Thursday, 28 July 2016


Owthorpe: Colonel Hutchinson's fish pond
Owthorpe is one of the smallest villages we have visited.  It sits on a road signposted as a dead end! At a glance it is a small cluster of residential farm buildings, a community centre and a padlocked church.  You might think there's no reason to visit here unless you know one of the residents. You would be wrong. This "out of the way" feel is actually a selling point.  Sitting next to the Grantham Canal, just outside the main village, you will find The Little Retreat Spa offering relaxing treatments and cream teas.  Close by is Woodview Cottage offering trout and course fishing holidays.  The village is surrounded by beautiful countryside a perfect location to get away from it all.

Owthorpe countryside
This is the Leicester / Nottinghamshire border ... where the land used by the famous Quorn Hunt meets the South Notts Hunt territory.  South Notts trace their history back to the Earl of Lincoln hunting here in 1677 but The Quorn is recognised as one of the oldest fox hunting packs in the world ... the original hounds were owned by Thomas Boothby in 1696.*  Riding with hounds continues to be a traditional rural activity in these parts despite the abolition of fox hunting (Hunting Act 2004). Local residents have given permission for their land to be used and during the autumn and winter months the roads around Owthorpe can become packed with cars of hunt observers chasing the riders.

Owthorpe countryside

We parked on the verge of a country road that was surprisingly quite busy. No wonder the council had dug out a couple of unusual signs:

Owthorpe: Community Hall

The community hall is down the road just passed the interesting collection of old ploughs. This is a surprising large building.  It can accommodate 102 people ... that's the whole village population with room to spare!  They obviously plan events with lots of friends.

A footpath takes you passed the hall to the old village church of St Margaret.

Owthorpe: St Margaret's Church

Owthorpe: Church tower

Parts of the church date back to the 12th century when it was a much bigger building.  Colonel John Hutchinson had this smaller version built in 1659.  It is a strange mixture of stones and colours and the old clock needs some attention but the swifts like it ... there was a nesting pair and their young making a fabulous din in the bell tower the whole time we were there.

A large padlock prevented us entering so this internal shot was taken through the glass window:

Owthorpe: Church interior
 We could see the 15th century stone font and the Jacobean pulpit with the ornate canopy.  We could not see a large wooden screen that is thought to have come from the old Owthorpe Hall. I also wanted to see the two monuments to the Hutchinson family on the wall of the church ... another day perhaps.

Owthorpe church yard

Colonel John Hutchinson (1615 - 1664) is the most famous resident of the village ... but the fame should really belong to Lucy, his wife (1620 - 1681).  She was born in the Tower of London where her father, Sir Allen Apsley, was the Lieutenant in charge of such famous prisoners as Sir Walter Raleigh (it was Lucy's mother who paid for his famous chemical experiments whilst he was incarcerated) and King James I's ex-partner, Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset. With Robert Carr in prison the King now had a new favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.  Apsley was married to one of Villier's relatives which helped a great deal when they appointed the new Lieutenant to the Tower.  This could be quite a lucrative, and responsible, position. (Oddly enough, before the Hutchinsons bought Owthorpe manor members of the Villiers' family had lived there).

Lucy married John Hutchinson when she was 18.  At first they lived in London where they had twin sons then moved to Owthorpe at the beginning of the Civil War in 1641 where a third son was born.  They would have nine children in all. John fought on the side of the Parliamentarians: the Royalists offered him £10,000 to change sides but as a man of principle he refused. He became Governor of Nottingham Castle and moved his family there for their safety.  In 1645 he took the garrison of Shelford after a heavy battle.  His neighbour Colonel Philip Stanhope died from wounds received in the seige. By 1649 the battles were over and Hutchinson's was the thirteenth signature on King Charles I's death warrent.

Owthorpe: Church clock

 Hutchinson served in Cromwell's government until 1651 when he retired to a quiet life in Nottinghamshire.  The old manor house had been almost destroyed by the Royalists and had to be completely rebuilt. The new house was in the field close to the church.  Large stone steps took you into a spacious entrance hall with a long table and welcoming fireplace. A staircase lead up to a galleried landing big enough to accommodate an orchestra for the upstairs ball room.  The family quasrters were on the left of the Hall while three entertainment rooms for guests were situated on the right. These rooms opened to an outside terrace and bowling green type lawn with flower borders and a shrubbery.  Trees had been cut to allow views across the countryside towards Langar and Belvoir Castle.

He planted the trees that are still growing around the fishpond he created in his grounds.  A local group called The Friends of Fishpond Wood have recently worked on this area and on the lost garden (more details here).

Owthorpe: Colonel Hutchunson's fishpond
 According to a description written by Julius Hutchinson in 1775, "All parts were built so substantially, and so well secured, that neither fire nor thieves could penetrate from room to room, nor from one flight of stairs to another."  Were they expecting trouble when they designed the house?  They should have been.  Royalty returned to the throne in 1660.  While the other Regicides suffered terrible executions Hutchinson escaped unscathed but riddled with guilt and remorse.  He described himself as having been "involved in so horrid a crime as merits no indulgence".  On his retirement he had distanced himself from Cromwell and friends and relatives petitioning on his behalf suggested he had secretly been working in favour of the Royalist cause (there is no evidence to support this claim though!). He was left in peace for a short time.

They arrested him in October 1663 as he walked to church, a short distance from his secure house.  They accused him of being involved in the Farnley Wood Plot, an uprising against the King.  It was probably a trumped up charge to get him imprisoned.  Twenty six men were arrested and sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered ... again Hutchinson was not one of them.

They kept him on the Tower of London but transferred him to the less salubrious surroundings of Sandcastle in Kent where he died of a fever in September 1664. Lucy was granted permission to bring his body home but it was not an easy journey.  A hearse with six horses in full mourning gear was sent.  Firstly the castle Governor demaned a ransom then some of the villagers along the route were rather hostile to the late Roundhead and skermishes broke out.  It would have been quite a relief once he was laid to rest in St Margaret's Church.

Church gate
The Hutchinson family vault is inside but the enterance has been lost.  Part of the church floor collapsed in 1859 and stairs to the burial chamber were revealed.  They found seventeen coffins: one belonging to a lady was in an upright position chained to the wall.

1712 headstone in memory of James Watson
There are a number of slate gravestones dating back to the 1700s: some examples of Belvoir Angels and one signed by Sparrow (a local monument mason of the time).

Owthorpe: Village House with sun dial on the  gable
Lucy sold the house to John's brother Charles and returned to London.  I said earlier that the fame should be hers.  As a girl she had eschewed the usual female pursuits of needlework and music in favour of Latin.  She is the author of Order and Disorder, the first epic poem by a woman in the English language. She also wrote Memoirs Of The Life Of Colonel Hutchinson.  Her purpose here was to inform her children of their father's innocence.  It was published by the family in 1806.  Lucy was also buried in Owthorpe in 1681.

Owthorpe: Street view
 Owthorpe Hall was purchased by Sir George Smith Bromley, Bart. We have come across him before .... his family famously set up the first Bank (Smith Bank) and they lived at East Stoke.

The Bromleys rented out the house but it fell into disrepair then, around 1825, it was destroyed by fire and the whole place was demolished in 1832.  The large ornate garden pots were removed to Stoke Hall ... who knows, they might still be there.

Garden ornament

Map of Owthorpe: click here.

Owthorpe barn
*  Thomas Boothby (1677 - 1752) inherited Tooley Park in Leicestershire when he was just 15 years old. During his life he was married three times ... each wife increased his wealth which enabled him to dedicate most of his time to hunting and breeding his foxhounds.  He was Master of the Quorn Hunt 55 times.  Tom O' Tooley sounds a bit of a terror ... he grabbed hold of the local vicar and almost drowned him in a fishpond after the poor cleric made the mistake of telling Mrs Boothby that Tom was keeping a mistress.

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