' area with Basford and Sherwood. The old "seven fields" between Bulwell and Bestwood have now been largely developed, but the historic links between the areas remains constant. The newer estates now covering the fields have just added to the list of 'Satellites' affiliated with Bulwell.

Bulwell Bogs[edit]

Bulwell Bogs

The centre of Bulwell is located in a valley next to the banks of the River Leen. The Bog area beside the Leen, known for over 900 years as "Bulwell Bogs", has long been set aside as a place where children can play, paddle and fish.

After an attempt by the Lord of the Manor to enclose the land around the Bogs, in 1872, the people of Bulwell staged a peaceful protest, massing in their hundreds to protect the 'common' land. Described as "...impeccably well behaved and peaceable to a man; indeed rather joyous of spirit!" in the official records, the people of Bulwell marched a short distance before enjoying lunch by the river. After this, the crowd is said to have "...dispersed quietly and as directed with no further disturbance", later winning the fight to designate the land for the "pleasure and leisure of the people of Bulwell".[12]

The whole Bogs area was set to be demolished in 2002, to make way for a large road-bridge and a transport interchange, from where buses, trams, taxis and trains could all be caught. Fierce public opposition from local people resulted in a campaign being launched to prevent the work; the City Council eventually scrapped the plans.[12] With help from local community groups and residents, the facilities at Bulwell Bogs were instead upgraded in 2003 to produce a bigger play-park, a safer paddling pool and a cleaner feel, and won a Green Flag Award in 2004 for the work done to regenerate the area.[13]

As well as the Bogs, there is an area about a mile upstream, near the present-day Moorbridge, which historically attracted children from miles around to play. This led to the nickname "Bulwell-on-Sea" being applied by other Nottingham residents. The building of the outdoor Lido pool nearby further strengthened the connection, with families historically travelling from across the city to spend a day by the water in Bulwell. Unfortunately, despite fierce opposition by local residents, the Lido was demolished in 2006, with the land being sold off to private housing developers.[14]


Bulwell is a transportation hub for the North Nottingham area. There are three stations serving Bulwell on the Nottingham Express Transit tram system: Bulwell, Bulwell Forest and Moor Bridge. These provide access to Nottingham and Hucknall.[15] Next to Bulwell tram Station is the railway station, where trains on the Robin Hood Line link Nottingham to Worksop. There is also a large bus station and a taxi rank, with two taxi firms based in Bulwell.


Schools in and around Bulwell have historically been among the worst-performing in the UK. The entire Bulwell area was designated an "Education Action Zone" in 1999, as part of a high-profile scheme aimed at addressing the problems. Standards have risen slightly since then, but certain major deficiencies persist.[16] The North Nottingham region has the lowest level of students progressing to higher education in the UK,[17] and the 2006-7 league tables for secondary education showed Nottingham's schools to be second-worst achieving in the country.[18]

One Bulwell school, Hempshill Hall Primary, was served by long standing headteacher Marcia Puckey, who was Britain's longest-serving school Head when she retired in summer 2005, and was awarded the OBE, in recognition of her ‘services to education’ in the Queen's New Year's Honours List 2006.[19][20]

Bulwell's flagship new school, The Bulwell Academy, was officially opened in September 2009, with all pupils from the former Henry Mellish School and the former Alderman Derbyshire School (later the River Leen School) moving into the new building by August 2010.

Bullwell is also home to the first and second Cherubs Day Nursery. This is a chain of childcare centres owned by millionaire business woman, Susan Emma Mills, who herself was born in Bulwell, and husband Robert Everist. The chain owns a further 12 sites in Nottingham.

Life in Bulwell[edit]

Despite officially being a part of a large city for many years, there is still a distinct and unique feel to Bulwell that belies its size and proximity to the larger Nottingham conurbation. Bulwell has a lot of community-based initiatives focusing on improving the area, with volunteers playing a key role in their survival. The Bulwell Credit Union, Bulwell Vision and the active Brownies, Girl Guides, Rainbows and Cubs packs, the Bulwell and Basford Rotary Club and Bulwell Community Toy Library are just a few of the projects thriving thanks to the help of the local people.

There is a site for travellers of Irish heritage in Bulwell that exists as one of only a few 'permanent' sites in the country catering for both roaming and static populations. A lot of work has been done by the nearby schools to ensure the integration of traveller children, work which has won praise from Police, community leaders, and travellers' rights groups nationwide.

There are a number of pubs in Bulwell, one of which (The Scots' Grey, now closed) was featured in a television programme entitled The Ten Hardest Pubs in Britain.[21] Housing a successful boxing club, it has provided many champion boxers, such as Dominic Wilmot in 2008 and Aaron Brenton in 2009 and taught many hundreds of boys and trained amateur boxers at all levels for generations. However, the pub's reputation for toughness comes as much from fights held outside the ring as in it, and stretches back many years. Fights were regularly held in the nearby Market Place after closing time on Saturday night, with scores being settled as well as money made or lost on the outcomes. Spectators formed a ring around the bare knuckle pugilists, who would fight to the knock out. Betting, challenging (i.e. money offered to any man who can knock down the "hero"), and "purses" offered by crowds were regular sidelines to the fights, which continued until as recently as the 1990s. Ironically, the pub was closed down recently because it was seen to be too "rough" to control adequately.

Despite the closure, the pub's football team (The Scots' Grey F.C.) continue to play, enjoying a great deal of success in the local Sunday League. Winning all three senior trophies in Nottinghamshire for two years running, after being the first team ever to accomplish this feat, coached by Steve "Ozzy" Osborne, the club are hoping to make history by becoming the first team ever to do the 'treble treble': winning all three trophies for three years running.


Crime levels are very high in the area, compared to both the Nottingham and national averages.[22] In 2003 Bulwell gained the nation's attention after a Nottingham PC, Ged Walker, was killed here in the line of duty. PC Walker was dragged to his death as he attempted to arrest the driver of a stolen taxi; local resident David Parfitt was later sentenced to 13 years for his manslaughter.[23] A memorial stone marking the spot where PC Walker died[23] was badly vandalised in January 2006, with a hammer being used to deface and damage the engravings.[24]

Another officer was badly injured in a remarkably similar incident on 10 October 2006. The special constable required extensive reconstructive surgery after being dragged along the road by a car when attempting to arrest a man on the Bulwell Hall estate.[25] Four people were arrested.

The fatal shooting of local lad Marvin Bradshaw outside a Bulwell pub, in 2003, led to "gangland-style" reprisal attacks on a large scale, and attracted international interest.[26] A passenger in the car Bradshaw had been driving on the night of his murder, whilst unhurt in the attack, himself died within months of the event, leading friends and family members to seek revenge on his behalf.[27] The parents of Michael O'Brien, the man convicted of Bradshaw's murder, were targeted, and despite moving into a "safe house" on the Lincolnshire coast were both also murdered soon afterwards.

O'Brien had already been sentenced to 24 years in prison for Bradshaw's murder. Three of the eight men arrested on charges of conspiracy to murder Mr and Mrs Stirland (O'Brien's parents) were found guilty, in a case still being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission[28] "Extremely serious matters" are said to have been found in connection with the way the police handled the case.[29] It has since been proven that corrupt police officers implicated heavily in the case actually had passed information to gang boss Colin Gunn around the time of the murders Gunn received a sentence of 35 years for conspiracy to murder Mr and Mrs Stirland and a further nine years for bribery and corruption of policers officers Gunn was also implicated and arrested,but never charged with the murder of Marian Bates the jeweller.[30][31][32]

On 1 July 2006, the day after the three were sentenced for the Stirland's murders, a large riot broke out on the Bestwood estate, the former home of Gunn and his gang. Lasting several hours and causing an estimated £10,000 worth of damage, the riots were said to have been triggered by the outcome of the murder trial. Nine people have been convicted in connection with the disturbances.[33]

On 7 August 2006, a local teenager died after he was attacked outside the Moon & Stars pub. 18-year-old Aaron Smith suffered severe head injuries in the attack, which took place on 3 August. A local 24-year-old man pleaded guilty to Smith's manslaughter, and awaits sentencing.[34]

Another local man was shot in the neck and back outside the Lord Nelson pub in November 2006, before being abducted, tied up, driven to a country road and left for dead. Three people were arrested and bailed in connection with the crime, which left the 27-year-old victim, from Aspley, with serious injuries.[35]


There are a variety of shops in the Bulwell area to cater for the needs of most people, although the town centre has suffered from something of a decline over the past few years. As in the rest of the country, many of the stalwarts of the old high street have either ceased trading, (e.g. Woolworths, Food Giant); merged (Lloyds' Bank and TSB Bank); moved premises away from the area, (Co-Op); or simply become no longer financially viable (Godfreys' TV and radio repair shop, butcher's shops, photo developers,and most of the pubs). Bulwell also boasts its own library,[36] a swimming pool,[37] many churches, and several fast food restaurants. There are also two golf courses, a youth club, a police station and a Tudor-style shopping arcade which is hidden down an alleyway situated off the Market Place.

Bulwell center has recently gained a new Tesco Extra and this has seen the center become a bustling site, which now has a HSBC (closed 2016), Yorkshire Bank (closed 2017), Halifax Bank and a NatWest as well as clothing stores Select and Hobsons and high street shops such as Boots, Card Factory, Shoe Zone, Wilkinsons, Superdrug and Argos. The area is home to a number of eateries such as Birds, Greggs and Dominoes (closed 2017).[38]

Pronunciation and origin of name[edit]

Bulwell is locally pronounced as the monosyllabic word 'Bool', which gradually formed through 'Bulwell', 'Bulwull' and then to 'Buwull'.[39] Local linguists have additionally suggested that by 2030, local pronunciation of the word will then have reached 'Buwuww'

The name is supposed to have been derived from the spring which runs out of the Bunter sandstone over a bed of clay, near to the northern end of the forest, called "Bull Well." In The Place Names of Notts., it is suggested that the first part of the name may stand for an Anglo Saxon person called Bulla, or a bull, or it may describe the bubbling sound produced by the flowing water of the spring.[40]

Legend has it that the town was named after a bull struck a sandstone rock causing it to seep water - a well. The now sealed well-housing, located in the nature reserve off Bestwood Road, is said to be the original well; i.e. the place that the bull gored. Both Bulwell Saint Mary's school and the Seventh-day Adventist church next door have illustrations of the tale relief-carved into sandstone blocks. Generations of Bulwell's children have grown up with the legend, and with the city council recently erecting a statue of a bull goring a well in the marketplace, it seems that the traditions surrounding the legend will continue indefinitely.

Notable Bulwellians[edit]


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