Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Woodborough: Down-Your-Way in 1969

Woodborough welcomes village newcomers: Woodborough, a village steeped in centuries of history and old world charm, at first sight seems little changed by the 20th century. It nestles peacefully in the hills. A steep descent leads down to the tree-lined Main Street, flanked on either side by old cottages, houses, fields, high walls and a few small shops.

There seems little to disturb the quiet but the car loads of day trippers who crowd the village in summer. But within the last few years new housing development have sprung up behind the houses on Main Street and have brought an enormous influx of new people to the village.

The new houses blend well with the old and have left little mark on Woodborough itself apart from the few modern bungalows and houses on Main Street. So, do the newcomers mix well with the old established residents, l the villagers, both new and old agree that it is “a very happy village”.

One welcome change the newcomers have brought about is the new school which was needed to accommodate all the young children coming to live in the village. It opened 18 months ago after much community effort to raise money. The county education authorities provided 80 percent of the cost but it was left to the village to find just over £20,000 and this they did.

Sir Frank Small, one of the village’s most prominent men, said that he would match each pound up to £1,000 raised by the village with one of his own. He kept his word and now less than £300 is needed.

Worked together: Sir Frank, who lives on Main Street, who is Vice-chairman and former chairman of the Nottinghamshire County Council. He was born in Lambley Parish but has lived most of his life in Woodborough, feels strongly about the value of the new school. “The building of the new school has done more than anything to bring people together in the village. The whole village worked together to raise the money”. He criticises the attitude of many people in small villages who resent the influx of newcomers from the towns. He feels newcomers reduce the sense of isolation and bring a lot of good to a village. “Look at the new school, it has only been built because of the newcomers and it had benefited the older residents. If the new does not come to a village it decays, each generation can make a contribution to village life”. Sir Frank feels there is a danger that, without care, village life can be destroyed and the village becomes just a dormitory for the city.

Market garden: He was knighted in 1967 and has been a magistrate since 1952. He has a long record of work for the community, serving on numerous boards and committees. He is a market gardener and now grows only three crops – brussel sprouts, spring cabbage and lettuce – and employs five men. He says that nowadays to survive “You specialise or you perish”.

Until a few years ago he grew potatoes as well and at one time kept stock, but, as he explained farming is an ever-changing business and to continue farmers have to specialise. “We are selling our produce at little more than we did ten years ago, but everything else costs three times as much”, he said.

Sir Frank’s house, The Homestead, is believed to be the oldest inhabited house in the village. Parts of it are between 500 and 600 years old. The first Methodist meetings in the village were held there and the house is still owned by the Methodists.

Inventor: One of the biggest influences on the village was the introduction of frame knitting. Woodborough claims for its owner the inventor of the first stocking frame – William Lee, a vicar of Calverton in the 16th century – but Calverton strongly contests this. The Lee [builder] family lived at the Homestead for decades until 1946 when Sir Frank took it over. Sir Frank himself worked as a stocking frame knitter in his youth, as were his father, two grandfathers and great-grandfathers. He left the village school when he was 12 and then started to work on the land, followed by a number of different jobs in his teens. “I wouldn’t have a regular job”, Sir Frank explained. “I wouldn’t settle down to anything; I wanted to be free”.

First car: In his youth, Sir Frank was a keen supported of Notts County Football Club and he can remember well walking to Lowdham to catch the train to watch matches. He can remember the first motor car to come to the village and says that when he was young it took 2½ hours to get to Nottingham by carrier’s cart. “We were lucky in those days to have a bike, but, I don’t hanker for the return of the old days. I think it’s a great privilege to have lived during the last 50 years”.

The new school, set in acres of playing fields, has a headmaster, Mr G.E. Sinfield, well established in Woodborough. He went to the village 18 years ago as headmaster of a small inadequate school, which was badly equipped, drab and old fashioned and later on, seriously over-crowded. Now he has a bright, modern school, with some of the best new teaching equipment with plenty of good staff and plenty of room for the 100 pupils.

The school has been built to accommodate 200 pupils to go along with the planned-for expansion of the village, and at the moment the children are enjoying a lot of individual teaching at one of the least crowded schools in the county. Only about a quarter of the children come from the new estates but this will soon increase. Television and tape recorders are in regular use at the school and the children have the use of a pottery room.

There are four classes and three full-time teachers as well as the headmaster who takes the senior form. A part-time teacher works three afternoons a week. Mr Sinfield was rather apprehensive at moving into the new school but is now intensely proud of it and has kept a pictorial record of the school since it opened. He is a church warden and member of the parish council, has been in teaching for the past 32 years. Before he went to Woodborough he was at Redhill Primary School. He has four daughters, and his youngest daughter is still at the new school. His wife was a nurse and his eldest daughter is now planning to follow in her footsteps.

Happy newcomer: One of the newcomers to the village, Mrs Cecilia England, a teacher at the school, also finds Woodborough a friendly happy place to live. She and her husband went to the village about 18 months ago from Scotland, and they live in one of the new houses in Main Street. When she first arrived she was miserable and wanted to go back to Scotland, but as soon as she got back to teaching everything changed and she has been happy ever since.

For the first six weeks Mrs England taught at the old school. “It was so overcrowded, there was no staff room, only a glass partition separated the forms and the noise was terrible. Every day at lunchtime all the desks had to be cleared and moved out for the table to be laid for dinner and then afterwards everything had to be put back again for classes in the afternoon. There was no storage space and no hall”, she said. Mrs England went to collage as a mature student and this is her fourth year as a teacher. “I always wanted to be a teacher and when I had a chance I took it. I went to Glasgow to train for three years; there were a few other older students and everybody accepted us. I had a wonderful time”.

Community spirit: The Community Association, formed only four years ago, has done much to integrate the old and new people to the village. The secretary, Mrs Maureen Brackenbury, who lives at 11 Main Street, said: “Originally, the Association was formed to promote social activities in the village, but since then it has built up quite a bit. We run an annual street market [in July], and a bonfire on November 5th. It really brings the village together”. She said that people had shown real enthusiasm when helping to raise the £1,000 for the new school. “This really helped to link the new people with the old, and gave them a chance to join in and get to know people”. In theory everybody in the village is a member of the Community Association, but it has an elected committee of 15 as well as representatives from all the village organisations.

Film record: The Association films village events each year and now has nearly three years’ activities on film. In the spring they plan to have a village concert, and they hold a concert and party for the old people at Christmas. A new group for the over 60’s has been started in the village and the old people can come along once a fortnight and play darts, cards and have “a natter”.

It was seven years ago that Mrs Brackenbury and her husband, Terry, moved to the village and their beautiful old-world cottage – or, to be more precise two cottages knocked into one. Mr Brackenbury, a lecturer in knitting design and technology at the Regional College of Technology has done all the conversions, re-building and decorating himself. Their low-ceilinged home is beamed with many odd nooks and crannies.

Busy life: Mrs Brackenbury led a very busy life. As well as ten-roomed house and two young sons, she looks after six cats, one dog and two student lodgers, and is a parish councillor, secretary of the Community Association and an organiser of numerous community activities. She dislikes most new houses and feels villages are often spoilt by new developments. “I don’t like much of the new property in the village, although some of it fits in well”, she says.

One of the unfortunate things about the beauty of Woodborough, she thinks, is the car loads of trippers “bumper to bumper” down the Main Street in summer. She feels there are some facilities lacking in the village, including a village hall, more activities for teenagers, and a doctor’s surgery or pharmacy. “There is no youth club for teenagers over 14 and they all have to go into Nottingham for entertainment. It costs 2s 1d on the bus, which is quite a lot, and buses go only every hour and the last service is quite early in the evening”.

The nearest doctors are at Calverton. “If you go by bus, you can get there for 9 a.m. but the next bus back isn’t ‘til 11 a.m. – which is terrible for the old people. All we have got in the village is a baby clinic once a fortnight. We’ve no chemist and at the rate the village is scheduled to grow we definitely need a pharmacy in the village”, she added.

Terry Brackenbury is intensely interested in knitting and has a room in the cottage devoted entirely to his knitting machine and designs. One of his prize possessions is an old knitting machine, one of the only two still remaining in this village of the stocking frame industry. A lot of work needs to be done on the machine to restore it, but sooner or later it will be a valuable antique.

One of the old buildings in the village is the church, which dates back to the 12th century. The vicar, the Reverend Alfred Ross Hayward, is very proud of the church’s valuable 14th century communion table and communion silver donated by a Sherwood Forest verderer to the church in 1675 as a thanks offering for the restoration of Charles II.

Mr Hayward, who was born in Nottingham, said not many of the new people had joined his congregation. “I must say I would like to see more at church”, he said regretfully. Mr Hayward, who has four children, served in the Army for six years before getting married and spent three and a half years in India. He and his wife went to India as missionaries for four years. When he returned he went to theological college.

Family business: The village post office on Main Street has been in the hands of the Foster family since 1883. The present owner, Mr Charles Foster, took over 6 years ago from his cousin. His father and grandfather ran it before him, and it was bought originally by his great grandfather in 1883. Foster is one of the commonest names in the village, mainly because Mr Charles Foster’s great grandfather had ten children who nearly all remained in the village.

Mr Foster, a parish councillor, was a gardening instructor before he took over the Post Office. Mr Foster can remember when there were four public houses in the village. There are now two. The last to go was the Bugle Horn – almost next door to the Post Office – which was demolished in 1965. Here, Mr Foster remembers they used to brew their own beer.

Mr Foster attended the old village school and his old headmaster, Mr A.W. Saunders and his wife, still live in the village. “They celebrated their Golden Wedding not long ago. He was a very good teacher and his old scholars still come back to see him as they hold him in such high esteem. His wife was wonderful to some of the lads, they would have gone without any breakfast if she had not fed them”, said Mr Foster.

The village’s oldest inhabitant, 89 year old Mrs Nellie Richardson, lives at Thorpe Cottages. She came to the village 65 years ago after working as a teacher in Nottingham. “She was organist at the church for 50 years and her uncle was choirmaster for 60 years”, added Mr Foster. Mr Foster is justly proud of Mansfield Parkyns, a renowned villager who is now buried outside the church door. He was champion wrestler of England.



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