Events and excursions, Spring 2019

Spring Meeting and AGM, 2019

Report by Barbara Cast, Honorary Secretary

A spring day in Caunton with blossom blowing from the trees - what a lovely setting for this year’s Spring Meeting and AGM.

Portrait of Dean Hole by Charles Furze A.R.A.
Portrait of Dean Hole by Charles Furze A.R.A.

We met in the school, a somewhat unusual venue for us, but it is also the village’s community venue. Called the Caunton Dean Hole School, it was an appropriate place to hold our meeting as we had specially chosen Caunton to celebrate the bi-centenary of Dean Samuel Reynolds Hole’s birth. Those of you who were present would have heard, during the afternoon’s activities, how he spent much of his life serving St Andrew’s, was then made the Bishop of Rochester and, always, worked as an expert on roses with many of his creations named after him.

The President, Adrian Henstock, welcomed members to our 122nd AGM and, as has become a tradition with Adrian, he then gave an interesting introduction to Caunton and the Hole family. Of special interest, he told us of a register of residents compiled by Revd Hole when he was the incumbent which focused on their religious observance, noting who was affiliated to the Wesleyan, Primitive or Ranting congregations - Revd Hole introduced bell-ringing in an effort to move the Ranters away from meeting near the church. He specially noted the blacksmith - an atheist! - and also a murder which had taken place as the result of a mistaken medicine - all life was there!

Professor Beckett gives his Chairman's Address
Professor Beckett gives his Chairman's Address

Professor Beckett then presented the annual report and again noted how it illustrated the wide range of events, activities and work in which the Society was engaged. Several of those attending stated their admiration for the excellent booklet which contained not only the very full annual report but also details of the day’s business. In the Honorary Treasurer’s absence, the Chair also presented the accounts, acknowledging the care which John Wilson took in supervising the Society’s finances.

Professor Beckett commenced his remarks by offering condolences to the families of members who had died during the past year. He particularly spoke of the very recent death of Pauline Miller who, with her husband Brian, had been a faithful member for many years: they were both to be seen at most local history events. He noted that Pauline was, for several years, a member of the Society’s Council. He also spoke of Rosalys Coope who had died on 26th December at the age of 97. Many members of Council, together with other Thorotonians, had attended her funeral at Epperstone. Rosalys had served the Society as a member of Council, as Chair of Council (1984-92) and, most recently (2006-14), as President. Her research on the history of Newstead Abbey will long be consulted by historians and architectural historians alike: it had led to the very successful book she and Pete Smith wrote for the Record Series. (During the tea break Steph Mastoris played a tape of an interview he had recorded with Rosalys in 1990).

This year we are losing Philip Jones from Council after twenty years’ service: we thank him and hope he will continue to run the bookstall with Penny and Margaret. Judith Mills had stepped down from the role of Membership Secretary but was to remain on Council. There will be a number of officer changes with John Wilson taking on Membership Secretary as well as his role as Hon Treasurer. It is hoped that Paul Baker, whom Council nominated as a new member of Council, will take on the role of Newsletter Editor; John was pleased to welcome Paul to his first AGM.

John congratulated the Transactions Editors in their absence for the 2018 volume and thanked Rob James for his able managing of the distribution. He noted that there was an article by Professor Stanley Chapman in this edition, his first contribution being in 1962! It was hoped that a further volume in the Record Series would be published later this year - Sir Stephen Glynne’s Church Notes - he said of Caunton “a good village church in excellent condition”. It still is.

John then reminded members of the many areas the Society was active in - the Geoffrey Bond Research Awards, the Research Group, the Response Group (for making representations on planning and other heritage concerns) the range of information on the website and various events that the Society would be represented at.

Finally, he gave his own personal thanks to the Society’s officers who have and continue to make sure that the Society operates efficiently and effectively, noting specially the Hon. Sec. without whom, he said, the Society would not be anything like as well run. He also said that on 1st June this year the Society would be 122 - and still in good health.

Following Professor Beckett’s address His Honour John Machin spoke of Dean Samuel Reynolds Hole, Vicar of Caunton 1850-87, and subsequently Dean of Rochester, and well known as a rose grower and judge, founder of the National Rose Show (1858) and author of A Book of Roses (1869)

After an excellent tea, members had the opportunity to visit the Grade I listed St Andrew’s Church - a lovely church in a lovely setting and greatly cared for by Dean Hole. We were ably informed of the church’s architectural features and history by Brian Robins, a long-time resident of Caunton.

Another interesting and enjoyable Spring Meeting and an informative AGM.


The Norah Witham Lecture, 12th January 2019 : The Newly-built Personality of Ralph, Lord Cromwell

By James Wright, University of Nottingham

James Wright delivered an interesting and engaging lecture on one of the most important figures in mid-fifteenth century England, Ralph Lord Cromwell. James is currently undertaking for his PhD at the University of Nottingham a full-scale study of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire, one of Cromwell’s most impressive achievements, but the lecture also emphasised Cromwell’s Nottinghamshire connections and wide-ranging activities across the Midlands.

Ralph Cromwell was born, around the year 1393, into a Midlands family that was primarily based at their manor house at Lambley in Nottinghamshire. The family received a boost in their social position in the third quarter of the fourteenth century through marriage with the Bernacks of Lincolnshire. This eventually brought the earlier thirteenth-century castle at Tattershall into their ownership. Cromwell’s uncle used his influence at court to place the young Ralph into the household of Thomas, duke of Clarence. This began a meteoric political rise due, in large part, to Ralph’s service in the French campaigns of Henry V and the diplomatic negotiations leading to the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. In 1422, as a royal councillor, he became one of the men tasked with ruling the kingdoms of England and France during the minority of the nine-month-old Henry VI. Cromwell eventually reached his political apex in 1433 when he was appointed Lord Treasurer of England, a position that he held for 11 years - significantly longer than any other Lancastrian treasurer.

Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire

It was at this point that Cromwell began construction work at Tattershall Castle, and around 5 years later, at South Wingfield in Derbyshire. Tattershall was lavishly rebuilt in the newly fashionable material of brick, with stone saved for windows, doors and other details. Focused on the massive six-storey great tower which dominates the surrounding landscape for miles around, Tattershall provided a magnificent aristocratic residence which projected the enormous power and influence possessed by Cromwell. The tower form was an ancient building tradition that symbolised lordship and can be raced back to eleventh century England and Normandy, but which experienced a revival in fourteenth and fifteenth century continental and English castles. Other features such as the prominent machicolations show Cromwell’s appreciation of the most up-to-date military technology available, although they were ineffective and only meant for show. James showed how decorative features of the castle make further statements about Cromwell’s power and identity. The exterior of the great tower is decorated with religious symbols and heraldry picked out in diaper brick patterns. Inside, the principal chambers are adorned with some of the finest carved stone fireplaces surviving from medieval England, which are lavishly decorated with heraldic symbols demonstrating his connections to high-status aristocratic connections, and also have the repeated motifs of the Treasurer’s purse coupled with his personal motto: ‘Nay je droit (Have I Not Right?). James suggested that ultimately, in his lavish building schemes we can see a tension in Cromwell’s character. He was incredibly rich and powerful, but one who had only recently acquired this status though his own abilities and service in the royal court. He felt the need to press his claims to aristocratic status and was a fierce defender of his rights; in doing so he exposes the fragility of power in the cut-throat world of fifteenth century England, as Cromwell ultimately lost favour as the country descended into political factionalism and the outbreak of dynastic civil war. Chris King The Maurice Barley Lecture, 9th February 2019

Distinctiveness and Assimilation: re-discovering Viking-Age Stone Sculpture in the East Midlands

By Paul Everson and David Stocker

Society members enjoyed a wide-ranging presentation by Paul Everson, Honorary Lecturer at Keele University, on the subject of Viking-Age stone sculpture in Nottinghamshire and the wider East Midlands. The lecture was prepared jointly with David Stocker, Honorary Visiting Professor at Leeds University. David was also in attendance and contributed with others to the lively closing discussion. Pre-Conquest sculptured stone had been a favourite subject of Maurice Barley, and this provided therefore a particularly appropriate topic for this year’s commemorative lecture.

The lecture focused upon the results of work conducted by Paul and David in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire for the British Academy’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture of England ( with consideration where relevant of work elsewhere in the East Midlands. Paul outlined the chronological framework for the Viking era in the region, from the ninth to the eleventh centuries, and described the systematic searches for carved and decorated stonework that have accompanied work on the Corpus. This has involved close scrutiny of the wall fabrics, lintels, door thresholds, quoins and window shelves of every church and known former church and of the areas around these buildings. In Nottinghamshire, Paul and David have added just under 150 items to the Corpus, many representing first-time discoveries, while in Lincolnshire the Corpus has been enhanced by the identification of nearly 400 items of worked stone.

Paul discussed some of the key discoveries of worked stone from the East Midlands that on typological grounds may be attributed to the Anglo-Scandinavian tradition, including decorated cross fragments, grave-covers and grave-markers, reconstructions of the monuments represented, and the implications of this research for study of the contemporary society and economy. Particular attention was drawn to exceptional collections of stonework in a number of urban churches, such as St Mark’s in Lincoln, that could signify thriving merchant communities, the evidence for the location of quarry sites that may be deduced from studies of the geological sources of stone artefacts, the identification of trading networks from analyses of the spatial distribution of regionally distinctive products (such as the Fenland grave-covers that were distributed throughout eastern England in the eleventh century) and the potential of the information provided by carved figures and imagery for enhancing our understanding of Anglo-Scandinavian society, its ideologies and beliefs.

David Knight

The Myles Thoroton Hildyard Lecture, 9th March 2019: Codnor Castle and the Greys of Codnor

By Maureen Taylor (M.A.), independent lecturer

Codnor Castle was probably begun by Robert De Codnor for William Peveril, possibly an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror who was given extensive lands in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

During the late 12th century we first hear of Henry Grey, serving King Richard I (The Lionheart). From that date until 1496, some 300 years, the De Greys held Codnor until the death of the last Grey and all served the kings of England. One was presumably at Agincourt, witness the noble, gold coin of that date found in the moat during the “Time Team” dig.

Some 200 years earlier the Archbishop of York, Walter De Grey, was present as Magna Carta received the royal seal.

Henry De Grey served King Edward I in the Scottish wars. In 1293 Edward I visited Codnor. Henry also served King Edward II and King Edward III in Scotland and John De Grey served his king in Flanders and at Crecy.

Richard De Grey with 222 men from Codnor went to Agincourt with Henry V. The last Henry De Grey died in 1496 leaving no heir. In his will he left most of his estate to his aunt Elizabeth who was married to Sir John Zouch, but King Henry VII claimed the castle and lands for his son the future Henry VIII. Sir John Zouch managed to buy back the estate. Its extensive parkland was rich in coal and ironstone.

In 1539 the young Bess of Hardwick came to Codnor to further her education under the care of Lady Zouch, who had been in the household of Anne Boleyn and had to testify at the trial of the latter.

The Zouch family extended, beautified and modernised the castle and its estates. They also began mining coal and ironstone. Later members of the Zouch family in the early 17th century began to dismantle the castle, selling off quantities of its stone. They became bankrupt, sold the castle and estates and moved to Virginia. Later owners in the late 17th century and 18th century were principally interested in mining the coal and iron on the estate. By the early 19th century the estate was leased and ultimately sold to the Butterley Company, in whose possession it remained until sold to the National Coal Board after the Second World War.

Our speaker ended her talk by describing how the castle might well have looked in the medieval period and then described local reports of sightings of ghosts.

Ceril Little