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.


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