Wednesday, 30 September 2015



We used to visit Cotham Flash for birds but we haven't been for some time.  It was a bit of a disappointment then to find the Pykett's Pond (officially called Hawton Waters) car park closed off by a large block of concrete and the Flash dried up.  The area is still home to Long-eared Owls and Grizzled Skipper butterflies whilst otters have been seen in the river Devon so the place is still worth a visit.  We didn't see any of those on our walk but the Grey Partriges and the Kestrels kept us company while a pear tree provided a timely snack. 

This quiet village was once the home of the Leeks, one of the most powerful and prolific families in Nottinghamshire during medieval times. Sir John Leek of Cotham who died in 1415 rose to be Sheriff of Nottingham and a Member of Parliament.  He was a master at manipulating people and situations for his own advantage: in 1382 Sir John Leek became ward to the grandson of Sir Godfrey Foljambe (died 1376).  Foljambe had been a distinguished lawyer and associate of John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III) .... so a very wealthy man.  Sir John arranged for his 12 year old sister, Margaret, to marry the 15 year old grandson (also named Godfrey) before he came of age and claimed his inheritance.  Unfortunately .... or fortunately from Sir John's point of view .... Godfrey died in 1388 but by that time Margaret had given birth to a daughter which meant Sir John could continue to 'take care' of the Foljambe estate.

Sir John then paid the Crown 50 marks for the marriage rights of the baby girl which were later sold to a wealthy neighbour for 100 marks.  Meanwhile the widowed Margaret was again married off by her scheming brother.  Her new husband was Sir Thomas Rempston, a close associate of Henry Bolingbroke, so Sir John now had a close connection with the future king. Makes you wonder what poor Margaret thought to all this!

(Margaret Leek is one of a very select group who are ancestors of Princes William and Harry by at least two spouses)

Street view
Sir John's son, Sir Simon Leek, inherited Cotham on his father's death. But the village passed to the Markham family when Simon's daughter, Margaret, married Sir John Markham (1390 - 1479).

Sir John was Chief Justice to the King's Bench and earned the name of the "upright judge".  He lost his postion however by offending King Edward IV.  Sir John's strong sense of justice lead him to suggest 'a subject may arrest for treason, the king cannot, for if the arrest be illegal the party has no remedy against the king.This was accepted into England's constitutional rights and Sir John retired from public life.  He actually died at Sedgebrook rather than Cotham.

Cotham horse
 A later Sir John was a captain, on Henry's side, in the terrible Battle of East Stoke in 1488.  He was described as "an unrulie spirited man" who argued with the people of nearby Long Bennington over land boundaries.  He sorted out the problem by killing a number of people then hanging the priest.  He was forced to hide for a while in another of the family properties, Cressy Hall.  Luckily Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII, paid a visit.  He was able to charm her into organising a royal pardon for himself and a wedding for his son ... yet another John Markham  (1486 -1559)  ... with Anne Neville,  kinswoman to the Lancasterian king. 

The younger John worked hard to gain royal favour.  He was rewarded by being a server at the coronation of Anne Boleyn; he earned the praise of Archbishop Cranmer when in 1537 he reminded Henry VIII that Markham had been ‘in all the wars which the King hath had ... except he had wars in divers places at one time, and then he was ever in one of them’. Markham was present at the reception of Anne of Cleves and he attended Henry VIII's funeral. He firmly supported the dissolution of the monasteries (through which he acquired Rufford Abbey in 1537). 
In 1549 he became Lieutenant of the Tower.  Lord Somerset, the King's Protector, was imprisoned there along with the Duke of Norfolk, Bishop Gardiner and later Sir Michael Stanhope of Shelford.  King Edward VI became aware that Markham allowed Somerset to walk in the grounds and send letters without authority of the Council.  Markham was dismissed for these misdemeanours.

Sir John was a very busy man .... he had two sons with Ann (another John who died in childhood and Robert). When Ann died John married a second time and had thirteen children (the eldest again named Robert!).  His third wife, Anne, "Relict of Sir Richard Stanhope, Knight" gave him yet another son, Thomas Markham and three more daughters. That's 19 children!  Good job they had a big house at Cotham! One of John's daughters, Isabella, was a maid of honour and a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I.

Unfortunately Sir John's eldest son died before his father so the grandson, Robert Markham, inherited when Sir John passed away.  Robert and his grandfather did not have a great relationship.  On inheriting Cotham Hall Robert had to refurbish the place because Sir John's will left Robert ‘such implements at Cottom as can be proved heirlooms and no further.’

Anne Markham's Memorial
Anne Warburton  (we came across the Warburtons at Shelton) married Robert Markham.  He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who had a rhyme for her four Nottinghamshire courtiers:

"Gervase the gentle, Stanhope the stout,
Markham the lion, and Sutton the lout."

 Perhaps Sir John had a reason for disliking his grandson: Robert spent a great deal of time  ... and money ... at court but he was home frequently enough to give Anne seven children.

Anne Markhan Memorial

Their eldest son, another Robert, also enjoyed the courtly life. Unfortunately he had such a good time the family could no longer afford the up keep on the great house at Cotham.  Robert Thoroton described the younger Sir Robert as "a fatal unthrift and destroyer of this eminent family". The estates had to be sold to pay the debts left by the father and son. The house fell in to disrepair and was eventually demolished so there is no sign today of the grand Cotham Hall or the Markhams.

St Michael's Church Cotham

 A church and a priest were recorded in the Domesday record for Cotham.  Parts of today's building date back to the 12th century but the tower and part of the nave were pulled down in the 18th century and the side aisles have gone.  These two heads were rescued (at one time they would have held up the wooden rafters) and the beautiful glass windows were reused.

The church closed in 1986 when the wall memorial to Anne Markham was  considered to be so important it was moved to the church at Newark where it can be found next to the font.  Two 14th century monuments, thought to belong to the Leek family, remain in the decommisioned building.

 The congregation of 1643 would not be allowed to be late for services because they could tell the time by the sundial on the outside of the church.

St Michael's sundial
 Inside the building is lit by candles rather than electricity.  Heat is provided by the old black metal stove.  The old pews have been replaced by chairs but the sides of the pews have been used as panelling for the walls.  Although it is no longer in use it is well cared for and occasional special services are still held there - like Christenings. When we visited they were obviously prepared for a Harvest Festival.  The place was full of rustic charm being beautifully decked out with fruit and flowers.  Could be a set for a BBC period drama.

Inside St Michael's Church

The First World War Memorial in the church lists the names of the Copes and Craggs who died in the war and Corporal Fred Sentence.  His sister must have been upset to receive a letter from his commanding officer, knowing the information inside was not going to be good news ... but this letter giving details of "his very nasty wound" probably added to the nightmare!

Here are some photos of the stained glass windows:

Millington Memorial window
 Elizabeth Millington mentioned on this memorial window was the daughter of John Fisher. (In 1790 Thoroton recorded "Here [Cotham] reside two respectable graziers who occupy the principal part of the land, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Neal"). Elizabeth was married to Robert Millington.  Her brother, John Henry Fisher, lived at Orston Hall.

Cotham House
By the time of White's Directory of Nottinghamshire 1853 Cotham had been "divided into three farms, occupied by John Booth, William Hodgkinson and Thomas Rose, the latter of whom resides at Cotham Lodge, a pleasant residence, commanding fine prospects."  A short horned bull belonging to Mr John Booth won first prize of thirty soveriegns at the Royal Agricultural Show of England in 1842 ... a very prestigeous award. I bet Thomas Rose didn't hear the end of it that year ... he too bred short horn cattle!  Blandings springs to mind! There is a memorial plaque to John's wife Anne inside the church.

Church yard plough
 Cotham's farming traditions continue today.

Cotham sheep
We photographed this small flock at the beginning of The Lane.  This took us onto one of the most beautiful public footpaths I have seen.  The path takes you through the gardens of four Grade II
listed buildings ... a row of 17th century cottages called The Row.

The Row  Grade II listed
The Row  Grade II listed
The footpath took us through a lovely rustic gate ....

Rustic gate
.... into a field full of butterflies. This Brimstone butterfly stood out amongst the cloud of white ones.  Lovely to see on the last day of September. 

Brimstone butterfly
 I found this village a strange mix of a place. There is everything you would expect from a country village ... green fields with cute animals surrounding houses and a church ... but this is a working village with nearby evidence of the gypsum works, Cotham landfill site (admitted a good site for Gulls) and now the residents are fighting to stop a windfarm being erected nearby.  Good job  Sir John is not around anymore .... he might have lynched a few people!

Map of Cotham: click here.

Cotham donkey


  1. Right, I'm heading for that footpath and gate next time I'm out at Cotham! The flashes have been at a much lower level the past couple of years, I come across woodcock and snipe in there. The adjacent paddocks were busy with yellow wagtail and linnet earlier in the year, but I never saw a wheatear as others have done!

    1. We only went a short way and the field isn't great to look at (big view though!) but going through the gardens and under a rose arch up to that gate was lovely!

    2. I went today and found it as charming as you said!

  2. I wrote about my visit here

  3. Markhams, Some of them ended up in Clark County Arkansas, and I am one.