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Retford Town Hall, May 2012.JPG
Retford Town Hall
Retford is located in Nottinghamshire
Population 22,013 (2011)
Demonym Retfordian
OS grid reference SK 70393 81201
  • Bassetlaw
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town RETFORD
Postcode district DN22
Dialling code 01777
Police Nottinghamshire
Fire Nottinghamshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament
  • Bassetlaw
List of places
53°19′22″N 0°56′35″W / 53.32278°N 0.94306°W / 53.32278; -0.94306

Retford, also known as East Retford, is a market town in the Bassetlaw District in Nottinghamshire, England, and one of the oldest English market towns having been granted its first charter in 1105. It lies on the River Idle and the Chesterfield Canal passes through its centre. Retford is 26 miles (42 km) east of Sheffield, 23 miles (37 km) west of Lincoln and 31 miles (50 km) north-east of Nottingham. The population at the 2011 census was 22,013.

In 1878 an Act of Parliament extended the borough of East Retford to include the village of Ordsall, West Retford and part of the parish of Clarborough. It is administered by Bassetlaw District Council, which itself is now a non-constituent partner member of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.

In addition to being an ancient market town and infamous Rotten Borough, Retford is known as being at the centre of Nonconformism, with the origins of the Pilgrims, Baptists and Wesleys being in this area.


Retford coat of arms

Retford gained its first charter in 1246, when Henry III granted the right for a fair, this was later extended to holding a Saturday Market by Edward I in 1275. It was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and then remained a municipal borough until 1974 when it was merged into Bassetlaw district. Its civic traditions are maintained by Charter Trustees.

The origins of its name are unknown and have been subject to much debate, but consensus seems to conclude that it gets its name from an ancient ford crossing the River Idle. It was originally named Redforde because the river water was tinged red due to the red clay river bed and frequent crossing of people and livestock disturbing the clay river bed. The first land settled was on the western side of the ford, this area being less liable to flooding. This was known as West Retforth.

However, as the community grew it spread to occupy land on the other bank of the river, and it was this eastern part of the town that eventually became more important; hence Retford's alternative (and, for administrative purposes, still official) name of East Retford. The highly unusual coat of arms for the town consists of two rampant choughs.

St Swithuns Retford Notts
St Swithuns Retford Notts

Retford was largely destroyed by a fire in 1528, but prospered after the Great North Road was diverted to run through the town in 1766 and the Chesterfield Canal (1777) and the direct London to York railway (1849) were both routed via the borough. The Great North Road was diverted around the town in 1961 and part of the route through the town is now a pedestrian precinct.

The Pilgrim Fathers, a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts originated from villages of Babworth and Scrooby on the outskirts of East Retford between 1586 and 1605.53°19′20.45″N 0°56′20.57″W / 53.3223472°N 0.9390472°W / 53.3223472; -0.9390472

In the late 1970s the then Mayor of Retford and Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, Gerry McNeill, hosted a visit from Princess Margaret to Retford.

On 27 June 2007, a few low-lying parts of the town were affected by the 2007 United Kingdom floods. The majority of Kings Park was flooded under three feet of water. The Asda and Morrisons supermarkets adjacent to the river were also flooded.


Grove Street Methodist Church, Retford, Nottinghamshire
Grove Street Methodist Church

In the Market Square there is an ornate French-inspired Victorian Town Hall, in front of which is The Broad Stone. Legend says that this stone had a hollow in it that used to be filled with vinegar during plague times to disinfect coins. However, it is thought to be the upturned base of a boundary marker - perhaps the 'Dominie Cross'.

Also in the Market Square is the war memorial unveiled by Sir Frederick Milner in 1921. The memorial is in the form of an Eleanor cross, an octagonal structure of late gothic design. The names of the men killed in World War I are on the lower 8 panels and on bronze plaques are the names of those who were killed in World War II.

Retford Sebastopol Cannon
Retford's captured Sebastopol Cannon in front of St. Swithun's Church. Plaque on side states 'Captured 1855 Sevastopol'

The monument was designed by architect Leonard W. Barnard F.R.I.B.A. of Cheltenham. The memorial is constructed of Stancliffe stone from Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

Just across from the Market Square is Cannon Square which has St Swithun's Church and a cannon captured from the Russians during the Siege of Sevastopol at the end of the Crimean War in 1856. From 2011,Retford was made the European town of respect. Each yeah retford has been this for 7 years at August. Nikolaus Pevsner, architectural historian, was fairly scathing about Retford and its lack of distinguished buildings. "A singularly unattractive town," he wrote.

However Bill Bryson, the American author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England praised the town. In his bestselling book Notes from a Small Island, he writes, 'Retford, I am pleased to report, is a delightful and charming place even under the sort of oppressive grey clouds that make far more celebrated towns seem dreary and tired. Its centrepiece is an exceptionally large and handsome market square lined with a picturesque jumble of noble Georgian buildings. Beside the main church stood a weighty black cannon with a plaque saying 'Captured at Sevastopol 1855', which I thought was a remarkable piece of initiative on the part of the locals - it's not every day, after all, that you find a Nottinghamshire market town storming a Crimean redoubt and bringing home booty - and the shops seemed prosperous and well ordered.'

Retford's Kings Park received national recognition in 2007 when it won the prestigious Britain's Best Park competition in the Midlands region. It also received the Green Flag Award in both 2008 and 2009. It is described as a 'jewel in the crown' by Bassetlaw council. St Michael the Archangel church, West Retford is on Rectory Road.



Retford was historically on the Great North Road. It is now bypassed by the A1 trunk road and the A57 which links Retford to a number of major towns and cities, with London just over two hours away. The East Retford bypass was built in three stages mostly along what was previously the A57. In 1957, the West Drayton diversion opened up to the B6387 near Elkesley. Also near Elkesley and Gamston is the Retford Gamston Airport. The section from Elkesley bypass to Five Lane Ends (A614 junction) at Apleyhead Wood opened in 1958, and the third section was from Five Lane Ends to north of Checker House at Ranby (A620 junction). Recent investment led to a renovation of junctions at Blyth, Great Whin Covert and Markham Moor.

Retford bus station
Retford bus station

The town is also served by a number of buses operated by Stagecoach in Bassetlaw, Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, TM Travel as well as smaller local bus operators, to destinations including Worksop, Newark, Nottingham and Doncaster. Retford bus station is also the terminus of the 450 National Express coach service between Victoria Coach Station in London and Retford.

The current bus station was built and opened on 30 July 2007 at a cost of £1.4 million, and was given a highly commended accolade in the infrastructure category of the UK Bus Awards 2008. The previous bus station on the same site was a collection of bus shelters, but also allowed vehicles to drive illegally through the bus station. The new bus station has new traffic controls in order to prevent this.

Retford Railway Station - - 1671895
Platform 1, Retford railway station
Retford Station geograph-3977979-by-Ben-Brooksbank
Retford railway station


Retford is served by two railway lines, the East Coast Main Line which runs between London and Scotland, with trains taking from 1hr 20 minutes to London Kings Cross, and the Sheffield to Lincoln Line which has links to Sheffield, Lincoln, Gainsborough, Worksop, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. These two lines meet at Retford railway station which acts as an important interchange in the British rail network.

Retford station was Grade II listed by Historic England in July 2020. The buildings date from 1891 to 1892 and the reason for listing was given as "the very rare survival of the original finishes in the dining room and refreshment room" which are said to be ornate and featuring "fine craftsmanship"; the "remarkably long and well-balanced composition in the Italianate style" of the station buildings and the "impressive" canopy over the platform; and the well-preserved plan form which make it "one of the most intact medium-sized GNR stations".


Chesterfield canal at Retford - - 1637644
Chesterfield Canal, in Retford, next to Town Lock

Retford is connected to the UK Inland Waterways network by the Chesterfield Canal. Indeed, up to Retford the canal was built to be accessible by broad-beam boats rather than the more usual narrowboats, Retford Town Lock being the first narrow lock on the canal from its junction with the River Trent at West Stockwith. However, narrow sections now prevent such craft reaching Retford. The canal starts at Chesterfield in Derbyshire.

Although the canal was built to export coal, limestone, and lead from Derbyshire, iron from Chesterfield, and corn, deals, timber, groceries and general merchandise into Derbyshire, today it is used for leisure purposes. Based in Retford on the lower side of the Town Lock is a boat club called Retford Mariners Boat Club (R.M.B.C), which was formed in November 1978 by a group of canal enthusiasts.

The Chesterfield Canal hit international headlines in 1978. While dredging the bottom of the canal to remove rubbish a maintenance team pulled up a large chain which had a wooden plug attached to it. Later that day it was noticed that a whirlpool had formed and it became evident that the section of the canal between Whitsunday Pie Lock and Retford Town Lock was losing water. Unbeknown to the workmen, but commonly known locally, the plug was an original engineering feature of the canal to allow sections to be drained for future maintenance. The water drained (as designed) harmlessly into the nearby river Idle. The accidental removal of the plug became a national and international story, and was even recorded in Lloyd's List.

An early Twentieth Century crane situated at Retford Wharf was Grade II listed by Historic England in 1996.


Doncaster Sheffield Airport (formerly RAF Finningley) is approximately 14 miles (23 km) away on the A638 towards Doncaster. A regular bus service is available from Retford bus station to the airport, which offers regular flights to other European countries. Due to its military past, Doncaster Sheffield Airport| has a long 2,580 metres (8,460 ft) runway, and so is capable of landing wide body jets such as Boeing 747s, and has plans of extending its destinations to include the US. The popular discount airline easyjet, commenced flying to many European destinations in March 2010, but withdrew by the end of the year citing commercial factors as a reason. The Hungarian airline WizzAir continues to serve several Eastern-European cities, and Thomson Holidays regularly runs charter services from there as part of their package holiday business.

Retford (Gamston) Airport is a private airport located a few miles south of Retford in the village of Gamston, operated by Gamston Aviation Ltd.

Leisure and entertainment

Retford is home to the Bassetlaw Museum, which was created in 1983 and has a number of collections donated by people in the local area. It was voted the Nottinghamshire Museum of the Year in 2009, following extensive renovation.

Retford has two theatres in the town: the Majestic Theatre, a former cinema, which hosts famous entertainers, music concerts from local performers and plays, and Retford Little Theatre, a smaller theatre which hosts the Retford Little Theatre amateur drama group.


There are a number of gymnasiums, spas and health, beauty and fitness centres in Retford. The new Retford Leisure Centre offers aquatic activities such as lane swimming, fun swims, and water aerobics; along with a state of the art gym facilities.

There are well established Karate and Kung Fu schools, as well as a Judo club which runs in the St. Saviours Church Hall every Wednesday evening from 6:30pm. Retford also features a small skate park within the grounds of Kings Park in the center of Retford.

Retford also has a wide range of restaurants and pubs, plus an antiques and collectables market every Friday and a farmers' market on the third Saturday of every month.

Youth groups

Retford is served by many youth groups including The Scout Association, Girlguiding UK, St. John Ambulance and Young Farmers, meeting within the town. Retford is also home to 1403 ATC Retford Squadron and Army Cadets. In addition Retford is served by an excellent youth musical theatre group known as The MOB (mini operatic bunch) the junior section of Retford Amateur Operatic Society.

Idle Valley Nature Reserve

Bug Arch at Idle Valley Nature Reserve
Bug Arch at Idle Valley Nature Reserve

The Idle Valley nature reserve is managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) and is the largest of the trust's reserves in Nottinghamshire. The eastern boundary is created by the natural path of the River Idle; redundant gravel quarries to the west of the river have created wetland areas which comprise the majority of the site. The reserve is a mosaic of different habitats over an area of 450 hectares, over 300 of which are designated with SSSI status. It is the largest wetland area in Nottinghamshire and over 250 species of birds have been recorded there making it one of the top birding sites in the UK. NWT has a program of activities and events for the benefit of schools, community groups and individuals and is becoming increasingly popular with established walking groups in the area and also neighbouring counties.

Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest

Retford is close to the National Trust owned Clumber Park which is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike. Extensive woodlands in the area also form the remnants of Sherwood Forest, home to the legend of Robin Hood.

Retford Golf Club

Located at the south eastern edge of the town, Retford Golf Club is a private members club founded in 1921. The course is laid out around the area known locally as Whisker Hill, and it provides a varied mixture of open parkland, oak-lined fairways and changes of level. It is a popular destination for golf societies from across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire areas.

Nearby places


Current economy of Retford

Since the 1980s many of Retford's long-established companies such as Jenkins Newell Dunford (engineering) and Bridon Ropes (wire rope) have closed, with the economy becoming more services-based.

Retford is an important commercial centre for the local area, with large supermarkets, many independent shops and a market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In 2013, Retford's town centre had an empty shop rate of only 9%, 5% less than the national average. Bassetlaw Council refurbished Retford market square at a cost of £1.5 million as well as investing £2.5 million in Retford Enterprise Centre.

Retford has a strong economy mainly consisting of services with some light industry. Retail, health, manufacturing, education and accommodation are major employers. There is also a high representation of arts & recreational, finance & insurance jobs.

The town has a very low unemployment rates compared to the national average. In 2018, Nottinghamshire County Council calculated unemployment in Retford as follows: East Retford South (1.8%), East Retford North (1.6%), East Retford East (1.5%), East Retford West (1.3%). This compares to 1.7% for Bassetlaw as a whole and 4.4% nationally. The highest rate of unemployment in Bassetlaw at this time was in Worksop South East (3.5%) According to the ONS, 61% of people work locally (2011 Census ONS), which is far lower than neighbouring areas. Strong transport links mean that many Retford workers commute to neighbouring towns and cities such as Sheffield, Doncaster, Mansfield and Lincoln; some commute to London.

The Northern Rubber Company, which was established in 1871 by Alfred Pegler has evolved into the specialist aerospace components manufacturer Icon, employing 200+ people on Thrumpton Lane, Retford. Langley Holdings is based in Retford and owns more than 80 subsidiaries including Piller, Druck Chemie, Oakdale Homes, Protran and Claudius Peters. Langley's subsidiaries produce components for the automotive industry, parts for Airbus wings, and supply back-up power for data centres amongst other activities. In 2012 Langley Holdings bought the sheet-fed operations of German printing press company Manroland Sheetfed out of insolvency for £140 million.

Brewing was traditionally an important industry in Bassetlaw with brewers such as Worksop & Retford Brewing Company. Retford was also an important hop market. This tradition was revived by a number of microbreweries based in or near the town including Broadstone Brewery (1999-2006), Idle Valley Brewing (2014-2018), Harrisons Brewery (2018-), Pheasantry Brewery in East Markham (2012-) and Springhead in Laneham (1990-).

Historic economy of Retford

Retford did not experience the large-scale industrial growth of nearby towns and remained primarily a rural market town. Historically, it traded agricultural produce, but has also been a producer of hats, sail-cloth, rope, sack bags, paper and leather.

In 1788 Major John Cartwright, the older brother of Edmund Cartwright inventor of the power loom, built The Revolution Mill on Spital Hill, near the Chesterfield Canal. The mill was a steam-powered wool spinning and weaving mill employing around 600 people. The ambitious enterprise, however, failed a few years later and the site and machinery were eventually sold at great loss in 1805. Only one building survives.

Hezekiah Clark of Derby came to work in Cartwright's mill in the 1780s as a dyer. After the Mill failed he set up as a dyer in Retford in 1798, resulting in the business Clarks of Retford. This business gave its name to Dyers Court in Retford. The company eventually became known for its dry cleaning and laundry services, and had 138 shops before it ceased trading in the 1980s. The business is commemorated by a mural in Dyer's Court.

The Bolham Paper Making Company made glazed papers, shop papers, boards, boxboards; other new paper mills were built in the mid-19th century, including a mill on Albert Road (1867). Foundries and iron works were also established. The Beehive Works was built in Thrumpton in 1873 and William Bradshaw set up his Carr Foundry in Albert Road which specialised in heating and rainwater pipes, gutters, stoves, fireplaces and general engineering castings. The late nineteenth century also saw the introduction of new technologies when the Northern Rubber Company was created by Alfred Pegler in 1871. The factory's proximity to the junction of two important railways helped it prosper.

The agricultural land surrounding Retford was an important area for hop growing from the seventeenth century onwards. According to DCD Pocock, "Retford, as the most northerly hop fair in the country, was of special importance until the breaking down of traditional economic watersheds and marketing limits with the advent of rail transport". These North Clay hops (named after the North Clay Division of which Retford is part) were considered much stronger than Kentish hops and were used in the original Nottingham Brewery's bitter beers. At the beginning of the 19th Century 11,000 acres of hops were grown, which had dwindled to 29 acres by 1880. Hops are no longer cultivated in the area.

The role of women in Retford's economy

WVS plaque on platform 1, Retford Train Station
WVS Plaque at Retford Station

Women have played an important role in the economy of Nottinghamshire particularly in certain industries (such as lace making and farming). In Retford women were always economically active and some businesses relied heavily on female labour (such as Clark's of Retford).

Until the Black Death, most beer in the UK was produced by women. The term for a female brewer is 'brewster'. Brewing was an important industry in Nottinghamshire from hop growing, to brewing to selling beer. Nottinghamshire women have had considerable involvement in all aspects of the brewing trade, with many historic Retford pubs being recorded as having female managers.

Women-owned businesses were also relatively common in Retford. For example, Piercy mentions in 1828 that the Post Office in Grove Street is run by the post mistress Miss Elizabeth Barker. Three years later, White's 1831 directory notes it is run by Mrs Elizabeth Taylor. The postal service seems to have historically involved women workers in Retford. Moss (1908) noted there were four deliveries of letters per day and says: "Within living memory the letters were distributed by one woman, 'Old Betty Chapman.'"

Women are recorded in the 1831 directory undertaking a number of other trades. Mary Clark and Catherine Dean were grocers; Mary Stocks was a boat owner; Mrs Jane Taylor, Frances Holliday, Susanna Slaney and Elizabeth Wilkinson were stay makers; Faith Walker was a farmer; Margaret Holderness was a bookseller; Ellen Lawrence was a shoemaker; Mary Burley was a China and Glass dealer; Ann Appleby, Ann Colbeck, Sarah Graves, Mary Penington and Susan Penington were straw hat makers; Ann Burton, Mary Chester and Jane Walker were shopkeepers. Several Retford public houses were also run by a landlady at that time.

The first female councillor on Retford Town Council was Mrs Ellen Gentle Howell, born 1872 in Huckle in Luton, who was elected in 1926, becoming Mayoress of Retford. But it wasn't until 1951 that a woman became a mayor of Retford in her own right - Mrs M E Williamson JP who was also the Chair of Governors of Retford High School for Girls, and who became the first woman Alderman on Retford Town Council (1961). First Female Magistrate in Retford was Miss Grace M Bradshaw who sat on the Retford Borough Bench (1933) and was also appointed to the Retford County Bench in 1934. Grace Bradshaw was also the Chairman of Governors of the County High School for Girls, Retford and secretary of the Retford Ladies Health Association.

The work of the WVS of Retford is celebrated with a plaque at Retford train station which states that between March 1940 and March 1946 they served 2,284,000 meals to HM and Allied Forces in the canteen and rest room.

Sport and fitness


Retford has facilities for flat green bowling at Goosemoor Lane and in King's Park, provided by Bassetlaw Council, and at Hallcroft. Teams from Retford and the surrounding area (including Worksop) compete in The Retford and District Bowls League.

  • The Goosemoor Bowling Greens are used by the Goosemoor Bowls Club which play in the Retford & District, Goosemoor Afternoon League and the Worksop Friday League.
  • The King's Park Bowling Greens are home to the Retford Park Bowls Club.
  • Retford Bowling Green Limited was established in 1897 and is a lawn and short mat bowls club with a nine rink bowling green and a large club house.


The Retford Town Cricket and Sports Club was established in 1850 and moved to its present ground in 1858. The club was a founding member of the Bassetlaw Cricket league in 1904, their inaugural match was against Whitwell Colliery. However, they had to wait until 1984 before they won the League Division 1A Championship. Retford has developed players who have played at County and International level, including Derek Randall.


Retford has an established football team called Retford United F.C. who play in the Central Midlands League North Division and whose ground is Cannon Park on the outskirts of the town.

Retford is also home to Retford F.C., formed in 2015 and known as 'The Choughs', whose ground is the Rail Ground on Babworth Road and who currently play in the Northern Counties East League Division One.

Two derby games between the sides took place in the 2018/19 season with a 1–1 draw at Cannon Park and Retford F.C. winning 5–0 at the Rail Ground. In July 2020 Retford F.C. was awarded FA Charter Standard Community Club status.

Both Retford teams have junior sides, with Retford F.C taking over Ordsall Rangers during the summer of 2019. Babworth Rovers, a well-established junior football team, is on the outskirts of town and includes players from Retford and the surrounding villages.


Located at the south eastern edge of the town, Retford Golf Club is a private members club founded in 1921. The original six hole course was designed by Tom Williamson and laid out on 38 acres of land leased from Colonel Sir Albert Whitaker of Babworth Hall around the area known locally as Whisker Hills. Two further new holes were opened in 1958 by Sir Stuart Goodwin. In 1990 nine more holes were added. The current course provides a varied mixture of open parkland, oak-lined fairways and changes of level. It is a popular destination for golf societies from across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire areas.

Martial arts

There are well established Karate, Taekwondo and Kung Fu schools, as well as a Judo club which runs in the St. Saviours Church Hall.


The East Retford Cavalry Races were held between 1849 and 1864. On 1 April 1868, the United Hunt Committee organised a race meeting at which the Sandbeck Farmers Stakes was won by a horse named Gobbo and the Retford United Hunt Steeplechase was won by Gladiateur.

On 9 April 1877, after a gap of 10 years, meetings began being held on land owned by the 7th Viscount Galway to the north of the town (off Bigsby Road). The second meeting took place on 1 April 1878 with five races being held: the Nottinghamshire Steeplechase, The Grove Farmers Stakes, Maiden Steeplechase, Innkeepers Selling Steeplechase Plate and the Retford Steeplechase. The third meeting did not take place until 1894 due to lack of interest. Various promotions were attempted to boost attendance including train excursions and in 1898 a Tenant Farmers lunch in the Town Hall followed by a free pass to the races. The Retford Hunt Committee oversaw the meetings until 1913, with racing being suspended during WW1 until being resumed in 1921. The final meeting took place in 1928. The land was then sold off to pay the debts of the 8th Viscount Galway. The Retford Handicap was transferred to the course at Southwall and ran until the early 2000s.


Founded in 1952, East Retford Rugby Union Football Club competes in the Midlands League Division. The club celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002. It initially played on a pitch at Hard Moors, off Goosemoor Lane, then owned by Jenkins of Retford. A pitch at Ranby Camp followed before the club moved to Frank Wood's field on Green Mile, Ranby. In 1966 the club entered into a long-term rental agreement with Anglian Water Authority for use of land at Ordsall Road, which has room for three pitches on flat, well-drained land. The Club purchased the majority of its Ordsall Road ground from Anglian Water in 2000. The club currently runs two senior teams and a thriving and successful junior section, from minis to under 16s, for both boys and girls.


Retford has a long running snooker league consisting of two divisions.


Retford Swimming Club represent the town and the surrounding area in the pool. The club, established in 1896, trains swimmers and takes part in competitive swimming galas against other teams in Nottinghamshire, in the Sports Centre League. Retford Swimming Club competes in Division 1 of the Sports Centre League. An annual Open Meet is held at Ponds Forge International Pool in Sheffield, hosted by the club.


Primary schools

  • St Swithun's C of E Primary & Nursery School
  • St Josephs Catholic Primary school
  • Bracken Lane Primary School
  • Thrumpton Primary School
  • Carr Hill Primary School
  • Ordsall Primary School

Senior schools

  • The Elizabethan Academy
  • Retford Oaks Academy
  • St. Giles

As part of a major overhaul of secondary schools in the Bassetlaw area, all schools have now been moved to new facilities built around the town as part of the Transform Schools scheme. Retford is home to a Post-16 centre the aim of which was to unite all Sixth Form students in one site (formerly Ordsall Hall School) and provide other courses available through North Nottinghamshire College (based at Worksop). Since the spring of 2018, A Level students have returned to their respective secondary schools and now use the dedicated Post-16 centre for vocational and technical courses, as well as higher education.

Historic schools

King Edward VI Grammar School - - 89528
The historic Edward VI Grammar School buildings in Retford, designed by Decimus Burton

King Edward VI Grammar School (Motto - Ex Pulvere Palma) opened in August 1857 and was designed by the noted Victorian architect Decimus Burton. The school traced its foundations to Thomas Gunthorpe of Babworth in 1519, although there are references to a still earlier school in the town. It was refounded around 1551 during the reign of King Edward VI. The school accepted boarders from at least the 17th century onwards, with the last boarders leaving in 1938. During the Second World War Retford took in over 6,000 evacuee children, including a number of boys from Great Yarmouth Grammar School who were evacuated to Retford (from 1940 to 1944) and taught in classrooms at King Edward VI Grammar School. The school eventually became part of the Retford Oaks Academy and moved to new premises on the edge of town, although the original Grade II listed buildings still exist on London Road.

The school donated the sledge pulled by the pony Michael in Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the South Pole. Scott had appealed to the school boys of Great Britain to provide funds for the expedition, and the boys of Retford Grammar School contributed three guineas, with the Head Master adding 12s 6d to round it up to the cost of providing one sledge. Scott acknowledged the donation and wrote a postscript to the acknowledgement by hand to say: “Will you please give my hearty thanks to the boys for their generous subscription and good wishes. A sledge will be called ‘Retford.’—R.S.”

Retford County High School for Girls has its origins in a meeting convened at the White Hart Hotel, Retford 'to consider the advisability of taking steps to establish a public High School for Girls in the district'. The prime instigator in the new project was the manager of the Westminster Bank, Mr. William Oakden, who in 1891 had moved from Nottingham to Retford. He and other like-minded people wanted to provide their daughters with some form of higher education. The school eventually found a site on the corner of Pelham Road and Queen Street, adjacent to the canal. The school educated around 400 girls in the 1950s to 1970s. In 1979 the secondary schools in Retford were reorganised and the 11+ abolished. Boys were to be admitted for the first time. The result was a comprehensive school called 'The Elizabethan High School' under head teacher Mrs Coxon-Butler. At this time the former Hallcroft Girls' secondary modern school on Hallcroft Road became the new school's Lower Site and the Retford Girls' High School became the school's Upper Site. The former Pelham Road/Queen Street site was demolished when the school moved to new buildings in Hallcroft and was renamed The Elizabethan Academy. The Pelham Road site is now a housing estate.

Notable people

  • Hugh Armstrong (actor)
  • Anthony Perrinott Lysberg Barber, Baron Barber, was a British Conservative politician
  • Max Blagg, poet.
  • Frank Branston, journalist, newspaper owner, and mayor of Bedford
  • Ed Bulling, professional footballer
  • John Cartwright, built The Revolution Mill in Retford.
  • Thomas Clater, painter
  • Doc Cox, went to the King Edward VI School
  • Robert Craufurd, Major General during Peninsular War and Member of Parliament for East Retford
  • Anne Denman, grandmother of Anne Hyde and great-grandmother of Queen Mary and Queen Anne
  • John Glasby, novelist, chemist, mathematician
  • Catherine Grace Frances Gore (Moody), novelist and playwright, was born in Retford
  • Mike Hall, cricketer for Nottinghamshire who lived in Retford for most of his life and played for Retford Cricket Club
  • Kat Hawkins, presenter and producer
  • George F. Hopkinson OBE, MC, commanded the First Airborne Division in the World War II
  • Philip Jackson, actor, best known for his role as Chief Inspector Japp in the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot
  • John Kelsall, British composer, conductor and lecturer
  • Liam Lawrence, football player for Sunderland AFC and the Republic of Ireland national football team
  • Ted Linley, footballer
  • Arthur James Mason, clergyman, theologian and classical scholar
  • Jim McCairns DFC, MM, pilot, grew up on Chapelgate, Retford and completed his education at King Edward VI Grammar School
  • Samuel Milner, physicist
  • Andrew Moody, journalist and recipient of the Chinese Government's 'Friendship Award'
  • Francis Orpen Morris, an ornithologist and entomologist who was curate at All Hallows 1837-1842
  • James Parnell, a prominent Quaker, writer, preacher and martyr. Known as "The Boy Martyr"
  • Albert Peatfield, cricketer
  • Derek Randall, cricketer for Nottinghamshire and England
  • John Taylor, English publisher
  • Francis Thornhagh, Parliamentarian soldier during the English Civil War was born in Sturton and was MP for East Retford when he was killed at the Battle of Preston
  • Sam Trickett, poker player
  • Russell Wainscoat, footballer
  • John Warham, photographer
  • Thomas White, politician, MP for Retford
  • Samuel Wright, nonconformist

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