Retford

Street Map

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Retford (also known as East Retford) is a market town in Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands of England, located 31 miles from the city of Nottingham, and 23 miles west of Lincoln, in the district of Bassetlaw. The town is situated in a valley with the River Idle and the Chesterfield Canal running through the centre of the town. The village of Ordsall is a suburb of the town, divided from Retford by the River Idle and the East Coast Main Line railway. Retford is under the control of Bassetlaw District Council, with their base being located in neighbouring Worksop. Retford is twinned with the town of Pfungstadt, Germany.

Retford gained its first charter in 1246, when Henry III granted the right for a fair, this was later extended to holding a Saturday Market by Edward I in 1275. It was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and then remained a municipal borough until 1974 when it was merged into Bassetlaw district. Its civic traditions are maintained by Charter Trustees.

The origins of its name are unknown and have been subject to much debate, but consensus seems to conclude that it gets its name from an ancient ford crossing the River Idle. It was originally named Redforde because the river water was tinged red due to the red clay river bed and frequent crossing of people and livestock disturbing the clay river bed. The first land settled was on the western side of the ford – this area being less liable to flooding – but as the community grew it spread to occupy land on the other bank of the river, and it was this eastern part of the town that eventually became more important; hence Retford’s alternative (and, for administrative purposes, still official) name of East Retford. The highly unusual coat of arms for the town consists of two rampant choughs.

Retford was largely destroyed by a fire in 1528, but prospered after the Great North Road was diverted to run through the town in 1766 and the Chesterfield Canal (1777) and the direct London to York railway (1849) were both routed via the borough. The Great North Road was diverted around the town in 1961 and part of the route through the town is now a pedestrian precinct.

The Pilgrim Fathers, a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts originated from villages of Babworth and Scrooby on the outskirts of East Retford between 1586 and 1605.

On 27 June 2007, a few low-lying parts of the town were affected by the 2007 United Kingdom floods. The majority of Kings Park was flooded under three feet of water. The Asda and Morrisons supermarkets adjacent to the river were also flooded.

In the Market Square there is an ornate French-inspired Victorian Town Hall, in front of which is The Broad Stone. Legend says that this stone had a hollow in it that used to be filled with vinegar during plague times to disinfect coins. However, it is thought to be the upturned base of a boundary marker – perhaps the ‘Dominie Cross’.

Also in the Market Square is the war memorial unveiled by Sir Frederick Milner in 1921. The memorial is in the form of an Eleanor cross an octagonal structure of late gothic design. The names of the men killed in World War I are on the lower 8 panels and on bronze plaques are the names of those who were killed in World War II.

The monument was designed by architect Leonard W. Barnard F.R.I.B.A. of Cheltenham. The memorial is constructed of Stancliffe stone from Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

Just across from the Market Square is Cannon Square which has St Swithun’s Church and a cannon captured from the Russians during the Siege of Sevastopol at the end of the Crimean War in 1856.

Nikolaus Pevsner, architectural historian, was fairly scathing about Retford and its lack of distinguished buildings. “A singularly unattractive town,” he wrote.

However Bill Bryson, the famous American author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England praised the town. In his bestselling book Notes from a Small Island, he writes, ‘Retford, I am pleased to report, is a delightful and charming place even under the sort of oppressive grey clouds that make far more celebrated towns seem dreary and tired. Its centrepiece is an exceptionally large and handsome market square lined with a picturesque jumble of noble Georgian buildings. Beside the main church stood a weighty black cannon with a plaque saying ‘Captured at Sevastopol 1865′, which I thought was a remarkable piece of initiative on the part of the locals – it’s not every day, after all, that you find a Nottinghamshire market town storming a Crimean redoubt and bringing home booty – and the shops seemed prosperous and well ordered.’

Retford’s Kings Park received national recognition in 2007 when it won the prestigious Britain’s Best Park competition in the Midlands region. It also received the Green Flag Award in both 2008 and 2009. It is described as a ‘jewel in the crown’ by Bassetlaw council.

Retford has a strong economy mainly consisting of services with some light industry. The town itself is an important commercial centre for the local area, with large supermarkets, many independent shops and a market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Retford’s town centre has an empty shop rate of only 5%, which is impressive considering the national average of 14.6%. There has also been substantial population growth and many new houses, with buyers attracted by the Retford’s convenient location for commuters. Bassetlaw Council recently invested £1.5 million in Retford market square and £2.5 million in Retford Enterprise Centre. Bassetlaw has a very low unemployment rate of 3.3%. The council continues to work with Retford Business Forum on finding ways to help the local economy.

Retford is bypassed by the A1 trunk road and the A57 which links Retford to a number of major towns and cities, with London just over two hours away. The East Retford bypass was built in three stages mostly along what was previously the A57. In 1957, the West Drayton diversion opened up to the B6387 near Elkesley. Also near Elkesley and Gamston is the Retford Gamston Airport. The section from Elkesley bypass to Five Lane Ends (A614 junction) at Apleyhead Wood opened in 1958, and the third section was from Five Lane Ends to north of Checker House at Ranby (A620 junction). Recent investment led to a renovation of junctions at Blyth, Great Whin Covert and Markham Moor.

The current bus station was built and opened on 30 July 2007 at a cost of £1.4 million, and was given a highly commended accolade in the infrastructure category of the UK Bus Awards 2008. The previous bus station on the same site was a collection of bus shelters, but also allowed vehicles to drive illegally through the bus station. The new bus station has new traffic controls in to prevent this.

Retford is served by two railway lines, the East Coast Main Line which runs between London and Scotland, with trains taking from 1hr 20 minutes to London Kings Cross, and the Sheffield to Lincoln Line which has links to Sheffield, Lincoln, Gainsborough, Worksop, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. These two lines meet at Retford railway station which acts as an important interchange in the British rail network.

Retford is connected to the UK Inland Waterways network by the Chesterfield Canal. Indeed, up to Retford, the canal is accessible by broad-beam boats rather than the more usual narrowboats, Retford Town Lock being the first narrow lock on the canal from its junction with the River Trent at West Stockwith. The canal starts at the city of Chesterfield in Derbyshire.

Based in Retford on the lower side of the Town Lock is a boat club called Retford Mariners Boat Club (R.M.B.C), it was formed in November 1978 by a group of canal enthusiasts.

Robin Hood Airport (formerly RAF Finningley) is nearby on the A638 towards Doncaster. A regular bus service is available from Retford bus station to the airport, which offers regular flights to other European countries. Due to its military past, Robin Hood airport has a long 2,580 metres (8,460 ft) runway, and so is capable of landing wide body jets such as Boeing 747s, and has plans of extending its destinations to include the USA. The popular discount airline easyjet, commenced flying to many European destinations in March 2010, but withdrew by the end of the year citing commercial factors as a reason. The Hungarian airline WizzAir continues to serve several Eastern-European cities, and Thomson Holidays regularly runs charter services from there as part of their package holiday business.

Retford (Gamston) Airport is a private airport located a few miles south of Retford in the village of Gamston, operated by Gamston Aviation Ltd.

Retford is home to the Bassetlaw Museum, which was created in 1983 and has a number of collections donated by people in the local area. It was voted the Nottinghamshire Museum of the Year in 2009, following extensive renovation.

Retford has two theatres in the town: the Majestic Theatre, a former cinema, which hosts famous entertainers, music concerts from local performers and plays, and Retford Little Theatre,  a smaller theatre which hosts the Retford Little Theatre amateur drama group.

Retford also has a wide range of restaurants and pubs, plus an antiques and collectables market every Friday and a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of every month.

The Idle Valley nature reserve is managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) and is the largest of the trust’s reserves in Nottinghamshire. The eastern boundary is created by the natural path of the River Idle; redundant gravel quarries to the west of the river have created wetland areas which comprise the majority of the site. The reserve is a mosaic of different habitats over an area of 450 hectares, over 300 of which are designated with SSSI status. It is the largest wetland area in Nottinghamshire and over 250 species of birds have been recorded there making it one of the top birding sites in the UK. NWT has a program of activities and events for the benefit of schools, community groups and individuals and is becoming increasingly popular with established walking groups in the area and also neighbouring counties.

Retford is close to the National Trust owned Clumber Park which is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike. Extensive woodlands in the area also form the remnants of Sherwood Forest, home to the legend of Robin Hood.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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