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Cotton-C17.gif (181714 bytes)

17th Century map, reproduced by permission of the Record Society

Extract from Kelly's Directory, 1890




Up until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1543, the poor and sick were looked after by religious establishments. There were at least three hospitals for lepers in Rockingham Forest, one, dedicated to St Leonard, located at a place called 'Cotes' or 'Coton' off the Rockingham to Gretton Road, shown on the 17th Century map opposite (OS map grid reference SP876926). 


Today, the first turning off Gretton Road on the right, as you head from Rockingham, is called 'The Cottons', named after Coton.


Some historical directories, including Kelly's, refer to this lepers' hospital as being in Cottingham. However, in his book 'Rockingham Forest Revisited', Peter Hill says that this is an error, and that Cottingham is a misreading of Coton.


In 1601, the Poor Law came into being, making each parish responsible for the upkeep of its poor (including destitute single mothers) by means of a rate levied on the village that would be used, in many cases, to build poorhouses or almshouses. There were almshouses in Corby, East Carlton and Rockingham.


In 1834, Poor Law Unions were set up representing several communities to build centralised workhouses. Cottingham was under the wing of the Kettering Union Workhouse, built in 1837 to accommodate 250 inmates (see extract from Kelly's Directory opposite). The building later became St Mary's Hospital on London Road.


I have also been told that Cannam House in Middleton used to be a workhouse, but I haven't been able to verify this.

Well-off villagers sometimes recognised the poor in their wills. Kelly's Directory tells us that William Downhall's will (1760) left the rent of 18 acres to the poor of Cottingham and Middleton. In the 1870s, this land produced 30 which was chiefly distributed in fuel. There is a wooden board at the belfry end of St Mary Magdalene with the will of William Downhall.

Kelly's also mentions that William Riddle left the rent of 1 acre, 1 rood and 39 perches for apprenticing poor children. By 1914, this amounted to 3 10s a year. William also left 'small sums at interest for the benefit of the poor'.

In her will (1835) Mary Aldwinckle left 10 to the church wardens to distribute amongst the poor on Christmas Day following her decease, and 40 to "place out four poor boys belonging to the parish of Cottingham as apprentices" giving the church wardens discretion to choose the best trade for the boys' advantage and future prospects.

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