Will Richards, our society’s Honorary President, lent me a
copy of a pamphlet written by a teacher of Martin Roe School in Ravenshead, Mr
R C Roddis. He and Class One of Blidworth Church Primary School had accompanied
Mr Richards on a tour of Blidworth in July 1971 and then written it up,
presumably after the Blidworth School had closed and transferred its pupils and
teachers to a new school in Ravenshead. It was typewritten and copied using a
machine known as a ‘Banda’. As in this case, the ink often soaked into the
paper to the other side, merging the words and making it difficult to read in
I thought it was an important document that should be
preserved and decided to word process it for inclusion on our website. I have
copied it verbatim, including the front cover and therefore as it is forty
years old, some of the terms used may begin to sound a little dated. The reader
should also be aware that over this time span the village has changed
significantly and descriptions of places and buildings may have changed or
It appears that the village tour was part of a larger school
project and children who took part in it may well read this with affection. If
any are interested in recalling this event or are interested in any aspect of
historical Blidworth, you would be most welcome at one of our monthly meetings.
Smallwood June 2011.
BLIDWORTH CHURCH PRIMARY SCHOOL
HEADMASTER: MR. D. R. HORTON
EARLY 20th CENTURY BLIDWORTH
A Conducted Tour of
the Village Arranged and
Led by Mr. Bill
Richards, July 1971
Recorded by children
of class one
Compiled and edited
by Mr. R. C. Roddis, March 1972
These notes have been produced as a tribute to Mr. Bill
Richards whose enthusiasm and industry for everything concerning the old
village is unending.
We would like to thank too, all those people who supplied
additional material, photographs, books and personal knowledge which made this
project so interesting and educationally rewarding.
We hope very much that someone, soon, will compile a
definitive history of the village. It would be well worth the effort.
Mr Richards had planned the tour so that we encompassed the
whole of the old village. Accordingly we walked from the church along Main
Street as far as Marriotts Lane. We walked through the lane, then through the
meadows to where the new estate has been developed. To the hollow at the
junction of Mansfield Road and Dale Lane. From here we walked along Mansfield
Road to the Colliery Welfare Institute then back to Main Street returning up to
the Church School after diverting into Beck Lane.
Beginning his tour at the top of Church Hill, Mr Richards
pointed out that fifty years ago, Main Street was nothing more than a country
lane, deeply rutted, cobbled and full of pot holes, but traffic at this time
was practically non-existent.
The problems presented to horse drawn carts, particularly in
wet weather, were such that whenever possible the carters avoided the hill by
using Ricket Lane and Sandy Lane to bypass this hazard. Referring
to an article written by a Mr. Tansley he described how stones from the
adjacent fields were collected together in piles at the roadside where the road
surveyor’s ‘roadman’ would use his stone breaking machine to reduce them to a
size suitable for repairing the road. Presumably the labourers were paid for
the stones they collected. The stones had been exposed by the sheep feeding on
the remains of the crops in the fields.
Mr Bill Hallam, who lived
in the far end cottage of Fliar’s Yard, which was situated just above the
present rose nursery, was the stone breaker for the roads. In the years about
1920 he used to travel in his donkey cart to the junction of Dale Lane and the
present A614 road. Farmers would gather stones from the fields and
take them to him there. He held the stones on a block as
they were smashed
using a tool shaped like an almost completely closed hook
held horizontally. Many hundreds of tons of these stones are part of the
foundations of the present A.614 road.
A story which impressed the youth of the village concerned
Frank Whitworth, the son of a much respected former vicar, Rev. Whitworth.
Frank earned much admiration for his ability to throw a cricket ball from the
Church gate so that it struck the sails of the windmill. Apparently people came
from considerable distances to watch this feat. Later he became a county
cricketer for Nottinghamshire.
Although the smock mill ceased to work about 1900 the sails
were still in position until the 1930’s. At this time the millhouse stood close
Most of the villages lived
a life close to poverty and to illustrate this point, Mr Richards recalled the
story of a villager who was so poor that when his wife died he transported the
to the Churchyard on his own donkey barrow, a simple four
wheeled platform. At the churchyard he called the miller to help him carry the
coffin to the graveside where after the committal service they interred the
The foundations of the New Inn, now demolished, showed two
interesting features. One was the mounting block and the other the site of the
hitching rings used by visitors to the Inn, and perhaps the Church. A further
interesting fact concerning the Inn was that one of the first mutual aid
societies (a sick club) was started here. Members paid a 1d. per week so that
when they were ill, they qualified for a small sickness payment. The loft was
reputedly used as a sickroom. The village football team also used the Inn as a
changing room and when an important fixture was played or a village celebration
occurred the Kirkby Prize band could be seen marching through Fishpool to their
engagement providing music en route.
The church too has a long and interesting history but that
deserves separate documentation. However, it is interesting to know that the
clock pendulum is formed from a sword used by Captain Need at the battle of
Waterloo. The Captain lived at Fountaindales. Old Blidworth is interesting,
perhaps unique, in the number of farms which have frontage on to Main Street,
due in all probability to the distribution of land which started with the
Enclosure Acts which began to take effect some two centuries earlier.
left the crest of the hill, Mr. Richards pointed out Ashwell Terrace which had
been a farm with outbuildings which lay between the mill and the New Inn.
At the Vicarage he pointed out the garage, the site of the
original stables in the loft of which the first school had begun. Adjacent to
the Vicarage boundary was the site of the Vicarage Row, cottages extending the
length of the Bird in Hand car park. These cottages housed the families of
stockingers who worked in
an upper room at their primitive machines from dawn till dusk capturing all the
available natural light through the high windows which were a feature of
buildings used for this purpose. When the last was demolished in 1969, the
reeds forming the original thatched roof was exposed.
The Bird in Hand had stables at each side so that customers
horses could be sheltered and fed. At the side of the yard was Mr. Herod’s
bicycle shop. As a boy Mr. Richards remembered that carbide had been a major
sale. This compound was needed for the bicycle lamps of the period. When added
to water the chemical produced acetylene gas which when ignited gave a
reasonably bright light. Unfortunately it also smelt dreadfully. This property
was demonstrated very effectively when some fearless pupil dropped carbide into
the inkwell at school!
The village street was illuminated by gas lamps hanging from wall brackets. The
lamplighters were a familiar figure in the village. House lighting was also by
gas although those who could not afford it still used oil lamps.
The school bell had great importance in the village, not
only calling pupils to school at 8.55a.m. and 1.25 p.m., but acted as a time
check for the villagers, if they possessed a clock. The school has a very
interesting history too but requires a separate study.
Mr. Richards was at great pains to point out that before
1930 the village was totally self sufficient apart from a residential doctor.
This became evident as we progressed. He showed the site of a stone trough fed
from a natural spring which was used as a water supply when the reservoir,
situated in Ricket Lane and filled with water pumped up from Fishpool, dried up
which it frequently did in summer. The stone trough, carved from one stone to
prevent leakage, lay along a little
lane leading to Godfrey’s Cottages known colloquially as Back o’ Trough
cottages. The spring line providing the water supply and even today
occasionally leaking over the road was the source of an open brook which ran
down the right hand side of Main Street and Dale Lane. During the depression,
new drains were dug by pick and shovel gangs. Just below the Church School
however, the ground ‘domes’ and here men tunnelled the drain through. The
debris was hauled out on a sledge which was pulled back and forth with ropes.
It is easy to imagine crowds of curious children being hoodwinked into
believing the men were excavating secret tunnels. Even today the rumours of
tunnels and caves are current among the young people.
Opposite the stone trough was a general grocery shop where
black treacle was often bought instead of sugar which was considered too dear.
The Mock Tudor fronted Co-op
had a considerable sale of animal foods since most of the villagers kept pigs
and poultry. However the centres of village commerce was situated at the
junction of Field Lane and Main Street. At the side of the old Black Bull was
the fish and chip shop where fish cost 2d. and chips 1d. The Bull trough stood
in the open space. Its name stems from the time when the Parish owned a bull
under the charge of the charge of the Church Wardens. This animal was used to serve all the cows belonging to the
villagers. Originally it was kept in a small field known as the ‘Bull Piece’
which adjoined the now discontinued tip on New Lane. Later it was kept in the
‘Bull Close’, now the school football pitch behind the Methodist premises. It
was now owned by Farmer Bogue but still performed the same function for the
At the side of the old Methodist chapel was the blacksmith’s
shop where horses were shod and wheels rimmed. There was great rivalry among
the boys to pump the bellows for the
blacksmith, particularly when he was rimming a new cart wheel. Mr. Tom Clarke,
the wheelwright had his workshop just above Engine Yard. Here he created his
wheels, hubs, spokes and rims. When the iron tyre had to be shrunk on all the
boys stood around with water ready to douse the red hot iron as it was placed
in position on the wheel. The blacksmith had a great reputation because he
could stroke red hot metal without flinching.
Behind the Chapel was the Methodist School. The latent
rivalry between the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ school broke out in winter when snowball
fights continued as long as the snow lasted.
The Engine Yard, now part of the photographic premises, was
so named because a threshing machine was housed there, a hive of dusty activity
and curious children in the autumn. Here too was the first petrol pump in
Blidworth selling petrol at 1/3d a gallon. But only the vicar and the
Schoolmaster possessed cars. In 1911 a charabang service ran irregularly to
Mansfield. It was much like a railway coach with several doors into several
compartments. The engine required several men to turn the cranking handle and
was so unreliable that no timetable was possible. If villages wished to travel
to Mansfield, they could either travel with the carrier who meandered through
the hamlets, walk to Rainworth railway station to catch the Mansfield train,
but if you were in a hurry, the quickest way was to walk via the footpaths
Behind the Methodist Chapel, rebuilt in 1933 on the site
first used in 1787, stood two more windmills. These were post windmills, the
whole body of the mill, apart from the base,
turning to catch the strength of the wind.
The tailors shop stood just below the factory. Whenever the
weather was suitable he worked outdoors sitting cross legged on a table
patiently plying his needle. It was here too in the dusk that the local
youngsters gathered beneath the gas lamp outside the Ex-Servicemens Institute.
They were careful however to avoid a cuff from the village policeman’s gloves
or a swipe with his cape! In this
building, now the photographic factory, the men of the village gathered for
recreation, billiards, snooker and cards. Membership was limited to those over
14 years, the school leaving age. This institute closed about 1925 but the
other in Marriotts Lane survived until about 1934 when it was replaced by a
purpose built building behind the present B. P. garage. Now that Institute has
been converted to a bungalow.
Below the Institute clustered on each side of the road as
far as Beck Lane were other tradesmen’s premises. Apart from the butcher and
the draper, the cobbler also doubled as the village barber whilst the joiner
made coffins to order as the occasion arose. The saddler too was a most
important member of the community since the horse was vital to the farmer and
traveller. The village post office was on Beck Lane but later moved to Mr.
Richards present house. The White Lion was originally the Red Lion but lost its
licence, later re-opening under its present name. Paradoxically the cottages on
the opposite side of Main Street had always been known as White Lion Yard.
For those villagers living below the Bull, the higher spring
was too far away so in time of drought or when the Fishpool pump failed, they
obtained their water supply from the house of Mrs. Foster just below the White
Lion. Apparently a stream of spring water ran through the cellar. The stream of
callers often provoked
her temper! Cut into the sand bank just above this house are a series of hollows
which were once at the back of cottages. These hollows were donkey stables. Mr.
Richards pointed out that the people would be too poor to own horses and
recalled a story current in his youth when one of the cottagers was heard to
say that he had just got his donkey living on nothing when it died.
The house which is now Mr. Holloway’s (Junior) Farm had been
the home of the village registrar responsible for recording all births,
marriages and deaths. Since he was an old man of 80 years and deaf too, the
accuracy of his records is perhaps questionable.
Diverting down Marriott Lane Mr. Richards remembered that
many times he had watched a Mr. Colin Coates shearing sheep using hand clippers
in the yard behind Holloways before loading them into a cart to be transported
cattle market where they would be sold.
The gathering and shearing pens were often surrounded by
watching children especially when the shears became mechanised! By turning a
handle which drove gears and a flexible drive the new shears could be operated
mechanically. Naturally children vied for the privilege of turning the handle.
In the loft above the yard was a club for the youth of the
village where they could play billiards and table tennis. Passing in front of
Marriott Cottages he recalled that the schoolmistress had lived with a family
Referring again to Mr. Tansley’s article which mentioned Mr.
Pogson the carrier, he pointed out a dwelling situated on Sandy Lane. This was
North Wood Hill Farm, which Mr. Pogson, who was Mr. Richards grandfather, had
rented from Mr. Blatherwick a well known local family. As village carrier Mr.
Pogson had journeyed to Mansfield each
Thursday and Nottingham each Saturday. When his grandfather was a boy a fee of
either 1d. or 2d. per week had to be paid for attendance at school. Strict
examinations by inspectors were carried out each year. At the age of 12 a pupil
could become a ‘half timer’ if he were successful in the examination which
meant he could go to work for half the time. The situation continued well into
the 20th century. As an annual treat the pupils were taken by farm
carts to Blidworth Dale, the journey there and back occupying most of the day.
Miss Smith who resided at Blidworth Dale, was a school manager and financed the
outing. On the appointed day farm wagons would arrive at school via. Field Lane
to be loaded with eager children. As a four year old Mr. Richards remembered
being picked up and placed on the wagon only to fall off again. Fortunately no
harm was done. At Blidworth Dale the usual picnic activities and novelty races occupied the
Years later Mr. Herod who owned the bicycle shop acquired a
charabanc. However, because the Church Hill and Field Lane had to be avoided –
the engine could not be trusted going up, the brakes going down – the vehicle
took a roundabout journey via. Rickets Lane and Larch Farm. It was quite likely
that the children would see women gleaning in the fields. They collected and
kept any corn that had escaped the harvesters when the sheaves were taken in.
If the gleaned corn was taken to the windmills the millers would grind it free
They would probably also meet coal carters who collected
their loads from the Rainworth railway station or the Mansfield coal wharf. The
coal was sold in the village at 15/10d per ton.
At this time changes took place in the local landscape.
Large areas such as the 80 acre field at
Blidworth Bottoms had the trees felled, the roots torn up and the area divided
into smaller fields. New allotments, a vital part of the family economy, were
set out on Ricketts Lane as well as other parts of the village. In the autumn
at Martin Mass men seeking new jobs would travel to Mansfield to meet the
farmers to strike their annual bargain with them.
Stretching below Marriott Cottages was the Meadows through
which the footpath passes. Near the stile Mr. Richards remembered that sand had
been dug out for building purposes. The hole remaining after this work had
subsequently been filled with water and as pond life gradually inhabited it the
children found it a constant source of interest. Later it had been partially
filled in but a marshy area still remains.
The meadow, normally pastureland was used as a cricket
ground in summer. Before a match a local worthy had the task of marking out in
whitewash, non too accurately, the wicket area and the boundaries. The wicket
square demanded special attention. A horse drawn roller, the animal shod in
sacking to prevent hoof marks, was ceremoniously drawn along the wicket with
boulders and children as additional weight on the roller frame. This process
was repeated between innings. The ‘pavilion’ housed the cricket equipment and
was carefully padlocked between matches. The thwarted children, however, were
equal to the occasion. By joining the Church choir they were privileged to use
the choir’s own cricket equipment and since this was kept at Mr. Richards
house, they were able to play at almost any time.
As we walked beyond the meadows into the new estate
following the footpath we eventually reached the junction of Sandy Lane and
Mansfield Road. It was here that the village
market had been held. The canvas covered stalls lit in the dusk by bright flare
kerosene lamps traded in fresh food, meat and general clothing. At this point
the crossing of the footpath and the unmetalled road was controlled by chipping
stiles. Continuing through the unspoiled fields the footpath finally reached
Rainworth station. But when the colliery and accompanying houses were developed
the footpath had to be diverted to the west side of the present colliery
Welfare Institute. When we reached this point Mr. Richards showed the
depression in the field through which the footpath passed. This clayey area was
the site of the village brick kilns. Remains of these had been excavated when
new sewerage pipes were laid recently. The kiln had been owned and operated by
two brothers who lived in a house at the junction of Three Thorn Hollow Road
and Warsop Lane on the southern side. Here too they dug out their clay and this
later filled with water to become known as ‘The Brick ins’
pond. This was a favourite hunting ground for tadpoles and the more daring used
tray boats to sail across the pond. The brothers also owned a second quarry
which was sited at the bottom of Church Hill towards Fishpool just below Mr.
Johnsons farm. This too filled with water to become known as ‘Clay Hole’ pond.
Mr. Richards emphasised that many dwellings in the old
village were built of bricks made at the local brickworks, further evidence of
its independence and self sufficiency.
Returning into the village, Mount Pleasant cottages reminded
him of another local story. Apparently the wife of one of the Mount Pleasant
cottagers fell seriously ill during the night. The husband, because it was
winter donned skates and skated to Huchnall via. Linby to fetch the doctor.
After enquiring about the state of the road the doctor decided it was too
dangerous for his pony and
cart and skated back with the husband. In the first quarter of the century
skating had been a favourite winter pastime.
At the Dale Lane – Mansfield Road junction, Mr. Richards
told us about the Jubilee Oak. This had been planted in 1887 to celebrate the
Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. It was surrounded by a white wooden
fence. This fence had led to a tragedy. As a boy Mr. Richards had been told the
story of a postman whose bicycle braked (sic) failed as he cycled down the
hill. He struck the fence and was killed instantly. Legend has it that his
teeth marks could be seen in the fence timer (sic) for years after! Due to road
improvements the tree had been lifted and replanted in the grounds of Rainworth
Lodge, formally the home of Joseph Whiitaker, the naturalist. It was at this
time probably that the open stream flowing down Main Street and Dale Lane had
At the junction of Mansfield Road and Meadow Road had been
another pond famous for frogs, toads and newts. Occasionally after heavy rain
this pond overflowed making the road practically impassable. Above the pond was
the open field, now the old peoples bungalow estate, where the children spent a
good deal of their leisure time generally playing cricket.
Opposite behind the garage was Rook Wood, another feature
which no longer exists. At the side of the garage was Clifton Nooks, some of
the oldest and smallest cottages in the village. As we walked back up the hill
we passed Hawthorn Villas, so named because of the trees planted at the road
side. It was here that we met Mr. Birch whose father had served long and
faithfully as Sexton, Verger and Bellringer at the Parish Church. He told us
many interesting facts connected with the Church which have also been recorded
in other accounts. Holly Tree cottage higher up the
hill on the opposite side, perhaps the smallest dwelling in he village was so
named because of the tree close by.
The house adjacent to the plant nursery was the home of the
village policeman and was known as the police house and in the same group the
headmaster of the Methodist school had lived and so became known as school
Near the junction with Beck Lane we were shown the remains
of the village pinfold where stray animals were kept after being rounded up,
until the owner had paid the appropriate fine. Further along (----) Lane was
the site of the village lock up where human offenders were similarly treated.
In this area too we saw the remainder of yet another public water supply; the
capping stone of a village well. As we walked along Surgery Lane, so called
because visiting doctors held twice weekly surgery in a room of the end cottage, Mr. Richards recalled that in 1924 there had been a
smallpox epidemic and all the children of the village had attended for
Returning to Beck Lane we saw the site of the original Post
Office and the village chimney sweep’s house. Another feature of Beck Lane was
a large wooden warehouse which had been built entirely without plans and
followed the contours of the hillside yet all the joints had been individually
cut to fit together perfectly, a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. Approaching
Main Street again Mr. Richards pointed out Meynell Cottages built high above
but close to the road on the opposite side.
Our tour had very nearly reached its end but as a finale we
were regaled with stories of events that took place in the White Lion Yard.
Foremost was the village fair which was held there at the time of the Rocking
Service. Indeed it was the fair with its few amusements but profusion of fun and wonderment
which took pride of place in the children’s minds. Freaks, both animal and
human were a highlight of the festivities. He did remember a story of his youth
however which referred to a good lady of the village. She was known as Mrs.
‘Frock a child’ because she made an annual collection in the village to buy a
dress for the infant who was to be the star attraction at the service.
Another highlight was the occasional pot sale in the White
Lion Yard. This travelling trader usually held his sale at 7 o’clock in the
evening using the day to advertise crying out the information as he wandered
through the village streets. The sale was a dutch auction, the sale goods
clustered around in wicker baskets. Starting at a high figure the trader
gradually reduced the price until a sale was made. If business was slack he
turned to craft. If he could not get the price he wanted
he hurled the pot at the wall crying out that he may as well smash them. At
this point his son, a pathetic boy would begin wailing, beseeching his father
to stop his activities. This dramatic scene was too much for many of the
onlookers who, their sympathy aroused; paid more than their commonsense would
normally allow for the articles he had to sell.
So ended the tour, interest as alive at the end as it had
been at the start. Our knowledge of the locality vastly enriched, our debt of
gratitude difficult to express in adequate words.