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  • Writer's pictureTanya Louise

Lifestyle: Memories of The Broadmarsh Shopping Centre Nottingham

Ah, the Broadmarsh, what can I say about it?

Well, firstly, what stood there before should never have been pulled down.  Before anyone starts, no, I'm not old enough to remember it, but from pictures I've seen, it looks similar to The Shambles in York.  Now wouldn't that have been more appealing?  Quaint little shops? A piece of history that could have been a tourist attraction the same way as it is in York?

But that was not to be, instead we have the building which stands there today, which has always been second fiddle to the Victoria Centre.  intu, who now own the centre though have announced the appointment of Sir Robert McAlpine to deliver the £86 million transformation of the centre. Preparatory work has been ongoing throughout 2018 which sadly saw the closure of last remaining Wimpey in Nottingham. The development however will include leisure brands like Nickelodeon, Hollywood Bowl and new mini-golf venue Puttshack. 

My earliest memories involve kids climbing frames, I don't know what else you would call them,  One I think was a frogs mouth.  I was frightened of getting stuck in them. That's pretty much all I remember about the Broadmarsh as a young child. Oh, and the swinging monkey.  Everyone remembers the swinging monkey

I must have blocked the following years out, or it was too much of a trek from the Vic Centre for my Mum because my next lot of memories come from my teenage years. One of the things I remember was when they had Jonathan Morris (Adrian from Bread) open Santas Grotto, which used to be in the big area in front of the entrance.  There were crowds, so it must have been at the peak of Breads popularity. I was pretty starstruck for some reason, and it was all we could talk about at school the following week.  I'm probably one of the few, however who actually bought his record when he released a cover of The Beatles From Me to Love. Why. On. Earth? (although it had a cracking bridge if I remember)

Anyway, my main memories of the Broadmarsh are around my teenage years. Firstly I'd gotten into make-up and clothes, later boys.

The second reason was that we’d often cut through C & A, taking in the clothes as we passed through. The cut through comes out in the middle of the centre, next to what was (maybe it still is) The Works, where you buy all those books cheaply for people, that they never knew they wanted.

The third reason was the glorious Fashion Floor, that was what the shop was called.  It was on the top level, just off the Bridlesmith Gate entrance. It was probably one of the largest clothes store around at the time. The escalators outside lead down into the next level and provided a great racing opportunity for those wanting to scramble down the stairs.

At the bottom of those stairs were a lot of forgettable shops, with the exception of Forbidden Planet, which I’d go in for random things occasionally, usually something to do with Rocky Horror, and until just this weekend, just across the way you would find Wimpy, which up until it’s closure was Nottingham’s last remaining branch.

You know what, I’m not sure I ever actually eat in there!! (Insert shocked face emoji) I had friends who had Saturday jobs there that I’d stop by and see but that’s it.  When I was a kid, I was invited to a girls birthday party, basically only because another kid had dropped out at the last minute, I hardly knew the girl, but she was what we’d call posh.  Chloe’ her name was – even that’s posh.  These were the days when birthday parties were at home and you sat round a buffet at a table – not this one-  we went to The Nottingham Canal Museum, which is now a bar (The Canalhouse) AND WE WENT TO WIMPY.  Not the Broadmarsh one though.  I’d never experienced anything like this as a kid, I’d never been to a fast food restaurant.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, only bleddy Mr Wimpy himself turned up!  With his Beefeater hat and long nose, the scariness of the frogs mouth paled into insignificance.

So, first floor Broadmarsh places of note. The Shoe shop with the swinging monkey in the window, Jonathan James (or JJ's as it became known), more recently there were a couple of decent shops, those being Duki and Made in Notts.  There was also a record shop, small place where I had a crush on the manager, eventually plucking up the courage to ask him out.  He said yes, then typically changed his mind.  In hindsight, this was probably a good thing as I was a lot younger than him.  Obviously it broke my heart at the time etc etc.

Speaking of older men.  There was also a security guard who always used to talk to me.  Had to be in his 50's at least and he bought me a valentines card.  I was about 16/17!!  The world was a far far different place then!!

I also remember a little garden area off the first floor level on the way to the car park.  I was your average skint teenager and remember sitting in there eating a packed lunch made by my Mum.  Sandwiches cut into quarters with sweaty cheese.

The first floor level was also the perfect viewing point to look at boys on the ground floor and via versa.  They'd often gather round the seating areas and you could check them out before flying down the escalator and casually strolling by. This was with the exception of the 'Untouchable', the guy out the airforce.  Of course it seemed odd he'd be wandering round the Broadmarsh in his uniform with his shades on inside, attractive girls at his side.  It was only later I actually learnt he was a delivery driver for UPS - easy mistake.  Years later he asked me out, obviously he already had a girlfriend, he told me, but if I didn't mind!! (I did)

On the ground floor then, as mentioned were the seating areas, the modern-day equivalent at the time, to being asked to dance at a school disco.  A boy might sit alongside you and slide along the shiny tiling of the planted area to chat.

The ground floor was home to Mark One - The clothing shop of its day for affordable fashion, even back then, there are few other shops that stick in my mind.

There was a gift shop that sold all sorts of weird and wonderful things and ornaments and always smelt like incense.  That was near the main entrance as was/is Argos.  Argos was the Amazon of its day.  As a kid you'd caress its glossy pages (remember the excitement of a new Argos catalogue coming out?) choosing what you wanted for Christmas, then your parents would queue for ages down the store waiting for it to come from that magical storage bit at the back.  I was always amazed as a kid how everything in the catalogue was back there and the element of surprise when it came out.  Usually it was smaller than you were expecting, like the kettle we bought my cousin when he bought his first house, that literally was only big enough to boil one cup of tea at a time. 

Next door to Argos was BHS, or British Home Stores to give it its Sunday name, a shop I only really went in for two things.  The variety of Christmas gifts they had in  - specifically when they were really really reduced just before Christmas, and to see my friend Lisa who had a Saturday job there.

One Saturday I remember I'd gone into town.  My shoes had worn through on the sole, so I bought some new ones from JJ's.  Obviously, I didn't want to be seen wandering round with a JJ's bag and so I popped my old shoes in the bin.  It was while sat on the public bench area, two blokes walked by doing the checking me out thing (maybe they'd seen my from the first floor?).  On their second, maybe third, circuit of the centre, the sit and slide manoeuver came into play as they came over to say hello.

Again, similarly to being asked to dance at the School disco, the next move was to....walk round the Broadmarsh with them.  So I did my walk of victory, feet pinching in my new JJ's.  I took them to meet Lisa in BHS - she was pleased with my catch and later we would talk about who we liked best and who would go out with who.

By now my heels throbbed in my new JJ's but I carried on.  Finally, we exchanged telephones and I went home. It was only when I took my shoes off, and layer of skin at the back of my heel came off with it, that I realised how bad they were.  They'd scrapped away a square inch of skin on each foot exposing the flesh.

The next day, the blokes rang.  I had to tell them I couldn't make it. I'd barely slept as I couldn't bear the weight of the duvet on my raw exposed heels. They must have thought I was giving them the brush off as they never rang again, worse still, the only shoes I could now wear were my Mums Scholl sandals.

Lets hope the new improved Broadmarsh, when it's finally finished, is the home to better memories for todays kids. 

Love T xx



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