High Street, Hucknall Torkard.
High Street & church, Hucknall Torkard.

Eight hundred and forty years ago, when Osmund cried "halt" to his steaming oxen as he ploughed the rich soil, the horizon which limited his gaze on every side was fretted with the high tops of trees of the far extending forest. The tracks through the forest to the walled town of Nottingham led through grassy glades, narrow and winding, and bearing but faint traces of cart wheels, for it was a century later ere the Lenton Abbey cart, drawn by oxen, wandered through the woods taking, ere nightfall, its load of dead wood to feed the monastery fires.

The horse gradually supplanted the ox in the field and on the highway as a beast of burden, and for centuries our forefathers were accustomed to the sight of strings of pack horses passing through the forest in all directions, carrying riders and merchandise. Even less than a hundred years ago the farmers rode pillion fashion to market, the man in front and his wife behind on the same horse.

In the early years of the 19th century the village lanes were rutty, winding, and uneven, and most of the cottages were mean and squalid, for the people were poor, taxes heavy, employment scarce and ill-paid. baneful legacies of recent wars.

Even midway in the century the times were hard for the people. Mr. John Buck, in his lecture on "Hucknall in 1850," said:—"An open sewer ran down the main street (the other thoroughfares were called 'lanes'), the roads were rutty, and there were no side-paths. Unemployed stocking-makers were set to break stones at a shilling a day, and they deeply appreciated the kindness shown to them by the farmers. Two men cleaned and mended the rough roads, Wm. Allcock was paid 10/- per week and James Severn 6/- per week for this work. Stockingers' wages averaged 10/- per week, and Mr. Matthew Limb sent teens of men to change a £5 note at Mr. John Piggin's, the butcher, from which to pay their wages.

The ordinary cottage had a living-room, eleven feet square, with one or two stocking-frames in it. On Sundays the frames were covered up in order to make the living-room look tidy. Once a year, generally just before the Feast, the place was painted with gas tar. The men thought much of a suit of corduroy, of fustian or velveteen, and the smock frock was commonly worn, Biddy Bradbury being famous for the smocks she made. Women wore prints, ginghams, and soft bonnets. Food was dear, a sheep's head being a much-prized dish, and stuffed pluck a relish, because the people were forced to be vegetarians most of the week. Cottage rents varied from 1/2 to 2/- per week. Man, cock and dog fights were the common amusements."

Thirteen years afterwards, Mr. S. Button Walker, F.8.A., of Nottingham, visited Hucknall, and wrote down his impressions of the village in the following lines: —

"A.D. 1863. Passing along the main street, I observe the property considerably deteriorates in appearance, and bespeaks the abodes of men 'of lowly birth and iron fortune.' The houses are built generally without much regard to regularity or taste, and in nearly every instance of the local warm-tinted limestone; many are much dilapidated, but here and there are interspersed some of a better class and larger size, occupied by small farmers and graziers who, however well-versed in their own vocations, have not studied or certainly do not illustrate the laws of sanitary science, as we observe that the street (which at this point is much below the level of the surrounding ground)  is used by them as an open drain, and in dozens of places heaps of offensive cordure and compost offend both sight and smell. The liquid in some cases is flowing in all directions undisturbed. Indeed the whole place seems devoid of any proper or efficient system of drainage, and the absence of footpaths must render pedestrian exercise in wet seasons inconvenient and dirty. We venture to remark that the formation of a Board of Health would be conducive to the welfare and improved condition of the inhabitants."

Four years after Mr. Dutton Walker's visit, powers were obtained to institute a Local Board of Health, and the first meeting of the new body was held in the old News Room, on the 4th November, 1867. The election of members resulted as follows: —

W. Granger, 172 votes; Wm. Sears, 171; James Widdowson, 170; John Godber, 167; George Stevenson, 164; John Daws, 164; John E. Ellis, 156; Wm. Calladine, jun., 138; James Phelps, 138; John Raynor, sen., 136; Henry Rhodes, 128; Levi Wagg, 123; Thomas Widdowson, 116. Messrs. J. Beardall, R. Bramley, Wm. Rhodes, Levi Gration, John Wilmott, and John Widdowson were the unsuccessful candidates.

Following is a list of members and years when they were first elected: —

1868.—Messrs. W. Needham Ball, H. H. Godber, and John Wilmott.

1869.—Jonathan  Shaw. 1870.—Joseph Stainforth, Junr.

1871.—Levi Saxton, George Wilkinson, and William Woollatt.

1872.—John Plumb and Edward Godber.

1873.—Charles Calladine and John Widdowson.

1875.—George Betts,  John Cartledge.

1876.—Zachariah  Green,   William  Stainforth.

1877.—Thomas Hardy, John Hardy, Joseph A. Munks.

1878.—Andrew Radford.

1879.—Frederick Radford.

1880.—Herbert Wakefield.

1881.—David Beardall, Levi  Gration, Peter Howis,  William Swinton.

1882.—Samuel   Mellows.

1884.—Francis Newman Ellis and Frank Whyatt.

1885.—Stephen Kirkby.

1886.—Thomas Metcalf,  George Rhodes.

1887.—Henry A.  Ward.

1888.—William Jacklin.

1889.—Thomas Houldsworth and Herbert Plumb.

1890.—Thomas Stewart.

1893.—William Bettison, Charles F. Blinco, J. R. Lees.

The following were elected Chairmen of the Board: —

1867—1870.—Mr. John Godber.

1871—1880.—Mr. John E. Ellis.

1881—1885, also in year 1892.—Mr. Wm. Calladine.

1886—1888.—Mr. Wm. Stainforth.

1889—1891, also 1893—4.—Mr. Andrew Radford.

Messrs. H. A. Ward, C. J. Spencer, Roby Rowe, Jesse Hind, George Travell, and Parker Woodward successively filled the position of Clerk to the Board.