Renaissance of the Nottinghamshire Market Towns 1680-1840

by Catherine A. Smith

Between the Restoration and the eve of the Railway Age the smaller towns of Nottinghamshire were transformed economically, socially and physically, as this study of Newark, Worksop, East Retford, Mansfield, Ollerton and Bingham shows. Their population grew as new industries arrived, including the earliest cotton mills, helped by the improvement of roads by turnpike trusts and the building of the Chesterfield Canal through Worksop and Retford. The built-up area of each town expanded and fashionable new houses and public buildings appeared. The streets were better paved and lit and the houses more comfortably furnished. The beginnings of a middle class can be identified in the larger towns and with it the emergence of theatres, coffee houses and subscription libraries. Even the smaller towns enjoyed something of an ‘urban renaissance’. This study brings together a great deal of new material on the market towns of Nottinghamshire and suggests an innovative methodology for the study of smaller towns that could well be applied elsewhere.

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