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Literary Locations #12: St Peter's Church

John Baird
Thu 17 Jan, 2019

Established in the years after the Norman Conquest, our first printers are buried here, Abigail Gawthern recorded its bells ringing, and Richard III rode from here to meet his fate at Bosworth.

St Peter’s Church houses a small bookshop, stocked with fair trade and Christian books at the entrance to a coffee shop. But that’s not the site’s only literary connection. Here are two more:

Anne Ayscough and her husband William are buried at St Peter’s Church. Together with John Collyer the Ayscoughs became Nottingham’s first printers in 1710. A few years later they and Collyer held rival businesses. The Ayscough’s produced the Nottingham Weekly Courant whilst Collyer printed the Nottingham Post.

Nottingham’s weaver-poet Robert Millhouse (1788-1839) was a factory boy who lived in poverty all his life. Aged six he began working at a stocking loom and learned to write at Sunday School. On being selected to sing in the choir of St Peter’s Church, Millhouse was no longer able to receive his weekly education. Undeterred he turned to reading the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton and Pope, inspiring him to write his own verse. Millhouse was named ‘The Artisan Poet’ and ‘The Burns of Sherwood Forest’, his works include The Destinies of Man, Sherwood Forest and Blossoms.

Hail, Fair Nottingham, albeit thy name

Is not poetical, yet from thee rise

Names mounting up to virtue and to fame.

In 1828 Millhouse took part in a strike by the frame-work-knitters. According to Sir Richard Phillips, Millhouse suffered ‘for his fidelity to his brethren, every kind of privation. He justified this strike, and displayed, with great energy and eloquence, the wretched situation of himself and others’.


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St Peter's Church Robert Millhouse

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