Manuscripts and Special Collections

About the project

In 1969 the Department of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham published an Archive Teaching Unit relating to Laxton, designed for use in secondary schools. The aim of the Teaching Unit was to tell the 'story' of Laxton as a working open field village, and to attempt some explanation for its failure to enclose completely. Another aim was to give some indication of life in Laxton, particularly at the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century. A revised second edition of the Unit was produced in 1973.

The past 30 years have seen many changes in the way schools and universities present archival materials, and the Archive Teaching Units in their printed form now appear out of date. However, the original documents used in the Unit are still of enormous importance and interest, and it was felt that it would be useful to offer them as a more flexible electronic resource. The new electronic version was published in July 2008.

Our aim was to create a resource designed to appeal to a wide variety of users, including:

  • undergraduate and postgraduate students
  • school users
  • lifelong learners
  • local historians

The original Teaching Unit presented extracts or transcripts from original documents. Where possible, we have provided images and transcriptions of the whole document, allowing users to see the entire context of the material. We have also amplified the Teaching Unit by the addition of a wide range of further material from our collections. The commentaries and introductions have been completely re-written to fit the style of the other electronic resources in the series. The list of suggested reading created in the 1960s and 1970s has been supplemented by more recently published material and relevant websites. A glossary and timeline have been newly created for the site.

We are grateful to the trustees of the Thoresby estate for permission to reproduce material from the Manvers collection, to the owners of the Chambers, Tallents and Denison collections for permission to reproduce material from those archives, and to Nottinghamshire Archives for permission to make use of material from the Laxton parish records.


Lesson plans for teachers

The only sections of the original Teaching Unit not transferred into electronic form in this website were the sections intended for teachers and students. These have been replaced by new lesson plans for teachers to download and use, compatible with the National Curriculum and based on the documents presented in 'Laxton: Life in an Open Field Village'. The lesson plans were created by Fiona Berry, History teacher at Kirk Hallam School, Derbyshire, and Gary Mills of the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, in 2008. The project was supported by the Strategic Commissioning programme funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).


About the site

This site examines three themes which are illustrated by documents predominantly held in Manuscripts and Special Collections.

  • Theme 1 - Landholding and Enclosure
  • Theme 2 - The open field system and the manorial court
  • Theme 3 - The Village Population

Each theme offers:

  • A selection of images and transcripts from original sources including maps, surveys, manorial and ecclesiastical court records, correspondence and reports
  • Commentary designed to assist users in their understanding and interpretation of the original materials
  • A range of supporting resources is also available to enable users to place the original documents in context. These include:
    • Glossary
    • Timeline
    • Suggested reading
    • About the sources

Images and transcriptions are all drawn from the holdings of the Manuscripts and Special Collections Section at the University of Nottingham unless otherwise stated. Material from the Manvers Collection forms a particularly significant part of the resource.


Terms of use

The site was published in July 2008. All content of 'Laxton: Life in and Open Field Village' is copyright to the University of Nottingham. The materials on these pages (including all commentary, transcriptions, images, etc.) are made available free of charge for personal, non-commercial use only. Any individual or body intending to publish elements of the site in any form or through any medium should fully acknowledge the source.

Any commercial use or publication of the site's content without authorisation or acknowledgement is strictly prohibited; applications for licence enabling such use should be made to Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham. 



If you wish to cite the website in a publication please list it with the URL, and the month and year you accessed it, as in the following example:

Laxton: Life in an Open Field Village. Ed. K. Summerwill, The University of Nottingham. date you accessed the site 

Citations of specific documents or images which feature on the site should additionally have their reference numbers; e.g.:

Ma B 184/710 - Schedule of land owned by William Doncaster, 1718-1720


Transfer of the Teaching Units into electronic form

The principal Project Team members for transferring the Units into electronic form have been:

Kathryn Summerwill, Elizabeth Archer and Claire Emery (Manuscripts and Special Collections)

The lesson plans for teachers were created by Fiona Berry, and by Gary Mills of the School of Education, The University of Nottingham.


Roles and contributions

Commentaries and transcriptions: K Summerwill  

Editorial work: K Summerwill

Glossary: K Summerwill

Image processing, website design and delivery: C Emery

Image capture and metadata: M Bentley, A Bowler

Project management: E Archer

Development and academic oversight of the lesson plans for teachers: F Berry and G Mills


Original Teaching Unit credits

Archive Teaching Unit No.4 was compiled in 1968-9 and first issued at the end of 1969.

A second revised edition was published in 1973, and reprinted in 1976. The compilers of the revised 2nd edition were J.F. Phillips, O. Johnson and L. Kliszewicz. They expressed their gratitude to staff of the Manuscripts Department at the University of Nottingham, and to the staff at the Nottinghamshire County Records Office.


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651