These pages were produced by Roy Mat for his Wilford & Clifton Index in 1997

The Clifton Village Green

Clifton Green Maypole Dancing, 
May Day Fete 1997

Clifton Village Green


One of the focal points for a village community in England has always been the Village Green.   The Clifton green illustrates this well with the old rectory, the old school, dovecote and an Almhouse all positioned around the perimeter.  In its simplest terms the green is a gathering or meeting place for entertainment and relaxation.  Previous generations of villagers have used the green for cricket, football, fetes andfire side story telling.  Village greens today tend to act as parks although some still use the green to celebrate the ancient Pagan festival, May Day.   In times of crisis or conflict it made sense to pool together man power to protect livestock and so the green was also used for collective defense. 

The Clifton green is surprisingly large and manages to remain quite peaceful despite the busy adjacent Clifton Lane road.  Interestingly one historian has identified that there was once a turf maze on the green.  The South West corner of the green has two impressive old trees, one of which is probably the tree planted by the Clifton family


May Day Festival

The May Day celebrations in Britain are based on a Pagan festival associated with the arrival of spring and according to folklore, the beginning of the month where cows can be milked three times a day.  Villages would organize a festival where a young maiden would be crowned May Day Queen and children would dance round elaborate, permanent carved may-poles.  For centuries the large May Day maypoles were located in villages around the country until the Church pulled them down via an act of Parliament in 1644.  The clergy had no love for a Pagan ceremony that encouraged unmarried young couples 'to make merry' in the woods.  Today the Maypole is the strongest image we associate with May Day in England.  Many communities still participated in May Day celebrations after 1644 and still do today as a salute to an ancient tradition and a convenient excuse to have a spring summer festival.  Clifton is one such village where every year there is old fashioned village fete with morris dancing, side-shows, refreshment tents, maypole dancing, competitions and the crowning of a May Day Queen.


Clifton Green Morris Dancers, May Day 1997


Clifton's May Day gatherings of the 18th and 19th centuries were probably especially popular as the area was already attracting large numbers of visitors to the retreats of Clifton Grove and the 'Ferry Inn'. Intrestingly a permenant Maypole as re-introduced to Clifton Green in 1904 but was taken down at the begining of the second world war.It has never reappeared.

Clifton Dovecote With The Old School Building In The Background, November 1996 

The Clifton Dovecote

For a number of years I used to travel past Clifton and I often used to try to guess the origins of a strange building in the centre of the green.  It's a very solid, doorless, tall red-brick structure that to my ignorant eye looked like a cross between an old school and a church building.  I now know that it is fact one of the largest Dovecotes in England.   Pigeons breed throughout the year and were once housed in dovecote colonies all across the country as a source of winter meat.  This particular dovecote has an incredible 2,300 nesting places all of which go 14 inches into the wall.  There is a war memorial plaque on the centre of the south wall ( visible on the picture as a bright square ) listing the areas casualties from the first world war. 

The Dovecote Interior

The interior is very dark and divided into two sections by a wall half way along the buildings length, just inside the entrance.

The Old Clifton School

The old Clifton School building is today used as a village hall/community centre ( not to be confused with the former Clifton family stately home ).  A plaque on the front of the building reads 'These schools and school-houses were erected by Henry Robert Clifton, Esquire, and the corner stone was laid by Mrs Clifton on the 3rd day of November, 1871.'   The school opened in April, 1872 with 48 children in attendance.  A year later the school started to run a night school, initially attended by 13 men.  The school finally closed in 1956 when the areas modern schools ( Brooksby, Farnborough etc. ) were constructed for children in the new Clifton Housing Estates.


The Almhouse & Its Occupants, 1936 


The 'Wells' Almhouse

Almhouses were common in the 18th and 19th centuries across England as shelters for old, sick and poor people.  They were set up by wealthy manor holders, the church and charitable organizations.  The clifton almhouse stands on the South West corner of the green behind a hedge.  It was built in the 18th century from the estate of George Wells based on his will written in 1712.  It was built to provide a roof for 'six poor unmarried or widow women'.  Wells must have been quite wealthy for he donated all his 'lands, tenements and heritaments, in or near the towns of Cropwells Bishop, Wilford and Ruddington'  to maintain the building. 


Sir Gervase Clifton and his heirs were appointed trustees of the Almhouse.  Each occupant of the Almhouse received a small allowance and three tons of coal each year from the Clifton Colliery.  The building was restored in the 1970's and is now a set of privately owned houses.  Each garden has a small outbuilding, allegedly built as small chapels.  This seems to me an unlikely extravagance as not even the manor holders had there own private places of worship.  It is of course possible because we can deduce Wells was a very religious man from the plaque he had mounted on the front of the Almhouse:

'I to God's glory dedicate this place 
Inspired there to by His most holy grace.
May His great name forever here be praised
Then my ambition to its pitch is raised'