Mansfield (St. Peter)

MANSFIELD (St. Peter), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the N. division of the wapentake of Broxtow and of the county of Nottingham, 14 miles (N. by W.) from Nottingham, and 138 (N. N. W.) from London; containing, with the hamlet of Pleasley-hill, 9788 inhabitants. The name of this place, anciently written Maunsfield, is derived from its situation on the small river Mann or Maun, which rises about three miles westward. The town is of great antiquity: it is supposed to have been of British or Roman origin; and during the heptarchy was a temporary residence of the Mercian kings, for the convenience of hunting in the Royal Forest of Sherwood. In the reigns of Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, and William Rufus, it was a royal demesne, and the place so continued till the time of Elizabeth, except that, in the reign of Henry VIII., it was, with other manors, held for a time by the Duke of Norfolk: it was ultimately granted away, by letters-patent, in the 44th of Elizabeth. Until the year 1715, the courts for the Forest of Sherwood, a district celebrated in ballad story as the scene of the exploits of the renowned archer, Robin Hood, and his band of freebooters, were held at Mansfield.

The town is situated on the road from Nottingham to Sheffield, in a deep vale, in the centre of the ancient forest, and has five chief streets, besides others branching from them, which are narrow and irregular; the houses are principally built of stone, and at the entrance to the town from Southwell are several excavated in the sandstone rock. Many improvements have been made within the last few years, under acts of parliament obtained in 1823 and 1825, agreeably with the provisions of one of which the town is lighted with gas, by a jointstock company; the approach from the Nottingham road has been widened, and the market-place considerably enlarged. Races take place at the July fair. The townhall, situated in the market-place, is a handsome structure of stone, in the Grecian style of architecture, erected by a company in 1836, at a cost of about £8000; it comprises a room for petty-sessions, a newsroom, library, and assembly and card rooms, with a policestation, and a market-house and shambles, adjoining. The building forms a striking feature in the town.

In the parish are numerous establishments for Manufacturing purposes. Eleven of these are situated on the little rivers Maun and Medin, and are propelled by steam and water power. To insure a better supply of water for the mills, and for his extensive irrigation canals, the Duke of Portland a few years since constructed a reservoir of about 70 acres, on the site of an old flour-mill, and in the picturesque vale where it stood, famed by the story of "the Miller of Mansfield." This fine sheet of water forms a prominent object in the neighbourhood, and the mill-owners pay a yearly rent to the Duke of Portland for the advantage they derive from it. Most of the mills are the property of his grace. The king's mill, for grinding corn, is at the head of the reservoir, and in the occupation of Mr. W. Adlington. Hermitage mill, in the occupation of Mr. James Fisher, of Radford, is employed in the manufacture of lace, which is produced here of the most beautiful texture. The Bleakhills mill and Little Matlock mill are employed in making sewing-thread. The Field mill, on the Nottingham road, the largest in the parish, tenanted by Messrs. R. Greenhalgh and Sons; the Stanton mill, also held by Messrs. Greenhalgh; the Old mill, situated in the town; and the Bath mill, are all engaged in the manufacture of doubled-yarns used in the lace trade and other branches of production where cotton is the chief material consumed. They employ between 400 and 500 hands, and contain above 30,000 spindles. These four mills were erected for the spinning of cotton, and were so employed until the last few years; but this branch of the cotton trade has now left the neighbourhood, with the exception of the mills at Pleasley and two other places. Besides the above mills are, another lace factory, stocking and glove manufactures both of silk and cotton, bleaching-works, iron-foundries for light castings, two wood-turning mills, and mustard, chicory, and tobacco manufactories. A very extensive business is carried on in malt, and also in cutting and working into blocks and architectural ornaments the fine freestone obtained in the adjacent quarries. The stone thus wrought is principally found in this and the neighbouring parish of Mansfield-Woodhouse; and mills of very ingenious construction for sawing it into slabs for flooring, and preparing it for building purposes, have been erected in and near the town, affording employment to a number of the population, and adding a new and important feature to the manufactures of the place. Branches of the Midland railway are in course of formation, to connect the town with Nottingham and other parts. In the reign of Henry III., the inhabitants procured a charter for a market on Monday, afterwards altered to Thursday; and also the privilege of housebote and haybot, or timber for repairs, and wood for fences, out of the forest, which they still enjoy. The market has been held on Thursday from time immemorial; and there are a fair on July 10th, for the sale of cattle and hogs, and a chartered fair on the second Thursday in October, for horses, cattle, sheep, and cheese. The powers of the county debt-court of Mansfield, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration-district of Mansfield. The town is the place of election for the Northern division of the county.

The parish comprises, according to the recent tithecommutation survey, 6447a. 3r. 27p., of which 2000 acres consist of uninclosed forest lands, 82 acres of wood and plantations, aud the remainder of meadow land, pasture, garden-ground, &c. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £7. 7. 6.; present income, £400 per annum; patron, the Bishop of Lincoln. A chaplaincy is attached to the church, for the support of which the vicar and churchwardens were incorporated, and invested with lands, in the 4th and 5th of Philip and Mary. The church exhibits specimens of each style, from the Norman to the later English; the two lower portions of the tower are early Norman, and there is one window in the early English style; the arches, piers, and north door, are of good decorated character: the tower is surmounted by a low spire. There are places of worship for Wesleyans, General Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive Wesleyans, and Unitarians. The free grammar school was founded by letters-patent of Elizabeth, dated March 8th, 1561: the lands belonging to it and to the chaplaincy having become undistinguishable, it was privately agreed after a suit in chancery, in 1682, that two-thirds of the income of the estate should be paid to the chaplain, and the remaining third to the master of the school and his assistant. A scholarship of £10 per annum was founded in 1673 at Jesus College, Cambridge, by Dr. Sterne, Archbishop of York, for a native of Mansfield. A free school was established in 1702. In 1709, Samuel Brunt bequeathed lands, directing the proceeds, which then amounted to £436. 15. a year, to be applied chiefly to the relief of poor inhabitants. In 1725, Faith Clerkson left the sum of £2000 to trustees, partly for erecting two school-houses, and partly to be vested in land, the rental to be divided between Mansfield and Mansfield-Woodhouse; and in 1784, Charles Thompson bequeathed £1200 in the three per cents., one-half for the augmentation of Brunt's charity, and one-half for educating children, for whom a school was built in Toothill-lane. The present income of Brunt's charity, including Thompson's bequest, amounts to £1049. By deed dated January 15th, 1691, Elizabeth Heath founded almshouses for twelve persons, and endowed them with property now producing a rental of £244. 9., of which £70 are appropriated to the apprenticing of children: the trustees have recently built six additional almshouses, of stone, in Bull's Head lane. The poor-law union of Mansfield comprises 18 parishes or places, of which 9 are in each of the counties of Nottingham and Derby, the whole containing a population of 27,627 inhabitants: the workhouse is a large building on the Sutton road, erected in 1837, at a cost of £7000, and containing accommodation for 300 paupers. The savings' bank, in the market-place, was built in 1843.

Humphrey Ridley, an eminent physician and anatomist, was born here about 1653. Archbishop Sterne, and Dr. William Chappel, Bishop of Cork and Ross, in Ireland, were also natives of Mansfield: Robert Dodsley, author of the Economy of Human Life, was born in the vicinity, and apprenticed in the town; and James Murray, inventor of the patent circular saw, resided here. Sir William Murray, on being appointed lord chief justice of the court of king's bench, was elevated to the peerage, in 1756, by the title of Baron Mansfield, of which place he was created earl in 1776.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.