Memories of Rodney Shelton re ‘The Roundhouse’ at Colwick as told to Jackie Wood
Looking from the Black Woods at Colwick Woods, behind Angela’s hairdressing salon, go straight down in a line there (where there used to be a railway crossing in the Three Hills valley) and The Roundhouse was the other side of Colwick Road.
It was a bit of a mystery to us kids as you weren’t allowed to go there. In 1958/9 this lad came into our class at school called David Fee who came from Ireland and I got friendly with him and found out he lived at The Roundhouse. His dad worked at the racecourse and The Roundhouse came with the job.
Originally the site was an orchard and it was surrounded by a substantial wall. It was about 10ft high and about 80 yards in diameter and had a York stone coping on top. The Colwick Road side of the wall consisted of a round tower with turrets on about 25ft high. This tower consisted of a ground floor and a first floor. There was a fireplace on each floor. There were no other amenities. The gardener lived here. It was built about 1770/75 to protect the orchard to grow the fruit for Colwick Hall.
Sometime later in the early 1800s to mid 1800s they knocked a hole in the side of the round tower and built the cottage and named it ‘The Roundhouse’. It was demolished approx. 40 years ago. Now what remains could be from the round tower or the round wall. I would say it would be the tower. There was no electricity only gas lights. When I went into the Roundhouse it was quite fascinating after all the years we’d looked down on it wondering what it was but when I got friendly with David I went down regularly every night in the summer and found it was a wonderful place. You went down some steps at the left hand side of the cottage into a long kitchen then stepped up into a dining room and then the second room was the sitting room. That’s as far as I went – I didn’t go upstairs. I always used the kitchen door too, I never went through the front door. Mrs Fee was one of the most welcoming people you’d ever meet in your life. David’s father was a strict disciplarian and David had to do his jobs such as chopping sticks for the fire etc before he was allowed out to play.
Anyway when I finally started going to The Roundhouse we used to go out the back – it was private then as the racecourse was privately owned so we were allowed to roam all over there – that was a bonus in life then. You stepped out straight into the orchard then which of course is all overgrown now but about a third of the wall had already fallen down. Nottingham racecourse was one of the few racecourses that was a mile straight and I think they took the end of the wall off to accommodate the straight because once upon a time, before they built Candle Meadow, you could stand on Mile End Road and look straight down the course to the Grandstand. Where the starting gate used to be is now a pub named after it and because the course was a mile long that is where the name Mile End Road comes from.
I think an old lady used to live in the cottage before the Fee family moved in and she is buried at the old St John’s Church next to Colwick Hall.
Now, at the side of Colwick Hall, is a picnic area enclosed by a round wall and that was exactly the same size as the orchard. If you go and stand in it you will get some idea of the circumference of the wall in the orchard. There were all sorts of fruit – apples, pears, damsons, victorian plums etc.
Actually the walled garden at Colwick Hall used to contain a big house. Someone told me the other night that they reckoned during the Reform Riots of 1831 this building was burnt down as there was no roof left on it – just a shell. The walls were quite a few feet thick tho so it must have been a substantial house. At the rear of it was a line of dog kennels built out of brick. Looking at the brick gives the age away. Now this walled garden was the same brick as that. I went a walk with my wife last week and paced this garden and it was exactly the same as the orchard – about 80 yards. It was a considerable wall. If you look at the few remains today it is only about 7/8ft high but it was a good 10ft high originally.
Part of one side of the wall at the orchard had channels in it inside the wall because the brickwork had fallen out so somewhere there must have been a fireplace in which they made a fire to send heat around the walls to keep the frost off the fruit. At the time I had a good look at it as we used to climb on top and run round it. It was all our playground. I spent many happy hours at The Roundhouse.