Retro: Retford is a big player in the history of Bassetlaw

Market day in Retford around 1900
Market day in Retford around 1900

Retford is the second-largest settlement in Bassetlaw and the main town in the eastern part of the district.

It is one of the oldest chartered boroughs in England, dating back to 1246.

It was mentioned in the Domesday survey but exisited before then.

Its importance probably was due to the ford which crossed the River Idle in the town.

There were also bridges where tolls could be collected.

A market and fair were held in the town and by the 14th Century, there were three churches and a grammar school.

The Idle continued to be an important part of the town because it wasa means of transporting goods for sale and industry.

Boats carried iron, timber and coal to and from the River Trent.

Retford remained mainly a market centre for the surrounding area up until the middle of the 18th Century.

During this period, the Chesterfield Canal was built, passing through the town, as did the Great North Road which was diverted through the town until the 1960s, when it was diverted again.

The increased prosperity led to many new and elegant buildings being built, espeically around the Square and Grove Street areas of the town.

In the 19th Century, Retford became a centre for road, rail and canal traffic, but still retained its character as a market town with markets like the one shown in our picture.

A number of local trades thrived in the town at that time, including hop growers and merchants, seedsmen, corn merchants, millers, shoemakers, ironmongers, brewers, rope makers, tanners hat makers and wheelrights.