Ashfield has a wealth of industrial and cultural heritage including textiles, mining and engineering, as well as a range of historical connections, including Lord Byron, Eric Coates, D. H. Lawrence, Ben Caunt and Harold Larwood amongst others.
There are several areas of historical interest in Ashfield, including the old village of Skegby, listed buildings and ruins in Annesley, as well as Hardwick Hall located directly north of Ashfield and Newstead Abbey, east of the District.
Skegby is a small village, a mile north of Sutton-in-Ashfield sitting on a deep valley near the source of the River Meden. There are several old buildings and features in the village, including the 18th Century Pinfold on Mansfield Road, the 17th century Quaker House on Mansfield Road, the 16th century Kruck Cottage and Skegby Hall, built in 1720 on the site of an earlier dwelling.
You can follow the Skegby Heritage Trail, developed by Skegby Appreciation Society:
Teversal Manor Rooms
Built in the mid-eighteenth century initially for use as barn, the Manor Room was converted into a school in 1881 and bequeathed by The Countess Carnarvon the Lady Elizabeth, to the local villagers, and subsequently transferred to Teversal Parish Council in 1929.
In 2015 the Grade II Listed Manor Room underwent a major internal renovation and was restored in the style of one of its former uses as a late Victorian school house.
The Manor Room is a facility managed by a committee of local volunteer residents and is available for hire for any type of event including wedding receptions, children’s and family parties, conferences, seminars, classes, as well as club or society meetings.
Teversal Manor Room
Skegby Manor House
Mansfield Road, Skegby (opposite Buttery Lane end)
Originally constructed by Godfrey Spigurnel (Sergeant to King John) in the early 1200s. This is one of only two Norman Manor Houses surviving in Nottinghamshire, both are in ruins. (The other is Wansley Hall in Lower Bagthorpe, also in Ashfield). Skegby Manor House is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It slowly became disused as the descendants of the Spigurnels constructed and moved into Skegby Hall further along the road, which is now converted into apartments. The Manor House is on private land but can easily be seen from the road.
Old Road, Skegby
This magnificent timber framed property is believed to be the oldest inhabited Cruck framed residential property in Nottinghamshire. It dates back to the late 15th century with a Georgian extension. In the courtyard is a largely rebuilt Dovecote and an ancient cow shed, which have been converted in to private residences.
Harold Larwood and the Bodyline Series
There is a strong local cricketing tradition from the early part of the 20th century when several cricketers from the Nuncargate area, near Kirkby in Ashfield played for both Notts CCC and England. These included Harold Larwood, Bill Voce, Joe Hardstaff Snr and Joe Hardstaff Jnr. There was also a strong link between local coalmining and cricket with Larwood and the Hardstaffs working at Annesley Colliery. Annesley Colliery signing on books from the 1920s, which contain details of the cricketers can be found in the Nottinghamshire Archives. Harold Larwood’s father was Union Branch secretary at Annesley Colliery from the 1920s until the 1950s.
Three bronze cricketer statues located outside Kirkby library re-create a scene from the infamous 1932-33 Bodyline Series; the bowler is Harold Larwood MBE, the batsman is the Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman and the cricketer fielding is William Voce. The statues were installed to celebrate the Kirkby area’s unique contribution to English cricket.
The statues were created by renowned bronze sculptors David Annand (Voce and Bradman) and Neale Andrew (Harold Larwood).
The artwork incorporates a ‘wicket ‘area between the batsman and bowler and lettering carved into the stonework to commemorate the Bodyline Series. The diagonal lines of the stone paving illustrate the line of the ball of Bodyline bowling.
Sir Donald Bradman
'Undoubtedly body-line was a reaction against the dominance of the bat over the ball... But it was the wrong remedy. Killing the patient is not the way to cure his disease'
'Down the mine I dreamed of cricket; I bowled imaginary balls in the dark; I sent the stumps spinning and heard them rattling in the tunnels. No mishap was going to stop me from bowling in the real game, especially this one.'
'We're not a bad side ... and if we don't beat you, we'll knock your bloody blocks off.'
Bodyline Ashes Tour 1932-33 and local cricketers Controversy surrounded the method of fast bowling which short pitched deliveries to a packed leg side field with great pace and accuracy. The fast Bodyline bowling led by Bill Voce and Harold Larwood, both Notts CCC Players who originated from Nuncargate near Kirkby-in-Ashfield, saw several Australian batsmen injured at the crease, most famously Bill Woodfall in the 4th Ashes test at Melbourne in January 1933. Bodyline bowling was deemed not to be sporting in what was considered a gentleman’s game and such was the controversy that it put a strain on diplomatic relations between England and Australia for a period of time.
The Bodyline technique was the idea of Douglas Jardine, England captain for the 1932-33 Ashes series. In the Ashes test prior to 1932-33, Don Bradman, Australia’s most famous batsman, took the English bowler’s apart as Australia won the series 4-1. Bodyline was the answer to slow Bradman down in 1932-33. Even so he still managed a good average during the Bodyline series. England regained the Ashes with a 4-1 victory in 1932-33 but it has been shrouded in controversy ever since because of the Bodyline bowling technique.
Larwood and his family emigrated to Australia in 1952 and he was received as a great sporting hero. Descendants from his family still live in Australia, one of his grandson’s, Andrew McGrath, visited England in 1993 and was taken on an underground visit to a coal-face at Annesley Colliery.
Carl Toms OBE FRSA (1927 - 1999)
Carl Toms was the most sought-after and successful designers of his generation. He did not just design for the theatre, but for the cinema, the opera and the ballet, in Britain, Austria and the United States during a career spanning 50 years.
His home and birthplace was above the family’s tailor shop on Kingsway in Kirkby in Ashfield, on May 29th 1927, a town struggling against widespread local unemployment at that time. Carl was the only child of Bernard and Edith Toms and his education commenced at Diamond Avenue Boys School then onto High Oakham School Mansfield. He was single minded as a boy, and had a stubbornness which was his most powerful character trait – and it survived undiminished to the end of his life. Neither of his parents entirely approved of Tom’s career choice which appears to have been influenced by a young teacher from Yorkshire, Hazel Hemsworth, at Mansfield College of Art where he met Alan Tagg from Sutton in Ashfield, who also became a notable stage designer. They became lifelong friends.
A press report dated 1945 gives an early reference to his creative talent when his paintings were on show at an exhibition arranged by North Notts Academy for young people aged between 10 and 20 at the County School of Art Mansfield.
He left Mansfield being conscripted into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. On leaving the army, he gained a place at the Royal College of Art where he joined a nucleus of talent which was to feed the English theatre for more than 30 years.
In December 1949 he designed a set for a play presented by the Penson Players in Mansfield. In August 1950 Carl Toms exhibited a selection of his work in Mansfield Art Gallery where forty eight of his designs of stage settings and costumes were on show. They were reported as being ‘bold and imaginative, with a feeling of colour and atmosphere’. The plays which inspired them ranged from Sophocles to Shakespeare, Shaw and Wilde.
This exhibition took place during the time he was at the Old Vic Theatre School in London where under Margaret ‘Percy’ Harris he would have heard her teach with passion ‘the need to study the text’. It was Margaret Harris who fixed him up with, first a trial, and then a permanent engagement in 1952 as assistant to the celebrated designer, Oliver Messel, an engagement which was to last six years.
Here is a selection of tributes and affectionate asides from people who knew him and wrote at the time of his death:
“Always courteous, low-key and impeccably turned out, he could have been mistaken for a Harley Street doctor rather than a man of the theatre. And yet there was a quietly raffish streak: the silk cravat, the upturned collar and his fondness for exotic birds. One room in his Hertfordshire home was given over to six parrots, their shrill antics and vivid plumage contrasting sharply with their keeper’s reserve”. (Nick Smurthwaite – The Independent)
Along with the vast amount of work he did for stage, nine films and episodic TV productions, he refurbished the residence of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones and theatres in Windsor, Richmond, Bath and London. He was design consultant for the Investiture of Charles Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle (1969) With Wedgewood he designed Tankards for that occasion and another for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and In 1997 for the Golden Wedding of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
In recognition of his accomplishments he received the Order of the British Empire in the 1969 Honours. He died aged 72 at his home in Hertfordshire on the 4th August 1999 the cause was emphysema. In 1965 in his home town of Kirkby the final film to be shown at the Regent Cinema was ‘SHE’ which happened to be the very first that Carl worked on as costume designer for Ursula Andress.
Copyright Trevor Lee 2018.