Wednesday, 30 September 2015



We used to visit Cotham Flash for birds but we haven't been for some time.  It was a bit of a disappointment then to find the Pykett's Pond (officially called Hawton Waters) car park closed off by a large block of concrete and the Flash dried up.  The area is still home to Long-eared Owls and Grizzled Skipper butterflies whilst otters have been seen in the river Devon so the place is still worth a visit.  We didn't see any of those on our walk but the Grey Partriges and the Kestrels kept us company while a pear tree provided a timely snack. 

This quiet village was once the home of the Leeks, one of the most powerful and prolific families in Nottinghamshire during medieval times. Sir John Leek of Cotham who died in 1415 rose to be Sheriff of Nottingham and a Member of Parliament.  He was a master at manipulating people and situations for his own advantage: in 1382 Sir John Leek became ward to the grandson of Sir Godfrey Foljambe (died 1376).  Foljambe had been a distinguished lawyer and associate of John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III) .... so a very wealthy man.  Sir John arranged for his 12 year old sister, Margaret, to marry the 15 year old grandson (also named Godfrey) before he came of age and claimed his inheritance.  Unfortunately .... or fortunately from Sir John's point of view .... Godfrey died in 1388 but by that time Margaret had given birth to a daughter which meant Sir John could continue to 'take care' of the Foljambe estate.

Sir John then paid the Crown 50 marks for the marriage rights of the baby girl which were later sold to a wealthy neighbour for 100 marks.  Meanwhile the widowed Margaret was again married off by her scheming brother.  Her new husband was Sir Thomas Rempston, a close associate of Henry Bolingbroke, so Sir John now had a close connection with the future king. Makes you wonder what poor Margaret thought to all this!

(Margaret Leek is one of a very select group who are ancestors of Princes William and Harry by at least two spouses)

Street view
Sir John's son, Sir Simon Leek, inherited Cotham on his father's death. But the village passed to the Markham family when Simon's daughter, Margaret, married Sir John Markham (1390 - 1479).

Sir John was Chief Justice to the King's Bench and earned the name of the "upright judge".  He lost his postion however by offending King Edward IV.  Sir John's strong sense of justice lead him to suggest 'a subject may arrest for treason, the king cannot, for if the arrest be illegal the party has no remedy against the king.This was accepted into England's constitutional rights and Sir John retired from public life.  He actually died at Sedgebrook rather than Cotham.

Cotham horse
 A later Sir John was a captain, on Henry's side, in the terrible Battle of East Stoke in 1488.  He was described as "an unrulie spirited man" who argued with the people of nearby Long Bennington over land boundaries.  He sorted out the problem by killing a number of people then hanging the priest.  He was forced to hide for a while in another of the family properties, Cressy Hall.  Luckily Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII, paid a visit.  He was able to charm her into organising a royal pardon for himself and a wedding for his son ... yet another John Markham  (1486 -1559)  ... with Anne Neville,  kinswoman to the Lancasterian king. 

The younger John worked hard to gain royal favour.  He was rewarded by being a server at the coronation of Anne Boleyn; he earned the praise of Archbishop Cranmer when in 1537 he reminded Henry VIII that Markham had been ‘in all the wars which the King hath had ... except he had wars in divers places at one time, and then he was ever in one of them’. Markham was present at the reception of Anne of Cleves and he attended Henry VIII's funeral. He firmly supported the dissolution of the monasteries (through which he acquired Rufford Abbey in 1537). 
In 1549 he became Lieutenant of the Tower.  Lord Somerset, the King's Protector, was imprisoned there along with the Duke of Norfolk, Bishop Gardiner and later Sir Michael Stanhope of Shelford.  King Edward VI became aware that Markham allowed Somerset to walk in the grounds and send letters without authority of the Council.  Markham was dismissed for these misdemeanours.

Sir John was a very busy man .... he had two sons with Ann (another John who died in childhood and Robert). When Ann died John married a second time and had thirteen children (the eldest again named Robert!).  His third wife, Anne, "Relict of Sir Richard Stanhope, Knight" gave him yet another son, Thomas Markham and three more daughters. That's 19 children!  Good job they had a big house at Cotham! One of John's daughters, Isabella, was a maid of honour and a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I.

Unfortunately Sir John's eldest son died before his father so the grandson, Robert Markham, inherited when Sir John passed away.  Robert and his grandfather did not have a great relationship.  On inheriting Cotham Hall Robert had to refurbish the place because Sir John's will left Robert ‘such implements at Cottom as can be proved heirlooms and no further.’

Anne Markham's Memorial
Anne Warburton  (we came across the Warburtons at Shelton) married Robert Markham.  He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who had a rhyme for her four Nottinghamshire courtiers:

"Gervase the gentle, Stanhope the stout,
Markham the lion, and Sutton the lout."

 Perhaps Sir John had a reason for disliking his grandson: Robert spent a great deal of time  ... and money ... at court but he was home frequently enough to give Anne seven children.

Anne Markhan Memorial

Their eldest son, another Robert, also enjoyed the courtly life. Unfortunately he had such a good time the family could no longer afford the up keep on the great house at Cotham.  Robert Thoroton described the younger Sir Robert as "a fatal unthrift and destroyer of this eminent family". The estates had to be sold to pay the debts left by the father and son. The house fell in to disrepair and was eventually demolished so there is no sign today of the grand Cotham Hall or the Markhams.

St Michael's Church Cotham

 A church and a priest were recorded in the Domesday record for Cotham.  Parts of today's building date back to the 12th century but the tower and part of the nave were pulled down in the 18th century and the side aisles have gone.  These two heads were rescued (at one time they would have held up the wooden rafters) and the beautiful glass windows were reused.

The church closed in 1986 when the wall memorial to Anne Markham was  considered to be so important it was moved to the church at Newark where it can be found next to the font.  Two 14th century monuments, thought to belong to the Leek family, remain in the decommisioned building.

 The congregation of 1643 would not be allowed to be late for services because they could tell the time by the sundial on the outside of the church.

St Michael's sundial
 Inside the building is lit by candles rather than electricity.  Heat is provided by the old black metal stove.  The old pews have been replaced by chairs but the sides of the pews have been used as panelling for the walls.  Although it is no longer in use it is well cared for and occasional special services are still held there - like Christenings. When we visited they were obviously prepared for a Harvest Festival.  The place was full of rustic charm being beautifully decked out with fruit and flowers.  Could be a set for a BBC period drama.

Inside St Michael's Church

The First World War Memorial in the church lists the names of the Copes and Craggs who died in the war and Corporal Fred Sentence.  His sister must have been upset to receive a letter from his commanding officer, knowing the information inside was not going to be good news ... but this letter giving details of "his very nasty wound" probably added to the nightmare!

Here are some photos of the stained glass windows:

Millington Memorial window
 Elizabeth Millington mentioned on this memorial window was the daughter of John Fisher. (In 1790 Thoroton recorded "Here [Cotham] reside two respectable graziers who occupy the principal part of the land, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Neal"). Elizabeth was married to Robert Millington.  Her brother, John Henry Fisher, lived at Orston Hall.

Cotham House
By the time of White's Directory of Nottinghamshire 1853 Cotham had been "divided into three farms, occupied by John Booth, William Hodgkinson and Thomas Rose, the latter of whom resides at Cotham Lodge, a pleasant residence, commanding fine prospects."  A short horned bull belonging to Mr John Booth won first prize of thirty soveriegns at the Royal Agricultural Show of England in 1842 ... a very prestigeous award. I bet Thomas Rose didn't hear the end of it that year ... he too bred short horn cattle!  Blandings springs to mind! There is a memorial plaque to John's wife Anne inside the church.

Church yard plough
 Cotham's farming traditions continue today.

Cotham sheep
We photographed this small flock at the beginning of The Lane.  This took us onto one of the most beautiful public footpaths I have seen.  The path takes you through the gardens of four Grade II
listed buildings ... a row of 17th century cottages called The Row.

The Row  Grade II listed
The Row  Grade II listed
The footpath took us through a lovely rustic gate ....

Rustic gate
.... into a field full of butterflies. This Brimstone butterfly stood out amongst the cloud of white ones.  Lovely to see on the last day of September. 

Brimstone butterfly
 I found this village a strange mix of a place. There is everything you would expect from a country village ... green fields with cute animals surrounding houses and a church ... but this is a working village with nearby evidence of the gypsum works, Cotham landfill site (admitted a good site for Gulls) and now the residents are fighting to stop a windfarm being erected nearby.  Good job  Sir John is not around anymore .... he might have lynched a few people!

Map of Cotham: click here.

Cotham donkey

Sunday, 13 September 2015


Street view
As we arrived at Thorpe I looked round and asked, "What on earth can we say about this place?" We had parked up and walked passed a few houses, a few horses and a church.  A lovely looking, quiet place but I was convinced this post would consist of a few photos because there didn't appear to be anything there!

After a couple of minutes of research I was surprised to find that this was once a bustling Roman fortified town.  Ad Pontem was one of four Roman settlements along the Fosse Way between Lincoln and Leicester.  The name means "the place near the bridges" which may be because there was an old bridge over the River Trent near Fiskerton or it could refer to wooden boards placed over the marshy footpaths in the Trent flood-plain.  Although the site hasn't been fully excavated it is believed there was a double ditch defence system, then later stone walls.  People lived, worked and passed through here from around 50AD until the 4th century. Whilst it was not as big as Margidunum (just up the road near present day Bingham) it was nevertheless a stopping off point for people travelling along the Fosse Way.

A few more minutes research and I found this was the home of Lucy Townsend (1781 - 1847).  "Who?" I hear you cry ... Well, modern day feminists see the roots of today's Women's Movement in the work of Lucy Townsend.  There is no Blue Plaque on the wall but she lived and died in Thorpe Rectory.  She is buried in the village church.

Old Rectory Thorpe
Lucy was born in Staffordshire where her father, William Jesse, was the incumbent at All Saints Church, West Bromwich.  It was here that Lucy met her husband, Rev. Charles Townsend M.A. Charles was an abolitionist and an active member of the Anti-Slavery Society.
Lucy and Charles were married in 1807, the same year as the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed in Britain. William Wilberforce (yes, we have all heard of his name from our history books!) had spent many years attempting to bring an end to the slave trade.  He believed this would gradually end slavery as the supply dried up.  It was not that simple however, there were plenty of young slaves …. The owners could just breed some more. The abolition of the slave trade was a welcome first step but the work of the anti-slavery groups had to continue.

In 1825 the Townsends were living in Birmingham and Lucy organised a meeting at her house … this was the augural meeting of the Ladies’ Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves.  Elizabeth Heyrick, Sophia Sturge and Sarah Wedgwood (daughter of Josiah Wedgwood and sister of Emma who married Charles Darwin) were all present that evening.  At the time the “separate spheres” philosophy (business matters are controlled by men and the women look after domestic matters) was firmly embedded into society.  Women could not speak in public meetings or take a leading role in mixed gender committees.  This did not prevent them from adding their weight to the anti-slavery movement.  Being in charge of the purchase of household goods women could make a very valuable contribution to the cause by refusing to purchase sugar or rum from slave plantations in the British Colonies.  They leafleted door to door to spread the word.  As sales slumped shopkeepers began to display signs in their windows saying their goods were free from slave labour  … much the same as Fair Trade signs today.

St Laurence Church Thorpe
 Fund raising activities were acceptable so they organised stalls, rallies and women’s meetings to publicise the cause. Sarah Wedgwood’s father was also an abolitionist.  He had designed a medallion depicting a shackled negro slave in a praying position with the logo “Am I not a man and a brother?” The design became a popular image on women’s brooches, hairpins and other items of jewellery.  Staffordshire potters began to transfer it onto dinner services, snuff boxes and other household goods.  The fund raising activities were very successful.

Very soon there was a network of over seventy anti-slavery women’s groups throughout the country.  A large proportion of these women disagreed with the gradual abolition of slavery they were fighting for an immediate ban with no compensation for the slave owners.  They were fighting for a moral cause.  Elizabeth Heyrick wrote a pamphlet expressing her views.  Now you would imagine William Wilberforce would have praised her commitment … not so.  His earlier attempts to stop the trading in slaves had been a long and bitter dispute because of the economic implications of such a move.  At one point a Bill was passed in the Commons but overturned in the Lords where the members had a vested interest in keeping slaves in the British Colonies. Wilberforce wanted a gradual end to slavery as he felt that would win the day.  He told his supporters not to distribute Heyrick’s pamphlet or speak about it in meetings.  

In 1830 the women decided to push their case at the National Conference of the Anti-Slavery Society by putting forward a motion asking for the campaign to be centred around an immediate ban. They threatened to withdraw their funding if the motion was not taken seriously …. the motion was passed!  

The Abolition of Slavery Act was passed in 1833.

The abolitionists’ fight continued as they focussed their campaigns on other countries.  In 1840 the World Anti-Slavery Conference was held in London.  Lucy Townsend was in attendance together with some famous women abolitionists …Anne Knight from Britain and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and LucretiaMott from America.  After all their hard work and commitment they were still not allowed to speak at the conference. It was this treatment that so incensed the women they decided to fight for their own freedom from subjugation and the Women’s Movement was born.

A painting was commissioned to celebrate the World Anti Slavery Conference.  Anne Knight wrote to Lucy urging her to push to be included in the painting: "I am very anxious that the historical picture now in the hand of Haydon should not be performed without the chief lady of the history being there in justice to history and posterity the person who established (women's anti-slavery groups). You have as much right to be there as Thomas Clarkson himself, nay perhaps more, his achievement was in the slave trade; thine was slavery itself the pervading movement."  
While a small number of women were included in the group Lucy's face is not one of them.
Church of St Laurence
The Townsends moved to Thorpe in 1836 when Charles became the incumbent of the village church.

The pretty church of St Laurence has a 13th century tower but the rest was rebuilt in the 1870s by the rector, Rev William Wood.  Inside there is a badly damaged 14th century effigy of Lady Margaret Thorpe (both arms are missing).  Her husband was Lord William de Thorpe, a lawyer and Chief Justice of the King's Bench (1346 - 1350).  He was a very wealthy man with great estates in Lincolnshire.  He was knighted in 1345: he fought at Crecy in 1346 where Edward III, his son, the Black Prince plus 16,000 English and Welsh men faced King Phillip VI of France who had an army of over 85,000.  At the end of the day the British celebrated a great victory.  De Thorpe was also present when Calais surrendered to Edward. He sounds like a bit of a crook though ... he took bribes and was involved in pay-rolling lawsuits on the understanding that he got a good percentage of the payout.  At one time he obviously upset someone ..... he was assaulted and they urinated on him.  In 1350 he was arrested on charges of bribery: his property was confiscated and he was condemned to death but he managed to regain the King's favour, he was acquitted and his lands restored.  In 1352 he became Baron of the Exchequer but he was excommunicated in 1357 after he failed to attend the trial of the Bishop of Ely, Thomas de Lisle who had disobeyed the King.  He died in 1361. Someone should make a film about this man!

In 1665 a silver Communion Cup was given to the Church by Henry Druell.  He had returned home to Thorpe from plague infested London and gave the cup as an offering of thanks to the Lord.  An older cup had been stolen during the Civil War so on the base of this one is a warning to would-be thieves:

 Let those yt this cupp sacralegiously dare take
 Beware least God's vengeance ym an Example make.

 It seems to have worked.
It was near here that King Henry VII raised his standard in June 1487 before the terrible battle of East Stoke that finally secured the Tudors on the English throne.  A stone marks the spot at Burham Furlong.

Thorpe was the home of a branch of the distinguished Molyneux family for a few generations.  Judge Molyneux was an advisor to Henry VIII, his son was a supporter of Edward Seymour, Duke of  Somerset and Lord Protector of Edward VI.  By the reign of Elizabeth I Sir John Molyneux had inherited the Thorpe property.  Star Chamber documents reveal Sir John's litigious nature.  He had public arguments with members of his own family and with other wealthy local families, namely the Markhams and the Stanhopes.  The feud with Sir Thomas Stanhope of Shelford lasted for many years and involved tit-for-tat destruction of property, insults and minor law suits.  After one particularly public disagreement both men were ordered to keep the peace and had to pay £200 surety of good behaviour.

During the 1570s he led three hundred soldiers to fight against northern rebels.  Unfortunately the soldiers didn't get paid correctly and armour belonging to the county disappeared after their return.  Markham and Stanhope took great pleasure from the fact that Stanhope's relative, the Earl of Rutland, was in charge of the ensuing enquiry.  The report was not favourable to Molyneux.

In the 1580s Sir John, a Catholic, reportedly sheltered a visiting priest in his house at Thorpe.  At least two of his children were recusants.

Manor Court
 The beautiful Manor Court at Thorpe is now a hotel: recently refurbished with weddings in mind. 

 "Manor Court is a fine example of a six bedroom Gothic manor house set in the heart of Nottinghamshire, presented in a luxurious and lavish style. Tremendous attention to detail has been taken in its creation, offering generous and flexible accommodation. Each room has been individually created for complete relaxation and comfort ..."

Just behind Manor Court is Manor Court Farm.

Manor Court Farm
 We were amused to read the old sign next to the gate:

Street sign
 I love the formal use of language ..... you feel you have to read it in a 1930s film documentary voice!

So from thinking there was nothing to write about we have moved from a busy Roman town to important royal battles both home and abroad, to the London Plague and the Tudor Court then the Transatlantic slave trade to the birth of Feminism.  Yet again a tiny Nottinghamshire hamlet has surprised me because of its great historical connections.

Map of Thorpe: click here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Street view
Shelton is a pretty rural hamlet with just over 100 residents but it has a slightly different feel to other attractive villages we have visited. This one doesn't feel like a commuter village. On the way in we passed golden fields of newly cut wheat, in the centre there was a green expanse of parkland and further down the main road were more fields for livestock. It was certainly verdant!  The countryside doesn't surround it ... it forms part of it.  

Street view
 Memorials inside the Norman Church of St Mary record the lives of some Shelton residents like  .... 

William Warburton who was a Royalist Cavalier buried here in 1669.  His Coat of Arms are carved in stone on a pillar inside the church. The ancestral seat of the Warburton family is in Arley, Chester but in 1579 Ann Warburton (daughter of Sir John and Dame Mary Warburton) married Robert Markham of Cottham.  Shelton Manor was part of the marriage settlement.  Ann died in 1601.

William Warburton was a staunch Royalist defending Chester during the Civil War - he was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery - but records show he settled in Shelton Manor after the Restoration.  He was a lawyer in Newark and in later life became the Coroner for Nottinghamshire. William's grandson attended the Magnus School in Newark and grew up to be the Bishop of Gloucester.
William Warburton's Coat of Arms
On a cold and wet March morning in 2004 Ashfield Metal Detecting Club began to work the fields around Shelton.  One of the group was eighty year old Norman Daynes.  After three cold and disappointing hours Norman decided to call it a day and set off back to the car.  Luckily he didn't switch his metal detector off.  A slight ping drew his attention to a scrubby area and it was there, just three inches  under the weeds, that Norman discovered a double ended silver seal. Once washed it was clear the seal had a Coat of Arms and the moto "IE VOILE DROIT AVOIR" (I will have justice) indicating it had been the property of the Warburton family.  This would have been a very important item in the 1600s ... used to seal letters and authenticate wills with the stamped wax.  The mystery remains as to how it got into a field but it has now ended up in the Civil War Centre in Newark.

St Mary's Church, Shelton
There are two decorative stones inside the church.  I thought they were pieces of a carved Saxon cross but I was wrong.  They are very old coffin lids discovered, dug up and salvaged when work was being carried out on the building.

Headstone of Francis Vere Wright.

Other residents remembered inside the church are members of the Wright family of Shelton Hall: 

Colonel Francis Vere Wright JP (and Knight Officer of the Crown of Italy) served with the 4th North Staffordshire Regiment and with the 52nd Regiment of the Royal Italian Army.  In 1860 he lost two fingers from his left hand during active service. He was 25 years old at the time.  In 1889 he wrote, "The Broadsword: As Taught by the Celebrated Italian Masters, Signors Masiello and Ciullini, of Florence" a book that can still be purchased today because scholars consider it to be "culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it." This beautiful carved sword on his headstone is obviously fitting.

His relative Walter Banks Wright died from heat apoplexy in Benares, India in July 1894.  He served with the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers but in his Cheltenham school days he was the Public School Boxing Champion in 1885

Glass signed by Lydia Wright
Then William Vere Banks Wright died of fever at Bulawayo in 1897 which was unfortunate because he had survived two campaigns at Matabele.  He was a scout for the 7th Hussars under Colonel Baden-Powell.

The altar window was made by Lydia Wright.  It is very colourful and I applaud her effort but it is not the best stained glass we have seen.  I can't criticise though: I've never made one!

Altar window by Lydia Wright
 Facing it is a window of a better standard. It is dedicated to Lydia from her brother Vere ... was he trying to tell her something!

Window dedicated to Lydia Wright
I may be wrong again but the foliage detail in this window looks very much like the work of the William Morris Company.  It is dedicated to Lydia's mother, Sophy Banks Wright 1877.

Detail of window dedicated to Sophy Wright
Window dedicated to Sophy Wright
Window dedicated to James and Mary Anders

Modern window by J Hardman

 The most tragic memorial in the church is dedicated to Dr Samuel Maltby and his wife Anne.  Samuel was born in Shelton in 1820 to the Rev John Ince Maltby.  He qualified as a surgeon in 1842 and 11 years later was giving medical aid to the troops stationed at Fategarh when the Indian Mutiny began.  The fort, under the command of Colonel G A Smith, prepared to withstand attack.  They had provisions of food and ammunition and a number of boats ready for an emergency evacuation.  Just down the river at Cawnpore was a larger English garrison under the command of Sir Hugh Wheeler.  As the situation became more desperate a group of 100 civilians (mostly women and children) left Fategarh in the early morning of 4th June heading for Cawnpore.  There are different accounts of what happened to this party but it is believed they were massacred near Bithoor a week later.  

Dr Maltby, his wife and two young daughters, Eliza and Emma, had remained at Fategarh but as the Indian sepoys in the fort joined the mutiny the remaining Europeans realised they had to escape.  They took to three boats at 2am on the 4th July.  They were quickly in trouble.  They were being fired upon and they had to transfer passengers when one of the boats became unmanagable.  They had to mend the rudder on one of the remaining boats then the other one got stuck in mud.  As the men were trying to free it the Indian sepoys caught up with them.  Dr Maltby's party were at their mercy.  Several took to the water and either drowned or were hacked to death; others were killed by gunfire.  Maltby was seriously wounded. The boats continued down river still under heavy fire.  They got as far as Bithoor where they were captured by Nana Sahib. Seventeen surviving men, including the badly injured Samuel Maltby and a 14 year old boy, were taken out, lined up and shot. One account states: "A volley announced their passing to the prisoners within the home above, those that still breathed being finished off by the swords of their executioners."

Church window
Mrs Maltby and her two daughters were taken to Bibighar, a brothel in Cawnpore where a party of 200 Europeans (mostly women and children) were  being held. A woman called Hussaini Khanum was in charge.  They were set to work grinding corn to make chapatis. Conditions were very poor and some hostages had already died from cholera and dysentery.

By now the British forces were assembled and advancing to retake Cawnpore.  Nana Sahib attempted to use the hostages as bargaining chips but the British continued to advance and Hussaini Khanum gave the order to kill the hostages.  The terrified women tried to barricade themselves in.  At first the rebel soldiers refused to harm women and children but they were forced to comply under threat of severe punishments.  They fired the first shots through holes in the boarded up windows but stopped firing when they heard the distressing screams.  Hussaini Khanum called them cowards and sent for butchers to finish the job.  Most of the victims were hacked to death but  three women and three children aged between 4 and 7 managed survive hidden under the bodies.  The next day cleaners arrived to dispose of the bodies by throwing them into a nearby dry well.  The survivors were thrown in alive.

Such brutality .... but some believe the rebels were acting this way in response to the brutalies inflicted on Indian villagers by the advancing British army.

Shelton Hall
Relatives of the famous Lord Byron also have a connection to Shelton.  Reverend  Henry Byron was the vicar of Shelton.  Henry was cousin to Mad Jack Byron ... Lord Byron's father.

Old school building
 Map for Shelton:  Click here.