Industrial Secrets

When embarking on a stroll, why is our first instinct usually to head off in search of bucolic surroundings? It can sometimes be far more rewarding to break free from social convention and to consider less obvious locations.

For city dwellers, industrial estates can be unexpectedly diverting places. They are generally best visited out-of-hours, when a surreal sense of abandonment prevails and the curious urban wanderer can nose around to his or her heart’s content, notwithstanding the occasional (although in my experience rare) attentions of a bored security guard.

The Lenton Lane Industrial Estate lies to the west of Nottingham city centre. Before the advent of the World Wide Web, the nature of many of the businesses operating here might forever have remained a mystery to the neutral observer. Not so in these enlightened times. The more intriguing names can simply be noted and looked up on the internet at a convenient moment.

The words ‘Brooks Bros – For the Complete Timber Service’ are not likely to have anyone scratching their heads for too long. But ‘The New Fat’? ‘Jabberwocky Enterprises Ltd’? What exactly do these people get up to on the doorsteps of the local residents? And for that matter, might there even be some value in seeking to learn a little more about Brooks Bros and other such apparently mundane concerns?

As it turns out, interesting sounding names are often associated with disappointingly banal business concerns. A quick search on Google unmasks The New Fat as a graphic design agency and Jabberwocky Enterprises Ltd as a publisher of free newspapers. However, over on the Brooks Bros website, one learns that ‘Of the 70,000 different timbers known to man,…’ (70,000!) ‘…less than 400 are commercially available and Brooks Bros consistently offers nearly 50 of the most popular.’ Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Facing Brooks Bros is the global headquarters of Games Workshop – one of the few places on the estate that members of the public are actively encouraged to visit for purposes other than those of acquiring a new set of tyres or a kitchen. Games Workshop HQ is something of a Mecca for fantasy gaming enthusiasts and free admission is offered (all week, from Monday to Sunday) to the Warhammer World store, the Events Hall, the Citadel Miniatures Hall and Bugman’s Bar, although the main office and warehouse areas are out of bounds.

A short distance away from Games Workshop lies an unusual interloper, the Trent Vineyard church, occupying several units that have more in common with a branch of Tile Giant than a House of the Lord. Trent Vineyard is one of the new wave of religious organisations that offer ‘contemporary worship’, together with a range of ancillary activities and social outreach programmes, all of which are designed to draw people into the ever-growing (and apparently extremely well-financed) fold.

A near neighbour of Trent Vineyard, although somewhat less well publicised (and indeed not mentioned at all on the list of tenants at the entry gate), is the UK base of Heckler & Koch, a German small arms manufacturer. The presence of Heckler & Koch here has been the source of some controversy and a number of protests against the company have taken place. Submachine gun or eternal salvation? You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Across the railway bridge – once in possession of a fine view out towards the city centre, now sadly obscured by the installation of a tram bridge – is the former Central Television Studios complex, which was home to such shows as The Price is Right, Supermarket Sweep and even the latter-day incarnation of Crossroads. Always an odd location for such a glamorous industry, closure plans were announced in 2004 and the site is now occupied by the University of Nottingham.

One glamorous location does remain on Lenton Lane though – the Graypaul Ferrari/Maserati dealership. Here, one may gaze longingly through the plate glass windows at powerful, curvaceous sports cars that are probably somewhat beyond the financial reach of most of the employees of the surrounding businesses.

As well as the various industrial and commercial units, other pockets of interest abound. The Nottingham Canal borders the northern part of the estate, the King’s Meadow Nature Reserve lies hidden away down a footpath and the River Leen flows through a green corridor for a short distance before disappearing beneath the railway tracks and re-emerging further eastward en route to its confluence with the Trent.

Lenton Lane Industrial Estate – a place of contrasts.