Mansfield, until the middle of the eighteenth century, was an isolated Market Town set in Sherwood Forest. Its transformation into an industrial urban area is the result of the effects of five crucial industries. The earliest industry noted is stone quarrying which is documented from about 1227 when King Henry 3 granted a Monday market and fair. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a growth in farming activity in the local area following the founding of the great estates known as the Dukeries in Sherwood Forest.
This led to the development of two crucial industries, malting and framework knitting, using wool from the Forest sheep, Mansfield’s isolation was eased by the turnpiking of the roads, the first Trust coming in 1760, followed in 1819 by the Mansfield and Pinxton Railway.
Prior to the building of this railway malt was exported on pack-horses who returned with coal required for the malt production from the Erewash valley pits.
The railway was built to carry this coal. By the middle of the eighteenth century there were 36 maltings in the town, the majority being owned by William Broadhurst. The only surviving one, built circa 1740, is now a bar and stands in Midworth Street having ceased production in 1975. Broadhurst died in 1846, the maltster in 1844 being loseph Gilstrap. A significant remnant of the malting industry is Mansfield Brewery. It was founded in 1855 on a site in Littleworth where it has remained and expanded to the present day. Some old buildings can still be seen in the current complex.
After malting the other four crucial industries are coal, cotton, iron and quarrying. Quarrying has been for three varieties of stone.White freestone is found to the south of the town in 50 to 60 foot irregular beds. It was used in 1337 during the building of Southwell Minster. Red sandstone, also in 50 foot beds, was worked in Rock Valley and along Chesterfield Road north of the town centre. The Lower Magnesian Limestone (Dolomite) has been worked in the Mansfield Woodhouse area. Actually a Dolomitic sandstone it was used in the building work at the Houses of Parliament. Charles Lindley, the quarry owner, named that particular quarry Parliament Quarry. Redstone has been used at Belton House, Grantham, and White for Mansfield Town Hall.
Parliament Quarry has now been filled in. In 1967 these quarries were reopened during the building of the M1 motorway producing 20,000 tonnes of roadstone per week. A remaining quarry, Gregory Quarry, was opened prior to 1823 by Charles Lindley, who died in 1861. He was the major quarry owner during this period, also working Chesterfield Road and Rock Valley quarries. In the early years of the twentieth century the Gregory Family took over, followed, in 1953, by the King family. Gregory Quarry has just closed. The other quarrying activity, which still survives, is for building and moulding sand worked from the Bunter Sandstone beds. It was being worked before 1851 as it won a gold medal in the 1851 Great Exhibition for the Mansfield Sand Company Ltd. It is thought to have been worked prior to 1819.
In 1907 the Abraham family formed the Standard Sand Co. Ltd. and commenced working the same material as the Mansfield Standard Sand Co. Ltd. The firm still operates in a major way with three branches – building sand, moulding sand and calcium-silica te brick making.
This local supply of excellent moulding sand inevitably led to the establishment of iron founding in the area. Luke Abbot was ironfounding in 1788, Stanford and Burnside in 1790 and possibly Sherwood Foundry as early as 1759. By the late nineteenth century there were in excess of 10 companies in the town, by the 1940s the number was 5 and currently only 2 still operate, the major firm being James Maude & Co. Ltd., who were probably active in 1753. Certainly in 1775 they were building Foundry Cottages which remained occupied until 1950. Over the years their output has been very varied. The Dolphin lamposts on The Embankment, The Mall, and Regents Park in London were made by them. At one time they had the sole contract for producing pillar boxes for the Post Office. The agents names cast on them are Colin Ching and W.T. Allen. Other items made have been fireplaces, balconies, railway castings and rainwater goods. Since 1945 they have used air setting sands for moulding and currently are making machin e tool castings, 40% of which are exported to the U.S.A.. Stokes Castings, founded in 1862, is the only other firm still active and currently market under pressure castings. Other major late nineteenth and twentieth century firms have ceased production, e xamples being Meadow Foundry who operated 1852-1980 and S.Walker & Son 1847-1987.
Coalmining, arrived towards the end of the nineteenth century and brought with it the large growth in the local population. The earliest deep mines were sunk to the west of the town and the first in the Mansfield area was that at Warsop, sunk in 1890 by the Staveley Coal and lron Company. The adjacent housing was built to house the miners. The Ellis family from Hucknall sank Sherwood Colliery in 19O2-3. The Bolsover Colliery Company sank Mansfield (Crown Farm) colliery in 1905-6, and, as for their other collieries, built a village to house the miners and their families.
It consisted of 320 houses in eighteen 200 foot terraces leading off to the east of a main drive and seventeen to the west. This village became Forest Town. The colleries employed about 2000 men each and closed in the 1990s.
The other critical industry in Mansfield’s development is textiles. In the seventeenth century it began with framework knitting, a basically cottage industry. In 1727 there were 40 framework knitters in the town. By 18OO there about 700 frames rnaking stockings, and cotton and silk gloves. Later on many frames were converted into lace frames. In the late eighteenth century Mansfield was suffering an economic
depression and the construction of five water-powered cotton spinning mills along the River Maun were financed by the Duke of Portland to create employment. He also financed the conversion to cotton spinning of the Old Town Mill (now a public house) which had been built circa 1744 as a corn and malt mill. This conversion was completed by 1795.
The furthest west of the five new mills was Hermitage Mill, leased from the Duke of Portland in 1782 and currently occupied by a builders merchants. Reed Mills, in Bleakhills, was operating by 1708 and demolished in 1971.
Little Matlock Mill was another late eighteenlh century mill, and is still extant. Field Mill was also leased in 1788 and was demolished in 1925. Bath Mill was built in 1792 and still survives, albeit in a derelict condition.One other late eighteenth century mill survives, now in mult iple occupancy, and that is Stantons Mill. This was built for Charles Stanton in 1795: he also had Carr Bank House built at about the same time. In the middle of the nineteenth century framework knitting gradually changed to machine hosiery and the cotton spinning mills generally to changed hosiery production. Most are still standing along with other later steam powered works, although most are no longer being used for textiles which have been relocated to more modern buildings.
lndustrial development led to better transport facilities. This is exemplified in two railway viaducts. The Mansfield and Pinxton Railway was constructed in 1019 as an ox-hauled railway. In 1849 the line was bought by the Midland Railway Company and up graded to take steam trains. This meant smoothing out some of the sharper curves on the old line and so isolated the eight-arched Kings Mill Viaduct – an early example of preserved railway architecture. When the railway was extended northwards towards Worksop in 1871 the viaduct that splits the town center was built. The industrial development of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw many inventions and Mansfield is well represented in its fields of activity. For example in 1764 John and William Betts of Mansfield together with John and Thomas Morris of Nottingham invented an improved framework knitting machine, while in 1885 Lorenzo Tindall, a partner in Sherwood Foundry, invented the hand mangle. In the eighteenth century ]ames Murray, working in an old bobbin shop in Rock Valley, is credited with inventing the circular saw.