The Adams Building is one of my favourite buildings in Nottingham, a Grade II listed Victorian lace warehouse dating from 1855 which was designed by Thomas Chambers Hine, one of Nottingham’s best architects. During Open Heritage weekend last year we were able to go on a free tour of the building led by an architect from the company who helps preserve the building, which proved to be a intriguing warren of rooms and spiral staircases.
The name of the building derives from Thomas Adams, a lace manufacturer and philanthropist who was born in Worksop and after apprenticeships and work in Newark and London returned to set up business in Nottingham in around 1829. Starting off small, his business grew so successfully that he was able to commission Hine to design this building for him.
We started off our tour of the building by heading up to the top floor where the lace repair and finishing workshops would have been. As well as giving us the chance to admire the view it also gave us the opportunity to marvel at the use of glass – as much light as possible being necessary for the workers – which was an innovative use of material at the time.
You might also note the colour scheme – the lilac walls, as confirmed by paint scrapings, are the colour the warehouse would have originally been painted and many of the details including the beams holding up the walls are original.
The building had fallen into decline by the 1980s, with the business having closed in the 1950s, but was thankfully restored by the Lace Market Heritage Trust in 1996 and is now home to New College Nottingham. I was most interested to hear how everyone involved in the building works together so that its history is preserved whilst also making sure its more than just a monument to the past.
One of my favourite things about the building, and indeed Hines’ work in general, is the detailing and there are some prime examples on display in the Adams building. The one which proved most difficult to photograph, at the end of this section, is the stained glass window in the chapel which Adams, a committed Christian, asked to be installed. 500 workers would start their day with a service here; Adams also provided such innovations as indoor toilets, a sick fund and a book club and ensured the building was well heated.
It was a really interesting tour that lasted for about an hour. You can see more photos here.