Nottingham Ukulele

Nottinghamshire, the traditional home of the Ukulele !!

Is this the True Story of the Ukulele?

The ukulele has always been a popular performers' instrument. Easy to carry and extremely versatile. But did you know that Nottinghamshire, and particularly Hucknall, is the traditional home of the Ukulele (maybe)?

Who taught George Formby to play the Ukulele?

Very few towns around Nottingham and Nottinghamshire can claim associations with Robin Hood, Lord Byron and George Formby. It is recorded on the St Mary Magdalene website that Dr. Otto Wallen (1896-1984) a local Hucknall celebrity, actor, musician and doctor may have been a great influence on George Formby's life by teaching him to play the Ukulele.

Robin Hood (Robin of Loxley circa 1175)

Often regarded as a fictional character depicted in many films and TV series, recent evidence has come to light that he did exist in real life. Using modern research techniques, it has also been discovered that he was not only a superb marksman, but also an avid lute player and possibly a main instigator in the design of the modern-day ukulele.


It is said that whilst robbing the rich and giving to the poor, the lute with its bulbous body and multi-stringed neck kept getting in the way and was a nightmare to keep in tune. So, he had one of his merry men reduce the body, and remove most of the strings. This leaving only the 4 strings he used most often.


Apparently, King Richard was so impressed with the reviews, he ordered one to be shipped out to him whilst on his crusades. Unfortunately, it appears that it was left outside Richard's tent by the courier who claimed to have delivered it. It was then stolen by a passing Portuguese mercenary and the rest is history.


In reality Robin Hood should have been Robin of Hucknall as Loxley Close is technically a street name and not a town. The immediate proximity of Robin Hood Way further confirms our hero's direct association with Hucknall as it's on the edge of Sherwood Forest.

Ukulele: Is this the missing link?

For some time, there’s been a disputed claim that Robin of Loxley (Robin Hood) may have been instrumental in the development and popularity of the modern-day Ukulele.

It’s suggested in some quarters that Robin adapted a Lute to suit his complicated lifestyle, thus inventing the Ukulele or Lutalele as it was known then.

However, further evidence has come to light indicating that Robin’s association with music and a prototype Ukulele started at a much younger age than previously thought.

The artefact pictured is rumoured to have been discovered whist undertaking renovations of the Bowman public house in Hucknall (Nottinghamshire). Possibly the site of Robin’s childhood home.

It appears to be a fairly crude 4 string instrument made for a young Robin. Small fingers would have had trouble plucking the strings. This was overcome by using a bow.

Like many children with vivid imaginations, Robin used the bow to go pretend hunting rather than learning music.

His impressive skills with the bow and arrow soon led to high acclaim, as his musical ambitions were put aside.

It was a decade or so later, when he went a wooing Lady Marion and whilst struggling to learn to play the Lute, that he remembered the childhood instrument.

With only a few minor alterations, the Ukulele was born and Lady Marion succumbed to his charms.

George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron 1788-1824)

Lord Byron, was an English poet and peer. As a leading figure of the Romantic movement, Byron is regarded as one of the greatest English poets. He remains widely read and influential. Although a bit of a wild child, and despite his artistic gifts, George was not renowned for his Ukulele playing which has largely gone undocumented.

It’s strongly favoured amongst classical theorists that his attempts to work out mathematical formulas in creating the perfect pitch, led to his daughter Ada’s interest in computer programming. Later, as Ada Lovelace, she became an accomplished computer programmer.


As a friend of Percy Shelly, the celebrated poet, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Percy’s wife Mary got the idea of the Frankenstein novel from Byron’s tortured attempts at trying to bring to life a quick rendition of “Leaning on a Gas Light”.


As one of Hucknall’s celebrated sons, at least he’s buried here, the family’s entrepreneurial spirit lingers on. Byron Carpets, Byron Heating and Plumbing, the original Byron Cinema are but a few examples. However, it is understood that the Byron Fish Bar in Aberdeen is not connected with the family although they had a strong association with the area.