The Houfton Brothers and Mansfield

The Houfton Brothers
Private collection
John Plowright Houfton
Private collection
Arthur Frederick Houfton
Private collection



When coal miner Charles Houfton married Phoebe Plowright in Basford, Nottingham in 1852, they may not have expected that so many of their children would, like their father, become involved in the coal industry.  Even one of their daughters, Sarah Jane married a Colliery Agent, John Smith in 1893

John Plowright Houfton

The first of Charles and Phoebe’s sons, John Plowright Houfton was born in Chesterfield in 1857. At the age of 14 he commenced work in the offices of High Park Colliery, Eastwood.  The Bolsover Colliery Company was founded in 1890, and John was appointed as its first manager supervising the sinking and development of the pit.

Following on from that in 1894 he was appointed General Manager of the company after the foundation of Creswell Colliery. Other pits were then sunk by the company at Crown Farm, Mansfeld (which led to the establishment of Forest Town) Rufford, Clipstone and Thoresby by which time John was Managing Director.

He was chairman of the Mansfield Railway.

After moving to live in Mansfield he became a local councillor and was elected Mayor of Mansfield in 1912. He was also president of Mansfield and Mansfield Woodhouse District Hospital. In 1922 he was elected MP for East Nottingham, and was knighted for his services in 1929. Sir John died later the same year.

Charles Albert Houfton

Second son Charles Albert was born in Chesterfield in 1862, then moved to Mansfield in 1898. He was a mechanical engineer working in the collieries in the area. He went into partnership with his brother James and founded the Mansfield Engineering Company in 1900, which later became one of the largest businesses in the area. He was also appointed as a Justice of the Peace.

James William Houfton

Next came James William born in 1865 who seems to be the only brother not to have been directly involved in the coal industry, although no doubt his business had mining connections as he was co-founder of the Mansfield Engineering Company. He married Mary Ellen Bennett in 1896 who tragically died in childbirth only two years later in 1898.

James William made a substantial fortune sufficient to purchase Wellow Hall in 1915 where it seems that he very much lived the life of a country squire – hunting, racing horses and entertaining. In 1938 he emigrated to Australia with a nurse from the Mansfield District Hospital and died out there in 1945.

Arthur Frederick Houfton

Arthur Frederick (my grandfather) was born in 1868 in Moss Green, Belper. In 1891 he took the opportunity to work for the Butterley Company involved in building St. Pancras Station, London.

Following this, he sold everything he had, borrowed some more, and took the financial risk of returning to Mansfield to build houses, joining his brothers in the foundation of Forest Town and other pit villages.

Having successfully made his fortune, he first leased the house of Fountaindale near Harlow Wood from the Colliery Company and then in 1919 purchased Papplewick Hall which had been unoccupied for some years.  He also owned another property in Magdala Road, Nottingham where he died in 1956.

Ernest Henry Houfton

Last but by no means least of the brothers was Ernest Henry born in 1874. He became a much-respected doctor in Mansfield and area. For a number of years he had a surgery in the Avenues at Forest Town. He was an Honorary Surgeon at Mansfield District Hospital for a prolonged period of time. Ernest died in 1926 and in commemoration of his work at the hospital a legacy of £2,000 was bequeathed by his brother James William to the hospital in the 1940’s. This was used for beds to be dedicated as follows:

(a) J. W. Houfton – donor
(b) Dr.E.F. Houfton – in commemoration of his work at the Hospital.

If anyone has any further information regarding these commemorative plaques, I would be interested to learn of it.

Percy Bond Houfton

Many other members of the Houfton family were also involved in the establishment of the mining industry around Mansfield, the most famous of whom was the brothers’ cousin, Percy Bond Houfton (1874 – 1926) son of Elija Houfton and Elisabeth Bond. Percy started out on his career at the Bolsover Colliery Company going on to become a well-known architect responsible for the layout and design of several “Pit Villages” including Creswell, and the White City at Rainworth together with the Institute and Concert Hall. He designed housing estates in Chesterfield and buildings for other areas of the UK as far away as South Wales.

George Houfton

Meanwhile the brothers’ nephew George was busily employed making steel cables for the mining industry at his Midland Wire Ropeworks

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It seems strange that the only time I have had any connection with the coal industry was being taken down a coal mine on a school visit in the 1950’s. Now that pit, like most others has closed maybe for ever – a situation that would have seemed unthinkable to the Houfton brothers all those years ago.

Benjamin Houfton

April 2010





Comments about this page

  • Hi I am related to the Houfton side, Arthur Frederick was my Great Grandfather. I have a lot of old black and white photos of smart gentlemen and ladies. No idea who they are.

    By Sara Story (13/10/2023)
  • Hello!
    This is probably a very long shot but I believe I am also related to the Houfton family. Arthur Frederick had a daughter named Dorothy, her married name became Arch and she had a son called George. George was my grandfather. We know very little about his family and have always been fascinated to know more. If anyone is able to offer any information, I’d love to hear more.

    By Lindsay Arch (27/10/2021)
  • We have received the following enquiry from David Ives ……..

    ‘I am involved in a Heritage project that is currently being undertaken by a group in the village of Wellow, in Nottinghamshire. The researchers are producing written material about local soldiers who served and died in WW1. One soldier that I am concerned with was named Albert Cooper. He was the only son of Harriet Cooper who worked as house keeper for James Houfton for over a quarter of a century and only ended when James Houfton moved to Australia in 1938.
    The pair of them lived in Wellow hall from 1915 to 1938 and Albert Cooper died there after receiving serious war wounds, his death certificate was signed by Ernest Houfton, the younger brother of James.
    This web page is a contribution made by a member of the Houfton family and other members have added comments. One contributor talks about having a large collection of photographs relating to the brothers.
    Photographs of James or his housekeeper Harriet, would be of immense use for the production of this work, especially if they featured Wellow hall. Any stories about the same would be most welcome too.
    At the moment the only photograph I have seen is that showing the brothers all together which is shown on this page. I don’t even know which one was James.’

    Is there anyone who may be willing to help with my enquiry, if so I can be contacted by the Editors, David Ives

    By Editors (14/03/2021)
  • Out of the blue, in January 2020, I was contacted by a gentleman from Switzerland who had purchased a Rolls Royce 3/4 Cabriolet by Barker. This vehicle once belonged to my Grandfather, A F Houfton in the early 1920s, and was sold soon after he left Papplewick Hall.
    From the log book the new Swiss owner discovered that other people who owned the car included William McAlpine. Apparently the car is in perfect condition and is regularly used.
    The new owner kindly sent me some photographs.

    By Ben Houfton (29/02/2020)
  • I read with great interest the story of “The Houfton Brothers and Mansfield” and I like to tell you that I am the proud owner (since 2001) of the Rolls-Royce Twenty (GZK39) purchased by A F Houfton in 1926.

    I am a member of the RREC and I am a lawyer and notary public in Switzerland by profession.

    I would be happy to share photos of the car and of course to have some more information/photographs on the history of the car when it was A F Houftons .

    I can be contacted via the editors.

    Many greetings,
    Paolo Luisoni

    By Paolo Luisoni (13/01/2020)
  • It seems that my Grandfather A F Houfton did not own Papplewick Hall, but rented it from 1919 until 1925 when his wife, May Belle (nee Limb) died at a young age. Apparently the previous owner of Papplewick Hall had forfeited it in a gambling debt! My Aunt Madge lived at Gunthorpe Hall and my Aunt Connie lived at Car Colston Hall – all somewhat more salubrious compared with my current abode! 

    By Benjamin Houfton (21/08/2017)
  • I was recently contacted by an antique dealer in Bournemouth who had obtained a wooden “Stanley Magazine Case” that at one time contained mathematical instruments. This has a plaque on the lid which states that it was presented to John Plowright Houfton on his retirement by the Lane End Works April 1890. I would love to know who owned it and how it ended up in Bournemouth!

    By Ben Houfton (18/05/2016)
  • Very interesting.  Percy Bond Houfton was my grandfather.     He married Elizabeth Robinson of Chesterfield and had one daughter,  Margaret Eileen; who was my mother.

    Margaret Houfton married Herbert Bennett of Sawley and had two children, Anthony Bowley Bennett (always know as Bob) and me, James Parkinson Bennett.

    By James Bennett (02/09/2015)
  • Interesting to see that John Plowright Houfton started his working life at at High Park Colliery around 1871, this colliery opened in 1854 and closed in 1950 and was owned by the Barber & Walker Colliery Co. who’s offices at that time were at Durban House Eastwood. High Park Colliery was at the end of a lane at the side of Moorgreen reservoir and all that is left of it are a few small spoil heaps with trees growing on them and traces of the old railway that connected the B&W companies pits but there is a row of miners dwellings called High Park Cottages that are still occupied today.

    By P.Bowler (12/11/2014)
  • We had both his mayor’s dress and sheriff’s dress when I was young and I remember trying both on. They were given to a museum as they were starting to deteriorate with age. 

    By Helen Boyd (09/11/2014)
  • Sir John Plowright Houfton was also High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1920. His address was given as Park Hall, Mansfield Woodhouse.

    By Benjamin Houfton (22/05/2014)
  • John Plowright Houfton is my great great grandfather. I have many of their original photographs and its great to see the stories being shared on pages such as this. 

    By Helen Boyd (19/05/2014)
  • I am a distant relative through the Morleys – and particularly interested in Charles Morley Houfton who died in the Great War, but spent some time doing family history research (presumably among others) into the Morley family.

    By Jonathan Morley (03/01/2014)
  • Re. comment from Caroline King. It is good to read of another relation. I was in touch with Jean Page for many years who was most helpful with my family research. My autobiography is listed on the Our Mansfield webpage under “Books to buy.” I wrote the book as I believe that I am the last surviving male Houfton, hence the title, “The end of the line.”

    By Ben Houfton (21/10/2013)
  • My granny was Jean Agnes McAdam, grandaughter of Sir John Plowright and Lady Frances, her son (my father) was John Robery Houfton Page, I am the youngest daughter of John, Caroline King (nee Page) and my eldest son is Harry Houfton Arthur King. My father died twelve years ago but was always extremely proud of everything his great grandfather achieved as am as I am learning a lot about my family history now.

    By Caroline King (23/05/2013)
  • Arthur Frederick Houfton was my Great Grandfather.

    By Mark Story (24/10/2010)
  • I have recently been in touch with a member of the Seely family and exchanged some information. The Seelys were involved in mining around Calverton and Sherwood Lodge very near to the areas where The Houftons were active. The Seelys invested the proceeds of their mining in purchasing large areas of The Isle of Wight. If anyone knows of any connections between the families I would be very pleased to hear from them.

    By Ben Houfton (07/08/2010)
  • I have recently been contacted by a member of the Sherwood Forest Golf Club who has kindly sent me a book, “SFGC The First Hundred Years.” From this I learned more of the Houfton connection – John Plowright Houfton was instumental in founding the club which originated from the smaller Mansfield Golf Club. He was Captain in 1912 and 1913 and his brother Dr. Ernest Houfton was Captain in 1921 followed by George Herbert Houfton in 1923.

    By Ben Houfton (14/06/2010)
  • My Uncle Arthur Botham of Wirksworth was a Pit Deputy at Clipstone Colliery when it was first sunk whilst my Uncles George Else was a senior Clerk at Bolsover Colliery and my Uncle George Seeds a Miner at Bolsover. George Bentley and George Reddish husbands of my cousins Grace and Gladys Else of Bolsover being also Miners at Bolsover Pit. Sir John Plowright Houfton was also my distant kin via the Sims family whose allied family of Harrison of Ockbrook Borrwash and Wirksworth were my family William John Harrison being Chairman of Wirksworth Urban District Council when the new road Harrison Drive named after W J Harrison was driven through the Baileycroft Quarry Wirksworth owned by my Colledge family Charles Harrison of Litchurch Road Derby a Railway Engineer was Uncle to Mary Sims whose family married into Houftons The Sims family being of my family via many marriages one notable one being Halle Berry the Actress born 1966 of Ohio U.S.A.she 3XGrandaughter of Daniel and Ellen Marsden nee Wesley of Wirksworth Daniel Marsden being Director od Marsdens Ironmongerey Market Place Wirksworth he brother in law to my Gr Gr Aunt Catherine Wesley nee Walker (married Ellens brother William Wesley they children of John and Anne Wesley nee Sims)

    By stuart flint (04/06/2010)

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