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Retford Town Hall, May 2012.JPG
Retford Town Hall
Retford is located in Nottinghamshire
Retford shown within Nottinghamshire
Population 22,013 (2011)
Demonym Retfordian
OS grid reference SK 70393 81201
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town RETFORD
Postcode district DN22
Dialling code 01777
Police Nottinghamshire
Fire Nottinghamshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°19′22″N 0°56′35″W / 53.32278°N 0.94306°W / 53.32278; -0.94306Coordinates: 53°19′22″N 0°56′35″W / 53.32278°N 0.94306°W / 53.32278; -0.94306

Retford is a market town in Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands of England, 31 miles (50 km) from Nottingham, and 23 miles (37 km) west of Lincoln. The population at the 2011 census was 22,013.[1] The town is in the valley of the River Idle and the Chesterfield Canal passes through the centre. The village of Ordsall, west of the River Idle and the East Coast Main Line railway, and the former hamlet of Thrumpton are suburbs. Retford is administered by Bassetlaw District Council in neighbouring Worksop and twinned with Pfungstadt, Germany.


Retford coat of arms

Retford is one of the oldest boroughs in England and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Redeforde'. Henry I established the borough in 1105, and it gained a Royal Charter in 1246, when Henry III granted the right to 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 the Bassetlaw district. Its civic traditions are maintained by Charter Trustees.

The granting of Royal Charters was important because it enabled Retford to self-govern and become independent of interference from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The highly unusual coat of arms for the town consists of two rampant choughs.

Origins of the name[edit]

The origins of the town's 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 Redeforde or 'Redforde' possibly 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.[2]

One of the main streets is 'Bridgegate', which underlines the importance of the town as a river crossing.


The first land settled was on the western side of the ford, this area being less liable to flooding. This was known as West Retforth.[3] However, 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.

Retford was largely destroyed by a fire in 1528, and by 1552 only had a population of 700. In 1558 there was an outbreak of Plague which caused 300 deaths in East Retford and killed half the people of West Retford. Another fire struck in 1585 which was so profound that the people of Worksop raised money for 'the poor men of the late burned town of Retford'. Yet another fire struck in 1631 and caused £1,300 worth of damage.

The Civil War seems to have largely bypassed Retford, although Charles I was said to have stayed in the house of Mr Lane, a lawyer, on August 20th 1645. He was on his way from Doncaster and set off the following day to Lord Danecourt's in Newark. In 1657 there was a Great Storm, which destroyed the steeple and Chantries of St Swithun's Church. This was restored in 1658 at a cost of £3,648.

The town prospered after the Great North Road was diverted to run through the town in 1766. Then in 1777 the Chesterfield Canal was built through the town, with the direct London to York railway (1849) later routed via the borough. In 1808 there were 421 houses and 1,948 inhabitants in East Retford and 127 houses and 483 inhabitants in West Retford (Capper's Diary). By 1908 the population had risen to 12,500. 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 centre of Retford is now characterised by a large Market Square surrounded by Georgian period architecture. The Retford Conservation Area contains the historic cores of both West and East Retford, which sit either side of the River Idle. The Conservation Area also extends southwards up to and including the 18th century Chesterfield Canal.

Rotten Borough[edit]

Retford was on of the most notorious Rotten and pocket boroughs. East and West Retford were largely separate at that time, and since 1315 had two sitting MPs. The 1832 Great Reform Act had East Retford as a central focus. Hansard records much argument about the East Retford Disfranchisement Bill (1828), which reduced Retford's representation to just one MP.

Geography and climate[edit]

Retford lies in a shallow, fertile river valley which has a wide flood plain on either side of the River Idle. This makes the low-lying land next to the river prone to flooding. The underlying geology is Primo-Triassic rocks which lie over coal measures. This district therefore forms part of the Nottinghamshire-Yorkshire Coalfield. To the West are Pebble Beds and Sandstone outcrops. To the east are heavy claylands of Keuper Marl.


Low-lying areas of Retford have always been prone to flooding. Flooding is confined to a well-defined flood plain and areas above the flood plain or on sandstone do not flood.

There was a Great Flood in 1775.

1872 there were serious floods in April.

There was a Great Flood in 1886 which caused considerable damage. The council demolished the bridge and built a new bridge in West Retford to replace it.

In 1947 an article in The Retford Times notes that Moorgate (one of the principal streets) derives from the Anglo-Saxon 'mor' meaning a marsh. The author notes that across Moorgate there runs a brook commonly called 'The Beck', which floods annually. He notes: "The soil here is largely clay, and Moorgate was well called the 'morgata' - the miry street".

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.[4] The Asda and Morrisons supermarkets adjacent to the river were also flooded.[5]


Market Square[edit]

Retford War Memorial with Town Hall in Background

The Market Square is in the centre of Retford and features 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 eight 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 FRIBA of Cheltenham, and built of Stancliffe stone from Darley Dale, Derbyshire.[6]

Cannon Square[edit]

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.

Retford's captured Sebastopol Cannon in front of St. Swithun's Church. Plaque on side states 'Captured 1855 at Sevastopol'

The cannon, supporting plinth, lamp arch and iron posts with chains are all listed (Grade II). The cannon arrived in Retford in April 1858 by rail. It was given the name ‘The Earl of Aberdeen’. The Cannon was officially unveiled on the 17 February 1859 by Gunner Cole (of the Royal Artillery). The cannon was removed during the scrap drive of the Second World War, but was rescued by Mr R.G. Bradshaw (Alderman of Retford). The cannon was reinstated after the Second World War, set on a new wooden gun carriage, being officially unveiled on the 29 March 1950 by the Mayor of Retford, Councillor T. Richmond.

King's Park[edit]

Kings' Park was opened on June 29th 1938, to commemorate not only the reign of King George V, but also the Coronation year of King George VI. The site for the original park occupies the land from Chancery Lane to the River Idle and was donated by Mrs M Huntsman of West Retford Hall in 1937. A public appeal by the Borough of East Retford at the time raised £2,000 towards the estimated cost of £8,000 (equivalent to £485,000 today) to develop the park.

In 1960 a further donation of the land by R H Williamson to the west of the River Idle allowed for an extension to the park within the former grounds of the historic West Retford Hall, which dates from 1699 and still stands outside the north-west boundary of the park.

Kings Park has received many awards including winning the prestigious Britain's Best Park competition in the Midlands region (2007). It also received the Green Flag Award in both 2008 and 2009. It is described as a 'jewel in the crown' by Bassetlaw council.

The Park now covers some 10 hectares on either side of the Idle River, just off the town centre. In addition to formal gardens, it contains large areas of grassland suitable for ball games and picnics, a children's water play area, bowling greens, tennis courts, skate park, children's play ground, a performance stage, rose gardens, wildlife gardens and public conveniences.

Bridge over River Idle in Kings Park

Sloswicke’s Hospital[edit]

Was founded in 1657. Richard Sloswicke’s will left money to found almshouses “for the maintenance of six poore old men of good carriage and behaviour to the end of the world.” The present building dates from 1806; an additional pair of houses being added in 1819

Trinity Hospital[edit]

Trinity Hospital is a Grade II listed building, set in gardens off Hospital Road. It was established over 340 years ago, and has been a prominent Alms House in Retford since the 17th Century. It was set up from the Will of John Darrel in 1671, to provide ‘hospitality’ to 15 ‘Poor Bachelors or Widowers of good Character, who are not less than 50 years of age’. He endowed the charity with a significant portfolio of property and land, and a Bailiff was to be appointed to manage this estate. The rental income from the properties was intended to cover any repairs of the buildings, including the Hospital itself, and be sufficient to sustain the Charity in providing benefits to the residents (known as the "Brethren").

The building on Hospital Road was designed by the Edward Blore with the chapel dating and the two projecting L-shaped wings of cottages dating from 1833, and the central section, dominated by the tower, added in 1872. The clock in the Clock Tower was made by William Thomas, Lincoln, and is dated 1858. The clock is of bird-cage wrought iron construction, having two trains, a recoil escapement and shows the time externally on a single adjacent dial. It strikes the hours only on a single bell above.

Trinity Hospital Retford

A painting of Queen Anne was cleaned and restored in 1999. An appraisal of the painting was made by an art expert from Phillips, who attributed it to Sir Godfrey Kneller, a well-known royal portrait painter during Queen Anne's reign.

The Audit Room features a striking stained glass window made by Edwin Wilmshurst. In his scrapbook he notes how in 1860 he happened to be in York and enquired if he could obtain historic stained glass. He was shown a box of waste glass and bought it. When he retired in 1908, he finally cleaned and sorted it, discovering some came from church windows, some from nobile town houses in medieval York and some from secular public buildings. It ranged in date from early Gothic to Nineteenth Century. He assembled from this collection with window which was installed by William Spurr, Plumber and Glazier of Churchgate, Retford at a cost of £20 – 6s – 7½d. When the window was restored in 2000, it was discovered that it contained medieval glass, which necessitated recording the 'Trinity window' in the European and British Register.

The Hospital features an outstanding pair of gates, commissioned in January 1995 by the Master Governor from Chris Topp, Blacksmith, of Carlton Husthwaite, Thirsk, North Yorkshire. The gates were finished and hung on the Epiphany Feast 1996.

Opinions on Retford[edit]

From 2011, Retford was made the European town of respect.[clarification needed]

Nikolaus Pevsner, architectural historian, was fairly scathing about Retford and its lack of distinguished buildings. "A singularly unattractive town," he wrote.[7]

However Bill Bryson, the 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 1855', 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.'[8]

Religion and Places of Worship[edit]

Pilgrim Fathers[edit]

Retford and its rural district contain a large number of historic churches. The area has a strong non-conformist tradition. 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 1605.53°19′20.45″N 0°56′20.57″W / 53.3223472°N 0.9390472°W / 53.3223472; -0.9390472


Grove Street Methodist Church

Retford was involved in the early history of Methodism, with John Wesley preaching in the town square in 1779. His visit had a warm reception from some Retfordians - led by a certain John Willey - who conspired to disrupt his preaching. In the end this was limited to the throwing of a bad egg, which missed Wesley but hit his sister. She was said to retaliate with a torrent of abuse that made the crowd laugh even if somewhat out of place at an evangelistic rally. Retford's first Methodist chapel opened the same year. This chapel was deemed too small for the crowd expected for John Wesley's second visit to Retford, who was by then 83 years old. According to his journal he preached first at the New Inn, afterwards at Newark, and in the evening at Retford where he saw "the dead, small and great, stand before God". According to a tablet in the wall of a house in Bridgegate, Wesley preached under a pear tree in an orchard just over the Idle in the parish of West Retford. (Barry J Biggs 1967) The current Grade II listed Methodist chapel in Grove Street dates from 1880 and was built by Bellamy and Hardy. Its listing states that the chapel retains a high quality of architectural and artistic embellishment in both the external and internal detail. The oval galleries are an architectural expression of distinctive worshipping practice and there has been minimal alteration to the original fabric or fittings. The chapel contains flooring laid in the early 20th century, an example of the terrazzo and mosaic craft of Italian immigrant craftsmen. In addition to the chapel on Grove Street there are other non-conformist chapels around the town. Some are in use as places of worship and others are now used for other purposes.

St Michael the Archangel[edit]

St Michael's, West Retford

The Grade II listed St Michael the Archangel church, West Retford was dedicated in 1227 and sits on an elevation on Rectory Road. The oldest part of the church is the south aisle and the chapel dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria. Its outstanding feature is the octagonal spire on a square tower. The spire is said to be an exact, early 14th century replica of the spire of St Michael At Rouen in Normandy. At that time, Lincoln cathedral was served by Norman priests from Rouen, and as the Manor of West Retford was among the Manors granted to Roger-de-Buesli, it is almost certain that this and other churches in Nottinghamshire were designed and built by Norman architects from Rouen.

Originally the spire was surmounted by an iron cross, but in 1855 a severe gale damaged the tip of the spire and the cross was replaced by the current weather vane. It is the crocketted spire and tower that was referred to by the architect as “a poem in stone”. There are six bells in the tower, the largest tenor bell weighing 9cwt in A Flat is dated to 1619 and is inscribed “Jesus be our speed”, the 5th bell was originally cast in 1620 and recast in 1884 by Mr Taylor of Loughborough at the cost of £200 raised by public subscription. There is an inscription on this bell that reads “Fili Dei Misere Mei” – “Son of God have Mercy on me”. The other 4 bells were cast in the 19th century.

St Oswalds chapel is the oldest part of the church. There is a carved statue of St Oswald in a niche on one of the pillars in the south aisle, which was placed there in the 19th century. The window above the altar depicts St Michael and was designed by the architect William Butterfield in memory of his brother the Rev Charles Butterfield, rector of West Retford parish from 1857-1866. In the small chapel at the end of the north aisle, also known as the 'Mary chapel', there is a handsome reredos by Sir Ninian Comper.

St Swithun's[edit]

A Grade II listed church in East Retford that is dedicated to St Swithun and founded in 1258. The current building is of cruciform shape, now mainly of perpendicular architecture, but still preserving in its south and west doorways, and in the tracery of some of its windows, marks of the earlier styles in which it was first built. In 1528 there was a great fire in Retford which damaged the church. In 1535, we learn that: "Where sumtyme were iiii chauntries which now er in decaye by reason they er consumed wt. fyer." The tower and chancel collapsed in 1651 and were rebuilt in 1658. The current building is therefore largely the work of restorers of 1658, 1854-5 and 1905.

St Swithun's Retford Notts

The church has a square, battlemented tower, containing a clock and 10 bells. The oldest, virtually untouched, part is the north transept, although it has now been transformed into a chapel as a war memorial. The tower is supported by four massive arches and the nave and aisles are separated by arcades of five bays. There is a stone pulpit, an eagle lectern in oak, and a large organ erected in 1841. In the north transept is an incised slab to Henry Smyth (d 1496) and Sir Whatton Amcotts (d 1807) by William Kinnard, architect. The Victorian stained glass includes work by Clayton and Bell, Charles Eamer Kempe, Michael O’Connor, Hardman & Co, William Wailes and George Shaw.

The British Museum contains several architectural drawings of East Retford Church by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm. These include a general view of the exterior, and a drawing of the tracery of the east window. There are also drawings by Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828) including a drawing of a window which used to be in the Chancel, but which no longer exists. John Buckler (1770-1851) made several drawings of the church, including one of the figure in the vesica piscis, at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

St Joseph[edit]

St Joseph's, Retford

Catholics originally worshipped informally in catholic houses. In 1861, a Mass centre was established, served from Oldcotes, Worksop and Gainsborough. Attempts to secure funding for a permanent church were unsuccessful. An influx of Irish and Italian Catholics meant more demand for a church. In 1895 a piece of land was purchased on the corner of Queen Street and Pelham Road. This was known locally as 'the tin chapel' and was in operation for 64 years.

In 1922, Major Milner donated a piece of land adjoining the present town cemetery. He requested this be set aside for the burial of Catholics. By 1954, a one-acre site (which formed part of cemetery land) on Babworth Road was purchased from the corporation of East Retford for £725. The church was designed by E Bower Norris FRIBA of Sandy & Norris, Stafford. The Bishop of Nottingham laid the foundation stone on 17 May 1958 and the church was officially opened by the Bishop on 1 May 1959. It cost £20,000 to build.

The church is built in a simplified Romanesque and Art Deco style of straw-coloured brick, above a plinth of dark brick, with artificial stone dressings. The roof is covered in clay pantiles, and a striking campanile with a copper roof. Post-Vatican II the church was reordered in 1968 by Gerard Goalen. A large Christus Resurrexit in metal was installed on the sanctuary wall by Steven Sykes (1914-99), a sculptor and teacher at the Chelsea School of Art. The church was consecrated on 24 June 1970. Two years later a new presbytery, parish hall and social centre were built.


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. As of 2013, Retford's town centre has an empty shop rate of only 9%, 5% less than the national average.[9] 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 to find ways to help the local economy.

Historically, Retford traded agricultural produce, but has also been a producer of hats, sail-cloth, rope, sack bags, paper and leather. In 1788 Major John Cartwright, the older brother of Edmund Cartwright inventor of the power loom, built The Revolution Mill on Spital Hill, near the Chesterfield Canal. The mill was a steam-powered wool spinning and weaving mill employing around 600 people. The ambitious enterprise, however, failed a few years later and the site and machinery were eventually sold at great loss in 1805. Only one building survives. The Bolham Paper Making Company’s mill did better, making glazed papers, shop papers, boards, boxboards and new paper mills were built in the mid-19th century, including a mill on Albert Road (1867). Foundries and iron works were also established. The Beehive Works was built in Thrumpton in 1873 and William Bradshaw set up his Carr Foundry in Albert Road which specialised in heating and rainwater pipes, gutters, stoves, fireplaces and general engineering castings. The late nineteenth century also saw the introduction of new technologies when the Northern Rubber Company was created by Alfred Pegler in 1871. The factory’s proximity to the junction of two important railways helped it prosper.

The economy in Retford has changed substantially since the 1980s with long-established companies such as Jenkins Newell Dunford (engineering) and Bridon Ropes (wire) closing and the economy becoming more services-based. Strong transport links mean that many Retford workers commute to neighbouring towns and cities; some commute to London.



Retford was historically on the Great North Road. It is now 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.

Retford railway station

The town is also served by a number of buses operated by Stagecoach in Bassetlaw, Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, TM Travel as well as smaller local bus operators, to destinations including Worksop, Newark, Nottingham and Doncaster. Retford bus station is also the terminus of the 450 National Express coach service between Victoria Coach Station in London and Retford.

Retford bus station

The current bus station was built and opened on 30 July 2007 at a cost of £1.4 million,[10] and was given a highly commended accolade in the infrastructure category of the UK Bus Awards 2008.[11] 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.[12]


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.


Chesterfield Canal, in Retford, next to Town Lock

Retford is connected to the UK Inland Waterways network by the Chesterfield Canal. Indeed, up to Retford the canal was built to be 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. However, narrow sections now prevent such craft reaching Retford.[13] The canal starts at Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Based in Retford on the lower side of the Town Lock is a boat club called Retford Mariners Boat Club[14] (R.M.B.C), it was formed in November 1978 by a group of canal enthusiasts.


Doncaster Sheffield Airport (formerly RAF Finningley) is approximately 14 miles (23 km) away 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, Doncaster Sheffield 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 US. 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.

Leisure and entertainment[edit]

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.

Majestic Theatre, Retford

Retford has two theatres in the town: the Majestic Theatre,[15] a former cinema, which hosts famous entertainers, music concerts from local performers and plays, and Retford Little Theatre,[16] 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. Many of the historic public houses are listed buildings. Including The White Hart, an historic 18th Century Coaching Inn which has a cobbled yard and stabling for horses. The Olde Sun on Chapelgate, which is a timber-framed building that dates from the 16th century and is one of the oldest buildings remaining in the town. The Litten Tree which was originally called The Crown Inn and dates from 1754. Historically The Crown was the principal place of conducting business in the town.

16th Century timber-framed Ye Olde Sun, Retford

Youth groups[edit]

Retford is served by many youth groups including The Scout Association, Girlguiding UK, St. John Ambulance and Young Farmers, meeting within the town. Retford is also home to 1403 ATC Retford Squadron and Army Cadets. In addition Retford is served by an excellent youth musical theatre group known as The MOB (mini operatic bunch) the junior section of Retford Amateur Operatic Society.

Idle Valley Nature Reserve[edit]

Bug Arch at Idle Valley Nature Reserve

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.

Charter Day[edit]

To celebrate the granting of Retford's Royal Charter in 1246, the town holds a celebration known as Charter Day on the first Bank Holiday in May. The event celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2018 and now enjoys tens of thousands of visitors who take part in the many events held around the town. These include musical performances, vintage car rallies, street entertainers, dance performances, dog displays, food stalls, workshops, demonstrations and a charity market. Retford Fire Station perform 'rescues' to demonstrate their job to the public. One of the most popular events is the annual Lions' Duck Race, where locals and visitors sponsor a yellow plastic duck which is then 'raced' between two bridges on the river Idle. The money raised is donated to charity.


Fitness and Health[edit]

There are a number of gymnasiums, spas and health, beauty and fitness centres in Retford. The new Retford Leisure Centre offers aquatic activities such as lane swimming, fun swims, and water aerobics; along with a state of the art gym facilities. Retford also features a small skate park within the grounds of Kings Park in the centre of Retford. Walking and cycling are well catered for, with a wide choice of well maintained and sign-posted routes. The 46-mile Cuckoo Way, which runs alongside the Chesterfield Canal also runs through Retford.

Martial Arts[edit]

There are well established Karate, Taekwondo and Kung Fu schools, as well as a Judo club which runs in the St. Saviours Church Hall.


Retford has an established football team called Retford United F.C. who play in the premier division of the Baris Northern Counties East League. The club plays football at Cannon Park on the outskirts of the town. Retford is also home to Retford Town F.C., a smaller football club. Babworth Rovers, a well-established junior football team, is on the outskirts of town and includes players from Retford and the surrounding villages.


Founded in 1952, East Retford Rugby Union Football Club, competes in the Midlands League Division. The club celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002. It initially played on a pitch at Hard Moors, off Goosemoor Lane, then owned by Jenkins of Retford. A pitch at Ranby Camp followed before the club moved to Frank Wood's field on Green Mile, Ranby, complete with cows. In 1966 negotiations with Anglian Water Authority resulted in a long-term rental agreement for the use of land at Ordsall Road with room for three pitches on flat, well-drained land. In 2000 the Club purchased the majority of its Ordsall Road ground from Anglian Water. The Club currently runs two senior teams and a thriving and successful junior section, from minis to under 16s, for both boys and girls.


The Retford Town Cricket and Sports Club was established in 1850 and moved to its present ground in 1858. The club was a founding member of the Bassetlaw Cricket league in 1904, their inaugural match was against Whitwell Colliery. However, they had to wait until 1984 before they won the League Division 1A Championship. Retford has developed players that have played at County and International level, including Derek Randall.


Retford also has a long running Snooker League consisting of 2 Divisions.


Retford Swimming Club represent the town and the surrounding area in the pool. The club, established in 1896, trains swimmers and takes part in competitive swimming galas against other teams in Nottinghamshire, in the Sports Centre League. Retford Swimming Club competes in Division 1 of the Sports Centre League. An annual Open Meet is held at Ponds Forge International Pool in Sheffield, hosted by the club.


Located at the south eastern edge of the town, Retford Golf Club is a private members club founded in 1921. The course is laid out around the area known locally as Whisker Hill, and it provides a varied mixture of open parkland, oak-lined fairways and changes of level. It is a popular destination for golf societies from across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire areas.


Retford is primarily served by two local radio stations, BBC Radio Sheffield and the local commercial radio station Trax FM. Hallam FM's coverage area also includes Retford. The majority of the town receives its terrestrial television from the Emley Moor transmitting station, which broadcasts local news from BBC Look North and Calendar News. A minority of residents receive programming from Belmont serving Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire (to the east) and Waltham serving the East Midlands (to the south).

Retford also has two newspapers serving the town, the Retford Times which is published in Retford, and the Guardian and Trader newspaper, a free weekly newspaper published in Worksop. The Worksop Guardian, although predominately a newspaper serving Worksop and its area, also covers stories in Retford.

Retford cemetery[edit]

Retford cemetery is a Victorian era cemetery, with the sites first burial dating back to 1854 (when it was built). Prior to the cemetery, maps dating back to 1835 confirm that the area was covered by farmland. It is approximately 25 acres (10 ha) in size, situated between Babworth Road and North Road. The Chesterfield canal runs alongside the eastern border and to the west of the cemetery, there is a primary school and a railway line. It is maintained by Bassetlaw District Council (BDC), which has freehold ownership of the site. The cemetery contains 14 Commonwealth war graves from the First World War, and 16 from the Second World War.


Primary schools[edit]

  • St Swithun's C of E Primary & Nursery School[17]
  • St Josephs Catholic Primary school
  • Bracken Lane Primary School
  • Thrumpton Primary School
  • Carr Hill Primary School
  • Ordsall Primary School

Senior schools[edit]

As part of a major overhaul of secondary schools in the Bassetlaw area, all schools have now been moved to new facilities built around the town as part of the Transform Schools scheme. Retford is home to a Post-16 centre the aim of which was to unite all Sixth Form students in one site (formerly Ordsall Hall School) and provide other courses available through North Nottinghamshire College (based at Worksop). As of spring 2018, the proposal is to devolve A Level students back to the respective secondary schools and use the dedicated Post-16 centre for vocational and technical courses, as well as higher education.

Historic schools[edit]

The King Edward VI School was on London Road. It was previously known as the King Edward VI Grammar School and the oldest part of the school buildings (opened in August 1857) were designed by the famous Victorian architect Decimus Burton. The school motto was Ex Pulvere Palma. The school traced its original foundation back to Thomas Gunthorpe of Babworth in 1519 although there are references to a still earlier school in the town. It was refounded around 1551 during the reign of King Edward VI. The school accepted boarders from at least the 17th century onwards, but the last boarders left in 1938. During the Second World War a number of boys from the Great Yarmouth Grammar School were evacuated to Retford (from 1940–44), and were taught in classrooms at King Edward VI Grammar School. The school eventually became part of the Retford Oaks Academy, although the original Grade II listed buildings still exist on London Road.

The historic Edward VI Grammar School buildings in Retford, designed by Decimus Burton

Retford County High School for Girls has its origins in a meeting convened at the White Hart Hotel, Retford 'to consider the advisability of taking steps to establish a public High School for Girls in the district'. The prime instigator in the new project appears to have been the manager of the Westminster Bank, Mr. William Oakden, who in 1891 had moved from Nottingham to Retford. He and other like-minded people desired a means of providing their daughters with some form of higher education. The school eventually found a site on the corner of Pelham Road and Queen Street, adjacent to the canal. The school on Pelham Road had around 400 girls in the 1950s to 1970s. In 1979 the secondary schools in Retford were reorganised and the 11+ abolished. Boys were to be admitted for the first time. The result was a comprehensive school called 'The Elizabethan High School' under head teacher Mrs Coxon-Butler. At this time the former Hallcroft Girls' secondary modern school on Hallcroft Road became the new school's Lower Site and the Retford Girls' High School became the school's Upper Site. The former Pelham Road/Queen Street site was demolished when the school moved to new buildings in Hallcroft and became the The Elizabethan Academy.

Notable Retfordians[edit]

Nearby places[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Piercy, John Shadrach. The History of Retford. 1828. cited at Derivation of the Towns Name Updated 29 May 2003, accessed 17 June 2006.
  3. ^ Plea rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40 / 647;; fifth entry: John Haukeswell of West Retforth, carrier
  4. ^ "Villagers braced for more floods". BBC News. 28 June 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  5. ^ "Gallery : Flooding in Notts". BBC News. Archived from the original on 30 November 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Nikolaus Pevsner. The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire (1951 ed.). Penguin Books. p. 63. 
  8. ^ Bill Bryson. Notes from a Small Island (1996 ed.). Black Swan. p. 188. 
  9. ^ "New scheme to reduce town's empty shopfronts". Retford Times. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  10. ^ "Retford bus station". Nottinghamshire County Council. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  11. ^ "Infrastructure 2008". UK Bus Awards. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  12. ^ "Retford Bus Station" (pdf). Nottinghamshire County Council. July 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  13. ^ Richardson, Christine, Lower John (2010). Chesterfield Canal – A Richlow Guide. Richlow. ISBN 978-0-9552609-4-0
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Mr Charles Crauford". Hansard. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 

External links[edit]