At East Markham WI’s August meeting, Ian Morgan spoke on ‘Footpads, Kings and Highwaymen’. Ian took members on a 34-mile journey through Nottinghamshire, along the Great North Road, which is now today’s A1. But how would the traveller of the past find his way along this road?
The earliest maps of the 1600s showed places but no roads. Later maps showed some connections, but it was easy to get lost and the easiest way to travel was to hire a guide. Travellers were attacked regularly by robbers, who hid in the roadside undergrowth or were on horseback. Ian told of James VI of Scotland, as James I of England, riding south down the road and of the Civil War, with Newark being a Royalist town throughout the conflict.
After the war, travel resumed, on foot, by private coach or mail coach. There were many tales of highwaymen and robbery in Nottinghamshire, the names of Nevison and Nix being prominent. Dick Turpin was mentioned but it is not certain that he was in the local area. It was said that to evade capture after a London robbery, Nix rode from London to Edinburgh in 48 hours! Fact or fiction? Who knows?
The road had many twists and turns, and it was still easy to get lost. From Tuxford the road ran to Markham Moor, from where there was a choice of ways to go north. In the mid-1750s the road was moved to go through Retford, which became a toll road, after they were introduced in the 1760s.
North from Retford, the road went to Scrooby and then left the county at Bawtry. There are many stories of highwaymen and robbery along the Nottinghamshire section of the Great North Road – but how many of them are true?
As members travelled with Ian they heard of the fire which devastated Tuxford in 1701, with a National Collection being made to rebuild the town, and of the town’s 1823 Lock-up. Ian also told of how Newark, on the River Trent, was saved from flooding by James Smeaton, an engineer, who built a bridge and roads which still exist and were passable in the last local floods.
On 20th September there was a change to the advertised programme: Helen Day’s talk on Ladybird Books was replaced by a talk from a former Beefeater. The next meeting is Tuesday 18th October. New members and visitors (£4.00) are always welcome. For information call 01777 87106 or 07971 291883.