THERE is perhaps no town of the same magnitude in England that can boast of a more spacious Square and Market Place, than this; in form it is a kind of ‘L’ and let the stranger approach it from what quarter soever he may, his mind will at once be impressed with the neatness and elegance which is every where visible around him. The Great North Road, in a kind of circuitous direction, runs through the centre of it; when journeying northward, the traveller has the Market Place to the right, and the Square to the left. The old Town Hall, which stood upon the same ground as the present one, was erected in 1389, and pulled down in 1754.

About one hundred and thirty years ago the Market Place was unpaved, and a ditch or common-sewer, was open from north to south, by the side of which stood live old trees; in consequence however, of the ill effects which the noxious effluvia arising therefrom, had upon the health of the inhabitants, it was ordered to be covered in, the trees were taken away, and the Market place paved in a regular manner. There is, however, no doubt but that it had been paved at some antecedent period, as a pitched pavement, about three feet below the present one, has been found in several parts of the town.

The west side of the Square is chiefly occupied as private residences, at the west end of the south side is the banking establishment of Messrs. Sir W. B. Cooke, Bart. & Co. the major part of the remaining buildings are converted into respectable shops. The market is held on Saturday; and, according to one of the charters, the Corporation have the right of taking tolls upon corn, &c. coming into the market for sale, which right they formerly exercised, but of late years it has been liberally dispensed with. At a common hall held on the 18th of March, 1776, "It was ordered that the tolls of corn, fruit, and the bridge be free from the 5th of April following," and the resolution was ordered to be advertised in the Nottingham, York, and Cambridge papers. There is one evil however yet remaining which demands particular notice, but, by directing the attention of the proper authorities thereto, it will probably be shortly remedied; I allude to the practice of forestalling, which is here carried on to a most shameful extent, to the great injury of the inhabitants; this not only extends to the buying up of the fruit, &c. (by the hucksters, who attend here from Sheffield, and other parts of the south of Yorkshire,) but also to, butter, fowls, eggs, &c. Surely a stop might be put to this increasing evil: if the Corporation would appoint a proper person to look after these matters, and determinately resolve to punish all those dealers who are found guilty of regrating or forestalling, we should then cease to hear the numerous complaints which are weekly wade; the town’s people would have an opportunity of enjoying the necessaries of life at a more moderate rate,—the poor would be greatly benefitted, and the inhabitants generally would hail it as a measure fraught with the most advantageous consequences.

The market which is held on saturday is tolerably well supplied with fish from Hull, which, in consequence of the steam packets plying daily from that port to Gainsbro’, is generally fresh, and of a good quality: river fish is also plentiful, and the large eels from the Idle need no recommendation here. The shambles are supplied with beef, mutton, &c. not inferior to any in the kingdom; indeed few places are so advantageously situated in this respect as Retford. To the east of the town is the finest tract of rich grazing land, along the course of the river Trent, that England can produce; whilst to the west the mutton which is fed from the produce of sandy soils fully supports the name which from time immemorial has characterized the breed of forest sheep. The fairs are two in the year, viz. on the 23rd of March, for cattle, &c. and on the 2nd of October, for hops, cheese, &c. A hop market was likewise established a few years back, it is held on the first saturday in November.


Town Hall

It is greatly to be regretted that whilst other places have had their historians, and their draughtsmen, Retford should for centuries have been devoid of both; this deficiency cannot however, be said to have arisen from a lack of objects, because, (until within the last century’) few places of the same size could boast of a greater variety, amongst which the old Moot Hall, may not inappropriately he mentioned; now however, no traces of it are left, and no sketch, to my knowledge, at present in existence. In form it was something similar to the present one, though of smaller dimensions, built on the same site, chiefly of wood, in the post and pan style ; the roof very long, and covered with heavy slates; the windows, of which it contained six, were totally devoid of glass, its place being supplied by iron stauncheons, with doors of wood inside to prevent the intrusion of the weather; the main front was to the east, with the entrance in the centre, its approach being by a flight of very broad stone or wooden steps. The roof was surmounted by a small cupola, of a very antiquated appearance, containing a bell, but no clock.; this bell was rung at the commencement of the markets, and was also used for summoning the inhabitants to attend the courts, the sessions, &c. Underneath the hall, were the shambles similar to the present. The body of the hall was usually appropriated to the performance of theatrical and other amusements, until at length it was deemed imperatively necessary to take it down, to prevent it from falling, and on the 6th of August, 1764, the Corporation resolved upon its demolition.

The foundation of the present structure was laid in the year 1756; great precaution was used to secure its permanency, in consequence of the defective state of the sub-soil, the corners as well as some other parts were laid upon old millstones: the elevation is from two plans, one by Mr. White, and another by Mr. Watson; the former gentleman devised the decorations over the centre window, the latter nearly the whole of the remainder. In the tympan, which forms a triangular projection, are placed the armorial bearings of the town, which are two falcons respecting each other, upon a handsome shield, cut in freestone. The centre of the roof is finished by a neat cupola, surmounted by the four quarters of the horizon and a weathercock; under this the bell on which the clock strikes, is suspended, and a dial is placed on each of the principal quarters. The entrance is at the north end, and the visitor is particularly struck with the neatness and elegance which presents itself to the eye on entering the place; at the upper end of the room,—which is seventy feet by twenty-six feet, and twenty feet high, is an elevated bench, and upon the floor, a table, &c. used for the purposes of the quarter sessions which are here held for the borough, as well as those for the northern division of the county; this end is circularly finished, and the diameter is supported by four light fluted pillars of the Tonic order, which make an elegant finish to the part appropriated to the administration of justice. This room is extremely well lighted by twelve square-headed windows, the upper parts of which are plain and neat: on the inner side, over the entrance, is a triangular pediment highly ornamental, the upper angle of which is terminated by an artificial basket of flowers, executed in a superior manner: the workmanship of the ceiling displays considerable taste, more especially the centre and spandrills; the trellis work being completed by four ornamental knots; the whole finished by a rich and handsome cornice. To the left of the magisterial bench is a pair of folding doors leading to the council room, which is used by the Grand Jury at the sessions: this room is twenty feet by twenty-six feet, and though completed in a plain manner, with the exception of having a cornice similar to that in the great room, yet a degree of neatness characterizes the whole.

Over the fire place is a well executed portrait of King James the First, in his full robes of state, presented to the Corporation by His Grace the Duke of Newcastle: to the left is a large closet where the books belonging to the Retford Bench are kept; and to the right is the hutch where the charters and other documents, pertaining to the Corporation, are deposited. In this room the meetings of the body Corporate are held, and here also, the county Magistrates hold a petty session every other saturday. The great room is appropriated to the assemblies of the gentry of the town and neighbourhood, which are here, like angels’ visits—"few and far between" other public meetings too, are by permission of the bailiffs, generally held in this place. Underneath these two rooms are the shambles; the situation is perfectly adapted to the purpose, and great care has been taken in their formation for cleanliness and convenience, so much so, that a recent traveller describes them as being "the best in the county."


Is situate on the west side, and nearly in the centre, of Carrhillgate, and was erected in 1789, by the late Mr. Pero, then manager of this circuit, who purchased the ground of the late Sir Thomas Woolaston White, Bart. Its exterior appearance is certainly not of a very imposing or prepossessing character, but its interior, (from the improvements and decorations which it has recently received from the pencil of Mr. Fraser) certainly entitles it to rank in the second class of country theatres. Its dimensions however, it is to be regretted, are too circumscribed, and, from a combination of local circumstances, do not admit of any enlargement on the ground plan. The house is calculated at the ordinary prices of 3s. boxes, 2s. pit, and 1s gallery; to hold from £40 to £50. The corps dramatique generally attend once in the year, and upon the whole have been tolerably well patronized, for which Mr. Manly, the present highly respected manager, from his high and public spirited conduct in catering for the public amusement, is entitled to the thanks of all those who profess to be lovers of the drama. Several of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood have, at times, become its patrons. It is worthy of remark, by way of conclusion, that this was one of the earliest provincial theatres that the celebrated Master Betty visited in his professional tour. Miss Fearon, now Madam Fearon, delighted the Retford audience before she appeared on the London stage; and during the last year Miss Foote gratified the admirers of the drama here with a fine specimen of her abilities. THE NEWS ROOM.

Is situate on the east side of the Market Place, and was erected by the Corporation some years ago. The subscribers, which consist of about forty gentlemen of the town and vicinage, are admitted by ballot the first tuesdays in January, April, July, and October, and pay each an annual subscription of £1. 11s. 6d. No strangers are admitted but through the introduction of a member, except officers of the army and navy. Subscribers confined by illness have the use of any paper the day after its arrival, except the sunday papers, which are not allowed to be taken away until the following tuesday. The room is commodious and suitably adapted to the purposes to which it is appropriated, and contains full length portraits of George the Second, and his consort Caroline, presented a few years back by Lord Viscount Galway.


The Post Office is situated on the north side of Newgate Street, in a very convenient situation, being only about forty yards from the high road,—it is kept by Miss Elizabeth Barker. Letters from hence are forwarded to the north every noon, and to London, and the south at half-past one every afternoon, (saturdays excepted to the former place.) The office is open every morning at eight o’clock, and continues so until twenty minutes before twelve, it is open again a few minutes before two, and remains so until ten at night. By order of the Post Master General, a penny extra is charged upon every letter (besides the postage) delivered at the residence of the person belonging to the same.

Immediately on the arrival of the North Mails, (at a little before two o’clock;) a Mail Cart which arrives at half-past eleven every morning, is immediately despatched to Worksop, taking letters, parcels, &c. for that place and its immediate neighbourhood.


This respectable establishment under the firm of Messrs. Sir W.L.B. Cooke, Bart., Childers, Foljambe, and Parker, is situate on the south side of the Square, at which, attendance is every day given (sundays excepted) from ten o’clock till one, and from two till four, and on saturdays from nine till five. London Bankers, Messrs. Coutts & Co. It is worthy of remark that this is the only country Bank, in England, which draws upon that eminent firm.


For a long series of years this parish was without a house of accommodation for the residence of the paupers belonging to it, until they were opportunely relieved by the liberal conduct of the Corporation, who, on the 29th of September, 1817, at a public meeting in the Town Hall, proposed, through the medium of the Town Clerk, to build a Workhouse, upon receiving a rent from the parish equal to £6 per cent. per annum, upon the money actually expended in erecting and completing the same, without any other consideration for the ground rent, (which was their property,) or for the materials belonging to the old houses then occupying the situation.

The premises were erected in 1818; they are sufficiently commodious, and the house well adapted to the various purposes to which it is appropriated. Twenty six parishes are joined to this as a head, who pay an annual rent of £3, and 3s. a week each, for every pauper they may have occasion to send thither.


Which crosses the Idle and connects the parishes of East and West Retford, was partly re-built, and considerably widened, in 1794, under the superintendence of Mr. Simpson, the architect. It now consists of five arches, and although it cannot boast of any peculiar elegancies, it is sufficiently spacious and substantial to answer all the purposes for which it was erected. So insecure and dangerous had the old bridge become, that in 1793 a waggoner, from the shaking of his team, was actually precipitated into the water, owing to the giving way of the sole of the bridge.


Nearly in the centre of the Square stands the Broad Stone, around which the market for the sale of corn is held. It is generally supposed (and oral tradition is the only evidence we possess respecting it, that this Stone formerly stood on an eminence to the south east of the town, that place being known in ancient times by the name of "Est-croc-sic," but now by that of "Domine Cross." In all probability, this stone was once the point of attraction, around which our forefathers used to assemble for the purpose of celebrating public worship; since then, however, it has been differently appropriated, and during the time the plague raged so dreadfully in this neighbourhood, the markets were held near the spot, in order that the country people might not be deterred, through fear of taking the infection, from bringing in their different wares for the use of the public. Another stone exactly of the same form and dimensions, is to be observed in the churchyard wall at West Retford, which formerly occupied a place on an elevated piece of ground, near the road leading to Barnby Moor, in West Retford field: here too, it is probable, a market was held, under circumstances similar to those above narrated.

At what period the Broad Stone was removed from "Domine cross," is unknown, but to the extent of the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, it has stood in the Market Place until the year 1818, when it was removed, by order of the bailiffs, to its present station; it is now in an inverted position, having a square hole on the under side, similar to that at West Retford.