Events and excursions, Winter 2015-16

The Archaeology Lecture, Saturday 10th October 2015:
The people of the palace: voices of a community at Kings Clipstone, Nottinghamshire
James Wright and Andy Gaunt

Society members were treated to a double presentation for the annual Archaeology lecture in October 2015, as James Wright (Senior Archaeologist, Museum of London Archaeology) and Andy Gaunt (Director, Mercian Archaeological Services) presented a rich and fascinating account of their decade-long research project on the site of the medieval royal residence at Kings Clipstone in the heart of Sherwood Forest. The theme of the lecture was “The People of the Palace”, and the approach was very interdisciplinary – with James providing a potted history of the many historical figures, from Kings and Queens to verderers, masons and monks, who are known to have been involved in the site’s development, followed by Andy presenting the important new archaeological investigations that have been led by Mercian Archaeological Services in partnership with the modern-day ‘people of the palace’ – the Kings Clipstone local community.

The traditional name for the medieval ruins still standing at Clipstone, ‘King John’s Palace’, dates only to the 18th century, and in fact John only spent a total of nine days there. Before this date the site was known as ‘the King’s Houses’, and the earliest reference is in 1164, in the reign of King Henry II, who created the enclosed park at Clipstone. The ruins which stand today formed only one part of a much larger complex of buildings which have been revealed by geophysical survey and targeted archaeological excavations, and the documentary sources also mention a great many buildings throughout the medieval period including halls, chambers, a chapel, a gatehouse and a ‘great stable’ which could accommodate 200 horses, built in the reign of Edward I. Clipstone was continually visited by medieval monarchs, and seems to have been a particularly favoured residence for Edward II and Edward III. The archaeological project led by Mercian Archaeology and fully embraced by the local community has provided further fascinating insights into this important site. Fieldwalking, test-pitting and geophysical survey have all been undertaken, revealing a probable large boundary ditch to the west and south of the present standing remains and showing the likely extent of medieval stone buildings. The archaeological research is ongoing, and it is clear that the site of the King’s Houses at Clipstone has many more fascinating stories to tell.

Chris King

26th Annual Nottinghamshire History Lecture, Saturday 14th November 2015:
Player’s and its Products: A Nottingham Company and its Marketing History Daniel O’Neill, University of Nottingham

The Annual Nottinghamshire History Lecture was devised in 1990 to provide an opportunity for new or recently qualified Historians to talk about their work. This year’s talk, the 26th in the series, was given by Dan O’Neill whose PhD project used the John Player and Sons Advertising Archive, now owned by Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, to explore the role played by Player’s in shaping smoking culture in the 1950s-1970s.

As Dan explained, Player’s was one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in Britain and it invested extensively in marketing and advertising. In 1914, for example, it spent £60,000 on advertising; by 1930 this had grown to £680,000. Consequently the Archive comprises over 20,000 items including counter cards (displayed on tobacconist counters and in windows), free-standing ‘dummy boards’, a large collection of packaging material (as proto-types and for window dressing), in-house magazines (Navy Cuttings and Player’s Post), and original art work produced by the Player’s Design Studio. The earliest items date to the 1880s. One of John Player’s innovations was pre-packed tobacco which was sold in his first shop on Beastmarket Hill. In the interwar years, Player’s was one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in Nottingham. Until the 1970s, it had three large factories in the Radford area and its employees benefited from good wages and pension, a weekly ration of cigarettes, an annual bonus and a wide range of sporting and social facilities.

A growing awareness of the dangers of smoking first came to the fore in the 1950s. Following extensive market research that revealed that most people started smoking between the ages of 15-23, a new advertising campaign, which portrayed smoking in the context of young, romantic love, was devised. Voluntary guidelines which prevented advertising aimed at the young curtailed this campaign and instead a new filter-tipped, milder (and therefore perceived as safer) and cheaper brand – No.6 – was developed. Promoting the brand was at first damaged by a ban on TV advertising. Innovative as always, the Player’s Company began a lavish gift-scheme aimed at the family. Collecting vouchers encouraged brand loyalty, while the range of gifts available appealed to both children and adults. The marketing strategy promoted ideas of leisure and pleasure so that Player’s became sponsors of a range of activities including holiday camp games, beauty competitions, and sporting events, in particular Formula One motor racing with its JPS black and gold livery and one-day cricket through the John Player league.

The success of the company, in particular the No.6 brand, led to the opening of the state-of-the-art Horizon Factory in 1972 where, by 1974, 100 million cigarettes were produced every day. But the growing unpopularity of smoking and concerns about health eventually led to the contraction of the tobacco industry and mergers between previously competing manufacturers. Horizon, the last cigarette factory in Britain, is due to close in early 2016.

Judith Mills

The Neville Hoskins Lecture, Saturday 12th December 2015
From Failure to Success: the East Midlands and the Triumph of Magna Carta, 1212-1225
David Crook, University of Nottingham

This lecture is given in the memory of Neville Hoskins, a past President of the Thoroton Society.

David Crook, the speaker, is a member of the Council of the Thoroton Society and has been an editor of the Transactions. His talk was on the Magna Carta and its effect on the East Midlands. The brief peace treaty between King John and the barons, as a consequence of the ‘signing’ of Magna Carta, came to an end and led to an invasion by French troops. The war continued after John's death at Newark in 1216. It ended with the defeat of the rebel barons at Lincoln in 1217 when a revised version of the Charter was issued. A long period of tensions between the various factions ensued until King John's supporters from Poitiers were finally removed from their castles and offices of State. Amongst these supporters was Philip Marc, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The war was a rather protracted affair, with King John and his army travelling around the country suppressing the various rebellions. Once a rebel castle had been conquered by John’s forces, it was destroyed. David showed some interesting pictures of the sites of largely unknown castles, often consisting of little more than a piece of masonry under a bush! The Magna Carta in its final form was reissued in 1225.

David gave us a fascinating insight into a period of English history that hitherto I for one knew little about.

Penelope Messenger

The Maurice Barley Lecture, Saturday 9th January 2016
Rufford Abbey in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Pete Smith

Rufford Abbey, c.1905.
Rufford Abbey, c.1905.

It was while Pete was working with Rosalys Coope on her Newstead Abbey book that he came across a picture of Rufford Abbey which intrigued him. According to the accepted building history of the house, Pete believed it must have been one of the earliest ever photographs of a country house, dating perhaps from the later 1830s. [See Autumn Issue no 81 page 14 – Ed] When he was reliably informed that the picture could not have been taken earlier than the 1870s, Pete realised that it was time for someone – and he was the obvious person, having recently retired from his post at English Heritage – to reassess the architectural development of Rufford in the nineteenth century. His research led him to conclude that a re-dating was needed of several of the major alterations, both internal and external, which were commissioned by the Savile family.

The lecture unravelled these changes. Anthony Salvin certainly worked at Rufford, adding a porch externally, and the Brick (or Great) Hall as well as the library internally. He decorated the Salon, and built the lodge gates on the A614 which are familiar to us today. What he did not do was to add the Staircase Wing, which must have been after his time. Pete suggested that it was built for John Savile, a successful diplomat, who inherited the property in 1886. The complexity of the family tree makes dating some of the alterations problematic, and of course much of the house was demolished in 1956 having been sold by the family in 1938 and then requisitioned by the military in the war years. Pete also mentioned the motor house, now a cottage on the estate, but associated with Edward, Prince of Wales, who was a regular visitor to Rufford until his death in 1910.

Pete’s findings will appear in a future article in Transactions of the Thoroton Society, and if you would
like to know more about the Prince of Wales’s visits, see Philip Jones, ‘The Royal Visitor to Nottinghamshire, 1903’, in John Beckett, ed., Nottinghamshire Past (2003), 172-85.

John Beckett