Celebrating Nottingham's unique heritage for this unusual English Tourism Week is nearing the end, but not before we've turned our attention to the city’s industrial past and rebellious spirit. From Luddites to lingerie, the story of lace making is woven into the very heart of the city.

The Lace Market is believed to be the oldest part of the city of Nottingham, dating back to the fifth century. It got its name from the invention of the knitting frame by William Lee of Calverton, Nottinghamshire. This frame was adapted and improved through the early 1800s, and by the 1840s lacemaking was changing from a domestic industry into an international export.

Not everyone was happy about this industrial boom, however. The Luddite movement began in Nottingham; a secret oath-based organization of English textile workers in the 1800s. These artisan producers destroyed the encroaching textile machinery to protect their craft (hence the term frame-breakers), with the enigmatic Ned Ludd as their figurehead. To this day it’s still unknown who this mysterious man was, if indeed he was real at all or just a clever ruse to taunt the authorities!

This culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816, which was ultimately supressed with legal and military force. By 1870 almost all lace production had been mechanised, and Nottingham’s Lace Market became the centre for the global lace industry, world-renowned for its unsurpassed quality.   


Take a walk through the cinematic streets of the Lace Market today and you can still see grand Victorian buildings such as the Adams building on Stoney Street and Barker Gate House, but the area is now best known for its fine bars and restaurants. Though you might not notice it at first glance, a delicate lace pattern adorns the walls of Nottingham Contemporary art gallery. The design was discovered in a glass time capsule buried in 1847 on the building’s site. A beautiful blend of contemporary style and the city's heritage, on a building as interesting on the outside as the excellent exhibitions within it.

Explore the rich history of the area with one of Gold Star Guides' walking tour and find out how Nottingham made lace, and in turn, lace made Nottingham. Take in the magnificent buildings as you discover how a flimsy piece of fabric created an industry and a fashion statement which still endures today. Although the tours currently aren't running, it's surely something to keep in mind.

Creative retailer Debbie Bryan, an enthusiastic ambassador of Nottingham’s world famous Lace Heritage displays a vast collection of treasured vintage lace in their Heritage Archive giving you the opportunity to experience this exceptional part of British textile history. An array of quality Nottingham lace fabrics and trims, framed laces and lace hoops and much more is also available in the shop.

The Framework Knitters Museum in the quaint village of Ruddington is also a magnificant place to explore and see how the local Victorian community lived and worked - telling you more about the lace industry and Luddites. Right in the heart of the ancient lace market, you'll also find the gorgeous Georgian-style Lace Market Hotel, is there anything more fitting?

In the meantime, why not join Nottingham's own Robin Hood (AKA tour guide extraordinaire Ezekial Bone) on a virtual stroll and out more about Nottingham's industrial heritage and its exciting future on a short journey through the Lace Market.

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Debbie Bryan
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Debbie Bryan in Lace Market

Number one for shopping in Nottingham, Debbie Bryan, are an award winning, independent creative retailer. With an in-house design studio, creative space and award winning Tea Room - they are a haven of gift giving, eating, drinking and things to do.

Gold Star Guides
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Gold Star Guides

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Lace Market Hotel
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Lace Market Hotel

Lace Market Hotel is situated in the bustling and attractive location of Nottingham City Centre the Lace Market. Located in a Georgian building.

Nottingham Contemporary
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Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham Contemporary is one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the UK, presenting free exhibitions, special events, and family activities.

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