Sunday, 13 November 2016

Upper Broughton

The name 'Upper Broughton' appears on the road sign but this village seems to have a number of aliases .... we have Broughton Sulney (because Aluredus de Suleni owned the land in Norman times) and Over Broughton (to differentiate it from Nether Broughton in Leicestershire) is another.  What ever you call it the place has hardly changed over the last hundred years and the 250 residents intend to keep it that way.  They are fighting against wind turbines being located near by and putting their faith in a Neighbourhood Plan giving them a legal argument against future developments.

This was once a predominantly agricultural village with a mill and a brickyard but today it is part of the communter belt having easy access to Leicester, Melton Mowbray and Nottingham.

We parked up and within minutes a friendly resident stopped to chat.  She suggested various people we could turn to for information.

Our first point of call was the butcher's shop:

As the sign says this family business, F Bailey and Son, is over a hundred years old (established 1905).  People travel from miles around for their award winning Melton Mowbray pork pies.  We bought one and have since been back for another!  This is a real traditional local butcher.  He works on a large wooden block table while chatting freely with his cutomers. Unfortunately Bailey's is no more! The butchers closed permanently earlier on in 2017. The owners have retired we were told.

Just down the road we stopped at the first of two village greens.  This one is called Cross Green because of the remains of an ancient cross.  The origins of this stone structure are unclear: one theory suggests it was erected as thanks to God after nearby villages were decimated by the plague but Upper Broughton was spared .... or it could be the remains of a 13th century market cross.

Children's swings take up one side of the green.  They blend into the rural character of the village as you can see from the see-saw in the photograph. Under the autumn leaves we found this beautiful Millenium mosaic.  All the little sections represent parts of Upper Broughton village life:

The stone cross features on the mosaic (at about 9 o'clock ... the light was all wrong to photograph it from a different angle!) then working round clockwise they have included a huntsman in a red jacket (the villagers are proud of their links to the Quorn Hunt ... indeed Prince Charles used to hunt here often); a tennis racquet and paint brushes denote the leisure activities; a pork pie is followed by a water spring because the ancient Woundheal Spring is to be found nearby (in the early 1900s this was a popular healing place for skin diseases.  A circular bath was constructed (10ft wide and 5ft deep) where people could bathe but this is now on private land and visitors are discouraged apparently ... more details here); next a lamb represents the farming links in the village; the cricket stumps show their sporting connections while the Belvoir Angel is included because in the 1700s a local stone mason was responsible for the listed slate headstones in the churchyard.

Cross Green is overlooked by Willow Cottage, a timber framed building that dates back to the 1600s. Back then this was the favoured method of building (with thatch rather than slate for the roof) but once the brick works and the railway opened things changed.

We continued along the road past this wonderful old cistern which is dated 1777 and has all twelve signs of the zodiac around the bottom:


 Lovely old houses and well kept gardens brought us to the village hall ...

... then we took our lives in our hands to cross the busy main road to Melton, the A606.  The main road used to go right through the village along Bottom Green and Station Road ... we walked right down the middle of both those roads with very few cars to worry us!  The A606 was rerouted in 1928.  

We have travelled along the Melton Road quite frequently but never stopped at the village pub even though it looks an inviting place.  The Golden Fleece sits at the side of the A606 and whenever we pass the conservatory is always full of people enjoying a cosy drink or a meal ... but not today!  The conservatory was filled with pub furniture as the place is being given a facelift.  Oh well, we will have to come back another day!


Next to the pub is the old village water pump ....  no drink from there either!

..... and just round the corner is St Luke's Church.  This is the centre of the original Anglo Saxon village.  Yew Tree House (next to the church) probably sits on the site of the original Manor House.

We rang the key keeper who very kindly came to show us round.  The Southwell Church Project is usually a good source of historical information for most Nottinghamshire churches.  The entry for Upper Broughton was rather sparce but this gentleman was a fountain of knowledge (and is in fact writing the entry for the Church Project).  

A small carving just inside the porch was thought by some to be part of a tympanum from the original church doorway.

The carving shows stars and a man who appears to be praying.  Our guide pointed out flakes of limewash which suggests this was not an external tympanum: more likely it was part of a larger internal decoration.  The three 'sticks' could be the bottom of the three Calvary crosses. Experts have dated it to the Norman period.  The porch itself was built in 1733 (date stone over the outer door) but stones and decorative features from previous centuries were used by the builders (a 13th century frieze and a 14th century carved stone).

Inside your attention is immediately drawn to the needlework:

 Created in 1981 the quilt tells the story of village life during the year.  There is a full explaination of the images here.

At the other end of the church the windows add to the colourful interior:

One of the pillars has a curious mark scratched into it .....

.... possibly an ancient act of vandalism!

Major changes were made to the church in the middle of the 19th century.  The architect S S Teulon drew up the plans.  He has quite a list of restorations to his name including the chapel at Blenheim Palace, several country houses and a whole village (Hunstanworth in Co Durham).  Only the chancel restoration followed his complex design: the rest of the church was restored a few years later in a simpler, and presumably cheaper, way.

The graveyard has 33 examples of slate headstones (one of the largest groups in Nottinghamshire) with some great Belvoir Angels.

Rev Charles Wildbore (1736? - 1802) is buried here. He was curate of St Luke's from 1768 to his death.  He was also editor of the prestigeous Gentleman's Diary or The Mathematical Repository (an almanack of articles revealing day to day life and society in the 18th century) from 1768.

We thanked our guide and walked up the hill to Top Green.  On the way we past the old post office, now converted into a house, but it still has the lovely old shop sign.

The Top Green has a more peaceful feel than the Cross Green.  No swings here just a bench and a sign telling us we have visited at the wrong time of year!   In Spring this place will be full of daffodils ... Upper Broughton Daffodils.  It has a pure white perianth with a pink crown and a deeper pink eye ... sounds lovely!  The bulbs were planted in 1936 in memory of Miss Dowson, the first president of the WI in the village.  (It was a Mr Benjamin Dowson who built the Woundheal Spring bath in the late 1800s.)

We past the impressive Broughton House ...

...then retraced our footsteps back up Station Road towards the tennis courts.  The Upper Broughton Youth and Social Club began life in 1952 all due to the hard graft of Bernard Hayes, a man from New Zealand.  You can read an account of Bernard's life here: he made a real difference to Upper Broughton.  He arrived in the village in 1946.  His wife's sick aunt lived in a house facing Top Green. As the couple nursed their elderly relative they settled into the life of the place and never left.  Bernard had a love of tennis and persuaded Colonel Holden of Yew Tree House to allow local children to use his tennis courts one evening a week.  Later he persuaded another land owner, Major Victor Smith, to donate a piece of land to build a tennis court for the village.  Bernard did most of the work himself. He would be very proud to see it today. He died in 1979 at the age of 91. A remarkable man.

On returning to the car I was puzzled as we had walked the length of Station Road twice but failed to find the station.  We soon found it outside the village.

The railway opened in 1880.  This was the ticket office.  The line closed for passengers in 1948 but it is still used today by Bombardier (a train manufacturer) as a line for testing new trains.

Just up the road is the 21 acre Sulney Nursery that specialises in shrubs and trees.
We always find people happy to tell us all the delights of the village they live in and this place was no different.  Everyone we spoke to praised the place.  There was one person I read about who was not so enamoured though ... this was a boy who was evacuated here during the Second World War.  He hated the place.  He informed his mother he had been placed on a farm where he was forced to bathe in a water butt and he was going to commit suicide if she didn't come immediately to take him home!  Well, he got his wish.  His name was Kenneth MacMillan.  His mother took him back to Great Yarmouth for a short time then arranged for him to evacuate to Retford where he was placed with a dance teacher.  He would go on to join the Royal Ballet as a dancer then as choreographer and Artistic Director.  He discovered Darcy Bussell too .... so perhaps we should be pleased he didn't like Upper Broughton! Personally I think he was wrong.

Map of Upper Broughton: click here.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


The Basin
The Basin sits at the heart of this village right next to the main
 road and the pub.  A couple of swans were sleeping on the bank while mallards and coots fell out with each other in the water.  The benches were filled with people throwing bread to them, encouraging more disputes.  It is a lovely scene but a quick look around and you can imagine what used to happen here.  This was part of the busy Grantham Canal.  Heavy mooring bollards line the banks where large barges docked obviously in quite large numbers.  Nearby is the Canal Warehouse, a Grade II listed building.  This stretch of the canal (from the Trent to the Leicestershire border) was authorised for construction in 1793.  Lord Middleton of Wollaton Hall employed James Green as surveyor of the project ... The Duke of Rutland at Belvoir sponsored the rest.  James Green was not the first choice as surveyor: at the time William Jessop was the Number 1 canal builder and he actually accepted the job but fell ill so took on the role of supervising the whole thing while Green did the work.  Together they created the first English canal entirely dependent on reservoirs for its water supply.  It was obviously a lucrative project for all concerned: although the building costs went well over budget the debts had all been paid off by 1805 and shareholders began to see a return on their investments.  James Green had a beautiful large house built for himself  (Lenton Abbey House)  in the middle of what is now the Nottingham University Park.

Canal Warehouse
 The canal towpath gives walkers, fishermen and cyclists easy access to the counytyside next to the canal and on the day of our visit we could see it was well used.  Our route took us away from there into the village itself.  There are 31 listed structures in this village - 17 houses, headstones in the church and parts of the canal itself.

View of St Lukes
We made for St Lukes Church and phoned the very friendly warden who came and showed us round.

St Lukes
The graveyard is filled with more good examples of the 18th century slate headstones, some with Belvoir Angels, but it was the stone embedded in the church wall that grabbed our interest.

Church wall
As the church warden pointed out it had obviously been cut down to fit but it was still in very good condition to say it is over 600 years old.  Conservationists suggested it should be removed and brought inside to protect it but the idea was not acted upon.

To get inside we had to pass through this wonderful 14th century oak door.  The iron work is just beautiful and the door itself shows damage dating back to the days of the English Civil Wars.

Church door

Inside is an alms box dated 1685: some of the pews obviously belong to the same period as the poppy head carvings are being worn away by generations of use. This old table is supported by bits from an old four poster bed ...

Carved table

 .... but you hardly notice these objects because your attention is immediately drawn to the brightly coloured East window.  It dates back to 1839 but bits of the glass are actually from the original medieval windows   This window was commissioned by William Mandell, B.D., vice-president of Queens' College, Cambridge.  Queen's College hold the advowson for the church (they have the right to nominate a suitable candidate for a vacant church living for this parish)so, as you would expect, a number of incumbants were Cambridge men.

East window
Tucked away in a small dark room at the back we found The Queen's College Coat of Arms next to the Royal Coat of Arms of George II.  These paintings date back to the early 1720s.

Arms of the Queen's College Cambridge

Arms of King George II

 As you walk down the aisle you feel the need to walk round this very imposing brass. but it is rather a tight squeeze.  This is the Babington Brass ... a memorial to Ralph Babington, a rector of the church.  It is the finest example of a brass in the East Midlands and just makes you want to grab a sheet of paper and get rubbing!

Babington Brass
 Ralph Babington died in 1521 before Henry VIII broke with Rome.  Sixty five years later (1586) his great nephew, Anthony Babington, was planning to kill the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I in order to give the throne to a Catholic monarch, Mary Queen of Scots.  Mary had a legitimate claim to the throne (Mary's son James VI of Scotland would become James I of England in 1603 when Elizabeth died) so Elizabeth was keeping a very close eye on her rival.  Letters between Babington and Mary were intercepted, the Babington Plot was revealed and they were both tried and executed for treason.

Closer to the altar is the cover of a one-thousand year old Saxon coffin.  It has been described as "one of the finest things of its kind in the land" (Arthur Mee Nottinghamshire).

Saxon coffin cover
The grave cover was so impressive we didn't really notice the stone 'slab' laying nearby ... once I started reading about the church I wish I had taken more notice!  We had ignored the 'Vaux tombstone' (you can see a photo here).  It was found in the graveyard in 1983 and moved into the church to protect it.  You can see where the effigy of  William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden, used to lie and round the edge the Latin inscription reads; 'Here lies William Harrowden on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.'

William Vaux was another renowned Catholic.  His second wife was Mary Tresham whose grandfather Thomas Tresham was a leading figure in Henry VIII's court.  Unfortunately her young nephew Francis Tresham was not so popular with the royals ... he was fined £3,000 (around half a million pounds in today's money) for his involvement in the Essex Plot against Queen Elizabeth I then, even more disasterously, he ganged up with Guy Fawkes! Historians believe it was Francis Tresham who sent the warning letter to his relative that lead to the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot.  Luckily for him Francis died before he could be brought to trial - they chopped his head off his dead body and branded him a traitor anyway.

...... & Albert
Chair carvings .... Queen Victoria

Near the altar are a couple of chairs with a happier connection to our royals.  Instantly recognisable carvings of the young Victoria and Albert in the early days of their marriage (we won't spoil the mood by metioning his untimely death!).

Church interior

Village road sign
Half an hour in this church and you feel like you have wandered into a time machine! (The Southwell Church Project has a detailed description of St Lukes here).

One historical detail I discovered since  our visit concerns a child who was born in Hickling in July 1865.  He was orphaned at just 3 months of age and adopted by an American family then taken to Farmington in Michigan.  His name was Fred M Warner.  He grew up to be an American politician and serve as the 26th Governor of Michigan from 1905 to 1911.

We thanked the warden for his time, left the church and continued into the village The old properties are surrounded by new builds but the place has a good community feel.  We saw notices for the village cinema group and the Village Scarecrow Festival; there were lots of people about passing the time of day and even the gardens had a cheerful look to them. 


We found the old methodist chapel ... which is now a house ....

Old methodist chapel

... and the old school .... which is now the Village Hall ...

Village hall

Then we decided to wander back towards the pub.  This was not our first visit to The Plough ... a cosy atmosphere, good real ale and they serve local produce on the food menu so what is not to like? Nothing! We will be back .... I fancy a walk along that towpath someday soon.  Who knows we might find hidden treasure.  In 1771 a farmer was ploughing a field near by when he unearthed an urn containing 200 silver coins and medals buried there in Roman times.  Must remember to bring the metal detector next time!

The Plough

 Map of Hickling: click here.