Saturday, 25 July 2015


Driving through the corn fields towards Screveton you get a bit of a surprise .... these strange green giants dominate the skyline. They are wonderfully lifelike in a strange sort of way!  They may be made of green plastic leaves but looking up at this enormous topiary woman made me remember my grandmother's apron and her headscarf covering the curlers. Brilliant and well worth a look.

Topiary figure Screveton
They were made by Pirate Technics and first displayed at the Festival of Neighbourhood at the Southbank Centre, near Waterloo Bridge then they were moved to the Olympic Park for a time.  Now they are in the middle of a Notts field .... can't imagine the logistics involved in moving them ... let alone the looks of motorists if they came here by road!

Topiary figures by Pirate Technics
They are certainly causing a stir which is good news for Farmeco.  This is a community care farm that is working to reconnect people to food and farming. David Rose and his team are doing a fabulous job.  Farmeco is exactly what it says ... they are looking after the environment; working with the community and running a productive farm.  They organise a community yoga group; a bread-making group; an allotment group; they have a community care farm; every autumn people bring their own fruit to the farm presses; they sell pigs, hens, ducks and goats and they run a Saturday cafĂ© ... there is no end to the work they do! What a great addition to the community. You can read more about David Rose's work here.
In the meantime here is another giant that has appeared on the farm.  This one was at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show a few weeks ago.

Giant pilot made for RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015
He is rather aptly dressed for these parts because, sadly, another reason people visit this village is the war memorial to eleven young men who lost their lives here in 1944.

Screveton War Memorial
At 3.35pm on the 14th April, 1944, a young trainee pilot, 21 year old B H Dennis took off  from Wymeswold accompanied by his instructor, 22 year old J A Hawkins.  Fifteen minutes later a second plane, a Lancaster, took off from Syerston. There were two trainee pilots, an instructor and six other crew members on board (their ages ranged from 28 to just 19 years).  Both planes were on routine training flights.  At 4.30pm both were at 1000ft over Screveton as they collided in mid-air.  J A Hawkins was thrown from the plane by the collision and managed to parachute to the ground. Everyone else died on impact as the two planes fell to earth. According to eyewitnesses both young pilots had guided their planes away from the village before crashing. Hawkins was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries a few hours later. 

Screveton War Memorial
Another very impressive memorial can be found inside the Church of St Wilfrid.

Sir Richard Whalley (1499 - 1583)
Second wife ... Ursula .... + 13 kids
This is Richard Whalley who was married three times and lived in Kirketon Hall, which stood next to the Church, with his twenty five children!  The poor second wife, Ursula ... thirteen kids ....  must have been pregnant most of her married life. 

The Whalley family were very influential in Tudor times.  Richard's father was physician to Henry VII and Richard was a member of Henry VIII's  court.  He assisted Wolsey and Cromwell in the dissolution of the monasteries.  He was given Welbeck Abbey as a reward for his services.  After Henry VIII's death (1547) Richard became steward to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (Lord Protector of England during the minority rule of King Edward VI). In 1552 Somerset was executed and Whalley was in trouble.  He had escaped the same fate as his boss by giving evidence against him but he didn't escape completely.  He had to sell Welbeck Abbey to pay the heavy fines for siding with the Duke.  It is surprising to report that despite the heavy debts; a decline in his social standing and twenty five children to keep in the state to which they were accustomed to live Richard still managed to die a very rich man in 1583 at the grand old age of 84.  His third wife Barbara obviously liked him .... she had the monument made.  It is very similar to the alabaster tomb of Archbishop Sandys in Southwell Minister who died in 1588, five years after Richard Whalley. I think the one at Screveton is the better of the two .... shame it is out of sight in a dark spidery place at the back of the church.
First wife
Third wife ... Barbara

Richard's eldest son and heir, Thomas, died in 1582 (a year before Richard) so Thomas's son - another Richard -  inherited the estate. This Richard was to become the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1595.  He married Frances Cromwell, daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell making her sister to Oliver.  They had seven children: one of whom was Major-General Edward Whalley.  During the Civil War Edward sided with his uncle, Oliver Cromwell, and took a leading role for the Parliamentarians (the only member of his family to do so). He was a zealous supporter of social reform: he tried to introduce a Parliamentary Bill to prevent land enclosure as he saw this as a major cause of unemployment. When Charles I was captured he was entrusted to Edward and his men at Hampton Court Palace. Before his execution Charles wrote a letter of thanks to Edward for the courteous manner in which he had imprisoned him! Edward's was the fourth signature on the King's death warrant.  After the Restoration of the Monarchy Edward, as a Regicide, was forced to flee to New England.  He arrived in Boston in 1660 and spent the next fourteen years hiding from Royalist agents sent to hunt for him.  He probably died in Hadley, Massachusetts, around 1674.

The Whalley family seemed to be very good at choosing the wrong side .... move  forwards to the reign of James I and The Gunpowder Plot.  One of those accused and executed was Henry Garnet ... otherwise known as WHALLEY! 

Their large house stood on land right next to St Wilfrid's Church.  Originally named Kirketon Hall .... it no longer exists.  The old building dated back to Medieval and Tudor times and was owned by the Kirketon family; the Leeks and then the Whalley family. In 1685 Thomas Thoroton (1636-1695) bought Kirketon Hall and the manor of Screveton from Peniston Whalley. (Yes, we have come across the Thorotons before in our post on Car Colston.). Early in the 18th century one wing of the building was demolished and replaced by a set of rooms; the name was changed to Screveton Hall and it became the Thoroton family's principal seat until they bought Flintham House in 1789. Colonel Thomas Blackborne Hildyard (son of Colonel Thomas Thoroton) had the house demolished in the 1820s and gave the land to the church in exchange for some land that belonged to the rector of Screveton.

Norman font
The quiet Church of St Wilfrid mainly dates back to the 13th century but there are traces of a church on the site at an earlier time.  The font dates back to 1170.

Above the font is a wooden carving of the Arms of Charles II. Displaying the Royal Coat of Arms was common practice in churches after the Restoration.  This was a time when your religious beliefs were a matter of importance.  Displaying the Royal Arms showed you were loyal to the King and the Church of England.

Arms of Charles II
 These are not the only treasures hidden away here.  The windows add to the charm.

Burlison & Grylls window

Amazingly, this is a Burlison & Grylls window right here in Screveton!  Burlison & Grylls were one of the most successful stained glass companies in Britain.  Their work includes the fabulous West Window, Exeter Cathedral and a number of windows in Bath Abbey.  The company began in 1868 when the architect G F Bodley wanted a window in keeping with his Gothic church design.  Morris & Co (see William Morris window at Whatton) designs were too modern for Bodley's taste so he encouraged two young artists - Burlison & Grylls - to start the company and they never looked back.  The company went out of business in 1945 when a bomb demolished their Oxford Street offices and all their records.

The stone masons decorated the inside ......

......and the outside:

St Wilfrid Church
There are some excellent examples of 18th century slate grave stones engraved by Brown, Sparrow and Wood.

A slate headstone by James Sparrow
I have seen quite a few by Sparrow ... then I looked him up and found there was James AND his son George working in this area.  At one time James worked with one of England's finest landscape engravers William Byrne so he must have been highly regarded. Apparently apprentice engravers used school children's calligraphy books to find fonts to copy for their work. 

The stone that I liked best sits just outside the main door and is ....

Engraved headstone by "Wood of Bingham".
.... an engraving of the church!  It even has the tree and a few of the other gravestones on ... in fact, isn't the one under the middle window this one?!

St Wilfrid Church (headstone mentioned above is the large one on the right under the window)
The Old Priest House sits just outside the church yard.

A 16th century timber framed house with lovely patterned brickwork.  It is now a smallholding with cute pigs in the garden, hens running about the place and three friendly alpacas out the back

Screveton is a lovely peaceful place, yet so far its residents have taken us to the heart of the Tudor court; into the battles of the Civil War; the intrigue of The Gunpowder Plot and the Second World War ..... but we don't stop there.  Meet the Sutton family from Screveton!.

 Sir Charles Manners Sutton (1780 - 1845) was Speaker of the House of Commons for 18 years.  His father was the Most Reverend Charles Manners Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury who in his turn was the grandson of the 3rd Duke of Rutland. 

An illegitimate son of the 3rd Duke was Captain Evelyn Sutton, a naval officer during the Napoleonic wars who was court marshalled by his commanding officer for supposedly delaying his ship's entry into a sea battle.  This accusation cost Captain Sutton his reputation as well as his battle prize money.  The court marshal proved him innocent of the charge so he sued his commanding officer for £5,000 (ten times his yearly salary!). It took years to settle the case: Captain Sutton lost. Evelyn Sutton was married to Roosila Thoroton (yep, yet another Thoroton .... Roosila's sister Mary was married to Evelyn's legitimate brother, Charles Manners Sutton ....see above!).

The old village pinfold (where stray animals were impounded until their owners paid a fine for their recovery) has been restored and turned into a garden.

No picture of a pint this time.  There used to be a public house in the village ...  The Royal Oak (just like Car Colston) but this is now a private house called The Oaks.

Cheers anyway!

Map of Screveton: click here.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Car Colston

Cricket on The Green
On a warm summer’s day you can’t beat the village green at Car Colston.  Sitting outside the Royal Oak with a refreshing drink, enjoying a cricket match, listening to the swallows and house martins swooping above or watching the cows on the common …. bliss.

Little white bull ... on The Green
Large Common is sixteen and a half acres of grass and is the largest village green in Nottinghamshire.  At the other side of the village is Little Green measuring five and a half acres.  When the medieval fields were enclosed in 1598 the landowners agreed to leave these two areas to provide grazing for the villagers' livestock.  Gates were placed across the roads into the village to stop the animals roaming.  The gate posts are still there.
Village gates

This village entrance sits beside Car Colston Hall Stud

The stud is owned by Nick Foreman Hardy and his wife, Jane. The Foreman Hardy family owned the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper until a few years ago.  They now run an investment house as well as breeding thoroughbred race horses.  Reckless Abandon (a winner at Royal Ascot) was bred there. They appear to be doing rather well as they steadily move up the Sunday Times Rich List.

Car Colston Hall, a Grade II listed building, hides amongst mature trees but can be seen from the green.  It was built in 1838 for the Rev John C Girardot MA, the village vicar. They obviously paid them well in those days!

Car Colston Hall
 The Old Hall is at the other end of the village. Another Grade II listed building, it is on the site of the home of Dr Robert Thoroton (1623 - 1678), famed Nottinghamshire historian.

Old Hall, Car Colston
Six generations of Thorotons had lived in Car Colston when Robert was born but their name shows their long association with the nearby village of Thoroton where they had been landowners right back to the 13th century. Parish records show a Robert Thoroton (Dr Thoroton's great-grandfather) died of the Plague in 1604; this infection wiped out a fifth of the village population between 1603 and 1604. A stone on the outside of  St Mary's Church, Car Colston, describes Dr Thoroton's grandfather as "a loyal servant of King and Church"  who died in 1646 when Thoroton's parents inherited the Hall.  His mother died in 1660 and Thoroton moved in with his wife, Anne (nee. Bohun).  They had three daughters but sadly one drowned in 1655. The old building was in a serious state of disrepair and was demolished in 1666.  The Thorotons moved into a new home on the same site.  Many years later this too fell into disrepair and had to be pulled down.  The present Old Hall dates back to 1812. 

Village on the Green

Thoroton was a physician and a magistrate who dabbled in genealogy in his spare time.  During a visit to Thrumpton, to see his friend Gervase Pigot and Sir William Dugdale, Thoroton was encouraged to complete a document outlining the history of Nottinghamshire which had been started by Gilbert Bohun (Thoroton's father in law). 

'The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire' ("A work of great labour and erudition" according to The Thoroton Society) took ten years to complete in which he produced an accurate record of the landowners in each Nottinghamshire parish from the Domesday Book to his time ... 600 years ... researched without the aid of the internet!  It was published in 1677 but he enjoyed the acclaim for only a few months ... he died in 1678.

He was well prepared for his own death having had a beautifully carved stone coffin made for himself six years earlier!  He was buried in Car Colston churchyard. 

St Mary Church dates back to 13th century
In 1845 the coffin was unearthed by some workmen carrying out restoration work on the church.  The coffin was opened, the body taken out and the skull placed in a shop window as a curiosity! School children witnessed the coffin being opened and remembered the dusty skeleton coming to light. Can you imagine the uproar this would cause today!  The Reverend John Girardot MA, was outraged and demanded the remains were replaced in the coffin and the whole thing reburied. Unfortunately another group of workmen unearthed it again in 1863.  This time the empty coffin was placed inside the church where it can be seen today.  

A rural setting
A  contemporary of Dr Thoroton's was the Reverend Samuel Brunsell.  Now here is an interesting character.  During the Civil War he spent time in the Netherlands.  Some historians claim he was running away from the war but evidence seems to suggest otherwise.  During his time abroad he served Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield (the Stanhope family lived in Shelford, Notts). She was married to a wealthy Dutch diplomat, John van Kerkhove, the Lord of Heenvliet.  These two were taking care of the exiled royal family: in particular Princess Mary (daughter of Charles I and soon to be child bride of William of Orange - Lord Heenvliet was instrumental in setting up the marriage). Brunsell returned to England in 1648. In 1662, after the Restoration, Katherine Stanhope helped him became the Rector of Bingham, incumbent of Screveton & Upton as well as canonries at  Southwell Minster and Lincoln Cathedral. All this even though he was only awarded his Divinity degree in 1661.  He was obviously being rewarded for something ... far from running away from the Civil War he had been actively involved as a spy for the Royalists ... a 17th century James Bond! 
His elder brother, Henry Brunsell, was also well rewarded after the restoration.  He married the sister of Sir Christopher Wren.

Brunsell House
Church carving
According to Bingham folklore Brunsell was one of the last men in the country to officially lay a ghost.  Personally I think he had a superstitious congregation and a bit of a theatrical side to his nature!  Whilst he was Rector of Bingham the residents of Chapel Lane complained of a ghost causing considerable disturbance. Brunsell had a new grave dug in the church yard and a coffin left open over night in Chapel Lane.  The next day Brunsell, in full clerical gown and wig, had the coffin sealed and carried shoulder high through the Bingham streets to the church with a large procession of townsfolk following.  The burial service was conducted and the coffin buried.  That seems to have placated the ghost who never appeared again.
Church carving

Between 1660 and 1664 Brunsell purchased some land in Car Colston from the Thorotons and a property from William Kirke. The house had previously belonged to Richard Kirke but he was a Roman Catholic and being caught up in the religious conflicts of the time he passed the deeds to his brother William (Richard later died in prison).  Samuel built a beautiful H shaped house on the land but only a section of it remains today.  There is a question mark over what happened to the rest of Richard Kirke's worldly wealth.  Only the house was passed on ... did he bury his money and valuables in the garden hoping to return later? Rumour has it ......
 Brunsell died in 1687 and was buried in Bingham Church.  According to a Mr M. Blagg of the Thoroton Society (1902), "The members of the Brunsell family who continued to reside at Car-Colston led very scandalous lives and came to a bad end, and the property passed into the possession of my own ancestors, the Sampeys, in 1759.”

Large Green
In 1833 Thomas Blagg (b. 1803) of Car Coloston married Grace Goulson, daughter of Dorothy Sampey.  They had 12 children and this is the branch of the family that lived in Brunsell House. Now I have no proof of this next part but according to an amateur genealogist on looking into her  own connection with the Blagg family, Thomas's brother, Francis Blagg (b  1808) lived in South Leverton, North Notts.  He married Mary  Rogers who already had a daughter, Helen, by a previous marriage.  Francis, a surgeon by trade, had four children .... by his step daughter.  Talk about a scandalous life!  It gets better ..... Francis died early at the age of 51.  He went out for a drink and died on the journey home by travelling too fast and accidently running into a post ... he was drunk in charge of a horse!

Sadly the Blagg brother's father and grandfather (both surgeons) had died early too.  Their father drowned in the River Trent: their grandfather died after taking snuff without washing his hands after conducting a surgical procedure.

The Car Colston Blagg family are respected members of the village community. There are numerous memorials to family members in the church.

The church war memorial begins with the name of  Capt. Philip Umfreville Laws MC who died in 1917. He was the eldest son of William (yet another surgeon) and Anne Laws who lived at The Old Rectory in Car Colston.   The Nottingham Daily Guardian 25/9/1917 reported  'A fellow officer wrote: "He was up in front holding a concrete dugout with a few men he had managed to collect and was hit in the head... I have never seen any one more gallant."'

His Military Cross citation reads:' For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Forward Observation officer. During the action and the five following days he sent in most valuable information as to the enemy's movements, whereby several counter-attacks were broken up before they could deploy. When the Forward Station Signalling Officer was wounded he also took charge of the signals, and kept up communication with the brigade, remaining at his post after the troops on his right had been forced to fall back. By his coolness, able leadership, and excellent reports he was largely instrumental in making the flank secure and clearing up the situation'.

A real war hero.

White House on the Green
19thC whipping post
The footpath from the Church to the village green brings you out next to the old village stocks and whipping post (Grade II listed). It is in remarkably good working order for its age.  As you can see there is a stool then the villain's limbs could be secured against the post.  They were either left there and humiliated or corporal punishment could be carried out for more serious offences. Although it is tucked away round the corner from the green there is still plenty of room for spectators and there is a ring set in the wall for tethering a horse. 

The large wall in the photo belongs to Beech Close, a large Grade II listed country house set in beautiful grounds which dates back to 1719.

At the far side of Large Common is yet another interesting building.  Manor Cottages has a 17th century wooden framed panel.

Manor Cottage
In the pasture at the back of this building there are the outlines of some medieval houses and a Roman Villa that once stood on this site.  It can be seen quite clearly in aerial photographs.  The site has never been excavated.  Its close proximity to the local pub could explain the rumour of a ghost of a Roman soldier that haunts the cellar there ... or it could be just be the alcohol to blame. They should have told Rev Brunsell about it!

Royal Oak public house
We enjoyed the friendly welcome and hospitality at the village pub.  The Royal Oak  is the second most popular pub name in England (beaten by The Red Lion). The oak tree in question is actually in Shropshire. In 1651, after defeat in the Battle of Worcester, Charles II climbed into the tree, and had to spend the night there, in order to hide from Parliamentarian soldiers. Following the Restoration people happily celebrated the end of Cromwell's years of austerity and many public houses changed their name to the Royal Oak. The Civil War (1642 - 1651) didn't have a great impact on Car Colston but there is one tale of the 17th century pub landlord helping a cavalier to evade capture by taking him down river to safety.

Well, I'll get back to the cricket and my refreshing pint of Boon Dongle.


Car Colston map:  click here.

We went for a pint down at the Royal Oak on 23rd July 2016 and the green was occupied by half-a-dozen vardos - traditional Gypsy bow-topped caravans. At least we think they are called vardos!

Vardos on the Green at Car Colston, July 2016

Traditional caravans.
These brightly decorated wooden caravans added a touch of a lost time to this beautiful village on a lovely summer's day.

Ready for a paint job. Presumably being renovated or new and waiting on the intricate paintwork.

Fantastic detail and intricate designs are a hallmark of these vans

These things are not cheap. A quick search of the internet gave results for excellent vardos priced at £140.000 down to a more manageable £4.000. A few companies are offering them to rent...along with an 'oss for a relaxing, plodding, slow-paced, wandering holiday. Around a thousand pounds for the week.

Refuelling the motor!

An idyllic scene.

T Brindley - Painter

A great deal of time and skill goes into the design of these vans.
Thanks to the owners who were most friendly and welcomed us taking pictures of their vans. They even offered me a warm beer.