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.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. What a great write up. My partner has just been there to do some work and she said how beautiful it was and how lovely the family there were, so I decided to look into the place - and Im blown away by the history. She actually held the cannonball (or a cannonball) that went through the door you mentioned.