Edwinstowe was named after Edwin, King of Northumbria. At that time, the kingdom of Northumbria extended from the River Trent to Edinburgh, Scotland (Edwin's Borough). Edwin married a Christian princess (Ethelburga) from Kent, which was the first Christian kingdom in England.
In 633 A.D. King Edwin marched south to fight King Penda of Mercia. Edwin was killed in the ensuing battle, which took place near Edwinstowe at a small hamlet called Cuckney (then known as Hatfield). To prevent his body falling into enemy hands, King Edwin's friends buried it secretly in a clearing in the forest, intending to return later to give him a proper burial. When they eventually returned, his followers discovered that people were now calling him Saint Edwin, so they built a small wooden chapel on the spot and installed a priest. So began Edwinstowe - "the holy place of Edwin."
In 1066 Edenstou was royal land, part of the Saxon king's manor of nearby Mansfield. The Domesday survey of 1086 records that in Edenstou was a church, a priest and four bordars (slaves who worked on the priest's lands). Edwinstowe stood well within the roughly 20 miles long by 7 miles wide Royal Forest of Sherwood.
The villagers were bound by harsh forest laws, and courts to punish offenders were held frequently. It was a punishable offence to damage living timber in any way, and all dogs taken into the forest had to be "lawed," i.e. three claws had to be removed from each front foot. Death and dismemberment was the punishment for deer poaching and these harsh laws were not changed until 1217 A.D. In 1334 A.D. the Vicar of Edwinstowe, John de Roystan, was convicted of "venison trespasses," a major crime.
Edwinstowe villagers had various privileges regarding the forest e.g. gathering brushwood and letting their pigs root for acorns. They were also free born and could marry without permission.
Much had changed by 1600 A.D. Queen Elizabeth owned parts of Sherwood Forest but it was no longer regarded as a hunting forest. Parts were cleared for farming and the oaks were felled for ship building. In 1609 A.D. there were 49,909 oaks in the forest areas just north of Edwinstowe. By 1790 there were only 10,117! Ship building accounted for the best timber although 10 oaks were used for the roof of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London.
By 1801, the total population of Edwinstowe had risen to 506! Piped water was available in Edwinstowe for the first time in 1905. In 1912, more than thirty Suffragettes (including Mrs. Emeline Pankhurst) visited Edwinstowe. In 1925 the nearby Thoresby Colliery began operation with benefits to the village.
During World War II the nearby forest housed one of the largest ammunition dumps in the U.K. The area was also used for tank training and for housing thousands of troops prior to D-Day. The facilities were used after the war for European displaced persons.
Popular belief has it that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married in St Mary’s Church! There was certainly some sort of church here during any of the periods ascribed to Robin Hood.
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