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Worksop (St. Mary and St. Cuthbert)

WORKSOP (St. Mary and St. Cuthbert), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the Hatfield division of the wapentake of Bassetlaw, N. division of the county of Nottingham, 26 miles (N.) from Nottingham, and 146 (N. N. W.) from London; containing, with the chapelry of Shireoaks, and the townships of Gateford, Haggonfield, Osberton, Radford, and Scofton, 6197 inhabitants. This place, which in Domesday book is written Witchesope, and in other records of that period Wyrksoppe and Wirkensop, appears to have belonged, prior to the Conquest, to Elsi, a Saxon nobleman. It was afterwards granted by the Conqueror to Roger de Busli, and subsequently became the property of William de Lovetot, who, in the reign of Henry I., founded here a priory for Canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, the prior of which was, in the time of Henry III., summoned to parliament. After a considerable period, it passed, by the marriage of the heiress of the Lovetots, to the family of Furnival; then to that of Nevill; and from that family to the"' Talbots, afterwards earls of Shrewsbury, to whom, on the dissolution of monastic establishments, the revenue of the priory, valued at £239, was granted by Henry VIII. From this family the manor descended by marriage to the earls of Arundel, subsequently dukes of Norfolk, who held it as tenants in chief of the crown, by the service of a knight's fee, and of procuring a glove for the king's right hand at his coronation, and supporting that hand while holding the sceptre. It has lately been sold to the Duke of Newcastle. In Dec. 1460, an engagement took place at Worksop between the forces of the Duke of York and those of the Duke of Somerset, when the latter were defeated. Gilbert, first Earl of Shrewsbury, who so much distinguished himself in the French wars under Henry V., built the magnificent mansion-house, afterwards the place of confinement of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the sixteenth year of her captivity, she being at that time in the custody of George, sixth earl. Her son, James I., on the 20th of April, 1603, rested here, on his way to London to assume the English crown. In 1761, the house was accidentally destroyed by fire, but it was soon afterwards splendidly rebuilt. Of late years it has been pulled down.

The town is situated in a pleasant valley, near the northern extremity of the Forest of Sherwood, in the midst of a well-wooded and picturesque country. The vicinity is ornamented by the magnificent seats of several noblemen, amongst which are, Welbeck Abbey the seat 'of the Duke of Portland; Clumber, the mansion of the Duke of Newcastle; and Thoresby, the seat of Earl Manvers. The parish comprises 17,445a. lr. 7p., a large portion of which is within the parks of Worksop manor and Clumber, and in wood and plantations; the commons and Forest waste lands were inclosed under an act passed in 1803. Worksop is neat in its general appearance, and consists, in the higher and principal part, of one long street, with a second running into it at right angles; the houses are well built, the town is paved, lighted with gas, and adequately supplied with water. Camden describes it as famous for the production of liquorice, but this has long since ceased to be cultivated. Malt, which is made in considerable quantities, barley being much grown in the surrounding country, is the principal article of trade; and the Chesterfield canal, passing on the northern side of the town, affords every facility for its conveyance to Manchester and other markets: on this canal are wharfs communicating with the town, and to the east it crosses the river Ryton by an aqueduct. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from Sheffield, by Worksop, to Gainsborough. The market is on Wednesday; there are fairs on March 31st and Oct. 14th, for horses and cattle, and a statutefair about three weeks after. The powers of the county debt-court of Worksop, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Worksop, and part of that of Southwell. Constables are chosen at the annual court leet of the manor.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £12. 4. 2.; net income, £388; patron and impropriator, the Duke of Portland: the tithes were commuted for land and corn-rents in 1803. The church, standing on the east side of the town, comprises the western portion of the priory church, and its cathedral-like towers form an interesting object in the view of Worksop. It is one of the principal remaining specimens of Norman architecture, but in the exterior much of the English style has been incorporated. The western entrance is under a beautiful receding Norman arch with zigzag ornaments, and the towers which surmount it have circular and pointed arched windows, in different gradations. The nave is separated from the aisles by pillars alternately cylindrical and octangular, supporting circular arches with quatrefoils, above which are two tiers of windows: the pulpit and reading-desk have been lately replaced by new ones. At the south-eastern extremity of the church are the remains of the chapel of St. Mary, forming an interesting ruin; the ornamental parts are most richly executed, and the windows are considered some of the most perfect models of the lancet shape in the kingdom. On the northern side, and contiguous to the church, are some fragments of the priory walls, and in the meadows below are extensive traces of the foundation. The priory well is still in high estimation, for the purity and softness of the water. The principal gateway to the priory forms the entrance towards the church; it is in the later English style, and measures 20 yards in front, with a pediment, in the tympanum of which is a niche with a figure in a sitting posture. Above is a window of twelve lights; also two canopied niches of great beauty, which contain figures described by Dodsworth (when they were in a much better state of preservation) as those of armed knights, each bearing a shield, that on the west charged with a lion rampant for Talbot, and that on the east bearing a bend between six mantletts for Furnival. The room over the gateway is used as a national school for boys; the stone staircase leading to it is entered by an elegant porch, rising about two-thirds of the height of the whole front. At Shireoaks is a neat chapel, built and endowed in 1809, by the Rev. John Hewitt, then lord of the manor. At Scofton, close to the hamlet of Osberton, is a handsome chapel, capable of accommodating upwards of 200 persons, erected and endowed by Geo. Savile Foljambe, Esq., to whom the right of presentation belongs: it was consecrated Dec. 30th, 1834. A stately church, also, has been erected at Clumber, near the seat, by the Duke of Newcastle, who has liberally endowed it. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans; and, near the site of the manor-house, a chapel for Roman Catholics, who are numerous in the neighbourhood. The poor-law union of Worksop comprises 26 parishes or places, 11 of which are in the county of Nottingham, 11 in the West riding of York, and 4 in Derbyshire; the whole containing a population of 17,975.

On a hill west of the town, the site of the castle of the Lovetots may still be traced; and in the manor park are some tumuli, which, from fragments discovered in them, appear to be ancient British. The hamlet of Shireoaks is so named from an oak whose branches are said to have overshadowed a portion of the three counties of Nottingham, Derby, and York. At Osberton, human bones, stone coffins, an antique font, some stained glass, &c., have been found at various times, the supposed remains of a church. The ruins of the old manor-house of Gateford, with its gables, moats, &c, are still visible; near them, in 1826, several coins of Nero and Domitian were found.


Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.