Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter

Aspects of the Medieval Road from Nottingham to Blyth and York

Within the Domesday Book entry for Nottingham is a section relating to what we now know as Trent Bridge. The entry emphasises the importance of the protection of the King's road to York as well as maintaining the passage of ships along the river (1). In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle we are informed that before midsummer in the year 920, shortly after the Danish borough in Nottingham had been taken by Edward the Elder, he ordered a stronghold to be built on the south side of the river and a bridge over the Trent to be built connecting the two strongholds. Before the Trent was bridged at Newark in the mid-1130s the main land route from London to York was via Nottingham.

Before entering the medieval town of Nottingham, the road had to cross the river Leen. The next obstacle to negotiate was a steep climb up the cliff to the higher ground of the medieval town. The road was a hollow way through, by way of a steep rock connected with the town wall. This way was recorded as Hologate in 1357 and the Holoughstone in 1366. Having entered the medieval town the road to York continued along Stonistrete - Stoney Street. The York road exited the town at le Northbarre. This gate was at the southern end of what was later called Glasshouse Street (2). The York road passes the site of the gallows at Gallows Hill, continuing along the corridor of the present A 60 and along the Red Hill to a junction of roads. Here the York road followed a northerly route which is now the A 614 with an early road to Mansfield to the west of it. The next location of significance on the York road is the area known as Salterford. Salterford Dam is fed from the upper Doverbeck which, flowing south-east, joins the Trent near Gunthorpe. In many of the perambulations of the Forest of Sherwood the south east part of the Forest was bounded by the Trent from Nottingham as far as the confluence with the Doverbeck.

The Forest boundary then followed the Doverbeck past Salterford Dam, leaving the beck at a point north west of Darcliff Hill (Dorclyff on an early 17th century map showing the Forest bounds) and then curved round to join the York road. From here, for several miles, the Forest boundary uses the York road as a defining feature. Indeed the above map writes “The Street waye from Nottingham to Blythe" along the line of the boundary (3).

Prior to the mid 17th century the road to Blyth went east of the Rainworth Water (Maun) whereas the modern road (A 614) crosses it twice before reaching Ollerton (4). The early road left the line of the modern road near Lockwell House Farm (Grid Reference 631590) and passed through the park of Rufford Hall and to the east of the earlier Cistercian Abbey of Rufford. Indeed it was due to the fact that the road passed through his park that Sir George Saville, in the mid 17th century, obtained permission to move the Blyth road to the west of his hall to its present line. The boundary of the Forest kept with the old road and it is the various perambulations of the Forest boundary which enabled Maurice Barley to locate the line of the medieval road.

In the Domesday Book Rufford is listed as a manor of Gilbert de Gant. Rufford Abbey was founded by the De Gants circa 1150. Evidence from the abbey cartulary implies that within eight years of its foundation the population of Rufford village were removed and the existing village fabric destroyed. Prior to its destruction it is likely that the Blyth road crossed a stream, now known as Gallow Hole Dyke, at a ford - the rough ford. North of the crossing was the site of the village and it is likely that the Blyth road passed along the main village street. Later the abbey built a farm on the site of the old village known as Roumes Grange (Kennels on 1:10560 OS map). The British Library Map shows Ruamgraunge on the Forest boundary.

The old Blyth road is heading towards Wellow. Wellow was not a Domesday manor and the earliest record is in the early 13th century, with the spelling Welhagh “spring associated with an enclosure" (5). It was this spring and the medieval road which made the site an attractive place to settle. The water from the spring is a tributary of the Maun (known here as Whitewater) which is to the west of the old road. To the east of the road are the villages of Boughton and Boughton Brake. After crossing the parish boundary between Boughton and Walesby the road turns north arriving at a place known now as Conjure Alders where the Meden has to be crossed shortly after it had been joined by the Maun. Prior to reaching the river the road passes through a wet area which will have required a built up causeway to negotiate. The crossing of the Meden is today by a bridge which is known now as Conjure Alders Bridge. Greenwood's 1826 Map of the County of Nottingham denotes it as Conworth Alders but by the time of the Tithe Award for Bothamsall of c.1840 and the First Edition 1:63360 OS map, also c.1840, it was denoted as Conjure Alders. Just north of the bridge this map shows an enclosed area with the label Conjure Alders, a wet area very suitable for the growing of alder trees. In the Forest perambulation of 1235 the Meden crossing is written as ‘Conyngeswatth' “king's ford” from the Scandinavian words conungr “king's” and vao- “ford”. (The place-name Rainworth was Reynwath in the 13th century combining the Scandinavian hreinn “clean” or rein “boundary” with vao “ford”). All the subsequent Forest perambulations use Conyngeswatth as a defining point on the Forest Boundary, using this spelling though understandably with slight variations. The Forest boundary leaves the Blyth road at the ford. In the Forest proceedings of 1589 it was made clear that the feature was indeed a ford by recording it as Conyswathe forde (5). An excavation at the site by Trent and Peak Archaeological Trust in 1996-7 uncovered a cobbled surface at the edge of the River Meden which, without doubt, was part of the structure of the ford (6).

After the river crossing the route of the old road converges towards the A614 and met it about 300m south of the Normanton Inn. The A614 was never improved through a Turnpike Act but later, re-routing of the A1 has created a junction of the A614 and A1 near Apley Head. On the approach to Blyth the A1 follows the corridor of the medieval road but now bypasses Blyth to the east. The York road passes a hill called Blyth Law and it was here that George Neville, Archbishop of York, died on his way to York in 1476. On the southern outskirts of Blyth, Blyth Spital (hospital de Blida), recorded first in 1305, was built by the side of the road (7).

Brian Rich


1    Phillimore Edition of the Domesday Book- Nottinghamshire folio 280a.

2    Roffe,D. The Anglo-Saxon Town and the Norman Conquest in Beckett, J. A Centenary History of Nottingham (Chichester 2006).

Gover,J.E.B.,Mawer,A.and Stenton F.M. The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire. (English Place- Name Society 1979).

3    British Library map showing the bounds of the Forest of Sherwood in the early 17th century.

4    The following section on roads to the east of Rufford Abbey is dependent on Barley, M.W., Cistercian Land Clearances in Nottinghamshire: Three Deserted Villages and Their Moated Successor in Medieval Studies,1. (University of Nottingham).

5    The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire.

6    Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire vol 102 (1998)- Report of Fieldwork by Trent and Peak Archaeological Trust, 1996-7.

7    The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire.

If you use Nottingham’s trams you are no doubt aware that the newer ones now bear the names of many local celebrities, past and present, and of others less well known to the public who have nevertheless made notable contributions to the life of the city. In this article I shall highlight the historical figures under whose names ten of our trams travel daily. Although you may well have knowledge of some, if not all, of the following individuals, I hope that you will find a few points of interest in these biographical sketches.