Local Historians

Dr Spencer Timothy Hall 1812–1885

Dr Hall

Born in Sutton, the son of a humbled Quaker cobbler and milkmaid. Between the aged of five to eleven he was employed nursing an invalid brother, winding cotton for the stocking makers and working in the gardens and farms about his home. Form eleven years of age he learnt to work a stocking frame, and at fourteen how to make shoes. During which time, and whenever able, his own pleasure was reading and studying books borrowed from family and friends.

Becoming a printer, poet and author only recognised just some of his other interests and professions, before gaining national fame and honorary title of doctor. Sufficient here to introduce his 1838 booklet offered to his home town. The late Dr S T Hall is described and acknowledged by Lindley, noting his modestly paged book was then rare to find. So thankfully he deemed it advisable to augment original quotes when compiling his own 1907 updated publication, extracted from which this transcription echos relevant sections.


The parish, situated in the Hundred of North Broxtowe, on the western confines of Sherwood Forest, and in the northern part of Ashfield, contains 8,861 acres, and 12 perches of land; is agreeably diversified with hill and dale—wood and water; and several of its eminences (of which the loftiest is Cocks-moor) command views of the North Peak, in Derbyshire; the Wolds of Yorkshire; Charn-wood Forest, in Leicestershire; and Lincoln Cathedral—with a great variety of intermediate scenery, including several wild remnants of Sherwood Forest, Hardwick Hall and Park, the town of Mansfield, aud innumerable villages, churches, villas, cots, mill-streams, and plantations, scattered in delightful contrast. The township consisting of three distinct portions (now denominated "The Town" in the centre; "Smedley's Buildings" and "The Woodhouse" on the west; and "Eastfield" on the east) is situated on both sides of a stream, tributary to the river Man (or Maun), rising not far from a place called Willow-bridge, on the foot road to Fulwood, which flowing directly east, falls into that river at the Cotton-works. By this stream, the town is so nearly equally divided into two parts, that the two overseers of the poor often mutually agree to collect the rates, one on either sides, considering it an equitable line of demarkation.

The earliest authenticated fact we find recorded relative to Sutton-in-Ashfield is, that about 790 years ago, it formed one division of King Edward the Confessor's Manor of Mansfield: and in Doomsday Book, a work compiled at the instance of William the Conqueror, it is noticed with Skegby as being a Berue, or Hamlet, to Mansfield, in which Manor it states there were two Churches and two Priests. One of these Churches in all probability was that of Sutton, as we find in Thoroton's account of Sutton (see page 70) that Gerard, Son of Walter de Sutton, gave it to the Priory of Thurgarton; and in the taxation of Pope Nicholas, in 1291, we find it still belonging to that Religious House, which it continued to do till its dissolution in the time of Henry VIII.

As the privileges of the Manor were conditionally granted to the above family (de Sutton), we can only contemplate it through several ages as a feudal demesne, the inhabitants of which were chiefly vassals, under the control of a local Lord, whose lands they tilled, whose flocks they tended, whose sports they shared, and in whose quarrels they engaged with all the energy and devotion peculiar to clansmen; and that in the latter they were occasionally involved during the protracted Civil Wars, which wasted and depopulated the country, there can be little doubt. Teversal Castle on one side, and Kirkby Castle on the other, would be objects that could hardly rest unregarded in times of commotion; and it is unreasonable to suppose that the De Suttons (who it is proved by history were a wealthy and influential family, holding their possessions here of the Crown for which the rival houses of York and Lancaster contended), would be allowed to remain neuter in any contest which might arise, especially when it is considered that their own Lands were the scene of battle,—a fact inferred from the remains of human bodies, shattered weapons, &c. recently found there.

Preceding historians, influenced by few or no local attachments and having little to refer to for information save old legal instruments, or the court-rolls of the Manor, have furnished us with nothing more than copies of the particular tenures by which property was held at different periods, or the dates at which it passed from one possessor to another. It is therefore chiefly to casual records, tradition, and analogy, we must look for every other species of historical information—being careful at the same time to prune it of whatever may seem incongruous or irrelevant.

Judging from the present position and appearance of the town, it must have contained till within the last century but few streets—Church Street, Upper Street, and Forest Street being the principal; besides which a number of Farm-houses and Cottages were unequally distributed amongst the surrounding lanes and fields. Some good substantial homesteads, however, appear to have been erected soon after the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II. Near the top of King Street is one dated 1662; Mr. Outram's, Low Street, 1665; and several others which appear to have been built about that period. Indeed, it is not improbable, that the cessation of those struggles between the Executive and Legislative powers, which had so long demoralized and depopulated the Nation, gave a powerful impulse to industry and every social improvement; and as many who had engaged in civil warfare, or fled to avoid its consequences, returned about this time to their homes—framework-knitting becoming an important branch of manufacture, afforded them the means of employment; and it is but reasonable to date the gradual, yet regular, increase of our population and trade from this period.

The next grand impetus to local improvement, was about the middle of last century, owing to the sudden rise into wealth and influence of the Unwin family. The invention of the Spinning-jenny by Arkwright, and the ultimate extension of its use, forms an interesting epoch in the history of British manufactures. It raised the inventor himself, from being a penny-barber to one of England's wealthiest commoners in a few years, and a lively town (Cromford) at once sprang up in one of the obscurest valleys of the Peak; the Strutts, from humble mechanics, it raised to princely affluence, and trebled the population of Belper almost instantaneously; and its influence upon the fortunes of the Unwins, and the state of our own parish of Sutton, was scarcely less marked, and must soon have been still more conspicuous, but for the sudden death of the late benevolent and highly respected Samuel Unwin, Esq. (son to the founder of the Family's fortunes), which occurred on the 14th February, 1799, and caused a sensible; relax in the progress of the town, from which, however, it has of late revived, and must certainly very soon become an important place, should the various improvements now in contemplation be effected.

In the beginning of the 18th- century there were but ninety-five families in Sutton; while in the year 1793, the population (as taken by Sir Richard Sutton, from door to door) was, including Hucknall, 3,492. At the first Parliamentary Census in 1801 (taken in rather a slovenly manner) Sutton was said to have 2,801 inhabitants, and Hucknall 510, making 3,314. In 1811, Sutton had 3,386, and Hucknall 608, making together 3,994. In 1824, Sutton had 3,943, and Hucknall 712, making 4,653. In 1831, Sutton had 4,805, and Hucknall 929, making together 5,734. The population of Sutton in 1837 was computed at 6,000, or thereabouts.

Written 13 Jan 12 Revised 05 Aug 14 © by Gary Elliott