Nottingham Market Wall That Split the City Brought Back to Life With AR
A most peculiar medieval feature of Nottingham Old Market Square has been recreated using a new augmented reality (AR) app. Nottingham Market Wall divided the center of the city for almost 700 years between 1068 and 1727. The Nottingham Market Wall, which according to historical sources was “breast high,” divided the French Norman borough in the south-west from the Anglo-Saxon borough in the north-east of the medieval city.
The AR app, developed by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, is currently available for Android smartphones. Visitors to the virtual version of Nottingham Old Market Square can see how it used to look and virtually interact with it.
They will be able to see the divisive Nottingham Market Wall, albeit online, built after the historical Hastings Battle of 1066, which signaled the beginning of the Norman conquest. They can also see a virtual version of Nottingham’s infamous Ducking Stool, and a reconstruction of the even older Malt Cross.
What brought about the separation of Nottingham, and how did it function as a divided city for so many centuries?
The Nottingham Market Wall augmented reality app uses key evidence from the past to reconstruct the long dividing wall that bisected Nottingham Market Square for nearly 700 years. ( NTU)
The Nottingham Market Wall: A Tale of Two Cities!
A press release by Nottingham Trent University explains how the French Norman and Anglo-Saxon boroughs had their own laws, different sheriffs, and separate administrative divisions. However, the wall was open in several places for pedestrians to pass through.
There are sources with conflicting information about how the wall was first built. Some suggest it was a “robbed” stone wall, made from materials scavenged from other sources. Yet others suggest that it was probably a repaired or renewed section of a stone wall, filled in with brick. These insights were based on a recently concluded archaeological dig when the square was repaved.
Scott Lomax, city archaeologist at the Nottingham City Council, explained the complex history of the Nottingham Market Wall, as told through historical sources. The earliest reference to the wall was in 1579 AD, when it required coping stone repair work . The wall is shown on John Speede’s map of Nottingham (1610) and Robert Thoroton’s map of Nottingham from 1677. The wall was partially demolished in 1714, and complete removal of the wall was completed in 1728, Lomax stated to The Nottingham Post .
“It was originally a stone structure, with the use of bricks for repairs or modification towards the end of its use. It was described in 1677 as being of 'breast height', with several openings in it, and it ran along part of Long Row before changing orientation to run approximately east-west across much of the Market Square. It has been speculated that the wall was in place to separate livestock from produce, or that it was a means of trying to prevent the two populations (of the English and French Boroughs) from fighting, though its relatively short height suggests otherwise,” explained Lomax.
Local historian Joe Earp from Beeston, who is well versed with the history of early medieval Nottingham, and the founder of the Nottingham Hidden History Team, said that Nottingham Market Square was built over a 1,000 years ago. He also believes that the cultural shock of the Norman French quickly passed, though there was initial resistance to the “division” laws and daily mobility restrictions in the square.
"It was most likely there to separate different parts of the market. There was a part of the market for hardware, clothing and small goods, to the east were the grocery and vegetables, south was where the animals were kept, and in the center there was timber sold by carpenters,” Lomax added.
Nottingham had a famous Ducking Stool, much like this one, to punish people on either side of the Nottingham Market Wall. Illustration of a Ducking Stool from a Pearson Scott Foresman text book. (Pearson Scott Foresman / Public domain )
Nottingham’s Virtual Augmented Reality App Recreates History
Robert Dixon, interim chief executive of Visit Nottinghamshire, said,
“It’s great to see NTU bringing Nottingham’s fascinating history to life using new augmented reality technology. Many parts of the city’s previously hidden and lost historical sites can be brought back to life, hundreds of years after they’ve gone away which is amazing. This new technology has the potential to enhance visitor experience and help locals with a keen interest in history. It’s also testament to the phenomenal work going on at NTU who continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
The AR software application, built by computers experts at NTU, includes the virtual reproduction of a medieval Ducking Stool, located near the water fountains in the square today. The Ducking Stool was used to punish people. This included mainly women who gave birth to illegitimate children or engaged in prostitution. These “criminals” were tied a chair that was then submerged in filthy water, and sometimes the dunked would die!
The long-gone older Malt Cross, at the corner of the Debenhams Building, is also reconstructed by the app . The Malt Cross was used for public announcements
Principal investigator, Dr Andrea Moneta, expert in digital scenography at the Nottingham School of Art and Design, said,
“The Market Wall is a fascinating and lesser-known part of Nottingham’s heritage, as many documents that would have illustrated the history of Nottingham were destroyed by fire many centuries ago. This app will give people a chance to learn more about Market Wall, Ducking Stool and Malt Cross, and how Nottingham was actually a double city for hundreds of years where the French and the Anglo-Saxons lived side by side.”
There are plans to expand the scope of Nottingham Market Wall augmented reality app to cover the city’s entire past. The app will also be expanded to Apple iOS devices.
Research Assistant Jane Ray, the technologist and head of esports at the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, concluded, “We look forward to continue this research to support the growth of a library of enhanced heritage sites and museums, and to demonstrate its rich history to the people of Nottingham and its visitors.”
Top image: The new Nottingham Market Wall augmented reality Android app, recreated using old maps, creates this ancient breast-high wall that kept the city’s French Normans and non-French Anglo-Saxons separated for nearly 700 years! Source: NTU
By Sahir Pandey
BBC. 2022. App recreates wall which divided medieval Nottingham . Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c3gx37x033no.
Nanrah, G. 2022. The wall that used to run through the middle of Old Market Square. Available at: https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/wall-used-run-through-middle-5646031.
NTU. 2022. Historic Market Wall brought back to life in augmented reality . Available at: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/news/news-articles/2022/07/historic-market-wall-brought-back-to-life-in-augmented-reality.