The Parish Council has asked me to act as the Orston antiquarian. This does not mean that I want all your old documents and photos! Instead, I can advise you what to do with them. Ideally, they should be deposited with Nottingham Archives Office whose purpose is to store documents etc under proper atmospheric conditions (they can easily rot) making them available to anyone who is conducting historical research. If you want a copy of them, I can scan them for you before they are deposited. If you are unable to take them and would like me to make arrangements, or you would like to know how to research documents at the Archives Office, please call me on 01949 850464 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nottingham Archives Office is at Castle Meadow Road, Nottingham, NG2 1AG. The building fronts onto Wilford Street and is next door to the Magistrates Court and the HMRC Buildings are across the road. Its telephone number is 0115 9581634 and its website is
In 1960 Nurse Mary Gaydon, a resident of this village, had the foresight to take a film of the village and it’s inhabitants. Similarly a few years later Mrs E Gunn did likewise. Later these cine films were transferred to VHS tape and when it’s time came were again transferred to DVD. Now they are on the internet via YouTube! Needless to say quality is not of the highest but it is all we have. So, we may all view these today via our computers; a concept, no doubt, Miss Gaydon and Mrs Gunn would have been completely unaware of!
The film has been split into 6 parts (due to the limits put on by YouTube) and by clicking on the links below you may view each one in turn. Jean Smeeton has offered to view these to help put names to the villagers and at some future date these will be published on our web site. Enjoy, as they say!
It is not often that a small village (population 450) with a history that goes back to the Domeday Book of 1086, has the records, creative skills and community motivation to collect everything together and publish a professionally-produced book that can be handed down to the next generation as well as being enjoyed by our own.
Orston is fortunate to have the mix that includes a writer (Paul Barnes) with the academic skills to interpret the history as well as being someone who has close links with our current village populations. There are a number of contributions from local people.
This book is a second edition of one published in 1995. It is a 178 page book and has 12 new chapters and many new photographs from villagers who have lived in Orston for 60/70 years.
Examples of the contents include a history of the local Gypsum mining (Orston was once one of the biggest English sources of Gypsum, comments about the family home of the Kercheval family who emigrated to the USA where one of their descendants was “Cliff Barnes” from “Dallas”. A number of new documents have been discovered relating to agricultural history. Also included are Poor Law records and – on a lighter note – a satirical pamphlet and the “Orston Song”.
Available from Anne Johnson on 850247 Order Form here
History of Orston – Paul Barnes
The name “Orston” originates from the old English “Ordricestune” meaning “The Farmstead of Ordric”. As with most villages, it is mentioned in the Domesday Book 1086 as Oschintone. Although it does not state the population, the Domesday Book does contain details of its agricultural wealth and suggests that Orston was larger and richer than its neighbouring villages, about on a par with Bingham, with around 150 to 175 inhabitants.
In addition to commissioning the Domesday book as a register of the wealth of settlements, William I devised a new system of government which centred on a Manor. The Lord of the Manor owned the land. The peasants who lived there had a duty to serve him. Originally the Crown owned the Manor at Orston but later passed to the Dukes of Rutland. From 1632 until 1911, when it was broken up, the Earl of Kingston and the Pierrepont and Manvers of Thoresby family were owners of the Manor at Orston.
The Peirreponts and Manvers family owned many manors throughout northern England and did not live in such a humble place as Orston. The Manor House in Orston was situated on the left hand side of the path to Thoroton at the top of High Street. As it was not occupied by the Lord of the Manor it was rented out as a farm for a long time to the Kerchival family. In 1840, the Manor House was demolished and Manor Farm at the top of Orston Hill built to replace it.
A good indication of the prosperity and size of a village is its church. Whist it is not as grandiose as that at Bottesford, it is significantly larger than most of its neighbours and many in the Vale of Belvoir. The Rectory is also a good sign of the prosperity of the local church. This is now known as Orston Hall. The Rector employed a vicar (who lived at the Old Vicarage opposite the church on High Street) who, in turn, employed a curate (who lived in rented accommodation somewhere in the village) to conduct church services.
The present church building originates from the early 12th century. Of course, there has been much rebuilding, alteration and extension since then. At that time the “church” at Orston was given to the Bishop of Lincoln who set about replacing the pre-conquest building with a more imposing, permanent structure. There were probably generations of church buildings on this site before then as they were merely log huts. These would have been built on a sacred part of the village, typically on an ancient burial mound. (Note how the churchyard is elevated). The medieval wall painting in the church provides a glimpse of those much harder times when peasants had to stand and there were only seats beyond the chancel screen for clergy and the Lord of the Manor and his family.
Open field farming existed from time immemorial until enclosure in 1793. There were four open fields rotating winter-sown corn, peas and beans, spring-sown barley with one lying fallow. Mill Field stretched between Mill Lane and Alverton Road ; the Ozier Field between Alverton Road and Bottesford Lane ; High Field between Bottesford Lane and Elton Road and Little Field between Elton Road and Pit Lane (the continuation of Lombard Street ) known at that time as Whatton Road . In addition to the open fields which were primarily arable, there was meadow land along the River Smite. The common pasture land lay mainly between Pit Lane and the Smite meadows and in the outlying lands on the boundary with Bottesford. In 1793 the open fields, meadows and common land were divided up amongst the main landowners into small fields. Most of the fields we see today date back to enclosure.
A little survives today to remind us of those times. The site of the Mill on Mill Lane is the highest point on the right hand side. The lane leading to it off Mill lane is still there. There is evidence of a water meadow in the field known as Bell Holme on the right near the end of Chapel Street . However, the most exciting reminder of those times is, of course, the ridge and furrow. At the time of enclosure much arable land was turned to grass and hedges planted to mark the new fields. On the hillside along Mill Lane you will see these crossing the old ridge and furrow.
At first glance there is little to suggest that Orston was an industrial village. However, during the second half of the 19th century it had a large gypsum quarry and plaster “manufactory”. Originally, this was in the centre of the village behind Mulhouse on Loughbon between Lombard Street and Chapel Street and called “The Royal Plaster Works”. (The terraced housing there that remains dates back to those times and would have been miners’ cottages). In 1866 a much larger enterprise was set up next to the railway line at the end of Pit Lane . Between 1868 and 1871, it accounted for about 8 per cent of the country’s entire gypsum plaster production. The manufactory has now been demolished. The pits are the remains of the open cast quarry which continued into the 20th century but in the 1860s and 1870s gypsum was extracted by underground mining.
Although today many kinds of business are located here, until recently Orston was an agricultural community. For most of its history, the population of Orston was a little higher than the average Nottinghamshire agricultural village. This is probably because of its wealth of gypsum and accompanying industry. In its heyday in the 1860s, gypsum mining produced employment for about a quarter of the 450 or so population
Unlike some of its neighbours (for example Aslockton, Bottesford and Langar), Orston has no famous inhabitant or any particular claim to fame other than the quality of its gypsum. However, it does have one famous son – Ken Kerchival, the actor who played Cliff Barnes in Dallas!
To read more
- Barnes, P.(2008) Orston, a Nottinghamshire Village through the Centuries , Tucann Books, Lincoln. Second edition available via I.Smellie Tel 01949 850291
- Barnes, P. (1994). The adaptation of open field farming in an east Nottinghamshire parish: Orston 1641-1793, Transactions of the Thoroton Society.
- Barnes, P.and R Firman (1991). ”Gypsum in the parish of Orston, Nottinghamshire’, Bulletin of the Peak District Mining History Society.
- Barnes, P.and R Firman (1994). The Vale of Belvoir and Newark Plaster Co Ltd (1867-73): A Case Study in Business History and Finance’, Transactions of the Thoroton Society.
- Barnes, P.and R Firman (1998). ‘The development of the nineteenth and early twentieth century gypsum, brick and associated industries of Newark ‘, The East Midlands Historian.
- Barnes, P.and R Firman (2002). ‘The Loss of Popularity of Limited Liability Companies in Great Britain in 1866 and the Role of Financial Information: A Case Study’, Financial History Review .
- Gill, H. “The church of St Mary ‘s, Orston”, Transactions of the Thoroton Society, vol 24 .