Monday, 20 July 2015

Car Colston

Cricket on The Green
On a warm summer’s day you can’t beat the village green at Car Colston.  Sitting outside the Royal Oak with a refreshing drink, enjoying a cricket match, listening to the swallows and house martins swooping above or watching the cows on the common …. bliss.

Little white bull ... on The Green
Large Common is sixteen and a half acres of grass and is the largest village green in Nottinghamshire.  At the other side of the village is Little Green measuring five and a half acres.  When the medieval fields were enclosed in 1598 the landowners agreed to leave these two areas to provide grazing for the villagers' livestock.  Gates were placed across the roads into the village to stop the animals roaming.  The gate posts are still there.
Village gates

This village entrance sits beside Car Colston Hall Stud

The stud is owned by Nick Foreman Hardy and his wife, Jane. The Foreman Hardy family owned the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper until a few years ago.  They now run an investment house as well as breeding thoroughbred race horses.  Reckless Abandon (a winner at Royal Ascot) was bred there. They appear to be doing rather well as they steadily move up the Sunday Times Rich List.

Car Colston Hall, a Grade II listed building, hides amongst mature trees but can be seen from the green.  It was built in 1838 for the Rev John C Girardot MA, the village vicar. They obviously paid them well in those days!

Car Colston Hall
 The Old Hall is at the other end of the village. Another Grade II listed building, it is on the site of the home of Dr Robert Thoroton (1623 - 1678), famed Nottinghamshire historian.

Old Hall, Car Colston
Six generations of Thorotons had lived in Car Colston when Robert was born but their name shows their long association with the nearby village of Thoroton where they had been landowners right back to the 13th century. Parish records show a Robert Thoroton (Dr Thoroton's great-grandfather) died of the Plague in 1604; this infection wiped out a fifth of the village population between 1603 and 1604. A stone on the outside of  St Mary's Church, Car Colston, describes Dr Thoroton's grandfather as "a loyal servant of King and Church"  who died in 1646 when Thoroton's parents inherited the Hall.  His mother died in 1660 and Thoroton moved in with his wife, Anne (nee. Bohun).  They had three daughters but sadly one drowned in 1655. The old building was in a serious state of disrepair and was demolished in 1666.  The Thorotons moved into a new home on the same site.  Many years later this too fell into disrepair and had to be pulled down.  The present Old Hall dates back to 1812. 

Village on the Green

Thoroton was a physician and a magistrate who dabbled in genealogy in his spare time.  During a visit to Thrumpton, to see his friend Gervase Pigot and Sir William Dugdale, Thoroton was encouraged to complete a document outlining the history of Nottinghamshire which had been started by Gilbert Bohun (Thoroton's father in law). 

'The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire' ("A work of great labour and erudition" according to The Thoroton Society) took ten years to complete in which he produced an accurate record of the landowners in each Nottinghamshire parish from the Domesday Book to his time ... 600 years ... researched without the aid of the internet!  It was published in 1677 but he enjoyed the acclaim for only a few months ... he died in 1678.

He was well prepared for his own death having had a beautifully carved stone coffin made for himself six years earlier!  He was buried in Car Colston churchyard. 

St Mary Church dates back to 13th century
In 1845 the coffin was unearthed by some workmen carrying out restoration work on the church.  The coffin was opened, the body taken out and the skull placed in a shop window as a curiosity! School children witnessed the coffin being opened and remembered the dusty skeleton coming to light. Can you imagine the uproar this would cause today!  The Reverend John Girardot MA, was outraged and demanded the remains were replaced in the coffin and the whole thing reburied. Unfortunately another group of workmen unearthed it again in 1863.  This time the empty coffin was placed inside the church where it can be seen today.  

A rural setting
A  contemporary of Dr Thoroton's was the Reverend Samuel Brunsell.  Now here is an interesting character.  During the Civil War he spent time in the Netherlands.  Some historians claim he was running away from the war but evidence seems to suggest otherwise.  During his time abroad he served Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield (the Stanhope family lived in Shelford, Notts). She was married to a wealthy Dutch diplomat, John van Kerkhove, the Lord of Heenvliet.  These two were taking care of the exiled royal family: in particular Princess Mary (daughter of Charles I and soon to be child bride of William of Orange - Lord Heenvliet was instrumental in setting up the marriage). Brunsell returned to England in 1648. In 1662, after the Restoration, Katherine Stanhope helped him became the Rector of Bingham, incumbent of Screveton & Upton as well as canonries at  Southwell Minster and Lincoln Cathedral. All this even though he was only awarded his Divinity degree in 1661.  He was obviously being rewarded for something ... far from running away from the Civil War he had been actively involved as a spy for the Royalists ... a 17th century James Bond! 
His elder brother, Henry Brunsell, was also well rewarded after the restoration.  He married the sister of Sir Christopher Wren.

Brunsell House
Church carving
According to Bingham folklore Brunsell was one of the last men in the country to officially lay a ghost.  Personally I think he had a superstitious congregation and a bit of a theatrical side to his nature!  Whilst he was Rector of Bingham the residents of Chapel Lane complained of a ghost causing considerable disturbance. Brunsell had a new grave dug in the church yard and a coffin left open over night in Chapel Lane.  The next day Brunsell, in full clerical gown and wig, had the coffin sealed and carried shoulder high through the Bingham streets to the church with a large procession of townsfolk following.  The burial service was conducted and the coffin buried.  That seems to have placated the ghost who never appeared again.
Church carving

Between 1660 and 1664 Brunsell purchased some land in Car Colston from the Thorotons and a property from William Kirke. The house had previously belonged to Richard Kirke but he was a Roman Catholic and being caught up in the religious conflicts of the time he passed the deeds to his brother William (Richard later died in prison).  Samuel built a beautiful H shaped house on the land but only a section of it remains today.  There is a question mark over what happened to the rest of Richard Kirke's worldly wealth.  Only the house was passed on ... did he bury his money and valuables in the garden hoping to return later? Rumour has it ......
 Brunsell died in 1687 and was buried in Bingham Church.  According to a Mr M. Blagg of the Thoroton Society (1902), "The members of the Brunsell family who continued to reside at Car-Colston led very scandalous lives and came to a bad end, and the property passed into the possession of my own ancestors, the Sampeys, in 1759.”

Large Green
In 1833 Thomas Blagg (b. 1803) of Car Coloston married Grace Goulson, daughter of Dorothy Sampey.  They had 12 children and this is the branch of the family that lived in Brunsell House. Now I have no proof of this next part but according to an amateur genealogist on looking into her  own connection with the Blagg family, Thomas's brother, Francis Blagg (b  1808) lived in South Leverton, North Notts.  He married Mary  Rogers who already had a daughter, Helen, by a previous marriage.  Francis, a surgeon by trade, had four children .... by his step daughter.  Talk about a scandalous life!  It gets better ..... Francis died early at the age of 51.  He went out for a drink and died on the journey home by travelling too fast and accidently running into a post ... he was drunk in charge of a horse!

Sadly the Blagg brother's father and grandfather (both surgeons) had died early too.  Their father drowned in the River Trent: their grandfather died after taking snuff without washing his hands after conducting a surgical procedure.

The Car Colston Blagg family are respected members of the village community. There are numerous memorials to family members in the church.

The church war memorial begins with the name of  Capt. Philip Umfreville Laws MC who died in 1917. He was the eldest son of William (yet another surgeon) and Anne Laws who lived at The Old Rectory in Car Colston.   The Nottingham Daily Guardian 25/9/1917 reported  'A fellow officer wrote: "He was up in front holding a concrete dugout with a few men he had managed to collect and was hit in the head... I have never seen any one more gallant."'

His Military Cross citation reads:' For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Forward Observation officer. During the action and the five following days he sent in most valuable information as to the enemy's movements, whereby several counter-attacks were broken up before they could deploy. When the Forward Station Signalling Officer was wounded he also took charge of the signals, and kept up communication with the brigade, remaining at his post after the troops on his right had been forced to fall back. By his coolness, able leadership, and excellent reports he was largely instrumental in making the flank secure and clearing up the situation'.

A real war hero.

White House on the Green
19thC whipping post
The footpath from the Church to the village green brings you out next to the old village stocks and whipping post (Grade II listed). It is in remarkably good working order for its age.  As you can see there is a stool then the villain's limbs could be secured against the post.  They were either left there and humiliated or corporal punishment could be carried out for more serious offences. Although it is tucked away round the corner from the green there is still plenty of room for spectators and there is a ring set in the wall for tethering a horse. 

The large wall in the photo belongs to Beech Close, a large Grade II listed country house set in beautiful grounds which dates back to 1719.

At the far side of Large Common is yet another interesting building.  Manor Cottages has a 17th century wooden framed panel.

Manor Cottage
In the pasture at the back of this building there are the outlines of some medieval houses and a Roman Villa that once stood on this site.  It can be seen quite clearly in aerial photographs.  The site has never been excavated.  Its close proximity to the local pub could explain the rumour of a ghost of a Roman soldier that haunts the cellar there ... or it could be just be the alcohol to blame. They should have told Rev Brunsell about it!

Royal Oak public house
We enjoyed the friendly welcome and hospitality at the village pub.  The Royal Oak  is the second most popular pub name in England (beaten by The Red Lion). The oak tree in question is actually in Shropshire. In 1651, after defeat in the Battle of Worcester, Charles II climbed into the tree, and had to spend the night there, in order to hide from Parliamentarian soldiers. Following the Restoration people happily celebrated the end of Cromwell's years of austerity and many public houses changed their name to the Royal Oak. The Civil War (1642 - 1651) didn't have a great impact on Car Colston but there is one tale of the 17th century pub landlord helping a cavalier to evade capture by taking him down river to safety.

Well, I'll get back to the cricket and my refreshing pint of Boon Dongle.


Car Colston map:  click here.

We went for a pint down at the Royal Oak on 23rd July 2016 and the green was occupied by half-a-dozen vardos - traditional Gypsy bow-topped caravans. At least we think they are called vardos!

Vardos on the Green at Car Colston, July 2016

Traditional caravans.
These brightly decorated wooden caravans added a touch of a lost time to this beautiful village on a lovely summer's day.

Ready for a paint job. Presumably being renovated or new and waiting on the intricate paintwork.

Fantastic detail and intricate designs are a hallmark of these vans

These things are not cheap. A quick search of the internet gave results for excellent vardos priced at £140.000 down to a more manageable £4.000. A few companies are offering them to rent...along with an 'oss for a relaxing, plodding, slow-paced, wandering holiday. Around a thousand pounds for the week.

Refuelling the motor!

An idyllic scene.

T Brindley - Painter

A great deal of time and skill goes into the design of these vans.
Thanks to the owners who were most friendly and welcomed us taking pictures of their vans. They even offered me a warm beer.

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