Friday, 26 June 2015


Thoroton is a small linear village that lies along the west bank of the River Smite. Around 140 people currently live in the village which is surrounded by typical south Notts agricultural scenery. Large arable fields, hedgerows and streams with a few small copses predominate. It is reasonable walking country , none too arduous, but none too inspiring!
Like Scarrington and Hawksworth, two neighbouring villages, there are no shops and more depressingly there are no pubs.
The village was granted conservation status in 1974. The Rushcliffe Borough website describes the village as: '...a traditional Nottinghamshire village in character, with the predominant building materials being red brick and pantiles. The buildings themselves closely define the street but wide grass verges edge the lanes on the main approaches."
The village is well known for its dovecote, one of only three circular ones in the county. Apparently it is 500 years old and was showing its age until it was restored at a cost of £24 000 in 2012.

500 year old dovecote
The restoration work was funded by Nottinghamshie County Council's Local Improvement Scheme. The work included rethatching, re-pointing and the erection of an interpretation panel detailing the history of the dovecote. It is now the only surviving thatched dovecote in Notts. It belonged to Thoroton Hall and stood in the stackyard of Ransom's farm and still had pigeons using the nest boxes as late as the 1960's

Restored dovecote
Approximately 600 nest boxes were built into the walls and the young pigeons, called squibs, were eaten before they fledged at about six weeks old and weighed around 12 ounces before their flight muscles developed. Pigeons can and often do breed all year round so there was a pretty consistent food supply...if you like that sort of thing!

Thoroton Hall stands just along the main road north of the dovecote. This was the village manor and is now a Grade II listed building.The Labour peer Baron Falconer of Thoroton used to live here.

Thoroton Hall. The front facade from the main street.
It dates from the early 18th century with some early 19th century alterations and extensions. In these pictures you can see the blue brick diaperwork (chequer-board pattern) which was a style particularly popular in the preceeding century... for those who could afford it. According to the interpretation panel back at the dovecote "The graduated slate roofs are probably local Swithland slate from Leicestershire, finished with high quality (This is where architect speak kicks in in earnest) stone coped gables and kneelers. It has a double range plan, a single flight return staircase some fielded panelling including window shutters, doors and fireplace and fine late 18th century fire grates."
Thoroton Hall...with gates.
Of course no village is complete without its church and Thoroton is no exception. The church is dedicated to Helen, the mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. She is reputed to have discovered the true cross when she visited the Holy Land in AD 326. Now called St. Helena, the church was earlier dedicated to the saint in the form St. Helen.

St. Helena church.
Domesday book mentions Thoroton as Torretune and says that it was one of five Nottinghamshire places to have a priest although there was no mention of a church. In 1093 William II Rufus gave the church to the See of Lincoln so it is possible that the original church was built between 1086 and 1093.. The earliest extant feature is the late 12th/early 13th century round-headed north aisle arcade so it must remain conjecture as to whether there was a building prior to this date.
I don't know the correct architectural term but half way up the steeple there is a balustrade type of affair and along the bottom edge are stone carvings of a variety of heads. They must have some significance but why they are all so grotesque or loopy is beyond me. Let's hope they were not modelled on local residents.

Loopy, grotesque and plain wierd head carvings around the spire.
Inside the church there are five stained glass windows with some fine and intricate details.

Stained Glass window St Helena's Thoroton

Stained Glass window St Helena's Thoroton

Stained Glass window St Helena's Thoroton

Details of one of the windows.

Ethel Gordon Fenwick was the most famous resident of Thoroton Hall. Ethel was a Scot, born on 26th January 1857. Ethel's doctor father died when she was young and her mother remarried to the MP George Storer and then moved to Thoroton Hall. In 1881, aged 24, Ethel was appointed Matron of St Bartholomew's Hospital after working in other hospitals Manchester and London. Ethel campaigned vigorously for the State Registration of Nurses (SRN) and became the first nurse to become SRN in 1921. Ethel died in 1947and there is an impressive monument to her in the churchyard. as well as an old newspaper clipping in the doorway of the church.

Ethel's monument in the churchyard.
There is an interpretation board in the church which gives some interesting historical information about Saint Helena. Born in 250 AD, she died aged 80 of natural causes. She was born of humble parents in the Roman province of Moesia on the western shore of the Black Sea. Constantin'e father, Constantius Chlorus, who had risen to the throne by military success, was also a native of that region and he had spotted Helena when she was working as an inn-keeper and he whisked her off to become his consort. Their son, Constantine, became emperor on the death of his father and in 312 AD, on the eve of battle, he dreamt of a flaming cross in the sky beneath which were the words 'In this sign conquer.'. He thereupon embraced Christianity, won his battle, got control of the Western Empire and converted his mother to Christianity. She built many churches and restored shrines and when aged 80 she helped clear the mound that covered the holy Sepulchre she, supposedly, uncovered the true cross.
Her patronage is given to Difficult Marriages, Archaeologists and Divorced People! Not much help to the first group then.

Link to Google map:  Thoroton

Thursday, 25 June 2015


A few minutes drive from Scarrington and we arrived at Hawksworth.  The road sign was disappointingly plain but that was forgiven because of the beautiful verge filled with wild flowers, bees and butterflies.  Wonderful! It is a trend championed by Sarah Raven to encourage more wild life friendly planting by councils.  Definitely to be applauded.

Hawksworth was mentioned twice in the Domesday Book (where it is called Hocheword).  It was listed under the lands belonging to Gilbert of Ghent (land for three ploughs; twenty freemen and a smallholder) and Walter Aincourt (two freemen and one smallholder who have two oxen and a plough with a two acre meadow).  The name suggests the village began as a farm (worth means 'farm') but in 1916 a Neolithic axe head was found at Glebe Farm suggesting the site has a very long history.

The village is made up of large detached houses; beautifully converted barns; rose covered cottages; a Norman church and the Progress Works of W B Stubbs.

We parked outside the Progress Works.  On a weekday we wouldn't stand a chance as employees' cars fill the laybys.

W B Stubbs Works, Hawksworth

The name on the building may be W B Stubbs but the business was actually started by Thomas Wade, a blacksmith and maker of agricultural implements.  This was his workshop and forge.

William Blount was Thomas's son.  William was born out of wedlock to Sarah Stubbs of Bingham in 1834.  Thomas married Sarah in 1835 and started the company a year later.  The family prospered ... by the 1851 census they were employing two household servants. (See Leicestershire Antills and Connected Families here). By 1871 the company was employing three men and two apprentices.  Three years later Thomas died and William inherited the business.

Memorial for Thom. & Sarah Wade
Thomas and Sarah Wade are buried in the local church yard.   Close to their memorial is the grave of Hannah, wife of W B Stubbs.  She died in 1858 at the young age of 25.  There is no cause of death mentioned.  William Blount married Sarah Hill in 1862 and she gave him two sons, William and George.

William is mentioned in the My Oxton website as being called upon to fix a threshing machine.  Even after the combine harvester was introduced the inefficiency of agricultural machinery has brought a lot of work to the Stubbs family! 

In 1969 they could have experienced a major set back but for the loyalty of their workers.  One Friday night the business premises caught fire.  It took 40 fire fighters to bring it under control.  The staff volunteered to work all weekend without pay to ensure production could continue on Monday morning.  Now that is impressive.

Today the firm is highly regarded for equestrian equipment.

W B Stubbs Works, Hawksworth

Great window but can someone PLEASE let BAZ out!

We walked down the road to the Grade II listed Norman church. It is dedicated to St Mary and All Saints.  There is a large tympanum (an arch over a door) built into the South wall ... it was originally over the West door but was moved during restoration. 
Tympanum, Hawksworth Church
In the centre next to the large cross are two figures thought to be the two thieves crucified with Jesus.  The very weathered inscription translates to read "Walter and his wife Cecilina caused this church to be made in honour of Our Lord and St Mary and of all God's saints likewise."  The Walter mentioned is thought not to be the same Walter as mentioned in the Doomsday Book as the church was built later.  Perhaps his son or even his grandson. 
The newly formed Thoroton Society visited Hawksworth church in 1897 and were concerned over the erosion.  They suggested that, as it was no longer in its original place, it should be moved inside to protect it. Well, 118 years later it is almost illegible and still unprotected. 
The shaft of a large stone Saxon cross is kept inside the church.  Standing at six feet tall, it is highly decorated with carvings of knots and plaits. The stone is thought to have marked the place for outdoor preaching before the church was actually built.
St Mary & All Saints, Hawksworth
Three grotesque gargoyles decorate the side wall staring out over the cemetery.  They look quite ferocious but I rather like them.

On the other hand some of the other carvings could be described as unsettling! 

One stood out as being very attractive.  There was no record of who she was:

Next to the church is a magnificent white house - Hawksworth Place, a Grade II listed building.  It used to be the Rectory.  In the days when second sons of wealthy gentlemen often chose to become vicars they certainly knew how to look after the clergy!

Hawksworth Place

Round the corner from the church you pass Top Farm ... another Grade II listed building.

Top Farm

I was rather taken with the weather vane.  Looking round we began to notice more of them.

There are wonderful views of the country side from over Top Farm paddocks.

View from Top Farm

Further down the road ....

Street view, Hawksworth

... stands the Old School House.  The National School was built in 1844 .... now it is an attractive house.

Old School House, Hawksworth

Then there is the Old Post Office ....

Old Post Office, Hawksworth

....that too is a home....

Wesleyan Chapel, Hawksworth

Here is the Wesleyan Chapel .... yep it's also a house.

They all added interest to this lovely old village as we continued down the road to Hawksworth Manor.

Hawksworth Manor
Built in the 17th century it too is a Grade II listed building.  I was particularly enamoured by the window casings ... they were installed mid 19th century when the house was extended and improved. 

We couldn't see the Pigeon Cote from the road but apparently it is at the side of the house, dates back to 1665 and is also Grade II listed.

Two more houses caught my attention:

One because it was empty and the windows were fake, just painted onto the wall:

The second because it was just lovely to look at:

As we walked back to the car we passed the telephone box.  I could say, "No longer in use" but that wouldn't be quite true.

What a good idea. 

We spoke to a local who moved to the village about four years ago.  He loves it because of its great community spirit.  I think I appreciate it for its attitude toward environmental issues.