Woodthorpe Grange and Woodthorpe Park [incl. Nottingham Suburban Railway]

Photo:Woodthorpe Grange

Woodthorpe Grange


Who was the architect?

Terry Fry


In the mid-19th century there was a 40 acre farm of grass and arable land, bordered by Mansfield Road and Scout Lane (now Woodthorpe Drive ) and owned by Alfred Pogson. In May 1871 he put the farm up for auction, to be conducted by William Whitehead who advertised it as ‘This Estate in first class cultivation is well adapted for Villa Sites’. Not only that, but he produced a plan showing a Suggested Road 50 feet wide extending from Mansfield Turnpike Road through the middle of what is now Woodthorpe Park.

Fortunately for us the estate was never developed because the land was purchased by Henry Ashwell, a master bleacher, dyer and finisher from New Basford. He wanted it for his own private estate, on which he arranged for Woodthorpe Grange to be built in 1874. The architect is unknown, but the building is still in use.

Ashwell and his family and servants lived there happily enough for over twenty years. He planned the grounds, including the rockery garden near the house, which was converted from a small brickyard. It was the proximity of other brickyards which led to Ashwell’s disenchantment with and sale of the property.

In order to serve the brickyards of Thorneywood and Sherwood the Nottingham Suburban Railway was built in 1889, passing through Ashwell’s estate. Edward Parry, an experienced railway engineer, was in charge of the construction which branched off the Great Northern Line at Sneinton, heading north for St Ann ’s, Thorneywood, Sherwood and Daybrook. Expensive tunnels had to be excavated and the last one was named Ashwell’s Tunnel, possibly in an attempt to placate Ashwell who was not happy abut the whole development.

On his estate he now had Sherwood Station and an inclinerailway from it up to Mapperley Brickworks. Wagons loaded with coal were hauled up to the kiln and filled with bricks for the descent. After a few years of this noisy activity Henry Ashwell had had enough and he sold the house and estate to none other than Edward Parry.

A subsequent owner in the early 20th Century was J.C. Small, twice Mayor of Nottingham, who had the foresight and generosity to sell it cheaply to the City Corporation in 1921, for a mere £15,000, of which Jesse Boot contributed £10,000. Shortly afterwards it was opened to the public as Woodthorpe Park .

The Nottingham Suburban Line was never very successful. It continued to serve the Mapperley brickyard for about sixty years, but it had closed to passenger traffic in July 1916. Sherwood Station was re-opened for one occasion, the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in July 1928, when thirteen special trains carried 6,834 children and teachers to Woodthorpe Park . The line was closed altogether after a final train-spotters’ special ran through in 1951.

Nothing remains of the station today. Winchester and Woodthorpe Courts, high rise apartments, were built on the site of one of the platforms. The main tunnel from Thorneywood has been blocked up, but that under Woodthorpe Drive has a mock up of a red steam engine protruding from it. Although overgrown with trees the cutting dividing the present 18-hole pitch and putt course is still discernible.

Visitors can take advantage of the nursery gardens, Tropical House and brand new café and children’s playground. The Grange is still in use as offices for the Leisure and Community Services Department of Nottingham City Council. It would round the story off nicely if we could discover the name of the architect of this Victorian building.

Terry Fry April 2012

This page was added by H W on 17/04/2012.

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