The Exchange Murals – Nottingham, England - Atlas Obscura

Nottingham, England

The Exchange Murals

These 90-year-old murals of local kings, Vikings, and outlaws hide in plain sight in a beautifully baroque shopping arcade. 

Since its construction in the 1920s, the baroque-revival city hall known as the Council House has housed a surprising and splendid mini-mall called the Exchange. The crowning glories of this vertiginous space are the four recently restored murals adorning the walls some 200 feet above shoppers’ heads. They depict three key moments in Nottingham’s history, plus an inevitable reference to the city’s beloved Robin Hood legend.

The colorful murals decorate the pendentive of a glass dome that dominates the central atrium of the Exchange. In chronological order they depict: the Viking capture and occupation of Nottingham in 868, William the Conqueror ordering the construction of Nottingham Castle in 1068, and King Charles I triggering the English Civil Wars at nearby Standard Hill in 1642.

The fourth mural flies in the face of recorded historical events, depicting Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and their band of Sherwood outlaws engaged in a little archery. Even in the 1920s visitors expected to see Robin Hood in Nottingham. 

These historical and not-so-historical murals were painted with more than a little artistic license by Noel Denholm Davis, and feature cheeky cameo appearances by local celebrities of the era. For example, the Council House’s architect, Thomas Cecil Howitt, appears as a surveyor alongside William the Conqueror, and the particularly tall goalkeeper of a local soccer team lent his face to Robin Hood’s henchman, Little John.

Inscribed above these mall murals is the stone-carved proclamation that “The Corporation of Nottingham erected this building for counsel and welcome, and to show merchandise and crafts.” Having suffered serious water damage, the city council authorized the restoration of the murals, which was completed in 2018 by conservation artist Alex Carrington.

Know Before You Go

The Exchange is situated in the Council House, which is easy to find, dominating Nottingham's Old Market Square. If you can't find it, wait until the hour and follow the rumbling sound of England's deepest-toned bell, naturally called "Little John," which hangs somewhere above the murals. The tiny mall has three entrances, on Long Row, Cheapside, and High Street. The murals are in the central atrium, where there is a small cafe, enabling you to have a coffee as you crane your neck to admire the art.

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