Wellow, in Nottinghamshire, has its share of superlatives – and interesting prices
North Nottinghamshire is not, on the whole, a place of pretty villages. This used to be a land so rich in great country houses that it became known as the Dukeries. There are not many Dukes around now.
Having grown rich in the 19th century from the coal that lay on their estates, originally hewn from Sherwood Forest, the noble families took wing in the 20th. Charles Barry’s palatial Clumber Park was demolished in 1938, causing Pevsner to observe: “The 20th century has few wealthy men with the inclination or means to go on with them.’’ (How different things look in the new age of oligarchs and billionaires.)
Slag heaps and mining villages were interspersed with beautiful but houseless parks and remnants of old forest. Now the slag heaps have been flattened, and you wouldn’t know that this stretch of the country had been anything but farmland.
Wellow fits comfortably into the new landscape. It has always been a country village, boasting the tallest maypole in Britain. According to the village website, Wellow was founded by the Cistercians, who came to Rufford Abbey in the 12th century (Rufford became the seat of the Savile family; half of it was pulled down in 1959). Wanting seclusion, they displaced the existing village. Perhaps the monks gave them a hand building the church of St Swithin, the earliest parts of which belong to that time.
Sherwood Forest would become famous for the outlaws who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The villagers of Wellow didn’t take any chances with them, building a defensive ditch and bank around their settlement – George Dyke – which can still be walked.
In the centre of the village is a triangular green. The Primitive Methodists built a chapel on it in 1847, in a harmoniously Georgian style. Earlier in the decade, the toftholders, who had the right to graze their animals on common land, constructed a stone-walled pound. This was the “pinfold”, in which a man called the Pinner kept any horse, sheep or cow which had strayed onto the commons without authority until a fine was paid. The toftholders were jealous of their rights; as a result, Wellow – unlike many villages – has kept 40 acres of common, second only to Southwell as the largest common-land acreage north of Watford.
Wellow also has, in Wellow Park, “the largest remaining example of ash-wych elm woodland in Nottinghamshire,’’ according to the designation. Next to it are the earthworks of Jordan’s Castle, which may be Norman.
Most of Wellow is brick, with tiled or pantiled roofs. A few buildings, like the Red Lion – one of two pubs – have painted themselves white; a couple of houses show signs of half timber. Two cottages by the green are now for sale through Gasgoines (01623 860328), at £399,950 and £375,000.
Smith and Partners, Southwell, can offer a modern chalet for £345,000. The former brewhouse at Rufford Abbey, now a fourbedroom house, is on the market with Richard Watkinson and Partners (01623 626990) for £695,000. For this you will also get the former Paddle House, where the beer was paddled, and a watertower in the Tuscan style, which originally provided a head of water for the fountain (it is described as having “further potential’’– an exciting space for people who like stairs).
Properties in the once stupendously grand Dukeries are now, by national standards, going cheap. Looking around, I’m struck by the value that you can find in some of the farmhouses – £460,000 for a six-bedroom, Grade II-listed example at Eakring (Richard Watkinson and Partners); £390,000 for an attractive four-bedroom one at Kneesall (Humberts, Newark: 01636 701401); £325,000 for a Welshlooking Victorian one at Boughton (Ian Sandy, Newark; 0844 805 5434). When you think that London is only 80 minutes away from Newark or Retford stations, these are interesting prices.
It isn’t easy to push the boat out, but one of the pricier properties around is Inkersall Cottage, hidden away in Sherwood Forest. The converted stable block contains a heated swimming pool. It could be yours for £795,000 through Charles and Co. in Southwell (01636 812525). For the full monty, you might need to look nearer Newark. The Manor at East Markham has gardens, pony paddocks, marble bathrooms, any number of beams and an asking price of £1.35 million (Savills, Nottingham: 015 934 8000).
Clive Aslet is Editor at Large of Country Life.