Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

A Community Study - 1974 - by Sue Jones


Woodborough is a vastly expanding village. It lies in a long shallow valley about one mile across and three and a half miles long. Although it is only seven miles (north east) from the city of Nottingham, it is a quiet village with a beautiful view from any approach. The village has a lengthy history, but now the inherited Market Gardening community is gradually being replaced and many people are travelling out of the village to work in the City [Nottingham].

Historic development of Woodborough and the Hall: Woodborough was formally part of Sherwood Forest and its history traces back nearly 1000 years before the Norman Conquest. There was a Roman Fort at one end of the village and the trenches and ramparts can be found in Fox Wood. Woodborough was then called Udeburg; (Ude-Wood Burgh-Saxon Ford) and gradually it changed — Wodeburgh — Woodburgh to Woodborough (Borough probably because of the Fox Wood where there were once many foxes).

At the time of the Conquest, Woodborough belonged to the Church, (Southwell Minster) and partly Lay property of the three Thane owners being Ulchel, Aluric and Aldene. It was recorded in the Domesday Book of being the property of the Manor of Peveril, i.e. William the Conqueror’s natural son William Peveril. The principal resident owner (inherited from the Peverils) was a Norman family which took the name de Wodeburg, and the son Ralph became Lord of Woodborough. In about 1316 AD the property passed from Henry de Wodeburg to the Strelley family. Richard de Strelley became Lord of the Manor and lived in the first Woodborough Hall. He was a Knight of the Shire, represented the County in Parliament and helped rebuild the Church. There were about fourteen generations of Strelleys and for about three hundred years owned the largest part of Woodborough, as well as many other local villages.

In 1612, the vast Property passed from the childless Christopher Strelley, by sale to George Lacock, whose son Phillip pulled down the Hall and built the present building in 1710. The next owners were the Bainbridge family who occupied the Hall for a hundred years. An Elizabeth Bainbridge lived alone in the huge Hall. She lived a simple, plain life and was very benevolent, giving money to poor houses and £1,000 to the Nottingham General Hospital. At sheep shearing time, she is still thought of for her “Fromety” — a mixture of wheat, milk, currants and raisins — which was eaten at the Hall by the invited villagers who brought spoons and one bowl to share between four people.

The Story family were the next to inherit the estate in 1810 and they altered the Hall greatly. From that date, various people lived in the Hall, including Mr Mansfield Parkyns who not only decorated his own home with beautiful wood carvings, but carved many similar items for the Church, most of which are still there. After the Second World War, the Hall was occupied by Royal Air Force personnel, and at the present time [1974] it is the home of the General Officer Commanding the Forty Ninth Division of the Army. Once every year, on Feast Sunday, the Hall grounds are opened to the public during the evening. This is a tradition which has gone on for many years and is still carried on.

There are sites of three manor houses in Woodborough, one of which now has a new housing estate built on the land and is now called “Old Manor Close” formerly the site of Nether Hall. There is also a Manor House and Manor Buildings situated in the middle of the village.

Religion: In many of the local history books, Woodborough is referred to as a Non-Conformist village. Apart from the very old Anglican Church, the village boasts a Baptist Chapel, and a Methodist Church. In the early 18th century the Wesleyan movement started in a room in what is now the Post Office. In 1887 a Wesleyan Chapel was built. A small group of Primitive Methodists started funds for their Chapel in 1851. An even smaller group of nine Baptists started Baptist meetings in 1827 and a few years later built a Chapel [Shelt Hill]. In 1963 the Wesleyan and the Methodist Chapels joined together to meet in the Wesleyan Chapel building [opposite the Four Bells Inn] and this is now known as the Methodist Church. This building was modernised and the old Primitive Methodist Chapel was converted into a garage. The various Churches have a far better attendance than in days gone by where the history books constantly state that the Church was always empty.

The Anglican Church: The Church is dedicated to St Swithun and it has quite a lengthy history, the first Church ever being 1000 years ago. There is no date on the first ever Church but it was built in Saxon times and is recorded in the records of Southwell Minster (the Mother church for the district) that Woodborough was granted the privilege of a Church at this time.

In 1150 this Church was pulled down and a Norman Church was built, the only remains of this Church now being one foundation, the Norman door, which is visible on the north elevation. Also the font which is still used today and this is a very beautiful stone one.

The Norman Church was pulled down in 1360 when the present Church was built by the Strelley family. The Chancel is a fine specimen of 14th century decorated work. The original stained glass in the windows was removed about 100 years ago. The actual shape of the Church is a cross, although it was never completely finished. The tower was probably added a few years later. Various possessions etc. in the Church are engraved with the names of the people who gave them and these are the old Woodborough families. The bells were given by the Lacock and Strelley families, the Communion table by one of the Ward family. In the 17th and 18th century the Church was neglected and village tradition states that in 1770 the Church was “awful, cold and damp, not fit for a pig to live in”, soil was heaped against the walls to drain away water from the roof. The inside walls were white-washed every five years to kill the mould and fungus growing there, birds could fly in and out; there was not a sound seat in the Church. However, the Rev. Oldacres improved the Church in 1837 and Mr Mansfield Parkyns, did some beautiful carved woodwork there about 1894. This work is still very much admired by visitors to the Church today. Even at the present time, the Church has very strong connections with the School, which was founded by a Vicar, and of which the Rev. Oldacres was a Headmaster.

Education: The Primary School. Originally in 1736, the Rev. Mountague Wood held classes in the old Vicarage until in 1876 then a new school was built, “Woodborough Woods Foundation School”. It was a Church of England school and for 93 years the school took between 40 and 100 children at a time with three members of staff. The headmaster lived in a school house attached to the school building. Due to the lack of modern facilities and overcrowding of the school owing to the expanding growth of the village, a new school was built. This modern CLASP system school has many facilities and is still a Church of England school. It was completed in 1965 and now in 1975 over two hundred children attend with five full time staff and one part time.

Secondary Education: There are no secondary education facilities within the village. Until recently there was a considerable choice of Grammar, Technical and Secondary schools within ten miles. Now the only choice available is a Secondary Modern School, the new Comprehensive School at Calverton, three miles away, or the Nottingham High School in the City for which an examination is taken at the age of 8 and fees must be paid.

Further Education: There are no further full time facilities in Woodborough. However, the State does run evening and morning classes for adults in such courses as painting, flower arranging, history, keep fit, dressmaking and a nature course during the winter months.

The prospectus in 1782 shows that for the first ever school in Woodborough at the Old Rectory. The salary as school master was £30 a year.

Terms for Board and Education at the Rev. Oldacres Academy in Woodborough near Nottingham.

Welfare Provisions

Doctors: The nearest doctor is in Calverton, it is rather inconvenient because of the bus service; one has to walk one way if using the bus or alternatively wait two hours in Calverton, there is a very steep hill between the two villages. However, a doctor will always make a home call; there are three doctors and one nurse in the group practice. Several women have recently formed an emergency service for transport to the surgery in case of emergency and also for visiting or attending hospital. This has proved an enormous benefit to both young and old.

Clinic: A clinic is held once a fortnight in the new Village Hall for babies and children under five years old. Once a month a Doctor is in attendance.

Chiropody Service: A chiropodist attends in the village once every two months and will make a home visit to old or disabled people.

Old People’s Bungalows: In 1962 a row of old cottages was demolished and the Council built 29 modern bungalows for people over 60 years of age. The bungalows consist of a living room, kitchen, hall, bathroom, one double and one single bedroom. Central heating has recently been installed and the rent is £5 35p per week, plus rates.


Grocers: Co-operative Stores — quite a new large store. The old Co-op is now a newsagents shop. Very good prices compared to Nottingham, slightly higher, but a very obliging and convenient shop.

Self Service Store — privately owned shop. Limited in choice, prices rather high although weekly offers are good. A very good cooked meats counter and an off licence in the shop opening hours. Delivery service.

Small private shop — run by an old gentleman, small range of goods. Prices low, but some of the stock is rather old. Known by children for taking a few pence and coming away with a bag of assorted sweets.

Post Office — also sells good greengrocery and various other goods.

Butchers — second building down from the Post Office on the photo. Rather expensive but very good meat. Slaughters animals on the premises. Delivery service to take orders and deliver three times a week as well as shop.

Newsagents — also sells other goods, e.g. gifts, stationery, household goods, cosmetics and confectionery. Open long hours, good paper delivery service, rather expensive shop.

Haberdashery and draper — sells mainly wool etc. dresses and baby goods. Fairly good selection, also takes dry cleaning and laundry.

Dairy — delivery service. Normal prices. Unusual system operates here, anyone wanting extra milk, cream, eggs etc. can help themselves from the large fridge and enter their names in a book. Surprisingly none is ever stolen.

Although prices are high and choice is somewhat limited, Woodborough has adequate shopping facilities with a good personal service and delivery.

Garage — a small garage is run in the village, supplying petrol, appears to be very successful.

Rose and Flower Nurseries — open most days for the sale of shrubs and flowers.

Transport: The only transport is the bus service which is the privately owned Barton’s Bus Company. The service runs to and from Nottingham once per hour, via Lambley and then via a shopping development at Mapperley en route to the city centre.

Once every two hours, the bus comes through Woodborough and goes on to Epperstone, a small village, returning the same way. On the alternate hour, the bus comes through Woodborough and goes on to Calverton, returning the same way. Many people use this service to travel from Woodborough to Calverton to use the facilities there, such as library, dentist, doctors’ surgery and shopping facilities.

Many people used to use Lowdham railway station to catch the train to Nottingham as Lowdham is only three miles away, but as there is now no public transport to Lowdham, very few people from Woodborough use the train.

Most people in the village have a car, as the bus service is very limiting and takes over 30 minutes into the City whereas by car it only takes about 20 minutes. Also the bus fare is quite expensive as follows: single fares from Woodborough to Nottingham 17 pence; Calverton to Nottingham 10 pence; and Woodborough to Calverton 10 pence.

Death Rate – Birth Rate: Although there are no figures obtainable, I would say that due to the number of young couples who have recently moved into the new estates the birth rate slightly outnumbers the death rate

Population – Age Group Distribution: The population of Woodborough is approximately 1500 and there are no official figures available regarding age group distribution owing to the small breakdown of figures and the constantly shifting population. It would appear however, that there are slightly more children under the age of 11 years (primary school age) due to the fact, as mentioned above, of many of the occupants of one new estate particularly being fairly young couples with an average of two children of primary school age. On the second new estate, there are quite a few retired couples, some with late teenage children still living at home. Occupying twenty nine “over 60’s” bungalows are approximately forty people of pension age as well as several pensioners living in other parts of the village.

Rate of Employment-Unemployment: I could not obtain any official figures as to unemployment, but there is no unemployment problem in the village. The majority of male inhabitants are fully employed. Very few of the wives go out to work, apart from casual seasonal work in the village, and the school leavers appears to have no difficulty in obtaining work either at Calverton or Nottingham.

Most of the inhabitants of the new estates particularly are business men working in or around Nottingham. A few of the older original villagers still work as market gardeners, and some are employed by the National Coal Board at Calverton colliery.

Housing: The housing situation in Woodborough is very interesting, as it is of three main types.

The old type of housing is mainly along the Main Street. These old cottages are under preservation order, as rural Notts classifies Main Street as being of special rural and historic interest and development here is supposed to be under strict control. The Green Belt area is supposed to limit development for building as it is an agricultural priority area and an area of special landscape value. However, these plans made in 1965 have not been followed and many of the cottages have been sold and renovated. The majority of these cottages are bought by town people who pay thousands of pounds for poor property. An example, a cottage was purchased for £10,000 and it consisted of two bedrooms, living room, small kitchen and no other facilities. A bathroom was added and the property was later sold for £18,000. Therefore these cottages do not remain in the hands of the old village families. Many of the local young people have to move away from the village to Calverton where the housing stock is cheaper.

The second type of houses built are very large houses and bungalows, built around 1968 on odd plots of land. These bungalows cost £25,000 and four were built on the old cricket field [on Bank Hill, opposite Woodborough Hall]. These houses and bungalows do however, fit in quite well in design to the village and do not come close up to the road, although again, they have made Woodborough even more of a residential area putting up the prices of houses.

The third type of houses and the ones which have caused the old villagers to be bitter about newcomers, are the houses built on two main large housing estates, one of which stands high on a hill [Doverbeck & Sunningdale properties] and can be seen from all points around the village and this estate has a very untidy and hot-potch appearance. Although the houses are not all large houses, they are all very expensive and out of the price range of many young people. It is still queried how planning permission was granted for the large number of houses on such a small acreage.

Recently a large plot of land was sold, due to the landowner’s death. The land, at the auction, out-priced the local Market Gardeners and was therefore sold for building. The Parish Council called a village meeting to inspect the plans for a further eighty six houses, and due to the bends on the Main Street, entrances and exits to this proposed estate have been queried and the matter is now between the builders and the Parish Council for amendment to the plans.

These estates started to grow about ten years ago, and have continued ever since, and this has altered the population. One night say that it could have boosted trade for local shops, but this is not generally so, as most of the new people tend to shop in the city.

Industry: Woodborough and its neighbouring village of Calverton have always been close in community life. Both villages had always been poor, being farming and market gardening communities until 1589 when William Lee invented the stocking frame. Both villages have claimed that he was born there, however he is registered in both parish records, suspiciously not until 1589. However it would seem that he was born in Woodborough but lived in, and was the Rector of Calverton church. By the early 17th century both Woodborough and Calverton were thriving stocking frame villages — 70 in Woodborough and 84 in Calverton, the work being split between stocking frames at home and farming. Many old cottages with stocking frame windows can be seen today in the two villages.

Woodborough is a complete contrast to Calverton. It has continued to be a market gardening area because of the rich clay soil. The village is very busy during the summer months when the Market Gardeners have a good trade in flowers, strawberries and vegetables. Many people are attracted to the fruit farms where you can pick your own fruit.

Many new people have moved into Woodborough, but most of them are business people who work in the nearby towns, who continue to travel daily into town, mostly by car. Few women go out to work. A few people do travel to Calverton.

Entertainment: Considering the small size of the village it supports many varied types of entertainment for all ages.

Public Houses — years ago when the inhabitants of Woodborough totalled 900, there were six public houses, the Bugle Horn, the Punch Bowl, New Inn, the Half Moon and the two still open today, the Nag’s Head and the Four Bells, both of which have recently been modernised. The previous former inns are now private houses. The Nag’s Head and the Four Bells are very much village public houses, although the lounge bars do attract outsiders. The Nag’s Head has a garden which is suitable for children and is therefore very busy during the summer months.

Feast Sunday — this is always the first Sunday after 2nd July, and a Committee is formed each year to provide a childrens’ tea party on the Saturday followed by sports for children and adults including all sorts of hilarious games. Until a few years ago a Fair came to the village but this has now stopped, however this year a great effort is being made to re-start the Fair. On Feast Day, Mr Mansfield Foster, known to the locals as Manny, brings out his traction engine as an added attraction.

The Flower Show — this is another village event which has been going for a long time. Various cups and prizes are given for the best vegetables, flowers, gardeners etc. prizes are also given for flower arrangements, cakes, jams etc. including a junior section.

As will be seen, most of the entertainment in the village is made by the residents. There is no commercial entertainment and really no need for any. There are films shows, fashion shows, concerts and coffee evenings on a frequent basis.

South Notts Hunt — this takes place in the fields around Woodborough and comprises stables and kennels. It is quite a big hunt and twice during the Season they meet at the Nags Head and the Manor House for a drink to help them on their way.

The Community Association — this was started in 1964 when there was conflict between the old villagers who thought that the newcomers were intruding, and the newcomers who did not appreciate the tempo of the village. The aim therefore of this Association was to join the two, also to provide entertainment for the village and provide new facilities and equipment for clubs by fund raising. This Association was very successful and has not only provided such gifts as a new slide in the Playing Field [Governors’ Field], but by fund raising, it started off funds for a new Village Hall, although most of it is being paid for by Village rates.

The Community Association provide entertainment such as traditional village concerts which really join new and old village people, especially the older villagers who remember the concerts in days gone by. The Association also gives a Christmas Dinner and entertainment for the old people at Christmas and an outing during the summer. They also organise the biggest event of the year in the village and that is Street Market where the car parking area around the Four Bells Inn is used for stalls, together with the Playing Field [Governors’ Field] on the opposite of the road.

The various stalls include cakes, produce, sweets, pottery, white elephant etc., and each organisation in the village has a stall. There is also a small fair, a fortune teller, games, teas, a group of local buskers, and one of the original Barton’s buses which tours the village giving rides. The Church is also open displaying paintings by local people including a competition, and a display of old photographs.

The thing that really makes this fund raising so authentic is the ‘Olde Worlde’ costume worn by everyone. This fete is always opened by the Town Crier ringing his bell and shouting. This event is always held in July and an added attraction to the villagers and outsiders is the fact that the local public house is open from 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock in the evening. This event brings a great many people into the Village.

In May 1965, Woodborough made the headlines of local newspapers and was featured on television when three planes collided over the Village while practising air stunts. It was a miracle that no-one was injured as wreckage landed all over the Village and while the children were on their way to school.

The community feeling of the village people was shown by the way everyone packed the Church for a thanksgiving service the following evening. Now a plaque in the Church now reads: “On May 26th 1965, three planes collided over this Village. Thanks be to God no-one was hurt”.

Conclusion — we can see how Woodborough has developed from being a poor village ruled by the Lord of the Manor and the Church into a prosperous community, with the land which was once making money for the village people, now taking money for town property developers. One wonders whether it will all end with the Market Gardening business dying out and Woodborough becoming a totally residential area for rich business men.



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