Friday, 28 August 2015

Kilvington & Alverton

 Sited close to Staunton is the tiny hamlet of Kilvington.  For many years there was opencast gypsum extraction here until the quarry was exhausted in 2004. The pits have filled with water and, at the moment, the site has become a peaceful haven for wildlife.  A small corner has been set aside for a bench where birders can view the lake in relative comfort, have a chat and record their sightings on a communal board.

Rumour has it that this is not to last though.  The lady in Flawborough and Mrs Staunton both talked of plans for holiday cottages on the site.  This will change the look of the place and bring more cars to the area but, on a positive note, it will mean more employment opportunities and the lakes (and wildlife) will be properly managed. We wait to see what happens.

 Across the main road and up a short lane you find St Mary's Church.  A real country churchyard with lovely large lanterns, straight out of a film set.

We know there was a church here in 1190 because "William, parson of Kilvington" witnessed the Deed of Manumission freeing Hugh Travers to go on Richard I's Crusade in William Staunton's place.   According to the Incumbent Board Thomas de Sibthorpe was the incumbent in 1317 (he was murdered in 1351 - see Sibthorpe).  John de Sibthorpe was the parson in 1344 but died in 1349 when the Black Death came to the village. Rev John Atkinson was in charge in 1523 but he resigned his post in 1558 probably due to the religious turmoil of the times (it is thought he was unhappy with the idea of a Church of England). So this tiny place has been touched by some historical events.

 Kilvington, Alverton and Flawborough have shared close connections with Staunton since the 11th century because of land ownership.  The members of the Staunton family are listed on the church incumbents board as early as 1270s.  They may have lost control of these neighbouring villages occasionally but they worked to get them back.  In 1602 William Staunton mortgaged Kilvington to William Cecil (grandson of Lord Burleigh, Elizabeth I's chief advisor) for £600 to pay the debts of "his extravagent wife".  His son, Anthony, bought it back in 1613.  Another William Staunton lost it again after the Civil War.  Having sided with the Royalists he was fined very heavily so sold his rights to Kilvington.

The religious tensions mentioned earlier meant every parish throughout the country had to report on the number of parishoners; how many were ‘Popish recusants’ (Roman Catholics) and how many refused Holy Communion.  In 1676 two Kilvington residents, the blacksmith Edward Richardson and his wife Sarah, were reported as absenting themselves from Communion. Robert Thoroton of Car Colston was a JP.  He fined Richardson £10 for attending a Quaker meeting.  When he could not pay the bailiffs took his goods to the value of £16 ... this included food, fuel, beds and bedding, even his children's clothes.  Even worse they took his work tools.  I can not imagine the misery in that empty house.  He couldn't even work to feed his family.  Thoroton was strongly criticised for his severe treatment of Quakers.  The Richardsons managed to survive  ... we know this because in 1686 they were reported again for not attending Communion!

Kilvington returned to the Staunton family during the 1700s and was passed down the female line. In 1777 Rev. John Aspinshawe's wife inherited and he changed their name: Rev John became Dr.  Staunton.  He was incumbent to a number of churches in Nottinghamshire.  Obviously he couldn't be in lots of places at once each Sunday and Kilvinghton residents complained he only showed up once a year ... pay day! Services stopped in 1820 and the building fell into disrepair. When Dr Staunton died in 1851 the old church was replaced by the one we see today.

 A short distance away is Alverton, one of the smallest villages .  Two residents are reported to like the place so much they have refused to leave ... even though they are dead.

The first of these resides in a beautiful house called The Chestnuts.  The real life residents report seeing the spirit of an elderly lady in Victorian clothes.  The ghost is thought to be Mary Brown who, while employed as a seamstress to Queen Victoria no less, had been called home by her brother after the death of his wife.  She returned to Alverton to look after his four children.  Apparently she was a very strict guardian .... not a happy situation for anyone then.

The second ghost stalks the old Staunton Church of England School, built in 1881 but now converted into a private house.

This one is reported to be the spirit of a school teacher murdered in the building.  The residents hear noises apparently.  Sadly, I can't find any reference to such a crime so I can't tell you the gory details. 

 I can tell you about the son-in-law of Cyrus Andrews, late resident of Alverton Grange.  In 1893 Cyrus's daughter, Alice married Athur Henry Tylden-Pattenson.  He served through the Zulu War 1879 and through the Battle of Ginginhlovo.  Following campaigns in South Africa 1900 - 1901 he was mentioned in Despatches, awarded the Queen's Medal with three clasps, and created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order: "Arthur Henry Tylden-Pattenson, Major, 3rd Battn. East Kent Regt. In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa."  More history on the doorstep.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


Street View

You need a car if you live in Flawborough .... or a horse.  There are no shops, no schools ... in fact there are no amenities at all ...and the bus service is dreadful: it goes to Newark once on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I don't imagine many people here use it anyway.  This is a small but affluent place tucked away in the middle of nowhere. 

 It is rather popular with cyclists, precisely because it has the feeling of a traffic-free area.  In fact a friendly resident told us the cyclists were becoming a bit of a problem. The Flawborough residents have had to make a stand because nearly every summer weekend a cycle race was being planned through their village. Great for the cyclists but rather inconvenient when you were trying to drive home.  You can't hear them coming: her dog was ran over by a bike a few weeks ago so she is not a great fan.

The day we visited the road was far from traffic-free. A surprising number of lorries kept trundling through the narrow lanes.  It is a farming community and this time of year there's lots of produce to move about. They use trucks instead of tractors to cut the number of journeys.

St Peter's Church
 Our visit began at St Peter's Church, the only building in the village that isn't a house.  A notice on the gate told us it is up for sale. I hadn't even walked through the gate before my mind was converting it into a house.

It has stood empty since 2009 so it needs some work.  A couple of glass panes need replacing but the front door is amazing ...


  I was just beginning to wonder about a garden full of graves when the gravestones took my attention.  They are old and fabulous:

Slate Gravestone

                                                 Slate Gravestone

 Lots of Swithland slate dating back to the early 1700s but the inscriptions have hardly weathered. The backs of the slabs are not smooth so you can see how much work had to go into producing these headstones: with no help from machinery they had to cut the stone to size, polish the front then carve the inscription.  On some of them the stonemason hadn't quite got the spacing right or he made the odd spelling mistake so words or letters were added above the line!  There is an example in the penultimate line on the one below.

                                                                        Slate Gravestone

 These stones all have a motif called the Belvoir Angel - a round angel face with wings at the side. The Belvoir Angel is only found in this area of the country.  You can see how it developed from the naive design above to a more rounded figure in later years.

 The terrible infant mortality rate is also shown in the very sad inscription above.

  This one is particulary special - the stonemason didn't carve it - the letters are all raised!  How long would that have taken him with just a hammer and chisel!! Amazing work.

 While we were in the church yard a village resident came to chat.  Apparently the church, when sold, can't be converted into anything ... a business could move in but the graveyard will continue to be used so my dream house will never be. This friendly resident was baptised in the church and plans to be buried there. Her family, the Hawthornes, have lived here for years.

Flawborough Equine is a World Class Equine Rehabilitation Centre based in Flawborough and  Flawborough Farms cultivates the land around the village and nearby Alverton. Both are owned by members of the Hawthorne family.  Prior to 1955 Flawborough Hall and the estate belonged to Major Edward Harold Spalding but he never had children of his own so on his death he left the property to his farm manager ... Mr Hawthorne. Obviously this was big news at the time.  It was equivalent to a huge Lottery win today.  The Hawthornes were the Golden Couple of Flawborough for a time!  It is his son and grandson who run the farm business today.

Flawborough Hall

Major Spalding had been in the retail trade during his lifetime.  Back in1878 his father was part of a partnership .... Griffin & Spalding ... who purchased a small corner shop across the road from Old Market Square in Nottingham.  Ten years later they bought the shops on either side. Their sons ... our Major Spalding ... took over during the 1920s when a remodelling of the building underlined its importance as a retail centre for the city. (That must have taken some thought as the amalgamation of different shops meant there were 37 different floor levels in the building! No wonder I always get lost when I go in there!) The Mikado Cafe, on the ground floor, was described in a magazine of the time as being part of  “a fashionable store in town noted for high fashion and furs and has something of a reputation of the seafront at Brighton as a place where people liked to be seen in the latest fashions.”  The store sold those fashions and furs, furniture and household goods all at competitive prices; they had a 'never knowingly undersold' scheme and the customer was always right.  Sounds like my kind of shop! As a side line they also provided upholstered seats and carpeting for cinema (a growth market in the 1930s).  In 1944 they accepted an offer for the business and Debenhams took over. 

There is a monument to the Spalding family in St Peter's Church, Nottingham:

"A dark grey marble oval with gold lettering commemorating John Tricks Spalding (1844-1924) and his sons William Arthur (1872-1963) and Edward Harold (1873-1955). John Tricks Spalding was Mayor of Nottingham and churchwarden of St Thomas’ Church. Edward Harold Spalding served as High Sherriff of Nottinghamshire in 1951."

Street view

One of the lost villages of Nottinghamshire was sited very close to here.  Dallington was just down the lane but there's no sign of it now. Apparently the Plague reduced the population and land enclosure finished it off.


Sunday, 23 August 2015


Staunton-in-the-Vale sits in a pretty corner of Nottinghamshire, only a mile away from the Threeshires Bush where Nottinghamshire meets Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Our vist to Staunton began at the pub.

The Staunton Arms Grade II listed building
The Staunton Arms is a great pub. They are Casque Mark approved by CAMRA: they serve excellent
food (we can recommend the Christmas Dinner!) and there is always a very warm welcome.  It is one of our favourite pubs and the reason why a lot of people travel to this tiny village.  It was built two hundred years ago for the workers on the Staunton estate. It only had a six day license because of the religious convictions of the Staunton family but they sold the pub in 1978 so it now opens every day.

Bryan de Staunton was living here as far back as 1041.  A few years later Bryan's grandson, Mauger, was awarded the Manor of Staunton by the Lords of Belvoir as a reward for defending Belvoir Castle against William the Conqueror.  A tower at the castle is still named Staunton Tower.  When a member of the royal family visis Belvoir the head of the Staunton family presents them with the gold key to the tower.

Staunton Hall

Possibly Geoffrey de Staunton
By 1188 William de Staunton was head of the family.  Saladin the Great had conquered Jerusalem a year earlier and King Richard I was preparing for the Third Crusade.  When the Pope decreed that all sins would be forgiven for anyone joining the Holy War he also stated that the same applied if you gave a substantial contribution or sent someone else in you place ... William de Staunton chose the latter.  Hugh Travers was a villein on the estate.  This meant he worked the land but he or his wife and children could be sold if the Stauntons decided to do it.  According to a Deed of Manumission amongst the Stauntons' collection of ancient documents William freed Hugh and his brother, John, so they could take the cross in his place.

They joined the Crusade at Nottingham Castle, marched to the coast then sailed to France then on to Cyprus, marched to Acre, Joppa and then Jerusalem.  A long hard journey with a few battles along the way ... Hugh was one of the lucky ones who survived .... they almost got there but within sight of Jerusalem King Richard came to an agreement with Saladin in 1192.

Richard left his troops and hurried back to England.  Unfortunately he was captured and held to ransom for 200,000 marks when he reached Austria.  Hugh Travers and his companions had to suffer the return journey but once he got back to Staunton his family prospered.  He was a free man with rent of only 1lb of  cummin and 1lb of incense per year.

William Staunton 1326
A century later another William Staunton took part in the Holy War.  It has been recorded that “he went beyond the seas with King Edward I in 1280 [to the Crusades]; he gave liberally to his offspring; to the church and poor in his own town; to many convents of Fryers, and in support of passage to the Holy Land.”  They must have got the date wrong though .... This would be the Ninth Crusade taken by Edward I.  Edward returned to England in 1274.  If William was accompanying the King in 1280 it was only as far as Wales.

 Many of the Stauntons are buried inside St Mary's Church next to the Hall  ... this William Staunton is not one of them.  Upon his death in 1326 he gave directions in his will to bury him in the churchyard.

Perhaps William's absences from home might explain the actions of Cecily,  Lady Staunton who was accused and convicted of adultery in 1299.  Her lover was William de Breadon.  When the summons was delivered to her Ladyship De Breadon was so incensed he forced the messanger to eat the document!  The Archbishop of York sentenced Cecily to be whipped on six days in Staunton churchyard, a further six days in Nottingham market place and another six days in Bingham market place.  This seems rather extreme!  William de Breadon was excommunicated ... rather a big deal at the time but I know which one I would choose!

Another memorial in the church is one to Dame Joan Staunton, wife of Geoffrey de Staunton, daughter of John de Lowdham and Great, Great, Great (x 18!) Grandmother of HRH Prince Charles. Check out her pedigree here.

Effigy of Joan de Staunton

By the 1600s the family fortunes took a slight turn for the worse.  The connection with the Lords of Belvoir had continued over the years and in 1604 Anthony Staunton, a minor, had inherited the estate and was the ward of the Earl of Rutland.  This meant he was in charge of the Staunton finances.  He gave this benefit away to Robert Dallington. Rather unwisely he wagered it in a game of bowls.  Matthew Palmer bowled well that day!  His young sister, Frances, gained a husband and the Palmers began to prosper.  Anthony died at the age of 27 in 1613.  He left a young heir, William, for the Palmers to continue to look after!

As an adult William married Anne Waring and they had six sons and seven daughters (sadly six died in infancy).  During the Civil War (1642 - 1651) William Staunton sided with the Royalists. He was with King Charles when he raised his Standard in Nottingham: he fought in the Battle of Edgehill and, on being promoted to Colonel, he raised a troop of 1,200 soldiers at his own expense. He helped defend Newark from the Parliamentarians. Terrible times! He lodged at The Hart in Newark during the seige but there were 16,000 troops surrounding the town once the Scots joined in.  The River Devon was dammed so water was in short supply.  Survivors said they ate dogs and horses once food ran out. Another threat in the town was the Plague.  They held out though until King Charles ordered them to surrender after his arrest (in May 1646).

While William was in Newark his wife and children at Staunton Hall were also under attack.  Anne had stationed a servant in the church tower as lookout so they had some warning before they were surrounded. The family members and twenty servants were not enough.  Today the front door still has the scars from that night. The building was damaged, the contents ransacked and stolen and the inhabitants thrown out. On William's return he estimated the cost of the damage to be £2,600 on top of which he had to pay a loan he had taken out for the defence of Newark and there were fines for choosing to support the wrong side.  The Staunton finances were not in a good way.

Memorial to Colonel William Staunton

This situation wasn't helped when William's son inherited the estate.  His extravagant life style added
to the debts ... but he died young and they were saved when William's grandson, Harvey Staunton, married into money!  Here, after 600 years, the male line of the family ended.  Harvey's four daughters inherited from their father. Anne, the eldest, and her husband bought out the other sisters.

Anne seems to have spent her lifetime living comfortably but juggling debts ... a page in her 1726 diary reads "... given to my son by ye name that one story is good until another is told," then reveals she was paying £125 per annum on loans.  Her son, Job, took over a £6,000 debt on her death but he too married a wealthy young woman.  His three daughters, or The Old Devils, as they came to be known, took over in 1778. They never married and sound quite formidable! When the Duke of Rutland proposed the Grantham Canal he planned to take the water from the River Devon.  The Old Devils had a water mill on that river so they took him on and won.  The canal went ahead but their water supply was protected. On their deaths the estate passed to their cousin on the understanding she and her husband took the name of Staunton.

During the 20th century Rev Harvey Staunton held the manor until his death in Mesopotamia during the First World War.  He was succeeded by his brother George.  He also saw active service ... he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal after Ypres but he was invalided home in 1915. He died in 1965 when his grandson, Edmund, became the present Lord of the Manor.

Inside the gate to the churchyard there is a WWII War Memorial.

WWII Memorial

We have already come across aviation casualties from RAF Syerston (see Screveton) well this one involved the deaths of seven more young men.  The pilot, Thomas Warne, a 23 year old Canadian was the oldest crew member.  He had only 15 hours night flying experience.  It was almost 11pm on 18th February 1943 and the plane was returning to Syerston after a 6hrs 45 mins training flight. The landing gear was down when a con rod broke on the starboard engine.  They could not put out the ensuing fire, the plane crashed with the loss of everyone on board.

This tragic accident was witnessed by a schoolboy called Sid Baggaley.  Years later his grand--daughter researched the crash and the memorial was erected overlooking the crash site.  The Staunton family paid for the stone and the propeller came from a Lancaster bomber that crashed in a Lincolnshire field.

Staunton Arms and date on the stable block

We were wandering around the churchyard when we struck up a conversation with a man working in the garden of the Hall.  Once he realised what we were doing he invited us into the old stable block ... what a treasure trove!

Rather than throwing things away they have been stored in the horse stalls.  Anything from babies bottles to garden tools; wooden hands for stretching leather gloves to seed scattering farm implements; half-finished wheels from the last wheel wright's workshop to WWII Home Front helmets ... a proper little museum filled with things you can now only guess their uses!

Old Post Office sign .... the Post Office is now a private residence.

The set of buildings housing all this was not only the stables: two large doors allowed coaches to enter too.  Some storage rooms at the side had bars on the windows ... this was the living quarters for some WWII prisoners of war.  They worked on the estate and at one point mended the roof on the Staunton Arms.

After an interesting tour we thanked our guide and returned to the church ....

Church gate

... the outside of which  is decorated with at least 70 carved heads:

Then surprise, surprise!! Tucked away in a corner we came across this!  The guy certainly had a sense of humour ... but this is the side of a church!  How amused would the religious minded Stauntons have been?

This little dragon certain looks to be smiling!

Church Roof Decoration

Inside the church there are the colourful funeral hatchments of the Staunton family (see the photos above) and numerous memorials.  There were more but two effigies were destroyed during the 17th century by a Puritan rector, Simon Jucks, who wanted more room for his congregation. 

One of the memorials is in the form of a stain glass window.
William Wailes's window

It seems to have been a fashionable thing to do in the late 1800s.  This one is dedicated to Henry Charlton Staunton who died in 1866 at the age of 31.  It is by William Wailes and is one of the most colourful ones we have seen.

Carved Chancel Screen
The Chancel Screen is beautifully carved and dates back to the 1500s.  It was erected by Parson Symon Yates at his own expense according to Robert Staunton.

The 19th century heating system looks very efficient:

Church radiator

We left the church and on the way back through the village we met Mrs Staunton.  She had seen us wandering about and was happy to chat about the village and her family ... a common trait in people who are proud of where they live.

Her son, Robert Staunton, and his wife Adrienne have converted one of the barns on the estate to create a successful school ... The Montessori Nursery School and Tuition Centre.  They have lots of glowing reports from very happy parents.

The Old Rectory

Street view

 Sir Walter Scott described Staunton-in-the-Vale as “one of those beautiful scenes which are so often found in England.”  He visited the Hall in the 1800s when he was writing 'Heart of Midlothian'. The Willigham of the novel is based on Staunton Hall (his sketch of the Hall appeared in the early editions).

Map of Staunton: click here.