Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury (1921 - 2000) .... now the great man himself never lived in Cotgrave but it stands to reason that he must have visited the place and his story is worth telling!
At the age of 24 Runcie was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. His citation reads as follows:
'One of his three tanks was knocked out by an anti-tank gun and set on fire. Runcie discovered that one of his men was trapped in the tank and went across open ground under enemy fire in order to pull out this remaining man who was unconscious. He succeeded in getting him out.' Citation for Gallantry for the Military Cross: March 1945
The following day he was involved in a battle to destroy three anti-tank guns making him the only modern-day Archbishop who is known to have killed someone.
Runcie's son, James, is a successful writer of novels and television scripts. Recently he has been working on Grantchester, a popular TV series based on a crime fighting clergyman with a wartime past ... the character is loosely based on Archbishop Runcie.
The Cotgrave Cross (which is a stone column not a cross!) is situated just outside the churchyard on the corner of the very busy main road junction. It looks like a really old village monument but photographs from the 1920s reveal it was not in situ then so this is a relatively 'new' addition. The stone pillar itself dates back to the 16th century but, according to a local forum, it was discovered and dug up from the Rectory garden then placed at the crossroads ... hence the name The Cotgrave Cross.
Cotgrave was the home of a war hero. Ernest Hayes was awarded the Military Medal three times during the Great War, one of only 180 men to do so. He survived the war but died in Beeston in 1938 aged only 39 years old. His brother John Hayes died in action and has no grave just a commemoration on the Thiepval Memorial.
The Cotgrave branch of the British Legion are involved in a project to record the personal, family and military histories of the fourteen men who gave their lives in the First World War. It really brings these young men to life for us: Earl Manver's under-gardener who enlisted at 15, was quickly promoted to lance corporal then died aged 17; the 22 year old who bought an engagement ring but died before popping the question and two young neighbours who enlisted on the same day and were killed within a few weeks of each other ... one of these lads lived in Vine Cottage whilst (Ernest Reeve) had lived right next door at the Rose and; Crown. If you follow the link to his name you will see just how much the pub has improved since his day!!
We called in to the pub while we were passing and enjoyed a refreshing half an hour in the sunny garden. The place has a friendly atmosphere and a good selection of well kept ales .... a place we will definitely be going back to visit.
We tried but failed get into the All Saints' Church because we visited on a weekday (the church is open Saturday mornings and Sundays). Parts of this building date back to the 12th century but the Domesday Book records "half a church" here in the 11th century. During an outbreak of the plague in 1637 the church was used to store food with a hollow stone filled with vinegar being used to disinfect money paid for the goods. According to Wikipedia that stone is still inside the church. Ninety-three people, including forty-six children, died from the disease. That was about a fifth of the population.
Apparently the church had to be restored (by John Cunnington, architect) after an arson attack in 1996 and two modern stained glass windows were added: one commemorates the farming traditions of the village and the second one shows the connection to mining.
You can get detailed information and photograph about All Saints' Church from the Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project.
The population of Cotgrave exploded in the 1960s when Cotgrave pit was opened. Until then records show a population of 700 to 800 but within a couple of years this figure was 5000 and grew to over 7000. Large housing developments sprang up round the old village centre. Experienced miners from other pits were encouraged to move into these new, fully furnished homes. At first it was people from other Nottinghamshire pits but when miners from Gatehead began to arrive older residents remember special meetings being arranged where local people mixed with the new-comers in order to get used to the different accents and dialects ... a vital health and safety issue in the dangerous mining industry of the time.
Princess Margaret cut the first sod at the inauguration in 1954 and nine years later the mine began to produce coal: the first Notts mine south of the River Trent. All the coal was destined for the Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station. The pit hit problems in the late 1980s: it lost over £11m in 1988/9. Coal production ended in 1992. There are records of ten fatalities over the 32 years it was in operation. (Link to a history of the pit).
Today the site has been developed into a country park and more housing is being built there.
This further development will hopefully be good news for the area. The shopping centre could do with a bit of updating but it sits next to a children's park and both are clean, tidy spaces.
One area the locals can feel very proud of is the excellent primary education offered by the local schools. Candleby Lane Primary School is a leading light in sharing outstanding practice across Nottinghamshire. Cotgrave Church of England School is rated Good by Ofsted and pupils with Special Educational needs fro 3 - 19 years of age can attend Ash Lea School.
From a social point of view there are two public houses still in business ... quite an achievement these days! A third pub was built in the 1960s but closed in 2004 and was replaced by new houses. The old Miners' Welfare, now the Social Club, boasts a main hall capable of seating several hundred people, one of the largest fully equipped stages in the East Midlands, several bars and entertain suites, snooker rooms and a large garden ... showing what a thriving community this was when the pit was open. Obviously the pit closure caused a few economic issues but the village has weathered that storm and continues to grow.