Local Historians

George Gershom Bonser

George Gershom Bonser 1851-1947

An eminent Suttonian involved with church, education, local government and libraries, and authoritative interests in local history. A compilation of his own hand written notes made circa 1930 only realised final publication a year after his death. Through family and friends, his wish for the following titled book was eventually first released 1948.

These condensed extracts brutally omit much of his lengthy town detailing, but quote for historic reference his understandings among factual evidence relating Huthwaite developments. Further Sutton based coverage of Poor Law, Workhouse, Toll Roads, Education and Locomotion already provide subjective reference relevant to Huthwaite.

A History of Sutton-in-Ashfield 1948

The Town and Parish of Sutton-in-Ashfield is situated on the extreme West of Mid Nottinghamshire on a range of the highest hills in the County, that on Coxmoor being 623 feet above sea level while in its Hamlet of Huthwaite a hill rises to 651, the highest in the county.

... It is the North part of the Hundred of Broxtowe (the place of the Badger), a division of the county that in Anglo Saxon times contained a hundred families or freemen. As its name indicates it is the South town from Mansfield of which great Manorial Court or Soc. it was a member or Berne.   It derives its additional name of 'in Ashfield ' from the fact that owing to the Geological formation of the Magnesian Limestone lying so near to the surface only those trees that spread their roots could thrive and when the great Shire wood covered this part of the county Ash trees that spread their roots abounded, and are the principal trees today.

From its suffix' ton 'it is clearly an Anglo Saxon settlement, 'ton 'meaning a place fenced round, or an enclosure, differing from the Norse word Thwaite a forest clearing, or the Danish Byan abode. Many Anglo-Saxon names are still preserved in the parish, Ric or Rice Lane leading to Kirkby, meaning a District and not a Highway is so marked on the Award Map of 1801. The path to Skegby and Stanton Hill ran through fields known as Langford ' Wongs,' fields once the property of the Langfords. ' The ancient name of Mansfield in Domesday Book. and for centuries was Mamesfelde.

Oddicroft lane running from Forest road to Kirkby Hardwick is, in all probability the croft or field of Odda, and as up to 1894 it was attached to the hamlet of Huthwaite, Odda may have been a relative of Huc.

Traces of early occupation are few but highly interesting. In A.D. 1892 Mr. Walter Straw, preparing a foundation at the bottom of St. Michael's Street, discovered eight skeletons, one lying E to W. surrounded by seven others with their feet towards him. All were lying on the top of the limestone, and although the bones triturated on being handled, the skull of the one in the centre was intact and has been preserved by the efforts of the late Dr. Mitchell and the writer. It was submitted with a sketch plan of the graves to the authorities of the British Museum who declared it to be of the Neo-lithic age, probably 3000 years before.

In the year 1930 Mr. Albert Walton discovered in his garden at the top of Bathwood Drive a silver denarius in a fine state of preservation, dating from B.C. 91 with a profile of Caius Claudius Pulcher on the obverse and a winged Victory on the reverse.

An escarpment known as Hamilton hill' probably derives its name from Hamil Dun, a hill fortified by Hamil. It is the Mam breast, giving its name to Mamfield. In an ancient Map discovered at Belvoir Castle and dated by Anthon ties 1391, the stream running below the hill (Hamilton) and in recent times named Maun is marked 'Aqua de Mam'.

The ancient Hamlet of Hucknall under Huthwaite (Howthwaite is its original name), once (1930) a separate township whose history is bound up in that of Sutton-in-Ashfield, derives its long and peculiar name from several sources. Huck incga hall is probably the stone residence of the descendants of Huc. Huth, or How' is from a Norse word for a hill, and Thwaite a clearing in a forest. Its peculiarity arises from the stone house of an Anglo-Saxon lying under the hill of a Norse clearing.

Whiteborough lying North of Huthwaite derives its name from hwit ' white, and ' burh 'a fort, or ' Beorh,' a hill, all of Anglo Saxon.origin. 'Bearw' meaning a high place.from which 'barrow' a mound raised over graves is derived has a suggestiveness, but after much search no traces of any such are to be found. No traces of any Norman work such as Castles or religious houses are to be found, except in the parish Church, ...

We have an interesting list of the names of tenants of the Manor of Mansfield in Rentals and Surveys. Roll 537 P.R.O. taken 23 Edward I (A.D. 1295) which gives those of Sutton, ... From this remarkable record of the inhabitants of Sutton more than six centuries ago it is probable that the population would be about 400.

... in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Mansfield in A.D. 1316 transcribed by the late Mr. R. W. Goulding, the custodian of the muniments at Welbeck Abbey. It is as follows: Thursday next after St. William, Archbishop of York. It was presented by the frank pledges of Sutton, that John son of Walter 5 of Henry de Sutton raised hue and cry upon Roger son of the same and because John does not prosecute his plaint therefore he is in mercy 6d. Pledges John Hervy and William Shepherd of Sutton. The frank pledges of Sutton-in-Ashfield present that William de Hothweyt drew blood from Roger son of William Leuwys of Normanton. Therefore he is in mercy. To be distrained. Pledges concerning the blood Robert de Hothweyt and Robert Deyne.

Thursday before the Feast of St. Peter. Robert Spede of Hokenhale was slain. Comes William son of William de Sutton as next of blood and makes relief for the paying the largest amount except that of the parish priest tenements of the aforesaid Robert. Pledges for the relief Henry Teel of Sutton and William Wodeman of Mansfield. Hugh de Holbrook of Sutton plaintiff offered himself against Peter son of Peter Smith in a plea of trespass who was distrained by a certain meadow, and the meadow was taken into the hands of the lord the king, and the said Robert mowed the said meadow and carried it away by night. Therefore precept is issued that the meadow be kept in the hands of the lord the King and that he be distrained by everything whereby he can be distrained. Richard Shoemaker of Sutton in Ashfield plaintiff offered himself against Philip Shoemaker of Kirkbie on the ground that the Monday after the Feast of St. Luke in the present year he insulted the same Richard with monstrous words saying that he stole one pair of shoes from the house of Walter son of Emma de Sutton to the damage of the said Richard 20/ and he has suit. Philip comes and says he is in no wise guilty and he prays Inquisition as to this. Therefore there is an Inquisition which says that Philip is not guilty. Therefore the aforesaid Robert and his Pledges to wit Robert Hervey of Sutton and Ralph 5.of Roger of the same are in mercy 6d.

From these records it is seen that the Manorial Court was a Court of Justice corresponding to the Petty Sessional Court of today.   The following extracts from the Records are given to illustrate the fact that life in the parish was full of activity and change. The names of many inhabitants are preserved therein. In the Close Rolls at the Public Record Office is an account of the security given John of Hustwayt 4 May 1296 before Walter de Langton as executor of the Will of Roger de Insula late keeper of the king's great Wardrobe.

In the Patent Rolls of 1341 Alice Freeman had a house and 15 acres of land in Hokenhale and 4 March 1346 John de Montfort (and John le Whyte of Hedon) and Maud his wife had licence to enfeoff William Montford and J. le Whyte of a messuage and land held direct from the king and for them to grant the same to Thomas Merseley.
At the Assizes at Nottingham, 1355, John son of Hugh Cole recovered possession of the house, 120 acres of land and 20/ in Hothewayte Hokenhale, and William son of John Cole was amerced.
In 1369 Elizabeth daughter and heiress of Nicholas Meynil wife of Peter de Male Lacu first wife of John Darcy held land at Hothwite.
In 1394 license for ten shillings paid to the king by Robert Strutte of Hughtwayt for John Swettenham of Sutton-in-Ashfield and Agnes his wife to enfeoff the said Robert and Margery his wife of the same land.

Parish Government Perhaps the oldest form of Local Government in Sutton-in-Ashfield was the Vestry meeting, so called from its being the place where the inhabitants met to discuss any parish affairs. They usually met on Easter Monday for the election of Parish officers such as Churchwardens, and after A.D. 1603 of Overseers of the Poor, Woodwards to attend to the unenclosed lands a Headborough to regulate Tithes and probably roads, and a Thirdborough or under Constable; In 1780 appears "Memo of an Agreement made at ye Vestry meeting at ye Workhouse on April 7th that Thomas Penniston is to have ye Ground called Town Piece containing 189 acres of land more or less at £10 a year to commence from ye 5th April, 1780 for seven years, the Rent to be paid to the Overseers of ye Poor of Sutton, and one fourth to be paid to the Overseer of Hucknall,

The part of the Forest known as the Town Piece was what is now known as Blackmires, and was dealt with on the enclosure of the Forest in A.D. 1803. ..Hucknall Huthwaite was treated as an integral part of the parish.

In 1877 the Board purchased the Gas Works, and Plans for the new Outram Street were approved, and in 1880 a scheme for dealing with the Town Sewage was adopted, and in 1881 a scheme for a public Water Supply. In 1885 the site of the Cemetery was purchased for £1,700 and in 1886 the Water Supply was extended to Hucknall Huthwaite at a rate of 7d. per 1,000 gallons, and on October 6 the Waterworks were formally opened by Unwin Heathcote, Esq., of Shephalbury, Herts., the head of the old family of Unwin.

In 1893 the Strike of Miners gave much anxiety with regard to the supply of Gas, and in 1894 the Local Board was supplanted by the Urban District Council, established by an Act of Parliament, 5 March, 1894.

In 1851 a Company was formed to supply Gas and Works were built and opened in 1852 on a site now occupied by shops on the west side of Outram Street. The Trustees were the Rev. Wm. Goodacre, Vicar, and Mr. Geo. Oscroft, of Westfield House. The Directors were Messrs. Wm. Oates, Chas. Plumbe, Secretary, and Henry Crofts, Treasurer. The Undertaking was finally sold to the Town in 1877 at the price of £20,000, £17,000 being paid for 650 shares.

In 1934 the Parishes of Teversal, Skegby and Huthwaite were united to that of Sutton-in-Ashfield, under the name of the latter.

In the Great Regarde or Survey of the Forest made by John de Cromwell and John de Bristol in 1358, Ralph Cain (or de Caen) Clerke was accused as having "usurped to himself a piece of ground in Fulwood". His land was described as being in Hucknall Houthwaite and as having been in the hand of John the king.

Roads and Streets The earliest inhabitants of Sutton naturally settled near the house of the lord, and in the eleventh century that house was the residence of the under lord (the over lord of Sutton being the king himself). This family took its name of De Sutton from the town itself, but no trace of their residence remains...

With the sinking of a coal pit at Blackwell close to the County Boundary and then in Hucknall Breks one part of this road became much used and the coal traffic through Hucknall caused it to be known as Dirty Hucknall as early as 1546, so that in 1764 an Act of Parliament was passed the preamble of which was as follows :-Whereas the High Roads leading from Alfreton through Carter Lane to a place in Mansfield called Stockwell, and from the Bridle Gate at the division of the Liberties of Blackwell and Hucknall through the town of Sutton-in Ashfield to the Mansfield and Newark Turnpike at or near Python Hill in the Forest of Sherwood . . . . are through the many heavy carriages daily passing therein, in a ruinous condition and 'in some places narrow and incommodious, cannot be effectually repaired, widened and kept in repair by the ordinary Courses appointed by the Laws in being, May it therefore please your Majesty . . . ." Then follow the names of 316 owners of land, including some from Sutton in-Ashfield who are appointed Trustees and empowered to appoint five to act on their behalf, and who must own land or houses of at least £40, or a personal estate of £800. They were to erect Turnpikes (or Toll Bars) and a Toll House at or near each Turnpike and to collect tolls for the repair of the roads, and to agree with the Surveyor of Sutton-in-Ashfield to keep the Sutton roads in repair for a certain sum.

In pursuance of this Act Toll Bars were placed across the roads, one at the junction at Sutton Woodhouse, another at their junction with Stoneyford Lane and another on the Forest Road near to the entrance gates of the house known as Forest Lodge built in 1883 by Mr. A. H. Bonser. These Bars were finally abolished 1 July, 1872 the repair of the roads being transferred to the whole body of ratepayers through County Councils in 1894 who make grants to the local authorities.

The road from Alfreton entered the parish at the County Boundary crossing the hills at Fulwood (which were cut through and levelled in A.D. 1840) joined and crossed the first-named road at Woodhouse passed down Priestsic Lane by " Nue Cross," and crossed the " Great Way" passed down Forest Side, then passing on a part of the road now covered by the waters of the Reservoir and close by the Kings Mill and on to Stockwell Gate, Mansfield.

Private enterprise provided for all demands till after the Great War with Germany 1914-18 when an Act of Parliament was passed to provide local authorities with Loans with which to build cottages. Under this Act large extensions were made at Sutton, large new suburbs springing up, and up to March, 1932 no less than 801 cottages were built, although the population had only increased from 23,852 in 1921 to 25,151 in 1931. Through the good offices of Mr. W. Burn, the following Return has been made.

Sports and Pastimes of the people of Sutton were those common to the period, the village Green being the site for most of them. Dancing was held there round the Maypole not only on May Day, but on other holidays and Feast days. Bull and Bear baiting, Wrestling, Cock fighting, Quarter Staff, and Archery which had been made compulsory in very early ages and had to be practiced on Sundays and holidays for which purpose Yew trees were ordered to be grown in Church yards in 1483 to provide Bows. In many ancient Churches the marks made by Archers in pointing their arrows may still be seen, while the names Bowman or Bowmar who made Bows, and Fletcher who made Arrows are still common today.

The Bull Ring at Sutton is now euphemistically called Devonshire Square, the old village Green, sadly degraded by a public building is now known as Portland Square, while the Lammas recreation ground is almost derelict, although long used as the training ground of Sutton's many cricketers.

The late Mr. Ellis Spencer who died at a great age-told the writer in 1889 that he well remembered the last Bull baiting on the Top Green in 1832, the bull being provided by Mr. Isaiah Abbott, a butcher in King Street, and its being pinned by the dog of Tom. Salmon. The dog weighed 60 lbs., a collection being made for expenses, as well as 11- being charged each dog entering. On Shrove Tuesday 1836 a Bear was baited.

Cock fighting so fashionable in England from the time of Edward II, 1307-27, but made illegal in 1848, was universal, and the reputation of Crossland and Levi Beastall as experts in training the birds remains to this day (1932). A Main was fought in Sutton as late as 1886. It became a cruel sport when steel spurs were fitted on the naturally pugnacious birds, making the death of one almost certain.

Cricket was always much in favour as it provided a welcome change from the Stocking Frame in which the workman sat, pulling the machine forwards, downwards and then up again, all day. And to go on the Lammas bowling was a great physical relief...

The ancient game played out of doors, universally, was named 'Shoes,' an amplification of Quoits, every Inn up to recent years having a Shoe yard attached. This game requires much more skill than Quoits, and calls for much more exertion. It is played with iron rings weighing about 6lbs. with an opening left in the circle to allow the finger to be inserted and enabling the player to give a spin to the Shoe. It is pitched from an iron hob driven into the ground, some inches deep, to another six yards away, the shoe nearest the hob winning, of course. The game was won with a score of fifteen, but of twenty-one with four or more players. The utmost skill was attained, and it was usual to see the first 'shoe' in front and touching the hob after being pitched, knocked out by the second player and his ' shoe ' occupying the same position. Jack Godber was so famed for his ability in knocking out that a local proverb was current for many years to express a great effort as "gieing 'em Godber." It is much to be regretted that this really fine old game is almost extinct, and an Inn Shoe Yard a rarity. Dominoes at one time had many exponents, and survives in most Inns. At one time it produced champion players, Mr. Alfred Ward being famed, great matches were played with champions in other towns and much wagering took place on the result.

Cards were the principal indoor amusement, and in 1817 at a Vestry meeting held on April 6th, it was agreed that the Con­stable shall give notice by the public Cryer to discharge all Publicans from having Card playing, dancing or any illegal associations of whatsoever nature contrary to law.

Draughts and Dominoes were much played in the Inns, indeed the latter is still to be met with, but Authorities believing games an attraction and likely to lead to drinking have prohibited all games of chance and most of skill.

Bowls are quite a modern introduction, mostly since the Great War and many Greens are provided by the public Authority and the Clubs. Pigeon shooting was popular at one time, but is now almost unknown, and Pigeon racing, though still practiced, is not much heard of. About 1930 racing with small dogs called Whippets commenced while in 1932 a ground was made at the Forest Side in which Grey-hounds chase an artificial Hare and people who fancy racing and 'backing' their fancied dog are crowding to the 'meets.'


Written 23 Jan 12 Revised 23 Jan 12 © by Gary Elliott