Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Kinoulton village
If the name of Arthur Lowe is mentioned people today probably imagine the officious Dad's Army character ("Don't tell them your name, Pike!"). Well the Arthur Lowe who lived in Kinoulton was not that one ... this Arthur Lowe (1865 - 1940) was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. No, I had never heard of him either but Monet and Turner spring to mind when you look at his paintings - most of which show scenes from around Kinoulton.  This one is in fact entitled Kinoulton Village:

 Here is the Grantham Canal:

During his life time he exhibited at Nottingham Castle and at the Royal Academy amongst other places.  After his death in 1940, at Kinoulton, his widow donated his work to different galleries around the north of England.  I think Nottingham Castle should borrow them all back for an exhibition.

Village Sign

Kinoulton is surprisingly large .... but the present village boundary incorporates the historical sites of more than one village and its centre has moved about over the course of the centuries!

The name indicates the village was originally a tun or farmstead.  It belonged to a wealthy woman named Cynehild.  The Domesday Book records it as Chineltune, no church is recorded and it had very little value (being worth only 2s 8d).  The lost village of Newbold, just next door, was far more significant ...  £10 in the Domesday accounts.  The lord of the manor at the time was Morcar (died 1087), the Earl of Northumbria.  Here was a powerful family.  His grandmother was the wonderful Lady Godiva and his sister, Ealdgyth, was married to King Harold. In 1066 Morcar and his brother were defeated in battle at York when Harold's brother Tostig made a bid for the English crown.  Harold had to quickly march north to save the kingdom at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.  William the Conqueror in the meantime landed at Hastings and had plenty of time to organise his troops before the exhausted English army marched south again to be defeated.  Morcar and his men did not turn up for the Battle of Hastings and later submitted to the newly crowned William so keeping his lands and titles.

Over the next few years Morcar fell in and out of favour with William but by 1071 William decided he was sick of Morcar's insubordination and threw him into a dungeon.  The Newbold manor was given to William Peverel ... one of 164 given to him at the time!  He was obviously a favourite of the king but then rumour had it that Peverel was William the Conqueror's illegitimate son.

Today the foundations of the manor house and the surrounding crofts and tracks are still visible from aerial photographs and Newbold is a listed and protected site under Historic England but for many years the village had faded from memory.  It is not clear why it was deserted but some historians think its close proximity to Colston Bassett probably holds the answer.  In 1604 Colston Bassett suffered a terrible plague: the village was completely closed off for a time and historians think the Newbold villagers took themselves away to safer places.

  A second 'lost village' that made up present day Kinoulton was Warberge.  It lay on the Plumtree side but very little else is known about it.

Mosiac of the church embedded in the church path.

During the 12th century the de Villiers family were lords of Kinoulton (looking after it for the real owners, the Butlers of Warrington).  Now we came across the de Villiers at Tythby (remember poor little Beatrix de Villiers madly in love with King John but he forced her to marry one of his noblemen?)  Well, the family seat here was Kinoulton Castle, a defensive structure.  Yes, a castle! Now don't start imagining large stone turrets and deep moats ... this was not fortified. There was a civil war taking place at the time. The de Villiers together with the Butlers of Warrington fought under Ranulph, Earl of Chester, and supported the future King Henry II.  Just up the road at Gotham the Earl of Leicester also had a castle.  He hated Ranulph and supported King Stephen but the de Villiers and Leicester made a pact as neither wanted the expense or inconvenience of having to defend their lands. After Stephen's death in 1154 Henry II became king and demanded the destruction of all unlicensed castles so Kinoulton Castle disappeared. (The deVilliers family didn't disappear though ... in the 1600s George de Villiers was to be the bedfellow of King James I; close advisor to Charles I and son-in-law to the Earl of Rutland). a private residence.

There is a tale that Archbishop Cranmer had a palace in Kinoulton. Apparently it used to stand near the site of the old church on the hill and had been converted into a grange. Briscoe writing Old Nottinghamshire in 1884 agreed that this was possibly the case. He explained that until 1793 the village church was St Wilfrid Church which had been built during the 12th century by Roger Archbishop of York. Cranmer was a prelate for the see of York before being promoted to Archbishop of Canterbury so it is possible he had some connection to this parish as it is so close to his Aslockton birthplace. Kinoulton parish was a 'Peculiar' which meant vicars there had the power to hold civil courts; he could grant marriage licences, hold probate and dish out punishments for misdemeanours.  This status had arisen because the archbishop of York once had a residency in the area. According to one 18th century incumbent, "... four Archbishops of York resided sometimes at their palace here; no trace of which remains except the moat."  so we know there is an archbishop connection but there is no evidence to suggest Cranmer had any official connection with this parish.

The Hall
 They know how to look after the clergy in these parts ... the archbishops had palaces but the vicars didn't do too badly either.  The Old Rectory (not photographed) was designed by the famous Nottinghamshire architect, Thomas Chambers Hine.

The church graveyard.

St Wilfrid church stood on a hill about a mile outside of the present day village. Many years ago a large old granite stone also stood in the middle of the fields near the church.  Today we would have seen it and deduced a glacier had dumped it there.  Very logical ... the residents of Kinoulton were far more imaginative! Apparently when St Wilfrid's was newly built the devil himself was visiting Lincoln and was so furious at the sight of the new structure he threw the rock intending to destroy the little church.  Luckily he missed.  White (History of Nottinghamshire 1832) says the rock was part of a druid temple but it had been broken up and used for building material before his book was published.

St. Luke's

Time did the devil's work ...  the church fell into disrepair and by 1780 the village congregation were using a more conveniently placed chapel (probably an old barn) near the village centre. The Earl of Gainsbourgh stepped in and built St Luke's Church in 1793 using bricks from the local brick yard. Only the foundations of the old church remain ... and few gravestones.  I wonder if it was one of these 'abandoned' headstones that a village baker used to line his oven.  An old local story tells us the baker was discovered when a customer noticed his bread was imprinted with "in loving memory".

St. Luke's interior

We visited on a Sunday so it is hardly surprising that the church was busy but the service had ended and the people had all stayed to chat and enjoy a coffee.  They were most friendly and welcoming, taking us inside to show off their well kept Georgian church. They have rearranged the pews to make room for a small coffee area and once a week the building turns into a Post Office ... very convenient!

Stained glass window.
Stained glass window.

The Earl of Gainsborough who built the church was Charles Henry Neville Noel Esq. The very welcoming village pub is called the Nevile Arms (with one L). Part of the famous family from the Tudor court. *

The Nevile Arms and balloon!

In 1928 Sir William Jesse Hind, a wealthy Nottingham solicitor, bought the pub and changed the name to the Hind Arms.  The locals were not impressed and mounted a petition to get it changed back.  Sir Jesse left a different landmark behind but that too has sadly disappeared for the time being.  He planted a row of 184 poplar trees along Vimy Ridge (that runs between Owthorpe Lane and the canal tow path) that until recently could be seen for miles around.  They were planted to commemorate the death of his son, Jesse Francis Montague ( "Monty "), and other fellow officers at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War.  Unfortunately the trees grew to over 90 feet and became quite hazardous so had to be felled in February 1998.  Saplings have been planted in their place so the landmark will return given time.

A tree stump near this sign is all that remains of "the splendid Turkey oak, perhaps commemorating victory in the Crimea" mentioned in The Nottinghamshire Village Book (1989) produced by the WI.

I would liked to have met Sir Jesse Hind.  He sounds like a very social minded person. He is described as the "Friend of Crippled Soldiers". Following his son's death he founded and equipped a pioneering orthopaedic ward to treat injured servicemen.  His farm at Kilnoulton was an agricultural training ground where ex-servicemen and orphans could gain qualifications and work experience all at Jesse Hind's expense. 

The Old Bakehouse.

 In 1769 Kinoulton became quite famous as a spa retreat and dressing rooms were constructed near a local spring after the water was said to have healing properties.   The spa is named on modern maps but the paths to it are overgrown now.

Bailey Row

Village life today is still based around rural activities but a large proportion of the residents now commute elsewhere for work.  The old barns have been converted into comfortable homes for people not animals and the rows of workers' cottages given a facelift.  The Grantham Canal is no longer filled with brick and coal barges and the towpaths are used for country walks.  The village has changed with the times.

The Nevile Arms

Nevile Arms and hot-air balloon

Hot-air balloon over Kinoulton
We finished our walk around Kinoulton with a decent pint of Harvest Pale in the Nevile Arms. We seem to be on a good run with village pubs at the moment. North of the A52 most villages seem to have lost their pubs but south of the A52 and east of the A46 all appears to be well with a tally of nine pubs in nine villages so far.
Map of Kinoulton: click here.

Old safe

History of Nottinghamshire by W White  (1832)
The Nottinghamshire Village Book  By Notts WI  (1989)
Old Nottinghamshire by J P Briscoe  (1884)
Nottinghamshire Guardian by W E Doubleday

* An "aside":  Some modern literary scholars claim that William Shakespeare was not actually the author of the plays: Henry Neville has been put forward as the real genius behind the name.  Another candidate is Roger Manners the 6th Earl of Rutland (more information here).

Saturday, 3 September 2016


 I could start by telling you that Cotgrave has a very long history: Ice Age flint tools have been found here and a Neolithic monument with eight Bronze Age burials; a 6th century Anglo Saxon burial ground where seventy-four adults and thirteen children had been laid to rest (one of the adults had been buried with a shield and spear) has been excavated at Mill Hill just outside the village and there's also evidence of an Iron Age settlement .... but I won't!  Instead I will tell you that tucked away in the graveyard at Cotgrave are Robert Dalziel Runcie and his wife Ann.  They were the parents of 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. 

The large village War Memorial is in the churchyard.  A suggestion to move the Cotgrave Cross to make way for the Memorial was discussed recently but rejected because of the cost.

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.

Map of Cotgrave: click here.

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Owthorpe: Colonel Hutchinson's fish pond
Owthorpe is one of the smallest villages we have visited.  It sits on a road signposted as a dead end! At a glance it is a small cluster of residential farm buildings, a community centre and a padlocked church.  You might think there's no reason to visit here unless you know one of the residents. You would be wrong. This "out of the way" feel is actually a selling point.  Sitting next to the Grantham Canal, just outside the main village, you will find The Little Retreat Spa offering relaxing treatments and cream teas.  Close by is Woodview Cottage offering trout and course fishing holidays.  The village is surrounded by beautiful countryside a perfect location to get away from it all.

Owthorpe countryside
This is the Leicester / Nottinghamshire border ... where the land used by the famous Quorn Hunt meets the South Notts Hunt territory.  South Notts trace their history back to the Earl of Lincoln hunting here in 1677 but The Quorn is recognised as one of the oldest fox hunting packs in the world ... the original hounds were owned by Thomas Boothby in 1696.*  Riding with hounds continues to be a traditional rural activity in these parts despite the abolition of fox hunting (Hunting Act 2004). Local residents have given permission for their land to be used and during the autumn and winter months the roads around Owthorpe can become packed with cars of hunt observers chasing the riders.

Owthorpe countryside

We parked on the verge of a country road that was surprisingly quite busy. No wonder the council had dug out a couple of unusual signs:

Owthorpe: Community Hall

The community hall is down the road just passed the interesting collection of old ploughs. This is a surprising large building.  It can accommodate 102 people ... that's the whole village population with room to spare!  They obviously plan events with lots of friends.

A footpath takes you passed the hall to the old village church of St Margaret.

Owthorpe: St Margaret's Church

Owthorpe: Church tower

Parts of the church date back to the 12th century when it was a much bigger building.  Colonel John Hutchinson had this smaller version built in 1659.  It is a strange mixture of stones and colours and the old clock needs some attention but the swifts like it ... there was a nesting pair and their young making a fabulous din in the bell tower the whole time we were there.

A large padlock prevented us entering so this internal shot was taken through the glass window:

Owthorpe: Church interior
 We could see the 15th century stone font and the Jacobean pulpit with the ornate canopy.  We could not see a large wooden screen that is thought to have come from the old Owthorpe Hall. I also wanted to see the two monuments to the Hutchinson family on the wall of the church ... another day perhaps.

Owthorpe church yard

Colonel John Hutchinson (1615 - 1664) is the most famous resident of the village ... but the fame should really belong to Lucy, his wife (1620 - 1681).  She was born in the Tower of London where her father, Sir Allen Apsley, was the Lieutenant in charge of such famous prisoners as Sir Walter Raleigh (it was Lucy's mother who paid for his famous chemical experiments whilst he was incarcerated) and King James I's ex-partner, Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset. With Robert Carr in prison the King now had a new favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.  Apsley was married to one of Villier's relatives which helped a great deal when they appointed the new Lieutenant to the Tower.  This could be quite a lucrative, and responsible, position. (Oddly enough, before the Hutchinsons bought Owthorpe manor members of the Villiers' family had lived there).

Lucy married John Hutchinson when she was 18.  At first they lived in London where they had twin sons then moved to Owthorpe at the beginning of the Civil War in 1641 where a third son was born.  They would have nine children in all. John fought on the side of the Parliamentarians: the Royalists offered him £10,000 to change sides but as a man of principle he refused. He became Governor of Nottingham Castle and moved his family there for their safety.  In 1645 he took the garrison of Shelford after a heavy battle.  His neighbour Sir Philip Stanhope died from wounds received in the seige. By 1649 the battles were over and Hutchinson's was the thirteenth signature on King Charles I's death warrent.

Owthorpe: Church clock

 After he served in Cromwell's government until 1651 when he retired to a quiet life in Nottinghamshire.  The old manor house had been almost destroyed by the Royalists and had to be completely rebuilt. The new house was in the field close to the church.  Large stone steps took you into a spacious entrance hall with a long table and welcoming fireplace. A staircase lead up to a galleried landing big enough to accommodate an orchestra for the upstairs ball room.  The family quasrters were on the left of the Hall while three entertainment rooms for guests were situated on the right. These rooms opened to an outside terrace and bowling green type lawn with flower borders and a shrubbery.  Trees had been cut to allow views across the countryside towards Langar and Belvoir Castle.

He planted the trees that are still growing around the fishpond he created in his grounds.  A local group called The Friends of Fishpond Wood have recently worked on this area and on the lost garden (more details here).

Owthorpe: Colonel Hutchunson's fishpond
 According to a description written by Julius Hutchinson in 1775, "All parts were built so substantially, and so well secured, that neither fire nor thieves could penetrate from room to room, nor from one flight of stairs to another."  Were they expecting trouble when they designed the house?  They should have been.  Royalty returned to the throne in 1660.  While the other Regicides suffered terrible executions Hutchinson escaped unscathed but riddled with guilt and remorse.  He described himself as having been "involved in so horrid a crime as merits no indulgence".  On his retirement he had distanced himself from Cromwell and friends and relatives petitioning on his behalf suggested he had secretly been working in favour of the Royalist cause (there is no evidence to support this claim though!). He was left in peace for a short time.

They arrested him in October 1663 as he walked to church, a short distance from his secure house.  They accused him of being involved in the Farnley Wood Plot, an uprising against the King.  It was probably a trumped up charge to get him imprisoned.  Twenty six men were arrested and sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered ... again Hutchinson was not one of them.

They kept him on the Tower of London but transferred him to the less salubrious surroundings of Sandcastle in Kent where he died of a fever in September 1664. Lucy was granted permission to bring his body home but it was not an easy journey.  A hearse with six horses in full mourning gear was sent.  Firstly the castle Governor demaned a ransom then some of the villagers along the route were rather hostile to the late Roundhead and skermishes broke out.  It would have been quite a relief once he was laid to rest in St Margaret's Church.

Church gate
The Hutchinson family vault is inside but the enterance has been lost.  Part of the church floor collapsed in 1859 and stairs to the burial chamber were revealed.  They found seventeen coffins: one belonging to a lady was in an upright position chained to the wall.

1712 headstone in memory of James Watson
There are a number of slate gravestones dating back to the 1700s: some examples of Belvoir Angels and one signed by Sparrow (a local monument mason of the time).

Owthorpe: Village House with sun dial on the  gable
Lucy sold the house to John's brother Charles and returned to London.  I said earlier that the fame should be hers.  As a girl she had eschewed the usual female pursuits of needlework and music in favour of Latin.  She is the author of Order and Disorder, the first epic poem by a woman in the English language. She also wrote Memoirs Of The Life Of Colonel Hutchinson.  Her purpose here was to inform her children of their father's innocence.  It was published by the family in 1806.  Lucy was also buried in Owthorpe in 1681.

Owthorpe: Street view
 Owthorpe Hall was purchased by Sir George Smith Bromley, Bart. We have come across him before .... his family famously set up the first Bank (Smith Bank) and they lived at East Stoke.

The Bromleys rented out the house but it fell into disrepair then, around 1825, it was destroyed by fire and the whole place was demolished in 1832.  The large ornate garden pots were removed to Stoke Hall ... who knows, they might still be there.

Garden ornament

Map of Owthorpe: click here.

Owthorpe barn
*  Thomas Boothby (1677 - 1752) inherited Tooley Park in Leicestershire when he was just 15 years old. During his life he was married three times ... each wife increased his wealth which enabled him to dedicate most of his time to hunting and breeding his foxhounds.  He was Master of the Quorn Hunt 55 times.  Tom O' Tooley sounds a bit of a terror ... he grabbed hold of the local vicar and almost drowned him in a fishpond after the poor cleric made the mistake of telling Mrs Boothby that Tom was keeping a mistress.