The Red Lion, Hucknall
Hucknall, formerly known as Hucknall Torkard, is a town in Nottinghamshire. The town was historically a centre for framework knitting and then for mining, but is now a focus for other industries as well as providing housing for workers in Nottingham. The town is notable as the site where Rolls-Royce made the first demonstration of a vertical take-off aeroplane. It is also the final resting place of Lord Byron and his estranged daughter, the mathematician Ada Lovelace.
The lie of the land
Hucknall is seven miles northwest of Nottingham on the west bank of the Leen Valley, on land which rises from the Trent Valley in the south to the hills of the county north of Kirkby-in-Ashfield. The Whyburn or 'Town Brook' flows through the town centre, and Farleys Brook marks its southern boundary.
Apart from a narrow the southern contiguous development with regular road links to Nottingham, the town is surrounded by farmland or parkland. To the north-west lie Misk Hills and Annesley. To the north-east town are the villages of Linby and Papplewick beyond these two is Newstead Abbey and its grounds, once the residence of Lord Byron. To the west lies Eastwood, birthplace of D H Lawrence, and the inspiration for many of his novels. To the east of the town is Bestwood Country Park.
The contiguous settlements of Butler's Hill and Westville often appear as distinct entities on maps, but are generally regarded as part of Hucknall, and are part of its historic and present-day church parish.
Hucknall was once a thriving market town. Its focal point is the parish church of St Mary Magdalene, next to the town's market square.
The church was built in the Anglo-Saxon era and completed after the Norman Conquest, though much of it has been restored during the Victorian era. The mediæval church consisted only of a chancel, nave, north aisle and tower but it was considerably enlarged in the Victorian period. In 1872 the south aisle was added and in 1887 the unusually long transepts, while the rest of the building apart from the tower was thoroughly restored. The top stage of the tower is 14th century as is the south porch. There are 25 fine stained-glass windows by Charles Eamer Kempe which were added mostly in the 1880s. There is a modest memorial to Lord Byron.
From 1295 until 1915, the town was known as Hucknall Torkard, taken from Torcard, the name of a dominant landowning family. Signs of the old name can still be seen on some of the older buildings.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, coal was discovered and mined heavily throughout the Leen Valley, which includes Hucknall. This brought increased wealth to the town along with the construction of three railway lines.
The first was the Midland Railway (later part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway line from Nottingham to Mansfield and Worksop, closed to passengers on 12 October 1964 though partly retained as a freight route serving collieries at Hucknall, Linby and Annesley. The Hucknall station on this line was known as "Hucknall Byron" in its latter years. In the 1990s this line was reopened to passengers in stages as the Robin Hood Line, the section through Hucknall in 1993 with a new station on the site of the old "Byron", though simply called "Hucknall".
The second line was the Great Northern Railway (later part of the LNER) route up the Leen Valley and on up to Shirebrook, serving many of the same places as the Midland south of Annesley. It closed to passengers on 14 September 1931 but remained in use for freight until 25 March 1968. The Hucknall station on this line was known as "Hucknall Town".
The third line was the Great Central Railway (also later part of the LNER), the last main line ever built from the north of England to London, opened on 15 March 1899. The stretch through Hucknall closed completely on 5 September 1966, but the Hucknall station here (known as Hucknall Central), had closed earlier, on 4 March 1963.
In 1956 the Church of St Peter and St Paul was built to serve the area of west Hucknall.
In the Domesday Book of 1086 the name of the village appears as Hochenale.
Hucknall has been recorded throughout the ages as Hokeuhale and Hokenale also, suggesting an origin in the Old English Hocanhalh, perhaps "Hoces' Nook" after a kin group perhaps known as the Hoce, or "Hocca's Nook" after a chief or landowner, though this is uncertain, The suffix halh (modern 'haugh') means a nook of land. This same tribal name occurs elsewhere and it has been suggested that the name 'Hucknall' once referred to a larger area on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. Two other settlements in the locality are called Hucknall; Hucknall-under-Huthwaite, in Nottinghamshire, (known today as Huthwaite) and Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire. It is likely that Hucknall Torcard marked the southern boundary of this larger area.
The town is the northern terminus for the Nottingham Express Transit tram system as well as sharing a station on the Robin Hood Line. There is also a stop at Butler's Hill/Broomhill. The town used to be on the A611 but this has now bypassed the town to the west with a single-carriageway road with roundabouts, with access to junction 27 of the M1, some three miles away. The tram line was built from 2002–2004 and currently runs from Hucknall to the Station Street terminus next to Nottingham railway station.
Framework knitting was once the predominant industry in Hucknall.
Hucknall was a colliery town from 1861 to 1986. The sinking of the coal mines caused the settlement to grow rapidly from a village to a market town in under a hundred years.
The Hucknall Colliery Company, formed in 1861 sank two shafts, Hucknall No. 1 colliery (known as "Top Pit") in 1861 (off Watnall Road) and Hucknall No. 2 colliery (known as "Bottom Pit") in 1866 (off Portland Road). No. 1 closed by 1943, and No. 2 closed in 1986.
Hucknall Airfield was built in 1916, which became RAF Hucknall. From 1927, Rolls-Royce began using the airfield for flight tests. During Second World War, the aerodrome at Hucknall was the location of the first flight of a P-51 Mustang fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine. The fitting of the Merlin, replacing the existing Allison V-1710 engine allowed the Mustang airframe to reach its full potential and achieve spectacular high altitude performance, something the Allison engine could not provide.
In the early 1950s, the Rolls-Royce site at Hucknall developed the world's first vertical-takeoff jet aircraft - actually, a test rig, officially called the Thrust Measuring Rig, but soon nicknamed the "Flying Bedstead" because of its shape. The first untethered flight, piloted by Capt Ron Shepherd, took place on 3 August 1954 before a distinguished audience.
The rig rose slowly into the air and hovered steadily. It then moved forward, made a circuit of the area, then demonstrated sideways and backwards movements before making a successful landing. The flight was a tremendous success and during the next four months a number of free flights were made, up to a height of 50 feet. There are pubs in Hucknall called The Flying Bedstead and The Harrier. Rolls-Royce's flight test centre closed in 1971, but engines were still tested there until late 2008. There are still components manufactured at the site.
In December 1940, during Second World War, a German prisoner-of-war, Franz von Werra attempted to escape by posing as a Dutch pilot and attempted to fly off in a Hurricane fighter. He was arrested at gunpoint as he sat in the cockpit trying to learn the controls and sent back to his prisoner-of-war camp in Swanwick, Derbyshire. Franz von Werra was eventually the only German to succeed in returning to Germany, when he escaped from Canada to the United States, then to Mexico and into South America before returning to Germany, during January - April 1941. His exploits can be seen in the film The One That Got Away.
The Hucknall and Linby Mining Community Brass Band was formed in late 2008 by players from the Newstead Abbey Brass Band. After the Hucknall and Linby Miner's Welfare Band became Newstead Brass, the town no longer had its own band. The band plays concerts at the parish church every Christmas, and around the local area throughout the year. The band also competes, and has enjoyed many successes since forming.
- Hucknall Town FC, founded in 1945 as a colliery team ('Hucknall Colliery Welfare FC'); it changed its name to 'Hucknall Town' in 1987 after closure of the pit.
- Hucknall Rolls Leisure FC, originally the works team from Rolls Royce
- Hucknall Sports Youth Club (junior football) formed in 1977
- Cricket: Hucknall Cricket Club
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