Images shot on Street Candy ATM 400 in Pentax K1000 with SMC Pentax-M 28mm f2.8
A bottle shop on one side of the road and a betting shop on the other. It’d be easy to take a bunch of photos like this, intersperse them with ones of closed down places, say a sarcastic ‘welcome to Mansfield’, and write a whole narrative about how the place is in terminal decline.
I’m not going to do that, though.
First, because to call that decline terminal would be pessimistic in the extreme. Like most ex-mining towns or villages in the midlands or north of England, Mansfield is clearly not as thriving as it used to be. But I’d rather be a little more hopeful than to say it’s got no chance of a brighter future.
Second is that this website has always been a place of positivity, and I’m not going to use my own hometown of all things to make an exception to that. Too many people idly complain about where they’re from. I’m not going to.
So with those points in mind, via these photographs shot on Street Candy ATM film in the Pentax K1000, allow me to show you around Mansfield. A town that you’ve probably never been to and – because you probably have no reason to ever do so – probably never will.
- 1 Six Snapshots of Mansfield’s shops and streets in 2021
- 2 Mansfield’s landmark marketplace and viaduct
- 3 Memories of some of Mansfield’s pubs
- 4 Around the due-to-be-demolished old bus station area
- 5 Finishing off with the train station and some statues
- 6 Wrapping up this post showing you around Mansfield
Six Snapshots of Mansfield’s shops and streets in 2021
When I said in the opening of this piece that Mansfield is my hometown, that’s true in the sense that it’s the nearest town to the small village I’m actually from. I follow the football team from Mansfield, and it’s here that I say I’m from when people from far away ask me.
The bigger and more renowned city of Nottingham isn’t that much further away, but I’ve never had the same affinity for it. I like it a lot, but it’s no Mansfield for me.
I just wanted to clear that up before we get to these photographs that show some glimpses of how the place was looking in 2021.
First up is the Four Seasons Shopping Centre. Built in the mid-1970s, it’s one of those typical malls that you’ll find in a lot of British conurbations. Brutalist and dated on the outside, yet still somehow the centrepiece of the whole town.
Inside, stores change. Littlewoods becomes Primark. Actual sports shops become JD Sports. But unless we get something like the film Threads coming true, I feel like the Four Seasons Shopping Centre will always remain.
Unlike Dorothy Perkins, that is. And a few other high street names that went under in 2020 too. Topshop, Peacocks, Debenhams, BrightHouse. The list goes on. Elsewhere I mean, because I’m stopping this one here.
You can still see the remains of the Beales department store in the last shot above too, in amongst that brutalist Four Seasons facade. This was another retailer that went by the wayside.
Another sign of the 2021 times is the one fixed to the church railings, which I’ll move on from and end on some flowers and the outdoor seating of one of the town’s many cafes.
That’s one difference I noticed with Mansfield after leaving, spending so long away in places like Shanghai, and then coming back. The number of cafes had risen noticeably to counteract the number of shops that had gone.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just an observation.
Mansfield’s landmark marketplace and viaduct
When you’re from a place, whichever place that happens to be, it’s easy to take everything for granted. To think nothing there is at all special and not realise what’s actually around you.
Not that Mansfield is Ayutthaya or Rome or anything, but there are a couple of things there that have some local historical significance.
Mansfield’s marketplace sits at pretty much the geographical centre of town, and standing pretty much in the centre of this is the Bentinck Memorial. This gothic market cross was erected in 1849 in memory of one Lord George Bentinck and should have had a statue in the space in the middle, but they ran out of money and never managed to add that feature.
The whole thing was almost pulled down in the 1960s when it began falling apart, but the town council chose to restore it instead.
More recent additions to Mansfield’s marketplace include some empty stalls in amongst the busy ones – because remember at one point they would have all been used whenever possible – and an ice cream van.
A three minute walk away from the Bentinck Memorial brings you to another monument in a Mansfield marketplace – this one marking the location of the older and smaller buttercross market.
Standing outside the library, which is yet more of that aforementioned Brutalist architecture, this market cross dates back to the 16th century.
Finally, the most visually impressive and imposing structure in Mansfield has to be its viaduct, which stands 25 metres high and is 240 metres long.
First used in 1875, its 15 arches carried passenger trains through – yes, through – the town on the Midland Railway Company’s Nottingham to Worksop line until the service was stopped in 1964.
It started up again in 1995 though, albeit with trains now actually stopping in Mansfield.
Memories of some of Mansfield’s pubs
There was a time in my life, as a much younger man, when I’d go into Mansfield every Saturday night and have a few light ales. Not until I was 18 of course, according to my older brother’s driving licence that I sometimes used to borrow for ID. But let’s not dwell on that.
As is the case in any town or city really, some of Mansfield’s pubs seem to have not changed at all in the last couple of decades. This is a good thing. Others are still there under the same name yet have had major facelifts inside. This is also a good thing.
However, just like the shops we talked about earlier, some of them are now seemingly gone for good. And when I say ‘for good’ I don’t mean that this is also a good thing. I mean more like, unless something unexpected happens, gone forever.
The first two shots below are of the old Portland Arms and the Black Swan, which look like they fit into this category.
Below those is a photograph of The Dial, which stands on the marketplace. I honestly couldn’t tell if that was closed down or just closed on that day. It’s the kind of place that looks like it could be either.
I don’t recall ever going in The Railway Inn, which is in the next image below. I just thought the light was shining on it nicely on that day I was walking around town with my Pentax K1000 shooting this roll of Street Candy ATM 400.
However, a place I did use to go in quite often was the old Riley’s Snooker Club. The building dates from 1906, when it opened as a live theatre. In 1928 it was remodelled inside and became a cinema, which it remained – albeit under various owners – until 1997.
It then became Riley’s; a version of the place that lasted for around a decade-and-a-half until around 2013, when it appears you could have bought the building for £150,000.
Someone did indeed buy it, and it’s now a church. I’ve never been in this incarnation of the former Grand Theatre, and I probably never will.
Just next to it though is a place I have been in, will continue to go in, and even went in on the very day I was taking these photographs.
That’s not a typo or me justifying having a pint. That’s what the bar is called. And it seemed as good a place as any for a pit stop.
Around the due-to-be-demolished old bus station area
One of the more interesting parts of Mansfield from an urban photography point of view is the area around the old bus station. Unfortunately in that respect, it’s currently being remodelled, with the large nearby Rosemary Centre due for demolition at some point too.
A former mill that was then converted in the 1970s to include retail space on the ground floor, and with its upper floors having been empty for some time now, I suppose it is a little past its sell-by-date.
The Iceland supermarket and the Dominos pizza are about all that remain open, and they don’t really warrant keeping such a structure standing.
Again, it’s a shame from a photography perspective because the architecture gives some interesting compositions, especially with the light and shadow and leading lines that can be found.
I include the deserted area under the underpass that leads out to the disused back of the Four Seasons Centre in this too. For what these images are worth, I’m glad I got them while the opportunity was still there for me to do so.
Finishing off with the train station and some statues
We touched on Mansfield’s train station earlier, but I actually took some photographs of it on this Street Candy ATM film that day too.
Not that I’m a trainspotter or anything, but if I’m running out of things to shoot in a town that I’m walking around then a train station is often a good place to use up a few frames on the roll. They usually have some nice architecture to capture if nothing else.
There was a three-decade period, from 1964 to 1995, when Mansfield held the honourable title of the largest town in Britain without a railway station. An operational one at least, because the one that’s still there today was constructed way back in 1872 and is now a listed building.
It just wasn’t being used between those dates, aside from the brief period when someone turned it into a cafe and bar. There’s enough of those in town though, and I definitely think this place is better used as somewhere people can get on and off trains.
Especially visitors who can cross the nearby footbridge, with its silver arches, and get straight to Field Mill to watch the football.
The statue in the next image is something I’ve taken a photograph of on most rolls of film I’ve shot around Mansfield. Why not though?
The same subject can look different when shot with a different camera, on different film, and in different light on a different day.
And a statue of a man will look even more different if he’s taken his mask off too, like the one he was wearing when I shot him with the Lomography LC-Wide on Fujicolor Superia X-Tra 400 in this post here.
The chap has been there since 2007 and, according to its creator David A. Annand, represents ‘a council officer struggling to keep up with the crumbling infrastructure’.
Maybe next time I’m in Mansfield I’ll get a shot of the whole installation, including the small amphitheatre that he’s holding up.
Another Mansfield statue, found across the road from the church-that-used-to-be-Riley’s-snooker-club, is the Tribute to the British Miner. Created and donated by the sculptor Nikolaos Kotziamanis, this twice-lifesize figure was first unveiled in 2003.
There were once 49 collieries in Nottinghamshire – including one in my village – and the industry is still in people’s blood decades after they closed. For that reason, I can’t really think of a better occupation to commemorate in Mansfield than that one.
That statue certainly has more gravitas than the smoking alien outside of a weird shop that came across. Although that was pretty cool too, in its own way.
Wrapping up this post showing you around Mansfield
That’s it then. I shot a roll of film around my home town of Mansfield and I’ve just talked you through 36 of them. That’s not a bad haul really for a 36-exposure roll of Street Candy ATM film in a Pentax K1000 I was simply testing out.
I think I’ll wrap this up with one final thought. One about hometown pride.
Mansfield is not like those places, but I’m still proud to be from here and I’ll never pretend to not be from here. That doesn’t mean it’s a particularly special place though, in the grand scheme of things.
It’s no different to any of the other small towns in the UK or elsewhere around the world that, on the surface at least, have nothing that really distinguishes them from one another. Just like how all the lower end football teams here aren’t really much different to each other, despite fans of all clubs thinking theirs somehow has something the others don’t.
I have no desire to be from or live anywhere else in the UK that is on that same sort of level as Mansfield, because there’s no reason to, and the people from those sorts of towns are going to have zero desire to be from or live in Mansfield either.
But just as I hold this place higher than anybody not from here will ever do, I hope you put your own hometown on a similar pedestal too. Even if, to those of us who aren’t from there, it is a bit rubbish.
As is Mansfield if you’re not from here, I know. It works both ways.
And I’m not recommending you ever visit should you find yourself in the UK. Not when you could go somewhere genuinely world-class instead.
But it’s my hometown and I still like it. 🙂
If you enjoyed that post shooting some Street Candy ATM 400 film around Mansfield, why not have a look at some of these other film photo essays too:
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