Southwell, Nottinghamshire

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Town and Civil parish
Southwell minster1.jpg
Ruins of the Bishop's Palace, Southwell - - 54671.jpg
Southwell Workhouse.jpg
Market Place Kings Street Southwell.jpg
From the top, Southwell Minster, The Archbishop's Palace, The Workhouse and Market Place/Kings Street
Southwell, Nottinghamshire
Civil parish map
Nottinghamshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Nottinghamshire
Area7.70 sq mi (19.9 km2)
Population7,491 (2021)
  Density 973/sq mi (376/km2)
OS grid reference SK 69996 53962
  London 110 mi (180 km)  SSE
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Southwell
Postcode district NG25
Dialling code 01636
Police Nottinghamshire
Fire Nottinghamshire
Ambulance East Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°04′41″N0°57′18″W / 53.078°N 0.955°W / 53.078; -0.955

Southwell ( /ˈsθwəl,-wɛl/ SOWTH-wəl, -wel, locally /ˈsʌðəl/ SUDH-əl) [1] [2] is a minster and market town, and a civil parish, in the district of Newark and Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, England. It is home to the grade-I listed Southwell Minster, the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. The population of the town was recorded at 7,491 in the 2021 census. [3]



The origin of the name is unclear. Several sites claim to be the original "well", notably at GR SK708535 where a plaque has been placed; in the Admiral Rodney pub; on the south side of the Minster, known as Lady Well in the 19th century; and one by the cloisters called Holy Well. [4] Norwell, 8 miles (13 km) northwest, may support the idea of a pair of "south" and "north" wells, [5] [6] although no wells are known to exist. [7] There was a complex relationship with the two, Norwell being owned by and contributing to the Prebends of Southwell, the place name possibly given to help distinguish this. [8]

In most of Nottinghamshire, Southwell is pronounced SUH-thull, with a voiced "th" and a silent "w". Southwell's own residents tend to pronounce it as it is spelt. [9]


Early history

The remains of an opulent Roman villa were excavated beneath the Minster and its churchyard in 1959. [10] Part of a mural from the excavation is displayed in the Minster. It is one of three of its type found in the territories of the Corieltauvi (or Coritani) tribes – along with Scampton in Lincolnshire and Norfolk Street in Leicestershire. A stretch of the Fosse Way runs on the far bank of the River Trent, with evidence of Roman settlement at Ad Pontem ("to the bridge" or "at the bridge"), northwest of the village of East Stoke. There is no clear evidence of a road between Ad Pontem and Southwell. Other evidence of Roman settlement includes the use of Roman bricks in prebendary buildings around the Minster, remains of a ditch or fosse discovered at Burgage Hill in the 19th century, and possibly Roman remains beneath the Church Street site of the recently vacated Minster School. [11]

The Venerable Bede records a multiple baptism in the "flood of the Trent" near "Tiovulginacester" by Paulinus in the presence of Edwin of Northumbria, whom he had converted to Christianity in 627. There is disagreement on the location of Tiovulginacester, but Paulinus certainly visited it and may have founded the first church in Southwell. [12]

Remains of Eadburh, Abbess of Repton and daughter of Ealdwulf of East Anglia were buried in Southwell's Saxon church. [13] Eadburh was appointed Abbess under the patronage of King Wulfhere of Mercia. She appears in the Life of Guthlac and is thought to have died about AD 700. Her remains were buried or translated to Southwell Minster, and revered there in the Middle Ages. The only reference is in a Pilgrims Guide to Shrines and Burial Places of the Saints of England supposedly written in 1000: "There resteth St. Eadburh in the Minster of Southwell near the water called the Trent."

Eadwy of England gave land in Southwell to Oskytel, Archbishop of York, in 956, this charter being the first dated reference to Southwell. In 1051 Archbishop Ælfric Puttoc died at Southwell, which indicates that the archiepiscopal residence and church might have been established by then. [14] A tessellated floor and the 11th-century tympanum over a doorway in the north transept are evidence of construction of the Minster after this time. The Domesday Book (1086) gives detail of an archiepiscopal manor in Southwell. [15]

A custom known as the "Gate to Southwell" originated after 1109, when the Archbishop of York, Thomas I, wrote to each Nottinghamshire parish for contributions to building of a new mother church. Annually at Whitsuntide, the resulting "Southwell Pence" were taken to the Minster in a procession from Nottingham, headed by the Mayor and followed by clergy and lay people bound for Southwell's Whitsun Fair. The Pence were paid at the Minster's north porch to the Chapter Clerk. The "gate" in the name of Southwell Gate means "street", as in many East Midland and North-Eastern street names. The custom in its original form persisted well into the 16th century. It was revived in 1981 by the Dolphin Morrismen, but imposition of traffic-management costs forced the organisers to abandon it in 2014. [16] It is survived by the Gate to Southwell Festival, [17] a broad musical event held annually since 2007 (except 2020) now in early July on a site near Southwell and at various venues in the town. [18] [19]

Geoffrey Plantagenet was ordained a priest at Southwell in 1189. On 4 April 1194, Richard I and the King of Scots, William I, were in Southwell, having spent Palm Sunday in Clipstone. King John visited Southwell between 1207 and 1213, ostensibly to hunt in Sherwood Forest, but also on the way to expedition to Wales in 1212. [20]


The Saracen's Head was built in 1463 on land gifted in 1396 by Archbishop Thomas Arundel of York to John and Margaret Fysher. When built, the first floor overhung the roadway in the style of the time.

The ruins of the Archbishop's Palace Ruins of the Bishop's Palace, Southwell - - 54671.jpg
The ruins of the Archbishop's Palace

In 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey stayed at the archbishop's palace in Southwell for a few months. The Cardinal had been arrested after failing to secure an annulment between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The Cardinal was ordered to London by Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland for treason and became ill along the way. [21]

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland passed through Southwell on his way to London to be crowned King James I of England. [22]

The Saracen's Head, Southwell The Saracen's head, Southwell - - 3020292.jpg
The Saracen’s Head, Southwell

In the English Civil War, King Charles I spent his last night as a free man in May 1646 in the Saracen's Head (then the King's Head), before surrendering to the Scottish Army stationed at nearby Kelham. The town, the Minster and the Archbishop's Palace suffered under Oliver Cromwell's troops, as they sequestered the palace to stable their horses, broke monuments, and ransacked graves for lead and other valuables. In 1793, there were still iron rings in the walls to secure the horses. By end of the war the Archbishop's Palace was in ruins apart from its Great Hall. It is reputed that Cromwell also stayed at the King's Head.

A bridewell built on the Burgage in 1656 was enlarged in 1787 to become a county prison. There is evidence that a house of correction was built in 1611, so that the bridewell may itself have been an enlargement.

Mary Ann Brailsford of apple fame (see below) was baptised at Southwell in May 1791, and Matthew Bramley in 1796 in Balderton.

19th century and later

By 1801 the population was 2,305.

Lord Byron's house - Burgage Manor Byronshouse266.JPG
Lord Byron's house – Burgage Manor

In 1803, Lord Byron stayed with his mother in Burgage Manor during holidays from Harrow and Cambridge. His mother rented the house. By that time he had become 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale, but the family home, Newstead Abbey, still required repairs, which they could not afford.

The Bramley cooking apple was first seeded in Southwell, by Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809. [23] Henry Merryweather, a local nurseryman then 17 years old, saw potential and cultivated it from cuttings. [24] [25] The apple is widely used and renowned for its acidic taste and for cooking into a smooth purée. One local football club, Southwell City, is nicknamed "The Bramleys" and the town's library is called the Bramley Centre. In March 2009, a stained-glass window was placed in Southwell Minister to mark the apple's bicentenary. [26]

The town was late in getting a permanent theatre. This was in the yard of the former Cross Keys. In 1816 two large rooms on the first floor of premises of James Adams, a whitesmith, were converted for use as a theatre. The first company to use it was that of Joseph Smedley. [27]

Southwell Minster interior Southwell Minster Choir, Nottinghamshire, UK - Diliff.jpg
Southwell Minster interior

The Diocese of Southwell was established in 1884, with Southwell Minster becoming its cathedral church. As established, the diocese included both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, but a new Diocese of Derby was formed in 1927 to encompass the part of the Diocese of Southwell in Derbyshire. In 2005 the diocese was renamed the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. [28]

Normanton Prebend Normanton Prebend.jpg
Normanton Prebend
Oxton Prebendal House, now called Cranfield House Oxton I Prebendal House.jpg
Oxton Prebendal House, now called Cranfield House
Market Place/King Street, Southwell Market Place Kings Street Southwell.jpg
Market Place/King Street, Southwell
Vicars' Court and the Residence Southwell Vicars Court.jpg
Vicars' Court and the Residence



The town is on the River Greet and is located 9 miles (14 km) west of Newark on Trent, 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Nottingham, 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Mansfield and 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Worksop.

Town districts

The historic town centre is based around the cathedral area, but nearby outlying communities grew and eventually were subsumed into the town. [29] [4]


Separated further afield from the core urban area, but within the civil parish are the following places:


The town is something of an oddity in North Nottinghamshire, being visibly affluent compared with neighbouring Newark-on-Trent and Mansfield. Agriculture and coal have seen the fortunes of the other two fluctuate over the years, while Southwell has remained a place where wealthier Nottinghamians like to reside. [32] [33] It appeared in the Sunday Times shortlist of Best Places to Live 2017 for the Midlands region. [34]


As the site of an Anglican cathedral, the town is sometimes mistakenly described as a city, and indeed was treated as such in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. However in 1884, when the diocese was established, the procedure for acquiring city status for new diocesan seats involved the town in question's borough council petitioning the monarch, a petition that at that time was invariably granted. As Southwell was not an incorporated borough and had no borough council to raise the petition, it never gained city status. [35]

Today, Southwell has an active town council, which forms the first tier of local government for the whole of the civil parish of Southwell. [36] The town council, since the 2023 elections, consists of ten Liberal Democrat (LibDem) councillors, two Conservative (Con) councillors, one Labour and one independent. The council chair was held in 2019–2021 by Mrs Lyn Harris (LibDem) and since then by Sally Reynolds (independent) and since 2021 by Martin Stott (LibDem). The Chair of the Town Environment Committee is Lyn Harris, that of the Governance and Finance Committee Peter Harris and that of the Planning Committee Jeremy Berridge (all three LibDem). [37]

The second and third tiers of local government in the civil parish are provided by Newark and Sherwood District Council and Nottinghamshire County Council respectively. It is represented as district councillors by Karen Roberts (LibDem), Peter Harris (LibDem) and Penny Rainbow (Con). [38]

Southwark is in the Newark parliamentary constituency, currently represented by Robert Jenrick (Con).



Southwell Workhouse Workhouse Southwell.JPG
Southwell Workhouse

The principal landmark in Southwell is the grade-I listed Southwell Minster, the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. Behind the Minster is a partly ruined palace, once a residence of the Archbishop of York. It includes the recently restored State Chamber, Cardinal Wolsey's former dining room, and gardens among the ruins. [39]

The town has many other historical buildings including the prebendal houses in Church Street and Westgate and the Methodist church, which has a right of way beneath it, so that the upper floor seats more than the lower. The workhouse (1824) was a prototype for many others. Owned by the National Trust, it shows its appearance in the 19th century.


The local community newspaper is The Bramley, of which some 11,200 copies a month are delivered free in and around Southwell. [40] [41]

Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC East Midlands and ITV Central. Television signals are received from the Waltham TV transmitter, [42] BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and ITV Yorkshire can also be also received from the Belmont TV transmitter. [43]

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Nottingham on 103.8 FM, Capital East Midlands on 96.2 FM and Smooth East Midlands on 106.6 FM. [44]


The annual Southwell Music Festival is held every August in Southwell Minster and other nearby venues. [45] The Gate to Southwell Festival of roots and acoustic music is held each year in early June. [17]


The town's two infant schools (aged 3–5) are Southwell Holy Trinity C of E and Lowes Wong . [46] The latter also teaches children aged 7–11. The local secondary school is Southwell Minster School, [47] which also educates the choristers of the Minster and gifted musicians in its Junior Department. It has particularly good GCSE and AS/A level results for Nottinghamshire. [48]

Secondary education in the town is predominantly provided by The Minster School, which still educates choristers of Southwell Minster. The Minster School is a Specialist College for Humanities and Music and was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2011/2012. [49] Pupils may also choose to attend school at Newark-on-Trent, which is about a 20-minute drive east. The School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences is part of Nottingham Trent University. [48] and offers further and higher education courses in agricultural-related subjects at its Brackenhurst campus just outside Southwell.

The town is linked to Newark and Nottingham by the A612, although this has now been downgraded to a C road, and to north Nottingham and villages to the west by B6386. The A617 primary route passes 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the town in Hockerton, and the A1 and A46 trunk routes are 7 miles (11 km) away in Newark.

Bus services

Southwell is also served by Nottingham City Transport's rural Pathfinder 26 service to Nottingham and Stagecoach East Midlands (Mansfield) service to Mansfield and Newark. [50] There are other infrequent services to nearby villages.

Bus services in Southwell
Bus operatorRoute numberDestination(s)Notes
Nottingham City Transport 26:Pathfinder Nottingham – Carlton – Burton JoyceLowdham – Southwell [51]
Stagecoach East Midlands 28 MansfieldRainworth – Southwell – Newark [52]
29Southwell – Newark
Travelwright3Lowdham – Southwell – Newark [53]
227Newark – Southwell – Bilsthorpe – EdwinstoweWednesday & Friday only. [54] [55]
Sherwood Countryman BusesCM2 Maplebeck – Eakring – Kirklington – Southwell
Disused bus routes
Veolia Transport D3 Nottingham – ArnoldLambley – Southwell – NewarkService sold to Premiere [56]
PremiereS9Southwell – Lowdham – Burton Joyce – Victoria ParkPremiere was liquidated on 25 January 2013 [56]

Railway service

Southwell was previously served by a branch line which ran from Rolleston Junction to Mansfield. There was a station on the line which served the town. It was opened in 1847, but closed to passengers in 1959 and to goods traffic in 1964. The station survives as a private residence. The trackbed toward Mansfield is now the Southwell Trail. The trackbed to Rolleston Junction is now covered by housing within the town and goes on to form a private access road from Southwell to Southwell Racecourse.

Today, the nearest station to the town is over two miles (three kilometres) away in Fiskerton, at the nearby village of Fiskerton, which has gained a small car park in recent years to cater for Southwell commuters. Rolleston Junction is also nearby, and adjacent to the racecourse. Both stations offer a service between Matlock, Lincoln, Leicester, Newark-on-Trent, Derby and Nottingham.


Sports clubs include Southwell Rugby Club [57] (known as the Redmen), formed in 1922–1923. In the 2011–2012 season, it won a historic treble as RFU Midlands 4 (East) North League Champions, Nottinghamshire Junior Cup winners and Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire/Derbyshire Plate winners. There is also a Southwell Cricket Club. Southwell City Football Club, [58] an FA Charter Standard Community Club, involves over 400 local players in 35 teams aged five years to veteran.

Southwell Racecourse, owned by the Arena Racing Company, is situated on the outskirts of the town near Fiskerton and has an all-weather track. It hosts jump and flat racing.

Southwell has a leisure centre run by a local trust, [59] with trustees from the community, although the district council also provides limited support.

Notable people

In order of birth:

Twin towns

The town is twinned with Sées in France, [61] Sarzana in Italy, [62] [63] [64] and Český Brod in the Czech Republic. [65]

See also

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Further references