Archaeologists and historians from the University of Nottingham have launched a project to bring the city’s hidden history to life as part of the regeneration of the Broadmarsh area – currently one of the largest redevelopment projects in the city center in Europe.
The AHRC-funded City of Caves project brings together archaeologists and urban history and landscape experts, to work with the consortium of partners currently leading the multi-million pound redevelopment of the 20-acre Broadmarsh area, including the old mall from the 1970s.
It follows the unveiling of the area’s new 10-year vision, designed by Heatherwick Studio, to create a biodiverse ‘green heart’ of the city incorporating part of the structural framework of the former Broadmarsh centre.
The vision includes landscaped public spaces, new homes, work spaces, hotel rooms and a tourist trail from Nottingham Castle to a new entrance to the city’s cave system.
The City of Caves project aims to make Nottingham’s famous underground caves a distinctive feature of the new development and to highlight Broadmarsh as a leading example of heritage-driven place-making, which it says is vital to the growth of the tourism and the visitor economy.
A team of researchers will work on historical documents and maps, archaeological data, photo archives and existing 3D laser scans of the caves that could be used in a new immersive virtual reality cave experience.
They will also identify gaps in historical and geographic knowledge of the region that need to be filled. The work will feed into plans being developed by the Broad Marsh Development Partnership, which includes Nottingham City Council, The Nottingham Project, Nottingham Museums and Galleries Service and the National Museum of Justice.
Dr Chris King, from the university’s Department of Classics and Archeology, said: ‘We are very pleased to be starting this project and hope that our contribution to regeneration will put Nottingham firmly on the map as a center of historical interest like York or Chester. The caves will be central to our work as we advise developers on new ways to present the history of Broad Marsh to residents and visitors.
“We also want to work with community groups and societies, such as the Nottingham Historical and Archaeological Society, Nottingham Civic Society and Thoroton Society, to map local knowledge of the caves and the city’s road network before the construction of the Broadmarsh center in the 1970s. Currently, knowledge and archival resources are scattered, and we want to bring it all together to integrate this fascinating aspect of the city into the regenerated area.
The City of Caves project is due to report its findings in January 2023.