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Retford in 1836

RETFORD, EAST, a borough in the North Clay division of the wapentake or hundred of Bassetlaw, in the county of Nottingham, in England, 128 miles in a direct line north-north-west of the General Post-Office, London, or 142 ½ miles by the Edinburgh and York mail-road through Ware, Huntingdon, Stamford, Grantham, and Newark

East Retford stands on the right or east bank of the river Idle, a feeder of the Trent. The area of the borough and the parish (for the two are coincident) comprehends only 130 acres (the greater part of which is built over), but the town extends into the adjacent parishes of Clareborough and Ordsall: and the village of West Retford, which is on the opposite side of the river, and is connected with East Retford by a bridge, may be regarded as a portion of it. The borough had, in 1831, 507 houses, inhabited by 525 families; 38 houses uninhabited, and 1 building: the population was 2491, scarcely any part of it agricultural: Clareborough (one of the parishes forming the liberty of Southwell and Scrooby) had an area of 3870 acres; 477 houses, inhabited by 501 families, 28 houses uninhabited, and 2 building, with a population of 2106, about one-fourth agricultural: Ordsall (in the Hatfield division of Bassetlaw wapentake) had an area of 1930 acres; 186 houses, inhabited by 190 families, 14 uninhabited, and 5 building, with a population of 809, about two-thirds agricultural: and West Retford (in the same division) an area of 1080 acres; 150 houses, inhabited by 152 families; and 2 houses uninhabited, with a population of 593, about one-fifth agricultural: making a total of 7110 acres; 1320 houses, inhabited by 1368 families; and a gross population of 5999.

The town thus composed consists of several streets, the principal of them converging not far from the head of the bridge on the East Retford side. The streets (in the borough at least) are well paved, and lighted with gas. The houses both in East and West Retford are very good. The chief extension of the town of late years has been on the south side of the borough, in the suburb of South Retford, in Ordsall parish. The church of East Retford, dedicated to St. Swithin, is large and handsome, with a lofty square tower: it is of various dates, and exhibits the different styles of gothic architecture. It was anciently larger, but portions of it have been pulled down. West Retford church is small, with a tower and an elegant crocketed spire.

Clareborough and Ordsall churches are both remote from the town; but in the suburb of Moorgate, in Clareborough parish, a chapel-of-ease has been built in the later Gothic style. There are several dissenting places of worship. The town-hall is a neat and commodious building: there are a theatre, a news-room, a free-school, and one or two ranges of almshouses. There is scarcely any kind of manufacture carried on, the business of the town being a retail trade for the supply of the surrounding agricultural district. Formerly there was a good deal of malting; afterwards the manufacture of hats was introduced; and the late Major Cartwright established a worsted-mill, which gave employment at one time to 600 people, but ultimately failed.

The market is on Saturday, and is in autumn well supplied with hops, of which many are grown hereabout: there are two yearly fairs; and one great market for horses, black cattle, cheese, and hops. The river Idle is not navigable at this part of its course; but the Chesterfield Canal passes close to the town, and opens a communication with the Trent.

The borough is said to be a borough by prescription: various charters have been granted by Henry III and succeeding sovereigns. At the time of the Report on Municipal Corporations, petty-sessions weekly and quarter-sessions for the borough were held. The Court of Record had fallen into disuse. The corporation, under the Municipal Reform Act, consists of 4 aldermen and 12 councillors, and the town is not to have a commission of the peace, except on petition and grant.

This borough sent members to parliament, 9 Edward II but for a long time after that period, its right was suspended or disused. In 13 Elizabeth it returned members again, and has done so ever since; but in consequence of a parliamentary inquiry into the corruption practised at the election in 1826, the suffrage was extended to the freeholders of the hundred of Bassetlaw. The number of voters on the register in 1834-5 was 2459; in 1835-6, 2835.

The living of East Retford is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £140, with a glebe-house; that of West Retford is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £364, with a glebe-house.

There were in the borough, in 1833, eleven day schools (one of them an endowed grammar-school), with 293 scholars; and two Sunday-schools, with 377 children. The three parishes of West Retford, Clareborough, and Ordsall contained one boarding-school, with from 12 to 14 scholars; twelve day-schools, with 240 or 250 scholars; and six Sunday-schools, with about 609 children. The grammar-school, though wealthy, was comparatively inefficient, through abuse and consequent litigation.