Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

The Nottinghamshire Village Book - by Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes


Rising from the Dover Beck to 470 ft at Dorket Head and surrounded by un spoilt scenery, the long village Main Street extends along the valley floor and has the Woodborough Beck running through it. There was a settlement here from early times when it was known as Udeburg (Ude’s Fort) and in Foxwood there is an oval Iron Age earthwork and hill fort with evidence of later Roman occupation.

From the 16th to the early 20th Century the village was a framework knitting centre, as witnessed by many cottage windows and old knitters’ workshops still in existence. As late as 1844 there were still 191 frames working but as this cottage industry gradually declined many of the knitters and their families turned to market gardening as the soil is very fertile.

A famous villager was the Rev’d George Brown, born in 1759 into a family of framework knitters. In 1788 he became an itinerant minister preaching the gospel as he travelled far and wide; he was known as ‘the Walking Concordance’ on account of his extensive knowledge of the Bible. He died in Woodborough in 1833 and is buried in the churchyard.

The church, dedicated to St Swithun, has a Norman font a north porch way. The tower was built in the 13th century with additions made in the 15th and the handsome 14th century chancel was erected by Richard de Strelley, Knight of the Shire, who represented the county in Parliament from 1331-1336. There were four bells in the tower and a local rhyme describes their sound in comparison with neighbouring churches.

            Calverton crack pancheons
            Woodborough merry bells
            Oxton ding dongs
            Lowdham egg shells

Woodborough Hall was built in the 17th century on the site of one of the former manors by Philip Lacock. It has a magnificent carved well staircase. Alterations carried in 1850 for Mansfield Parkyns were probably the work of the famous local architect T C Hine.

The old vicarage on Lingwood Lane has a pancake bell tower and the bell is rung at 11 a.m. every Shrove Tuesday to tell the housewives to prepare the batter for their pancakes. The original Woodborough Woods School was established in this building in 1736 and transferred to the ‘Old School’ in 1878 and to new premises in 1968, all within a stone's throw of one another. The village pinfold is still maintained on Main Street.

Woodborough Feast is celebrated on the first Sunday after the 2nd July and nowadays there are sports and tea for the children, a special service on Feast Sunday and usually a small fair and steam engines. In times past the feast was held at sheep shearing time and took the form of a ‘Fromety Feast’ when villagers went to the Hall to celebrate with Fromety (wheat) – cakes. Elizabeth Bainbridge was one of the Hall owners in the 18th century who maintained this tradition and was well known for her benevolence in many ways.

Plough Monday was another important date when local lads acted their version of the traditional mummers’ play, going round the cottages by the light of a stable lantern to perform this ancient right with the following words: 

            In comes I, old Easom Squeesom,
            On my back I carry a besom,
            In my hand a frying pan,
            Don’t you think I'm a jolly old man?

            In comes I, Big Belly Ben,
            Can eat more meat than ten score men.
            Eat a pig, eat a calf,
            Eat a butcher and a half.
            And then my big belly’s not full.

            In comes I, the soldier.
            What can you do?
            I can shoot!
            Then shoot him! (shoots Big Belly Ben)

            In comes I, the Doctor!
            What can you do?
            I can cure hipsy, pipsy, palsy and gout,
            Pains within and pains without.
            Cure him then! (they point to Big Belly Ben)
            (Doctor kneels and cures him)

Then they sang ‘We are the jolly plough boys’ and were given a glass of home-made wine and continued on their merry rounds.

Other musical traditions were the village band which performed well into the 1950’s and the Woodborough Carol was sung at Christmas and other special services. Sunday School parades used to take place on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.

At one time there were about a dozen alehouses in the village; some such as The Bugle Horn and the Half Moon have disappeared and others such as The Cock and Falcon, The New Inn, and The Punch Bowl have become private residences. The only two that remain are The Four Bells and The Nag's Head.

Today the village has doubled in size with modern housing developments, although most of Main Street and some other areas have been declared a conservation area. The population is still involved in mixed farming and market gardening but there is also a large commuter element. A large number of very active organisations cater for all age groups and interests.


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