The History of Stapleford Woods

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Early notes concerning Stapleford Woods

On the 17th century "Manor of Stapleford Map" what are now known separately as The Wood and The Moor appear as a wide expanse labelled Stapleford Moore.  It is shown with subdivisions - the South Part of the Moore, the Middle Part of the Moore and the North Part of the Moore - the whole extending from "Lanford Moore" in the south to the Norton Disney Boundary in the north.

This expanse is cut by two roads, one labelled "Part of the Horse Racecourse" leading from the edge of Lanford Moore, and continuing its northward way as the "Collingham Course", the other, marked "Newark Gate", proceeding southward from the present Moore Lane to join with the Horse Race Course at the Langford boundary.  At the south western edge of the "Moore", close beside the junction of the roads are shown two "Moors Plotts", one of twenty four acres belonging to Anthony Frost, the other of twelve acres to Richard Andrews.  Anthony Frost had also a freehold plot of 21 acres beside Barham Gate (the present Newark Road).  Two fields in this position, attached to the Laurels Farm, are still called the Frost Close and the Far Frost Close.  Immediately opposite, on the other side of Barnham Gate, is Richard Andrews' freehold 'plott'. This latter coincides with the Westborough Glebe, now administered by the Church Commissioners, and cultivated along with Poplar Farm. Tradition has it that, because the position of the Moor Plot associated with the Westborough Glebe was unknown, the owner tenant had the right to graze two horses, four beasts or eight sheep on the Moor.  This right was at some time exercised, though there was difficulty in 'shepherding' the animals.  The Forestry Commissioners report, 1965, states:- The Rector of Westborough claimed the common rights of grazing over Stapleford Moor, hence enclosure was impractable until the right was extinguished.  

The Revd G. Roberts of Norton Disney wrote: "An old man named Cont, belonging to this parish (Norton) who died in 1839 aged 92, remembered when a lad going from Norton to Newark Races, then held on Coddington or Langford Moor, and according to his account there was neither a set fence or gate to stop a person from crossing over any part of the moor between Norton and the Newark and Sleaford Road".

According to the same source the Revd G. Roberts in 1875 several acres at Stapleford still remained in a wild unreclaimed state, barely worth cultivating, on certain portions of which it might safely be said the ploughshear had never driven a furrow.  Charlotte Pask, born 1828, used to say that when she was a child the moor was not wooded - it was possible to see across it.  Mr Oliver Quibell, of Newark, whose relatives lived at Stapleford House Farm, and later at Stapleford Hall, had a theory about the beginnings of the silver birch trees which later covered much of the moor.  He said that horses were regularly grazed there and they ate the young shoots at ground level.  When the horses were taken away only cattle remained, and they were unable to keep the young trees in check.

Samual Keetly was the pioneer of Stapleford Wood planting the first trees on Stapleford Moor in 1785, his previous employment having been at Wollaton Gardens.  Before any trees were set the land was turned with an iron plough and the whole of the planting took him ten years to complete.  He was a parishioner of Stapleford for 40 years having brought his family to live there in 1787.                 

David Merchant

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