History comes full circle at former lace factory in Nottingham
A serviced office property in Nottingham, once an 1850s lace factory, is being carefully restored at the hands of its current owners, who are now making the property available to rent as office and studio space for local businesses.
Previously owned by businessman Sir James Oldknow, born in Nottinghamshire in 1821, the factory was originally used for the production of lace – the fabric Nottingham was famous for.
The purpose-built lace factory is connected via a fascinating network of trap doors (see picture), tunnels and stairways. The lower reinforced levels were used for heavy machinery, while the upper levels were used as offices for design and administration, with more rooms set aside for seamstresses.
Below left – one of the trapdoors revealed during renovation. Below middle and right – interior images of the business centre after refurbishment.
Owners Ashwan and Petra Chander, a successful husband and wife partnership, are dedicated to restoring the property along with each of its stunning period features. Artist Petra has also spent much of her spare time researching the history of the property.
Commenting on the structure of the building, she says:
“The factory is a maze! Especially the tunnels which are fascinating. Bit by bit during renovation work we find gorgeous old features we try to preserve. For example the old gate (pictured) – we will use the original red panel as a casting form to rebuild the gate. Then I will use the original panels to create a room partition for my gallery space. The old clocks around the building we would also love to revive.”
Below left – the red iron gate, one of the building’s prized original features. Below middle – interior of the refurbished business centre. Below right – exterior of the building.
Aside from a natural interest in art, history and architecture, the Chanders have also found a close link with the history of the building and its former owner. Petra discovered that Sir James Oldknow set up the municipal art gallery in the Nottingham Castle, which was the first of its kind in England.
“I think it is quite exciting,” says Petra, “as my husband’s family were in the lace business and I am an artist starting up a gallery in the Oldknows factory.”
She adds: “Sir James Oldknow started the idea to transform Nottingham into an art hotspot. We would love to resurrect this creative spirit. History always finds its ways around!”
Commenting on her first glimpse of the building, she says:
“I saw the factory for the first time 18 years ago, sitting gracefully on one of Nottingham’s hills, dominating its surrounding, on one of my early visits to England. Later I found out that the factory belonged to a friend of a friend. Well, that’s life for you, as this friend of a friend is today my husband.”
Ashwan Chander’s family bought the building in the 1980s, and used much of it for their lace trade. Today, boasting contemporary furnished offices and communal areas, the property has been gracefully restored to provide a base for local businesses.
Offices are furnished, and offer a number of modern benefits including access to meeting rooms, informal break out areas, modern telecom systems with broadband access and Wi-Fi, on site car parking and more. Virtual offices are also available for businesses that do not require a physical presence in the building.
While the building already boasts a wide and impressive range of workspace for local businesses, the Chanders plan to forge ahead and continue renovating the remaining parts of the property.
“I love this old building,” says Petra, “and we want to kiss the ‘sleeping beauty’ awake to its former presence. Sir James Oldknow was knighted by Queen Victoria – I think Nottingham should remember one of its famous citizens.”