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.

1 comment:

  1. I run and cycle through here very regulary! Lovely village, but had no idea about the redout