Thursday, 10 December 2015


Street view
We visited Elton the morning after a storm had passed through Nottinghamshire.  Strong winds had scattered broken branches around the graveyard of the village church and a man with a wheelbarrow was busy clearing it up.  He smiled at us and nodded a greeting. I asked, "Do you live in the village?"

"Yes, we run the B&B just along the road there."

Now I had read a bit about the village before our visit so this comment was enough of a clue for my next question, "Did you used to be a professional footballer?"

His smile widened to a grin, "Yes, in a previous life!"

"Are you Don Masson, by any chance?"

I had read he was a resident of the village but I didn't expect to meet the man himself within a couple of minutes of parking the car!  I found myself shaking hands with a Scottish International footballer and midfielder for Notts County and QPR. He now runs The Grange B&B with his wife, Brenda.

The Grange B & B
Their beautiful old farmhouse dates back to 1725.  Set in a large mature garden with views over open country side this is a wonderful place for a quiet, peaceful break .... the anonymous Mitchelin inspector obviously agreed as the Massons have recently been informed that The Grange has been included in the 2016 Mitchelin Guide.  According to guest reviews it is richly deserved.

While the last of the tree branches were carted away we had a look around the Church of St Michael and All Angels.  What a great name ... sounds like a band!

Church of St Michael and All Angels
Parts of this church date back to the 12th century but there was a church here before the Norman Conquest. According to the Domesday Book Elton belonged to Ralph, a vassal of Roger de Busli.  We came across Roger as owner of East Bridgford. He had arrived in England with William the Conqueror and had been richly rewarded after the battles.  He had so much land in fact that in 1088 he was able to grant a substantial part of it to a new priory at Blyth.  Elton formed part of that grant.

King Henry VIII dissolved Blyth Priory in 1536 and the church, together with the village, passed to the Yorke family.

Church interior
 A huge key took us into a neat interior.  Gleaming white walls and  lots of wood all illuminated by electric light ... but it's not difficult to imagine the candles that would once have been used in the old cast iron fittings.  What is difficult to imagine is what it must have looked like in 1584 when, according to the church records, John Wright, a clerk of the church, was excommunicated ‘for not kepinge the church clean and doinge his duty as he ought to do’. Seems a bit severe to me!  Excommunicated for not dusting?  The place must have been in a real state!

Church window
  In the 1650s England was filled with religious tensions.  Non attendance at church was noted.  In 1658 an Elton farmer got on the wrong side of yet another authoritarian vicar, a Rev. Williamson.  The farmer, William Clayter, was a Quaker. As such he not only didn't attend church, he also refused to pay the vicar the tithe on his corn and cattle.  Clayter was eventually called to appear before the Exchequer in London where he was thrown in gaol for several years! According to fellow  Quakers in the area Rev Williamson "made spoil of his goods and carried away his corn."  Clayter was released but he had to pay the vicar £20 and on returning home his remaining goods and cattle were seized.  

A 1676 census showed five non-papal dissenters living in the village ... Alice and Susan Clator were reprimanded for not attending church for over a month around that time.  Given the similarity in name they were probably related to William.

Coats of Arms from inside the church

 In 1708 Rev. William Selby had been the church rector for over twenty years when he was charged with blasphemy.  He had been asking a few unsettling questions for a man in his position.  "Was God Almighty a drone? If not what was he doing before he made the Earth?" didn't go down too well with his parishioners.

A year later Bingham Court records show John Trinbury was brought before the bench on a charge of assaulting the vicar.   Selby was physically attacked "in a scandalous manner being called a knave, a rascal and a paultry scrub and having his clothes pulled off his back" by a member of his flock.

Coats of Arms from inside the church
Apparently the Reverend had been so inebriated during a burial service he had fallen asleep in the middle of the prayers for the dead and had to be woken up by the Parish Clerk.  Once the mourners had reached the grave side and the body was being lowered into the ground the Reverend muttered "God help thee poor Nell" then had to be helped home by the Clerk. 

I feel quite sorry for this vicar.  The man was obviously in the wrong job!

I also have sympathy for the Parish Clerk who, in 1780, was digging a grave in the churchyard when he unearthed 200 silver coins dating back to the time of Henry II (1133 - 1189).  So why do I feel sympathy for him?

Coats of Arms from inside the church
Because he couldn't DO anything with his find.  He decided to take them to Mrs Collin Launder the Lady of the Manor. She was kind enough to give him £10 for his honesty but kept the coins for herself. Wonder what the real value would have been.

The present day church is obviously well cared for and kept in good order.  Repairs were carried out in the 1930s. The pews were given to the church in 1949 by Mr W Player (of Player Tobacco) who lived at Whatton Manor while the wood panelling was gifted by a local solicitor, Mr Noel Parr who lived in the Old Rectory until 1957.

The Old Rectory
The Baron Ward cooking apple was raised by Samuel Bradley in the Elton Manor gardens in 1850. It is now on the list of lost heritage fruit.   Bradley also created two varieties of strawberries both of which are still popular: The Sir Joseph Paxton (named after the famous horticulturalist from Chatsworth) and the Dr. Hogg.  Bradley worked at Elton while it was owned by William Fletcher Norton Norton Esq, the illegitimate son of the Second Lord Grantley.  The property passed to his nephew when Norton died in 1865.  At the beginning of the 20th century the 1075 acre estate was purchased by Lord Grantley for £27,000. He never lived there and apparently failed to recognise the place as belonging to himself when he passed it one day on the train!  Such wealth!

The next owner was Walter Black.

Black's grave stone

By 1921 the manor was owned by Lt. Col. Sir Henry Dennis Readett-Bayley (1878–1940) ... I love these names! His parents had lived at Langar Hall.  He had inherited an enormous fortune from mining and already owned a large estate in Yorkshire.  During the First World War he created the Dennis Bayley Fund to provide motorised ambulances: he was knighted for his benevolence.  He died in 1940 and the property passed to Mr Parr.

Listed gravestone of Margaret Collin Launder ... Lady of the Manor
Grade II listed Gazebo
Mr Parr lived in the Old Rectory but he also owned Elston Manor which was described as "a large, plain, early 19th-century parapeted manor house".  Mr Parr had it demolished.  We were told you could still see the outline of the foundations but we couldn't have been looking in the right place!  The land has been put to good use though as a large, beautiful early 21st century modern house now stands in the grounds.

Bricks from the old house were used to build a wall either side of the imposing gates that still stand at the entrance to the grounds.  The road you can see beyond the gates used to be the main road to Granby until it was blocked off and the route diverted.This Grade II listed gazebo (photo on right) dates back to the late 1700s and stands in the old manor grounds.

Next to the wall is The Lodge .....

.... a 19th century building that was once the village Post Office.

Old farm houses and barns have been beautifully converted into desirable homes with enviable views across the Vale of Bevoir.  The only down side to this village is the fact that the A52  cuts straight through it.

The pub has become a very good Indian restaurant/bar.  It was called Little India but on the day we visited we noticed signs saying it would soon be opening under new management so no idea what it is like now.

This side of the A52 is the main road to the train station.  The timetable is very limited and the station itself has been demolished ... which is a shame as it was designed by Thomas Chambers Hine.

Listed gravestone
The village could soon be expanding because a planning application has been submitted for ten holiday cottages, five camping pods, a fourth fishing lake and extra car parking at Janson Course Fishery.

Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer tablets in the wall inside the church

Map of Elton: click here.

1 comment:

  1. Not a place I've ever heard of! Saw Don Masson as a young boy when my stepgrandfather took me to see Notts County in the early 80s.