Wednesday, 21 June 2017


The Generous Briton
The pub is a good place to start in Costock.  The staff in The Generous Briton gave us a warm welcome and a tasty lunch .... the beer was good too.  Worth a visit.

The present pub sign shows a corpulent John Brown type figure wearing a Union Jack waistcoat and holding out a flagon of frothy ale. The name comes from a poem written in 1780 by Phillip Freneau.  Entitled A British Prison Ship it describes the appalling conditions American prisoners endured on these death ships.  The American War of Independence raged from 1775 until 1783.  The British viewed their prisoners of war as terrorists and confined them in sweltering ships with little food or fresh weater.  The death tolls were around the 70% mark.  The poem details the awful treatment the "generous Britons" meted out.

"Here generous Briton, generous, as you say,
To my parched tongue one cooling drop convey,
Hell has no miscief like a thirsty throat,
Nor one tormentor like your David Sproat." 

[David Sproat was a British supervisor on the prison ship].

An appropriate quotation for a pub name I suppose even if the original source is a bit grim!

Street view

Well, we left the pub and wandered up a lane that was a perfect setting for a Miss Marple TV set.  We turned right at the end of the lane and that took us passed a small graveyard and on to Hall Farm, a lovely old farm house that is no longer a farm.  Obviously we couldn't go in but according to the WI Nottinghamshire Village Book it has 3 feet thick walls, stone mullioned windows and a ten feet long fireplace very similar to the one in Hampton Court kitchen.  It did look idyllic.

We retraced our steps back to the graves, passed  Dead End Cottage (!) and found the church yard.

St Giles Church
The tiny window underneath the middle one in the photo above has been described as a Leper Window but the altar can not be seen from that angle: an alternative explanation suggests it was a Confessional Window dating back to its Roman Catholic years.

Towards the back of the church was this gravestone on the right.  I take it to be two brothers as they share the name of Chapman and were born four years apart.  Edward, the youngest, died in Calcutta, India in 1875 at the age of 21 but is remembered here. A silver 16th century Indian coin was found in the church yard ... perhaps it was buried with this young man.

In prime position at the front of the church is a large plot with a row of stones belonging to one family.  Many generations of the Woodroffe or Woodruff family are buried here.  Interestingly the older grave stones show different spellings of the name. One stone tells us that Solomon Woodroffe died in 1735 and next to him is his 14 year old son.  Solomon's wife, Mary, died in 1741 leaving three other children.  Elizabeth Woodroffe, the youngest was only 10 when she was orphaned.  She also died young at the age of 29. There are about 19 stones in memory of this family ... so many they have their own web page

 Descendents of the family still live in the Woodroffe family home ... right across the road from the church.  The building has SW 1778 designed into the old brickwork (Solomon Woodroffe II).

St Giles Church
  This is the 14th century Church of St Giles but it is mainly 19th century now after the rebuilds. 

Part of a Norman pillar found in 1978

 There is some beautiful stonework inside ...


 ... and the pews have been carved with poppy heads depicting plants and animals.


Six of these carving date to the 13th century but over 60 of them were created by Rev Charles Sutton Millard the Victorian vicar.

Memorial to 9 men who fought and died in the World War 1

Window designed by Burleston & Gryllis

Outside there is a tomb to another incumbent of the church. 

The effigy is minus a head having been badly damaged by soldiers in the Civil War.  The marks in the sandstone at the back look like fingernail scatchings but we were told they were made by the same soldiers as they sharpened their arrowheads in preparation for a battle.

Bailey's Annals of Nottinghamshire tells us: 'At the latter end of the summer the Royalists having placed an ambuscade on the road near Costock, to intercept a convoy, passing under protection of a body of Leicester troops, were defeated with the loss of eight men killed and sixty taken prisoners.' The loss of the Parliamentary forces is not mentioned.

A document from the Thoroton Society states: "We know from information given by Mr. Carver, farmer, of Costock, that in 1857, on a road being made outside the churchyard, five skulls, together with other bones, were found buried at the depth only of 2½ feet from the surface, and that in Dr. Chapman's opinion, they were the bones of men, and that one skull had a round hole, which might have been caused by a bullet."  

At the back of the church they have almost copied the tomb design from the church front for another respected vicar ... Edward Wilson Clerk MA who died in 1859.

St Giles Church
Continuing down the lane we passed the large Rectory but it is hardly visible from the road.  There is a real feeling of being back in time down this lane.  Round the corner and behind a huge brick wall is the old Manor House.  Apparently the land and money for this place was given to Queen Elizabeth I's chef when he retired!  He must have been the Alain Passard of his day!

Manor House
It is still standing and has been converted into a fabulous modern home with  immaculate gardens, a heated swimming pool, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, stable block, garage block and at least three additional buildings to use as holiday lets. It was up for sale recently for £1.8 million.  I'd buy it!

We explored Mill Lane but the mill was long gone ... There was a miller recorded as living in Costock in 1609 and the last mill was built in 1774 but it was pulled down in 1937 when it became too dangerous.  The old mill barn, where the wheat was threshed, dates back to 1763 but it is now a house.

At one time the village had three shops (including a butcher and a sub-post office) and two pubs.  There were two blacksmiths and a saddler supporting the local agricultural community; a small brick yard; a bake house; a shoemaker; a taylor and dressmakers. This was also the centre of a stocking framework knitting industry with finished products being taken to Nottingham by horse and cart.  In 1871 there were 29 machines giving employment to about 40 people but by 1901 all production had ceased.

Street view
In 2011 the Community of the Holy Cross built a small convent for nuns on a 26 acre site just outside the village. It is a place where people can go for a quiet religious retreat.  There is another business with a church connection ... Ellis Ropes Ltd makes colourful chime ropes for church bells under the Ellis and Pritchard brand name.

There seems to be a trend connected to 'higher things' here because another modern day establishment in the area is East Midlands Helicopters.

old water pump
Eglantine Vineyard covers 4 acres of land on Ash Lane and produces award winning wines and meads. 
Ornamental pump from Glenfield & Kennedy of Kilmarnock designed to disapence exactly 1 gallon of water.

Friday, 9 June 2017


I HAVE to begin this post by showing you a fabulous memorial effigy located inside the village church.

Here we have the stunningly beautiful memorial of Harriet Annie Robertson who died in 1891 at 42 years of age.  How ironic that she looks so lifelike!

 Beautifully coiffered and dressed; holding a spray of lilies in one hand, you could imagine her sleeping in comfort up at the Big House! Her head rests on three cushions with detailed trims, tassels and creases .... the stone looks so soft.  Her cover is tucked under the side of the bed and you can see seams and stitching in the material! A magnificent memorial.  She was obviously loved. 

So who were the Robertsons?  Members of this family settled in Widmerpool in 1804 but George Robertson, who moved from Scotland during the 1700s, started the family business by setting up cotton mills at Papplewick, Linby and Bulwell.  They were so successful he passed on a considerably large fortune to his decendants.  Major George Coke Robertson was a great-grandson of the original George.  The Major was one of the members of the first Nottinghamshire County Council Committee.  He was a kind and charitable gentleman: when the price of corn fell to a record low and most of Widmerpool farmers were on the breadline the Robertsons were there to help.  Even today, all this time later, one of the villagers referred to the family as "Benevolent Squires".  The village church owes them a great deal of thanks:

Members of the Robertson family had first started to restore the delapidated St Peter's Church in 1832.  The spire and porch were replaced, part of the building was re-roofed and windows were added.  Unfortunately a huge storm hit in 1836 and destroyed the windows and half the newly built spire collapsed. A few years later they invested in the place again.

Major Coke Robertson married Harriet Low in 1873.  She was the daughter of an extremely wealthy cotton king from Savannah, USA.  She spent £10,000 making the ruined church what it is today.

 A vestry was added; the organ, stain glass windows and the beautiful reredos were installed and the ceiling redesigned.  The stone mason bill must have been enormous but it was worth it.

Harriet Robertson's father, Arthur Low, also hailed from Scotland but had emigrated to America when he was 16 and started working in his uncle's cotton mill.  Pretty soon he was a partner in the business and had a large palatial house in Savannah (see it here).   When William Makepeace Thackery (of Vanity Fair fame) visited the family in 1853 he wrote "Know that I write from the most comfortable quarters I have ever had in the United States."  General Robert E Lee also stayed at the house where the young Harriet lived as a child.

 The Arthur Low House is on the USA tourist map ... not because of the wealthy Arthur but because of his daughter-in-law, Juliette Gordon Low.  She married Wiolliam Mackay Low in 1886.  It was not a happy union and by 1901 the couple were discussing divorce.  William died in 1905... there is a memorial plaque inside Widmerpool church and his large tomb is in the church yard.

  Juliette inherited the Low House in Savannah, USA.  In 1911 while in England Juliette met Sir Robert Baden-Powell amd was so inspired by the Boy Scout movement she organised two Girl Guide patrols in London then returned home to America to spread word of the movement over there.  Arthur Low House was the US Girl Scout first HQ.  They celebrate their Founder's Day each year on the 31st October: Juliette's birthday.

Lovely green men on the pillars inside.

  Plus one woman with an "evil eye"!


Widmerpool Hall was built for the Robertsons in 1872 and is a Grade II listed building.  Gargoyles cling onto the Italianate clock tower .... but the clock was never added out of respect for Harriet Robertson who died before that detail was completed.

Widmerpool Hall
 The Major died in 1924 and the estate passed to Thomas Towle then 1943 - 1947 Mrs Forman-Hardy (owner of the Evening Post) was in residence.  The house was up for sale in 1949 with an asking price of £9750 ....those were the days!!

Here's the Gardener's Cottage .....

The estate became the training school for the AA (Automobile Association) patrolmen in 1950 but in recent years it has been converted into nine residential apartments (each selling for approx. £500,000 nowadays!), eleven mews style houses and detached houses have been built nearby.

Before we leave this family history and the church here is another sad connection.

 The child depicted in the window sitting on Christ's knee is six year old Bevil Grenviele Bruce Grenfell born May 9th 1878 and died July 19th 1884. He was the son of Dame Amy Grenfell, Harriet's sister.

  A couple of ancient but unmarked graves in the churchyard belong to two soldiers who were killed during the Civil War battle at nearby Willoughby on the Wolds ... the same battle where Colonel Michael Stanhope died on 6th July 1648.

Also buried here is Thomas Andrew Barton, the son of the founder of Barton Buses.

The stone carvings in the porch echo the carvings on the altar piece:

Only  Matthew seems to be a bit worse for wear from the elements.

We could not help but notice the large number of mature trees around the village: a lovely  mixture of evergreen and deciduious trees.  Some of the cedars were imported from Lebanon before 1700 but a number were added to the Robertson's estate gardens when cedars and redwoods were in vogue.  Some are quite spectacular.
Main Street

 We didn't find a shop or a pub on Main Street. The Smithy is a house and Station Road did not lead to a railway.  This once busy farming community is now a peaceful village completely given over to beautiful houses.

Smithy Farm

The Old Rectory
 Under the village sign is a blue plaque giving details of the accomplishments of one resident:  Sophie Hahn who had set a world record time and won a Gold Medal for the 100m and Silver for the 200m at the International Paralympic Championships in Lyon 2013.  Great achievement!

 The village dates back to Roman times.  It is believed the Roman Commandant of near by Vernemetum lived in a villa next to the village brook.