View of Wilford Church by Samuel W. Oscroft (image courtesy of Nottingham City Museums).
View of Wilford Church by Samuel W. Oscroft (image courtesy of Nottingham City Museums).

Pictures. Wilford has the honour of being the most painted, and best illustrated village in the county. In the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery are a number of pictures referring to Wilford. There is a view of the Trent, shewing the church, ford, etc., painted by Thomas Barber, about 1840; a view at Wilford from the Trent, "Looking to the Castle," by Benjamin Shipham; "Wilford Ferry" (The Cherry Eatings) about 1858, by John Holland, Junr, shows a boat being towed over, full of passengers, while a crowd of ladies wearing crinolines, and gentlemen top hats, are waiting their turn. The vendors of cherries are doing a busy trade. There is a collection of some 17 water color drawings of Wilford and district, painted about 1860 by Samuel W. Oscroft, and by him presented to the Museum. All these are the more valuable because the views then presented have largely passed away.

Among the pictures of Wilford that may be seen in private houses may be mentioned the following:—There is a painting by Henry Dawson, of the village green with its tall sycamore tree, and the cottages at the side. Another by Edward Crosland shows the favourite tree "under whose branches in former days the merry dancers have enjoyed the feast and revel." An oil painting showing the Ferry in a storm, with a rainbow in the corner of the picture, by E. Bonington, 1810, Mr. E. Brewill has. The oldest picture of Wilford I have seen is a zincotype of the lower Green, showing the big tree in the centre, and the cottages, with a woman wearing a peculiar garb. It was printed by Mr. Taylor, and supposed to be of the date of about 1800, and is possessed by Mr. Brewill. A landscape view of "The Islet" was drawn by Mr. T. Barber, and subsequently engraven. A copy of this engraving forms the frontispiece of Southey's " Remains," vol. ii, 8th edition, 1811), and is reproduced in the "Homes and Haunts," p 68. It presents a beautiful view of the place where Kirke White often forded when the right hand stream was not knee deep, and there was then on the island a little hut where he sat reading, writing or dreaming. This islet was removed to make the colliery bank. There is a pleasing view in Southey's "Remains," 1808, taken from the left bank of the river, and showing the Church in the foreground, and the meadows, with Nottingham in the distance. There is a painting of "Wilford in Flood," by Mr. J. L. Bilbie, which Mr. Cursham has. Mr. A. W. Redgate painted the old Manor House called "Kirke White Cottage." The picture is in the Mechanics' Institution, and there is another of some cottages. There are two views of Trent scenery painted by William Wilde, which Mr. Roe has, and doubtless there are many others.

Mrs. Wm, Enfield, wife of the then Town Clerk, in 1854 published sketches of local scenes in which the frontispiece gives a view of Wilford Ferry Boat, with its chain guiding a company of passengers, accompanied by a donkey, over " the smug and silver Trent." One view is of the Trent at Wilford where there is a graceful bend, another of Wilford Church, with sheep grazing in the church yard, showing the building in need of the restoration it has since received.

It will be a pleasure to old people to know that the old boat is still 'alive,' and in the possession of Charles Hopkinson, of Trent House, Hoveringham. Its name is now "Elizabeth." It is used for fishing at Colwick in the summer, and taken back for the winter.

Authors. Wilford has been specially favoured in that its praises have been sung, or described, by many local writers. The spirit of poetry actively glided between Nottingham and Wilford for fifty years in the first half of the last century. Wilford and Clifton were always joined in the adoration paid to Nature's charms, as the two parishes were joined in Saxon and Norman days, and for six hundred years or more in ownership, so now the pedestrian's walk extends, and the poet's fancy wafts, over the lowlands' river bank, and the uplands' waving trees.

" Fair Nature ! thee, in all thy varied charms, Fain would I clasp for ever in my arms,"

sang Kirke White, and again,

" Far from the busy crowd's tumultuous din, From noise and wrangling far, and undisturbed With mirth's unholy shouts "

would his spirit rise " through Nature up to Nature's God," in the contemplation of the beautiful, the vast, the unseen.

"O! 'tis this heavenly harmony which now In fancy strikes upon my listening ear, And thrills my inmost soul."

We can forgive the poet's melancholy, as a caged, injured bird in pain, he sighs for the waving trees, the flowers by the river's bank;  and realizes the beauty of the scene around.

Byron's figure of him is very beautiful

" So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain, No more through rolling clouds to soar again."

Robert Southey, Poet Laureate, by his kindness in compiling and publishing "Eemains of Henry Kirke White," in 1807, did much to promote the reputation of the poet, and to make known the beauties of Wilford.

Probably the book which has most of the inspiration of Wilford in it is "The Book of the Seasons, or the Calendar of Nature," by William Howitt, published in 1830, and dedicated "To Mary Howitt, at home and abroad, in the fields of Nature and of Literature, the one true companion and Fellow Labourer" of the Author; for this book of the Seasons, partly written in one of the cottages at Wilford, presents us "with all their poetic and picturesque features; which as a Calendar of Nature, should be comprehensive and complete in itself; which, on being taken up by a lover of Nature at the opening of each month, lays before him in prospect all the objects and appearances which the month would present in the garden, the fields, and the waters." This book was the result of observations through many seasons, and applies not merely to gardening, but to angling, rural occupations, the migration of birds, etc. It is not now out of date; it is one of those books that lives.

According to the "Autobiography of Mary Howitt," edited by her daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Howitt frequently lodged in Wilford, between 1832 and 1836, when the "History of Priestcraft," and the "Rural Life of England," and other books were being prepared. Writing on June 15th, 1832, Mrs. Howitt says, "We like our summer quarters at Wilford wonderfully." They lodged with a basket-maker, who kept cows. On August 4th, 1834, "We have again taken up our abode in our accustomed old cottage," and on August 30th, 1836, "I write from the village of Wilford."

Mary Howitt, in 1843, wrote "The Childhood of Mary Leeson," in which is much of her own biography. Mary Leeson was one of those very good little girls who early learn to read, eagerly devour knowledge, and so become ill. With a view to recovery, she was sent to the pretty country village of Wilton (Wilford), with its Green, picturesque school-house, rustic cottages with gardens, "and one of the noblest and most famous rivers in England." And now, with early morning walks with the basket-maker to the willow holts, near Sedley (Clifton) Grove, and all the charms of country life, Mary soon became well and strong, learned much from Nature, became not only happy, but useful to others, and the story embodies Mary Howitt's idea of the spirit which ought to direct the education of a child. Was the basket-maker Merrin, who lived in the cottage north-west of the Green? A certain willow is known to this day as Merrin's Willow.

One of the little books issued by Spencer T. Hall was "The Upland Hamlet," the preface to which is dated, "Wilford, near Nottingham, 1847," and there, under the inspiring influence of nature, he speaks of the "hopeful and earnest self-development, under the impulse of the holier and purer principles to which the mind of everyone ought to be made obedient," and from the hill-top, on the occasion of a great flood, he sings:—

"Wilford! when first I gazed on thee, Whilst leaning o'er an upland stile,

Thy flooded meads were one vast lake, And thou a little bowery isle."

There is a paragraph in "The Peak and the Plain," by Spencer T. Hall, which may be transcribed. Referring to the Manor house, where he lodged, he wrote, "And then my sweet rustic little study within doors, where Philip Bailey, the author of 'Festus'; Edmund Larken, the country Rector, 'whose parish had no bound except the bound of  human sorrow'; Frederick Enoch, author of 'Songs of Universal Brotherhood'; John Atkinson, a master in the school where Shakespeare learnt penmanship; Eichard Howitt, after returning from his wanderings in Australia Felix; old Henry Wild, grave and gentle teacher of teachers; and other dear and worthy friends would sometimes visit me. The most pleasant of calendars, 'The Book of the Seasons,' was partly written in one of the cottages of Wilford."

Matthew H. Barker, in "Walks round Nottingham," by a Wanderer, 1835," gives copies of many of the churchyard inscriptions, and items of interest of Wilford, its church, and people.

Philip James Bailey has a poem commencing—

" Of all the rivers in the land Thee most I love fair Trent, For in thy streams, and by thy banks, My happiest hours I've spent."

The Rev. Luke Booker in his "Ode to the Trent" sings—

" May those fair banks and spacious meadows bloom In spring perennial, thro' which thy waves Meander—spreading plenty as they flow."

Edward Hind sings—

" Wilford! we've sung your Inn, and Church, and town. Again by you inspired our harp we seize To celebrate your sylvan robe and crown, Your stately row of ancient, noble trees Whose boughs for seven score years have braved the breeze, Shading the village where we love to rove A collonade the dullest taste to please To Nature's green cathedral—Clifton Grove."

Henry S. Sutton, in 1848, sings of

" A walk by Trent's green side, o'er stile and stile, By a sweet way which flowers help to smile,"

and in passing through the churchyard he alludes to the spot "where Kirke White's willow should be," and having passed the "twin row of elmy servitors," he goes "across the common by high sycamorean toss of gaunt arms shadowed."

Wm. Howie Wylie in his "Old and New Nottingham, 1853," was much occupied with the charms of Wilford.

Richard Howitt, brother of Wm., emigrated to Australia, and named his place Wilford; returning he wrote various books. He died 1869.

There is all honour to the man who planted the trees by the Trent bank and in Clifton Grove, for the advantage of succeeding generations, thereby promoting their health and developing their sense of beauty. The builder of the finest edifice within sight — Wollaton Hall — spent a vast sum for less advantage to himself or to the community. The planter of the trees spent only a small amount comparatively, and yet has he given pleasure to thousands, and if his successor continues to increase that pleasure he will have the beneficial reflection of having promoted the public good, and having occasioned a younger poet to sing

" How beautiful this wood    *    *    * It's Clifton Grove— a poet's paradise, For such I deem it;   many a dreamy lay Its beauty has called forth."

From "The Trent; a Record of Friendship"—

"We drank the joy of life and felt the thrill Of sublime ecstacy, youth, friendship, love, The sunlit grove, the murmuring stream below, The twittering birds, the wooded slope, all seemed To enter in our joy."  E. C. Roberts.

If the voice of Nature by the Trent side has appealed strongly to the thoughtful men in the past, how much more now, when not only the business of life has become more strenuous, but even our relaxations have become strenuous, too; when what we read must be smart and short, "tit-bits"; when many of our young people prefer for professionals to be engaged rather than personally to engage in manly sports; when our children must be taken to a crowded picture palace, rather than for a walk in the country lanes; when, instead of cultivating exuberance of spirits, or cheerfulness of habit, we prefer to pay men to make us laugh; when in our religion we have lost the joy of God, and instead of it being the gladdest and happiest thing in the world, it has become, with many of us, mere duty and service; 'there is greater need than ever that we should turn aside to gaze on the great stream, the rippling brook, the waving tree, the skipping lamb, the singing birds, the setting sun, the twinkling star, and enjoy that blessed peace which, although it passes understanding, yet it still keeps the heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, resulting in a great calm.