Hucknall, formerly Hucknall Torkard, is an English town in the district of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. It was historically a centre for framework knitting and then for mining, but is now a focus for other industries and a dormitory town for Nottingham. It was the site where Rolls-Royce made the first demonstration of a vertical take-off plane. It is also the final resting place of Lord Byron in 1824 and of his estranged daughter, the mathematician and pioneer computer programmer Ada Lovelace in 1852.
Tram 212 at Hucknall in the first week of operation of modern trams (March 2004)
|Area||7.913 km2 (3.055 sq mi)|
|Population||32,107 (2011 census)|
|• Density||4,058/km2 (10,510/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||East Midlands|
Hucknall is 7 miles (11 km) north-west of Nottingham, on the west bank of the Leen Valley, on land which rises from the Trent Valley in the south to the hills of the county north of Kirkby-in-Ashfield. The Whyburn or Town Brook flows through the town centre. Farleys Brook marks its southern boundary.
The town's highest point is Long Hill, at 460 ft (140 m) above sea level, with views over the city and Trent Valley, which descends to 22–24 metres (72–79 ft) AOD, flowing just beyond most of the city centre.
The town is surrounded by farmland or parkland. To the north-west lie Misk Hills and Annesley. To the north-east of the town are the villages of Linby and Papplewick, and beyond these two, Newstead Abbey and its grounds, once the residence of Lord Byron. To the west lies Eastwood, birthplace of D. H. Lawrence and the inspiration for many of his novels and short stories. To the east of the town is Bestwood Country Park.
The contiguous settlements of Butler's Hill and Westville often appear as distinct entities on maps, but are generally regarded as part of Hucknall. They are part of its historic and present-day Church of England parish, although the town itself has no civil parish council. However, the identity is reinforced by being part of the post town and by being shared wards of Hucknall.
Hucknall was once a thriving market town. Its focal point is the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene, next to the town's market square. The church was built by the Anglo-Saxons and completed after the Norman Conquest, though much of it was restored in the Victorian era. The medieval church consisted only of a chancel, nave, north aisle and tower, but the changes in the Victorian area considerably enlarged it. In 1872 the south aisle was added and in 1887 the unusually long transepts, while the rest of the building apart from the tower was thoroughly restored. The top stage of the tower is 14th-century, as is the south porch. There are 25 fine stained-glass windows by Charles Eamer Kempe, added mostly in the 1880s. There is a modest memorial to Lord Byron.
From 1295 until 1915, the town was known as Hucknall Torkard, taken from Torcard, the name of a dominant landowning family. Signs of the old name can still be seen on some of the older buildings.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, coal was discovered and mined heavily throughout the Leen Valley, which includes Hucknall. This brought increased wealth to the town, along with the construction of three railway lines.
The first was the Midland Railway (later part of the LMS) line from Nottingham to Mansfield and Worksop, closed to passengers on 12 October 1964 though partly retained as a freight route serving collieries at Hucknall, Linby and Annesley. The Hucknall station on this line was known as Hucknall Byron in its latter years. In the 1990s this line was reopened to passengers in stages as the Robin Hood Line, the section through Hucknall in 1993, with a new station on the site of the old "Byron", though simply called Hucknall.
The second line was the Great Northern Railway (later part of the LNER) route up the Leen Valley and on up to Shirebrook, serving many of the same places as the Midland south of Annesley. It closed to passengers on 14 September 1931, but remained in use for freight until 25 March 1968. The Hucknall station on this line was known as Hucknall Town.
The third line was the Great Central Railway (also later part of the LNER), the last main line ever built from the north of England to London, opened on 15 March 1899. The stretch through Hucknall closed completely on 5 September 1966, but the Hucknall station here (known as Hucknall Central), had closed earlier, on 4 March 1963.
From 1894 until 1974 Hucknall was the seat of Hucknall Urban District Council. With the abolition of the UDC, local government was transferred to Ashfield.
In 1956 the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Hucknall was built to serve western parts of Hucknall.
Hucknall was recorded as Hokeuhale (n.d.) and Hokenale (n.d.), suggesting “nook of land of Hōcanere” (a tribe), from Old English halh (haugh). This same tribe's name occurs in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire. It has been suggested that the name Hucknall once referred to a larger area on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. Two other settlements in the locality are called Hucknall; Hucknall-under-Huthwaite, in Nottinghamshire, (known today as Huthwaite) and Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire. It is likely that Hucknall Torkard marked the southern boundary of this larger Hucknall Area.
In the Domesday Book (AD 1086) the name appears as Hochenale (volume 1, pp. 288–290).
The Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group (http://www.htrg.co.uk/) has a mission statement: "To help Hucknall regain its position as a strong, viable and prosperous town. To retain the historical legacy of the town and surrounding area. To attract visitors and boost the local economy by raising awareness of our heritage to both visitors and residents alike."
The Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group (HTRG) was inaugurated in 2002. It consists of people from all aspects of Hucknall life, who have a desire to help regenerate the town, primarily through tourism, after the devastating loss of the mining industry and large portions of the textile industry. Members of the group include residents, business owners, volunteer workers and councillors. HTRG works with other well-established organisations such as the Hucknall Round Table , the Rotary Club of Hucknall , Hucknall Heritage Society , the Eric Coates Society , St Mary Magdalene Church, Ashfield District Council  Nottinghamshire County Council, Hucknall Library and volunteer organisations, to prevent duplication of work and ensure the town is working together.
The group seeks opportunities to promote the town through radio interviews, newspaper coverage, street exhibitions, events, leaflets and posters. Heritage trails have been designed, one for the town centre and a 20-mile (32 km) circular trail. To complement these trails, leaflets have been produced and free guided walks/bus tours take place throughout the spring and summer months.
The town centre was pedestrianised in 2017, and an inner relief road opened from Annesley Road through to Station Street.
The town is the northern terminus for the Nottingham Express Transit tram system, as well as having a station on the Robin Hood Line. There is also a stop at Butler's Hill/Broomhill. The town used to be on the A611, but this has now bypassed it to the west with a single-carriageway road with roundabouts and access to junction 27 of the M1, some 3 miles (5 km) away. The tram line was built from 2002–2004 and currently runs from Hucknall to the Toton Lane terminus.
The National Academy was founded in 1788 by Frederick Ward and originally located at the southern end of Annesley Road. It relocated in the 1970s to a new build still on Annesley Road but at the north end of the town, near the roundabout of the B6011 road. The National School has a large science block with 10 labs and an astro-turf playing area, both opened in 2004 by Princess Anne. The school has an eco building. It is now an Academy.
Holy Cross Catholic Voluntary Academy is in Leen Mills Lane, next to Leen Mills Primary School. It is a feeder primary school to Christ The King Academy in Arnold. It was voted as third best school in Nottinghamshire in 2014 and in 2015.
Hucknall Sixth Form Centre is on Portland Road, near the Byron Bingo Club, and now houses for The National Academy and The Holgate Academy collaborative sixth form. The building was previously home to New College Nottingham.
Hucknall's Tesco superstore opened in 2003, creating a number of jobs for the town. In 2008, the store was extended to make it a Tesco Extra store. A Tesco Express store was opened in early January 2009 in Annesley Road.
Other shop branches in Hucknall include Wilkos, Card Warehouse, Argos, B&M Bargains, Fulton's Foods, Home Bargains, Bird's Bakery (http://www.birdsbakery.com), Boots, Peacocks, Specsavers, Iceland, Aldi, Co-Operative Food, and Sainsbury's. Independent local retailers include Branson's DIY store and Aquatic centre (https://www.bransons-hga.co.uk) – a family-run business for over fifty years; Lawrence Severn and Son Ltd, butchers (http://www.lsevernsbutchers.org.uk/), and SP Electronics computer services. A bus or a tram ride takes customers to Morrisons in nearby Bulwell.
Hucknall has a Friday Market in the newly pedestrianised High Street. Ashfield District Council has more recently agreed to run a Saturday market too.
Hucknall was a colliery town from 1861 to 1986. The sinking of the coal mines caused the settlement to grow from a village to a market town, in under a hundred years. The Hucknall Colliery Company, formed in 1861 sank two shafts, Hucknall No. 1 colliery (known as Top Pit) in 1861 off Watnall Road, and Hucknall No. 2 colliery (known as Bottom Pit) in 1866 off Portland Road. No. 1 had closed by 1943; No. 2 closed in 1986.
Hucknall Airfield, built in 1916, became RAF Hucknall. From 1927, Rolls-Royce began using the airfield for flight tests. During World War II, the aerodrome at Hucknall was the location of the first flight of a P-51 Mustang fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine. The fitting of the Merlin, replacing the existing Allison V-1710 engine allowed the Mustang air frame to reach its full potential and achieve spectacular high-altitude performance, something the Allison engine could not provide.
In the early 1950s, the Rolls-Royce site at Hucknall developed the world's first vertical-takeoff jet aircraft – actually a test rig, officially called the Thrust Measuring Rig, but soon nicknamed the Flying Bedstead because of its shape. The first untethered flight, piloted by Capt. Ron Shepherd, took place on 3 August 1954 before a distinguished audience. The rig rose slowly into the air and hovered steadily. It moved forward, made a circuit of the area, then demonstrated sideways and backwards movements, before making a successful landing. The flight was followed over the next four months by a number of free flights up to a height of 50 ft. There were pubs in Hucknall called The Flying Bedstead and The Harrier. Rolls-Royce's flight test centre closed in 1971, but engines were still tested there until late 2008. Some components are still manufactured at the site.
In December 1940, during World War II, a German prisoner-of-war, Franz von Werra attempted to escape by posing as a Dutch pilot and flying off in a Hurricane fighter. He was arrested at gunpoint as he sat in the cockpit trying to learn the controls, and returned to his prisoner-of-war camp in Swanwick, Derbyshire. Franz von Werra was eventually the only German PoW to succeed in returning to Germany, when he escaped from Canada to the United States, then to Mexico and into South America before returning to Germany, over a period from January to April 1941. His exploits feature in the film The One That Got Away.
Framework knitting was once the predominant industry in Hucknall.
One of the larger firms in Hucknall is Doff Portland. The company has grown into the UK's largest independent manufacturer of insecticides, weedkillers, other pesticides, fertilisers and garden products sold through garden centres, independent DIY retailers and large retail multiples. It is one of Europe's largest producer of premium slug killer pellets. It also provides extensive contract formulating and packing services to third parties.
- Robin Bailey (1919–1999), actor
- Steve Blatherwick (born 1973) played as a professional for football (soccer) clubs that included Nottingham Forest and Chesterfield.
- Lord Byron (1788–1824), poet, philosopher and revolutionary, was buried in the parish church.
- Ben Caunt (1815–1861), a bare-knuckle fighter known as "The Torkard Giant", became Champion of England. He possibly gave his name to the Parliament bell Big Ben.
- Eric Coates (1886–1957) composed work that includes the theme music for The Dam Busters movie and the "Sleepy Lagoon" introduction to the radio series Desert Island Discs.
- Zachariah Green (1817–1897), philanthropist, is buried in the local parish church. There is a monument to his memory in Titchfield Park.
- Jack Hall (1883–1938), professional footballer who played as an inside-forward or centre-forward for Stoke, Middlesbrough, Leicester Fosse, and Birmingham
- Thomas Cecil Howitt (1889–1968), architect, was the designer of Nottingham Council House.
- Paris Lees (born 1987), journalist, presenter and transgender rights campaigner
- Countess Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), daughter of the poet Byron, is buried in the parish church. She is credited with being the first computer programmer, having assisted in realising the potential of Babbage's analytical engine.
- Andy Turner (born 1980), sprint hurdler, gold medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2010 European Athletics Championships and bronze medallist at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics
- Enoch "Knocker" West (1886–1965), a footballer with Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, was accused of fixing a match and in 1915 banned from the game for 30 years. He protested his innocence for the rest of his life.
- Sam Weller Widdowson (1851–1927), a footballer who played for Nottingham Forest and England was said to have devised shin pads in 1874. He also played cricket for Nottinghamshire.
The Hucknall and Linby Mining Community Brass Band was formed in late 2008 after players from the Newstead Abbey Brass Band sought autonomy. The conductor is Paul Whyley. At the time the town lacked a band after Hucknall and Linby Miners' Welfare Band became Newstead Brass. It plays concerts at the parish church every Christmas, and around the local area throughout the year.
The Byron Cinema is an Art Deco building, designed by prominent local architect, Alfred J Thraves. It opened on 2 November 1936.
The Byron originally boasted a sweeping, curved façade of Thraves' favoured sandstock bricks and Portland stone, with a vertical tower feature to the right of centre, faced in cream terracotta tiles. Much was also made in the cinema's publicity of the canopy "which is provided to protect our patrons during bad weather."
The Hucknall Dispatch newspaper was enthusiastic about the 1,189-seater establishment: "The consensus of opinion was that it's a delightful house of rest and amusement, the seating being conducive to the utmost comfort, whilst the projection was without fault for the first time, so perfect has the art become in these days. This comes with installing the best, and indicates the spirit of the management that Hucknall shall be provided with all that is best in the realm of pictures." Manager R. L. Kemp told the paper, "The Byron projection room fills us with great pride and the management cordially invite any of our patrons who so desire to view the projection room. 'Wide Range' is the latest improvement developed by Western Electric engineers. It will be remembered that Western Electric were the pioneers of talking pictures and Wide Range is their latest scientific achievement.
On 13 October 1967, the Byron closed as a single-screen cinema and the building was split in two. The stalls area was converted into a bingo club that featured in the Shane Meadows film "Once Upon A Time In The Midlands", wherein Kathy Burke and Vanessa Feltz came to blows in the foyer. The upstairs balcony became a 404-seat cinema, which re-opened on 31 December 1967 with the James Bond epic "You Only Live Twice". However, it finally closed its doors in June 2006.
The town's senior football team is Hucknall Town F.C.. Founded in 1945 as a colliery team (Hucknall Colliery Welfare FC), it changed its name to Hucknall Town in 1987 after closure of the pit. It rose steadily through the non-league pyramid, winning the Northern Premier League title in 2003/04 (and so promotion to Conference North, just two leagues below the Football League), and reached the final of the FA Trophy in 2005. However, the club suffered financial difficulties in 2009 and was demoted to the Central Midlands Football League for the start of the 2013/14 season.
The works football team of Rolls-Royce was formed in 1935 and have underwent many name changes over the years. In 2009 it formed again as Hucknall Rolls Leisure F.C. and by 2013 was competing in the Nottinghamshire Senior League.
Hucknall Sports Youth Club, formed in 1977 as Riden Sports, is one of the largest such clubs in Nottinghamshire. Its original founder and now President, Derek Day, was awarded the Nottinghamshire FA Community award in 2012 for his contribution to junior football over more than thirty years.
Hucknall junior parkrun started on 27 March 2016 and is located at Titchfield Park. This was the first parkrun to start in the ADC area of Nottinghamshire, with 69 runners attending the inaugural run.
Local DJ, Paul Jenner, and his schoolteacher brother, Steve, brought local commercial radio to Hucknall in the 1980s. WHAM ("Wonderful Hucknall AM") operated for several 28-day periods on Restricted Service Licences. The brothers are now part-owners of High Peak Radio and Ashbourne Radio, permanent independent local radio stations in Derbyshire.
- Brinkhoff, Thomas (7 July 2013). "Arnold (Nottinghamshire)". City Population. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Ordnance survey website
- St. Mary Magdelene parish church, accessed 25 September 2008.
- Pevsner, N. (1951) Nottinghamshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin; pp. 85–86
- huthwaite-online Archived 14 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Hucknall Torkard History Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- National School Technology College
- Holgate Comprehensive School site Archived 13 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- athletics track
- Tesco branch site Retrieved 8 February 2017.
- Retrieved 19 May 2019.
- Invest Ashfield Mansfield Retrieved 8 February 2017.
- Ashfield DC Retrieved 8 February 2017.
- Doff site
- more information about his life by one of his descendants Archived 15 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine, not currently working.
- Eric Coates, Robert Farnon Society, accessed 5 May 2015
- Zachariah Green Memorial Drinking Fountain Archived 13 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Ashfield District Council, accessed 25 September 2008.
- "Olympic athlete Andy Turner burgled during mum's funeral". bbc.co.uk. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
- "Sam Widdowson". EnglandStats.com. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
- Hucknall Town FC
- Hucknall Cricket Club