A brief history of Whitwell

Whitwell is situated in an agricultural area, on the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire boundary. Part of the world famous Creswell Crags were until recent years within the Whitwell boundary, now lying within the boundary of Hodthorpe & Belph. The caves were a home to early man, hunters who followed the great herds. There are rich remains of animals such as the mammoth, sabre-toothed tiger, and a prehistoric hyena much larger than the present species.

Welbeck Abbey, founded by the French Premonstratensian canons, flourished for about 400 years, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1593 the Abbey came into the Cavendish family, and the future Dukes of Portland greatly influenced the area. Their large estate provides employment to the present day.

The Old Hall, in High Street, became a residence and a school, and in 1853 a son was born to the headmaster. Charles Edward Wilson grew up to be a notable artist, and 40 of his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Several of his studies of Victorian village life are still popular as greetings cards.

The village church of St Lawrence, with its Saxon font and grey stone tower, is central to the village. It dates back as far as 1150 and registers from 1672. It contains a memorial to Sir Roger Manners who died in 1632 and had lived at Whitwell manor. Two miles away in the hamlet of Steetley the perfect little Norman church featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe stands in a truly rural setting.

The well in the Square, with its pump, and another on the green, supplied some of the best drinking water. It used to be delivered around the village by horse-drawn water tank, and sold for a halfpenny a bucket. Although many properties had their own cistern, the water from the wells was preferred, and some people carried it all the way up to Bakestone Moor.

Several farms were situated within the village, and many people remember the cows being herded along the roads at milking time. Peartree cottage stood in the centre of the Square; the site of the present war memorial. A turnpike road ran from the Half Moon inn to the George inn, where the old mounting steps remain. This road lost its importance when the new road was made in 1890, linking the Half Moon inn and the Dale inn, on Whitwell Common.

An old mill sank into dereliction. The grindstone is now an ornamental feature in the Mill Lane housing estate. The old brewery provided winter quarters for travelling folk.

Immediately after the closure of the pit the superstructure was dismantled, and the winding wheel embedded in what was once the school playground, now the car park for Whitwell Community Centre.

The tall chimney of the processing plant of the dolomite quarry represents continuing industry. The dolomite material is crushed and burned, to provide the fireproof lining for blast furnaces.

Despite all the changes over the years the village has retained its character, absorbing generations of change and newcomers. The old stone houses, farmhouses and more humble abodes, are now desirable residences. Their occupants no longer visit the well for water, but help at the annual Well Dressing which takes place in July.

The resident population of Whitwell in mid 1998 was 4700 people, 7 per cent of the population of Bolsover local authority. 18 percent of Whitwell’s population in mid 1998 were aged under 16, 59 per cent were aged between 16 and 59 and 22 per cent were aged 60 and over. This compares with 19, 58 and 23 per cent respectively for Bolsover District as a whole.

More information on Whitwell can be had from the Whitwell Local History Group.

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