Nottingham

Nottingham Player Street fire: Has city lost part of industrial history?

John Player factory Image copyright Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Image caption John Player came to Nottingham in 1862 and later set up shop on Beastmarket Hill

A 19th Century factory, once a grand beacon of Nottingham's industry, has been largely reduced to ashes and rubble after a fire consumed it for more than a week.

About half of the former John Player factory in Radford, built in 1895, has now been torn down in a series of controlled demolitions.

The decision on whether to erase it completely will be made by its owners and insurers.

Senior firefighters have said the blaze at the Victorian landmark, which was being converted into student accommodation, was the most complex they had ever dealt with.

So how much damage has the fire done to the city's architectural landscape?

Image copyright Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Image caption The factory was built in 1895 and was initially used by the lace industry

Maria Erskine, curator of community history for Nottingham City Museums and Galleries describes the site as "significant" in terms of the social and economic history of the city.

She says the factory was envisaged in the 1880s and was the only remaining one commissioned by John Player himself.


Who was John Player?

  • Born in Essex in 1839, he moved to Nottingham in 1862, where he worked as a draper's clerk
  • He set up shop on Beastmarket Hill, before buying William Wright's tobacco factory in Broad Marsh in 1877
  • His business boomed and in 1881 he bought the 30-acre site in Radford
  • He died in 1884 but the firm was taken on by his sons and grew to employ thousands of people

Image copyright Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Image caption Cigarette production eventually began there in 1903

"Radford was an undeveloped area before these factories were built, so it really showed the growth," Ms Erskine said.

"It was built just after Radford Boulevard was laid down and it was the building up of Radford, so that's why it was so significant."

Image copyright Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Image caption The building was the only remaining one commissioned by John Player himself

Players built three factories in the area, though they originally only needed one.

It was used by the lace-making industry before cigarette production began there in 1903.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption The 'Player's Please' slogan was introduced in 1924

Players' Victorian factories featured high ceilings and large windows.

Many of the company's original buildings were demolished when the larger Horizon factory was built to meet the firm's production needs in Lenton in the 1970s.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption In 2001, Imperial Tobacco gave Nottingham City Museums and Galleries the John Player's Advertising Archive

"Players relocated because they couldn't build anymore in Radford as there was so much housing and that's why there's been a slow erosion of these buildings.

"The firm's advertising later took off through slogans such as "Player's Please", which was registered in 1924.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption In 1883 the most familiar of all Player's trademarks, the Sailor Head, was registered

Player's sponsorship of major sporting events such as motor racing, tennis and rugby in the last half of the 20th Century also helped it become a household name.

The Lotus Formula One team was sponsored by John Player from the late 1960s until the 1980s.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brazilian team leader Emerson Fittipaldi won the John Player British Grand Prix for Lotus at Brands Hatch in 1972

In 2009, the city council and the University of Nottingham began an online archive of more than 20,000 objects from the firm's history.

The items include adverts, packaging and enamel signs from the 1890s to the 1980s.

Image caption Senior firefighters said the blaze was the most complex they had ever dealt with

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