THE name of Retford not occurring in any known document previous to Doomsday survey, we are left completely in the dark respecting its foundation ;and were an opinion to be hazarded upon the subject, it would be considered useless, and its uncertainty tend to divest it of all authority. The time when the Romans reigned supreme in this country, notwithstanding the proximity of Retford to one of their public roads, as well as its comparatively short distance from Littleborough, one of their most favourite stations, (the undoubted "Agelocum" or "Segelocum" mentioned in the Itinerary of Antoninus,*) Retford must have been of trifling importance, otherwise, it is reasonable to presume it would not have, escaped the observation of that brave and warlike people. It is not, however, to these two circumstances alone that we would confine our attention, but, as will be shown in the historical account of Grove, that place was once occupied by her armies, and probably, from the eligibility of its situation, it was one of their favourite encampments, and became the central point of their military stations in this part of the country. Assuming this hypothesis to be true, and of which there can be little doubt, can it for a moment be supposed that Retford would have escaped their notice, had it been worthy of it? Reason would at once negative the supposition ;—we may therefore conclude that its native insignificance, combined with its low and swampy situation, rendered it any thing but desirable.

After the Romans had finally deserted the country, it was greatly annoyed by the internal divisions which sprung up between the Picts and Scots, till at length, after much bloodshed, it became a prey to the Saxons, who continued to hold it until they were completely routed by King Arthur, in 621, after whose death, the Britons were unable to maintain the power which they had acquired, and the Saxons again became "masters of the soil."

To this era the historian is accustomed to look for those records which form the groundwork, as well as give the earliest evidences, of local history. Indeed, according to Thoroton, there is not the name of a any field, hamlet, village, or town, which is not of Saxon etymology; yet strange as it may appear, not a single ray of documentary light; is on record respecting Retford, either to assist in piercing the gloom of that period, or to chase away the errors which superstition or traditionary legends may, since that time, have assisted in promulgating.


In Doomsday book, the name of Redforde and Redeford occurs in several places, but I am apprehensive that this place is only mentioned twice or three times at the farthest, the others evidently referring to West Retford, Radford near Worksop, or Radford near Nottingham, large quantities of land being mentioned which never existed here. In this opinion Mr. Thoroton appears to coincide. The entry is as under,—

Doomsday Book excerpt

From which may he gathered, that in Retford there was one mill belonging to the fee of Sutton, the property of the Archbishop of York. Two other entries, supposed by Bawdwin†, to allude to this place, are as follows,—

Doomsday Book excerpt 2

That is,—In Odesthorpe (now unknown) and Retford, there was one bovat and three quarters of land to be taxed. The land four bovats. Soke in Clumber. The land was waste.

Also, in Odesthorpe and Retford, there was half an oxgang to be taxed. Land to four oxen. There is one villain‡ there, and the fourth part ofone mill, and four acres of meadow. Thus briefly is Retford noticed, the foundation of its history consequently rests upon a very circumscribed basis.


1278. The Jury found that Walter Prat held a mansion here of John Prat his brother, in free burgage; likewise of Thomas, son of Ralph de Hayton, two acres and a half of meadow, and of divers small parcels in several places, and that Adam Prat, then seven years old, was his only son and heir.

1357. John Atte Vykers recovered his seisin of one messuage and one toft in East Retford, and Walters son of Adam Prat, and others, were amerced.

1377. John Atte Vykers granted to the bailiffs, burgesses, and commonalty, towards the support of the chaplains of the Holy Trinity, and of the blessed Virgin Mary, in the church of St. Swithin, in East Retford, and for the salvation of his soul,—the souls of his ancestors, and of all his benefactors for ever, eight pieces of land in East Retford, with the erections upon them; together with a fourth part of his timber at Langwagh, and the whole of that which he had by purchase of Lord Walter Power, on condition that the said bailiffs, &c. should pay him the yearly rent of £10. for the term of his life. He also gave them one garden, with a croft adjoining, called Bolton Yherd, not included in the above agreement.

1385. Richard de Raucliffe, parson of Cloun, William de Burgh, parson of Babworth, and Peter le Cooke, chaplain, gave to the prior and convent of Worksop, five messuages, and the moiety of three messuages in East Retford, to find a chaplain to pray for the good estate of the said Richard, William, and Peter, whilst they should live, and daily to celebrate mass for them all when they should be dead, in the church of the said priory.

In the same year, the king, (Richard II.) granted to John Lesta, parson of West Retford; Thomas, vicar of Clarborough; Thomas, vicar of East Retford; John de Tyreswell, chaplain; Hugh do Tyln, of Retford; William de Burgh, parson of Babworth; John Atte Vykers; and Thomas de Besthorpe, that they should give to the bailiffs of East Retford, and their successors, nine messuages, five tofts, and 8s. rent in East Retford, which they had held of the king in free burgage by the service of ld. per annum, to find two chaplains to officiate at the altars of St Trinity and St. Mary, in the church of East Retford, according to the ordinance of the Archbishop of York.

1388. This year the old town-hall was erected. An agreement was entered into between the bailiffs and commonalty, and twenty burgesses, viz. Robert Usher; John de Kirton, Berker; Roger de Hawardby; William de Balderton; Thomas de Huntersfield; Thomas Waddester; William Mayson; John de Manton; John Prentys, Berker; Roger de Thurlby; John de Tollerton; John de Lound, draper; William de Haynton, John Arnald; John Lord; John Smyth; Roger Barber; Thomas de Manton; John Barke Corvaser; and Robert Wright; for the completion of the building. At the same time was to be made "one stockhouse, for stocks to be set under the steps of ‘the hall aforesaid, which said hall, chamber, and stockhouse should be daily exercised for the use of the bailiffs for the time being, when need should require." Whether this exercise was ever practised, and how long it continued, I am unable to say; latterly however the municipal authorities have dispensed with the recreation.

1392. This year, William de Burgh, parson of Babworth, and John de Tyreswell, chaplain of the blessed virgin Mary, of East Retford, granted a house situate in Kyrkgate, to Cecilia, relict of William Mayson, for the term of her life, and at her decease to become the property of the bailiffs, &c. for ever.

The Corporation are in possession of a document under the seal of the Archbishop of York, dated 13th August, 1392, confirming the appointment of the two chaplains appointed by the bailiffs.

1426. Julia Schether, and John Milner of East Retford, and John Taylour of Wellome Morgatte, gave one tenement lying in Bryggate, and abutting upon the Kynegesgate, to Robert Holme, vicar of the parish, and to William Wright, chaplain.

1474. This year, William Walker granted one tenement "abutting upon the market-stede, and the west head abutting upon the, water of Idill," (formerly the property of "John Pye of Roderham,") to Mar Robert Gyll, vicar, Richard Byrstow, and Bryan Clarke.

* This monument, the most invaluable piece of antiquity possessed by any nation, is still preserved in the chapter-house at Westminster; it consists of two pondrous volumes, and may be consulted for a fee of 6s. 8d. and 4d. per line for transcripts. A facsimile of their contents was printed some years ago, by order of Parliament; but excellent translations have been made by Bawdwin, and others. It was undertaken and completed by order of William the Conqueror in six years, and contains an exact survey of the lands, goods, &c. of every person living in England; (with the exception of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, the bishopric of Durham, and part of Lancashire;) with what he used to pay in the times of the Saxons; also what stock each had, and ready money,—what he owed, and what was owing to him; and in some counties the number of tenants, cottagers, and slaves, of all denominations, who lived upon the estates are enumerated.
† Bawdwin's Doomsday, p. 340—300.
‡ The villains were an order of tenantry somewhat superior to the "common herd": notwithstanding they were bondmen, born upon and transferable with estates; they were, however, allowed to hold land in their own right, and consequently though in a servile condition, they enjoyed privileges of which the bordars, who were servants of the lowest degree, were entirely deprived.