The area around King Edward was characterised by rapidly increasing industrialisation from the 1880’s onwards, with an attendant need for housing for the growing workforce – and schooling for their children.
At the turn of the 20th Century, within a half mile or so of King Edward, particularly between the schools and the town centre, there were already; a malt house and a rapidly expanding brewery (Mansfield Brewery was, apparently, once one of the largest independent breweries in the UK, employing some 4,000 workers at its height), a hosiery works, several mills, a gas works, several foundries, lime kilns, a boiler works, extensive railway sidings and a cattle market. A large graveyard and the widespread house-building works in the area would also have demanded a great deal of local labour. The schools would have served the families of this growing workforce for the next half century, and provided early training in craft skills for many of those who followed their fathers and mothers into the factories.
At the top of Littleworth, south of what was called Bottleneck Lane and is now called Forest Road, there were several quarries, mostly supplying sand for making moulds in the various foundries in the immediate area. The course of the Midland Railway line that supported these quarries, and transported coal from Mansfield, Rufford and Blidworth Collieries to the sidings at Baums Lane, can still be seen at the top of Littleworth and bounding what is now the school grounds.
The whole areas would have been a bustling hive of, possibly noisy, probably dirty, activity. Steam and noise from the railways on either side of the schools, and smells from the brewery, the foundries, the steam trains and the cattle market would have been much in evidence, especially through the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
Of course, much of this has now changed. The agricultural land has long been built upon and the factories were all closed and the sites mostly cleared by the 80’s. Very little sign remains of the railway sidings and factory sites along Great Central Road and Baums Lane, except the shape of parcels of land and remnants of stone boundary walls. The Midland Railway line at the top of Littleworth was lifted in the 1980’s, and the bridge over Littleworth removed in the 1990’s; the old track bed remains in parts of the cycleway to Clipstone, and there are various cuttings and embankments still in evidence along its length.
The vacant lots have since been largely used for business and retail park development or housing. For example: Mansfield Brewery acquired railway land along Great Central Road in 1971 in order to expand their distribution facilities, although this site is itself in the process of demolition following the breweries eventual closure in 2002; the new police Divisional HQ on Great Central Road was built on the site of the Mansfield Central railway station in the early 1980’s; B&Q and Halfords were built at the Nottingham Road end of Baums Lane in the 1990’s and, since 2000, Pizza Hut, Fitness First and Topps Tiles - the last building in Baums Lane probably associated with the railway was demolished in late 2007/early 2008; Sherwood Iron Foundry (James Maude Ltd) on Forest Road closed in 2004 and the site was redeveloped for housing in 2006-07; the quarries south of Forest Road have also been redeveloped for housing, Mansfield (Delamere) in the 1970’s and Berry Hill (King’s Stand) since 2000.
Sherwood Foundry was the last remaining foundry in Mansfield and was of particular historic significance. Records suggest that there had been a foundry on Forest Road since the early 18th Century, and that it had some claim to fame for providing the decorative cast-iron lamp-standards used for the first electric street lighting in the UK on the Embankment in London.
The growth in industry is reflected in the increase in the population of Mansfield, which rose by just a third from c.16,000 to c.22,000 in the hundred years from 1801 to 1901, but then by nearly five times that number in the next hundred years, to 98,000 in 2001.
This is further echoed in the provision of housing. When the schools were built, in 1903, there were no houses on St Margaret Street, St Andrew Street or St Catherine Street, on which King Edward actually stands (see the 1903 photograph, above). However, evidence suggests these roads were fully developed within 2 to 3 years of the schools being opened. There were a number of isolated terraces already on Littleworth itself, but maps show that much of the surrounding land, especially to the south and to east of the schools, between Littleworth, Rock Hill/Ratcliffe Gate and Forest Road/Windsor Road, was largely agricultural land and orchards. This had been mostly built upon by the 1920’s, and the children of the inhabitants would have to have attended King Edward, or Newgate Lane from 1905, until High Oakham opened in 1919.
Railway sidings near King Edward Schools, from a diagram by Mr P Anderson.
This complex of sidings, associated with Mansfield Railway’s Central Station, was developed between c.1910 and 1970. They would have been extremely busy and noisy. The sidings along Baum’s Lane would have occupied what is now the ‘meadow’ part of Titchfield Park, south of the River Maun, and the area now occupied by retail park developments.