Recalling Dirty Hucknall

This page represents original work offered by Mr Paul Bradshaw. Raised in Huthwaite and of senior age to myself, Paul explains his experience of the stigma and general understanding behind addressing Dirty Hucknall. Such folklores passed down generations, but I found this research actually helped support my unique understandings that may finally sweep coals away from our forestry ties between a Fulwood area.

Dotty Huckna'

Anybody from Huthwaite has, at some time, been insulted by some local outsider referring to their place of birth as dotty Huckna - and we used to get very annoyed and defensive about it.   So what´s the derivation of the slang name?   I´ve tracked down quite a few references, which I give below with some Latin script translations.

Exactly when the place came to be known as Dirty Hucknall is now lost in the mists of time.   However, it needs remembering that at the boundary between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire there was a considerable amount of mining activity.   Added to this, the road we now know as Blackwell Road was a significant thoroughfare from Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire.   In the absence of any form of road surfacing as we know it, this unmade track would have been badly churned by packhorses, laden carts and other users.   Grooves would wear into this unmade track and the only repair that was effected was by ploughing the ridges back into the hollows.

As this ancient thoroughfare opened out and went through the main part of the then hamlet of Hucknall in Sherwood Forest, it left its trail of mud and coal dust, and at some stage the hamlet became referred to as Dirty Hucknall.   Either side of the Blackwell Brook that divides Nottinghamshire from Derbyshire, was an area of intensive coal-mining activity in very early times.   The coal being transported by both pack animals and carts would have left a trail of dust to be intermingled with the sludge from the unmade roads.

In his book on the history of Sutton in Ashfield G. G. Bonser refers to the Forest peramabulation of 1538 where there is a reference to Dirty Hucknall.   This is only one of a series of early references to this form of the name.   References to this unusual name can be found in several places, including Deeds Inquisitions, Perambulations, Wills and Parish Registers.   There are three references earlier than the one given by G.G. Bonser, and several others that crop up in various places.   Some of the many references found are listed below:

1505 on 26th August a peramabulation of Sherwood Forest took place on instructions of Henry VII.   This document in Latin refers to both DYRTIE HUCKNALL and FFULWOOD is earliest reference I found so far.

1519 reveals an ancient Deed in existence from 20th September, in which Jane and Christopher Fitzrandolf granted to Roland Revell all their lands in HUKENALL under HUCTHWET alias DIRTI HUKENALL, with an option to buy them back in should they have a son and heir.   (Jane was originally from Langton Hall and Revell of Carnfield Hall family.)

1536 the year an inquisition was held into claims of rights of common for royal tenants in DIRTY HUCKNALL, together with specified rights of way and highways which would be damaged by Enclosure of a piece of land at Fulwood Moor by Nicholas de Strelley, Knight.   Two documents in Latin include the Inquisition itself and a writ of "Ad Quod Damnum" (i.e. would there be any damage to the King by granting this land to de Strelley?)

1538 under reign of Henry VIII there was again a peramabulation of Sherwood Forest that refers to DIRTIE HUCKNALL and FFULLWOOD.

1546 on 20th September, an Inquisition was held in Nottingham into Nicholas Purefey, gentlemen who held land in many places including Huthwaite.   There are various spellings, including HUCKNALL alias DURTY HUCNALL and OWTHWAYTE, of which he had, before his death, held "2 parts of the manor and a moiety of the fourth part".

1589 a peramabulation which took place between 22nd and 24th September, refers to DIRTY HUCKNALL fields and the following extract describes the Forest boundary at Huthwaite you may recognise:   "..up to Nunbrooke at Brooks grainings and into Rushy Sicke: then up to Blackwell Brooke which parteth Nottinghamshire from Derbyshire to Ridding Sicke; up to Newton Woodside and to Whiteborow Herne; along a hedge between Whiteborow grounds and Dirty Hucknall fields, down to a sicke at Ferny hill Nooke and to Horspley Nooke and so by the same sicke between Howthwaite and Whiteborow to More Close Nooke; and by the water between Teversall and Skegby.." (a "sicke" being a stream).   Note: These are virtually the western and northern boundaries of Huthwaite today.

1590c The Belvoir Map of Sherwood Forest clearly shows many familiar places including FULWOOD, WHITEBARROW and DYRTY HUCKNALL.   A map photo is in the British Library.

1592 dates a reference in the Recovery Rolls to DURTYE HUCKNALL.

1662 offers very last peramabulation of Sherwood Forest ordered by the loyal Duke of Newcastle after the restoration of the Monarchy post Civil War refers to DURTY HUCKNALL.

1693 Register when Isaac Chadwick married Elizabeth Hall at Pinxton, he is entered in the Parish Register as being from DIRTY HUCKNALL.

1711 Entries of Quaker burials at Mansfield refer to three Langfords who all resided at DIRTY HUCKNALL: John - Buried 1st November 1711; Mary - Buried 7th October 1713; Elizabeth - Buried 21st January 1716.

1720 agreement to mine coal on Higham Hillside dated 16th March, signed by William Moore of North Wingfield and Abraham Booth of DIRTY HUCKNALL in the parish of Sutton in Ashfield.   The coal and landowner was Richard Turbett of Ogston.

1776 Jedediah Holland rented his farm from the Duke of Newcastle and the late Charles Molyneux.   He left his tenant right to the farm, and all his goods to his brother, but his will of 1766 proved in the Archdeaconry Court refers to his place of abode as DIRTY HUCKNALL.

1796 Elizabeth Stendall buried at Pinxton 22nd March recorded widow of John from DIRTY HUCKNALL.

An Alternative Definition

As we can see from all the above and use of the name in legal documents and registers, it must have been in very common usage.   This is doubly reinforced when it is used as an alias by way of clarification to documents.   Natives of Huthwaite have always been a bit defensive about the dirty tag, and for many years the alternative view has been put forward of it being a corruption of doughty or bold - a reference to the fighting qualities of the men of the village.   Countless times, in local papers, writers have sprung to Huthwaite´s defence. Here are two examples:

Back in 1936, William Marshall wrote "To visit the place today one wonders why they should call it Dirty Hucknall" and "The Urban Council must be acquitted of any charges of unnecessary delay in getting rid of the stigma of Dirty Huckna´".

In 1970, W. B. wrote "If you went anywhere outside the village they would always say oh, you come from Dirty Huckna do you?   But it wasn´t a dirty village as the Council engaged an old fellow by the name of Jack Marriott who worked until he was over 80 years of age for the Council, keeping the streets clean".   Jack, by the way, lived at the top of Factory Yard and lived to the ripe old age for those days of 90.

I think though the doughty tag arose from a meeting of Huthwaite Urban District Council prior to the First World War, when the Council´s Surveyor sprung to the defence of the village by saying that the name had got nothing to do with it being dirty at all but was derived from the old dorrity or doughty, referring to the boldness and bravery of the men of the village.   If you´re from Huthwaite and want to believe that, then who am I to stop you?   I hope that this little note on the slang name of Dotty Huckna is of interest to fellow Thwaities and students of its past.

Paul Bradshaw - April 2004

Written 28 Oct 04 Revised 13 Mar 07 © by Gary Elliott