Tuesday, 7 July 2015


In my humble opinion one of the best things about Orston is its pub: The Durham Ox. I don't mean this in a disparaging way or to belittle any other establishment, building or object in Orston. It's simply that after visiting four villages in the old Bingham Wapentake and finding not a single boozer I was becoming a bit disappointed, not to mention thirsty. What has happened, and is still happening, to the village pub?  Last week we were in Whatton and I remember the Griffin's Head - alas no more! Likewise the Greyhound Inn in Aslockton just over the railway line. Gone! No doubt I will come across many more sites of ex-pubs as I wander around the villages of Notts. I hope not too many!

According to the Ox's website: 'The Durham Ox is a traditional country pub situated in the heart of the Vale of Belvior. Offering a lovely cosy atmosphere while serving a range of real ales, fine wines and excellent home-cooked food

The Durham Ox is Family Friendly and welcomes locals and passersby alike and is extremely popular with walkers in the area.'   I wouldn't argue with any of that and indeed I didn't as I sat sipping a well-kept pint of Castle Rock's award winning Harvest Pale. The outside seating area to the rear of the pub is a comfortable and relaxing place to sit, equipped with some interesting little booths to help create a unique ambience in the evening.

Quirky hooks on the front wall allow one to tie up both your horses as well as your ferrets.  There are both main and bar menus and when we were there people were already tucking into Sunday Lunches at just past midday.

The original Durham Ox was a castrated bull which became famous in the early 19th century due to its size, shape and weight. Born in 1796 the ox had a career as a touring animal, literally carted around the country to fairs and fetes.  For most of 1802 the Durham Ox was on show in London, where it is recorded that in one single day admission fees to see him totalled £97. About £6 000 nowadays! Must have been some ox! The impact made by the Durham Ox is reflected in the large number of British pubs named after the creature. I can only presume said beastie once visited Orston during its extensive travels in the first few years of its life and the locals named the pub after this event.


According to Wikipedia 'A dedication accompanying a painting of the ox by John Boultbee (1753–1812) in 1802 gave details of the animal’s measurements and estimated its weight as 171 stones (1,086 kg), but later estimates ran as high as 270 stone (1,715 kg), although there may be some confusion as the stone was not a standardised weight at the time. Whilst his size and weight partially accounts for the admiration he attracted, he was also regarded as a particularly fine and well-proportioned example of his type, at a time when the concept of selective breeding for particular characteristics was just becoming established in agriculture.'

The 171 stone Durham Ox

Another reason why Orston figures on the route of many a walker and cyclist is the deli-cafe on Loughbon.

The Limehaus is open 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. P'urveyors of local and continental delicacies serving sandwiches and baguettes, a range of home baking, coffee & tea.' All to be enjoyed in their relaxing surroundings or to take away. Unfortunately as we were there on a Sunday we had to miss this treat.

The Limehaus Deli-Cafe.

The name “Orston” originates from the old English “Ordricestune” meaning “The Farmstead of Ordric”.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book 1086 as Oschintone. Although it does not state the population, the Domesday Book does contain details of its agricultural wealth and suggests that Orston was larger and richer than its neighbouring villages, about on a par with Bingham, with around 150 to 175 inhabitants.Orston has its own website where there is a potted history of the village. Click this link to visit.

 The current population is around 450 and judging by the floral displays around the village a good proportion of these must be avid gardeners. In fact Orston has a proud reputation as one of the prettiest villages in Nottinghamshire. It has won the CPRE Best Kept Village competition on four occasions, in Category B which is for villages of 150 to 300 residents. Check out the public phonebox.

The locals have called this the largest 'Hanging basket in the East Midlands.' That's something else that I won't argue with.

'There is little to suggest that Orston was once an industrial village. However, during the second half of the 19th century it had a large gypsum quarry and plaster “manufactory”. Originally, this was in the centre of the village behind Mulhouse on Loughbon between Lombard Street and Chapel Street and called “The Royal Plaster Works”. (The terraced housing there that remains dates back to those times and would have been miners’ cottages). In 1866 a much larger enterprise was set up next to the railway line at the end of Pit Lane . Between 1868 and 1871, it accounted for about 8 per cent of the country’s entire gypsum plaster production. The manufactory has now been demolished. The pits are the remains of the open cast quarry which continued into the 20th century but in the 1860s and 1870s gypsum was extracted by underground mining.' - Barnes P.

For those of you interested in this aspect of Orston's history try this link:

The pits, known as Orston Plaster Pits are now designated as a SSSI. The site comprises one of the best mixed habitat sites in Nottinghamshire and contains examples of neutral and calcareous grassland and eutrophic open water communities which are representative of these habitats in central and eastern England.

There are some fine Nottinghamshire village views to be had as you wander the streets in Orston.

Orston, Nottinghamshire - Cottages

 A famous resident of the village was the renowned architect Thomas Cecil Howitt (1889 - 1968). He designed some of the flagship buildings of Nottingham city centre ... the Council House in Old Market Square and the Newton Building, Trent University, with its beautiful Art Deco style are just two of them .... as well as 6000 municipally owned houses for rent (council houses).  He died in Orston in a home he designed for himself.

Orston, Nottinghamshire.


Orston, Nottinghamshire


Orston, Nottinghamshire. 

 The church of St. Mary is a Grade I listed building with evidence of 13th, 14th and 15th century building. The tower dates from 1766 but there was extensive restoration work in 1899. The nave and north aisle were restored in 1914 so there is not much of the original building extant. The church of St Mary is a blend of the Norman and Perpendicular styles, consisting of chancel, nave of three bays with clerestory, and a low west tower. In Domesday Book it is noted that there was a church and two priests. They owned 1 plough and 1 ox with a meadow of 180 acres.

St. Mary's, Orston

 Of particular interest due to its unusual nature is a drum mounted on the north aisle which was used at the Battle of Waterloo. It has been restored and is therefore in an excellent state. It's not often, if at all, that you bump into one of these whilst inside a church.

Waterloo Drum, St Mary's, Orston


Waterloo Drum, St. Mary's Orston.

There is a font with a 14th century square plinth and an octagonal bowl that as well as angels' heads , roses and other flowers has the inscription 'Given by Mrs. Constantina Kerchevall Feb 7th 1662.'  Perhaps more famous than Constantina is her descendant Ken Kerchival. Ken was the actor who played Cliff Barnes in Dallas. Dallas was a popular TV series broadcast way before my time!

Inscription on the font.

Although the church has no detailed stained glasswork there is a life-size female effigy monument that is believed to be Isabella , daughter of William D'Albini. Richard I granted the Manor of Orston to William D'Albini and on his death it passed to his daughter.  She was buried at St Mary's monastic church, Newstead, in 1301.  It is possible the effigy was moved to Isabella's ancestral church  during the reign of Henry VIII because of the dissolution of the monasteries.

There are four late 18th century painted boards  and two bit of exposed 'art work' part way up a wall. One is a painting of yellow flowers: the other shows some text in a 'Blackletter style.

Blackletter style text - remnant of wall painting.

There is a wealth of information on the church at the Southwell and Nottingham Church Project website which is well worth a visit at: http://www.nottsopenchurches.org.uk 


Detail of 14th century monument - Possibly Isabella D'Albini

I think that the little heads to be found around the exterior of the windows and some of the doors are know as label stops and this church has no shortage of these. I have absolutely no idea if these heads represent known characters or if they are generic representations. There are images of both women and men - recognised more by their head-dress than any discernable facial features. Many have lost their noses due to erosion and other ravages of time but some appear designed to be pretty weird and strange.


Female label stop


Weird label stop


Royal label stop


Young woman...or bloke


Possibly a bearded female

Possibly male


Another bearded female


Crazy man!


Worried man!


View of the church from the south 

There are some fine individual residential houses dotted around Orston. The old vicarage is a good example




 ...as is Manor Farm which is not to be mistaken for the old Orston Manor House which was demolished in 1840.



Orston boasts a village hall which is distinctly late 20th century as well as nearby stables and riding school at the Dovecote Farm Equestrian Centre and a clay shooting centre at the nearby Orston Shooting Ground. So there's a good range of country pursuits to...er persue




Link to Google Maps: Orston

Almost 2 000 people turned out for the annual May Bank Holiday Soapbox Derby at Orston on 29th May. This was the eighth annual event, which used to be held on New Year's Day, and a record 28 different carts entered the races. The 30 plus marshals and other helpers all give their time freely and carts are charged an entry fee to raise money for the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance.


  1. Nice to read as we are in the process of buying a house in Orston so looking forward to becoming part of the community!

  2. Do you know which house was designed by Mr Howitt?

    1. No, sorry, I could not find out. There are plenty of references to the fact that he died in Orston in a house he designed himself but no record of which house. The residents I asked had sadly never heard of him .... I obviously asked the wrong people!