Transport and Distribution
The evolution of the transport system in Mansfield has followed a fairly natural course; in some circumstance it was very innovative whereas in others it was slow to follow the rest of the country. For example it can boast the sixth oldest rail line in the United Kingdom, the original being horse/beast powered, but was well behind others with the introduction of steam engines onto the rail system. Mansfield beat London with the introduction of motorised buses but was decades behind in making adequate rail connections to the main line system.
Horse Drawn Coaches
Horse drawn coaches would have been in operation for centuries. For some of these coaches Mansfield was just a place, en route, where an over night stop was made, but for many others Mansfield was a pivotal point, serving many towns and cities throughout the country. The pick up points for these coaches were at local inns, known as ‘Coaching inns’ or ‘Post houses’. During the 18th 19th and early 20th centuries the three main Inns used for this purpose were a) The Swan b) The Eclipse and c) The Old Eclipse.
An example of the services offered from the Swan in 1832:
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Also coaches to Nottingham five times a day and one to Gainsborough.
By 1844 the only coach going any further that Nottingham or Sheffield was one to Manchester because steam trains had taken away most of the long distance passengers from the horse drawn coaches. They were quicker and cheaper. These coach operators now converted their runs into serving the nearest train stations, rather than competing against them. For instance they ran to Nottingham , Chesterfield and Sheffield . In 1849 when the line to Nottingham , from Mansfield , opened this took away even more business from the horse drawn coach.
The Omnibus was a variation of the coach which was introduced into Mansfield around 1840. They were less comfortable and were only intended to serve passengers on a local basis, i.e. around town, to local villages, or neighbouring towns. One such omnibus, owned by The Swan simply conveyed passengers from there to the Midland rail station and back, a distance of only 200/300 yards; while others, in 1844, ran regular services to Nottingham , Chesterfield , Worksop and Retford primarily to meet the trains.
Horse Drawn Carriers
Carriers conveyed goods, although on occasion a passenger might hitch a ride on the back of the cart, for a small fee. Most people who ran a carrier’s business only operated on a part time basis, using their carts for other purposes on other days of the week; such as farm work or delivering coal. The majority operating on Market Day, which for Mansfield was Thursday. Most carriers had organised routes which were published. They would leave from certain points in the town, such as a local Inn , warehouse or even the Portland Wharf (the end of the Mansfield Pinxton railway). The latter for two purposes a) to meet the trains in order to exchange goods or b) between 1819 and 1849 this line was for horse drawn vehicles; consequently carriers would pull their own truck along this line, for a toll. These latter carriers would advertise that they would connect to national carrier networks at Pinxton, either by land or canal. One such network was owned by Pickford’s.
A Steam Powered Bus!
Motor Buses were first introduced into Mansfield in 1898, just a few weeks behind Edinburgh (who were the first) and a year before they were introduced in London . In April of that year several local businessmen set up the Mansfield Motor Car Company in order to produce all kinds of motorised vehicles and operate public services. One of their first productions was a steam driven motor bus to carry 22 persons. One local newspaper report said that this would be a novelty because all the others presently in operation were run on oil.
The Internal Combustion Engine
Cars and Motorcycles crept into Mansfield around the turn of the century. The earliest report of a car passing through Mansfield was in August 1897, which came from the direction of Worksop and sounded like distant thunder. By 1903 the first register of cars was produced, we find that from this register there were 18 motorised vehicles in Mansfield , in the following classifications:
Private = 14 (8 cars & 6 motorcycles)
Trade = 2 (1 car & 1 motorcycle)
Mixed = 2 (1 was home made)
In 1903 John Harwood Cash was taken to court charged with driving too fast, i.e. 20mph. His lawyer claiming that he couldn’t have been going at that speed because he was only in second gear which would only allow the car to travel at 12mph. Case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. The Duke of Portland, the Lord of the Manor of Mansfield, being a keen motorist, held speed trials on part of his estate at Clipstone in 1902. Two weeks after these trials Mr Charles Jarret returned in his 70 hp racing Panhard and set a new world land speed record of 79 miles per hour over a measured kilometre.
Taxis were first introduced into Mansfield in April 1911; the first one being a 16-20 hp Bell . The driver charging eight pence a mile, with a minimum fare of one shilling.
Vans and Lorries first appeared in Mansfield around 1904. There were no vans or lorries registered on the 1903 register but there is a 1904 photograph of a motorised van being owned by the Mansfield laundry Company.
Trams were first used in Mansfield in 1905. The licence granted to Mansfield was in fact for a light railway, which was granted in 1901. The work to lay the tracks and overhead cables commenced in 1903. The first tram left the Market Place on July 11th 1905 , with the Mayor (Mr G H Hibbert) at the controls, which then went on its 11 minute journey to Pleasley. A run along Nottingham Road was opened at the same time. Other lines to Sutton-In-Ashfield, Mansfield Woodhouse and Crown Farm soon followed. Initially the system had 18 electrically powered double-decker trams but soon built up to 31 when the new lines were opened. This system didn’t last too many years for in 1932 it was closed down and replaced with ‘Regent’ double-decker buses.
From the late 18th century it had been apparent to the local businessmen that Mansfield was becoming increasingly isolated from other large towns and cities. With the construction of canals taking place throughout the country it was thought that this should be the way forward for Mansfield ; either by joining the Erewash canal at Pinxton or by heading towards the Chesterfield canal at either Worksop or Retford. These ideas were tossed about for over 20 years but nothing ever came of them.
It was then realised that the most practical and economical way of connecting Mansfield to the canal system was to construct a tramline to the Pinxton Wharf , a distance of 7.75 miles. After much deliberation on the route to be taken and the type of track to be used the line was constructed between 1817 and 1819 and was officially opened on Easter Tuesday of 1819. The track was made of cast iron sections (sample section in Mansfield Museum ), each being 36 inches in length. It is said that the most outstanding feature of the construction was the ‘ Portland Bridge ‘. This is a viaduct, made of local stone, constructed to carry the railway across the river Maun near the Kings Mill reservoir, however it was cut out of the main line in 1849 when a sharp curve was removed but it continued to carry sidings for many decades to follow and still stands today as a footbridge. This small railway viaduct is now the oldest one remaining in England .
The mode of power to pull the trucks along this line was, for many decades, bullocks or other similar beasts of burden. One beast would pull one truck. It is said that when laden trucks were coming into Mansfield they would be pulled to Kirkby Summit, un-hooked and rolled into Mansfield under their own weight. The primary use of the line was to import coal and export stone, sand and bricks. The public soon pressured the owners to allow passenger transport. This was initially accomplished by putting wooden seats into the coal trucks, on market days before proper carriages were introduced in 1832.
Mansfield was being left behind
Soon the rest of the country was to see the construction of main lines with steam locomotion but Mansfield was being left behind. It wasn’t until 1847 that the Midland Railway Company purchased the Mansfield to Pinxton line. The line was upgraded, by levelling out some gradients, stretching out some bends, and extending it to Nottingham . By March of 1849 the section from Nottingham to Kirkby was opened with the final section into Mansfield being opened in October of the same year. The upgrading of the old line allowed steam locomotives to enter Mansfield ; the first ones being two Puffing Billies, belonging to the construction company, on the 24th August 1849 . The first passenger train on this new line left Mansfield on the 9th October consisting of one locomotive and seven carriages. A new station was constructed near the site of the old one, off of Station Street .
Midland and Great Northern Railway Companies
This line, however, was a dead end. The race now began between the Midland and Great Northern Railway companies to extend the rail network from Mansfield to the North and East. During the 1850s a plan to extend the line to the north was drawn up but, after much disputation with the Dukes of Newcastle and Portland , over whose lands it was to run, it was withdrawn.
It wasn’t until the late 1860s two further routes were approved, with the Midland winning both contracts. The first route was to connect the present line, using the same station, to the line that ran from Southwell to Rolleston, near Newark ; which was a major junction. This line was opened in 1871, thus creating a through line from Nottingham back onto the main North-South route.
The second route to be constructed at this time was the extension of the line in a northerly direction via Mansfield Woodhouse and onto Worksop. Since Mansfield was in a valley it was necessary to construct a viaduct across the town centre, starting immediately at the end of the Mansfield – Pinxton line. In order to construct the viaduct many dwellings and business premises had to be cleared, to locate the pillars, and people re-housed.
It was decided that the most economical way of providing the stone was to cut the Langwith ‘Cuttings’, dress the stone and transport it into Mansfield for the construction of the viaduct. Consequently work started further up the line while preparations took place in Mansfield . By 1871 work on the viaduct was under way and was completed by 1872. The construction of the line resulted in two deaths, one of which occurred during the construction of the viaduct. It was said that up to 1,000 men worked on the construction of the line at any one time.
This 15 arched viaduct, which peaks at 60 feet in height, stood completed but unused until 1875 due to unforeseen difficulties being experienced further along the line, primarily at Cresswell where the tunnel had to be lined.
Not only did the introduction of the new line help boost the economy of the town but a study of the census returns show that many of the men and their families who were drafted in to the town to work on the construction of the viaduct and railway settled in the town and consequently helped pull Mansfield out of a recession.
This line was opened to goods traffic on 22nd January 1875 but was not opened for passenger trains until 1st June 1875 . At 7.10am on that date over 100 passengers boarded the train which slowly pulled off from the station, passing immediately over the new viaduct. This must have been an exciting moment to be able to traverse the town, 60 feet above street level, on a structure that had dominated the town for the past few years. Most of these passengers alighted at the Mansfield Woodhouse station and walked back into Mansfield , ready to start their daily chores. They had only travelled on the first train for pure excitement and to cross this magnificent edifice that now divides the town.
Six passenger trains departed from Mansfield to Worksop each day at: 07.10, 10.30, 11.45, 16.10, 18.10 & 20.10
It was becoming common place to run branch lines or sidings straight into ‘works’ yards. Mansfield was no exception. Since the Sherwood colliery was sunk at the side of the Worksop line it was easy for sidings to be located on the colliery site. Another example of a small branch line is off of the Southwell line, which fed the sand quarries and brick works to the south of the town centre. In fact the Southwell line fed into five collieries.
Great Central Railway
The last of the railways to be constructed in and through Mansfield was the Great Central Railway which wasn’t constructed until the First World War. It opened for goods in 1916 and for passenger services the following year. This was a completely new line which, for passenger purposes, was not connected to the Midland line. The two lines were connected via a ‘mineral line’, for goods only, to the east of the town via the Crown Farm Colliery sidings. A new station was constructed on Great Central Road . This line connected the main lines at Kirkby and Clipstone via Mansfield .
The Great Central line ceased passenger services in 1955, with the station being closed in 1964. In the latter year the Midland lines also stopped passenger services. Goods trains continued to use the Midland line, primarily for the movement of coal, while the Great Northern slowly petered out its goods services.
For many years Mansfield remained the largest town in Britain without a passenger train service but in 1995 it was restored and renamed the ‘Robin Hood Line’. Since part of this line runs along the same route as the original Mansfield to Pinxton Tram line it makes it possibly the oldest running passenger train line in England .