White's Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1853


Blyth Parish (Including Bawtry, Austerfield, Barnby-Moor-with-Bilby, Hodsock-with Goldthorpe, Ranskill, Styrrup-with-Oldcoates and Torworth)

This extensive parish, which is partly in Yorkshire, is nearly eight miles in length, stretching from Barnby Moor, northward to Finningley Park. It is intersected by the River Idle, the Great North Road, and the turnpikes leading from Tickhill to Worksop and Gainsborough. It contains the two chapelries of Bawtry and Austerfield, both of which are in Yorkshire, the former containing only 270 acres of land, and the latter 2,700 acres. It also comprises, besides the township of Blyth, those of Barnby-Moor-with-Bilby, Hodsock-with-Goldthorpe, Ranskill, part of Styrrup-with-Oldcoates, and Torworth. The entire parish contains 3,900 inhabitants, and 15,500 acres of land, mostly a fertile sandy soil.

Blyth, four miles south-by-west of Bawtry, and seven miles from Worksop and Retford, contains 760 inhabitants and 1,244 acres of land, of the rateable value of £3,421 16s 6d. H.F. Walker Esq. is lord of the manor, and owner of the township, except a small portion owned by a few freeholders. The village is well-built, and pleasantly situated on the east bank of the Ryton. It formerly had a weekly market held on Wednesday, but it has long been obsolete, so that the inhabitants now frequent those of Bawtry and Tickhill; but two annual fairs are still held, one on Holy Thursday, and the other on the 20th of October, for horses, cattle, swine &c.

After the Conquest, Roger de Busli had a castle here, and procured for it the title of an honour; but his chief residence being at Tickhill, the honour of Blyth was dependent on that manor. This Roger, "being of a pious and grateful disposition, with the consent of his wife Muriel", founded here a priory of Benedictine monks, about the year 1088, to the honour of the Blessed Virgin. It was in some respects subordinate to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity of Mount St Catherine at Rouen, in Normandy, and was at the dissolution with £126 per annum. In the 35th year of Henry VIII, "the site of the priory, and the demesnes", were granted to William Ramsden and Richard Andrews, who had licence to alienate them to Richard Stansfield and his heirs, from whom they passed to the Sanderson, Cook, Clifton, and other families. As to the origin of the name of Blyth, or Blythe, Fuller says,

"John Norden will have it from jocundiate, from the mirth and good fellowship of the inhabitants therein. If so (says our quaint author) I desire that both the name and the thing may be extended all over the shire; being confident that one ounce of mirth, with the same degree of grace, will serve God more, and be more acceptable than a pound of sorrow".

The parish church, dedicated to St Martin, is a spacious and elegant gothic structure, with an ancient tower in which are six musical bells, erected in 1842 and purchased by subscription. The whole of the conventual choir, transcept and central Norman tower have been destroyed, and one compartment of the name has long been walled off from the remaining oirtion, and is used by the owner of Blyth Hall for his own purpose. The surviving portion of the church presents remarkably distinct and well-defined specimens of the earliest Norman, as well as of early English, decorated and perpendicular style of architecture, and affords an excellent study to the antiquary, the draughtsman, and the architect. The rectory was granted by Henry VIII to Trinity College, Cambridge, to which it still belongs, together with the advowson of the vicarage, which is valued in the King's books at £4 3s 4½d, now at £751, and is in the incumbency of the Rev. John Raine M.A. The great and small tithes were commuted in 1842, when £195 8s was apportioned to Mrs Chambers, as lessee under trinity College, Cambridge, and £173 3s 4d to the vicar. The Society of Friends have had a meeting-house in the village for nearly two centuries.

Blyth Hall is a handsome mansion of considerable magnitude, on a gentle eminence near the church, surrounded with beautiful pleasure grounds, interspersed with lawns and shrubberies, and traversed by winding walks; and the surrounding countryside, as far as the eye can reach, presents a rich scene of ornamented cultivation. The hall is an elegant brick building, decorated with stone, and having turrets at the corners. It was liong the seat of the Mellish family, to whom it is indebted for all its modern improvements. Indeed the additions and alterations have been so considerable, that we may say it has been rebuilt on the site of the old one. It is now the property of Henry Frederick Walker Esq.

About 90 years ago, the town of Blyth, and the country around it for several miles, belonged to William Mellish Esq., who cut "a river four miles long and ten yards wide, as a drainage to a large extent of low land in the centre of his estate, capable of being made as fine a meadow as any in England". He also made, at his own expense, ten miles of road, and built several farm-houses and above thirty cottages, all in the most substantial manner, of brick and tile. Besides beautifying and enlarging the hall, he erected an extensive pile of stabling, and ornamented his estate with upwards of 200 acres of plantations, which are now in a thriving state. He also built on the high road, in front of the hall, a superb bridge of Roche Abbey stone, for the convenience of crossing the extensive stretch of water, which is formed on a most magnificent scale, by damming up the River Ryton and a small brook which flows into it a little below the town.

Charles Mellish, the son of William Mellish, was of a literary turn, and for some years previous to his death had been engaged in writing a History of the County of Nottingham, which, however, he did not live to complete. His son Henry Francis Mellish, Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, and aid-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, sold the Blyth Estate in about 1806 to Joshua Walker Esq., the owner of the Masbrough Iron Works. In the church is an elegant recumbent figure of Edward Mellish Esq. who, after being twenty years a merchant in Portugal, retired to this place, where he died in 1703. His son Joseph married the sister of Mr Gore, governor to the Hamburgh company, and died in 1733, when his estate passed to his son, the before named William Mellish Esq., who was a commissioner of excise in 1751, and married the widow of Villa Real Esq.

Beetles. Those most destructive insects May-bugs or Dorr-Beetles, here called Cockchafers, and in some places Brown-Clocks, were formerly so numerous in Blyth and Hodsock, that the inhabitants employed people to kill them at the rate of 3d per peck. In 1788, no fewer than 3,743 pecks were destroyed, at the cost of £47 1s 2d, of which one-third was paid by William Mellish Esq. Nearly the same quantity were killed in 1792. Yet still the vegetation here is often greatly injured by these insects, which live four years as worms in the bowels of the earth before they join the winged tribes.

Charities. The ancient school in Blyth is supposed to have been built out of the remains of an ancient hospital, and is endowed with 6a 2r 26p of land, called Drawbridge Moor Fields, worth £12 per annum, and received in exchange, at the enclosure in 1814, in lieu of land in Blyth Marsh, left by an unknown donor. In 1842, Henry P. Walker Esq. erected and supports a neat school, at which 120 girls are educated. The "Spital Houses" are six dwellings for as many poor people of Blyth Township, with an endowment of £3 per annum, paid by the owner of Blyth Hall estate. The present dwellings were built a few years ago by Mr C. Champion, within 100 yards of the site of the old ones, which were supposed to have been the remains of an ancient hospital founded by William de Cressy, lord of Hodsock, in the reign of John, for a warden, three chaplains and several leprous persons, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, and valued in teh 26th year of Henry VIII at £8 14s per annum.

Two almshouses, adjoining the Quaker's chapel, were built in 1700 by John Seaton, and endowed with £10 a year, for two inmates, one of whom is to be of the poor of Blyth, and the other of the Society of Friends. The annuity is charged on the estate of Henry P. Walker Esq. Two houses in the village, occupied by paupers, were built with £65, left in 1703, 1720 and 1759 by the Rev. William Smith, James Ryalls and Thomas Greaves, but the overseers distributed £2 18s yearly, as the interest thereof. Edward Farfoot left to the poor of Blyth a house and land at Scaftworth, which the trustees sold in 1807 for £320, now vested in £347 5s 5d new 4 percent stock. Dorothy Barlow, sister of Edward Farfoot, left £20 to the poor, with which the overseers built a cottage, but distribute the interest on St Thomas's Day. The interest of £40 left by John Crofts is distributed on St John's Day. There are also some other small houses, a croft of 1½ acres, and a part of a field of 1¼ acres, which belong to the poor, but the rents are now carried to the overseer's account. The church land consists of Drawbridge Moor Closes, 5a 3r 4p, and an allotment made at the Styrrup enclosure in 1802.

Blyth Norney is a small hamlet, only a quarter of a mile north of Blyth, though in Styrrup township.

Austerfield, though in this parish, is a village, township and chapelry in the Wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, West Riding of Yorkshire, one mile north of Bawtry. It contains 370 inhabitants, and 2,710 acres of land, including the hamlet of Brancroft, and the farms of Woodhose, Partridge Hill and Hirst House, and Finningley Park, the sylvan seat of Robert John Bentley Esq., distant 2 miles north of Austerfield. The chapel of ease is a small edifice, with two bells, and is a curacy annexed to Bawtry, in the gift of the vicar of Blyth.

Barnby Moor, a neat village on the north road, formerly noted for its inn, now two private houses, 3 miles north-west of Retford, forms a joint township with Bilby, a district of scattered houses on the banks of the Ryton. The township contains 261 inhabitants and 1,721 acres of land, of the rateable value of £2,109 17s. Mr John Bradley, the trustees of the late John D. Clarke Esq. and Joseph Whittaker Esq. are the principal owners, but H.P. Walker Esq. is lord of the manor of Barnby, and G.S. Foljambe Esq. is lord of the manor of Bilby, and owner of the hamlet. Bilby Hall is a large mansion, delighfully seated on the west bank of the Ryton, and was formerly a hunting box of the Duke of Leeds, but is now unoccupied. At the enclosure of the township, 176a 1r 14p was allotted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in lieu of the great tithe, and 14a 17p to the vicar, in lieu of the small tithe. In 1790, Anthony Barker left the interest of £20 to be distributed to the poor of this township.

Bawtry is a small, handsome, well-built market town on the Great North Road, at the junction of the turnpikes from Sheffield, Gainsborough and Thorne, and on the eastern side of the Great Northern and South Yorkshire Railways. It has a large and commodious inn and postinghouse, besides several other good public houses, which afford comfortable accommodation for travellers. It is distant nine miles from Doncaster and Retford, and four miles east of Tickhill. Though nearly surrounded by Nottinghamshire, it is all in the Wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, except a small suburb which forms the south side of Top Street, which is in the parish of Harworth. It is situated on the River Idle, which is navigable for small craft to the Trent, and near the Roman road leading from Agelocum, Littleborough, to Danum, Doncaster. A fair of four days in the year was procured by Robert de Vipount, lord of the manor, for a present of four palfreys. The market, which was formerly on Wednesday, is now on Thursday, and is principally for corn sold by sample. It has now two fairs for cattle and horses, on Whit-Thursday and November 22nd. The trade, which has greatly declined since the construction of the Chesterfield Canal, the erection of a bridge over the Trent at Gainsborough, and the operating of the Great Northern Railway, consists in importing coals, groceries &c., and exporting corn, oak timber and stone, of which that called Roche Abbey stone is much esteemed by statuaries and architects.

Bawtry Hall, the seat and property of R.P. Milns Esq., who is lord of the manor and principal owner, is a handsome brick mansion, situated at the south extremity of the town, and in the county of Nottingham, is in the midst of pleasure grounds, interspersed with shrubberies and plantations. The township forms a chapelry annexed to the vicarage of Blyth. The chapel, dedicated to St Nicholas, was erected in the reign of Henry II, and rebuilt in 1686. The tower, which is strengthened by buttresses, and crowned with pinnacles, was added in 1712. The Rev. R. Hines is the curate. The hospital of St Mary Magdalen is situated in Top Street, and within the hamlet of Martin and parish of Harworth. It was founded about the year 1390 by Robert Morton, whose family long held the estate, "for a priest there to be resident, and to keep hospitality for poor people, and to pray for the founder's soul." It is valued in the King's books at £8, of which £3 6s 8d is still paid out of the possessions of the dissolved priory of St Oswald, of Nostell in Yorkshire; 15 acres belonging to it at Scrooby, two closes at Scaftworth, and 14 acres in Harwirth parish. The hospital consists of two small dwellings for poor widows, who each receive 10s yearly, and an ancient chapel, in which no duty was done for about eighty years. A few years ago it wasstuccoed and fitted up for Divine Service, and will accommodate about 160 persons. The Rev. D. Hunter is the chaplain. In the town are also a Methodist chapel, built in 1827, and an independent chapel, built in 1826, on land given by Mr James Dobson. A schoolroom was erected by subscription, on some waste land on the Doncaster road, in 1834, and a house for the master has been built at a cost of £125. Eight poor children are taught free, and the rest pay a small weekly stipend. In 1691, Barbara Lister left £200, and directed the interest to be paid yearly to the curate of Bawtry, "if place there by the consent of her executor or his heirs; if not, to the poor of Bawtry." In 1780, Elizabeth Foster bequeathed the Bell House, with a garden, for the residence of two poor women, and endowed them with a yearly rent charge of £1 out of a close at Misson, called the Paddock.

Hodsock with Goldthorpe form a large township of scattered houses, extending westward from Blyth to the borders of Yorkshire, and contains 205 inhabitants and 4,104 acres of fertile land, rated at £3,272 4s 5½d. The principal proprietors of Hodsock are Mrs Chambers (the lady of the manor), G.S. Foljambe Esq., H.F. Walker Esq., Richard Cowlishaw Esq., and E. Challoner Esq. Hodscok Park contains 250 acres of land, and a commodious residence, the seat and property of John Joseph Shuttleworth Esq., who has a neat private Catholic chapel attached to the house. About 40 years ago, a very handsome procesional cross was dug up near the mansion, which was presented to the museum at Oscot College. Hodsock Priory is the beautiful seat of Mrs Ann Chambers, and stands in a picturesque valley, 1½ miles south-west of Blyth. It was partly rebuilt and new-fronted in the monastic style, from which it takes its present name, but was formerly called Hodsock Hall, and was defended by a moat and large tower gateway. The latter is still quite perfect, and partly covered with ivy. Fleesthorpe and Millhouse are two farms belonging to G.S. Foljambe Esq., and Spittal Forest is a farm, the property of H.F. Walker Esq. Goldthorpe forms the north-west part of the township, and is a hamlet of two farm houses, a water mill, and a few cottages, all of which are the property of E. Challoner Esq.

Ranskill is a pleasant village and township on the Great North Road, 2 miles east of Blyth, and 6 miles north-west by north of Retford. It contains 357 inhabitants and 1,265 acres of land, of which Richard Wilson Esq. and Mrs Mary Crofts are the largest proprietors, but Mr Joseph Allison and several others have small estates here. The Archbishop of York is lord of the manor, and holds a copyhold court in the village once a year, in April or May, of which R.B. Barrow Esq., solicitor, Southwell, is steward. Here is a good inn, and a neat independent chapel. The feast is on the Sunday after Old St Michaelmas Day. The common was enclosed in 1805. The Great northwern railway passes this township, and has a small station here.

Torworth is another pleasant village on the North Road, about half a mile south of Ranskill, and 5½ miles north-west by north of Retford. It contains 258 souls and 1,362 acres of land. Viscount Galway is lord of the manor, and owner of 1,035 acres, and Mrs Chambers is lessee of the great tithes, both here and at Ranskill, which were commuted in 1838, the former for £420 and the latter for £235. At the same time £80 was apportioned to the vicar in Torworth township, and £90 in Ranskill, in lieu of the small tithes. A Wesleyan chapel was built in the village in 1826. Mantles House, on a commanding eminence, is the seat and proprty of Thomas Crofts Esq. In excavating the foundation for this mansion in 1820, a Roman urn, ten inches in diameter, was found covered with a globular vessel, supposed to contain a human heart. Torworth Grange is a neat residence in the Elizabethan style, was erected in 1845 on the site of an ancient residence by Viscount Galway, and is at present occupied by Mr W. Lancaster. The common was enclosed in 1800 and 1807, by a mutual agreement of the proprietors. An annuity of 10s is paid to the poor of the township, out of Viscount Galway's estate.

[Transcribed by Clive Henly]