Brief History of Worksop
Worksop is an ancient town to be found in the North West of Nottinghamshire and described in the Doomsday book as Wirchesop (although there are numerous other spelling and meanings) which name supposedly meant ‘a fortified hill.’The ancient earthworks known as Castle Hill evident at the time of the Norman Invasion seem to support this. This site is still marked but it is unclear whether a stone built castle ever existed although there is some evidence of a wooden structure having been there.
Around 1103 an Augustinian Priory was established by William de Lovetot and although most of the original was demolished at the time of the Dissolution,part still remained and has been incorporated in the existing Priory Church of St Cuthbert and St Mary. The church has been fully restored and is now well maintained for future generations. There is a great deal of fascinating history around this church which is one of Worksop’s best known landmarks along with the Priory Gatehouse which was built at the beginning of the 14th century by the Augustinian Order from the Priory. Evidently 200 oaks were felled in Sherwood Forest to be used in the building of the Gateway. A market cross had existed in the vicinity from around 1160 for Cheapside or Radford which at that time was a separate parish but it has since merged with Worksop. The cross was resited in 1896 and now stands where the original road once passed through the archway.
The Gateway has had many uses over the centuries and originally provided shelter and hospitality for visitors but after 1539 this came to an end and the church lands were handed to the Talbot family, Earls of Shrewesbury who owned Worksop Manor at that time. The Gatehouse subsequently changed hands several times but had been used as an elementary school in 1628 and then as a ‘school for poor boys’ in 1853 supported by voluntary subscription. Later as an annexe for the Abbey School, parish room, offices, tea room and art gallery. Recently it was used as a shelter for homeless people. It is presently unused and will hopefully be restored in the near future after securing grant funding.
Worksop is now known as the ‘Gateway to the Dukeries’ and indeed is surrounded by stately homes and lands at one time belonging to such dukes and earls as Newcastle, Shrewesbury, Portland, Devonshire, Rutland and Norfolk to name just a few.
Many of these grand houses no longer exist but Worksop is still close to many of the parks which were originally part of Sherwood Forest (Robin Hood country) such as Clumber, Rufford, Welbeck and Thoresby, all open to the public apart from Welbeck Abbey which is still in private hands.
Worksop was originally a small market town known mainly for agriculture and related services. In the late 18th century it was famous for being one of the biggest producers of liquorice along with hat making (16 hat makers still in Beaver Place in 1841), and also for the manufacture of Windsor Chairs.
With the opening of the Chesterfield Canal in 1777 and the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1849 it became a bustling town with many local tradesman, maltings, breweries, milling industries, timber yards, glass manufacturing, engineering works and refractories which all benefited from the increased accessibility for moving goods. A colliery was opened at Manton in Worksop in 1898 which provided many new jobs and caused workers from outside the town to settle in Worksop. Unfortunately many of these industries are no longer around.
It is well served by rail, canal and roads (close to the original Great North Road) and is within easy reach of both the M1 and A1 with access to all the large towns and cities in the neighbouring counties.
There are several websites and publications giving detailed history of Worksop particularly covering the times from the 16th century onwards with regard to the various titled families and their many marriages linking the properties which comprised the Dukeries.
Many drawings and photographs can also be found on Nottinghamshire Heritage sites.