The Lost Village of Raleigh lay somewhere between Southwell and Oxton - but the precise location is unknown

Lost Village

The name Raleigh is well known in Nottinghamshire (and throughout the world) in connection with bicycle manufacture.

It is also the name, however, of one of the lost villages of Nottinghamshire which survives only in terms of local myth and legend.

The village of Raleigh was located between Southwell and Oxton (see map - but precise location unknown), and is remembered today largely owing to a strange, eerie phenomenon connected with its former church bells.

In her book Legends of Nottinghamshire (Dalesman, 1979 p.20), Pat Mayfield writes that the village was "swallowed up" by an earthquake in about the year 1185 - "at the time of the earthquake which split Lincoln Cathedral from top to bottom".

"The people," she continues, "not understanding the nature of earthquakes, honestly believed that the village had descended to a lower level..."

Recording the legend which subsequently grew from the disappearance, the noted local historian J. Potter Briscoe (in his Curiosities of the Belfry, London: Hamilton Adams, 1883) noted:

"Near Raleigh there is a valley said to have been caused by an earthquake several hundred years ago, which swallowed up a whole village, together with the church. 

people would assemble in the valley to listen to the church bells ringing beneath them

"Formerly it was the custom of the people to assemble in this valley every Christmas Day morning to listen to the ringing of the bells of the church beneath them.  This, it was positively asserted, might be heard by placing the ear to the ground and listening attentively.

"As late as 1827 it was usual on this morning for old men and women to tell their children and young friends to go to the valley, stoop down, and hear the bells ring merrily".

Debunking the myth, however, Briscoe was at pains to point out that what the people actually heard was the ringing of the bells of a neighbouring church (possibly Southwell Minster, only a couple of miles away) "the sound of which was communicated by the surface of the ground, the cause being misconstrued by the ignorance and credulity of the listeners".

For those interested in learning more about the ghostly church bells of Raleigh, the legend is recorded also in Church Lore Gleanings by T.F. Thistleton Dyer (London: AD Innes & Co., 1891) and, most recently, by Stephen Smith in his book Underground England (Little Brown, 2009). 

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