The Estates

In 1665 consisted of the Parish of West Retford with some exceptions, viz.:—The " Biggins " Property and Farm had been secretly alienated by the elder Brother of the Founder, Thomas Darrel, as before described: land had been sold near the town, on which was built the " New Hall" (now West Retford Hall) ; but there was also much land in the Parish of Ordsall, now covered by the Railway Stations, and the Suburb of West Field. The tenancies were com­paratively few in number, and as all the land on the Great North Road was open and un-enclosed, the trouble of management would be very little.




Mr. Atkinson, Retford, Mr. Sampson, Gainsbro', Mr. Wharton, Retford, Collected the Rents after the Founder's decease, until the "Foundation" was accomplished.
Bailyffes   Held office Years.
1672 Mr. Wm. Dunstan 28
1700 Mr. Wm. Nichols 5
1705 Mr. Wm. Booth 14
1719 Alderman John Booth (or James) 19
1738 Mr. James Booth 24
1762 Mr. Edward Spittalhouse 32
1794 Alderman Sampson Mossman 6
1800 Mr. Dennis Frith 21
1821 Mr. Wm. Smith 3
1824 Mr. Wm. Barker 29
1853 Mr. John Hy. Worth 32
1885 Mr. Edwin Wilmshurst (up to 1908) 23
The fact that the two last-named Bailyffes were life-long friends, with common ideas as' to the management and develop­ment of the Estates, and of the Hospital, has resulted  in a continuity of policy for exactly fifty-five years, which has been greatly to the benefit of this noble Charity.

In the Burrow's MS. is recorded as follows:—"At the death of Mr. William Booth, Bailyffe, 1714, the rents were received by his Widow, and his Daughter, Mrs. Harper, for 28 years, when James Booth was appointed in 1742, and was Bailyffe up to 1762." The Booth Dynasty of Bailyffes lasted 33 years, and it was probably the first, William, who issued 17th Century farthings in Retford.

On April 17th, 1611, there was a partition of Estate between Edward Darrel and Barbara his wife, and her sister Anne, by an Indenture. Previously, in 1605, there  was a family lawsuit between the above, which may have been the reason why Anne, sister of Barbara, left Retford, and went up to London. At this date is recorded—"Manor of West Retford with the appurts."—12 messuages, 8 cottages, 8 tofts, 500 acres of land, 150 acres of meadow,  50 acres of pasture, 500 acres of furze and heath, 300 acres of moor, 100 shillings rent common of pasture for all cattle and free warren, with the appurts. in West Retford, Biggin alias Bigger; and in Gringley-Parva, Welham, Welham-moor-house, Moorgate, and Grove; and also the Advowson of the Church of West Retford.

The land of Manor, from West Retford Village on present Great North Road (not then made) was open common and furze, and un-enclosed The land in Little Gringley was, later, "devised by William Darrel and Anne his wife," to Dame Isabel Sloswicke (away from her sister), showing family dissensions.

The families of Denman, Darrel, S'oswicke, and Wharton, all benefactors to the Borough of Retford, were intimate friends and family connections.

In 1770, the accounts show that the rental (excluding scholars endowment) was £159 5s. 1d. from 22 tenants—a period of great depression, even allowing for the greater value of money at that date; and in 1777, John Parker, Esq., Solicitor, on security of estate, advanced £828 10s. 0d., being the amount of the share of the expenses of enclosing the waste and commons and furze in West Retford.

From about A.D. 1800, the rent roll (including the scholars property) scarcely exceeded ,£700 per annum, which gradually increased, until in 1859 it amounted to £1,571, when under the able management of the then Bailyffe— Mr. Worth—and from the improved value of land, and from the increase of the population of Retford, it went on rising, reaching high level water-mark in 1880, when the income was £2,380. Then the ruin of agriculture from free im­portation of food stuffs, led to a rapid fall of income, and in 1893 it had fallen from £2,380 to £1,453, in addition to which must be considered the great advance in the cost of buildings, repairs, labour, and upkeep generally. The present Bailyffe then commenced a policy, sanctioned by the Master Governor and the Charity Commissioners, of developing and improving the Ordsall land by making new streets and roads, and selling off the land in suitable lots for building purposes. But great obstacles had to be over­come—the proposed new roads, viz.: Victoria Road to the Station, Darrel Road, Cobwell Road extension, and Back Station Road, and, later on, Century Road and Tunnel Road (all now built on), were in three different parishes.

The Great Northern Railway Company had its own interests to consider, the Corporation of Retford were frigidly indifferent to the scheme, the Charity Commissioners insisted on certain conditions, and for seven years the Bailyffe was engaged in endless consultations and conferences with one or other set of authorities, all wanting to get their most out of the Charity Estate. At last an exchange of land with the Great Northern Railway provided necessary access to the Station, and sufficient frontage for the Building Estate Plan.

For 50 years, since the Railway Stations were built, no direct access to the town could be had. Time after time the late Aldermen Wilkinson and John Smith broached and ventilated the subject, but the vested interests of three different authorities constituted a vis inertiae which they could never overcome.

But, since the building of the bridge over the Idle in Albert Road, an opportunity now occurred  for making theabsolutely straight Victoria Road, from the Station entrance to the Corporation Baths, then in course of excavation, and the Bailyffe trusted in the hearty and cordial co-operation of the Municipal body, in at last providing a direct road, so long desired by the town and neighbourhood. The plan was prepared, approved by the Charity Commissioners and by the Highways Committee of the Council, and at the next meeting of that august body, was formally offered to the town; to be made by the Hospital authorities at an estimated cost of £2,000, and the land value £ 1,000 more— to be given also.

Solomon records that in the multitude of councillors there is wisdom, but he lived in the sunny East; had he resided in the cold clays of North Notts, he would have modified his opinion, and would have stated that she was only occasionally to be heard of, lurking in minorities of the Councillors, in small and ancient Boroughs.

In spite of the unanimous recommendation of their own Highways Committee, who had examined the site and studied the conditions, this handsome and unprecedented offer was, on a division, negatived and declined, and the Bailyffe received a curt and verbal intimation that the offer was refused, with not even any expression of thanks for it.

But public opinion ran the other way, the press con­demned the short-sighted decision of the Town Council, the disagreeable and persistent Bailyffe explained in the three local papers that "Thanks to an arrangement for an exchange of land with the Great Northern Railway Co., ample frontage was provided for the new building scheme, but that a direct road from the Station would be an immense boon to the inhabitants, and that the making of it, and the building of houses on it, would give an impetus to the improvement of the town, immediate employment to a multitude of labourers, carters, bricklayers, artificers, surveyors, auctioneers, and solicitors, and that the increased populated area would assist to lesson the rates, and, that if the offer was not now accepted, it would never be possible again."

The Editors wrote stirring "Leaders" in big type; indignant burgesses wrote anonymous and uncomplimentary letters about the rejection of the offer, and there was a great storm in the municipal tea cup.

Then the Mayor issued a decree for a special, imme­diate, and extraordinary meeting of the Council, and they assembled in haste, for the thing was urgent. The Janitor, the Surveyor, the Scribes, the Reporters, the Councillors, the Aldermen, and the Clerks learned in the law, and they sat, and the majority who had rejected the gift of the road regaled themselves on humble pie; there they "made a motion," but the sluice gates of discussion were not opened, and the usual cataracts of eloquence gushed not forth, so the "motion" for the acceptance of the road was carried with wondrous unanimity, in unwonted silence—"nemine contra dicente" (but no thanks to the Bailyffe for the offer). It might have been expected that the Council would now lay down drains, and the water and gas pipes, but no, the pound of flesh must yet be axacted from the Charity's funds, by the local law of the Medes and Persians, a guarantee of ten per cent, must be given before they would "take over" the road, and, as neither the Charity nor the Charity Commissioners could incur the risk, the Bailyffe became personally responsible.

So the road was made at the Hospital's expense (of £2,074), exclusive of the land also given, adorned with trees planted on each side, and after seven years of persevering obstinacy in pushing on the whole scheme, and with no thanks, fee, honour, or reward from any source whatever, the Bailyffe has had the great pleasure of having been the means of providing Retford with the Victoria Road, linking the town with the station, consoled by the successful result of his efforts, and having for his solatium "Mens Sibi Conscia Recti."

Be it remembered that these events took place in the dark and expiring days of the last century, and reflect no doubt as to the wisdom of our present progressive enlightened, and altogether estimable municipal body, who, in this 20th Century have earned the gratitude of their constituents, by reducing the price of our gas and water, by completing the deep drainage of the town, by judiciously adapting Arlington House as a Borough Hospital for infectious cases, and who have at last commenced the long talked of widening of Carolgate by demolishing an old house, and making an open space and wide entrance to a poor, narrow, and infrequented street, which leads to nowhere—and back again.

When the Father of the Founder, Edward Darrel, came to Retford from the City of Chichester, Sussex, in A.D. 1600, the population of all Retford was about 3,000. When the Bailyffe, who writes this record, came from the same historical City, 60 years ago, the population was 6,500, and West Retford was a miserable village of thatched houses and barns, divided from East Retford by a narrow hump-back bridge of five stone arches over the river Idle. No street lights existed West of the bridge, no railways had reached the isolated disfranchised Borough. The writer, a boy of 14, arrived on a dark November night in a snow storm, on the top of the much overdue daily Sheffield coach, in A.D. 1847. But the funds received from the compulsory sale of lands for the G.N.R. and the M.S. & L. Railway Companies, then enabled the late Bailyffe— Mr. Worth—practically to rebuild the Hospital property in West Retford Street. The first new house erected was that occupied by Mr. Cutts, Sen., Saddler. Two ruinous barns were demolished, and "The Gables" and "Darrel House" erected on the site, and the improvements were continued by the present Bailyffe. "Sand Rock House" in 1877, the "Tower House" in 1889, "Crown House" in 1901, and also the terrace of four houses near the bridge, the Elizabethan design of which was taken from the Old Manor House of Sutton, the residence of Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell's brother-in-law, which, being ruinous, was pulled down a few years ago.