Tuesday, 27 October 2015


Corner House Grade II listed
Well, I must say Kneeton came as a bit of a surprise.  I had never been before but for some strange reason I had a mental image of a tiny place ... just five or six houses at the end of a country lane: I wasn't expecting to find such a lovely place with an old school house, church, beautiful old rectory, farm houses and large residental properties.  There are ten listed buildings in the village (including the cottages above) as well as a number of listed slate grave stones.

Here is another listed structure: a mid 18th century barn ....

Listed barn
Domesday records Kneeton under the name of Cheniueton.  It has been suggested that this derives from the name of the Saxon gentlewoman who owned the area at the time: her name was Chengifu plus the Saxon word for farm which is ton.   Another suggestion for the meaning of the name is "settlement of the servants" ... well, everyone in the village would have worked for her ...they needed to know their place!  

Chengifu was a Christian and built the church next to her house.  By Norman times the patronage of the church had passed to Welbeck Abbey  and the Abbey of Neubo (at Sedgebrook).  After Henry VIII's  Dissolution of the Monasteries it was given to the Molyneux family (also connected to Hawton), then the Earls of Carnarvon, before passing to the Neale family.

St Helen's Church
 The Grade II listed Church of St Helen's sits in the centre of the village.  In the Domesday Book it is listed as a moiety or "half a church".  The present building has elements from the 14th and 15th century but most of it is from the 1879-80 restoration and rebuild by Ewan Christian, who also restored Southwell Minster.  The work was paid for by the 4th Earl of Carnarvon.

Now here is a fascinating man. Born in 1866 his full name was Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, also known as Lord Porchester.  He was a Conservative MP and Member of the Privy Council. His nickname was Twitters on account of his nervous twitches but he was far from being a figure of fun.  He would have been highly regarded here not only for his contributions to the church but also for setting up the village school.  Even today there is a Carnavon Primary School in nearby Bingham named after his family. Unfortunately he was not all good ... he resigned his Government post in protest when Benjamin Disraeli's Reform Bill was giving the vote to the working classes! Even worse than that, according to Wikipedia, his actions caused the Boer War! He believed that the continued existence of independent African states in South Africa posed an ever-present threat of a "general and simultaneous rising of Kaffirdom against white civilization".  He attempted to impose the same system of rule over South Africa that he had set up for Canada.  Unfortunately the South African's had other ideas ... he didn't listen!

Incidently, the Herbert country seat is Highclere Castle, location of the hugely popular Downton Abbey.  

 Henry Howard's son was George Edward Herbert who was the chief financial backer for Howard Carter when Tutankhamun's treasure was found.

St Helen's Church
Inside the church are a number of memorial stones dedicated to the Story family who had connections here and at East Stoke.  John Story was brother in law to Dr Robert Thoroton of Car Colston, who wrote 'The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire' [1677].

Memorial to the Story family
The windows are mainly plain glass with the exception of this one by Heaton, Butler and Bayne .... we came across their work at Whatton ...  and you can see some more in Westminster Abbey!  It is dedicated to the memory of John and Charlotte Neale.
Heaton, Butler & Bayne window
Just inside the door is a Poor Box made from an old hollowed out tree trunk .... it dates back to the 15th century.  Nearby is a "completely plain, large medieval font" [Pevsner Nottinghamshire  1951] He wasn't very impressed by the place when he visited -  "The best thing about the church is the view down to the Trent valley."  I think that is a bit mean but the view is impressive.

View over the Trent valley to Hoveringham
After looking at the four gargoyles on the church tower we went in search of the collection of listed slate grave stones in the churchyard ....

Slate headstone by Wood of Bingham

Slate headstone by Wood of Bingham
As you can see these two are by Wood of Bingham ... a very skilled engraver ... we have met him before too.

We wandered off down the lane past the 18th century farmhouse towards the beautiful Old Vicarage.

The Old Vicarage    Grade II listed
The lane stops here so we went back ...

Street view
.... passed the horses and the farm buildings, passed the site of Kneeton Hall which was demolished in 1781 ....

Street view
 ... passed the old school building and up to the cross roads.  Here the cottages are beautifully decorated with flower baskets on the walls but photographing them was difficult because of the parked cars.  Round the corner was a very old building ...

Street view

Street view

... and a little further still we walked passed the original village well.  It was a typical fairy story well with a tiled roof ... or it WAS until the milkman reversed into it and damaged the side!

Street view
The village noticeboard informed us that the Nottinghamshire Bat Group had found two rare species in the area:  Barbastelle and Nathusius pipistrelle bats. They will be going into hiberation about now so we will have to return next year.

Victorian pillar box

Map of Kneeton: click here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

East Stoke

Updated: 27th October 2015
Church wall
There is very little evidence at East Stoke that one of the bloodiest battles in English history took place here in June 1487.  Three hours of fighting resulted in over 7000 dead bodies littering the fields around this village.  Apparently the church yard is higher than the surrounding ground because so many bodies were buried there! (What an awful idea!).  It is definitely surprising that Nottinghamshire doesn't make more of this great historical event.  Look at how many people visit Bosworth, only forty four miles down the road and there were far less deaths there!  Yes, one of them was a king .... but surely Notts could attract some visitors by sharing the story of East Stoke!

Church yard memorial stone
So what happened here?  Very briefly, Richard III (of York) was killed at Bosworth Field in August 1485. Legend has it that Lord Stanley (who entered the battle late to see whose side he should fight on!) found Richard's crown in a hawthorn bush and took it to Henry Tudor (a Lancastrian) who was immediately crowned King Henry VII.  Wikipedia describes Bosworth as "the last significant battle of the the War of the Roses" ... the people of East Stoke know better!

The Lancastrians had unexpectedly gained the throne but Henry knew the Yorkists were far from happy.  Richard's named heir was John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, but after the battle Lincoln submitted to the new king and attended Henry's coronation. The only other Plantagenet contender for the throne was King Richard's nephew, ten year old Edward, Earl of Warwick.  Henry secured his own position by imprisoning Edward in the Tower.

A few months later the Earl of Lincoln was introduced to Lambert Simnel, a youth who bore a striking resemblance to Edward. Lincoln was overjoyed at this opportunity to undermine Henry. Lambert was trained in courtly manners and taken to Ireland where the Yorkists crowned this imposter as King Edward VI, they then gathered troops to challenge Henry for the throne.  The troops were mercenaries made up of men from England, Ireland and Germany.  They sailed to England and by 15th June they had reached the outskirts of East Stoke.

Site of the Battle of East Stoke
Lincoln's 8,000 troops were deployed on high ground just outside the village.  The Royal troops, under the command of the Earl of Oxford, had spent the night eight miles away at Radcliffe.  On 16th June Oxford divided his troops into three groups and marched towards the rebels. During the march Oxford's group ... the more experienced and better equipped bunch ....became separated from the other two groups. So, at 9am, Lincoln's look-outs spotted this small group of Royalists and tried to gain an advantage by attacking first.  Oxford's men could have been overwhelmed but their experience and discipline meant they were soon in control of the situation as the rest of their soldiers turned up.

The Yorkists fought hard but after three hours, with most of their leaders dead, the Yorkist ranks finally broke and the defeated soldiers made a desperate attempt to escape by running down a small gully towards the River Trent.  Big mistake ... they were slaughtered in their thousands. It is a horrible thought but this was in the days of arrows, pikes and swords ... these men were hacked to death not gunned down.  They were ‘stricken down and slayne like dull and brute beasts’ according to a contemporary source quoted by Cornelius Brown in 1896. All these years later this path is still known as the Red or Bloody Gutter!

One Yorkist leader did manage to escape ... Viscount Lovel.   He was seen fleeing on horseback across the River Trent.  He was never seen again .... or maybe he was .... in 1708 the skeletal remains of a man were found in an underground vault at Lovel's Oxfordshire residence!!  Who knows!

The Red Gutter where the Yorkist troops were slaughtered as they tried to escape.

After the battle Henry raised his standard to claim victory at Burham Furlong where a stone memorial marks the spot (this is inaccessible at the present time). Legend has it that Henry was more than a little vexed that Lincoln had been killed during the battle. The treacherous Earl is supposed to be buried along Elston Lane near a spring called Willow Rundle. Some historians think his final resting place might have been the Old Chapel at Elston.  A number of mass graves have been discovered around the battlefield site but John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was a nobleman after all so, once Henry had checked Lincoln was definitely dead, perhaps he allowed a proper burial.

The spring at Willow Rundle has a very long history.  This is a very old spring.  During the 12th and 13th centuries the Old Chapel at Elston was used as a Leper Hospital and the clear, sweet water from the Willow Rundle spring was apparently channelled towards the chapel to be used for its medicinal properties.  This obviously puts paid to the various legends that connect the birth of the spring to the Battle of East Stoke.  Putting the different versions of the story together the tale goes that a fatally wounded Yorkist soldier, named Willie Rundle, collapsed and a second soldier stopped to help by kindly giving Willie the last drops of water from his canteen.  While lamenting their predicament Willie told his new friend that if there was an after-life he would send a sign once he got to heaven ...  then he promptly died. A moment later a spring gushed from the ground supplying the fleeing troops with healing water.  The spring never failed for five hundred years: it never froze in winter or dried up in summer. It flowed into a large stone trough next to Elston Lane and gave refreshment to travellers along that road for centuries.  Unfortunately the Highways Agency then came along ... the road workers cut off the source when they dualled the A46 and the trough is now dry.

Now I will tell you yet a third tale about this spring.  Here is a far more gruesome reason for the name Willow Rundle. After the battle Henry ordered the execution of all the English and Irish prisoners of war (the Germans mercenaries were allowed to return home unpaid).  They were locked in Elston Chapel then brought out and killed.  Folk memory has it that local people were afraid the souls of the executed men would not rest so they hammered willow stakes through their hearts to pin them to the ground.  Very Vampiresque!  The prisoners were buried in a mass grave near the rundle (or spring) hence the name Willow Rundle.

Well, enough of death ... 'What happened to Lambert Simnel?' I hear you ask.  This young lad survived the fighting and Henry was very lenient. Lambert was, after all, only a young boy.  Henry put him to work in his kitchens.  The real Earl of Warwick was executed in the Tower in 1499.

Deadman's Field where many of the bodies were buried
There is nothing here to mark what happened (we found the battlefield site by the use of a GPS Ordinance Survey Map) but knowing what happened makes this a strange place to visit.  There is a footpath at the bottom of the Red Gutter that is obviously a popular route for dog walkers: I wonder how many of them just walk past there without giving it a second thought.

We followed a wide track (which incidentally used to be part of the main route from Nottingham to Newark a few hundred years ago) and arrived at the river opposite the Bromley Arms at Fiskerton. One evening last December (2014) a young man was driving an Audi car along this track but in the dark he failed to realise the river was at the end of it!  His car sank in thirteen feet of water with the headlights still on.  The youth escaped from the vehicle but was swept some way down river.  Emergency services took half an hour to find him by which time he was suffering from hyperthermia and described as being a "gibbering mess" but he survived.  It was the owner of the Fiskerton Ferry Boat Hire Company who took the emergency services out to the rescue.

 The river used to be much shallower here. Horses and carts could wade across the Trent at this point.  This was in fact the main crossing points on the Nottingham/Newark route. For many centuries a ferry used to cross over to Fiskerton from here ... it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Foot passengers were taken across in a rowing boat while animals and carts were transported on a barge.  Bert Elliott, the last ferryman, died in 1971.

The Bromley at Fiskerton & site of the ferry over the River Trent
Walking back towards the village we called into St Oswald's Church.

St Oswald Church, East Stoke
 Outside we found another 'home-made' sun-dial like the ones we saw on the walls at Hawton church.

Church sun-dial
 There is some lovely stonework inside too ...

Stone carving inside the church
The vestry contains wall panels outlining the history of East Stoke.  They are detailed and well illustrated .... but tucked away.

Church window from the outside
 Parts of the church date back to the 13th century but it was largely rebuilt in the 1700s.

The window below is glazed with bits of medieval glass:

Medieval glass
Inside there is a whole wall of memorials to the Bromley family who have had a long association with this village.

The Dowager Lady Bromley painted this church window .....

St Oswald Church window
 .... while this window is "a tribute of grateful affection from Arthur Bromley in memory of his mother. "  It is believed to have been designed by another Lady Bromley.

St Oswald Church window
  The Bromley women were a very artistic lot. According to Leonard Jacks (1881):

"There is another lady of artistic acquirements in the house—Mrs. Henry Bromley. The carved oak cabinet in the hall is her handiwork, and so is the oak pulpit in the adjacent church."

 Here are the very impressive panels of the oak pulpit:

In the church yard is a Grade II listed monument to the Right Honourable Julian Pauncefote,  1st Baron Pauncefote.  

Monument to Sir Julian Pauncefote
His monument is here because his daughter, Lilian Pauncefote, married Sir Robert Bromley in 1900 at St John's Church, Washington DC, USA.  Sir Robert was the Attache to Washington 1897 to 1901 but his father-in-law went one better.  Baron Pauncefote was the very first British Ambassador to the USA ... in fact he was the first ever British Ambassador to anywhere as such a post had just been created.

The Bromleys didn't just add decorative elements to the church: the family have in fact contributed quite a bit to East Stoke (they set up schools in the village for one thing) and to Nottingham as a whole (Bromley House on Angel Row in Nottingham city centre houses a fine subscription library).
Bromley House was built in 1752 as the town house of George Smith, grandson of Abel Smith the founder of Smiths Bank, the oldest known provincial bank in the country.  George Smith was the 1st Baronet of East Stoke and lived at Stoke Hall in the village.  His son was Sir George Pauncefote Bromley, 2nd Baronet of East Stoke.

Stoke Hall
Stoke Hall is a Grade II listed building situated next to the church.  Looking on their wedding venue website you can see the photographs of the lovely interior and the even more beautiful walled garden.  The present owners are doing a good job at looking after the place but it was built in 1812 by Lewis Wyatt (who also made alterations to Flintham Hall) so it should be good ... the Wyatts were a famous family of architects who worked on some of the most prominent buildings in the country.  A wealthy banker like Abel Smith could afford the best.

So, over the years, this humble village has been visited by royalty, it has been the scene of brutal deaths and the home of wealthy bankers and international diplomats.

East Stoke street view
 Today it is a more tranquil place.  The busy A46 (the main route between Nottingham and Newark) used to cut straight through it.  The road has now been dualled and the lorries diverted so the village is much quieter.  There used to be a village pub called The Pauncefote Arms on the main road.  It has closed now.

Pauncefote Arms ... now closed
 So the village is no longer cut in half by a stream of cars and it can settle into a peaceful retirement after its very turbulent former days.

Church door

Update: 27th October, 2015

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was the grandson of Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk.  Alice was the granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales.

Lord Paucefote was rather a remarkable man.  He represented Britain at the first Hague Conference where he helped to establish the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  He was Attorney General in Hong Kong and Chief Justice of the Leeward Island before going to the USA.  As Ambassador in Washington he had to deal with two serious incidents which could have resulted in hostilities between Britain and the US.  The first concerned Canadian vessels fishing in the Behring Sea and the second was about a boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana.  Lord Pauncefote effectively calmed both situations and the two countries formed a treaty pledging never to fight one another.  When he died his body was brought home in an American warship.

Admiral Bromley owned an extract from Captain Scott's last message to the nation.  When he moved out of Stoke Hall he gave it to the church.  Wish I had known this earlier ... it might have been hanging on the wall ... if it was I missed it!

Map of East Stoke: click here.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


All Saints Church
The All Saints Church dominates the village of Hawton.  The imposing tower photographed above can be seen for miles .... those are very tall mature trees but as you can see the tower clears them.  The tower was built by Sir Thomas Molyneux who lived in Hawton Manor House during the 15th century (the building has now gone but you can still see where it was located). You need a real head for heights to enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside from the top of the tower ....  but this is exactly where King Henry VII is supposed to have been during the Battle of East Stoke in 1487 as he watched the terrible bloodshed from this safe vantage point.  It wasn't a fear of heights that prevented another visitor going on to the roof a few years ago.  The lightning conductors needed to be checked but the rather overweight gentleman sent to carry out the task couldn't get through the narrow doorway.

All Saints Church
The top of the tower is surrounded by small shields, a number of which are blank, but the rest have been carved with various coats of arms for the influential families of the area. Some wealthy families have been associated with this village.  The Comptons and the Molyneux were followed by the Newdigates (of Newdigate House, Nottingham fame) then the Holden family.

Alexander Holden purchased the manor of Hawton from the Newdigates in 1717. On his death it passed to his son, Robert.  He died childless in 1808 so it passed to his cousin, Captain Robert Holden.  A few years earlier, in 1800, Captain Robert had asked for the hand of Mary Anne Drury in marriage.  Her father had somewhat reluctantly agreed to the match with the intention of prolonging the engagement.  The spirited bride had other ideas.  She climbed out of her bedroom window and the young couple eloped to Gretna Green.  They were married there on 30th August and then again, officially, at Spondon the following day. There are memorial plagues inside the church dedicated to the Holden family members.

West door
The stonework on Hawton Church is something to behold.  It is believed the Southwell Minster stonemasons came here to practise before going to Southwell and I can well believe it.  For such a tiny out of the way place the carvings are astonishing.

How many hours would it have taken to make this?  At the top are various saints being crowned by angels.  Then at the bottom left there is a pelican .... well, what the medieval stone masons thought a pelican looked like anyway!  The bird is pecking its breast because at that time they believed young pelicans were fed on the blood of the adult birds!  On the bottom right are two boys cutting grapes, one of whom is also combing his hair.  It is this sort of detail that can keep you staring at this wall for hours!  This carving is the top of the sedilia - a row of seats used by the priest and the deacons during the service.

On the opposite wall is the Easter Sepulchre:

Easter Sepulchre
The first time I had come across one of these was at Hawksworth and I thought that was special ... this one is something else again!! It is a complete work of art! At the bottom you can see four Roman soldiers all fast asleep in their armour.  They are totally individual in appearance.  In the centre is the recess where the Communion bread (The Host) would have been kept from Good Friday until Easter Sunday.  The best bit is the top where the eleven disciples plus Mary are watching Jesus ascend into Heaven ... there is a tiny carved foot print where he last stood but all that remains of him is the bottom of his robes disappearing above them. 

Easter Sepulchre
Like the Hawksworth Sepulchre this too only survived destruction by Cromwell's troops because it was covered over and hidden from view. It came to light again during the church restoration of 1843. Can you imagine the astonishment of the workers when the old white washed plaster fell away and this appeared? They made a plaster copy of the Easter Sepulchre for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Easter Sepulchre & tomb
Next to the Sepulchre is the effigy of a knight.  It is believed to be the tomb of Robert de Compton who was responsible for building the chancel in 1320. His shield is facing the wall so the effigy has obviously been moved from its original resting place where the shield would have been in full view.  In the wall behind him there is a small peep hole through which someone sitting in the chapel behind the wall would have been able to see the altar.  Now this could have been used for theatrical purposes during the services .... a priest or deacon making an entrance on cue at a dramatic moment .... or,  there is a record of a hermit living in the chapel around 1330, perhaps he used it to take part in the service without being seen.

Carvings above the sedilia
The usual small heads decorate the outside walls.  There is a woman obviously suffering from tooth ache, she is being taunted by another figure next to her who is also holding his mouth but in a humorous fashion; there are heads of kings, a stonemason selfie and grotesque gargoyles and then some rather strange looking marks that turned out to be make-shift sundials .... a small hole into which a small stick can be placed to cast a shadow onto scratched lines or dots.  We found at least three of these.

Some of the carvings have been damaged over the centuries and, sadly, at least one of them has been removed. In The History of Nottinghamshire Thoroton wrote:

"I have seen many strange figures and forms without churches, originally intended to convey water from the roofs; some with horrid mouths, and many in the position of vomiting; but here is one too indelicate for either representation or description. It serves vulgar boys and men, the neighbourhood, to show women as a great curiosity, I am told, where the former fail not to laugh at the credulity of the latter."

Our interest piqued we searched for the offending figure but there was nothing that was too indelicate to describe ... shame!

One door has a bullet hole from the Civil War and two odd handles that don't seem to do anything ... that is because they were the Sanctuary Handles.  You couldn't be arrested as long as you were holding on to one of them.

There have been a number of changes made to the building over the years: the roof has been raised and this door appears to have been added .....

Church alterations

.... they must have wanted that door REALLY badly! The windows are not decorated with stained glass but they are still beautiful because of the stonework:

The grand east window dating from around 1330

Inside All Saints Church
During the 17th century Hawton played a significant part in the English Civil War.  The Hawton Redoubt (a Scheduled Historical Monument) can be found in a field across the road from the church. The River Devon takes a right angled turn here so the field is protected on two sides:

Hawton Redoubt
This was also the site of the 15th century moated manor house of Sir Thomas Molyneux.  During the Civil War it made a perfect defensive position for Parliamentarian troops besieging the Royalists at Newark.  A gun platform at the north east corner of the redoubt overlooked the Hawton Newark road and the bridge over Middle Beck ensuring supplies or military help could not reach the town.

Hawton street view
The horses in the field next door appear to get more visitors than this important historical site, which is good news for Harriet Haivers, The Newark Saddler - a small company which specialises in restoring and fitting saddles.

Future Fishing is a fishing tackle supplier also based in the village.

This is all very different to a couple of hundred years ago when Hawton Mills was up and running and producing some of the finest quality linen in the whole country.  The village was considerably bigger in those days and Hawton Mill was a main source of employment.  Unfortunately there was no such thing as a minimum wage in those days.  The Poor Relief registers show that Hawton Mill workers were paid 8s a week but the mill owners then stopped them over 3s for their rent.  The parish paid them 2s so they had enough to live on.  I suppose the mill owners, being the ones who contributed to the Poor Relief Fund in the first place, felt quite justified.

The Mill itself was situated some distance outside the village of today.  It occupied a triangular meadow near the Queen's Sconce on the Farndon Road towards Newark and extending to the River Devon.  George Scales opened the works in 1793.  He knew he had a good supply of spring water for washing and bleaching the cloth, space for processing, good transport routes (the Trent Mersey Canal opened in 1777) and a market. Hawton Mill was made up of a warehouse, a cloth cellar, drying rooms, a row of workers' cottages known as Scale's Row, a yarn warehouse, stables, two houses (for George Scales and his son), an orchard garden and a boathouse on the River Devon. Nothing is left of the complex now except one cottage known as Orchard House yet at one time the mill was a hive of activity with deliveries of flax from farms in Yorkshire, enough spinners working to keep 100 weavers busy all day, the finishing team washing the cloth, laying it out in the meadows for 3 - 4 weeks and turning it to bleach in the sun then the packers preparing it for market.  It wasn't all plain sailing either.  The Scales brothers were involved in a lengthy bankruptcy case where they were owed money and the court had to decide which debts would be paid (the Scales lost out!) then in 1826 their main flax supplier, William Bamforth,  ended his partnership with them ... it was not an acrimonious split though as Bamforth's daughter married Thomas Scales, George's son, a few years later.  The business eventually folded in 1889.  

Hawton Redoubt & site of Hawton Manor House
 The spring water used at Hawton Mill for washing the linen had come from St Catherine's Well .... one of Nottinghamshire's Holy Wells.  The legend behind the spring was written down in 1816 by a Mr Dickinson: apparently a young woman from Newark. Isabel de Caldwell, had two suitors, Sir Guy Saucimer and Sir Everard Bevercotes. They sound like comedy names to me! Anyway the two men fought over Isabel on St Catherine's Eve and Sir Everard was killed.  The spring immediately appeared where his body had fallen.  Sir Guy escaped to foreign lands and unfortunately Isabel died of grief.  Some years later Sir Guy was struck down by leprosy and had a dream in which St Catherine told him to bathe in the spring water so he returned home.  The spring water cured him and he built a chapel to St Catherine next to the spring.

St Catherine's Well is still bubbling away today but it is in someone's back garden underneath a metal drain cover!

Newark Saddler .... local business
Today the friendly villagers were out in force preparing stunning flower displays around the church for their annual Flower Show.  They were obviously very busy but took time to not only let us inside but also to show us round. There were buckets of blooms all over the church floor and the air smelt heavenly. The local florists have had a very profitable day .... but good causes will benefit eventually. It was difficult to imagine the sights and smells of the place two hundred years ago, or even earlier, when the village had a much larger population, some of whom were desperately poor.

Map of Hawton: click here.