We paid a visit to the newly refurbished Malt Cross this afternoon. Closed over the summer for a £1.38 million Lottery funded revamp, Nottingham’s Victorian music hall has been undergoing some serious changes. And haven’t we missed being able to nip out from Creative Towers to enjoy the top quality food and drink and lovely architecture?
So what’s been going on? I joined a heritage tour, led by Dr Rebekah Wood, Malt Cross’s heritage and education coordinator, to have a good look round. It was obvious, just from approaching from the outside that there’s been a good lick of paint, at the very least. The place looks gleaming, bright, spick and span, and displays a bright array of features – not just paintwork but a lovely series of details. Reclaimed tiles adorn the toilets (I entered the loos behind another lady who gasped out in wonder at the sight of them -so beautiful was the sight. Can’t say that about many places…) , quotes about deportment and dress are hung on the walls and the place is lit from the autumn sunshine through the roof, and the lights shining in the floor.
Rebekah does a great job of placing the Malt Cross’s place in history, painting a detailed picture of medieval Nottingham, the dirt, the business, the prostitutes, the shattered oyster shells at the base of the actual Malt Cross, placed at the end of St James’ Street – once called the “most disgraceful street in Nottingham.”
We descended into the basement, previously a restaurant, long since abandoned.
This area is now the new education centre and will host workshops and sessions for school and community groups by weekday, and crafters and art sessions in the evenings and weekends. For details of upcoming craft sessions, check out the website. The aim of these will be to find fun and interesting sessions to run with a hint of heritage to them, in keeping with the building and ethos – I particularly like the look of the letterpress and linocut sessions.
Currently on display here are some examples of music hall and Victoriana that was discovered during the excavations or has been archived by the Malt Cross Trust. The room smells of newly installed flooring but there is continuity from the floor above – including the extension of the distinctive pillars, which had to be unearthed from behind boxed in areas. And on the walls, a timeline of the Malt Cross’s place in local and music hall history, including a picture of the final landlord of the hall – Charles Henry Strange, a man to be admired if only for his moustache.
We descended further. Down into the bowels of the building the Trust has a quiet room, and a sound proofed room for musicians of all kinds to rehearse. Next door is also the Henderson art gallery, in preparation for new exhibitions (again, for details see the website. The gallery also has a separate Facebook page.) And finally, we snuck through a door and descended once again into the cave.
The cave area is impressive. The sheer size of it is remarkable for a start, divided into a series of rooms that were historically used for storage as they temperature is a cool 10 degrees – perfect in the days of no refrigeration. Explorations of the caves are still ongoing, the well needs to be dug out some more and a team of sound engineers are trying to work out if there are connections from this cave to others in the area. It’s fascinating to see the different grooves and marks in the sandstone and try and work out what they were used for.
Once back in the bar, it seems only fitting to try the new beer named after Charles Henry Strange, an fine IPA, (well it would be rude not to) and to cast my eye over the menu. The Malt Cross is now open for breakfast – and I feel I’ll soon be along to try this out.
So our verdict? We’ve missed you, Malt Cross! So glad to have you back!