Village history

Gotham is a small village situated midway on the original road between the major towns of Nottingham and Loughborough. The river Trent passes 2 miles to the north, the river Soar 4 miles to the west, whilst the Fairham Brook meanders lazily by, about 1 mile to the east. The village sits inside a semicircular amphitheatre of mainly wood-covered hills which rise to a height around 100 metres above sea level.

The village is first recorded in the Domesday Book survey in 1086 when about twenty families resided here. Since that time the population has gradually increased over the centuries from 224 in 1601, 475 in 1801, 1009 in 1901 to around 1800 today.

The village is still surrounded by fields and its perimeter has not xpanded too significantly. As in other parts of the realm, the Enclosure Act of 1804 divided up the larger estates into more manageable fields ith wider ownership and as a result in Gotham, the Lord of the Manor was not required to keep a bull or the Rector a boar for breeding purposes. Agriculture naturally remained the main occupation of the residents sometimes supplemented with basket making using reeds and ushes from the swampy ground to the east. Additionally in the mid 1800s the framework knitting business grew and reached a peak with ome 87 knitters in 27 workshops being recorded in various village houses. As large knitting factories were built elsewhere this trade radually fell away by the end of the century.

It was fortunate that about this same time the local farmers during their ploughing were uncovering gypsum rock which, when collected and sold, could supplement their meagre incomes. However it was not until the ate 1800s that, after some ownership changes and consolidation, 3 separate drift mines were dug into the hills on the outskirts of the village. It should be mentioned here that similar situations arose in the adjacent villages of Barton, Thrumpton, Kingston and East Leake where their drift ines headed into these same hills from the opposite direction. Production of gypsum products rose rapidly with Gotham mines upplying at one stage one third of the country’s requirements. At their peak some 400,000 tons of rock and plaster products were being espatched annually. The round-the-clock noise from the crushing machines and the combined smoke and dust from the three mills were a constant reminder of their presence. The effects of this industry on the village were considerable. There was an influx of labour from other areas and ancillary trades developed, e.g. brickworks, soap works, blacksmiths, carters, wheelwrights, saddlers, bag makers, etc. To cater for the coal required for the mills’ boilers and the amount of gypsum being sold, a railway branch line from the main line at Ruddington was introduced in 1900. Many attempts to persuade the railway company to include passenger traffic were rejected. However with the improvements in lorry traffic and rationalisation of the railway system the branch line was eventually closed in 1965. As a direct result of the above, house building for the workers gathered momentum following World War I, specifically creating Leake Road including Ridgeway and also houses on the north side of the Nottingham Road. These significant additions required changes to street names and some houses being renumbered. Inside the village many thatched cottages were either pulled down or their roofs retiled (only one now remains). Immediately prior to World War II some 16 Council houses were built on Moor Lane, and then following World War II a succession of council houses were built on Wodehouse Avenue (65), and Bidwell Crescent (24). Subsequently, private estate houses were built on Kegworth Road (55), Curzon Street (88), Grasmere Gardens (10), St. Andrew Close (17), Foredrift Close (5), Monks Lane (6), Home Farm (5) and more recently Chapel Close (5). Regular planning applications by developers to build further estates on the outskirts of the village, thus violating the green belt status, have so far not been approved.

Other post World War II businesses which thrived during this period included the glove factory, Joywully knitwear, the South Notts Bus Company and various lorry companies. There were many shops and sometimes two on each street. At one time there were 5 businesses selling petrol to a rapidly increasing number of car owners. The four public houses together with the Royal British Legion have always benefited from visitors wishing to hear about the Tales of Gotham folklore stories, and still continue to be well patronised. However with the rundown of the 3 gypsum mines due to the underground rock being exhausted (2 closed in 1960 and the final one in 1990) together with the shut down of the knitwear factories, the occupations of the residents changed permanently. The villagers were forced to commute to work places further afield, eg the Nottingham East Midlands Airport, the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, and various workplaces in towns where they could also do their shopping in supermarkets. As a result many village shops and all petrol outlets were closed down. Meantime the lorry traffic through the village, mainly to and from the M1 motorway, continued to increase and eventually after significant lobbying a new bypass road was built in 1996.

During these past 200 years there have been links between the religious establishments and the schooling of the growing number of children in the village. The church built in the centre of the village in 1180 continues to this day. A village school was built and paid for by Earl Howe in 1829. This establishment continued until 1879 when it was replaced by the Board School on Kegworth Road to accommodate 200 pupils. The two main chapels, one Methodist and one Wesleyan were built around the 1870s to satisfy the particular religious needs of the knitting and mining families. Both these chapels extended their buildings to provide additional educational teachings at weekends. However, with the decline of the Methodist movement in the village, the chapel on Meadow End has now been converted to a private dwelling, whilst the Wesleyan Chapel on Nottingham Road has been demolished to provide the new Chapel Close Estate. Members of the non-conformist chapels now hold their services in the church and discussions are presently in progress to consider complete amalgamation.

In 1956 Gotham children over 11 years of age together with those of surrounding villages were moved to Harry Carlton Comprehensive in East Leake to complete their education. Later, in 1965, Gotham School size was increased by the construction of prefabricated buildings on the opposite side of the road to the main school to cater for infants from Barton, Thrumpton and Kingston schools which were closing. Plans to replace the existing two part school with a new building are about to come to fruition.

The village has always had a strong community spirit no doubt due to the original mining culture plus the need for all wise fools to stick together. The St Lawrence Football Club, the cricket club, the Temperance Band, all started before 1900, and are well documented. The generosity of mine owners Derbyshire and Sheppard in donating eleven acres of land to the village for a Memorial Hall and recreation ground in 1921 continues to be appreciated. Bowls, tennis, playground equipment, and more recently a sports complex have been added and are envied by outsiders. Today there are some twenty active organisations covering a wide variety of interests. Included on the ground are the village library and health facilities which link with the County and Borough organisations.

Gotham people are proud of their village and long may they continue to be so.