Public Buildings


THE Moot Hall, at the corner of the Market Place and Westgate, was erected in the year 1752 by the Countess of Oxford, at that time lady of the manor, as a place wherein to transact the business of the manor. Mr. Harrod adds that it was for the purpose of accommodating the market people with shelter, and furnishing the town with room for discussing public matters, and the gentry with an elegant Assembly Room. However that may be, it is now used only as a place in which to hold the copyhold courts twice a year. The large room measures 48 feet by 17 feet. On front of the building is cut in relief the coat-of-arms of the Oxford family, with the following inscription beneath:—

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A story is told by old stagers that on one occasion, when the Moot Hall was finished, the Countess drove down in her carriage to look at it. On finding that her directions had not been complied with, she ordered her carriage to be driven back to Welbeck Abbey, and went away indignant. Prior to the erection of the Town Hall, many very important meetings were held here, a few of which will be noticed elsewhere. Originally the Moot Hall was supported upon massive stone columns, the square underneath the hall being left open for the use of the market people. Early in the present century, it was converted into shops and a private residence.


The Mechanics' Institute was established in 1831, owing to the praiseworthy exertions of Miss Catherine Harker, Mr. John Pearson (a working brushmaker), and Mr. Robert Watson. Formerly it was a valuable educational institute, but the passing of the Education Acts put an end to its usefulness in this direction. Attached to it there is still a School of Art, with well-attended classes. It has a large library; a capital reading room, well supplied with magazines and periodicals; and a large room fitted up with three tables, for members who like a game of billiards. These tables are always well patronised, and form a profitable source of revenue to the institution. There is also a card-room, and a room for meetings largely used by local societies.


This building occupies a prominent position in the Market Place, and here the business of the town is transacted. The building is in the Italian style of architecture, and was erected for a company from the design of Mr. J. Nicholson, of Southwell, at a cost of £8,000, in the year 1836; and in 1883 it was purchased by the Improvement Commissioners for £9,400. The foundation stone was laid by Mr. John Coke, J.P., of Debdale Hall. Considerable sums of money have been expended on the property since it came into the hands of the Commissioners, in alterations and improvements. There is a subscription library and reading room in the front part of the hall, and at the back a free library and reading room has recently been established. The Post Office is also on the premises.


The Union Workhouse is situated on the Sutton Road, and was erected in 1837 to replace a building on the Nottingham Road formerly used as a workhouse, but which became too small. Additions have been made to it from time to time, until to-day it is one of the most complete in the County of Nottingham. The latest addition to the building was the infirmary. The whole of the premises have been erected at a cost of nearly £15,000.


Mansfield is the chief town of the Mansfield County Court, the district of which extends over and includes fifteen parishes. The courthouse is situated in the Market Place, and is divided from the Town Hall by the Exchange Row. It was erected in the year 1840 as a savings' bank, out of the profits on investments over and above the amount permitted by the Government to be paid to depositors. Subsequently it was purchased and converted into County Court offices. The sittings of the court are held monthly, the judge being his Honour Judge Masterman, M.A., D.C.L., who succeeded Mr. Bristowe, Q.C. The registrar of the court is Mr. G. H. Hibbert. There is no Court of Bankruptcy attached to the court, all that business being transacted at Nottingham.


The Bentinck Memorial.
The Bentinck Memorial.

In the centre of the Market Place is a handsome monument, erected by public subscription in the year 1849 to the memory of Lord George Bentinck, brother of the late Duke of Portland, who represented North Nottinghamshire in Parliament. It is in the form of an elaborate Gothic cross, surrounded by palisades. It cost upwards of £1,500, but has never been finished, space having been left in the centre for a statue of the deceased lord. The following inscription is engraved on a plate:—"To the memory of Lord George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck, second surviving son of William Henry Cavendish Scott, fourth Duke of Portland. He died the 21st day of September, an. Dom. mdcccxlviii., in the forty-seventh year of his age. His ardent patriotism and uncompromising honesty were only equalled by the persevering zeal and extraordinary talents which called forth the grateful homage of those who, in erecting this memorial, pay a heartfelt tribute to exertions which prematurely brought to the grave one who might long have lived the pride of his native country." Mr. Stapleton, in his "Crosses of Nottinghamshire," calls attention to what appears very much like an unintentional "bull" in the wording. Lord George is described in the inscription as the " second surviving son" of the Duke. How could he be so? It might be mentioned that Lord George was one of the bitterest opponents to the repeal of the Corn Laws.


The Post Office, as has already been stated, is on the Town Hall premises—an exceedingly central site for the whole of the town. The increase in the business transacted there has been so great of recent years that it has been found necessary to enlarge the premises, and there is no small probability that before very long it may be found desirable to remove the office to even larger and more convenient premises. The present postmaster is Mr. Frogatt.


Mansfield is the centre of the Petty Sessional Division of that name. The Police Court is a substantial building, on Railway Side. It was erected in 1873, and a court is held here on Thursday in each week. Formerly, the magistrates met for the transaction of business in a large room adjoining the Bowl-in-Hand Inn, Leeming Street, once a fortnight. This old room is still standing, facing the bowling green. Subsequently they removed to the Swan Hotel, Church Street, where they continued until the Town Hall was built, in 1834. Here they remained until the present court-house was erected. In the early part of the century, the lock-up was at the top of the Elm Tree Yard, Pelham Street, where prisoners were confined until the sittings of the magistrates. When convicted, prisoners were marched to the prison at Southwell. It has frequently happened in the past that prisoners, policemen, witnesses, and solicitors have had to attend at the private residences of county magistrates, some of whom lived many miles from the town, to transact the ordinary business arising between the weekly sittings of the court. At the present time there is not a single resident magistrate in the town; and one of the reasons for applying for a Charter of Incorporation was to remedy this grievance, by assuring a resident magistrate in the person of the Mayor, and, after the first year, of his deputy. There are fourteen justices of the peace for the division, one superintendent (Captain Tomasson, one of the party who went out to recover the body of the late Prince Imperial of France), one inspector, three sergeants, and upwards of twenty constables. The control of the police vests in the county authorities.


On the 27th of October, 1890, a handsome public General Hospital, erected at a cost of £2,000, was opened by the Duke of Portland. The site is on West Hill Drive, about one hundred yards from Chesterfield Road entrance of Clumber Street. It is situated on a lofty eminence, and the nature of the soil is well adapted for an institution where a pleasant aspect, combined with quietude from the turmoil of the outer world, yet of easy access for the large population in the midst of which its important work will be carried on, and plenty of fresh air, are essential to the comfort and well-being of the patients. The style is Gothic, and the material used, brick with stone dressings. It has south and west aspects, and contains two wards, accommodating five beds, one of which has been endowed by the Duchess of Portland.

Early in 1867, a small Cottage Hospital was started by a number of gentlemen; but the accidents that occurred being so numerous, it was felt something further should be done. The first organised attempt to establish a hospital was made on the 25th of March, 1870, through the persistent efforts of Mr. Douglas J. Patterson, when an influential committee was formed. All, however, that came of this was the establishment of a Dispensary. But the matter was not allowed to drop, and meetings took place from time to time on the subject until the Jubilee year, when a very determined effort was made; and eventually, on the nth of November, 1889, the foundation stone was laid, which bears the following inscription:—"This stone was laid by Mrs. Hollins, Pleasley Vale, November nth, 1889, in commemoration of the Jubilee of her Majesty Queen Victoria. 1887." At the same time, an arrangement of a satisfactory character was made with the governors of the Convalescent Hospital at Mansfield Woodhouse by which the two were put under the same Board of Governors, as is the case at the present time. The Duke of Portland was elected president of the Board of Governors in 1891. Amongst the names which appear in the visitors' book at the Accident Hospital are those of the Duchess of Portland and her infant daughter, Lady Victoria Bentinck. The chairman of the Monthly Board is Mr. H. E. Hollins; and the matron is Miss Pell Smith, who has the management of both institutions.

In the month of December, 1891, was inaugurated "Hospital Day" at Mansfield, a suggestion of Mr. Jos. Paget, J. P., on retiring from office as president. The Duke and Duchess of Portland were present, his Grace heading, with the Mayor, a procession to the parish church, where an able and appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev. Canon Knox Little, canon of Worcester Cathedral. The offertory yielded upwards of £58.