Historical Background

Worksop is an ancient town to be found in the North West of Nottinghamshire and described in the Doomsday book as Wirchesop (although there are numerous other spelling and meanings) which name supposedly meant ‘a fortified hill. ‘The ancient earthworks known as Castle Hill evident at the time of the Norman Invasion seem to support this. This site is still marked but it is unclear whether a stone-built castle ever existed, although there is some evidence of a wooden structure having been there.

Around 1103 an Augustinian Priory was established by William de Lovetot and although most of the original was demolished at the time of the Dissolution, part still remained and has been incorporated in the existing Priory Church of St Cuthbert and St Mary. The church has been fully restored and is now well maintained for future generations. There is a great deal of fascinating history around this church which is one of Worksop’s best-known landmarks along with the Priory Gatehouse which was built at the beginning of the 14th century by the Augustinian Order from the
Priory. Evidently 200 oaks were felled in Sherwood Forest to be used in the building of the Gateway. A market cross had existed in the vicinity from around 1160 for Cheapside or Radford which at that time was a separate parish but it has since merged with Worksop. The cross was re-sited in 1896 and now stands where the original road once passed through the archway.

The Gateway has had many uses over the centuries and originally provided shelter and hospitality for visitors but after 1539 this came to an end and the church lands were handed to the Talbot family, Earls of Shrewsbury who owned Worksop Manor at that time. The Gatehouse subsequently changed hands several times but had been used as an elementary school in 1628 and then as a ‘school for poor boys’ in 1853 supported by voluntary subscription. Later as an annexe for the Abbey School, parish room, offices, tearoom and art gallery. Recently it was used as a shelter for homeless people. It is presently unused and will hopefully be restored in the near future after securing grant funding.

Worksop is now known as the ‘Gateway to the Dukeries’ and indeed is surrounded by stately homes and lands at one time belonging to such dukes and earls as Newcastle, Shrewsbury, Portland, Devonshire, Rutland and Norfolk to name just a few. Many of these grand houses no longer exist, but Worksop is still close to many of the parks which were originally part of Sherwood Forest (Robin Hood country) such as Clumber, Rufford, Welbeck and Thoresby, all open to the public apart from Welbeck Abbey which is still in private hands.

Worksop was originally a small market town known mainly for agriculture and related services. In the late 18th century it was famous for being one of the biggest producers of liquorice along with hat making (16 hatmakers still in Beaver Place in 1841), and also for the manufacture of Windsor Chairs.

With the opening of the Chesterfield Canal in 1777 and the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1849 it became a bustling town with many local tradesmen, maltings, breweries, milling industries, timber yards, glass manufacturing, engineering works and refractories which all benefited from the increased accessibility for moving goods. A colliery was opened at Manton in Worksop in 1898 which provided many new jobs and caused workers from outside the town to settle in Worksop. 

(Courtesy of Worksop Archaeological and Local History Society)

Benefitting from an accessible location and transport links in the form of the canal, railways and the A1 Worksop benefitted from the discovery of extensive coal seams and this formed the basis for employment and prosperity in the 19th and 20th Centuries. After the closure of the mines, ending in the 1990s there was a period of decline and economic restructuring.

The local economy in Worksop is now dominated by service industries, manufacturing and distribution. Major employers in the area include Premier Foods, Greencore, Wilko, RDS Transport (the Flying Fridge), B&Q, MAKE polymers, OCG Cacao, part of Cargill, Pandrol, GCHQ and the NHS  (Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Trust and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust).

Last Updated on Wednesday, May 8, 2024