A brief history of Farnsfield
Farnsfield lies in central Nottinghamshire, approximately 14 miles (22.5 km) north-east of Nottingham, and 4 miles (6.4 km) north-west of Southwell.
The first mention of Farnsfield emerges in 956AD in a document in which King Edwy of Northumbria gave the Danish Archbishop of York, Oscytel, the manor of Southwell, which included the farmstead of Farnsfield. Farnsfield was a small community of farmsteads scraping a living from agriculture in a clearing at the edge of Sherwood Forest.
By 1520 Farnsfield was the responsibility of Southwell Minster under the Archbishop of York, Cardinal Wolsey. Most people were farmers and poor land, bad weather, disease and starvation were constant hazards. By the 1600s more specialised trades were developing in Farnsfield including bakers, tailors and shoemakers. By the late 1700s sheep rearing was the main source of income from outside.
The originator of the Quakers, George Fox, is believed to have visited Farnsfield around 1646 and the original Quaker society was set up in Farnsfield around that time. Quaker Lane housed their first meeting house in the village. There is also a strong tradition that John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, preached in Farnsfield in 1780 at the junction of Blidworth Road, Mansfield Road and Main Street. The first Methodist Chapel was built in Farnsfield in 1799.
The population slowly grew, and agricultural changes created a group of landless labourers who were dependant on seasonal work. Every parish had to support its own poor, providing food, housing, clothing, and where possible, work. This was very difficult and when the government passed the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 everyone who was destitute, except the old and sick, had to go into the nearby workhouse in Southwell.
Very little industrialisation came to Farnsfield. Brickmaking, established in Brickyard Lane, was a notable exception. Farnsfield did boast one significant resident: George Yates was the village postman for thirty‑two years. He was also blind. Every day he walked from Farnsfield to Southwell to take the outgoing post, and returned the same day with the incoming post. He was never absent, never late, and only once forgot a package (which he walked back to Southwell to collect). He walked around twelve miles each day. He died in 1866 and his obituary noted how difficult it would be to replace him.
The villagers of Farnsfield enjoyed the traditional sports of the day, which included cockfighting, wrestling and boxing. A hunt used to meet outside the Red Lion. The cricket pitch was built in 1862 and cricket has flourished in Farnsfield ever since.
In the 1890s there were two cottages by the side of the White Post Inn. The keeper who lived in one shot the old lady’s cat (which lived in the other) for ‘poaching’ and in revenge the old lady ‘willed’ all his hair to fall out. He apparently replaced it with a reddish‑brown wig of hair all the same length.
The parish church of St Michael, which dates from the 15th century, was rebuilt by Thomas Chambers Hine and Robert Evans in 1859 to 1860 following a fire. Only a fragment of the tower from the 15th-century building survives. The parish is in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.
On 6 July 1944 an RAF Halifax bomber MZ519-LKU crashed south of the village on its return to RAF Burn near York. The Halifax had been on a mission to destroy a V1 flying bomb site in Nazi-occupied France. All on board were killed. The site of the crash has a large memorial set before a copse of English oaks and Canadian maples dedicated to the Canadian and British crewmen.
With grateful acknowledgement to Mary Rigg for her book ‘History of Farnsfield’. Copies of the book are available from Farnsfield Library on New Hill.