Events and excursions, Spring 2018

Spring Meeting and AGM, 2018

Report by Barbara Cast

For once we were unlucky with the weather for our Spring Meeting - it was cold and damp! But nevertheless, we enjoyed a most interesting time in Calverton. The Village Hall is superbly appointed, and we were well looked after by Tracey and, of course, by Jonathan and his team who once again produced a splendid and most attractive tea.

The President, Adrian Henstock, welcomed members to our 121st AGM and, as has become a tradition with Adrian, he then gave a most interesting introduction to our venue, focusing on the Seely family and their contribution to Calverton. As is often the case, this family founded their fortune on a local industry, in this instance, coal-mining, eventually owning various mines over a period of some sixty years, including that at Calverton. There were three MPs successively in the family - all called Charles - the second Charles being given the job of running the collieries. In 1875 he acquired Sherwood Lodge as a base to run his colliery empire - he was described as being “just and generous” to his workers and was a major philanthropist, greatly benefiting Nottingham General Hospital and founding several supporting convalescent homes. Another of his achievements was to have built St Paul’s Church in Daybrook. When he died in 1915 he was one of the wealthiest men in Britain according to The Times. One of his younger sons, Frank Evelyn Seely, lived in Calverton at Calverton Hall (unfortunately now demolished). The secondary school in Calverton is named for Colonel Frank Seely. Jack Seely, his younger brother, was a great adventurer and soldier. He led the last cavalry charge in battle near Amiens which both he and his famous horse, Warrior, survived and took part in other dangerous encounters during the Great War. Both lived until the ‘40s, Warrior dying just a few years before his master. After his death he was awarded the animal equivalent of a Victoria Cross. As Adrian remarked, it is appropriate that the service of animals in wartime be acknowledged in this centenary year of the ending of the Great War.

Professor Beckett then presented the annual report and again noted that it showed how wide the range of activities and work the Society was engaged in. John Wilson, Honorary Treasurer, presented the accounts. He noted the increased cost of postage but also the concurrent savings in officer time and energy the new system produced. Record Series volumes continued to sell well, indeed the last two volumes required a reprint due to high demand. The Chair thanked John Wilson for his careful supervision of the Society’s finances and also Martin Shaw, the Society’s Independent Examiner.

Professor Beckett commenced his remarks by inviting Steph Mastoris to address members on the Welbeck Atlas which came out in 2017 after many years’ gestation for which delay Steph apologised. However, the Atlas had been well received and quickly reprinted. He expressed his thanks to the late Eric Coddington whose generous donations to the Society had funded the publication, to Lady Bentinck and Derek Adlard of Welbeck Abbey and, for the CD innovation especially, to Andy Nicholson. But the laurel crown, he said, went to Adrian Henstock, Record Series Editor, for all his patience and hard work in seeing through the editing and production of this volume. It was a true Thoroton team effort!

John Beckett then went on to cover other matters of interest - that Steph would be talking about the Welbeck Atlas at the Lowdham Book Fair on 30th June; the White Book of Southwell publication would be out in May; a further volume in the Record Series was promised for 2018; the Great Nottinghamshire Local History Fair would be held in Mansfield Library on 13th May when the Society would again have a stall; the Annual Lunch would be held in Nottingham Council House on November 3rd.

John then thanked Ceril Little for her contributions as a member of the Society’s Council for ten years and from which she was now stepping down. Council had nominated three new people for Council and John introduced them - Scott Lomax, newly confirmed as the City Archaeologist, and Ruth Strong, who were both in attendance: and James Wright, another archaeologist, who was at a conference in Ireland. He thanked the Transactions Editors for another volume which, although he was sure would be as good as all previous ones, he had not of course yet read. He also thanked Keith Fisher who had provided Thoroton pin badges and which were available at the meeting.

John invited Judith Mills, the Membership Secretary, to explain how the Society was addressing the new Data Protection regulations. Finally, John spoke of the many areas the Society was active in - the Geoffrey Bond award, the Research Group, the Heritage Gateway, the Bibliography, indeed the Society had, in addition to its programme, a wide-ranging research arm. He then thanked those who were making the afternoon another pleasant occasion.

After the election of officers and Council, Dr Tom Smith gave a most interesting century by century history of Calverton, illustrated with many maps, historic and modern.

After tea members had the opportunity to visit the Grade II* St Wilfrid’s Church - very unusual in its layout and containing some fascinating carvings. Another interesting and enjoyable Spring Meeting and informative AGM.

Barbara Cast, Honorary Secretary


Professor Michael Jones, ‘The White Book of Southwell’, 10 February 2018

In Spring 2018 the Pipe Roll Society will publish ‘The White Book of Southwell’ a major source for the medieval history of Nottinghamshire, mostly compiled between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. For hundreds of years the White Book was housed among the archives of Southwell Minster. Today it resides in Nottinghamshire Archives for safe keeping. From May 2018 copies will be available to be purchased for the very first time.

Professor Jones assembled a team of scholars, among them Thoroton Council members Dr David Crook and Dr Trevor Foulds, to work through the material and to sort out some of the issues which had not previously been resolved in relation to the White Book. We now know that the majority of it was compiled by three scribes working in Latin and Anglo-Norman French. Much of the material relates to legal matters, but there are also sections on the governance of the Minster. There is a particularly fine collection of documents relating to the village of Norwell, where Professor Jones has lived since he retired from the University of Nottingham fifteen years ago.

Thorotonians might feel slightly distant from this great scholarly work, especially if they are not Latinists, but there is an important direct link to our society. Dr Thoroton borrowed the White Book from Southwell when he was compiling his Antiquities of Nottinghamshire - and the Minster had no end of problems persuading him to return it! But, as a result of that loan, Thoroton wrote his magnificent book, and when the Society was founded in 1897 it sought to honour him by taking his name.

John Beckett

The Myles Thoroton Hildyard Lecture 2018

Dr David Crook ‘The First Siege of Newark 1218’

This year’s Myles Thoroton Hildyard lecture was given on 10th March by Dr David Crook OBE on the subject of the First Siege of Newark. The title evoked visions of the Civil War, but no, this first siege happened 425 years before then.

The scenario for the siege of 1218 began in the second half of King John’s reign when he was heavily dependent on the administrative and military support of aliens from Flanders and from his former continental dominions which had been conquered in 1204 by the French King, Philip

II. Some of the most prominent of these men from the continent were involved in local government, among them Philip Marc, Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire from 1208 onwards. These continental incomers held many of the important royal and episcopal castles, which they tried to retain after the end of the French-supported First Barons War in 1217, and the death of John in 1216. The Bishop of Lincoln’s castle at Newark was held by Robert de Gaugy, a Flemish lieutenant of Philip Marc, who refused to return it to the Bishop. An army to besiege it was assembled at Stamford in July 1218, the names of those summoned being recorded. This army marched to Newark and the castle was surrendered by de Gaugy after a siege of eight days, as recorded in chronicles and royal letters. This was the first of several such sieges to take place between 1218 and 1225, when the last castle held by an alien was surrendered to the King, then Henry III.

William the Marshall, “the best knight that ever lived”, played a prominent role in this story of a desperate and dying king and his boy heir. It was William to whom John entrusted the accession of his nine-year-old son, and William who took responsibility for the king's funeral and burial at Worcester Cathedral. Those barons who had remained loyal to John made William protector to the young king and regent to the country.

Matthew Paris
Among the sources cited by David were the works of Matthew Paris, together with his engaging drawings. This is Matthew’s self-portrait.

Our speaker is a Society life member and was on the Thoroton Council for many years. David has contributed many articles to the Transactions since 1976, mainly on the medieval history of the county, and he was the editor of our Record Section for ten years. He has now retired from his role as Senior Archivist at the National Archives, and he lives across the border in Lincolnshire. It would be difficult to find a more informed and knowledgeable speaker on the early mediaeval history of our county and his lecture was full of detail, authoritative glimpses into early documents and the careful exposition of the convoluted happenings of this turbulent period in our history.

Barbara Cast