Local Historians

Times Past

William Clay-Dove 1919-1990

Born in Sutton where he traced ancestors back over four hundred years, William kept up his main interests among genealogy, having become a Nottinghamshire society member and part-time lecturer in local history. Bill Clay-Dove released a set of books pictorially covering our district localities 'in Times Past'. Echoing while acknowledging past historians, this 1978 coverage of Sutton-in-Ashfield reflects updated knowledge. No specific mention is actually offered Huthwaite, but its own uneventful history does follow the larger towns leading progressions. Heavily cropping the authors detailed works, these transcribed extracts offer village orientated interest for historic reference.

Sutton-in-Ashfield in Times Past 1978

Sutton-in-ashfield appears as "Sutone" in Domesday Book, and as Sutton in Ashfield in 13th century records. Sutton is a common English place name of which there are about seventy examples throughout the country. It derives the additional name of Ashfield from the fact that owing to the geological formation of the Magnesian limestone being so near the surface, trees able to spread their roots throve well, and when Sherwood Forest covered this part of the country Ash trees which did spread their roots were prolific. From its suffix ton it is clearly an Anglo-Saxon settlement, "ton" meaning an enclosure or fenced in area.

Cardinal Wolsey passed through Sutton in I 530, when after his disgrace he was recalled to London by King Henry the 8th. He stayed the night at the Manor House of Kirkby Hardwick, a very sick man, and died at Leicester Abbey several days later.

Although records of the part played by Sutton folk during the Civil War are scanty, it was near to Nottingham, Newark, and Southwell. One Suttonian, Hercules Clay, became a famous Royalist Mayor of Newark involved in the seige of 1643, and Anthony Langford, member of another old local family became a surgeon in Cromwell's army, dying here in 1672 at the age of 79, and is buried near the east end of the church.

In 1651, Charles the Second was defeated at the Battle of Worcester, and a party of his soldiers making their way home to Scotland, passed through Sutton and in Church Street were ambushed by a Cromwellian Captain and several Troopers. Twelve of the Royalists were killed in the skirmish, and when a vault at the rear of the church was being made for the funeral of William Unwin of Sutton Hall in 1774, twelve skeletons were discovered. As in the 17th century it was customary to bury strangers and vagrants behind the church it is assumed that these were the remains of the unfortunate Royalists.

The Manor eventually passed to Roger Greenhalgh of Teversal, later to the Cavendish family who exchanged it for other estates with the Duke of Portland. The textile industry was introduced into the town during the latter years of the 17th century when stocking frames are mentioned in local wills.

Richard Unwin settled here about 1705, and married the daughter of William Clay, who first set up a warehouse in Haslam's Hill (Mount Street), and in 1740 erected Sutton Old Mill. They also built a mill at Tansley near Matlock. The business prospered to such an extent that a local saying was that each time the mill wheel went round it put a guinea into the Unwin's pockets.

A tremendous impetus to the development of the town was given by the diligence of the Unwins, whose rise to wealth marked a turning point in the character of Sutton inasmuch that it commenced the change from an agricultural village into an industrial town. Samuel Unwin the second married a Heathcote heiress, and of their progeny one married a daughter of Sir Robert Wigram and another the daughter of Sir James Wigram. On the death of Edward Unwin in 1840 the premises became a silk mill, but in 1875 was practically destroyed by fire. It is now the works of Messrs. Dobson's Fibres Ltd.

In November, 1811, some three hundred Luddite rioters marched from Nottingham to Sutton, their purpose being to destroy machinery introduced to speed up the mechanical process of stocking manufacture. Seventy frames were broken up, but the mob quickly dispersed when some soldiers appeared from Mansfield assisted by a party of yeomanry.

Sutton also experienced difficult times during the period between 1837 and 1848, when the Chartist movement caused unrest throughout the country. One of the prominent leaders of the Chartists, Feargus O'connor, visited the town and spoke to a large crowd from the steps of the old Engine House ...

It was also the custom for the oldest apprentice in the town to ring the "shriving bell" on Shrove Tuesday, the local children then claiming the privilege of barring the master and mistress from the school, of which they proceeded to take possession. Another interesting custom was for a man to perambulate the town from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily from the beginning of Advent until Christmas Day, ringing a bell beneath the windows of houses and calling on the inmates to awake.

The story of modern local government in Sutton may be said to have commenced in 1866, when, with the adoption of the Local Government Act, the old Highway Board passed out of existence and was replaced by the Local Board. This in turn gave way to an Urban District Council in 1894, the first Chairman being the late Mr. G. G. Bonser.

St. Mary's School, 1910. Founded by endowment under the will of Anne Mason in 1669, the school also benefitted during the 18th century by a gift of Elizabeth Boot, clockmaker, who donated Pot House Close the rents to be applied to putting poor men's children to school. The chancel of the Parish Church was used as a schoolroom and the master in 1749 was John Hunt. In 1818, at a public meeting a resolution was passed bringing the school under the National System. The present building was erected in 1845.

Albert Square, 1880. Situated at the opening of Low Street from the Market Place, the village stocks once stood here with the River Idle flowing in front of them.

Market Place and Little Lane, showing Town Hall. Owing its origin to a limited liability company formed in 1876, the Town Hall as shown on the right was designed by J. P. Adlington, Architect, the site being purchased from the Unwin family for £1000. The foundation stone was laid on 10th December, 1888 and it was opened with an Oratorio performance by Sutton Harmonic Society the following year.

The old Police Station, 1861. The first officer was Sergeant George Radford who had previously been Parish Constable. It is said that prior to the provision of the Police Station, that on apprehending anyone he would chain them to his oven door until he could take the prisoner to Mansfield.

Devonshire Square and the Bull Ring. Bull baiting took place on this square, the last occasion being in 1832, the bull provided by Isaiah Abbott, a butcher in King Street,was pinned by the dog of Tom Salmon. The dog weighed 60 lbs. a collection being made for expenses as well as 1/- charged for each dog entering. On Shrove Tuesday, 1836 a bear was baited for the last time.

The Old Council Offices. Standing on the site of the Midland Bank, Outram Street, these premises were designed by the Surveyor, Mr. Mc. W. Bishop and built in 1880. The Urban District Council was formed in 1895 in succession to the Local Board.

The Old Gas Works. In 1851 a company was formed. Works were built and opened in 1852 on a site now occupied by shops on the west side of Outram Street. The Directors were William Oates, Charles Plumbe, Secretary, and Henry Crofts, Treasurer. The Undertaking was eventually sold to the town in 1877 ...

The first public library established in the town was in 1857, founded by Mr. H. Columbine and housed in an upper storey of Mr. Lindley's printing office in Parliament Street. In the 1870's it was also used as a schoolroom, the master, Thomas Dove, having only one arm. The Free Library in Forest Street was built in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The site was given by the Duke of Portland, and it was opened by the Duchess in May, 1898. The cost of £3000 was defrayed by public subscription.

Hardwick Street Schools. This fine Victorian building was erected in 1878 by Samuel Hibbert, builder, at a cost of£6,410, and was the third new school to be built in the town after the passing of the 1870 Education Act. In 1871, the children of school age numbered 1,892, and of these 398 were between the age of three and five, and 1,484 between five and thirteen. Of this number 654 were attending state schools, 424 at private schools, 328 at work, and 486 still at home.

Brook Street, 1935. On the left may be seen the Police Station which superseded the old building of 1861 at the entrance to Low Street. The Police are now housed in a modern building on Church Street.

Brookside cottages and the River Idle. The Idle, a tributary of the Trent rises in Sutton on the Roods. It flowed openly through the town alongside Brookside and down Low Street until 1855, when a culvert was made from Sampson's lane to the bottom of Forest Street across the village green (Portland Square).

King Street, 1905. Formerly known as Beggar Street, it was renamed after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660... The old Post Office on the extreme right was opened in 1892. In this street also was the workshop of the Boot family, makers of grandfather clocks for over a century.

Cottages in Crown Street, 1910. These early 19th century cottages show the "Stockinger's windows" in the upper storey, so designed to allow maximum light to fall on the stocking frame behind. In 1840 there were over 2000 hand frames in the town.

Brookside Cottage, demolished 1865. The birthplace of Dr. Spencer Timothy Hall 1812-1885, Author and Poet. He became apprentice com­positor at Nottingham Mercury in 1830, and in 1836 set up as a printer and bookseller in Sutton. In 1839 his first book of prose and verse was published, "The Forester's Offering", and in 1841 "Rambles in the Country", and "The Peak and the Plain" and "Sketches of Remarkable People" followed. Lecturing on phrenology and mesmerism his most famous patient was Harriett Martineau whom he is said to have cured of a serious illness in 1844. Visiting Ireland in 1849 during the famine, he wrote "Life and Death in Ireland as witnessed in 1849", which is believed to have been one of his best books. His degrees of M.A. and Ph.D. were conferred by the University of Turingen.
Dr. Spencer Timothy Hall, Sutton Author and Poet. Born on Brookside 1812. Died at Blackpool 1885. Buried in Blackpool Cemetery. A headstone erected by Mr. Charles Plumbe of Sutton, marks the grave.

The first postmaster in the town was Mr. Charles Plumbe, who served from 1837 to 1863, and was followed by Mr. S. Littlewood who was also a chemist and the two businesses were transacted in one shop situated in King Street near the opening into the Market Place.


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