Click on map to see a larger scale map of Nottinghamshire (161,461 bytes)
My wife, her father and his father's ancestors, and some of her mother's siblings were born in Nottinghamshire, so it is a major area of interest to me.
Except for a small area in the west, where it includes a little of the limestone Pennines, it is relatively low-lying, either gently undulating or flat, and geologically divides into two distinct main areas, low sandstone hills to the west and flattish clay to the east, with some fertile alluvial areas in the south and along the River Trent in the extreme east. It is basically an agricultural county, although the rich coalfield under the sand and limestone has led to considerable industrial development in the western half.
Nottinghamshire has only two rivers of significance, of which by far the most important is the Trent, England's third longest river. This enters the county in the south-west, where Derbyshire and Leicestershire meet, flows roughly north-eastwards across the county until it meets the middle of the eastern boundary. It then forms most of the northern half of the border with Lincolnshire before cutting across north Lincolnshire to the Humber estuary. The second river is the Idle, which has its source just over the border in Derbyshire, flows north-east across half the width of the county, then turns north through East Retford and Bawtry before turning east again to join the Trent. The smaller River Soar forms part of the boundary with Leicestershire before joining the Trent where that river enters Nottinghamshire. There are other, minor, tributaries of the Trent in other areas, but none of navigable size.
By far the largest urban area is the city of Nottingham, located at the southern end of the coalfield. It grew up as a major market town, developed large industries for making hosiery and lace, then diversified into bicycles, tobacco and pharmaceuticals and now supports a great range of light and heavy industry. It nevertheless remains a clean, attractive city with many buildings in white Portland stone and numerous areas of green parks. As one of its graduates I am perhaps biased in considering its university (photo 22,035 bytes), in its lakeside parkland setting, one of Britain's most beautiful buildings. Other important Nottinghamshire towns are Mansfield, Newark and Worksop, but their combined population is less than half that of the city.
Despite its industrial town and villages, the west of the county is still largely agricultural, and contains the remnants of once mighty Sherwood Forest (which once stretched 25 miles form Nottingham to Worksop), as well as several great public parks which were once stately homes in the area known as the Dukeries. This name came from the fact that four 18th century dukes lived as neighbours in this area - the grounds of their homes are some of the parks mentioned. Newstead Abbey, once the home of the poet Lord Byron, is also found here not far north of Nottingham. Traditionally the sandy soils in this part of the county have been used mainly to grow barley and to rear sheep, while the heavy clays to the east have been used for wheat, beans and cattle, with sugar beet of major importance since its introduction.
The ancient Great North Road (now the A1 trunk road) passes through the eastern side of the county, through Newark and Retford, while the modern M1 motorway goes up the west, passing close to Nottingham and Mansfield, the two roads meeting just over the Yorkshire boundary near Doncaster. The old Fosse Way (now the A46 trunk road) runs north east to south west across the southern part of the county, from Lincoln through Newark and on to Leicester and beyond.
Other ancient remains include a tumulus at Potter's Hill, near Collingham, both Stone Age and Bronze Age remains at the Roman settlement near East Bridgford and two hill forts near Farnsfield. Hundreds of piles driven into the bed of the River Trent near Nottingham are thought to have supported huts about 400BC, and two canoes found in the Trent near Clifton are considered to be over 2,000 years old.
The Romans seem to have been active in Nottinghamshire throughout their occupation of the country. Two of their main roads pass through, the Fosse Way (Lincoln to Exeter) diagonally across the south, passing through Newark, where the road just reached but did not cross the Trent, and the Lincoln to Doncaster road in the north. There were at least five Roman stations in the county, including Vernometum on the Fosse Way near Willoughby, Bilborough, Newark (I do not know their Roman names), Margidunum, also on the Fosse Way at East Bridgford and Segelocum at Littleborough, where the Lincoln to Doncaster road crossed the Trent. There was a ford at the latter in the time of Hadrian, and later a ferry. Margidunum was an important settlement throughout the Roman occupation, covering 7 acres, enough to hold 1,000 men plus some cavalry. Roman coins from Constantine (emperor 306-337 AD), Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) and Vespasian (69-79 AD) have also been found at Mansfield. There are also the remains of a suspected Roman bridge over the Trent at Winthorpe.
The county remained important in Saxon times, when Mercian kings had a residence at Mansfield and a castle, called the Key to the North, was first built at Newark. In 617 AD Battle of Idel took place at Eaton - Redwald of Anglia killed Ethelfrith, usurper of the throne of Northumbria, and restored Edwin to that position. Later the Danes used the Trent as a ready means of access to the centre of the country, and made Nottingham their main fortress against attacks by Saxons from further south.
The Normans, as elsewhere, used castles to help impose their will on the conquered Saxons, rebuilding that at Newark and building another at Nottingham. Both towns remained of great importance throughout the Middle Ages, which is when coal mining began in Nottingham. Many mediæval kings frequently visited the county to hunt the deer in the royal forest of Sherwood, and King John died in Newark Castle.
The end of the Wars of the Roses is generally accepted as marking the end of the mediæval period in England. Its final and conclusive battle took place at East Stoke in 1487, when Henry VII destroyed a Yorkist army (nominally supporting the fake claims of the duped youth Lambert Simnel). The defeated Yorkist army included 5,000 men recruited in Ireland and 1,500 German mercenaries. Between 6,000 and 7,000 men died in the battle. The rebel leader, the Earl of Lincoln (who had some real claim to the throne and planned to take over when the dust had settled) was among the casualties. He had earlier been spared and had sworn loyalty to Henry after fighting for Richard III on the losing side at Bosworth in 1485.
Both Nottingham and Newark played an important role in the Civil War. It was at Nottingham that Charles I raised his standard to begin the war, and later Nottingham Castle, held for the Parliamentary side by Colonel Hutchinson, successfully withstood a siege. Newark Castle was unsuccessfully besieged three times by Cromwell's Parliamentary forces, who constructed earthworks at Sconce Hills (then just outside the town) which remain probably the best preserved such works from that war in the country. Like many others, both castles were demolished when the war was over.
The site and stones of Nottingham Castle were used by the Duke of Newcastle to build an imposing palace for his own use, but this was burnt down during the machine breakers' riots in the 19th century. The mansion built on the site 40 years later is now a museum.
Each of the two fields in cultivation at any one time is divided into strips, separated by grass paths which are used for access and for a communal hay crop. Each tenant is allocated ten strips, more or less randomly distributed across the two fields. The allocation is carried out annually by a jury, and was originally intended to ensure a fair allocation of good and poor land among the tenants. The jury is elected each year by the tenants to carry out this function and to impose fines (via the manorial court) on any transgressors against the rules. The whole system is presided over by the lord of the manor, who receives rent from the tenants for their land.
Nottinghamshire County Council site gives much general information about the county, and the council has now set up a specialist Nottinghamshire tourism site.
Pictures and information about Nottingham can be found on this site, which I think is professional.
Sherwood Forest has its own web site.
As with other counties, the first port of call for on-line genealogists should be the Nottinghamshire GENUKI site.
Nottinghamshire Local History Association will be of interest to some family history researchers.
Nottinghamshire Family History Society should be of major interest to all family history researchers with interests in the county.
Nottinghamshire Lookup Exchange is a list of volunteers willing to do free lookups, as and when they have time, in resources they happen to have available to them.
The Broxtowe Hundred site is worth a look for those with an interest in that part of the county.
Nottinghamshire surnames list lists names other people are researching. There is a separate web site to add your names to the list.
The following are the web sites of other Nottinghamshire family history researchers. At the time of writing I have just received this list from David Litchfield (owner of the last site on the list), and haven't had time yet to look at them. Once I have done so I may comment further on what you can find there:
If you have a major interest in Nottinghamshire genealogy, you can join a mailing list devoted to the subject. The list owner, Hugh Winters, has asked me to give the following joining instructions:
This is a discussion area for anyone who has an interest in genealogy related to the England County of Nottingham, the surnames you are researching, and the sharing of any data related to the history of Nottingham which would help genealogists researching in this area.
It is hoped that the genealogists would like to contribute the following:
To subscribe to the list, send a message to:
in the body of the message (not the subject line - anything you put in the subject line is ignored). You DO NOT have to leave the subject line blank. It is IGNORED except to quote it back to you if there is an error.
Anyone with ancestors in Nottinghamshire is welcome to join.
A map of Nottinghamshire parishes has been made available by Clive Henly.
Beckingham: 1634, 1637, 1641
Calverton: 1617, 1623
Cropwell Bishop: 1638, 1641
Darlton: 1622, 1633, 1641
Halam: 1622, 1637
Halloughton: 1622, 1633, 1641
Holme: 1623, 1625, 1628, 1638, 1641
Kirklington: 1622, 1638
Morton: 1622, 1623
North Muskham: 1623, 1633, 1638
South Muskham: 1623
Norwell: 1638, 1641
Southwell: 1633, 1641
Upton: 1633, 1638
Woodborough: 1623, 1627, 1637, 1638, 1640
C.R.J Currie and C.P.Lewis A Guide to English County Histories (Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1994), ISBN 0-7509-1505-6.
A. Room: Dictionary of British Place Names (1988), ISBN 1 85605 1775.
A.D. Mills: A Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford University Press, 1991, revised 1995), ISBN 0-19-869156-4.
A. Mee: The King's England - Nottinghamshire (Hodder and Stoughton, 1938).
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