Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

This leaves no doubt that the Poor Houses and Gardens and the Foxwood Gardens were houses and lands purchased by the Overseers under the old Poor Law for the Housing and Employment of Paupers.


We admit that the beginning of the present century was a time of great poverty and distress owing to the exhaustion of England by the wars of Napoleon which ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. But the face of the staunchest advocate of outdoor relief must blanch as he examines the Parish Accounts of 1818 for the Poor of the Parish of Woodborough. He will be forced to admit that the Poor Law was then hastening to the ruin of the farmer and the pauperization of the labourers. The accounts of John Morley, Overseer of the Poor, for the year 1818, show that the Rateable Value of the Parish was £2,700 and the money disbursed for the Poor in that year amounted to no less than £568 1s. 5d. The amount of out-door relief varied from £29 18s. 3d. in the month of April to £69 6s. in the month of December. But the items are amazing. Out-door relief for men ranged from 4/- to 7/- a week: for women from 2/- to 5/-: for children from 2/- to 3/-. Relief is justly give to children of widows, but on the first page of the book we find relief varying from 2/- to 3/- a week given to no less than ten unmarried women for their illegitimate children, for only three of which any payment was made by the reputed fathers. Nothing could have been better calculated to discourage marriage, promote unchastity and propagate illegitimate paupers.[Monetary values for shillings and pence have often been expressed in two different ways, for example, two shillings and six pence can either be 2s. 6d. or 2/6. Note: if there were no pence then the latter would become 2/-. Ed]

In addition to this sum of £568 1s. 5d., the cost of the Parish Constable amounted to £83 10s. He appears from the items to have been Jack-of-all-Trades, Assistant Overseer, Rate and Tax Collector, and the Superintendent of Samuel Upton, who combined the duties of catching rats, "moules" and sparrows. In fact he did everything except catch thieves.

These expenses, with sundry items, amounted to £672 19s. 5d., which was raised by five rates at 10d. in the pound. In addition to this there was the Highway Rate at 6d. in the £1, making a total rate for the year of 4s. 8d. in the £1.

One of the results of the appalling pauperization of the people was that no Overseers would allow any stranger to enter the parish lest he should make a settlement there and become chargeable to the Poor Rate. Hence the labourer's parish became his prison, which he was unable to leave unless he first applied to the Churchwardens and Overseers for a bond which ran as follows:

"We, Thomas Tomlinson and William Wilson, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish of Lambley, do hereby own and acknowledge J. B., Framework Knitter and Amey his wife and John their child and family to be our inhabitants legally  settled in the Parish of Lambley and we do promise to receive back the said J. B., his wife and family whenever they shall become chargeable to or ask relief of the Churchwardens or Overseers of the poor of the Parish of Woodborough, to which place the said J. B. is now removing for the better support and maintenance of himself and his family."

There are about 70 of these bonds, ranging from 1706 to 1799, still preserved, all signed and sealed by the Churchwardens and Overseers, and countersigned by two Magistrates. Among the signatures there are autographs of Sir Thomas Parkyns, the wrestler, Philip Lacock, Francis Lacock, John Wood and William Bainbridge. Many of the names of these immigrants are still extant in Woodborough. There are also several Indentures by which the Overseers apprenticed pauper children to learn trades or to domestic services and various bonds by which the fathers of illegitimate children guaranteed the Overseers against all possible expenses to which, they might be put, also several Magisterial Warrants authorizing the Overseers to remove arid convey to their own parishes persons who had intruded themselves into the Parish of Woodborough without a Bond from the Overseers of their own parish. The whole are interesting as showing the enormous cost and the miseries of the old Poor Law.


The Puritan Rebellion of the Seventeenth Century left a lasting mark upon the Church, and in our opinion the measures passed after the Restoration for the Suppression of Nonconformity did further harm. The Church had done good work, in spite of the Papal Supremacy, up to the time of the Reformation, as is shown by her splendid buildings and her parochial organisation. She emerged from the agony of the Reformation cleansed from Roman doctrine and free from Roman control, but sadly impoverished and weakened. Then before she had time to recover herself, she had to meet the re-action of Puritanism and the tyranny of Cromwell. When we remember that 12,000 Clergy were ejected from the Parishes, of whom only 1,000 came back, and that their places were filled by Puritan Preachers, of whom 6,000 accepted Episcopal Ordination and conformed at the Restoration, we realize something of the extent to which the Church had lost her true character and had been leavened by Puritanism. The repressive methods of the Restoration only tended to keep this Puritanism with the Church, deadening her spiritual life and preventing her from resuming her true character. Nonconformists blame the Church for the Spiritual deadness of the Church in the eighteenth century. It would be more just to blame that Puritanism, which had become a deadening leaven, and which enervated the Church for about 200 years. But the revival, when it came, came from within. Wesley was a priest of the Church of England and his aim was to revive Church life and the ancient "Method" of the Church: but the full revival did not come till the nineteenth century when the leaders of the Oxford Movement, Newman, Keble and Pusey, completed the awakening, which has now penetrated to the most remote Parishes of the Country.

As regards Woodborough, the first beginning of Wesleyan Methodism was early in this century ¹. Preaching began in a house at the top of the village and in the present Post Office.  In 1812 the house occupied by Miss Lee was licensed for preaching, and the license is still retained. There were only three members at first, and a small Sunday School was opened in a shop on the site of the present Co-operative Store ², but in 1827, the increase of numbers justified the erection of the Old Wesleyan Chapel in Roe Lane and in 1887 the new Chapel was built at a cost of £665.

1: At the time this book was written 'this century'  would refer to the 19th century.
2: 'the site of the present Co-operative Store' is now occupied by a newsagent and a Post Office.

A prominent Nonconformist here was George Brown, born in 1759. He was educated at Wood's School, but was afterwards taken up by the Countess of Huntingdon, under whose help he received further educational advantages. He formed a small society of nine members here in 1827, which was merged into the Baptist Society.   

The Primitive Methodists began visiting in 1820. In 1851 they were strong enough to build a Chapel at a cost £134 10s., of which only £22 10s. was in hand. The debt was paid off by the assistance of Mr. Samuel Morley in 1865, and, soon afterwards, in 1871, the building was improved and enlarged.

In conclusion let me say that this little book would not have been printed now if I had not been leaving Woodborough. Further research would no doubt have brought out much further information and would have led to the correction of any errors which most probably exist in these pages. I must ask my readers to take it for what it is, an imperfect attempt to investigate the past history of the Church and Parish, which has been made in the hope that a fuller knowledge may help to promote a spirit of patriotism and a desire for unity and peace among the parishioners.

"O God, give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify Thee; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen;"

Rev. W E Buckland
Woodborough 1896

----------------------------- End ----------------------–


To the Prebend of Woodborough as a proprietor of lands the award also assigned 56a. lr. 25p. of Old Enclosure and 100a. 3r. 25p. of New Enclosure. The claim of the Ranger of Thorneywood Chase was satisfied by the award of 15a. 3r. 35p. of New Enclosure and the claims of the five Lords of the Manors by various awards amounting to 14a. lr. 24p. Then the award assigned 458a. lr. 34p. of Old Enclosure and 861a. 0r. 34p. of New Enclosure to upwards of forty proprietors. The figures, when added, show 513a. 3r. 19p. of Old Enclosure and 1,266a. 0r. 19p. of New Enclosure. In other words less than one-third of the Parish was enclosed before the Award, which reclaimed more than two-thirds of the area of the Parish from a condition of comparatively unproductive forest to become fertile arable and pasture land, maintaining labourers and producing corn and pasture, instead of maintaining donkeys and swine and producing oaks, acorns and rough grass.

The Award shows that the principal owners were Madame Bainbridge, 719a. 2r. 7p., John Taylor, Esq., 398a. 3r. 2p., and the Prebend of Woodborough, 143a. 2r. 15p. Next came the two Prebends of Oxton. The rest were all small proprietors ranging from about 50 acres down to a freehold house and garden of only two roods.

The only other point to be noticed is that the Officers of the Poor received "in lieu of the Town lands."

Buckland’s 1896 Book - The History of Woodborough etc.

Buckland ~ CHAPTER XV


Parish registers were instituted by Archbishop Cromwell under Henry VIII [sic., Cromwell, Thomas, was Vice-Regent and Vicar General, not an Archbishop] .His injunction dated Sept. 29, 1538, is as follows:

"The Curate of every Parish Church shall keep one book or register, which book he shall every Sunday take forth and in the presence of the Churchwardens, or one of them, write and record in the same all weddings, Christenings and burials made the whole week before; and for every time the same shall be omitted shall forfeit to the said Church iii s. iiii d. (3s  4d)"

But the entries were made on sheets of parchment, which were loose and liable to be lost, so that on Oct. 25, 1597, the Clergy of Canterbury in convocation made a new ordinance about registers with regulations for their custody which were embodied in the 70th Canon of 1603; as follows:

"In every Parish Church and Chapel within this realm shall be provided one parchment book at the charge of the Parish, wherein shall be written the day and year of every Christening, Wedding and Burial which have been in that Parish, since the time that the law was first made in that behalf, so far as the ancient books thereof can be procured, but especially since the reign of the late Queen. And for the safe keeping of the said book, the Churchwardens, at the charge of the Parish, shall provide one sure coffer, with three locks and keys; whereof the one to remain with the Minister, and the other two with the Churchwardens, severally; so that neither the Minister without the two Churchwardens, nor the Churchwardens without the Minister, shall at any time take that book out of the said coffer."

The original paper books exist in a few parishes but the oldest Registers now extant are transcripts made according to this order by qualified clerks who were sent round to collect and copy the loose sheets.

On 24th August, 1653, the Praise God Barebone's Parliament passed a law requiring the Clergy (not merely the episcopally ordained clergy but also the intruders) to give up their Registers to laymen, who were to be called parish Registrars and to enter fairly banns, marriages, births and burials under date, and to charge 4d. for every entry of birth or burial, Baptisms being excluded from the fee; i.e., in order to deprave the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Parliament gave the Parish Clerke fourpence to register the birth and to omit the Baptism even if administered. So for eight years, till 1660, the Sacrament of Baptism was not administered or not recorded. But to compensate for this unrighteous omission one of the first acts of Convocation after the Restoration was to draw up the Service of Adult Baptisms as now in the Prayer Book. In 1640 England was virtually a baptised nation, in 1660 virtually unbaptised. The resignation of their registers to laymen was bitterly resented by the Clergy, both Episcopal and Puritan, and the results are visible in the ill-written entries of those years in almost all registers. In the confusion also of the ejection of the Clergy, the intrusion of preachers and their ejection many registers were lost or wantonly destroyed.

In 1813 an Act called Rose's Act was passed which ordered every parish to be started with a new set of books, and since that date the registers have been kept on one uniform system. Rose's Act however made the absurd blunder of imposing the penalty of fourteen years imprisonment for falsifying a register and of directing that half the penalty should be received by the informer. The intention was excellent, but one result was that the old books were treated with less care than before. Only 812 registers exist which are perfect from 1538. Many have long gaps, missing pages, missing volumes and entries obliterated; numbers have been burnt, or spoilt by damp; others used to wrap up parcels or write bills on, and so on.

In 1837 the Civil Registration Act was passed, when the State undertook the duty and the General Register Office was formed in London. Apart from their value as Registers, these old books throw valuable light upon many events of Parochial History: they show the prevalence of christian names, the outbreaks of epidemics, the price of wheat and meat, the rate of wages; they give terriers of the tithe and glebe and church goods on the fly leaves; they show how laws were passed to foster certain interests, not the least curious being the vexatious Act of Charles II., 1677, which ordered the burial of man, woman and child in woollen, for the encouragement of the wool trade, a law which was not altered till 1814. There is hardly any parish register which does not record some interesting piece of local history and furnish food for reflection to the thoughtful reader.

After this introduction we approach our Registers with some little anxiety and curiosity.

The first volume is a parchment book 13 inches long by 5½ inches wide by 1½ inches thick. It consists of two portions, the middle part and the outsides. The middle part contains about 112 parchment leaves and is evidently the original portion, an unbound book purchased in 1599, into which all the original paper fly-leaves were copied. This is clear from the fact that the handwriting of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials is the same till 1599, in which year the handwriting and the ink are different. The first and last pages, especially the last, are brown and soiled by exposure. This middle portion has been bound up between six blank parchment leaves at the beginning and ten inscribed parchment leaves at the end, and then covered with two sheets of paper and two cardboard boards at each end. The boards are covered with white vellum. All the leaves are stitched in and then the edges have been cut smooth in the binder’s shears whereby portions of the outsides of the entries have been cut off. This binding must have been done after 1806, for the edges of baptisms in that year are clipped; the outer parchment leaves appear to have been added previous to the binding as the latter ones have entries beginning in 1729.

The Baptisms begin in 1547 and continue without break till 1555, when there is a gap to 1577. The Marriages begin in 1573 and the Burials in 1572. The entries are made in the same handwriting till 1599 and the ink is almost as black as ever. This hand is a beautiful hand, but has many flourishes, which at first makes it difficult to read, but one soon grows used to it. Another hand begins in 1599 and goes on till 1611 which is easier to read but the ink is brown and faded. After that the entries are in many hands but the writing is always neat and clear until we get to 1644, the time of the expulsion of the Clergy, the intrusion of preachers and the delivery of the registers to laymen. We then find many hands all untidy and bad, the entries being crowded in anyhow and almost unreadable. In 1651 we have the birth and the baptism together, viz.

"Katharine the daughter of Mountague Wood and Bridgett his wife was born the vi day of Feb. and was baptised the 24th of the same."

In 1654, out of eight entries, six are Baptisms but two are births, e.g.:  

"A sonne of Christopher Wild was borne 9 of September."

"Sara, the daughter of Thomas Croft, was borne the 3 day of September."

n 1655 there are three baptisms and three births in the same hand, and in 1656 there are three births in one hand and six baptisms in another. After that nearly all the entries are baptisms except two births in 1657 and three in 1658. So that it would appear that in spite of the Barebone’s ordinance and the fourpenny bribe the majority of the Woodborough parents insisted on having their children baptized, and the Registers were under the dual control of the parliamentary registrar and the intruded minister. After the Restorations the entries are in many hands and various inks with no signatures of ministers till in 1741 we find the clear bold hand and ruled lines of Maurice Pugh. There is no record of any burial in woollen, and from beginning to end the entries consist merely of names and dates, except that "Gent" or "Mistress" is inserted after or before the names of any of the principal landowners. John Allott’s collection for the fire at Willenhall and Maurice Pugh's Terrier on the fly-leaf have already been given.

This first register carries the Baptisms down to 1836, the Marriages to 1765, and the Burials to 1807. But the Marriages from 1754 to 1765 are repeated in a Marriage Register beginning 1754 and ending in 1813, in which the persons married and two witnesses sign. This book ends in 1812.

The Baptisms from 1807 to 1813 and the Burials from 1805 to 1813 are given in another Parchment Register, bound in brown cloth. This register also contains Burials from 1867 to 1879, when the Churchyard was closed. It ends with the Burial in 1894 of Mr. Mansfield Parkyns, who was buried in a brick grave in the Churchyard for which provision had been made. This Register also contains a Terrier of the Vicarial Lands and Church Goods, and a Table of Fees; also an account of a dispute between the Rev. S. L. Oldacres, as Vicar, and Miss Mathews, the Lay-Rector, in 1875, as to the herbage of the Churchyard. Miss Mathews claimed £2 2s. a year from Mr. Oldacres as rent of the Churchyard, but lost the case when tried before the County Court Judge at Nottingham. There is also a pencil entry as to the supposed fate of the old Church glass and an unsuccessful search for it at Bottesford.

The act of 1813 involved the purchase of the new official Registers, of which there are three. The Baptisms are continued in another Register, and in 1837 new Marriage Registers, in duplicate, were provided in accordance with the Registration Act of that date.

According to the Registers and taking the present death rate of 21·1 per 100 as a basis, the population of Woodborough in A.D. 1591-1600 was about 280, and was unchanged in A.D. 1691-1700, but in the years A.D. 1791-1800 it was just about 430. At the Census of 1891 it was 787.


An Act for dividing, allotting and inclosing the open and common fields, commonable lands and waste grounds within the Parish of Woodborough" was passed in 1795, and Jonas Bettison of Holme Pierrepont and John Bailey of Nottingham were the Commissioners appointed to make the award, which was completed in 1798. The Enclosure must have been of great benefit to the Parish Lands which when not enclosed produced oaks and rough grass were properly fenced and cleared so as to produce corn or good pasture, and then for the first time it paid the owners to put in some cultivation. This of course caused an increased demand for labour, so that the labourers benefited as well as the owners. The only fault that we can find is that none of the common land was reserved to form a Village Green or Recreation Ground where the children might play and the lads could practice cricket and football. The cost was enormous, no less than £3,630 3s. 11¾d., but the greater part of this was expended on permanent improvements requiring an immense amount of labour, so that the Parish acquired roads, drains and fencing, and the labourers earned very large amounts. The expenditure on roads and drains was £1,961 15s. 3d., and on fencing £448 15s. 2d. The legal expenses of obtaining the Act were £488 17s.; of collecting the rate £90 8s. 9d.; of engrossing, parchments and stamps, £184 11s. 7d., while the Commissioners received £434 6s. The balance went on various sundries.

After assigning 3a. 2r. in Grimesmoor Common to the Surveyor of Highways, the award cleared all lands of tithes by assigning to the tithe owners allotments of the New Enclosure as follows:

Back to top Next page