Nottinghamshire - Encyclopedia

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NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, or Notts, an inland county of England, bounded N. W. by Yorkshire, W. by Derbyshire, S. by Leicestershire and and N.E. by Lincolnshire. The area is 843.4 sq. m. The N. is cluded in the great plain of York, and in the extreme N. there is some extent of marshes. The valley of the lower Trent and that of the Idle are also very flat. In the S.W. between Nottingham and Warsop, the undulations swell into considerable elevations, reaching near Mansfield a height over 600 ft. This district includes the ancient Sherwood Forest. Some portions of it are still retained in their original condition, and there are many very old oaks, especially in the portion known as the Dukeries. The county generally is finely wooded, although to the E. of the valley of the Soar there is a considerable stretch of wolds. The principal rivers are the Trent, the Erewash, the Soar and the Idle. The Trent, which enters the county near Thrumpton in the S.W., where it receives the Erewash from the N. and the Soar from the S., flows N.E. past Nottingham and Newark, where it takes a more northerly direction, forming the N. part of the E. boundary of the county till it reaches the Isle of Axholm (Lincolnshire). The Soar forms for a short distance the boundary with Leicestershire, and the Erewash the boundary with Derbyshire. The Idle, which is formed of several streams in Sherwood Forest, flows N. to Bawtry, and then turns E. to the Trent.

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All formations, from Lower and Middle Coal Measures, overlain unconformably by Permian, to Lower Lias, crop out successively eastward across the county, with a general but slight dip away from the Pennine uplift. The strike of the Carboniferous rocks veers from S. to E. in the S.; that of younger formations bends to S.W. The Coal Measures, about 3000 ft. thick, continue the Derbyshire Coalfield. A boring at Ruddington proved the lowest measures, underlain by Millstone Grit. The remaining Lower and Middle Measures below the important Top Hard Coal, with the Kilburn, Main, Deep Hard and Soft Coals, crop out in the south and along the Erewash Valley; higher strata farther N. All these consist of shale, clay and little sandstone. They contain Carbonicola acuta, C. robusta, Neuropteris heterophylla, Alethopteris and Lepidodendron, showing essentially non-marine conditions. But several thin marine beds occur. The highest measures, divisible into red Etruria Marls, Newcastle Sandstones and a red sandy Keele series have been proved underground in eastward succession. A thin basal breccia, a sandy and marly group, the Magnesian Limestone with Productus horridus and Schizodus obscurus (granular dolomite typically, its upper part locally a dolomitic sandstone, the Mansfield buildingstone), red gypsiferous Middle Marls, an Upper Limestone, and Upper Red Marls, collectively 550 ft. thick in the north of Notting hamshire, terminate a Permian outcrop continuous from Durham, but dying out at Nottingham. Only the lowest divisions persist so far. The more extensive Trias overlaps southward on to the Carboniferous. Its lower sandstones (Bunter, 600 ft. thick, consisting of Lower Red Sandstone with breccias, and Pebble Beds; Keuper Waterstones, 200 ft. in the east, mainly brown sandstones, conglomeratic at the base and containing the fish Semionotus) form an undulating wooded district. Higher red and pale green Keuper Marl (700 ft.), with subordinate sandstones and gypsum, makes a low agricultural tract on the E., traversed longitudinally by the Trent. Black Rhaetic shales succeed with Pieria (Avicula) contorta, Protocardium rhaeticum and bone-beds, below light-coloured marls and limestones ("White Lias"). Lower Lias, almost up to the Semicostatus zone, crops out within the county. The basal Planorbis zone contains argillaceous limestones, worked for hydraulic cement at Barnston, and saurian remains. Of two types of Glacial boulderclay, mainly confined to the Triassic and Jurassic clays on the E. and S.E., one containing Carboniferous and some extraneous boulders probably came with the Pennine ice from the N.W. The other, uppermost where both occur, and full of chalk and flint, belongs to the Chalky Boulder Clay of the North Sea ice. Glacial gravels cap the higher ground of the Triassic sandstones. Church Hole, one of the Magnesian Limestone caves of Creswell Crags, yielded remains of cave-lion, bear, mammoth, rhinoceros, &c. Older river-gravels flankthe pasture land of the Trent alluvium.

Climate and Agriculture

As the higher regions of Derbyshire and; Yorkshire attract the rain clouds, the climate of Nottinghamshire is above the average in dryness; thus, the mean annual rainfall at Bawtry is 23.57 in. and at Nottingham 26.83 in. On this account crops ripen nearly as early as in the S. counties. The soil of about one-half the county is gravel and sand, including Sherwood Forest, where it inclines to sterility, and the valley of the Trent, where there is a rich vegetable mould on a stratum -of sand or gravel. The land along the banks of the Trent is equally suitable for crops and pasture. The farms generally are of moderate size, the great majority being under 300 acres. Most of the immediate occupants are tenants-atwill. Roughly four-fifths of the total area is under cultivation. Apples and pears are grown in considerable quantities, but there are not many orchards of large size. Shorthorns are the favourite breed of cattle, and dairy farming is considerably prosecuted. The old forest breed of sheep is almost extinct, Leicesters and various crosses being common.


Coal is mined chiefly on the S.W. border of the county near Nottingham and near Mansfield; there are also mines near Worksop. Clay, sandstone and limestone are also extensively raised. The lace and hosiery industries are of old establishment in the county, Nottingham being the principal centre. There are silk, worsted and cotton mills. A large number of hands are employed in machinery works, and the cycle and motor manufacture of Beeston is important. The manufacture of tobacco and cigars is considerable at Nottingham and Hucknall Torkard.


The main line of the Midland railway touches the S.W. border of the county, with an alternative route through Nottingham, and branches thence N. through Hucknall and Mansfield to Worksop, to Newark and Lincoln, from Mansfield to Southwell and Newark, &c. The main line of the Great Central railway serves Nottingham and Hucknall. That of the Great Northern railway serves Newark and Retford, with a branch to Nottingham and local lines in that vicinity. A branch of the Great Central railway, formerly (till 1908) the main line of the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast railway, enters the county on the W. from Chesterfield, and crosses the Dukeries by 011erton to Dukeries Junction (G.N.R.) and Lincoln. The Sheffield-Grimsby line of the Great Central crosses the N. of the county by Worksop and Retford. The Trent is navigable throughout the county, and the Idle between Bawtry and the Trent. The principal canals centre upon Nottingham.

Population and Administration

The area of the ancient county is 539,75 6 acres, with a population in 1901 of 514,578. The area of the administrative county is 540,123. The county contains the city and county and municipal borough of Nottingham (pop. 239,743), and the municipal boroughs of Retford or East Retford (12,340), Mansfield (21,445) and Newark (14,992). The urban districts are Arnold (8757), Beeston (8960), Carlton (10,041), Eastwood (4815), Hucknall Torkard (15,250), Hucknall under Huthwaite (4076), Kirkby in Ashfield (10,318), Mansfield Woodhouse (4877), Sutton in Ashfield (14,862), Warsop (2132), West Bridgford (7018), Worksop (16,112). For parliamentary purposes the ancient county is divided into four divisions (Bassetlaw, Newark, Rushcliffe and Mansfield), each returning one member; and the parliamentary borough of Nottingham returns one member for each of its three divisions. There are one court of quarter sessions and seven petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Newark and Nottingham have separate commissions of the peace, also separate courts of quarter sessions; that of East Retford has a separate commission of the peace. The total number of civil parishes is 266. The ancient county contains 231 ecclesiastical parishes and districts, wholly or in part; it is situated principally in the diocese of Southwell and partly in the diocese of York.


The earliest Teutonic settlers in the district which is now Nottinghamshire were an Anglian tribe who, not later than the 5th century, advanced from Lincolnshire along the Fosseway, and, pushing their way up the Trent valley, settled in the fertile districts of the S. and E., the whole W. region from Nottingham to within a short distance of Southwell being then occupied by the vast forest of Sherwood. At the end of the 6th century Nottinghamshire already existed as organized territory, though its W. limit probably extended no farther than the Saxon relics discovered at Oxton and Tuxford. Nottingham after the treaty of Wedmore became one of the five Danish boroughs. On the break-up of Mercia under Hardicanute, Nottinghamshire was included in the earldom of the Middle English, but in 1049 it again became part of Leofric's earldom of Mercia, and descended to Edwin and Morkere. The first mention of the shire of Nottingham occurs in 1016, when it was harried by Canute. The boundaries have remained practically unaltered since the time of the Domesday Survey, and the eight Domesday wapentakes were unchanged in 1610; in 1719 they had been reduced to six, their present number, Oswaldbeck being absorbed in Bassetlaw, of which it forms the North Clay 'division, and "Side" in Thurgarton. Nottinghamshire was originally included in the diocese and province of York, and in 1291 formed an archdeaconry comprising the deaneries of Nottingham, Newark, Bingham and Retford. By act of parliament of 1836 the county was transferred to the diocese of Lincoln and province of Canterbury, with the additional deanery of Southwell. In 1878 the deaneries of Mansfield, South Bingham, West Bingham, Collingham, Tuxford and Worksop were created, and in 1884 most of the county was transferred to the newly-created diocese of Southwell, the deaneries being unchanged. The deaneries of Bawtry, Bulwell, Gedling, East Newark and Norwell were created in 1888. Until 1568 Nottinghamshire was united with Derbyshire under one sheriff, the courts and tourns being held at Nottingham until the reign of Henry III., when with the assizes for both counties they were removed to Derby. In the time of Edward I. the assizes were again held at Nottingham, where they are held at the present day. The Peverel Court, founded before 1113 for the recovery of small debts, had jurisdiction over 127 towns in Nottinghamshire, and was held at Nottingham until 1321, in 1330 at Algarthorpe and in 1790 at Lenton, being finally abolished in 1849. The most interesting historic figure in the Domesday Survey of Nottinghamshire is William Peverel. His fief represents the honour of Nottingham, and in 1068 he was appointed constable of the castle which William the Conqueror had raised at Nottingham. The Cliftons of Clifton and the Byrons of Newstead held lands in Nottinghamshire at the time of the Survey. Holme Pierrepoint belonged to the Pierrepoints from the time of Edward I.; Shelford was the seat of the Stanhopes, and Langer of the Tibetots, afterwards earls of Worcester. Archbishop Cranmer was a descendant of the Cranmers of Aslockton near Bingham.

The political history of Nottinghamshire centres round the town and castle of Nottingham, which was seized by Robert of Gloucester on behalf of Maud in 1140; captured by John in 1191; surrendered to Henry III. by the rebellious barons in 1264; formed an important station of Edward III. in the Scottish wars; and in 1397 was the scene of a council where three of the lords appellant were appealed of treason. In the Wars of the Roses the county as a whole favoured the Yorkist cause, Nottingham being one of the most useful stations of Edward IV. In the Civil War of the 17th century most of the nobility and gentry favoured the Royalist cause, but Nottingham Castle was garrisoned for the parliament, and in 1651 was ordered to be demolished.

Among the earliest industries of Nottinghamshire were the malting and woollen industries, which flourished in Norman times. The latter declined in the 16th century, and was superseded by the hosiery manufacture which sprang up after the invention of the stocking-loom in 1589. The earliest evidence of the working of the Nottinghamshire coalfield is in 1259, when Queen Eleanor was unable to remain in this county on account of the smoke of the sea-coal. Collieries are scarcely heard of in Nottinghamshire in the 17th century, but in 1620 the justices of the peace for the shire report that there is no fear of scarcity of corn, as the counties which send up the Trent for coal bring corn in exchange, and in 1881 thirty-nine collieries. were at work in the county. Hops were formerly extensively grown, and Worksop was famous for its liquorice. Numerous. cotton-mills were erected in Nottinghamshire in the 18th century, and there were silk-mills at Nottingham. The manufacture of tambour lace existed in Nottinghamshire in the 18th century, and was facilitated in the 19th century by the manufacture of machine-made net. From 1295 the county and town of Nottingham each returned two members to parliament. In 1572 East Retford was represented by two members, and in 1672 Newarkupon-Trent also. Under the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned four members in two divisions. By the act of 1885 it returned four members in four divisions; Newark and East Retford were disfranchised, and Nottingham returned three members in three divisions.


At the dissolution of the monasteries there were no fewer than forty religious houses in Nottinghamshire. The only important monastic remains, however, are those at Newstead, but the building is partly transformed into a mansion which was formerly the residence of Lord Byron (see HucKNALL Torkard). There are also traces of monastic ruins at Beauvale, Mattersey, Radford and Thurgarton. The finest parish church in the county is that of Newark. The churches of St Mary, Nottingham, and of Southwell were collegiate churches; Southwell, now a cathedral, is a splendid building, principally Norman. The churches of Balderton, Bawtry, Hoveringham, Mansfield and Worksop are also partly Norman, and those of Coddington, Hawton and Upton St Peter near Southwell, Early English. Of the old castles, the principal remains are those at Newark, but there are several interesting old mansions, as at Kingshaugh, Scrooby, Shelford and Southwell. Wollaton Hall, near Nottingham, is a fine old building (c.1580) . The finest residences of more modern date are Welbeck and others in the Dukeries (q.v.).

See Victoria County History, Nottinghamshire; R. Thoroton, The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire (Lond., 1677; republished with additions by J. Thoresby, 3 vols., Lond., 1797); Thomas Bailey, Annals of Nottinghamshire (4. vols., Lond., 1852-1856); J. P. Briscoe, Old Nottinghamshire (1881); J. Ward, Descriptive Catalogue of Books relating to Nottinghamshire (Nottingham, 1892).

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