Worksop: its early history and present aspect

THOUGH we know little of Worksop as it was in Saxon times, yet as certain glimpses of its history, previous to the Conquest, are afforded in the Domesday survey, it seems desirable that, in a work like the present, these should have some slight notice. We learn then, from the authority just named, that the Saxon proprietor, Elsi, the son of Caschin, had "sac, soc, toll, and theam, together with the king’s customs, or on all pleas and fines within his manor of Worksop."

Elsi was evidently a person of distinction. This is shewn by the mention of his manorial rights, which were such as were accorded only to few. It seems probable, too, that he had a residence or hall at Worksop, from the exercise of his manorial privileges. This, however, is not recorded in the survey. It is observable also, that in the time of Harrison’s Survey in 1636, a considerable portion of the eastern side of the park, near the entrance lodge, was called "the Hall Closes," or "the Old Hall Closes." It is not improbable that the Saxon hall may have stood near the head of the old Market Place, where until recent days, an old dilapidated Moot Hall remained, at which the suitors of the manor were wont to assemble on court days. This hall may, perhaps, have been the successor of that of Elsi.

The ancient lords had a castle at Worksop, built probably, though this is not known for certainty, by William de Lovetot, the founder of the priory. It stood on the prominent hill, west of the town, which is still called the "Castle Hill," and which is now as it was in the days when Leland visited Worksop, temp. Henry VIII, "invironyd with trees." Little or nothing is known of the history of this castle, or as to the time when it was destroyed. It probably was not a place of any great strength or importance, and all vestiges of its buildings have for centuries vanished away. Leland tells us that even in his day, the Castle was "deane downe and scant knowen wher it was." "The stones of the Castel" he adds, "were fetchid, as sum say, to make the fair lodge in Wyrkesoppe Parke, not yet finished :" but he observes, "I am of opinion that the Chanons had the ruins of the Castil stones to make the closure of their large waulles."

Immediately to the west of the Castle Hill was the Lord’s water mill, always an important adjunct of a manor. This, at the time of Harrison’s survey, formed the most valuable rental on the estate, being let for the then large sum of £80 per annum. The waters which supplied its dam have been diverted within present memory. Till that time they impelled a wheel, no longer employed for grinding corn but for the sawing of wood and turning brush handles and heads, and they were previously used as the motive power of a cotton mill.

To the south of the Castle Hill is a continuation of the same elevated ground, which is called the Lead Hill. It derived its name from the circumstance of its having been formerly the place where the lead, which was brought from Derbyshire on pack-horses, was deposited, till it could be conveyed forward to Bawtry or Gainsborough, for water carriage to London and other places. An evidence of this fact was found during the excavation for the sewerage of the town in 1859, in the form of a pig of that metal. The name of Lead Hill, it may be observed, does not appear in the survey of Harrison, but it is there denominated "Tenter-Green."

At the beginning of the last century the parish authorities had a bull ring made on the Lead Hill, to enable them to comply with a by-law in the rolls of the Court-Leet and Baron of the Lord of the Manor that "no bull shall be killed and sold in the market of Worksop without having been first baited in the bull ring.

In November, 1722, there was a fire on the Lead Hill, which raged with great rapidity; the damage was computed at £1000.

Adjoining the castle precincts was a park, but it would seem not to have been co-extensive with that described in Harrison’s survey. This ancient park is, however, frequently alluded to in the document, but for the most part only in reference to certain portions of it which had then been disparked and let out to the inhabitants of the town as accommodation land. Indeed, we read of portions both of an "old parke" and a "new parke" so appropriated, and what sounds rather singular, of "a part of the old parke called new parke." Mention is also made of the "Renparke," and of a portion of the old park called "Pattrycke ends." These all seem to have been situated about the "Stubbings," which are also referred to in the survey named above, as forming a portion of the old park.

It is probable that the change was made in the extent and arrangement of the park when the Earls of Shrewsbury built the Manor House here.

Before passing from our notice of this part of the park, it may be well to correct a misnomer which, in modern times, has crept in with respect to a certain portion of it. This is now called "Sandhill Place," but the ancient and correct designation of it, as appears in Harrison, was "Standhill." It was no doubt so called from a "Stand" having been erected in this elevated portion of the park, from which the ladies and others might see the hunting.

Worksop was formerly very famous for the growth of Liquorice. In the time of Elizabeth, Camden in his "Britannia" notices the fame of the town for this plant. Speed says "In the west, near Worksop, groweth plenty of Liquorice, very delicious and good: "and Harrison thus alludes to it; "I cannot here omit that thing wherein the towne of Workesoppe excelleth all others within the Realme and most noted for, I meane the store of Licoras that groweth therein, and that of the best." Sundry entries occur in his survey of the rent of a "licoras garden." These gardens were principally situated on the eastern margin of the park, near the present "Slack Walk."

About fifty years ago the last garden of this plant was dug up, which had been planted by the person after whom the "Brompton stock" is named.