Nottinghamshire Environmental Association

by | 3 April 2024 | Environment, Heritage, Sherwood

39 members and two visitors were fascinated by the most recent talk to Nottinghamshire Environmental Association, this one being given by Ian Morgan. Although the given title was ‘Footpads, Kings and Highwaymen’, it turned out to be largely about the Old Great North Road in Nottinghamshire.

Starting towards the south of the County, Ian covered the occupation and uses of Newark Castle, which was involved in the Civil War. It is believed that in 1644 the Newark Parish Church was damaged by cannon fire, there being three round damage marks on the spire still visible today.

Stagecoaches would change horses and passengers would stay the night or simply buy food at local inns around the marketplace. The Great North Road passed through the centre of Newark until 1964 when, like Retford, it was bypassed by the existing A1. Newark remained important to the route as it had a long-established bridge crossing the River Trent.

Tuxford was the next largish location on the route as it had a market to attract local people. It also had a ‘lockup’ or jail, which can still be seen in the village. Stagecoach users were, however, wary of staying in Tuxford as it had a bad reputation for highwaymen.

The next coaching inn was Ye Olde Bell in Barnby Moor, which has a long reputation as a stopping place. The route of the Great North Road was direct from Markham Moor, crossing what is now Gamston airfield, Jockey House Lane (see the milestone there) through Morton hamlet and to Barnby Moor, following a road which runs alongside Ranby Prison.

In 1760 the Bailiffs of Retford asked the local MPs to request a change in the route of the road. This was successful and the Great North Road went right through the middle of Retford – London Road, Carolgate, Bridgegate and North Road. New inns opened and evidence of their coaching business can be seen in the arches at a number of those still standing.

It is thought that Retford is a corruption of the title ‘red ford’ where the road now crossed the River Idle at the point where the bridge now exists across the river.

From Barnby Moor the road ran up to Bawtry, right through the village of Scrooby, which was the origin of the Pilgrim Fathers who crossed to America on the Mayflower. Bawtry is, of course, in Yorkshire and Ian Morgan finished on the point that there is a house on the Great North Road which is addressed as – Number 1, Yorkshire!

Talks and visits are open to members and non-members. Membership costs £10.00 annually plus £2.00 per indoor talk, to include a drink and a biscuit at each talk. For non-members the talk fee is £3.50. Outdoor visits take place in the summer months.

Indoor meetings start from 7.30pm at Hallcroft Community Centre on Randall Way, Retford. Doors open at 7.10pm and there is plenty of parking. Refreshments are served after each talk when members get the chance to chat.

The next talk, on 4th April, is ‘Medicinal Plants: A Medicine Chest in your Garden’. 16th May sees the start of the group’s outdoor season, with a visit to Frampton Marsh RSPB Reserve in the morning and National Trust’s Peckover House in the afternoon. Places must be booked in advance.

For further information please contact Adrian Blackburn at or call / text 07718 766873 or Paul Willcock at or call / text 07581 531595. New members are always very welcome to join.