The Lace Market, Nottingham, is well known for its rich history and creative culture. As the name suggests, this was the hub of Nottingham’s lace industry from the 17th Century onwards. It has always been the centre for trade in the city, filled with merchants selling meat and fish, before factories were built, creating narrow streets and crowded squares. It is now an aspirational area, filled with boutiques and bars, galleries and museums.
This week I attended the grand opening of the Pitcher and Piano, a bar and restaurant, much like others in the area, popular with local businesses, after a hard day’s work. The thing that separates this bar from the others in the surrounding area is that it is set in a de-consecrated church.
The site has always been home to a place of worship although the grand structure we see today is a relatively recent addition. The original chapel (see below, left), built in 1805, had a non-assuming façade; however this was replaced in 1876 by the imposing Unitarian Chapel (see below, right), with its Gothic towers and elaborate stain glass windows.
From the outside the Pitcher and Piano looks like any other 19th Century church. Without taking note of the signage anyone new to that part of the city might marvel at the imposing structure but then move on to another part of the city for lunch. In some ways this is one of Nottingham’s best kept secrets however on a Friday night, even with its vast amount of space it feels as though all of Nottingham has come out to play.
Once inside you would be forgiven for forgetting that you were in a former place of worship. In many respects the initial impression of the space is that of self-indulgence and revelry, however once you are settled inside you start to notice some of the original features which remind you of the purpose of the original build. From the use of reclaimed pew, preserved stain glass and original stonework, there are constant reminders that this was once a place for celebration of a different kind.
The interior has changed dramatically since this recent refurbishment has taken place. Before the use of space was somewhat unsuccessful, on a busy night the bar was almost inaccessible and finding a quiet place to sit was almost impossible. However, this has all changed. A new central bar has been erected with seating circling over two floors. They have made use of those small nooks of the existing building, which before were relatively vacant. The spiral staircases and glass walkways increase the perception of space and give the impression of openness. It has become an interesting place to be, not only for someone who likes to socialise but also for someone who has an interest in design.
The décor itself is relatively eclectic and this mirrors the history of the building and surrounding area. A central lighting system has been created with what looks like old bottles and jars, different styles of seating have been combined to create an informal feeling and different layers of textures and finishes add interest to every area of the space.
A: Reclaimed pews have been used to mirror the buildings original use.
B: Feature wallpaper has been used to add interest to recesses.
C: The feature fireplace adds a homely, comfortable feel to what could become a large and imposing space.
D: The use of pendant lights is appropriate as the ceilings in the centre of the space are double height. This lowers the perception of height and gives the space a sense of safety.
E: The fret cut lace panel’s harp back to a time when lace manufacture was central to Nottingham’s industry.
F: Porches of churches are notoriously cold and adding warm feature lights in the entrance challenges our perception of what the space should be.
I did try to look critically at the interior and at first, because I was so impressed by the sheer force of the space, I struggled. However with a closer look I found there were a couple of things that I believe have not been that successful. Firstly, to develop the eclectic theme they have included a number of repainted, distressed pieces of furniture, namely two pianos, old pews, a number of bistro chairs and a couple of cabinets. These resemble something that might be found in a French, country kitchen and although this style has its place, I do not think that place is necessary within the confines of an old church. Also with the ceilings being so high something had to be done about the acoustics, and in this instance they have attached a number of fabric sails to the roof, and although these do the job, it is a shame as it affects the views of the beautifully vaulted ceiling. However all this being said can I forgive a few bad choices in furniture and accessories as the rest of the space is finished so well? Well yes, I think I can.
We are a country rich in history and we are not afraid to create an eclectic mix of old and new. However is converting a place of worship, a place that has seen centuries of births, marriages and deaths, into a public house a step too far? Or does the evolution of our built environment only enrich our culture and history? Regardless of your opinion it is difficult to deny that this is an interesting space which has successfully created an inviting atmosphere, where people can relax and socialise after a hard day’s work. If you are in Nottingham this weekend I would strongly suggest having a look as this is a prime example of what can be achieved when marrying the old and the new.
The Old High Pavement Chapel [Unknown] Manuscripts and Special Collections [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/collectionsindepth/non-conformistchurches/highpavement.aspx
Tram with Pitcher and Piano  Martyn Pearson [Online Image]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tram_with_Pitcher_and_Piano_cocktail_bar,_Nottingham.jpg
Pitcher and Piano  Unknown [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.diffordsguide.com/pubs-and-bars/bar?id=341;name=Pitcher%20&%20Piano
Pitcher and Piano Nottingham  Pitcher and Piano Nottingham [Online Image]. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=643696059006587&set=pb.204948739547990.-2207520000.1391694425.&type=3&theater
The Bar  Pitcher and Piano Nottingham [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.pitcherandpiano.com/where-are-we/nottingham
Existing and Proposed Layout  BGW Design Studio [Online Image]. Available from:
The Piano  The Pitcher and Piano Nottingham [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.pitcherandpiano.com/where-are-we/nottingham