Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Coordinates: 53°04′41″N 0°57′18″W / 53.078°N 0.955°W / 53.078; -0.955
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Town and Civil parish
From the top, Southwell Minster, The Archbishop's Palace, The Workhouse and Market Place/Kings Street
Southwell is located in Nottinghamshire
Location within Nottinghamshire
Area9.25 sq mi (24.0 km2)
Population7,558 (2021)
• Density817/sq mi (315/km2)
OS grid referenceSK 69996 53962
• London110 mi (180 km) SE
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
  • Brackenhurst
  • Brinkley
  • Maythorne
  • Normanton
Post townSouthwell
Postcode districtNG25
Dialling code01636
AmbulanceEast Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°04′41″N 0°57′18″W / 53.078°N 0.955°W / 53.078; -0.955

Southwell (/ˈsθwəl/, locally /ˈsʌðəl/)[1][2] is a minster and market town in the district of Newark and Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, England. It is home to the grade-I listed Southwell Minster, the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. The population of the town was recorded at 7,558 in the 2021 Census. The town is on the River Greet and is located geographically 9 miles (14 km) west of Newark on Trent, 15 miles (24 km) north-east of Nottingham, 13 miles (21 km) south-east of Mansfield and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Worksop.


The origin of the name is unclear. Several sites claim to be the original "well", notably at GR SK708535 where a plaque has been placed; in the Admiral Rodney pub; on the south side of the Minster, known as Lady Well in the 19th century; and one by the cloisters called Holy Well. Norwell, 8 miles (13 km) north-west, may support the idea of a pair of "south" and "north" wells.[citation needed]

Early history[edit]

The remains of an opulent Roman villa were excavated beneath the Minster and its churchyard in 1959.[3] Part of a mural from the excavation is displayed in the Minster. It is one of three of its type found in the territories of the Corieltauvi (or Coritani) tribes – along with Scampton in Lincolnshire and Norfolk Street in Leicestershire. A stretch of the Fosse Way runs on the far bank of the River Trent, with evidence of Roman settlement at Ad Pontem ("to the bridge" or "at the bridge"), north-west of the village of East Stoke. There is no clear evidence of a road between Ad Pontem and Southwell. Other evidence of Roman settlement includes the use of Roman bricks in prebendary buildings around the Minster, remains of a ditch or fosse discovered at Burgage Hill in the 19th century, and possibly Roman remains beneath the Church Street site of the recently vacated Minster School. [4]

The Venerable Bede records a multiple baptism in the "flood of the Trent" near "Tiovulginacester" by Paulinus in the presence of Edwin of Northumbria, whom he had converted to Christianity in 627. There is disagreement on the location of Tiovulginacester, but Paulinus certainly visited it and may have founded the first church in Southwell.[5]

Remains of Eadburh, Abbess of Repton and daughter of Ealdwulf of East Anglia were buried in Southwell's Saxon church.[6] Eadburh was appointed Abbess under the patronage of King Wulfhere of Mercia. She appears in the Life of Guthlac and is thought to have died about AD 700. Her remains were buried or translated to Southwell Minster, and revered there in the Middle Ages. The only reference is in a Pilgrims Guide to Shrines and Burial Places of the Saints of England supposedly written in 1000: "There resteth St. Eadburh in the Minster of Southwell near the water called the Trent."

Eadwy of England gave land in Southwell to Oskytel, Archbishop of York, in 956, this charter being the first dated reference to Southwell. In 1051 Archbishop Ælfric Puttoc died at Southwell, which indicates that the archiepiscopal residence and church might have been established by then.[7] A tessellated floor and the 11th-century tympanum over a doorway in the north transept are evidence of construction of the Minster after this time. The Domesday Book (1086) gives detail of an archiepiscopal manor in Southwell. [8]

A custom known as the "Gate to Southwell" originated after 1109, when the Archbishop of York, Thomas I, wrote to each Nottinghamshire parish for contributions to building of a new mother church. Annually at Whitsuntide, the resulting "Southwell Pence" were taken to the Minster in a procession from Nottingham, headed by the Mayor and followed by clergy and lay people bound for Southwell's Whitsun Fair. The Pence were paid at the Minster's north porch to the Chapter Clerk. The "gate" in the name of Southwell Gate means "street", as in many East Midland and North-Eastern street names. The custom in its original form persisted well into the 16th century. It was revived in 1981 by the Dolphin Morrismen, but imposition of traffic-management costs forced the organisers to abandon it in 2014.[9] It is survived by the Gate to Southwell Festival,[10] a broad musical event held every early June since 2007 on a site near Southwell and at various venues in the town. [11] [12]

Geoffrey Plantagenet was ordained a priest at Southwell in 1189. On 4 April 1194, Richard I and the King of Scots, William I, were in Southwell, having spent Palm Sunday in Clipstone. King John visited Southwell between 1207 and 1213, ostensibly to hunt in Sherwood Forest, but also on the way to expedition to Wales in 1212. [13]


The Saracen's Head was built in 1463 on land gifted in 1396 by Archbishop Thomas Arundel of York to John and Margaret Fysher. When built, the first floor overhung the roadway in the style of the time.

The ruins of the Archbishop's Palace

In 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey stayed at the archbishop's palace in Southwell for a few months. The Cardinal had been arrested after failing to secure an annulment between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The Cardinal was ordered to London by Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland for treason. However, he became ill along the way. [14]

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland passed through Southwell on his way to London to be crowned King James I of England.[15]

The Saracen’s Head, Southwell

In the English Civil War, King Charles I spent his last night as a free man in May 1646 in the Saracen's Head (then the King's Head), before surrendering to the Scottish Army stationed at nearby Kelham. The town, the Minster and the Archbishop's Palace suffered under Oliver Cromwell's troops, as they sequestered the palace to stable their horses, broke monuments, and ransacked graves for lead and other valuables. In 1793, there were still iron rings in the walls to secure the horses. By end of the war the Archbishop's Palace was in ruins apart from its Great Hall. It is reputed that Cromwell also stayed at the King's Head.

A Bridewell built on the Burgage in 1656 was enlarged in 1787 to become a county prison. There is evidence that a house of correction was built in 1611, so that the Bridewell may itself have been an enlargement.

Mary Ann Brailsford of apple fame (see below) was baptised at Southwell in May 1791, and Matthew Bramley in 1796 in Balderton.

19th century and later[edit]

By 1801 the population was 2,305.

In 1803, Lord Byron stayed with his mother in Burgage Manor during holidays from Harrow and Cambridge. His mother rented the house. By that time he had become 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale, but the family home, Newstead Abbey, still required repairs, which they could not afford.

The town was late in getting a permanent theatre. This was in the yard of the former Cross Keys. In 1816 two large rooms on the first floor of premises of James Adams, a whitesmith, were converted for use as a theatre. The first company to use it was that of Joseph Smedley.[16]

Southwell today[edit]

The town has many historical buildings including the prebendal houses in Church Street and Westgate and the Methodist church, which has a right of way beneath it, so that the upper floor seats more than the lower. The workhouse (1824) was a prototype for many others. Owned by the National Trust, it shows its appearance in the 19th century.

Southwell Workhouse

Behind the Minster is a partly ruined palace, once a residence of the Archbishop of York. It includes the recently restored State Chamber, Cardinal Wolsey's former dining room, and gardens among the ruins.[17]

As the site of an Anglican cathedral, the town is sometimes taken as a city and was treated as such in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. However, its city status is not recognised by the government. Southwell has an active Town Council.[18]

Southwell Minster interior

The town is something of an oddity in North Nottinghamshire, being visibly affluent compared with neighbouring Newark-on-Trent and Mansfield. Agriculture and coal have seen the fortunes of the other two fluctuate over the years, while Southwell has remained a place where wealthier Nottinghamians like to reside.[19][20] It appeared in the Sunday Times shortlist of Best Places to Live 2017 for the Midlands region.[21]

In most of Nottinghamshire, Southwell is pronounced SUH-thull, with a voiced "th" and a silent "w". Southwell's own residents tend to pronounce it as it is spelt. [22]

The town's two infant schools (aged 3–5) are Southwell Holy Trinity C of E and Lowes Wong .[23] The latter also teaches children aged 7–11. The local secondary school is Southwell Minster School,[24] which also educates the choristers of the Minster and gifted musicians in its Junior Department. It has particularly good GCSE and AS/A level results for Nottinghamshire.[25]

Normanton Prebend

The Bramley cooking apple was first seeded in Southwell, by Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809.[26] Henry Merryweather, a local nurseryman then 17 years old, saw potential and cultivated it from cuttings.[27][28] The apple is widely used and renowned for its acidic taste and for cooking into a smooth purée. One local football club, Southwell City, is nicknamed "The Bramleys" and the town's library is called the Bramley Centre. In March 2009, a stained-glass window was placed in Southwell Minister to mark the apple's bicentenary.[29]

The local community newspaper is The Bramley, of which some 11,200 copies a month are delivered free in and around Southwell.[30]

Oxton Prebendal House, now called Cranfield House

Sports clubs include Southwell Rugby Club[31] (known as the Redmen), formed in 1922–1923. In the 2011–2012 season, it won a historic treble as RFU Midlands 4 (East) North League Champions, Nottinghamshire Junior Cup winners and Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire/Derbyshire Plate winners. There is also a Southwell Cricket Club. Southwell City Football Club,[32] an FA Charter Standard Community Club, involves over 400 local players in 35 teams aged five years to veteran.

Southwell has a leisure centre run by a local trust,[33] with trustees from the community, although the district council also provides limited support.

The annual Southwell Music Festival is held every August in Southwell Minster and other nearby venues.[34] The Gate to Southwell Festival of roots and acoustic music is held each year in early June.[10]

Southwell Racecourse, owned by the Arena Racing Company, is situated on the outskirts of the town near Fiskerton and has an all-weather track. It hosts jump and flat racing.

Market Place/King Street, Southwell

The town is linked to Newark and Nottingham by the A612, although this has now been downgraded to a C road, and to north Nottingham and villages to the west by B6386. The A617 primary route passes 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the town in Hockerton, and the A1 and A46 trunk routes are 7 miles (11 km) away in Newark. The railway station at the nearby village of Fiskerton has gained a small car park in recent years to cater for Southwell commuters. Southwell is also served by Nottingham City Transport's rural Pathfinder 26 service to Nottingham and Stagecoach East Midlands (Mansfield) service to Mansfield and Newark.[35] There are other infrequent services to nearby villages.

Vicars' Court and the Residence
Lord Byron's house - Burgage Manor

The town is twinned with Sées in France,[36] Sarzana in Italy,[37][38][39] and Český Brod in the Czech Republic.[40]


The Town Council, since the 2023 elections, consists of ten Liberal Democrat councillors, two Conservatives and one Independent and one Labour. The Council Chair was held in 2019–2021 by Mrs Lyn Harris (Lib. Dem.) and since then by Sally Reynolds (Independent) and since 2021 by Martin Stott (Lib. Dem. The Chair of the Town Environment Committee is Lyn Harris, that of the Governance and Finance Committee Peter Harris and that of the Planning Committee Jeremy Berridge (all three Lib. Dem.)[41] The town and surrounding villages and hamlets are represented as District Councillors by Karen Roberts (Lib. Dem.), Peter Harris (Lib. Dem.) and Penny Rainbow (Con.)[42]


Town districts[edit]

The historic town centre is based around the cathedral area, but nearby outlying communities grew and eventually were subsumed into the town.[43]

  • The Prebendage was the heart of Southwell centred on the Minster and the surrounding prebendary properties[44]
  • Burgage was north of the cathedral, around Burgage Green, traditionally hosting burgage properties[44]
  • Hightown was to the north-west along Westgate, along the main shopping street
  • East Thorpe and West Thorpe were hamlets on either side of these areas, St Catherine's Well, at the extremity of West Thorpe, was formerly noted for treating rheumatism.


Separated further afield from the core urban area, but within the parish are the following places:

  • Normanton, a hamlet on the east side of the River Greet positioned around Corkhill Lane, it hosts a sizeable garden centre business
  • Maythorne, an area based around a former silk mill north of the town, alongside the River Greet
  • Brackenhurst, an agricultural campus for Nottingham Trent University, is to the south[45]
  • Brinkley is a hamlet to the south-east along Fiskerton Road.

Notable people[edit]

In order of birth:

Transport links[edit]

Bus services[edit]

Bus services in Southwell
Bus operator Route number Destination(s) Notes
Nottingham City Transport 26:Pathfinder Nottingham - Carlton - Burton Joyce - Lowdham - Southwell [47]
Stagecoach East Midlands 28 Mansfield - Rainworth - Southwell - Newark [48]
29 Southwell - Newark
Travelwright 3 Lowdham - Southwell - Newark [49]
227 Newark - Southwell - Bilsthorpe - Edwinstowe Wednesday & Friday only.[50][51]
Sherwood Countryman Buses CM2 Maplebeck - Eakring - Kirklington - Southwell
Disused bus routes
Veolia Transport D3 Nottingham - Arnold - Lambley - Southwell - Newark Service sold to Premiere[52]
Premiere S9 Southwell - Lowdham - Burton Joyce - Victoria Park Premiere was liquidated on 25 January 2013[52]

Railway stations[edit]

Southwell was previously served by a branch line which ran from Rolleston Junction to Mansfield. There was a station on the line which served the town. It was opened in 1847, but closed to passengers in 1959 and to goods traffic in 1964. The station survives as a private residence. The trackbed towards Mansfield is now the Southwell Trail. The trackbed to Rolleston Junction is now covered by housing within the town and goes on to form a private access road from Southwell to Southwell Racecourse. Today, the nearest station to the town is over 2 miles (3.2 km) away in Fiskerton, although Rolleston Junction is also near the racecourse. Both stations offer a service between Matlock, Lincoln, Leicester, Newark-on-Trent, Derby and Nottingham.


Secondary education in the town is predominantly provided by The Minster School, which still educates choristers of Southwell Minster. The Minster School is a Specialist College for Humanities and Music and was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2011/2012.[53] Pupils may also choose to attend school at Newark-on-Trent, which is about a 20-minute drive east. The School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences is part of Nottingham Trent University.[25] and offers further and higher education courses in agricultural-related subjects at its Brackenhurst campus just outside Southwell.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Daniel (2011). Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John (eds.). Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-15255-6.
  2. ^ McCartney, David (24 August 2005). "South Well or Suthell?". Voices 2005. BBC Nottingham. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  3. ^ Daniels, C. M., "Excavations on the site of the Roman Villa in Southwell, 1959", Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, Vol. 70, 1966, pp. 13–33.
  4. ^ BBC News Southwell 'Roman villa' site saved from housing, web retrieved on 4 April 2023
  5. ^ "Nottinghamshire history > A History of Nottinghamshire: (1896)". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  6. ^ D. W. Rollason, "List of Saints' Resting Places in Anglo-Saxon England", Anglo-Saxon England 7, 1978, p. 89
  7. ^ "Colleges: The collegiate church of Southwell." A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Ed. William Page. London: Victoria County History, 1910. 152-161. British History Online Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  8. ^ Cite Web Nottinghamshire County Council, Historic Southwell, retrieved on 4 April 2023
  9. ^ Bee, Fee. "The Gate to Southwell Procession". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Gate to Southwell Festival". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  11. ^ A Gate to Southwell festival retrieved on 4 April 2023
  12. ^ Southwell Town Council, A Gate to Southwell Festival retrieved on 4 April 2023
  13. ^ Cornelius Brown, A History of Nottinghamshire, (1896), retrieved on 4 April 2023
  14. ^ Cornelius Brown, A History of Nottinghamshire, (1896) retrieved on 4 April 2023
  15. ^ T. Bailey, Annals of Nottinghamshire: History of the County of Nottingham, including the Borough, Vol 2 (1853), p. 544.
  16. ^ Neil R Wright (2016). Treading the Boards. SLHA. pp. 150–151.
  17. ^ "The Archbishop's Palace Southwell". Archived from the original on 17 November 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  18. ^ "Home". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  19. ^ "Interactive investor – the UK's number one flat-fee investment platform".
  20. ^ "Fancy living in an English market town? It'll cost an extra £25k".
  21. ^ "The Sunday Times Best Places to Live in the UK 2022". The Times.
  22. ^ The BBC your questions: how do you pronounce Southwell, web retrieved on 4 April 2023
  23. ^ "Home | Lowe's Wong Infant School". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  24. ^ "The Minster School - Home". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  25. ^ a b "BBC News - School league tables". BBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  26. ^ J. Martin (2004), "Brailsford, Mary Ann", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: OUP, Vol. 7, p. 289.
  27. ^ "History". 10 October 2010. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  28. ^ Roger Merryweather, 1982, The Bramley: A World Famous Cooking Apple, Newark and Sherwood D.C., Nottinghamshire.
  29. ^ "Bramley window to be blessed". Newark Advertiser. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  30. ^ "News extracts from Southwell's Bramley Newspaper". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 April 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Southwell City FC". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  33. ^ "Southwell Leisure Centre | Newark and Sherwood District Council". Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  34. ^ "About". Southwell Music Festival. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  35. ^ "Service 100 on Pathfinder Line - Nottingham > Carlton > Gedling > Burton Joyce > Lowdham > Gonalston > Halloughton > NTU Brackenhurst Campus > Southwell". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  36. ^ "Southwell, The Minster School". Archived from the original on 12 January 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  37. ^ Salve! Southwell could twin with Sarzana in Italy Newark Advertiser, 24 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2022
  38. ^ Italian choir to play Southwell Minster while on a twinning trip. Chad, 20 April 2016, p. 54. Retrieved 8 February 2022
  39. ^ "AIMS". 18 November 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  40. ^ "Southwell - Město Český Brod - oficiální webová prezentace - Město Český Brod". Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  41. ^ "Home". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  42. ^ "Newark and Sherwood District Council". Newark and Sherwood District Council. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  43. ^ GENUKI. "Genuki: Southwell, Nottinghamshire". Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  44. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 January 2021. Retrieved 8 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ "Plaque will mark centenary of Brackenhurst Hall". Newark Advertiser. 26 January 2018. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  46. ^ "Brailsford, Mary Ann". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/57264. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 29 June 2022. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  47. ^ "Nottingham City Transport 'Pathfinder'". Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  48. ^ "Nottinghamshire county Council - Bus Timetable". Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  49. ^ "Nottinghamshire county Council - Bus Timetable". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  50. ^ "Travelwrihgt Ltd". Archived from the original on 20 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  51. ^ "Nottinghamshire county Council - Bus Timetable". Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  52. ^ a b "BBC News". BBC News. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  53. ^ "Find an inspection report and registered childcare". 28 March 2019.

Further references[edit]

  • Betty M. Arundel, Southwell - A History Walk, The Southwell Civic Society, 2001
  • F. R. Barry, Period of my Life (Bishop of Southwell)", Hodder & Stoughton, 1970
  • R. M. Beaumont, A Flash of Lightning on Guy Fawkes Night, 1711: The Fire at Southwell Minster, The Thoroton Society, 1973
  • R. M. Beaumont, The Chapter of Southwell Minster, a Story of 1,000 years, 1956
  • M. Bishop, An Archaeological Resource Assessment of Roman Nottinghamshire, EMARF, n. d.
  • M. Boyes, Love without wings: The story of the unique relationship between Elizabeth Bridget Pigot of Southwell and the young poet, Lord Byron, J. M. Tatler & Son, 1988
  • J. Buckler, The Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, Southwell, Bermondsey, 1810
  • T. H. Clark, The History and Antiquities of Southwell Collegiate Church, J. Whittingham, 1838
  • Roger Dobson, Southwell Inns and Alehouses, Nottinghamshire County Council, 2008

External links[edit]