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The Black Veil

Creswell Crags and the Welbeck Estate

25 November 14 words: John Charlesworth
Creswell Crags is a limestone gorge honeycombed with caves that include neolithic paintings that date back between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago.


I’m a historian and heritage interpretive writer. Sometimes you can find me giving guided tours at Creswell Crags. In this video I will be introducing you to some of the stories which have grown up around this very special place; the most accessible part of the Welbeck Abbey Estate, once home to the Duke of Portland.


My own historical journey began on a school trip when I was 9. Our class spent a day in the medieval world; in the morning we visited Newark Castle and in the afternoon Lincoln Cathedral. Something happened to my mind on that day out, a trip-switch you might say was flipped; I was historically turned on.


The historical journey for Creswell Crags though, is as long as the human story gets in Britain; a journey of more than 50,000 years and counting.  The Crags was present at the very beginning, when Neanderthals competed with Mammoth, Whoolly Rhino, and Cave Lions for living space among its caves. Later in the Ice Age modern humans, coming to terms with their world on a spiritual level left the mark of that struggle as art on the cave walls.


Global warming brought the retreat of the ice and the advance of dense forests across Britain. The forest that covered the Crags would become Sherwood. Its wild remoteness attracted holy men seeking a retreat from the human world, White Canons who cleared a space for the original Welbeck Abbey. A hidden location for good and bad alike the caves were a hideout for robbers including the most famous outlaw of all Robin Hood. Even the canons themselves were not averse to a bit of criminal activity.


In the time of the Dukes, the Crags was the location of a lost village, home of a witch, and a romanticised landscape for a country house. Throw in how to keep the Industrial revolution out of your best garden feature while making a fortune from the coal it needs and you’ve got quite a story.



Creswell Crags, Crags Rd, Holbeck, Worksop, Nottinghamshire S80 3LH. Tel: 01909 72R

This video was originally commissioned for Dawn of the Unread, a graphic novel exploring Nottingham's literary history.

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