Sherwood, Nottingham by Terry Fry

Sherwood is predominantly a dormitory suburb of Nottingham, about two miles north of the city centre on the Mansfield Road, formerly the Mansfield Turnpike. The area lies to and on the west of the Mapperley Hills and is bounded by Mapperley to the east, Basford to the west, Carrington to the south and Daybrook and Woodthorpe to the north. The main routes north and south through Sherwood are Mansfield Road and Hucknall Road and the area is crossed from east to west by Valley Road (part of Nottingham’s Ring Road), Perry Road and Haydn Road. The area is quite hilly and the main shopping centre on Mansfield Road is situated between the Edwardian villas on Sherwood Hill (near Devon Drive church) and the top of Cavendish Hill where the Sherwood Manor pub stands. In between, a prominent landmark is the bus depot, formerly the tram sheds.

Sherwood expanded from just a few dwellings in 1814 into a sizeable hamlet in 1841. It was part of the rapid growth of population in the parish of Basford which trebled from 2,124 to 6,304 between 1801 and 1831, and which rose to 10,093 in 1851. There are two main reasons for this. One was the late date of Nottingham’s Enclosure (1845) which strangled the growth of the town, so the dearth of building land compelled wholesale migration into the neighbouring parishes. The second reason was that high rents were causing manufacturers to seek sites in nearby villages.

The principal occupations of the people of Sherwood in 1841 were lacemakers, framework knitters, servants and agricultural labourers. There were also signs of a developing community which required various services: the Census enumerator recorded three coal dealers, a baker, a butcher, a schoolmaster and two schoolmistresses, a gardener, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a beerseller and even a Stockbroker in Woodthorpe. Framework knitting was never dominant in Sherwood and declined rapidly after 1861, with only two recorded in 1910. Lace making was the main industry up to the late nineteenth century. There was a period of great prosperity in the lace trade from 1873-83 and this is reflected in the numbers employed in the industry who lived in Sherwood in 1881. Burton brothers had moved from a lace factory in Mount Street, Nottingham to a larger one in Carrington and then in 1838 a factory was built for Samuel Burton in Sherwood. Samuel Burton and Co was a big employer of local labour at the only lace factory in the area on Cavendish Vale (now Haydn Road) close to the junction with Mansfield Road. Burton was known for paying poor wages and refusing union activity by locking out workers at the Sherwood factory.

In 1877 the Borough of Nottingham extended its boundaries to include, amongst others, Basford, Carrington and Sherwood. It had taken only 50 years for the hamlet to become a suburb of Nottingham.

By 1881 Sherwood was a thriving village with multiplicity of trades and professions, however, the lace industry still accounted for nearly half of the occupations. In nearby Mapperley The Nottingham Patent Brick Co Ltd employed several men from Sherwood. Amongst the other occupations were six coachmen and seven groom and over 50 servants which suggests there were wealthy families in the neighbourhood. Sherwood was known as a village formed principally of villa residences, many of which were situated on Mansfield Road. Several leading names of the period had homes in this area including, James Shipstone of Shipstone’s Brewery who lived at Woodthorpe Lodge and James Snook of Snook and Co, the wholesale drapers, Hounds Gate Nottingham, had his residence at the Cedars (now a retirement home). Other business men who lived in Sherwood had their work premises situated in Nottingham and many of Sherwood’s residents worked for manufacturers in the city. The growth of Sherwood was closely related to an increasingly diverse industrial and commercial economy that was more urban than rural in character.

People migrated from both Nottingham and the surrounding countryside but also from as far afield as Chard in Somerset. Many of these were lace makers and menders who in 1840 were seeking better conditions than were to be had in Somerset. Precise figures for the population of Sherwood in the nineteenth century are difficult to assess, because Sherwood and Mapperley were lumped together in the 1841 census, but it is thought the number was in the region of 450. Over the next ten years there was a rise of about 60% to 736. The next ten years did not show a great increase with 790 recorded but by 1881 the numbers were now shown as 1164. The reasons for this increase is probably due to movement out of Nottingham with increased mobility.

Because Sherwood was an outlying part of the parish of Basford until 1843 the lack of an Anglican influence had allowed the opportunity for non-conformity to flourish especially in the 1820’s and 30’s. In 1843 Sherwood and Carrington were in the district of Carrington when the church was built there. The architect was William Surplice. Land and money to build the church was donated by Ichabod Wright, a wealthy local landowner and banker. He laid the first stone and the church was consecrated in March 1843. The first baptisms at St John’s were those of children of the labouring classes; the first child of the middling classes to be baptised was in 1849. Nearly all the local residents were buried in the churchyard, although sadly, few of the gravestones remain. The church itself is built in the Gothic structure of the Early English and decorated style. Both Ichabod and his wife who died shortly after the consecration, are buried in the family vault at the church. St John’s Mission was erected on Mansfield Street in 1883. It was to be used by the inhabitants of Carrington and their friends and in this context Carrington included Sherwood. It was like a small church complete with altar and choir.

Other places of worship include a Methodist chapel which was in a single storey building on a cul-de-sac off Marshall Street. A Wesleyan Chapel was built on Mansfield Road almost opposite Haydn Road; however this place was disliked because there was a butcher’s shop one side and a slaughterhouse the other! In 1884 a new site was acquired at the corner of Mansfield Road and Devon Drive and building began using Bulwell stone. The chapel was opened in 1887. Maintaining this building became prohibitive and it was demolished and re-built on the site. The stone cross off the old building can be seen behind the new building. Other denominations had buildings for their services including The United Methodists, the Congregational Church Nottingham Spiritualists Church and the Nottingham Progressive Synagogue.

The creation of the Sherwood Estate after the First World War and in response to demands for better housing saw a church built on a site behind the Cedars on Mansfield Road in 1922. The Church of the Transfiguration, affectionately known as “The Tin Tabernacle”, was built with money guaranteed by Colonel Seely, a philanthropist and well known figure in Nottinghamshire. The church was demolished in 1982. The church had been replaced in the 1930’s by St Martin’s on Trevose Gardens and was completely separate from other churches in the area.

Sherwood had several public houses, mainly situated on Mansfield (Turnpike) Road in order to serve travellers as well as the locals. The Robin Hood and Sherwood Inn were built opposite Haydn Road. In 1925 the licence for the Shoulder of Mutton on Smithy Row was transferred to the Garden City Hotel, which was situated on Mansfield Road and Edwards Lane and was opened amongst some opposition from other local landlords, to serve the residents of the Sherwood Estate. Its name changed to the Sherwood Manor in the 1980’s. The Sherwood Inn was run by the Wilkinson family for the best part of 80 years between 1846 and 1926.

The earliest formal education in Sherwood was given by the Methodists who taught reading and writing in Sunday school classes. At times there were more than 100 pupils attending, probably the majority of the children of Sherwood in the 1830’s. There were other establishments, which are listed in White’s Directory in 1844 but these seem to be catering mainly for the children of gentlemen. Compulsory education became law in the decade between 1870 and 1880 and Sherwood provided a school, Sherwood Board School, which was opened in 1878. At the time it was situated between fields and a market garden. In August 1878 the school opened for the first time to admit girls and infants but not boys, who had to wait a few years. Infants paid 2d and the girls 3d or 4d a week, although the Board paid for a few very poor children. Exams at the end of the year showed that over half of the children had achieved reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

The problem of overcrowding grew much worse in the first decade of the twentieth century with the increase of housing being erected in and around the school premises. Overcrowding also increased the problem of the spread of disease, especially those childhood diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, mumps and chicken pox, and the school was frequently closed as teachers also succumbed to the diseases.

The new school, Haydn Road Council School, was opened on the opposite side of Haydn Road in January 1911, to 364 children. Unfortunately the architects of the school had failed to understand the growth of the population in Sherwood and by 1912 many classes had 60 pupils, some of whom were transferred to Carrington, but those that remained stayed until they were fourteen and left to take up employment.

During the First World War the children were encouraged to ‘do their bit’. The older boys practised drill and route marches, whilst the girls sewed sandbags and grenade bags. The school at Carrington became a military hospital and the children had to share Haydn Road School on a half-time schooling for all. At the end of the Great War the school was closed for three weeks due to the flu pandemic of 1918.  At the start of the Second World War the school was again closed because of a lack of air raid shelters. In 1971 the school became Haydn Primary School but the old Sherwood Board School was still in operation to take two classes because of overcrowding.

Other schools in the area were Seely School opened in 1925 on Perry Road as a mixed infants and junior girls’ school. There were 275 pupils from the surrounding Sherwood Estate; at the age of 7 years the boys transferred to Haydn Junior School and it was not until 1954 that Seely became fully co-educational. One of the headmasters of the school, between 1960-67, Ken Martin, devoted much of his time to the Amateur Swimming Association and in 1980 the public swimming pool at Bulwell was named after him. In 1931 Haywood Secondary Girls School was opened in the building which is now Seely Junior School. Haywood moved to its present building on Edwards Lane in 1959 and became a Comprehensive in 1974.It was demolished a few years ago and houses built on the site. A small privately run boarding school for girls and young boys was established on Private Road, Sherwood in 1925 and named Wyvill School after the father of the two sisters who ran it.

In 1878 the control of all local prisons passed to the Home Secretary and a board of commissioners was established to administer them. It set about closing the worst and building new ones. Bagthorpe Gaol on Perry Road, Sherwood, was one of the latter. It was completed in 1891. The site had initially been bought from the Duke of Newcastle and earmarked for barracks but opposition from residents and changed the minds of the planners and a gaol was seen as preferable to that of barracks! The inmates of St John’s Street prison and the Old County Gaol were transferred to the new prison which meant persistent offenders were incarcerated with young first offenders. A new wing was added for female prisoners bringing the total to 206 males and 31 female prisoners. Prisoners were kept in separate cells and forbidden to speak to each other and were made to work on grinding, monotonous and unproductive work! The Prison Act 1998 led to improvements and prisoners were made to work on more productive work such as sewing mailbags, tailoring and repairing boots. Between 1894 and 1928 fourteen prisoners were hanged in Bagthorpe Gaol, all of them convicted of murdering women. The last man to hang was George Haywood on April 22nd 1928, when the hanging facilities were closed. In the 1920’s rehabilitation of prisoners was introduced and the cropping of hair and wearing of the uniform with arrows was abolished. In March 1930 all the adult prisoners at the Gaol were removed and it became the first Young Adult offender’s prison for 21-25 year olds. After several escapes and economic problems in the 1930’s the prison was closed for a period and re-opened in October 1932 as Sherwood Borstal. It gained a reputation of being the roughest and toughest borstal in England and during this period the prison matron was murdered.

In 1950 it ceased to be a borstal and became a Preventative Detention prison in 1954, mainly for habitual criminals. A decade later it changed from the Preventative Detention to a training prison, where inmates could learn a trade or study educational courses, such as the Open University.

Sherwood has some notable buildings, a legacy from the past. The oldest being Woodthorpe House, now the Sherwood Community Centre. The property has had numerous owners, including William Cartledge, a wealthy lace manufacturer; Louis Baillon, a Vice-Consul of France and Captain Sir William H Tomasson, Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire for thirty years from 1892-1922. During the Second World War the War Office requisitioned the house and it was an ATS camp and then headquarters of 161 Mixed Heavy AA Regiment. In 1946 the Nottingham City Council purchased it and has been a Community Centre ever since.

Sherwood Station, c.1910.
Sherwood Station, c.1910.

Woodthorpe Grange in Woodthorpe Park was built in 1874 and after various owners was sold to Nottingham City Council and opened to the public as Woodthorpe Park in 1921. Nottingham suburban railway opened in 1879 and ran through what became Woodthorpe Park and where Sherwood Station was situated. On Hardwick Road is Elberton House, built in 1889, an example of the later style of Watson Fothergill, the celebrated Nottingham architect. Sherwood’s main cinema was the Metropole, situated opposite Edwards Lane on Mansfield Road. The façade was typical of its era, mid-1930’s and was a good example both inside and out of the cinema architecture of the period. After it was demolished a supermarket was built on the site in 2006.

Two other properties of note have both been used as hospitals over time. The Firs at the corner of Mansfield Road and Elmswood Gardens was built as a private house for a tea merchant.  In the 1920’s it was converted to Sherwood Firs, Abel Collin Maternity Hospital but two decades later it was just known as The Firs Maternity Hospital. It was later to become a nursing home with additional homes added in 1984. The Cedars was acquired by Colonel Seely and given to the General Hospital, where he was a generous benefactor, to be used as a convalescent hospital and where he paid for all its expenses during his lifetime. In 1897 he bought the house next door, Woodthorpe Lodge, at that time the home of James Shipstone. It was added to the Cedars by which time there was accommodation for 120 patients. In May 1979 it was planned to close the Cedars, transferring the 38 patients to the General Hospital but it was reprieved and became the Cedars Rehabilitation Unit, complete with gymnasium and swimming pool. The Cedars has now been demolished.

Mansfield Road, Sherwood, c.1910.
Mansfield Road, Sherwood, c.1910.

Before the First World War there was a burst of building activity in the Sherwood area following the arrival of the electric tram, which enabled workers to live away from their places of work but with easy access. The fields between Mansfield Road and Hucknall Road had rows of terraced houses and villas built on them and consequently the population of this suburb of Nottingham grew rapidly. A superior housing development at the beginning of the twentieth century was on Burlington, Hartington and Hardwick Roads; these were large houses on a private estate with gates across the road. At the other end of the housing scale were those built on Edwards Lane, formerly a quiet little lane.  After the First World War, Lloyd George persuaded local authorities to build homes for the returning soldiers. Nottingham Corporation, was also under pressure from the Minister for Reconstruction, Christopher Addison, to begin building new homes, otherwise, their request for a boundary extension would not be granted. Edwards Lane estate was purchased by the Corporation for a sum of £27,400 in 1919. Some of the houses that were built were four bedroomed with a garden, inside bathroom and toilet – something many people could only dream of. Because of its undulating levels and dry sandy soils it was felt to be particularly suitable for developing Garden City. It was seen as a great example of social architecture for the working class.

There are three well-built alms-houses in Sherwood, all of them good examples of the philanthropy of wealthy late Victorians. The first to be erected was Pennhome on Haydn Road in 1877 and were intended “as residences for ladies of reduced circumstances who were not wholly indigent.” The building was paid for by Maria Christian Cartwright,born in Nottingham in 1805, wife of Sidney Cartwright of The Leasowes, Penn, Staffordshire. The second is the twelve brick alms-houses on the corner of Mansfield Road and Bingham Road are a memorial to James Cullen, hence their name, Cullen Court. He died in 1878 and his devoted sisters, Elizabeth and Marianne paid for the building of the Court. Initially they were to house two men and ten women. In 1969 there were 20 single and three double residences as well as a Meeting House or Chapel.

Robinson's Almshouses.
The Robinson Almshouses.

The third building is Robinson’s alms-houses on Mansfield Road and Percival Road, erected to commemorate Sir John Robinson becoming Sheriff of Nottingham and the coming of age of his son, John Sandford Robinson, who laid the foundation stone on 5 February 1889. The alms-houses were specifically for those from Nottingham, whereas, the alms-houses in Daybrook, near to the Home Brewery were for those from Arnold.

New industries developed within Sherwood, including the Nottingham Laundry, which was a model of its kind and people from around the world used it as a blueprint. There were two cycle makers and the Buckman brothers who made motor cycles and later George Brough made his Superior motor bikes at the Basford end of Haydn Road. Another motor cycle company on Cameron Street had a stag as its symbol on the petrol tank but production ceased in 1914 but the company went onto make packing cases and ammunition boxes and finally developed into the Stag Cabinet Company who made renowned furniture. It moved in 1922 to the Basford end of Haydn Road and closed in 2000. Also on Haydn Road was the clothing factory of J B Lewis later known as Meridian, which made cotton double-lock underwear. The factory remained for many years and became part of Courtaulds employing people from the Meadows and Ilkeston who could travel by train to the New Basford Station a short distance away. The Courtaulds building is now shared by a clothing store and Nottingham Free School.

Bagthorpe Hospital, which became part of the City Hospital was opened in 1903 and accommodated wounded servicemen in both World Wars. Passenger trains ran to Sherwood Station but after the trams were introduced in January 1901 the train services quickly declined. The tram depot on Mansfield Road later the Sherwood bus depot, has been divided into two, the left part called the Sherwood Bus Depot for Nottingham Community Transport, serving charity groups such as Dial-a-Ride. The right half has been developed by Wetherspoons into a pub called the Samuel Hall; he was a lace manufacturer and inventor who laid out the original street pattern of Sherwood in the 1820’s. It remains part of Sherwood’s heritage.

During the Second World War, Sherwood was hit by bombs on two occasions; one in August 1940, apparently in an attempt to hit the Mapperley Brickyard. During the blitz of May 1941 one family was killed on Edingley Avenue.

Sherwood now is a suburb of Nottingham with no real demarcation mark from its southern boundary with Carrington which is an extension of Greater Nottingham. Roads have been altered and more attempts have been made to build housing on Sherwood’s heritage, for example the woodland forming the grounds of Woodthorpe House.