Friday, May 31, 2013

Nottingham day trip

On Saturday our family took my parents on a day trip to Nottingham. We were keen to retrace the steps of Joseph Woodward, my great-great-great-grandfather, who was transported for incendiarism for his part in the 1831 Nottingham Riots. He set fire to a stack of beans and a hovel.

We had considered doing a walk using two short youtube clips of a guided tour called 'To the Castle', designed to retrace the steps of the rioters, but decided it wouldn't work on the day. So we watched it online the night before - you can watch it here and here.

It worked out well doing it that way, because when we arrived in Nottingham we were all set to head straight to the castle, which the rioters burned in 1831. It was wonderful to visit and get some context for this part of our family history and it was quite an interesting castle to visit in its own right. As well as seeing the exhibitions about the history of Nottingham and walking around the grounds, we went on a caves tour, which was a guided tour through the underground cave system at the castle. That was fascinating.

After we had seen the castle, we walked down through St Peter's Square where the riots began in 1831. There was a demonstration happening as we walked through, which helped set the scene!

We then headed to the old gaol and court house which is now the Galleries of Justice museum. This is where Joseph Woodward was tried and gaoled until he was transported. It was set up as a guided tour with actors (in part as criminals) showing us through.

It was amazing to be there, where he had been sentenced to death (before his sentence was changed to transportation) and to see the cells where he would have been held and the exercise yard in which he would have spent so many of his days. I also found the conditions of the gaol quite disturbing, knowing that Joseph Wooward had been there.

At the end of the day, we headed back for Cambridge via Normanton-on-the-Wolds, where his crime (arson) was committed. We found the little village and what we think was the house and the general area where he set fire to the stack of beans and hovel. It was so quiet and a fair way from town. It's still not clear to me how he ended up involved in the riots, or even if he was at the burning of castle or was just swept up with the excitement that something like this was happening and decided to do his own protesting. I'll have to keep tracking down the court transcripts and see if something comes to light!

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