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Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire is the county of the river Trent, which flows through it from south-west to north-east, forming the border with Lincolnshire for the last 20 miles: the Erewash divides the county from Derbyshire to the west and the Soar from Leicestershire to the south-west. Nottingham was an important river crossing. The Great North Road crossed the Trent at Newark and ran up the eastern side of the county through Tuxford and East Retford to Bawtry. The Fosse Way ran south-west to north-east, crossing at Newark on its way to Lincoln. Camden's Britannia placed the county in the territory of the Coritani and divided it into a sandy northern part, much of it covered by Sherwood Forest, and a heavier clay south-east. Sherwood Forest, though much diminished by Tudor times, ‘still feeds an infinite number of deer and branchy-headed stags’. The area was disputed between Mercia, Lindsey, and Northumbria, and formed part of the diocese of Lichfield and then of York, until the separate see of Southwell was created in 1884.

The shire developed in Saxon times around Nottingham itself, where the rock made a strong defensive position. Various derivations of the name have been suggested but the earliest usage was Snotengaham, the settlement of Snot's people: the opening S, being difficult for the Normans to pronounce, was dropped after the Conquest. In 868 a large Danish army took possession of the town and was attacked by the men of Mercia and Wessex, but by the treaty of Wedmore of 878 it was retained by the Danes and formed one of their five boroughs. Though Danish rule lasted less than 50 years, Danish settlement was strong: there are many Scandinavian place-names—Fiskerton, Gunthorpe, Thoresby, Granby—and the shire was divided, not into hundreds, but into wapentakes. In the early 920s Edward the Elder recovered the town, and built fortifications and a connecting bridge. It was ravaged by Cnut in 1016 and when William I moved north in 1067 to deal with his recalcitrant subjects, he began the building of Nottingham castle.

Nottingham retained its importance throughout the medieval period, its goose fair in October attracting traders from all over the country. In the 17th cent. it developed as a social centre. Celia Fiennes, visiting in 1697, was impressed: ‘the neatest town I have seen, built of stone and delicate large and long streets, much like London, and the houses loftily and well built.’ She found Nottingham ale particularly agreeable. East Retford, Newark, Mansfield, and Worksop developed as market towns, but the area remained thinly populated. The dissolution of the monasteries strengthened the influence of the gentry and nobility and the shire became famous for its landed estates. The Stanhopes gained 20 villages that had belonged to Shelford priory; Welbeck abbey found its way to the Cavendish family, Rufford priory to the Saviles, and Newstead abbey to the Byrons. As the gentry moved up the social scale, the north of the shire became known as the Dukeries, Newcastle having Clumber, Portland Welbeck, and Rutland Kelham. The duke of Kingston's estate was at Holme Pierrepoint, east of Nottingham. ‘The idea I gave Lord Rockingham of this county’, wrote Sir George Savile in 1769, ‘was four dukes, two lords, and three rabbit warrens, which I believe, takes in half the county in point of space.’

Nottinghamshire had taken an important part in the civil wars of the 17th cent. Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham in 1642, though the response had been disappointing. Seven brothers of the Byron family fought for the king. Newark sustained several sieges on behalf of the king and was rewarded for its loyalty after the Restoration with two parliamentary seats. It was at the Saracen's Head in Southwell that Charles surrendered to the Scots after his strange journey from Oxford.

The agricultural character of the shire began to change in the later 18th cent. The Trent had always been a busy thoroughfare, but was augmented in the 1770s by the Trent and Mersey canal; by the Chesterfield canal in 1777 serving Worksop and East Retford; and by the Grantham canal, opened in 1793. The development of a canal network made the transport of coal much cheaper and led to a great expansion of the Nottinghamshire coalfield. The same period saw the development of the textile industry, Hargreaves and Arkwright setting up factories in Nottingham. But a severe recession after the Napoleonic wars caused great distress and gave a radical tinge to local politics. Brandreth's Pentrich rising of 1817, though little more than a skirmish on the march to Nottingham, was in part the product of unemployment and low wages; in the reform crisis of 1831 the duke of Newcastle's mansion at Nottingham was burned; and Nottingham was the first town to return a chartist MP when it chose O'Connor in 1847. In the later 19th cent., prosperity returned and there was a diversification of local industries. Boot's Pure Drug Company was established in 1883; the Raleigh bicycle company had 800 employees by 1896; and Player's tobacco company employed more than 1,000 by 1898. Coaching towns like Tuxford and Blyth stood still as the railways passed them by, but Mansfield and Worksop expanded at roughly the same rate as Nottingham, and the balance remained the same. In the local government reorganization of the 1990s, the shire retained its county status, with Nottingham itself becoming a unitary authority.

J. A. Cannon

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Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire (nŏt´Ĭng-əmshĬr), county (1991 pop. 980,600), 843 sq mi (2,183 sq km), central England. The county seat is at West Bridgford, in Rushcliffe. The county is divided into the administrative districts of Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Broxtowe, Gedling, Mansfield, Newark and Sherwood, and Rushcliffe. The land, partially reclaimed fenland, is low-lying and fertile. A southern area of moors devoted to pasturage is known as the Wolds. The principal river is the Trent. Sherwood Forest, with its legends of Robin Hood, includes the Dukeries, a district noted for its fine estates.

Cereal crops and sugar beets are grown. Dairying is extensive, and sheep are also raised. The Nottinghamshire coal fields extend along the western border and formerly made the county a coal mining center, especially at Nottingham (now independent of the county), Mansfield, and Worksop. There are small oil fields at Egmanton and Bothamsell. The mineral wealth also includes limestone, sandstone, and gravel. Hosiery, clothing, bicycles, lace, and other products are manufactured.

The county was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. It was there that Charles I unfurled his banner (1642) and marked the beginning of the civil war. Scrooby, the home of William Brewster, was the cradle of the Pilgrims. In 1974, Nottinghamshire was reorganized as a nonmetropolitan county; a small area in the northwest was assigned to the new metropolitan county of South Yorkshire (dissolved in 1986). Nottingham, the traditional county seat, was separated administratively from the county in 1998.

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Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire County in central England; the county town is Nottingham. The land slopes down from the e ridges of the Pennines in the w to the lowlands of the e. The principal river is the Trent. Wheat, barley, and sugar beet are the chief crops; beef and dairy cattle are important. There are rich deposits of coal, and it has long been noted for its textile industries. Area: 2164sq km (836sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,031,500.

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Nottinghamshire

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