Retford gained its first charter in 1246, when Henry III granted the right for a fair, this was later extended to holding a Saturday Market by Edward I in 1275. It was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and then remained a municipal borough until 1974 when it was merged into Bassetlaw district. Its civic traditions are maintained by Charter Trustees.
The origins of its name are unknown and have been subject to much debate, but consensus seems to conclude that it gets its name from an ancient ford crossing the River Idle. It was originally named Redforde because the river water was tinged red due to the red clay river bed and frequent crossing of people and livestock disturbing the clay river bed. The first land settled was on the western side of the ford, this area being less liable to flooding. This was known as West Retforth.
However, as the community grew it spread to occupy land on the other bank of the river, and it was this eastern part of the town that eventually became more important; hence Retford's alternative (and, for administrative purposes, still official) name of East Retford. The highly unusual coat of arms for the town consists of two rampant choughs.
Retford was largely destroyed by a fire in 1528, but prospered after the Great North Road was diverted to run through the town in 1766 and the Chesterfield Canal (1777) and the direct London to York railway (1849) were both routed via the borough. The Great North Road was diverted around the town in 1961 and part of the route through the town is now a pedestrian precinct.
The Pilgrim Fathers, a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts originated from villages of Babworth and Scrooby on the outskirts of East Retford between 1586 and 1605.53°19′20.45″N 0°56′20.57″W
In the late 1970s the then Mayor of Retford and Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, Gerry McNeill, hosted a visit from Princess Margaret to Retford.
On 27 June 2007, a few low-lying parts of the town were affected by the 2007 United Kingdom floods. The majority of Kings Park was flooded under three feet of water. The Asda and Morrisons supermarkets adjacent to the river were also flooded.
In the Market Square there is an ornate French-inspired Victorian Town Hall, in front of which is The Broad Stone. Legend says that this stone had a hollow in it that used to be filled with vinegar during plague times to disinfect coins. However, it is thought to be the upturned base of a boundary marker - perhaps the 'Dominie Cross'.
Also in the Market Square is the war memorial unveiled by Sir Frederick Milner in 1921. The memorial is in the form of an Eleanor cross, an octagonal structure of late gothic design. The names of the men killed in World War I are on the lower 8 panels and on bronze plaques are the names of those who were killed in World War II.
The monument was designed by architect Leonard W. Barnard F.R.I.B.A. of Cheltenham. The memorial is constructed of Stancliffe stone from Darley Dale, Derbyshire.
Just across from the Market Square is Cannon Square which has St Swithun's Church and a cannon captured from the Russians during the Siege of Sevastopol at the end of the Crimean War in 1856. From 2011,Retford was made the European town of respect. Each yeah retford has been this for 7 years at August. Nikolaus Pevsner, architectural historian, was fairly scathing about Retford and its lack of distinguished buildings. "A singularly unattractive town," he wrote.
However Bill Bryson, the American author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England praised the town. In his bestselling book Notes from a Small Island, he writes, 'Retford, I am pleased to report, is a delightful and charming place even under the sort of oppressive grey clouds that make far more celebrated towns seem dreary and tired. Its centrepiece is an exceptionally large and handsome market square lined with a picturesque jumble of noble Georgian buildings. Beside the main church stood a weighty black cannon with a plaque saying 'Captured at Sevastopol 1855', which I thought was a remarkable piece of initiative on the part of the locals - it's not every day, after all, that you find a Nottinghamshire market town storming a Crimean redoubt and bringing home booty - and the shops seemed prosperous and well ordered.'
Retford's Kings Park received national recognition in 2007 when it won the prestigious Britain's Best Park competition in the Midlands region. It also received the Green Flag Award in both 2008 and 2009. It is described as a 'jewel in the crown' by Bassetlaw council. St Michael the Archangel church, West Retford is on Rectory Road.
Retford has a strong economy mainly consisting of services with some light industry. The town itself is an important commercial centre for the local area, with large supermarkets, many independent shops and a market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As of 2013, Retford's town centre has an empty shop rate of only 9%, 5% less than the national average. There has also been substantial population growth and many new houses, with buyers attracted by Retford's convenient location for commuters. Bassetlaw Council recently invested £1.5 million in Retford market square and £2.5 million in Retford Enterprise Centre. Bassetlaw has a very low unemployment rate of 3.3%. The council continues to work with Retford Business Forum on finding ways to help the local economy.
Retford is bypassed by the A1 trunk road and the A57 which links Retford to a number of major towns and cities, with London just over two hours away. The East Retford bypass was built in three stages mostly along what was previously the A57. In 1957, the West Drayton diversion opened up to the B6387 near Elkesley. Also near Elkesley and Gamston is the Retford Gamston Airport. The section from Elkesley bypass to Five Lane Ends (A614 junction) at Apleyhead Wood opened in 1958, and the third section was from Five Lane Ends to north of Checker House at Ranby (A620 junction). Recent investment led to a renovation of junctions at Blyth, Great Whin Covert and Markham Moor.
The town is also served by a number of buses operated by Stagecoach in Bassetlaw, Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, TM Travel as well as smaller local bus operators, to destinations including Worksop, Newark, Nottingham and Doncaster. Retford bus station is also the terminus of the 450 National Express coach service between Victoria Coach Station in London and Retford.
The current bus station was built and opened on 30 July 2007 at a cost of £1.4 million, and was given a highly commended accolade in the infrastructure category of the UK Bus Awards 2008. The previous bus station on the same site was a collection of bus shelters, but also allowed vehicles to drive illegally through the bus station. The new bus station has new traffic controls in to prevent this.
Retford is served by two railway lines, the East Coast Main Line which runs between London and Scotland, with trains taking from 1hr 20 minutes to London Kings Cross, and the Sheffield to Lincoln Line which has links to Sheffield, Lincoln, Gainsborough, Worksop, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. These two lines meet at Retford railway station which acts as an important interchange in the British rail network.
Retford is connected to the UK Inland Waterways network by the Chesterfield Canal. Indeed, up to Retford the canal was built to be accessible by broad-beam boats rather than the more usual narrowboats, Retford Town Lock being the first narrow lock on the canal from its junction with the River Trent at West Stockwith. However, narrow sections now prevent such craft reaching Retford. The canal starts at Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Based in Retford on the lower side of the Town Lock is a boat club called Retford Mariners Boat Club (R.M.B.C), it was formed in November 1978 by a group of canal enthusiasts.
Robin Hood Airport (formerly RAF Finningley) is approximately 14 miles (23 km) away on the A638 towards Doncaster. A regular bus service is available from Retford bus station to the airport, which offers regular flights to other European countries. Due to its military past, Robin Hood airport has a long 2,580 metres (8,460 ft) runway, and so is capable of landing wide body jets such as Boeing 747s, and has plans of extending its destinations to include the US. The popular discount airline easyjet, commenced flying to many European destinations in March 2010, but withdrew by the end of the year citing commercial factors as a reason. The Hungarian airline WizzAir continues to serve several Eastern-European cities, and Thomson Holidays regularly runs charter services from there as part of their package holiday business.
Retford (Gamston) Airport is a private airport located a few miles south of Retford in the village of Gamston, operated by Gamston Aviation Ltd.
Retford is home to the Bassetlaw Museum, which was created in 1983 and has a number of collections donated by people in the local area. It was voted the Nottinghamshire Museum of the Year in 2009, following extensive renovation.
Retford has two theatres in the town: the Majestic Theatre, a former cinema, which hosts famous entertainers, music concerts from local performers and plays, and Retford Little Theatre, a smaller theatre which hosts the Retford Little Theatre amateur drama group.
There are a number of gymnasiums, spas and health, beauty and fitness centres in Retford. The new Retford Leisure Centre offers aquatic activities such as lane swimming, fun swims, and water aerobics; along with a state of the art gym facilities.
There are well established Karate and Kung Fu schools, as well as a Judo club which runs in the St. Saviours Church Hall every Wednesday evening from 6:30pm. Retford also features a small skate park within the grounds of Kings Park in the center of Retford.
Retford also has a wide range of restaurants and pubs, plus an antiques and collectables market every Friday and a farmers' market on the third Saturday of every month.
Retford is served by many youth groups including The Scout Association, Girlguiding UK, St. John Ambulance and Young Farmers, meeting within the town. Retford is also home to 1403 ATC Retford Squadron and Army Cadets. In addition Retford is served by an excellent youth musical theatre group known as The MOB (mini operatic bunch) the junior section of Retford Amateur Operatic Society.
The Idle Valley nature reserve is managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) and is the largest of the trust's reserves in Nottinghamshire. The eastern boundary is created by the natural path of the River Idle; redundant gravel quarries to the west of the river have created wetland areas which comprise the majority of the site. The reserve is a mosaic of different habitats over an area of 450 hectares, over 300 of which are designated with SSSI status. It is the largest wetland area in Nottinghamshire and over 250 species of birds have been recorded there making it one of the top birding sites in the UK. NWT has a program of activities and events for the benefit of schools, community groups and individuals and is becoming increasingly popular with established walking groups in the area and also neighbouring counties.
Retford is close to the National Trust owned Clumber Park which is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike. Extensive woodlands in the area also form the remnants of Sherwood Forest, home to the legend of Robin Hood.
Located at the south eastern edge of the town, Retford Golf Club is a private members club founded in 1921. The course is laid out around the area known locally as Whisker Hill, and it provides a varied mixture of open parkland, oak-lined fairways and changes of level. It is a popular destination for golf societies from across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire areas.
Retford has an established football team called Retford United F.C. who play in the premier division of the Baris Northern Counties East League. The club plays football at Cannon Park on the outskirts of the town. Retford is also home to Retford Town F.C., a smaller football club.
East Retford R.U.F.C., who play Rugby Union, have a very successful junior section who compete in numerous competitions. The seniors are also very successful, competing in the Midlands League Division 5.
The Retford Town Cricket and Sports Club was established in 1850 and moved to its present ground in 1858. The club was a founding member of the Bassetlaw Cricket league in 1904, their inaugural match was against Whitwell Colliery. However, they had to wait until 1984 before they won the League Division 1A Championship under the captaincy of George Jones, who shortly after emigrated to Australia. During this successful season the club chairman was Colin Loates.
Retford also has a long running Snooker League consisting of 2 Divisions. The current Division 1 League Champions of 2007/08 are Liberal 'C' captained by Steve Norris.
Retford Swimming Club represent the town and the surrounding area in the pool. The club, established in 1896, trains swimmers and takes part in competitive swimming galas against other teams in Nottinghamshire, in the Sports Centre League. Retford Swimming Club has been very successful recently, being promoted to Division 1 of the Sports Centre League at the end of last season. An annual Open Meet is held at Ponds Forge International Pool in Sheffield, hosted by the club.
Retford is primarily served by two local radio stations, BBC Radio Sheffield and the local commercial radio station Trax FM. Hallam FM's coverage area also includes Retford. The majority of the town receives its terrestrial television from the Emley Moor transmitting station, which broadcasts local news from BBC Look North and Calendar News. A minority of residents receive programming from Belmont serving Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, Waltham serving the East Midlands or Bilsdale serving North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley.
Retford also has two newspapers serving the town, the Retford Times which is published in Retford, and the Guardian and Trader newspaper, a free weekly newspaper published in Worksop. The Worksop Guardian, although predominately a newspaper serving Worksop and its area, also covers stories in Retford.
Retford cemetery is a Victorian era cemetery, with the sites first burial dating back to 1854 (when it was built). Prior to the cemetery, maps dating back to 1835 confirm that the area was covered by farmland.
It is approximately 25 acres (10 ha) in size, situated between Babworth Road and North Road. The Chesterfield canal runs alongside the eastern border and to the west of the cemetery, there is a primary school and a railway line. It is maintained by Bassetlaw District Council (BDC), of which they have freehold ownership of the site. The cemetery contains 14 Commonwealth war graves from the First World War, and 16 from the Second World War.
There is regular vehicular access to the site from Babworth Road. At the front gate, from the main entrance, BDC personnel and members of the public have the ability to park vehicles in a small car park. The cemetery gates are locked at 20:00 and opened in the morning at 09:00 by a security firm.
Since 2006, the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and North Notts Bat Group have taken an active part in noting mammal species found within the grounds of Retford cemetery. They have found normal mammals from hedgehogs to moles and even butterflies. They have also assembled an extensive list of bird species that have been sighted within the grounds, coding the list to show if they are resident, summer visitors or winter visitors.
Further to the active wildlife lists, the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust also have noted a list of plant spices that have grown from 2006, onwards.St Swithun's C of E Primary & Nursery School
St Josephs Catholic Primary school
Bracken Lane Primary School
Thrumpton Primary School
Carr Hill Primary School
Ordsall Primary School
The Elizabethan Academy
Retford Oaks Academy
As part of a major overhaul of secondary schools in the Bassetlaw area, all schools have now been moved to new facilities built around the town as part of the Transform Schools scheme. Retford is home to a Post-16 centre which has united all Sixth Form students from each of the above schools in one site (formerly Ordsall Hall School) and provide other courses available through North Nottinghamshire College (based at Worksop).Anthony Perrinott Lysberg Barber, Baron Barber, PC (4 July 1920 – 16 December 2005), was a British Conservative politician who served as a member of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and Chancellor of the Exchequer 1970-4.
Frank Branston, (9 May 1939 – 14 August 2009), award-winning journalist and newspaper owner, also the first directly-elected mayor of Bedford.
Doc Cox, went to the King Edward VI School.
Robert Craufurd. Major General during Peninsular War and Member of Parliament for East Retford between 1802-06.
Catherine Grace Frances Gore (Moody), novelist and playwright, was born in Retford, the daughter of a wine merchant, in 1799.
Philip Jackson, actor best known for his role as Chief Inspector Japp in the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot.
John Kelsall, (31 July 1947 – 4 November 1986), British composer, conductor and lecturer.
Liam Lawrence, football player for Portsmouth FC and the Republic of Ireland national football team.
Samuel Milner, physicist.
Derek Randall, cricketer who played first-class cricket for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and the English cricket team in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Started his playing career at Retford Cricket Club
Sam Trickett, poker player.
John Warham, photographer.
Rowan Atkinson aka Mr. Bean, actor who lived on London Road.
Captain hook who sailed the seven seas.
Charlie Mills, actor best known for The Waterboatman, who's family own Lound Hall in Bothamsall.