Millennium Year events

The Thoroton Society was awarded £4,592 from the Millennium Festival Awards for All programme, to help fund the ambitious programme planned for the year 2000. This programme, designed and organized by the Society’s Millennium Sub-Committee, consisted of six wapentake visitations, six heritage roadshows, and three special lectures.


During Millennium Year the Society ran excursions to the six historic wapentakes of Nottinghamshire. Each visit was designed to take visitors to the wapentake centre and to significant buildings and places within the wapentake.

The county of Nottinghamshire was created around 1,000 years ago by the Anglo-Saxon monarchy as a means of stabilizing the kingdom after Viking invasions. For ease of administration the county was sub-divided into Wapentakes, which subsequently became known as Hundreds. In the Middle Ages there were six Wapentakes: Newark, Bassetlaw, Thurgarton, Rushcliffe, Broxtowe, and Bingham. By the sixteenth century they ceased to have real administrative importance but remained as a useful way of discussing the geography of the county, hence Dr Robert Thoroton's use of these divisions for his 'progress' around the county: Antiquities of Nottinghamshire (1677).

More recently the names of five of the historic Wapentakes have been re-used for the district councils established in 1974. This has caused endless headaches with Broxtowe, since there is a former council estate on the west side of Nottingham called Broxtowe, and a district council which stretches down the west side of the county from Eastwood to Stapleford also called Broxtowe.


Bassetlaw Wapentake Visitation, 13 May

Leader: Mrs Jean Nicholson

This was a memorable occasion, blessed with fine weather. Malcolm Dolby set the scene at the foot of Beacon Hill, after which we visited the mausoleum of the later Dukes of Newcastle at Milton, and admired Westmacott’s sculpture of Georgiana, wife of the 4th Duke. Coffee was provided during Don Gilbert’s talk at West Markham Church, and lunch was taken at Retford, where the more energetic followed the town walk, or visited the museum.

Stopping briefly at South Leverton to view the Priory, a mystery building – is it a hall house of 12th century origin? – we then visited Littleborough, with North Leverton windmill in the distance. Michael Jackson’s talk at the Norman church was most illuminating. After viewing the site of the Roman causeway nearby, the ferry crossing, and the chateau at Gate Burton, we travelled on to Gringley Beacon (later an Armada Beacon), the possible meeting place of Oswaldbeck Wapentake. The view from the beacon is extensive and well worth the climb. After passing the canal tunnel at Drakeholes, Mattersey Priory, and the inland port of Bawtry, we had a splendid high tea at Worksop.

Thurgarton Wapentake Visitation, 3 June

Leaders: Mrs Barbara Cast and Dr Rosalys Coope

Members and friends joined in a tour of many of the interesting places in Thurgarton wapentake on a mainly fine day. Lambley's fine church, mostly of 14th century work by Ralph Lord Cromwell, was the first call, then on through Woodborough, admiring in particular the church's gargoyles and carved gable crosses. Tim, Calverton's curate, met us in St Wilfrid's which has some wonderful Norman carvings depicting nine months of the year - it was a rare chance to see these, and half the party braved the narrow ladder to the bell tower to view them. We then drove on to Oxton, heart of the wapentake, where some of our party climbed to the Iron Age camp of Old Ox and the adjacent tumuli. We rejoined the slightly damp remainder to drive on to Southwell and lunch. After a brief visit to the Minster, our next call was the Old House at Bleasby. Built about 1500 as a hall house, members learned of its subsequent history whilst standing in its pleasant gardens.

Epperstone was next on the agenda, and after a lavish tea in the village hall we admired the attractive cottages, dovecote and church before setting off for Gonalston and the Heriz monuments - and then to one of the highlights of the day, a rare chance to view the captivating Halloughton prebendal house with its medieval tower. We visited Hoveringham and its neat Victorian church, splendidly adorned with early Norman tympanum and 14th century tomb, before finally going on to Thurgarton Priory Church and the ghostly echoes of a half-forgotten splendour which had rivalled Southwell. This was an action-packed, whistle-stop tour of only part of Thurgarton wapentake, which was interesting and enjoyable.

Bingham Wapentake Visitation, 24 June

Leaders: Mr Adrian Henstock and Mrs Valerie Henstock

Adrian and Valerie Henstock slipped into their very professional and informative continuous commentary on the passing scene in the Bingham wapentake. Plunging through the narrow lanes beyond Radcliffe-on-Trent we passed through Shelford, Gunthorpe and the site of the old ferry crossing, East Bridgford and the site of Margidunum, and on to Car Colston, where we made the first stop of the day. Here we saw Dr. Thoroton’s tomb.

The next stop was Whatton with its Burne Jones window and corbels, then on to Bingham for lunch. Bingham was in festival mood with music on the square. We had hoped to spend a pleasant lunch lingering over a glass of wine while listening to the music. Instead most of the party dived into the nearest pub seeking warmth, and leaving the music to be enjoyed by a single lonely spectator - reputedly the group’s mother.

Suitably refreshed and warmed, it was back to the coach. En route we had our view of the wapentake meeting place - a depression in a cabbage field passed by at 60mph - before our next call at Langar church to inspect the Chaworth and Scrope tombs. Then it was on to the ruined church at Colston Bassett, before finally making our way to Hickling. We inspected the church and the remarkable Anglo-Saxon coffin lid, and it was a delight to see many gravestones with carvings of the Hickling Angel. After tea we returned to Nottingham.

Broxtowe Wapentake Visitation, 20 July

Leaders: Professor John Beckett and Mr Philip Jones

On a blisteringly hot afternoon members of the Society met at Gregory Boulevard on the edge of The Forest, which in the 12th century formed the western boundary of Nottingham town with the Wapentake of Broxtowe. We passed through Hyson Green, which became a settlement in the 1820s, and Radford, which in the 1790s Throsby described as ‘a little paradise’. We passed over the medieval village of Sutton Passeys, now beneath the Crown Island - it was only at the insistence in the 1920s of John Holland Walker, Secretary of the Thoroton Society, that the name has survived as a street name.

Our first stop was All Saints’ Church in the relatively untouched village of Strelley. The church was rebuilt by Sir Sampson de Strelley in the 14th century. Marion Henshall gave us a potted history and we saw the fine 15th century wooden screen and the remarkably preserved tombs of Sir Sampson and Sir John Strelley and their ladies. We then drove past the site of Nuthall Temple, one of four Palladian villas in England built in the style of Italy’s Villa Rotonda. Nuthall Temple was burned down in 1929, and Watnall Hall, demolished in 1958, is another example of the fate of many country houses whose upkeep could not be maintained.

We stopped briefly outside Greasley’s parish church and Minton’s tea rooms, named after D.H. Lawrence’s Minton (Eastwood) in Sons and Lovers. We passed the remains of Beauvale Priory, a Carthusian monastery, and our next stop overlooked the site of Haggs Farm, from 1898 home of David Chambers (one-time Vice-President of the Thoroton Society, and Professor of Economic History at the University of Nottingham), and haunt of the young Lawrence. In Sons and Lovers Haggs Farm appears as Willey Farm, and Chambers’ sister Jessie was the model for Miriam Leivers. We then drove through the conservation area of Bagthorpe and on to Selston Common, site of riots in 1877 in response to an attempt at enclosure.

It was then on to Felley Priory, an Augustinian priory founded by Radulph Britto of Annesley. During the Civil War Felley was used as a garrison by Royalist troops. The Hon. Mrs Chaworth Musters gave us a guided tour and we saw the Tudor chimney and paintings by Stubbs, Devis and Lear. It was a perfect afternoon to wander around the lovely gardens.

We then drove past the ruined late Norman manor house of Wansley Hall, and on to St Katherine’s church, dating from Norman times, in picturesque Teversal. As we sat in the Jacobean box pews, Stan Guest the church warden pointed out the Norman and 15th century doors. The manor house was last inhabited by Lady Carnarvon, wife of the excavator of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Our return journey took us through Mansfield with its old cave dwellings on Rock Hill, and then past Papplewick Hall, built in the 1780s, and through Linby with its 18th and 19th century cottages, Castle Mill and two village crosses.

Rushcliffe Wapentake Visitation, 5 August

Leader: Mr Geoffrey Oldfield

Geoffrey Oldfield gave us a tour of Wilford, Clifton and Gotham, pointing out many architectural details on the buildings as we passed. We made our first stop at East Leake, where we viewed the exhibition designed by the Local History Society.

A visit to St Wilfred’s (originally St Winifred’s) Church in Kingston-on-Soar followed. Norman Beilby spoke about the church and its wonderful chantry. The village now possesses a splendid new sign for the Millennium, which we duly admired. After this we toured the southern reaches of the county and ventured over the borders in order to have lunch in Loughborough and to take the opportunity to explore the town’s market.

Our next stop was Bunny where we enjoyed a stroll around the village and a visit to a superb exhibition at the Church. An incredible amount of research and work had obviously been undertaken by a considerable number of people in its production and that of an excellent book. Having a little time to spare we took a tour around Keyworth, and finally travelled to Edwalton for a splendid ‘Thoroton’ tea given by the ladies of the W.I.

Newark Wapentake Visitation, 9 September

Leaders: Dr John Samuels and Mr Malcolm Fox

For the final wapentake visitation, the coach headed east from Nottingham on a fine Saturday morning. As we passed out of Bingham wapentake, Malcolm Fox pointed out the ancient boundary before we had our first encounter with road works on the Fosse Way. Having passed the site of the Battle of East Stoke, we stopped first to look around the village church with its simple headstone to the fallen.

Back across the Fosse, we left the coach in Elston to walk the short distance to the Chapel, which looked somewhat solitary, enclosed by railings in a field. Its history and links to St Leonards hospital in Stoke was listened to attentively by the group as well as by the field’s occupants, two inquisitive horses.

On to Newark Castle where we had an opportunity to climb up the remains of the tower and down into the undercroft, before John Samuels described some surprising results of his recent excavations in the castle grounds. After lunch we set off on a walking tour, stopping to look at timber-framed buildings around the market place (where our guides faced some competition from the stall holders) and the church before returning to the castle walls. We continued upstream by the Trent, over the locks and to a former mill site before returning via the riverside walk on the town side.

Our return journey stopped at Hawton for an ample buffet tea in the WI hall. The local vicar arrived on his bicycle to give us a very knowledgeable account of the church and its Easter Sepulchre. Further evidence of all the military activity in the area was provided by a musket ball hole in the church door. We returned to Nottingham, pausing to look at the Sibcote dovecote.


The Society organized a series of Heritage Roadshows around the county, and in conjunction with local history societies and local museums. On each occasion a panel of experts assembled to answer questions from the public on the county’s history, and to identify artefacts and documents in private hands. An exhibition of the Society’s work was prepared by Jean Nicholson and Margaret Trueman to accompany the roadshows.

Newark Heritage Roadshow, 31 March

Partner Society: Newark Archaeological & Local History Society

Hosted at Newark Town Hall

The first roadshow was held at Newark Town Hall, courtesy of the Mayor and Newark Historical and Archaeological Society. Over 80 people packed into the elegant upper room to cluster around tables piled high with artefacts, maps and photographs. John Samuels displayed a fascinating array of pottery and metalwork excavated around Newark. Melissa Hall and her colleague from Newark & Sherwood District Museums took the story of the area into the 19th and 20th centuries with historic photographs and artefacts illustrating home, family and working life. Locals were able to reminisce about long-gone shops and people. Vernon Radcliffe presided over an assortment of topographical prints and local publications. Adrian Henstock was surrounded by a crowd earnestly peering at maps, manuscripts and early topographical prints from the Nottinghamshire Archives. As a bonus, Miss Jean Moore, Mayor of Newark, took groups into her parlour to tell them about the town’s civic treasures.

Bassetlaw Heritage Roadshow, 8 April

Partner Society: Retford Historical & Archaeological Society

Hosted at Bassetlaw Museum, Retford

Bassetlaw Museum was crowded to capacity when Malcolm Dolby, doubling as Museum Curator and Chairman of the Retford & District Historical & Archaeological Society, hosted the evening. Chris Brooke spoke about his work in remote sensing; Neville Hoskins talked about Bassetlaw Museum’s part in his search for the artist Emma Wilmot; and Jean Nicholson astonished the audience with tales of Watson Fothergill working in Retford on behalf of Trinity Hospital. Members of the audience produced clay(?) marbles, and a splendid saltware glazed mug of 1710. Could it have been made in Nottingham? It was an excellent occasion even if the efficient new boiler had turned the museum into something of a sauna!

Broxtowe Heritage Roadshow, 23 May

Partner Society: The Old Mansfield Society

Hosted at Mansfield Museum (as part of National Museums and Galleries Month 2000)

The inclement weather did not deter 43 people from making their way to Broxtowe Roadshow, hosted by Mansfield Museum as part of National Museums and Galleries Month 2000. Few artefacts were in evidence for the panel of experts to identify, but this was amply compensated for by the excellent exhibits of local material provided by the Old Mansfield Society, Old Warsop Society, Sherwood Archaeological Society and Warsop Vale Local History Society.

The latter society, based in a coal mining community whose history stretches back little more than a hundred years, had been in existence for only two months, during which time it had published The Hundred Year History of Warsop Vale and Warsop Main Colliery (1889-1989) – and sold its first 450 copies - a remarkable tribute to the Society’s community spirit!

The Nottinghamshire Archives stand attracted a large number of people wishing to look at maps and documents of the area, and testing their skill with a quill pen. Liz Weston, curator of Mansfield Museum, and her team ensured that the evening was a great success.

Rushcliffe Heritage Roadshow, 12 July

Partner Society: Keyworth & District Local History Society

Hosted at Keyworth Village Hall

Around 50 people attended this event. The panel of experts included Mike Bishop, Nottinghamshire County Council’s archaeologist, Suella Postles from Nottingham City Museums, Barbara Sharp from Nottinghamshire Archives, Geoffrey Oldfield from the Thoroton Society and Bob Hammond from the Keyworth Local History Society. This formidable team provided many fascinating insights into the history of the area as well as setting Rushcliffe in a greater context of the landscape and material cultural history of Nottinghamshire.

The County Archaeologist had prepared an informative display of the assessment of the historic landscape of Nottinghamshire, while Nottingham Museums provided a fascinating array of "mystery" objects from the Social History collections. Nottinghamshire Archives had prepared an ever-popular collection of reproductions of local maps and documents which attracted great interest. The greatest attraction of the roadshow was the magnificent display of publications and local artefacts prepared by the Keyworth Local History Society. The quality and range of the publications are a true credit to the society’s members, whilst the extensive range of artefacts associated with country crafts and trades provided a wonderful insight into working life in the Keyworth area in the last two centuries.

Bingham Heritage Roadshow, 10 September

Partner Society: The Flintham Society

Hosted at Flintham Museum & Village Hall (as part of the Rushcliffe Festival)

The September sun shone as the Thoroton Roadshow reached Flintham, bringing an opportunity to discover the history of the Bingham Wapentake. By 2pm everything was ready: the professionals had perfected their displays, teacups were tabled, cakes were cut, and the organisers and hosts were relaxed and smiling. Among the first to arrive was the Mayor of Rushcliffe, perspiring politely in a uniform tailored for cooler days. Careering round the corner came the President of the Thoroton Society, unable to tame his new motorised chair. Another 100 visitors appeared, and the village hall hummed with activity.

During the afternoon people pored over photographs of Flintham and the surrounding villages, provided by Joan Bray from Nottingham's Local Studies Library. Visitors wrestled with writing in secretary hand, demonstrated by Mark Weaver from the Archives Office. Some considered the meaning of place names with Valerie Henstock, while others, with Jean Nicholson, discovered the history of the Thoroton Society. And tucked away in a tiny room, speakers developed many of the Roadshow's themes in a programme of talks.

Visitors also enjoyed other attractions organised by the Flintham Society. Some tried their hand at lace making with Elaine and Jenny, while the majority were waylaid by a sale of hundreds of second-hand books. Clutching their purchases, they staggered to the church, and to the village museum where a century of rural life through the eyes of a village shopkeeper was displayed. By the museum pond, Paul and Marjorie, a seventeenth-century couple, had pitched their tent and were busy simmering rabbit stew and boiling 'match' in preparation for a future battle.

Thurgarton Heritage Roadshow, 4 October

Partner Society: Southwell Local History Society

Hosted at Brackenhurst College, Southwell

Displays were provided by the distinguished panel for the Thurgarton wapentake who were the archaeologists, Ursilla Spence of the County Council and Chris Brooke - Chris brought along his laptop to show the emerging diocesan church website; from Archives, Adrian Henstock with the latest in writing equipment (200 or so years ago) as well as archival material; Suella Postles of Brewhouse Yard; Robin Drury from Brackenhurst on farming; Trevor Foulds, expert on Thurgarton Priory’s history; Bob Hardstaff of Southwell History Society - and for everything including the squeal - Steph Mastoris.

Brackenhurst's Boardroom was packed and buzzing with an interested audience who were treated to an excellent programme including a mini-bus trip to view some of the college's collection of vintage farming equipment and vehicles, along with their modern equivalents.


8 January: Peter Housden, Chief Executive, Nottinghamshire County Council: ‘After the Millennium’

Peter Housden gave the first of the three lectures to be sponsored by the Society in 2000 reflecting on different aspects of the Millennium. Mr Housden discussed what he saw as the key issues confronting Nottinghamshire including regeneration of the former coalfield areas, the problem of social exclusion, the sustainable development of the environment, the quality of life enjoyed by the people of Nottinghamshire, and lifelong learning. He noted also some of the forthcoming challenges that the County Council had to face, including the cost, quality and efficiency of future services.

A lively discussion followed the lecture, with a barrage of questions ranging from planning issues to the disposal and recycling of waste. The Thoroton Society was perhaps breaking new ground in looking to the future rather than the past, but members showed great interest in what might be expected in the years to come.

Following the lecture Mr Housden presented the Society with a copy of his book, Local Statesmen: the Story of Politics in Nottinghamshire County Council, which looks at the past thirty years in local politics.

12 February: Adrian Henstock, County Archivist and joint editor of Transactions: ‘Modern Nottinghamshire in the making: the county in the 17th century’

Adrian Henstock provided a wide-ranging account of the county between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 18th cengturies, a period which witnessed major innovations including the introduction of the widespread use of brick for building to the proliferation of religious non-conformity. The Nottinghamshire landscape underwent major changes through piecemeal enclosure of village fields, the ‘breck’ system of temporary cultivation of the poor lands of Sherwood Forest, and the creation of the great private estates of the Dukeries. Adrian showed how the structure of both families and village communities was far more fluid than we imagine. Other important developments included the expansion and rebuilding of towns as centres of retailing, fashion and industry, the introduction of parish-based poor relief, and the proliferation of machine-made hosiery. This was an assured performance by a master of historical sources, using the vast wealth of material in the Nottinghamshire Archives.

9 December: David Crook, Public Record Office: ‘Nottinghamshire from its Origins to the Eve of the Black Death, c.1000 to 1340’

David Crook dedicated his lecture to the memory of Sir Frank Stenton, the eminent Anglo-Saxon and medieval historian who lived for many years in the Prebendal House at Halloughton, a house built in the time of David's subject period.

Starting with the key year of 877, and the five Boroughs set firmly in the Danelaw, Dr Crook traced early references to the shire and its changing fortunes during the Danish period. He explained the function of the wapentakes as assemblies of free men and the unique nature of the combined county court and sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. At the time of Robin Hood, the early 13th century, Eustace of Lowdham would have been Sheriff. The two shires shared a sheriff until the 16th century. Kings visited Notts often, partly because of accessibility, partly due to the important properties here. John and Edward II were particularly partial. Parliament was held at Clipstone Palace and it was then that Edward I's queen, Eleanor of crosses fame, took ill. Another royal association of the period which David highlighted was the death of King Edwin which probably occurred near Edwinstowe Chapel.

A wealth of interest and information was given on a defining period for this county. Particularly of interest to members of the Society was the section on wapentakes which tied together knowledge gained during the year's wapentake visitations.