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In any local history study, roads, lanes and paths invariably leave a great deal to be discovered, this is as true of Whitwell as of any other parish.  Just as Whitwell now stands close to the main North/South and East/ West land routes, it is quite possible that the crossing of similar tracks in ancient times gave rise to the first settlement here.  Certainly the route from Dore to Whitwell formed the boundary between Mercia and Northumbria in Anglo-Saxon times, while in the reign of Charles I, Whitwell was on the boundary between Royalist and Parliamentary forces.

The earliest tracks would be formed by villagers, going about their daily tasks within the parish.  Some would travel further afield, taking their goods to market, possibly in Worksop or Chesterfield, while others would stay more locally moving their cattle to graze on areas of common land.

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A Shepherd moving his sheep down Station Road

The movement of cattle to market gave rise to cattle roads or drove roads.  The whole of the Trent valley southwards was a recognised drove road by which cattle from the north were driven to an all-devouring London market; some of this cattle movement would probably pass through Whitwell.  At a later stage, Mansfield became a marketing centre for cattle, so much of the locally reared stock would be driven along tracks for sale there.  Another name for a drove road was Green Lane, could it be that our Green Lane - now Portland Lane - was once a track along which the cattle were driven?

Apart from these early cattle tracks, the Romans were the first to lay down proper roads or streets, usually to connect their major places of fortification.  One of these roads ran from Chester Green in Derby to the garrisons at Doncaster and York and was known as the Rykenild Way (or Streete).  In Derbyshire part of this route can be traced from Harthill, over Whitwell Common, through Markland Gripps to Bolsover.  Possibly the find of Roman coins on the Whitwell/Clowne parish boundary would be near to this route.

The number of paths and tracks continued to increase as areas of settlement were linked; some paths formed the boundaries of farmsteads, while others linked the outlying farmsteads as with Bondhay Lane, Gapstick Lane and Gipsy Hill.  The boundaries of the manorial lands and estate lands, such as Welbeck, were bounded by paths; some of these were bridle paths suitable only for horses and pedestrians but not for carts.

The formalisation and restriction of passage rights also had an effect on development.  For instance, trade routes had to avoid the Welbeck Estate, while the progressive enclosure of common land led to a concentration of traffic on fewer, more clearly defined paths than there had been hitherto.  When the enclosure roads were made, they had to be 40 feet wide, from hedge to hedge, so that vehicles could pass on the grass verge, if the road was blocked.

The story, however, is not one of continual development, some tracks changed or disappeared altogether through lack of use.  The main route from Worksop to Warsop was at one period probably along Featherbed Lane, Ratcliffe, Bogey Lane, Hall Leys, Belph and through Cuckney.  The Hodthorpe toll bar to Worksop road only opened in the 19th century, until then the road from the south through Belph ran along Broad Lane and Drinking Pit Lane, over Sparken Hill and Manton bar to Retford.

The state of road surfaces was not the only problem, the ways were frequented by hordes of vagrants of all conditions, including beggars, chapmen, clergymen, higglers, jaggers and pedlars (or cadgers), so that people were afraid to travel from their homesteads at night.  The Parish Poor Laws served to keep these itinerants on the move and only with the accession of Elizabeth 1 did the Vagrancy Laws attempt to redress the problem.

During the road widening near the Parish Church in 1970, far more bodies were exhumed than the number which the registers suggested should have been buried there.  The bodies of vagrants who, when they died in a parish, were invariably buried in a corner of the churchyard without any record being kept.

Little was done to improve roadways in the Middle Ages.  The Lord of the Manor was responsible for the upkeep of roads within the parish and the duty was usually discharged by the Parish Constable.  Under this obligation, the trees and undergrowth for 200 ft on either side of the highway were to be cut down and any ditches, 'wherein a man may lurk to do hurt', filled in.

The Highway Act of 1555 transferred the responsibility for the upkeep of the King's highway from the manor to the parish.  Each parishioner earning less than £50 per year was required to work six days each year on the highway.  Those having an income of more than £50 per year had to provide a man, a horse and a cart.  It was permissible to commute this statutory labour by payment of an agreed sum or by providing substitute labour.  A Parish Surveyor was appointed to supervise the work; he was elected by a committee of the churchwardens, the constable and some parishioners - needless to say, the office was not a popular one.

The Surveyor's main concern was to finish his year’s turn of unpaid duty with as little friction as possible.  All that the 'statute labour' succeeded in doing was to hack down some undergrowth, throw a few stones into the largest holes and fill a few ruts with earth.

Despite this attempt at road maintenance, financed solely from fines imposed by the magistrates on those who ref used to do work, the increase in traffic carrying heavier loads, led to further deterioration.  Often roads were impassable, especially after heavy winter rains.  Locally there was an increase in pack horse traffic through the parish as salt was carried from the mines in Cheshire, over the Pennines and through Chesterfield to the Trent.  Lead was also carried from Derbyshire, along the Packman Way. over Whitwell Common and Steetley to the Lead Hill in Worksop, where they unloaded.  On their return journey to the west, the pack horse trains carried malt, flour and timber from local industries.  On July 29th, 1780, John Wesley on his only visit spoke on Lead Hill to 'only a small company of as stupid people as 1 every saw'.

The marker posts, which, by Act of Parliament, had to be erected along the packhorse routes, are of interest.  Often they were five or six feet high and made of millstone grit or wood.  The names on them were not easily read, sometimes reading more like an anagram than a place name.  When erected at a cross-road, the correct path to take was not always easy to determine and mileages could be stated in miles of 1,760 or 2,200 yards.

The normal load for a packhorse was 2401b, compared to the 30 tons which a single horse could tow along the water.  In 1443, John Sayton was paid 3s:4d. for carrying with his wain and oxen, one hogshead of salted venison from Sheffield to Worksop by command of the Lord Sheriff, and two Worksop carriers were paid a further 23 shillings to take the hogshead and some fresh venison on to London (using horses instead of oxen).  The carrier service from Sheffield to London in 1787 took from six to eight days, while the flying coach service could make the journey in 26 hours.

Although a large variety of goods was carried by packhorse, wagons and coaches were being used in increasing numbers, imposing still greater wear on the much-used tracks.  The turnpike system was introduced to ease the maintenance burden on the parish and to transfer at least part of the cost to the road user.  This was particularly important as through traffic increased with the growth of industry but was unpopular with the local farmers.

Each turnpike was administered by a trust (of interested parties) established by Act of Parliament.  For instance the section of the Mansfield to Worksop turnpike from Cuckney was established in 1864, while the Chesterfield to Worksop road was turnpiked in 1739.  A report on the Chesterfield road in 1892 reads:

'The road on the western side leads to Chesterfield, and Derbyshire in general; ft used to be deep clay, but at present is mended as far as Barlborough, with a good covering of stone from the Ladylea Quarry (Steetley) - [by a sidecut, limestone from this quarry is commodiously transferred to barges on the canal].

The ancient road from Chesterfield to Worksop, used to pass by Shireoaks and Haggin Fields, and entered the town by the common on the north side.  Edward, Duke of Norfolk, shortened the distance materially by bringing it directly through his park to the market place.  The street was called Westgate; being inconvenient for ingress and egress of carriages, the road has since been carried from Bridge Street round the base of Castle Hill.'

Eventually toll gates were erected in the parish at Southgate, 'Wayside' (near the Parish Church), Steetley Corner, Hollin Hill and Hodthorpe (Broad Lane).  The turnpike trustees were local landowners and industrialists with an interest in the improvement of a particular piece of road.  The Turnpike Surveyor took over the responsibilities of the parish surveyor and was still entitled to call on a portion of parish labour.  Often the collection of tolls was entrusted to toll farmers; payment at one toll exempted a traveller from further payment at other toll gates in the parish.  Travellers on foot were exempt from payment but could be charged for any baggage they might carry.  The turnpike trusts obtained the stone for road repair from numerous small quarries dotted around the parish, typical of these is the site on the opposite side of the road to Arrow Farm.

Typical toll charges were:

4d. per cart load with 4 oxen

2d. per cart load with 2 oxen

2d. per horse drawn load

1/4d. for a load on a man's back

An 18th century traveller noted 60 packhorses in a drove along the Chesterfield road, which would incur a sizeable toll in the journey from Derbyshire to the Trent.

After the packhorse and the oxen, the horse continued to be the king of the road through the 19th century, carrying both the professional man and the tradesman.  It pulled the gig, the landau, the victoria and the carrier’s cart; in pairs it drew the wagonette and heaved the farm wagon; teams of tour used to pull the charabancs laden with the Choir and Sunday School children on their outings to the Dukeries and Markland Grips.  They were also a familiar sight when drawing the stagecoach - Miss Swift, born in 1837, daughter of John Swift a woodman working at Welbeck, remembered the daily passing of the stagecoach from Worksop to Chesterfield and said the main event of the day was when coachman Lockwood drew up at the toll bar near the rectory.  The main road from Whitwell Common in those days came down by the Parish Church and over Sunnyside to Redhill, the shorter road by Whitwell Wood had not then been opened.  Florence Ricketts, niece of Mr Tinker, one time landlord of the Vaults Hotel, spoke of a two-horse, double decker coach, which her father operated as a regular service in Worksop; between Manton Inn and Sunnyside - pennies were scarce however and the people preferred to walk to the shops, so the service was withdrawn.  He later introduced the first taxicab into Worksop.

With so many horses in use a coaching house with livery stable was essential.  'Ye Olde George Inn' fulfilled this role - the familiar mounting steps can still be seen outside the building; while the stables used to stand in the yard behind.  In 1850 Charles Alletson, farmer and gamekeeper, was the licensee, he had a family of 12 sons and 5 daughters.

The Highway Act of 1835 abolished the 'statute labour' for repairing roads and replaced the old system with payments to the turnpike trusts from the parish highway rate: these contributions were fixed by special highway sessions of the local justices of the peace.  In 1859, the Worksop payment for the Chesterfield turnpike was £90.  An Order from the Local Government Board wound up the Chesterfield to Worksop turnpike trust in 1883, the trustees were responsible for the removal of toll gates and the demolition of toll houses, unless otherwise requested by the parish.

Throughout the turnpike period, roads had remained defective -there was no road system, merely unfenced tracks.  They were extremely muddy and treacherous in bad weather, and rutted when it was dry.  The narrow tracks were made worse by wheeled wagons and carts, and many roads were impassable in winter.

As the turnpike trusts were wound up, the money derived allowed the engagement of full time engineers and road builders, who were able to apply the building techniques of Telford and McAdam, established in the mid19th century and thus the standard of our present day roads was set.  The responsibility for the upkeep of these roads was now taken over the by District and County Councils.

With the better road standards, new forms of transport began to appear, the penny farthing in 1870, followed a decade later by cycles with equal sized wheels and pneumatic tyres, and soon after the turn of the century, motor cycles, cars, commercial vehicles and buses.  As the newer forms of transport became established, we can read of some rather amusing incidents and others rather more serious:

Typical of 1927:

- Ivy Crookes, Unity Bus Service, fined £5 for allowing 62 passengers on a 30 seater bus.  The policeman said their heads looked like a big load of turnips.

- W.T. Underwood operated excursions from the Boot and Shoe to Cleethorpes for 5s:6d.

- East Midland and the Unity Bus Service were fined for driving in competition to arrive first at a bus stop.

- P.C. Parfitt apprehended a motor-cyclist for having no licence and speeding at 30 mph.

- Samuel Lawson, aged 40, of 122 King St., Hodthorpe was killed by a Wigfall's lorry while cycling to Worksop.  The inquest was held in the Primitive Methodist Chapel with a jury of six and Mr Sam Cottam as foreman.

- A joke as seen by the bench:

Herbert Beardsley, a miner, travelling in a bus was heard to say 'is there anyone here from Spencer's Union, because I'll cut their b... throat'.  He pulled out a knife and called complainant, Arthur Gundby, 121 King St., a 'rotten dog'.

- George Spouge, a Whitwell clothier was fined 7s:6d. for irregular number plates.

- A 4-ton petrol tanker crashed at the Half Moon.

All these were in marked contrast to an incident in 1897 when a steam engine ran away down High Street, near the blacksmith's shop; the engine had two wagons with between 20 and 30 tons of bricks behind it.  'The hill is very foul and great excitement prevailed'.  The machine belonged to Mr Jessop of Worksop and the driver had the presence of mind to turn into Heartley's wall.

The story of the roads is an ever changing one, new forms of transport appear as the older types disappear.  Similarly, the roads themselves continue to change.  In October 1927, the new road from Hodthorpe Club towards the Toll Bar was opened: in November 1934 the road from Mill Lane to Sunnyside was widened: Southfield Lane, Portland Lane, the road to Bakestone Moor and King Street, Hodthorpe have all changed in recent decades.  Even the back lanes along which the night soil was carried have a modem surface.  Red Lane has disappeared, while with the new housing developments new roads are being made.  The scene is an ever-changing one, but a far cry from the paths of the early settlement.


The first commercial railway in the world, between Stockton and Darlington, was approved by Parliament in 1825.  There followed an intense building programme, when between 1830-1850 some 6,000 miles of track were completed, and most importantly, London was linked with the Midlands.  Various railway companies were formed including the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) and the Midland Railway, both of which were to have an influence on Whitwell and the surrounding district.

The Midland Railway tried to extend into Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire by proposing a Mansfield to Worksop railway in November 1860.  The line was to pass via Langwith Mill, Belph, Steetley and Haggonfields to join the existing MSLR railway just east of Shireoaks.  The Dukes of Newcastle and Portland disagreed on the proposed line and the project was abandoned.

Four years later, the Midland Railway submitted fresh plans for a line further to the west along the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border.  There was a long discussion over whether the railway should run between Mansfield and Worksop or between Mansfield and Retford; Worksop was favoured because of the distribution of the coal measures.

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Whitwell Station

The Duke of Portland insisted that the course of the line be moved to the west to avoid Welbeck Park.  Ideally the line would have carried through the natural depression of Creswell Crags but the engineers were instructed to divert and to construct a tunnel 500 yards long.  With the idea of the railway accepted, the Duke then considered that he had justification for diverting the Cuckney to Worksop turnpike road from running across the estate - an enabling Act was presented to Parliament in 1864.

This was not the first Act, concerning railways, which a Duke of Portland had proposed.  In 1809 the 4th Duke, who as William Cavendish had twice been Prime Minister, proposed a ten-mile long railway from Kilmarnock, Scotland to the harbour at Troon on the Clyde coast.  He planned to export the vast mineral wealth, which he had inherited by marriage.  The railway took four years to build at a cost of £40,000 and what was probably the first steam loco in the country, built for £750 and aptly named 'The Duke', made its first run in 1817.  However, the railway was not a success.

The Midland Railway Mansfield Railways Act, dated 5th July 1865, approved the following:

'Railway No. 4 - Commencing in Mansfield at the Midland Railway and terminating in Worksop at the MSLR.'

'Railway No. 5 - In the township of Shireoaks, commencing at the junction with Railway No. 4 and terminating with the MSLR.'

The Act also granted running powers for the MSLR to Mansfield.

Work commenced on the building of the railway in June, 1870, the contractor being a Thomas Oliver of Horsham, whose estimated cost of the work was £147,188:16s:4d exclusive of stations.  The Duke of Portland was to pay for Whitwell station at an estimated cost of £500.

The commencement of work on the railway line must have resembled the building of a modern motorway with destruction and chaos everywhere.  There would be the crudely-laid construction lines of the contractor, for movement of materials, and hundreds of navvies working with picks and shovels, for although some steam power was available, most of the work was done by hand.

Navvy camps still existed in the 1890's although by this time the men were no longer the 'uncivilised species', which had terrorised the country in earlier years.  All railway workers were referred to as navvies, but really they had many diverse skills such as bricklayers, bridge builders, steel erectors, blacksmiths, enginemen and pipelayers.  It is interesting to note that the population of Whitwell rose dramatically from 1,487 in 1861 to 1,945 in 1871 and fell to 1,809 after the completion of the railway.

On completion of the railway, the steepest gradient was 1:120 between Steetley and Whitwell; many will recall the steam trains labouring with their heavy loads of coal before the 1939-45 war, especially if the track was wet.  The sharpest curve was where the Midland line joined with the MSLR at Shireoaks.

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A steam train arrives at Whitwell from Creswell

On Tuesday, 1st June 1875 the first passenger service commenced between Mansfield and Worksop; initially the trains ran through to Retford but the service was eventually cut back to Worksop.  The passenger service consisted of three Midland Railway trains between Mansfield and Worksop with a journey time of 40 minutes and three MSLR trains between Mansfield and Sheffield with a journey time of 75 minutes, as shown in the timetable.

  am am am pm pm pm   am am pm pm pm pm
Mansfield 7.10 10.30 11.45 4.10 6.10 8.10 Sheffield   8.55   1.55 6.35  
              Worksop 9.10   1.20     7.50
Whitwell 7.40 10.58 12.15 4.38 6.40 8.38 Whitwell 9.20 9.40 1.30 2.40 7.20 8.00
Worksop 7.50   12.25   6.50                
Sheffield   11.45   5.25   9.25 Mansfield 9.50 10.10 2.00 3.10 7.50 8.30

The Whitwell School log states that students were 'away in the afternoon', to join in the excitement of seeing the first passenger trains, while the brass band was in attendance to give a noisy welcome.

The only colliery traffic at this period was from Shireoaks (sunk in 1856) to be followed by Steetley (1876) and Whitwell (1890).  The consolidation of the railway brought added prosperity to the parish; postal and newspaper services were improved (the Nottinghamshire Evening News used to arrive each weekday evening); there was greater mobility of labour and the coal mines began to prosper.  Coastal resorts, especially Cleethorpes and Skegness, became more accessible and the standard of living for everyone was improved.

Various types of engine could be identified on the Worksop line, all painted in black livery and each type classified by the driving wheel arrangement.  The large 4-6-8's were only seen drawing the long excursion trains but the 4-6-0 was more familiar drawing the heavy coal trains and straining up the Steetley incline while the small 4-4-2 'Tilbury' tanks pulled the passenger trains.  Freight wagons were distinguished by their colourings and markings, among them LMS, NE, ICI, Bolsover, Butterley, Staveley, Shireoaks, Markham, Wigan; closed vans for fruit and fish were used frequently and open vans for carriage of livestock.

In November, 1888, passenger trains were introduced between Mansfield and Chesterfield via Elmton & Creswell, this service continued until 1954, although the Saturday trains to Blackpool in summer continued until 1962.  There was also a popular'9d. hop' service from Whitwell to Sheffield, via Creswell.

From 1st December, 1910 the South Yorkshire Joint Railway commenced a service to Doncaster from Shireoaks.  Four trains each day left Shireoaks on the 50 minute journey via Dinnington & Laughton, Maltby and Tickhill.  From 1920 the service ran into Worksop and so Whitwell was conveniently connected by a local route to Doncaster.

Nationally some 120 companies had been responsible for establishing the railway network; these were instructed to amalgamate under the Railway Act of 1921.  Thus the SR, GWR, LNER and LMSR were born - the latter taking over the Worksop to Mansfield and Nottingham railway.  A standard revenue target was set for the four companies but right through the 1930's, they never achieved it.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the government assumed control of the railways (as it had done in the first war) and the Transport Act of 1947 reorganised the railways into the six regions of British Railways.  The Worksop timetable for passenger trains in 1950 was:
































waits at











Mansfield for 38 min.


 In 1955, a 15-year modernisation programme was announced and steam engines were replaced by diesel and electric locomotives.  Overmanning, strikes, inefficient stations and uneconomic lines influenced the Transport Minister to appoint Lord Beeching to remedy the problem of increasing losses.  As a result many passenger services were cut, including the one from Worksop to Nottingham, and many stations were closed - Whitwell station was eventually dismantled by a group of railway enthusiasts and rebuilt on a site near Butterley.

The last scheduled passenger train to Nottingham left Worksop at 8.07pm on Saturday, 12th October, 1964; travelling enthusiasts were issued with souvenir tickets dating back to the old LNER/LMS days.  A second-class, single to Mansfield cost 3s:gd.  Driver Ken Wilcox of Nottingham was in charge of 2-6-4 tank engine No 42284 and the train was seen away from Worksop East signalbox by signalman Tom Wilson, Prince Charles Road, Worksop, while the recoupling of the engine after the familiar reversal procedure was done by Porter D. Hooley of Carlton under the supervision of Assistant Station Foreman D.A. Griffin of Queensway, Worksop.  The operation was watched by Porter, Harry Crookes, and the parcels were loaded by Leading Parcel Porter A. Jackson.

Among those making the journey were Mr. George Whetton of Oakholme Avenue, who paid 5s:4d. for two first-class tickets to Creswell, and 13-year-old Brian Fretwell and 11 -year-old Graham Whawell of Creswell, who had earlier travelled to Retford trainspotting.  Bidding a farewell from the platform was 71 year old former North-Eastern railwayman Charles Henry Crowther, who had started his career at Leeds in 1906.

The last train in the opposite direction left Nottingham at 10.25pm and Mansfield at 11.14pm, terminating at Creswell.  A small group of revellers marked the departure by letting off fireworks and daubing the train with the slogan 'Beeching must go'.

So after eighty-nine years of regular passenger service the schedule was ended and apart from the occasional excursion train and on one occasion the Royal Train, the line is used predominantly by the liner trains which supply fuel to the power stations on the 'merry-go-round'.  However, in 1989 pressure is once again being exerted through the European Economic Community for the introduction of a pay-train service between Worksop and Nottingham.  Unfortunately Whitwell's fine, stone station is no longer there to receive the passengers.


The history of the Chesterfield Canal, which passes to the North of the parish and influenced the local economy in the 18th and early 19th centuries like so many other canals, is linked with the name of James Brindley, the first great engineer of the canal era.

James Brindley presented his plans for the canal to a public meeting at Worksop in 1769.  Work started in 1771 and the canal was open throughout by September 1777, after several delays in building the Norwood Tunnel.

The canal ran for 45 miles from the River Trent at West Stockwith, through Retford and Worksop and across the hills to Chesterfield on the westerly escarpment.  The total cost of construction was £152,000 (against an estimated cost of £100,000).

In 1782, after five years of operation, the net annual profit was only £4,811, instead of an estimated £15,000.  Conditions improved progressively and by 1789 some 74,312 tons of cargo were carried - 42,379 tons being accounted for by coal.  The chief commodities carried were stone, corn, lime, lead, timber, iron and miscellaneous cargoes.  The stone supplied from Steetley Quarry for building the new Houses of Parliament was carried by this means.

An interesting trade existed during the Napoleonic Wars: an arsenal was established at Chesterfield and cannon balls were sent down the canal and transhipped at West Stockwith, thence along the River Trent to Humberside and so abroad.

Traffic using the canal gradually increased until the 1840's, when over 200,000 tons per year were carried.  However in 1848 the canal was taken over by the Manchester and Lincoln Union Railway Company and traffic then started to decline.  This railway amalgamated with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, whose 'weight' notices still remain on some bridges, and the canal company name was changed to 'The Manchester and Lincoln Union Railway Company and Chesterfield and Gainsborough Canal Company' - perhaps M.L.U.R.C.C.G.C.C. for short?

Besides the increasing transfer of goods to the quicker traffic of the railway, two other factors accelerated the decline.  First, the effects of mining subsidence.  Between 1871 and 1906, £21,000 was spent on repairs to Norwood Tunnel but, after a collapse in 1908, it was finally closed.  Three million bricks were used to construct the tunnel - the death knell came with the building of the Ml motorway.

The second factor causing the decline was the amount of pilfering that took place.  During one check, of 5,011 tons that started down the canal, 629 tons 'disappeared' en route.  Attempts were even made to keep the boats continuously manned by closing the inns near to the canal side.  Thus the decline by the end of the 19th century was rapid.

The collapse of the Norwood Tunnel marked the end of traffic from Chesterfield, although trade continued at the lower end of the canal.  In the late l930's only about 20,000 tons per year were carried and during World War 1, war supplies were carried from Worksop to the River Trent and some trade lingered on in the Stockwith basin until the 1950's.

Despite the decline, a group of enthusiasts have formed a society and parts of the canal have been restored to a reasonable standard, so that on 18th November, 1968, the canal became a 'Cruiseway' under the Transport Act, 1968.  In addition to cruising, angling and towpath walking are activities increasingly followed along the canal.

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The Old Toll Bar, Mansfield Road

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Whitwell Railway Station


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