Batman fans join crusade to save building in Gotham, Notts

Campaigners raise money to buy old Royal British Legion building which closed this year due to financial problems

Batman fans are being urged to help save a community building in Gotham, a sleepy Nottinghamshire village historically connected to the fictional Gotham City popularised in the American comic book series.

The Nottinghamshire building, which was built for the Royal British Legion in 1966, closed this year due to financial problems and is up for sale. Campaigners are raising money to buy the site in an attempt to save it from any potential developers.

“We all need a superhero around occasionally, don’t we?” the lead fundraiser and chairman of the Gotham and District Community Venture committee, John Anderson, told the BBC. “We are likely to be up against the big bidders, but this is worth fighting for. It would be fantastic to hear from any American friends of Gotham who might also invest in this exciting venture.”

Though Gotham, a family-friendly and quiet settlement, seems a far cry from the crime-ridden metropolis of Batman, its villagers once had a different kind of reputation. According to legend, Gotham residents would feign madness in an attempt to prevent King John from travelling through the village, because any road the king travelled on would become a public highway.

The Royal British Legion building in Gotham
The Royal British Legion building in Gotham. Photograph: Innes England

Their acts, including building a fence around a bush to prevent a cuckoo escaping and trying to drown an eel in a pond, led to the saying: “There are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it.”

Tales of Gotham’s absurdity were collected in various books including the Merie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham, published in 1565. They drew the attention of American author Washington Irving, who became the first person to refer to Manhattan as Gotham in his writings.

In the following years, Gotham became a popular nickname for New York City. The Batman writer Bill Finger said he came up with the name after browsing a phone book and seeing the name Gotham Jewellers, and the link with Nottinghamshire has been acknowledged by other Batman writers in recent years.

Rushcliffe borough council designated the site an asset of community value in July, allowing the villagers extra time to finance a new venture.

The project, dubbed Destination Gotham, was launched in May and a call for financial support was made in October. Campaigners have so far raised more than £100,000 in pledges from Gotham residents.

Plans include opening an expanded shop on the site, as well as a community-run cafe and visitor hub where village archives can be stored and displayed. “It went on the market for £210,000 but we think we need to raise a bit more than that because it’s a popular site to buy,” Anderson said.

Steve Smith, from the Gotham Geeks Podcast, said: “I think that comic fans take their community seriously and I think if they have the opportunity to help the town that gave such an importance piece of the Batman universe its name, especially with all the press about Bill Finger lately, they’d be absolutely willing to help. The power of social media is incredible and if fans heard about something like this, they’d be willing to help out.”


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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