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Hilda Keane wrote in 1985  
Sing a song of Blidworth a place of many views
A pit some farms a lovely old church and pickets in the news  
It was a very peaceful place some six decades ago
Till someone in their wisdom sank a pit far down below
  
Miners came from far and near hoping for riches galore
Leaving behind unemployment and fear families’ friends and much more  
They came from Staffs, Yorkshire and Lancashire, there were Geordies and Scotsmen too
The Welsh from the valleys where ever pits failed, all happy to start life anew
  
They found it a most unfriendly place full of strangers suspicious and wild
I remember longing to go back home to the safe place I’d known as a child  
But as the many years rolled by the war was here and passed
Came unity and comradeship surely these bonds would last  

Now the mines are nationalised, the future seems set fair
Till seventy one and seventy two, strikes misery and despair  
The union won its corner prosperity and peace once more
Washers, TV’s and houses were bought
Cars and holiday planes were caught  

Then came nineteen eighty four and creditors hammering on the door  
Dozens of pits were closing unemployment was rife in the land
The miners who’d been close together were divided not strong as was planned  
Arthur! Too sure of his following was told “no need for a vote”
He’d forgotten that human nature was weak and liable to turncoat  

When someone whispered “you’re all right Jack” that’s what they wanted to hear
So some joined the democratic union and ordered a fresh round of beer.  
When the years long strike was over despondent men returned
To pits once again full of suspicion, and family against family turned  

One wonderful thing that did emerge from the Tory and McGregor purge
Was the newfound strength of mothers and wives
Who had taken a back seat for most of their lives  
They came to the fore and showed their worth
They really were the “salt of the earth”
Supporting their families cooking and cleaning
Giving sex equality an entirely new meaning.
Remember NO WAGES FOR A YEAR

Blidworth as it was a fine church on the hill
Woods fields and cottages and we remember all that
Twas at the turn of the century
When nothing seemed to change
Forest folk was Prior’s book
There were servants at the Grange
 
The farm was replaced by a colliery, Forest folk became a pub
Strangers travelled miles to mine, they also built a club 
 Nine thousand houses were built and let and a school full of children so lively and yet
Awful things were yet to happen
The chimney was the first to go “It’s obsolete” they said    

70 years old, a lifetime for some, the pit now to is dead 
The canteen with all its modern facilities and the recently refurbished office block,
which could have been a great asset In the village,
the pit head baths too, all bulldozed in a flash  

What to predict for the future,the air will be cleaner it’s true
Many more trees will be planted, and building licences granted
But what will the bread winners do?


Hilda Keene wrote in 1988  
Blidworth has a community centre                     Any club you'd like to start 
After all these years                                         We'll find a room for you
Could it be a white elephant?                            And all the help we can
Maybe that’s one of our fears                            To stir an interest that's new

Our councillors have fought for it                        To care for your new building
In June its opening day                                     We need the help of all
It’s up to every-one of you                                 Don't let the vandals smash the place
To work to make it pay                                     Or scribble graffiti on the walls

What would you like to use it for?                     Replacements send the rates up
Tell us what you think                                      And trees and plants need time
We’ve only tea or coffee                                  To become the lovely garden
But come in and have a drink                           We planners had in mind

Single parent families                                      To organise a wedding
Here’s a chance for you                                   Mark a gold or silver date
To get together a self-help group                       And eighteen or 21st birthday
And meet every week or two                            Book before its too late

Learn to write stories or poetry                         What do we do on Friday nights?
Here’s one in need of that                                Upstairs at the centre
Acting, painting photography                            We're working on a parish map
Or meeting just for a chat                                 Our very latest venture

Whatever your age or interest                           10ft 6" of canvas blank
Cooking or keeping fit                                       With minds about to match
Walking jogging or dancing                               Yet every week came new ideas                         
Sewing or learning to knit                                  To fill another patch


A View from the top
Having read the recollections of R H Whitworth “Blidworth and Neighbourhood” (Circa 1890), I found his first passage intriguing.
He alludes to the panorama that could be seen from the elevated position of Blidworth church. He quotes that “looking Northward on a clear evening, and especially with a glass, the tower and spire of Laughton-en-le Morthen, known locally as “Lightening in the Morning” come into sight.
The Church of All Saints with its spire rising 185 feet would be all of 20 miles from Blidworth.

I have often wondered, and was curious if the Reverend has viewed the tower from ground level (498 feet above sea level) or took advantage of the church tower?

By arrangement with the church warden Robin Sharpe and kind permission of the Rev. Hazel Robinson, on November 10th 2012, my son Darren and I were allowed to ascend to the top of the tower. It was a perfect early winter’s morning with clear blue skies. With a camera and a good set of binoculars, we photographed the village and surrounding area and attempted to look Northward towards Rotherham. Sadly, what R H Whitworth once viewed from the churchyard has long since ceased to be visible.
Nevertheless, many landmarks and buildings were easily visible, notably Lincoln Cathedral, Belvoir Castle, Mackworth water tower near Derby and much of the Trent Valley with its power stations. Excellent views of Blidworth Dale and Fishpool could be seen, with curious images of Old Blidworth farms seen from above.
John Durkin 2016
 

The Scissor Grinder
The changes that are brought about by social and economic reforms do not only disturb large businesses. This was evidently clear as I walked to Blidworth Colliery at lunch time in the year of 1961. There was a man with the tools of his trade walking towards me. His tools included a head high metal bar with small wheels at the bottom of the long bar. This enabled him to push or pull it up the roads. At the lowest end of the bar was a pedal which, when depressed rotated the circular sharpening stone at the top of the neck. This man and his chosen trade had become known locally as the Scissor Man and had plied his trade in the villages for many years. However most of the houses were now using their radios, (and TV was to come) due to this they could not hear the Scissor Grinder shouting so he had to send his wife to knock on the door and ask if they wanted any knives or scissors sharpening. The answer had become a firm NO as new ones could be purchased for the same price at the local shops or the shops in Mansfield. The Scissor Man had become aware of these facts and standing in the centre of the road, he had to retire to the causeway because a car was coming down the road. Another sign that life was changing rapidly. The car was the last straw for him, and seeing me carrying my sandwiches on my way to work, he delivered a tirade at me which according to him proved that all miners were illegitimate. I was then treated to a series of expletives including double and treble expletives as I realized the Scissor Grinder was taking out of me the changing pattern of the new world. I did not offer the man a reply as I realized his small business was desperately under threat.
The world was changing rapidly.
As witnessed by John Gilding


The Druid Stone at Blidworth.
O/S maps as early as 1850 specify “Druidical remains” in a field close to Fishpool Road and Rickets Lane in Blidworth.
Druidical remains are at best, a fanciful description of this conglomerate of stone, cemented together when it was deposited in fields around Blidworth, thousands of years ago. There is no proof that this mass of boulder was ever used by Druids, except that there is a large hole through its centre which may have attracted some interest.
Descriptively, this conglomerate has been known as a Pudding stone because its formation resembles the appearance of a Christmas pudding, and the Altar stone, as it has a cavity. To Blidworth folk, it is simply the Druid Stone.
When the Glacial deposits (thought to have arisen 450,000 years ago) settled in fields around Blidworth, many were removed to enable agriculture and farming usage. Today, several of these deposits remain in various forms, although none seem to have been used as a means of worship or created any apparent interest to cartographers.
The alignment of the aperture in the Druid stone is interesting. The West facing opening is high and wide enough to allow a man to stand at its entrance, and a smaller hole on the eastern side is almost perfectly aligned. It is 14ft high and 84ft around the base with a top that is quite flat. Local folklore mention that sick children would be passed through the stone to cure whooping cough. The Reverend R H Whitworth (without foundation) and the late local historian W Richards, in his book, “Friar Tuck and Sherwood Forest” state that on the day of the summer solstice the rising sun can be observed passing through the cavity in the stone. Bill Richards told me that he had tried on several occasions to prove this theory. Sadly it was either too cloudy or misty and he never managed to see it.
Weather conditions for June 21st 2014 were forecast to be favourable, with a sunrise at 04.43hrs, with clear skies. The author, complete with camera and recording equipment observed a perfect sunrise over the site of the Druid Stone. The sun appeared on the horizon above the large barn on Rickets Lane North East of the boulder and did not at any time uphold the suggestion that the sun would pass through its centre. I have to surmise, therefore that due to the site being in a hollow, and the hills around the area, the sun could not pass over the stone as was previously thought. The almost perfect East to West alignment however may give thought that the hole was created for some form of worship. One further consideration is that if the hole through the stone is not a natural occurrence, then whoever created it and for what purpose, must have been resilient as the structure of the stone is extremely hard.
One group of people who may have had an interest of using the stone as a place of worship, are the Coritani, a Celtic tribe, displaced by the Romans, but were receptive to their rules. They were widespread throughout South Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire at this time. Most certainly, if they were present, then the abundance of Mistletoe, and the many natural springs in the Forest would have had great appeal. Of course this is just a supposition, without basis or any historical evidence, but plausible if any case can be made for humans having developed the cavity in the stone.
Since March 1999 the site of the Druid Stone has been recognised by Newark & Sherwood District Council as a grade one geological site of regional importance to nature conservation. Access to the site of the stone has been made much easier recently, with the removal of old wooden styles, replaced by “Kissing gates” made of steel. Although the site is on private land, and surrounded by trees and electric fencing, excellent views of the stone can be seen as one approaches either East or West as the walker descends down the public footpath to the site.
John Durkin 2015.

Sunrise over the Druid Stone
The Reverend Richard H Whitworth (1865-1908) first suggested that the sunrise on the Summer Solstice could be viewed from the Eastern aperture of the Druid stone. This was without evidence. Frank Earp and two colleagues from the Nottingham Hidden History Team in the mid 70’s tested this theory and concluded that this was not so. They calculated that a Beltane sunrise on May 1st was probable and the sun would appear over the site of the rock. This was further supported by my observations on June 21st 2014 and May 1st 2016. I photographed and recorded the sunrise on both of these occasions. The sunrise on May 1st 2016 was observed as it rose to pass directly through the Eastern aperture. This would confirm the theory that Beltane, the start of the Celtic quarter day May 1st and sunset on Samhain October 31st would be marked by the passing of the sun. There is of course the possibility that the hole is naturally occurring. However, those who have studied the boulder would believe that at some point in history, man created the hole for a purpose. Given that there are several of these conglomerates of similar size and construction, then evidence would suggest that it is indeed man made.
John Durkin. June 2016

Friar Tuck, a Hermit of Fountaindale and Copmanhurst.
Robin of Loxley or Robin of Sherwood. It depends on which bit of English folklore you prefer. Yorkshire folk claim he was born in Loxley in 1160, where he roamed the Forest of Loxley Chase.
Loxley Chase was extensive, reaching south east to border Sherwood Forest. Fountaindale Lodge, once used as a hunting lodge, is within the Forest at Lyndhurst. It is here in Lyndhurst that Friar Tucks Well can be seen today.
With very little evidence to support the existence of one Robin Hood, early ballads have been used to create fictitious accounts of the outlaw and his merry men. One such account alludes to Friar Tuck fighting Robin Hood over a stream.
Two places of interest can be construed from these ballads, as to where the encounter may have taken place. Not surprisingly, Fountains Abbey near Ripon in Yorkshire, and Fountaindale near Blidworth in Nottinghamshire, might be interpreted as the possible site.
Fountains Abbey, built in 1132, was a Cistercian Monastery, whose order was given to a life of isolation and solitude. Ballads describe the Friar who fought with the outlaw, as being cordial about the waist, and his habit curtal. Because of the conformity of their divine vows, it is at best dubious, that one of their order would engage the outlaw.
The similar sounding Fountaindale at Lyndhurst however, with its Well and enclosed moat nearby, can also be attributed to the encounter having taken place there. Archives held at Nottingham refer to rough stones being removed about one hundred years ago from within the moated enclosure. The stones could well have formed part of a Cell or Hermitage. The moat diverted from the River Rain, is still to be seen today and would have been a formidable place of safety. A wooden bridge of sorts was the only point of access. A chalybeate spring, one of many along Rainworth Water is close to the moat. This natural spring water once filled a chamber and would then flow down a cascade of steps. Ornate railings and a low wall enclosed the Well. This is the site of Friar Tucks Well. A board was attached to the railings, and before a large Ash tree fell across it about 1955, it read that the holy clerk would pray at the Chancel of Saint Lawrence in Blidworth Churchyard. Much damage was caused by the fallen tree and the site is now almost ruinous. Several of these boards were to be seen around the moat and the enclosure. Nailed to trees, and discernible to all who could read, they describe the place of the bridge over the moat where the Friar met Robin, and another would tell that the King’s taxes were collected here in this part of the Forest.
The early ballads describe the Friar or Monk who would be sought out by Robin of Loxley, as being a stalwart shaveling, bound at the waist and his habit curtal or shortened. This would be similar to the cloth worn by the Franciscan order of Friars, but if the year 1160 was the birthdate of the outlaw then it would pre date the time that the Franciscan order came to England, 1210, and 1224, when a Priory was established at Broadmarsh in Nottingham. It is quite feasible that a holy man, a renegade, or one disaffected having abandoned his allegiance would have taken his abode in the Hermitage at Fountaindale. Newstead Abbey, only two miles from Fountaindale was once a Priory for Augustine monks, perhaps this is where the Friar came from. This I believe can be a greater cause than any other put forward by those who prefer Fountains Abbey.
The origins of the Well, the moat and the elaborate boards, that once described this famous encounter, can I believe be attributed to the Needs of Fountaindale. Two literary greats, Sir Walter Scott, and the American author Washington Irving would help to establish this as the place. Walter Scott stayed at Fountaindale writing parts of his "Ivanhoe" whilst a guest of Colonel Need. The Needs were at Fountaindale Lodge for the greater part of the nineteenth century. Lieutenant Colonel A Need lived there from 1815 until his death in 1885. A passage from Ivanhoe alludes to "The Black Knight having taken refuge for the night in the hut of a local Friar, the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst" The place of safety within the moat is Copmanhurst. Whilst it is fanciful that Colonel Need created Friar Tucks Well, the probability that the moat, diverted from the River Rain was once a stronghold of some tribe or legion cannot be discounted. The moat would have been plentiful with fish, and vegetables and herbs could be grown by the Hermitage. A place sufficient and safe. If Scott inspired Col Need to adapt Copmanhurst to support his Ivanhoe, then Irving who stayed at Newstead Abbey following the death of Lord Byron in 1824, further enhanced the whimsical creation of the Needs when he wrote in his "Newstead Abbey" a descriptive passage "Here is Fountaindale, where he (Robin Hood) had his encounter with that stalwart shaveling Friar Tuck". Irving was fond of hunting and rode to the resplendent Forest at Lyndhurst where, although not recorded, may have met the Needs. It can be said with some certainty that he came by the Well and the various boards that inspired him.
Friar Tucks Well, the Moat, and Copmanhurst, are well defined on early O/S maps of 1885, so they would seem to be of this period. There is, with historical evidence of the chalybeate spring, the moat and enclosure, reason to believe that the Hermitage did exist within Copmanhurst, but little, other than the fanciful creations of the Need family to support Scott's work, that this really was Friar Tucks Well. However, Fountains Abbey and the folk of Yorkshire would do well to put forward a more deserving claim than that of Fountaindale.
John Durkin 2014.


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