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Nottingham Arboretum


Nottingham Arboretum was the first public park in Nottingham. It was designed as a botanical collection but also for relaxation. Its features include a flower garden, dell garden, healing garden and a dahlia border.


The Arboretum occupies a small valley with hills to the north and south, the lowest point being its south-east corner.
The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

A mid-19th-century public park designed by Samuel Curtis.



Nottingham Arboretum is situated in the centre of Nottingham, immediately to the north-east of the General Cemetery. The 7.5ha site is bounded on the west by Waverley Street, on the north by houses on the south side of Arboretum Street, and on the south by the buildings of Nottingham Trent University. There is a private bowling green to the south-east. Addison Street forms the eastern boundary with, half way along, a tunnel leading under the road to a narrow strip of land which leads to the eastern entrance on North Sherwood Street. The Arboretum occupies a small valley with hills to the north and south, the lowest point being its south-east corner. The setting is urban, the Arboretum being set amidst housing, schools, and the university.


The main entrance to the Arboretum is through the gateway, flanked by screen walls and railings (listed Grade II), at the southern end of Waverley Street. The West Lodge (listed Grade II) which stands adjacent, designed in 1851 by Henry Moses Wood, Corporation Surveyor (d 1867), is built of red brick with blue-brick detailing and a tiled roof. Two brass plaques at second-storey level commemorate the establishment of the Arboretum. Photographs of c 1870 show that the Lodge then had three tall chimneys. At the extreme east of the site, off North Sherwood Street, is the east entrance with the East Lodge (listed Grade II with the gate and screen walls), designed by Wood in the 1850s and also brick built. Two other entrances, off Waverley Street and Addison Street, give pedestrian access to the Arboretum as does a small private entrance opening on to the northern perimeter walk. There is also emergency access for vehicles off Arboretum Street on the northern boundary of the Arboretum.


A spinal walk runs on a roughly east/west axis from the main entrance, through the open central lawn to the east entrance. Perimeter paths backing onto the perimeter planting encircle the site. A lake on a north/south axis runs parallel to the Waverley Street boundary. The lake was part of the original Curtis design when it measured 80m x 30m, its size being now reduced. Railings surround the lake and its planting. Near to the West Lodge stands a monument to Samuel Morley (J Else 1920, listed Grade II). From the monument, a perimeter walk follows the southern boundary while the spinal walk passes between the lake and a drinking fountain of 1859 and the aviaries. Of the three surviving aviaries, the Circular Aviary (listed Grade II) is the oldest, built in 1892. The cast-iron uprights and roof struts which remain are covered with modern steel mesh. The brick-built Main Aviary is rectangular and was constructed in 1955/6. To the north, set amid Scots pines on a rockery, is the Upper Aviary built in 1934 of brick with a flat roof to house tropical birds. The spinal walk continues past a raised area with a kiosk and toilets to an area where four paths converge. From here subsidiary paths lead around a lawn planted as a Flower Garden, north-east of the lake, and join the perimeter path in the north-west corner of the Arboretum.

In the north-west corner of the Arboretum is Arboretum Manor, a public house (listed Grade II?) designed by Wood as Refreshment Rooms. The brick-built south front, overlooking the Arboretum, has a canted central bay with stone quoins and a castellated top. The wings of the Refreshment Rooms were enclosed with ornamental ironwork and glass in 1853/4. Sir Joseph Paxton (1803-65) prepared designs for the building costing £2500 but this cheaper scheme, costing £600, was used instead. The wings were demolished in 1932. There is shrub planting on either side of Arboretum Manor in front of the access paths and an area of grass has been enclosed with fencing to the front. South of this is the octagonal bandstand (listed Grade II) which has a tiled roof, brick base, and steps on the north-west side. The bandstand is fully glazed with wire grilles added to protect from vandalism. The bandstand area, including sloping terraces to the east and south, is all enclosed within iron railings. Ornamental trees have been planted and some have self-seeded within the railings. There has been a bandstand on or near this area since 1881. The first bandstand was moved from Castle Green to the Arboretum in 1881 and placed in front of the Refreshment Rooms. The bandstand, flanked by two flagstaffs, is shown on the OS map of 1883. The present larger bandstand is shown on the 1915 OS map. Council records state that the first concert took place in the 'Arboretum Bandstand' on 17 May 1907. The railings and terraces were first shown on the OS map of 1934.

Between the Refreshment Rooms and the bandstand is a large area of tarmac which narrows to become the northern perimeter path. This runs for a distance of 200m through dense shrubberies planted with hollies, yews, and other evergreen species as well as deciduous shrubs. To the south of the perimeter path is the Dahlia Border. A path connects at either end of the perimeter path around the Border.

From the kiosks, the central spinal walk leads eastwards through the valley of the site towards the east entrance. Limes form an avenue for part of the walk with birches at the eastern end. The avenue originally consisted of alternating Lebanon and Deodar cedars but these did not establish well. The surrounding area is grass broken by some small flower beds. The spinal walk continues under the Addison Street underpass (Wood, listed Grade II) and ends at the east entrance. Beds planted with shrubs and flowers line either side of this end of the walk.

On a raised area above and to the south of the spinal path, reached by the southern perimeter walk from the main west entrance, are the South Lawn, the Rose Garden, and the Bell Garden. The South Lawn, which lies to the east of the Morley monument (listed Grade II) and is planted with young trees, slopes uphill towards the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden is surrounded by a clipped conifer hedge and the beds are laid out round a central sundial. A pergola with pale brick columns runs across the east end. On Jackson's map of 1851/61 and the OS map of 1883, glasshouses are shown in this area. The area was the site of the City Council nurseries until they were demolished in 1970. The Rose Garden was laid out in 1972.

East of the Rose Garden and reached by the southern perimeter path is the Bell Garden. At the centre of the garden is the octagonal Chinese Bell Tower (M Ogle Tarbotton, Borough Engineer, listed Grade II) which has a pointed roof set on columns faced with pilasters set on an octagonal base. There is a Russian inscription around the roof of the Tower and an English inscription around the base. The Tower is set within a rectangular base with stone coping on which are set two pairs of cannons. The whole is enclosed by a low clipped conifer hedge and around this is a lawn with flower beds interspersed with small conifers. The Russian cannon, captured at Sebastopol and donated to the City of Nottingham in 1859, were first placed beside the Refreshment Rooms. When, in 1861, a captured Chinese bell from Canton was also presented to the City, the Chinese Bell Tower was constructed in 1862/4 on the south side of the Arboretum incorporating both the cannons and the bell. In 1956 the bell was removed from the Tower and given to the East Lancashire Regimental Museum, Preston.

The perimeter path continues past the Bell Garden towards the east entrance, passing a statue (J B Robinson of Derby 1859, listed Grade II) of Fergus O'Connor, the Chartist Leader who was MP for Nottingham.

The original (1850/2) layout by Samuel Curtis comprised the spinal walk, perimeter paths and some of the connecting paths, the lake, some glasshouses, and the underpass connecting the eastern end of the Arboretum, together with the Refreshment Rooms and the East and West Lodges. Due to later tree planting, the historic views to different features within the Arboretum and out into the city have largely been lost.

Nottingham Arboretum was designed to be a place of both recreation and education. The trees and shrubs had porcelain labels with a number which corresponded to a catalogue which gave the scientific name, the common name, and the country of origin. Admission charges were made when the Arboretum first opened but due to vociferous local opposition, this was dropped except for twelve days a year.

Selected Sources

Book Reference - Author: H Conway - Title: People's Parks. The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain - Date: 1991

Book Reference - Author: Pevsner, N rev. by Williamson, E - Title: The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire - Date: 1979

Book Reference - Author: R Mellors - Title: Gardens, Parks and Walks of Nottingham and District - Date: 1925

Other Reference - Author: Heritage Report: The Arboretum, Nottingham, (Landscape Design Associates 1998) - Title: Heritage Report: The Arboretum, Nottingham, (Landscape Design Associates 1998) - Description: Heritage Report: The Arboretum, Nottingham, (Landscape Design Associates 1998)

Book Reference - Author: J Beckett - Title: Nottingham, An Illustrated History - Date: 1997

Map Reference - Title: Plan of Nottingham Arboretum - Date: 1851/61 - Source: (reproduced in LDA report)

Map Reference - Title: Plan of Nottingham Arboretum - Date: 1934 - Source: (reproduced in LDA report)

Reasons for Designation

Nottingham Arboretum, opened in 1852 to a design by Samuel Curtis, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Date: the Arboretum is an early example of a municipal park-like amenity;

* Design: although enhanced, the Arboretum's design is essentially unchanged from its original layout of 1850-2;

* Designer: the Arboretum's designer Samuel Curtis was a well-known nurseryman, botanist and botanical publisher;

* Historic interest: when Nottingham's remaining open fields and meadows were enclosed in 1845 a series of places were set aside for public recreation and walks, including this park;

* Structures and features: the Arboretum has numerous structures associated with its use and history, many of them listed;

* Planting: the original planting has been regularly added to.

Date first registered: 01-Jan-1986

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Aug-2013

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The site is open from 8am to dusk during the week, 9am to dusk at weekends and bank holidays.


Nottingham City Council

The Guildhall, Burton Street, Nottingham, NG1 4BT

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


The Enclosure Act of 1845 enclosed fields and meadows used by the burgesses or freeholders of the City of Nottingham to graze their animals. To compensate for the loss of the open space used for recreation, the Act allotted space for a series of places of public recreation and public walks. Some 130 acres (c 54ha) made up of Queen's Walk and Queen's Walk Park (Meadow Cricket Ground), Victoria Park, Robin Hood Chase, Corporation Oaks, St Ann's Hill Avenue, Nottingham Arboretum, the General Cemetery, Waterloo Promenade, the Church Cemetery, and the Forest were created as public open spaces from the enclosures. Under the Enclosure Act, 17 acres (c 7ha) was allocated as public open space for Nottingham Arboretum. The Arboretum was designed by Samuel Curtis (1779-1860), the nurseryman and botanical publisher, and laid out by Nottingham Town Council between 1850 and 1852. It opened to the public in 1852 and was the first public park to open in Nottingham. Further phases of activity in developing the Arboretum took place in the 1860s, 1890s, 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD2085
  • Grade: II*




  • Bandstand
  • Description: The bandstand was created in about 1881.
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  • Aviary
  • Description: A circular aviary, created in about 1892.
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  • Tower
  • Description: The bell tower was created in about 1862.
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  • Gate Lodge
  • Lake
Key Information






Victorian (1837-1901)





Open to the public