The Straw Family were heavily involved in the local community and the town. Every Sunday the brothers, William Jnr and Walter took a turn through this market town, to check on the places they owned, the business and to get a bit of fresh air. For a small town the history contained is fascinating.
The first evidence of human occupation is stone and flint tools, indicating a prehistoric use for the site even if people were only passing through. Just up the road there’s a place called Creswell Crags where they have a series of caves containing much evidence of occupation, including the only Ice Age cave art in the country so we know they were in the area. Likely founded by Weorc in the 7th century there was a motte and bailey castle on what is now known as castle hill. Originally owned by Elsi, a Saxon, the land was given to a Norman lord, Rodger de Bouilli, also recorded as Busli, by King William after the conquest. Recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 Worksop is shown to be a prosperous settlement. The De Lovetots became lords of the manner and it was their endowments that enabled the foundation of an Augustinian monastery in 1103. After the dissolution only the Priory Church remains though it’s still an impressive sight as you’ll see for yourselves. Granted a Royal Charter in 1295 Worksop could now hold markets and twice yearly fairs. The Straw shop, was once on the Market Place, when the top of bridge street was renamed, and the market moved. Markets continue to this day in the town a few times a week. Originally an agricultural town the introduction of the canal and railway in the 18th and 19th centuries saw more diversification, even bringing in a steady flow of tourists to the Dukeries. The Country Estates which surround Workop, as with others, offered open days and a chance to visit. Industrialisation and the opening of the first mine in the late 1800’s massively boosted the population of the town. Why not join us on a guided walk through the town in the New Year? To book your place on a walk please do call us on 01909 482380. Tickets are £5pp including members. You could always call in and pick up a walk when we re-open in March for £1.
Mr Straw's House, grid ref: SK589802
Mr Straw's House. With your back to Mr Straw's House turn right and head down Blyth Grove and turn left at the bottom. Continue along the road, crossing the end of Shepherd’s Avenue and coming to a halt opposite North Nottinghamshire College.
Mr Straw's House
William and Florence Straw married in 1896 after meeting when William set up a grocers across the road from Florence’s father’s butchers. This grocers shop was to be the family business. Initially living at the shop the Straws had three children, William (1898), Walter (1899) and David (1901), who unfortunately died aged only 17 months. They grew up at the shop before eldest son William went off to London to be a teacher and Walter and his parents moved into Blyth Grove in 1923. They redecorated lavishly but when William senior died in 1932 Florence wanted everything to stay as it was. Her sons continued this pattern after her death in 1939, William moving home to keep house for his brother while Walter ran the shop. Little changed in 7 Blyth Grove and when William junior, the last Straw, died in 1990 the National Trust took over and opened the unusual Straw family home to the public. Despite being somewhat unusual with their time capsule house and old fashioned manner of dress the Straw brothers were active out and about around Worksop and with this walk you can explore the town through their eyes
North Nottinghamshire College. Continue down the road, keeping left at the bottom and pausing by the fenced patch of open ground. Continue round to the left and head downhill on Carlton Road, you’ll see the train station on the right hand side. Cross over the road and find yourself a nice point from which to view the station.
North Notts College
Originally known as the County Technical College it was built in the 1930’s for a cost of £29,000. Almost half of that money came from the Miners Welfare Fund, who wanted to help provide opportunities for the youth of Worksop. As a result it had labs across the ground floor for the teaching of chemistry, physics and geology, sciences that helped train people for work in the mining industry. There’s a strong tie here with Straw family, Walter taught classes relating to the skills of the grocers trade. Walter learnt much from his father but was also educated and like his father before him was certified as a master tea blender. It’s interesting that Walter passed such skills on to younger generations, his brother William wasn’t the only teacher it seems! Opposite in the patch of land - This sprawling site was the location of Worksop’s Maltings. After the introduction of the railway in the mid 1800’s goods could be brought into the town, meaning it was no longer so reliant on agriculture to provide for itself. People diversified into other industries. Grain for the Maltings could be brought in by train too and Worksop was well suited to growing other things required in the brewing trade as you’ll see later on!
Worksop station. Cross the railway tracks and continue down the hill into town. On your right hand side you’ll see a road called Overend Road, turn down it. Move over to the left hand side and towards the bottom you’ll see a gap through the buildings offering you a nice view of the church. Continue to the bottom of the road and turn left onto Gateford Road and you’ll find yourself in front of it.
Built in 1849 this rather grand Jacobean style station leads nicely into the history of the nearby Ducal estates. You may have seen on your way into town the signs proclaiming Worksop to be the ‘gateway to the dukeries’. With Sherwood Forest being crown land much of it was carved up and handed out as royal favours to various individuals as a reward for loyalty or service. This led to there being a concentration of Ducal estates in the area, such as the Dukes of Newcastle at Clumber Park, and the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck. As these aristocrats would be using the station it needed to be an impressive affair, the beautiful Steetley stone giving an almost marble like appearance. Originally it even had a glass roof covering the tracks to keep passengers dry. Unfortunately it also served to trap all the smoke, making it unpleasant inside and quickly dirtying the glass, leading to it being removed. In the mid 1800’s many people were fascinated by the Dukes and their houses and people flooded into Worksop by train to stay at the local inns and take trips out to tour the estates.
St John's Church. Continuing along with St John’s on your left hand side follow the road into town. Pause when you get to the end of the road, you should find yourself on a triangular section with a large tree.
St John's Church
William and Walter worshipped at St John’s, an unusual move in many ways given their parents worshipped at the Priory and they followed their parents so closely in terms of their wishes with the house and business. They preferred to move away from the High Church ways of the Priory and William even got involved when St John’s decided to add more candlesticks, saying ‘the candlesticks I must and will fight against as a return to superstitious mediaeval use and an offence against the tradition of my Parish Church’. William also wrote a book about the history of St John’s in order to celebrate its centenary, multiple copies of it can be found at Mr Straw’s House as it sadly doesn’t seem to have been a big seller. A letter recently given to us from William reveals that he unfortunately didn’t enjoy writing it either. Walter was also involved with St John’s, worshipping there with his brother and serving as Church Warden.
Originally called Common End, the Square was later renamed for the Queen's Jubilee in 1887.
The Golden Ball and the Chesterfield Canal. Continue along the pavement, passing the Golden Ball on your right and crossing over the canal. Ahead you should see the pedestrian zone, this is the beginning of Bridge Street, cross the small road that curves around in front of you and head up the pedestrian zone.
The Golden Ball and the Chesterfield Canal
The Golden Ball was one of the inns that belonged to the DPPA and had tours running from it. It’s other claim to fame ties in with the canal that runs down the side of it. The first discussions about getting permission for a canal were held here and when permission was granted in 1772 the bells were rang for 4 days in celebration. By the time it was completed in 1777 it stretched 45 miles and went through 65 locks. It allowed Worksop to import and export more easily, giving people the freedom to move away from agriculture. To the left of the Golden Ball is the canal and Cuckoo Wharf. The story goes that the name comes from the Trent boatmen who weren’t familiar with the narrow boats that made use of the canal. They called these imposter boats ‘cuckoos in the nest’, cuckoos being birds that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds leaving them to raise the chick as their own. Another legend tells of boats buried beneath the tarmac when they built up round the canal.The canal is 45 miles (72km) long, running from west Stockwell to Chesterfield.
Bridge Street and Liquorice Gardens . Continue up Bridge Street until the pedestrian zone is dissected by the road. On your right you should see Barclays bank and a clock. Cross the road and turn around to face the way you came, looking towards the bank. Turn around and with your back to Barclays continue up the hill to the top, where the pedestrian zone ends. Cross the road and stand on the open paved area, the place where the shop of Mr Winks the butcher once stood. You’ve arrived at the edge of what was once the Market Place, the spot to see and be seen, surrounded by interesting buildings.
Bridge Street and Liquorice Gardens
As you head up Bridge Street there are a few things to keep an eye out for. First of all, look upwards from time to time. Though the ground floor of the shops may have been altered and branded the upper stories remain the same and you can see some really nice examples of 19th and even 18th century buildings. As well as looking up have the odd glance down at the ground. In the cobbles you can see the coats of arms of the ducal estates in the surrounding area, a nice nod to the heritage of the town, as is the planting of three Gingko Biloba trees whose prehistoric ancestors turned into the coal seam beneath Worksop. The river Ryton runs underground across Bridge Street near Newcastle Avenue. This area would all have been marshland, where liquorice was originally grown - which is why the public house is called 'Liquorice Gardens'. The family lived and worked at W. Straw, Grocer and Seed Merchant before moving to 7 Blyth Grove in 1923. A photograph of what the shop looked like a century ago can be seen in the visitor reception at Mr Straw's House.
The Market Place & The Lion Hotel Turn around and look back towards the pedestrian zone, on the left hand side of it you should see the Lion Hotel. Look along the rows of shops to the left of the Lion Hotel, pause when you spot Piccolo Espresso Bar.
The Market Place, Lion Hotel
Up here you can see the Saxon origins of the town. You paid by the width of your shop so shop fronts were made narrow though the building sprawled far behind. With this being such a fine part of town there was a pillared walkway to protect people from the elements. Only a few of the pillars remain, several can be seen outside the Lion Hotel. This was one of the places the wealthier Worksop tourist might choose to stay if wanting to enjoy the DPPA tour of the local estates. You can see the rut worn by the carriages and wagons in the stone floor. Though the railway and canal brought goods into Worksop they still had to be distributed locally by wagons and 22 different carriers made use of 6 of the inns in Worksop, including the Lion.
The Straw's Shop& Corn Exhange Turn around until your back is to the Straw’s old shop. You’re now facing the Corn Exchange Turn Away from the Savoy cinema, and walk towards the left hand corner of the corn exchange. Turn right onto Potter Street, walk past the French Horn Pub and continue on until you reach The Priory Gatehouse on left hand side.
The Straw's Shop and Corn Exchange
The front of the shop is little changed since the time of the Straw’s. Calling themselves various things over the years from family grocer to provision importer the Straw’s provided a wide range of goods from grains and seeds to a multitude of different teas. It was a somewhat prestigious place to shop, the business did after all deliver out to the ducal estates. There must have almost been an element of aspiration to being able to shop there, if you were a tourist in town to see all the estates why not go home with a souvenir of some tea bought from the very same grocer the Duke of Newcastle used? The shop did very well for itself and William senior bought not only his own shop but the adjoining section of building you can see to the right. Originally the White Hart pub he was unable to renew the license and instead set it up as shops and housing. The archway on the left hand side of the building was closed by the Straw’s every Good Friday as if left accessible all year through it became a public right of way. Even once they closed the shop they continued this little tradition. William senior wasn’t just interested in shops and housing though, he also bought a parcel of land from the Duke of Newcastle, which he then rented out as allotments. Describing it as his ‘little piece of paradise’ it’s perhaps fitting that he passed away up there, his death sparking the unusual preservation of his home at Blyth Grove. If you were to continue along the road that runs in front of the shop and into the side streets you would eventually reach the spot where the allotments were but they have now been built on, the housing estate named William Straw Gardens. If you were to continue along the road to Clumber Park you’d be following in the tyre tracks of the 1000 mile trial that took place in 1900, organised by the A.A. After parking on the Market Place for breakfast at the Lion Hotel around 50 cars roared off to Clumber at speeds of 20-30mph! Built in 1851 in the Venetian Gothic style the town hall housed the magistrate’s court but also a library and even rooms for balls and entertainment. In front of the town hall, was where the Winks Butchers Shop would have stood. When you leave the market place you’ll pass a small water fountain, this was installed by the promoters of the water works.
Worksop Priory. If you fancy a stroll over to the graves then head to the left of the Priory main entrance and you’ll see a wall with small windows in it. Head through the gateway in the wall and continue going straight ahead until you reach the wall on the far side of the graveyard. When you reach the wall follow it along to the right and you’ll finally come across the Straw’s graves. This secluded spot on the boundary is nice and quiet, an allegedly close to the grave of a knight from the crusades. Return across the graveyard and back out the small gateway. Ahead of you and slightly to the right you’ll see a park, cross the road and head through the gates. Continue along and almost immediately on your left you’ll see a paved garden area with rosebushes and the remains of a mill.
Unfortunately the gatehouse stonework and the decoration in particular is badly damaged, perhaps that’s to be expected as the road originally ran underneath it. The vibrations were damaging it so they moved the road slightly, also moving the market cross a little way into its current position. As you’d expect with a building dating back to 1103 it has a lot of stories to tell and it’s well worth a visit if you get chance to look around on one of its open days. There are some impressive graves and the poignant lines and crosses cared into the interior stonework by knights heading off to the Crusades. Before they left they’d scratch in one line, if they made it back alive they’d complete the cross. William Senior and Mr David Winks, the brothers' maternal grandfather, were church wardens at the Priory. Florence and William Snr married here in 1896 and William, Florence, David, William and Walter are buried in the Priory graveyard.
Canch Old Pump House. Keeping the old mill on your left continue along the path that follows the course of the water that once powered it. On the opposite bank you can see the rear of the old library.
Canch Old Pump House
The pump house served the corn mill opposite the priory, which was originally a monastery. It was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. This is the site of the Priory Mill, originally a corn mill it was repurposed to make Windsor chairs before burning down. Worksop was well known for its Windsor chair industry, a small example of which can be seen in William’s Bedroom, a child’s rocker given to Florence by her grandmother.
The Library Continue along the path and follow it as it bears slightly to the right and crosses a small bridge. Continue along this road a short way until you see the old Gas Works ahead of you.
William junior was on the Borough Records and Library Committees so he’d have spent a fair bit of time here. Though most accounts indicate Walter was the more chatty and sociable brother William certainly wasn’t a hermit and had plenty of hobbies of his own.
Beaver Place Follow the curve of the Fishermans Arms round to the left and continue along Church Walk. This will take you back towards Cuckoo Wharf, cross onto the right side of the road and you’ll get a view of them in passing. At the junction turn right and follow the pavement across in front of Matalan, you may recognise Victoria Square on your left. Cross over at the lights and make your way up hill on the road that runs up the right hand side of Victoria Square, Carlton Road, back in the direction of Mr Straw’s House.
The Station Hotel
Beaver Place was named as it was where Worksop’s beaver hat making industry was focused. Rabbit Place might have been more appropriate however as they were using treated rabbit skins rather than beavers. The old Gas Works building is worth a look and you can also see another tiled pub, the Fishermans Arms.
Continuing up this road you’ll see another tiled pub called the Vine and the building that used to be the cinema, both on the left hand side of the road. There are also nice examples of Worksop’s terraced housing. Make your way up past the railway station and bear right at the traffic lights, following the road up past the end of Shepherd’s Avenue. You’ll know be retracing your steps from earlier and should see Blyth Grove appear on your right.
Mr Straw's House, grid ref: SK589802
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