For anyone who lives in Nottingham, the M1 tends to loom large in the consciousness – often due to traffic delays, but mainly because it’s one of our primary connections to the rest of the country and beyond.
The M1 actually only makes a very tiny incursion into the City of Nottingham itself, just to the southwest of Junction 26, where the city boundary crosses the motorway for the first and only time to embrace a small area of farmland.
Zooming outwards, the motorway is also something of a stranger to much of Nottinghamshire. It enters the county near to Stapleford and Trowell, moving slightly to the east as it passes to the west of the City of Nottingham before returning to its previous north-south alignment upon moving into Derbyshire at Pinxton. This part aside, the M1 between Leicester and Doncaster could almost be renamed the Nottinghamshire Bypass.
The Nottinghamshire stretch of the M1 includes two junctions (26 and 27) and one set of services (Trowell, opened in 1967), and came into being as part of a series of northward extensions to the motorway that were carried out between 1963 and 1968 (the original section, between Watford and Rugby, having been opened in 1959).
As we move ever closer towards the construction of the HS2 railway line (which, in its current form, will track the M1 through Nottinghamshire reasonably closely), it is interesting, particularly in light of the current protests over HS2, to reflect upon the impact that the impending arrival of the M1 must have had.
In his book On Roads, Joe Moran highlights a protest by residents of one of our East Midlands neighbours:
‘In 1958, when it emerged that the second section of the M1 planned to cut through Charnwood Forest near Leicester, 32,000 people signed a petition against the destruction of the city’s green lung.‘
Admirers of the idyllic area to the east and north-east of Moorgreen Reservoir that the M1 was eventually to cut a swathe through (an area with strong D H Lawrence associations) perhaps had similar thoughts.
Another loss for Nottinghamshire when the M1 came to town (or, rather, county) was the remains of Nuthall Temple, a splendid country house built between 1754 and 1757 in the Palladian style, which, were it still in existence today, would undoubtedly make a fine visitor attraction.
Unfortunately, after the last owner died in 1926, a buyer could not be found, and large parts of the building were dismantled and demolished, the resulting ruins being left in situ until 1966, when the M1 finished the job off.
Use of the National Library of Scotland’s Side by Side map viewer to compare historic Ordnance Survey maps with contemporary satellite imagery shows that the former site of Nuthall Temple lies beneath the section of north and southbound carriageway to the north of the Junction 26 roundabout, a short distance (looking north) in front of the overhead gantry between the north and southbound slip roads.
Remnants of the estate survive to this day, including the lake and an entrance gate pillar, the latter of which can be seen next to the eastern entrance to the Three Ponds pub car park, off Kimberley Road.
Henry Thorold, writing in the Shell Guide to Nottinghamshire, referred to the destruction of Nuthall Temple as ‘barbarism’, while Nikolaus Pevsner was similarly unimpressed, calling it a ‘disgrace’. It remains a matter of regret that nothing was done to save this wonderful building, or even its ruins.
The M1 no doubt hides many other secrets beneath its surface.