In the closing years of the nineteenth century a huge hole appeared in the centre of Nottingham.
This became the city’s Victoria Station, connected through tunnels north and south to the new main line of the Great Central Railway, with an additional connection on a viaduct to the Great Northern Railway line heading east to Newark.
The GCR London Extension was a prodigious engineering feat from end to end, and the Nottingham station, with its tracks below street level, made a greater impact than any of the company’s other new stations.
Over a thousand houses, two dozen pubs and a church were swept away and replaced by a grand brick entrance building with a hundred-foot clock tower and a splendid hotel alongside fronting Mansfield Road, designed by a young Nottingham architect, Albert Edward Lambert (1869-1929). Below street level, there were twelve platform faces with avoiding lines for through goods trains and two turntables for locomotives.
The Great Northern was determined not to run its trains into a station called Nottingham Central, and printed the name ‘Nottingham Joint Station’ on its tickets and timetables, until the Nottingham town clerk ventured a diplomatic solution. Because the opening day, May 24th 1900, was the Queen’s eighty-first birthday, he made a proposal virtually impossible to refuse: as the Great Central station in Sheffield had been ‘Victoria’ for years, the Nottingham station was duly named after the Queen.
Britain’s last main line, London Marylebone to Manchester London Road, had a short life: it was far better engineered, at least as far as Nottingham, than any other railway in the country, because it was intended to link with the Channel Tunnel (commenced in 1881 and abandoned a year later) and so to Paris.
The GCR and its successor, the L&NER, put up strong competition: its services to Sheffield, Leicester and London were significantly faster than those of its rival, the Midland Railway.
Nevertheless, in the post-war decline of railways in Britain, the GCR lost out to its older rivals; express passenger services ended in 1960 and the main line passenger services south of Rugby were abandoned in 1966.
Nottingham Victoria Station itself closed a year later on September 4th 1967, and for a short while services from Rugby to Nottingham ended at Arkwright Street station, perched on a viaduct half a mile out of town: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvvO9GkjtK0.
The land on which Victoria Station stood was far too valuable to leave unused, and the Victoria Centre, consisting of shopping malls, a bus station and a twenty-six storey apartment complex, opened in 1972.
The only parts of the original station to survive are the clock tower and the hotel, now the Hilton Nottingham: http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-nottingham-EMANOHN/index.html.
The magnificent train shed, with its overall roof, footbridges across the tracks and spacious staircases to platform level, is still mourned by Nottingham people and rail enthusiasts. There is poignant footage of its declining years [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D60XNfJPk8M and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-FQeUKrnNM], and the station is described and amply illustrated at http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/n/nottingham_victoria/index.shtml.
The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2018 ‘Waterways and Railways of the East Midlands’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.