News for Spring 2019

Dr Rosalys Coope

It is with much sadness that we report that Dr Rosalys Coope, our much-loved former President, died at Christmas at her home, with her family around her.

Obituaries, written by her colleague, co-author and Thoroton Society member Pete Smith, John Beckett, David Crook and Barbara Cast are available here.


In addition to our former President, Dr Rosalys Coope, we were sad to lose one of our longstanding and faithful members. David Hutchinson of Southwell, whose memorial service was held in Averham Church on 26th January. Our sympathy to Shirley who accompanied him regularly to annual lunches and other events.

Geoffrey Bond Research Award 2019

Can we remind researchers that up to £2000 is available for people undertaking research into Nottinghamshire history? This is thanks to Geoffrey Bond’s generous grant of £1000 together with another £1000 from Thoroton funds. Applications are invited from individuals or societies which will need to be sent to the Honorary Secretary of the Thoroton Society by 1st September 2019 at barbaracast@btinternet. com.

Details of the terms and conditions are available on the website or contact Barbara Cast as above.

In 2018 Bassetlaw Christian Heritage has been awarded £1000 to continue its project to identify, research and document information on the unique part the Bassetlaw area played in Christian history; to archaeologist Tom Keyworth the sum of £635 for a non-invasive investigation at Lodge Farm, Burton Joyce; and to Jenny Sissons £350 for research into the county’s mediaeval monastic sites.

It is hoped that more individuals and groups will apply for this useful financial support for their research in 2019 and we would urge all researchers to consider whether they could be helped in their endeavours by a grant.

Barbara Cast, Honorary Secretary, Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire

Bassetlaw Christian Heritage Initial Scoping Project Research Report 2018 (Geoffrey Bond Research Award)

In 2017, Bassetlaw Christian Heritage were pleased to receive a grant from the Geoffrey Bond Research Award fund, administered by The Thoroton Society. Our project involved some initial scoping work related to understanding the extent of historical records existing in local churches which were at risk of being lost, little known, or which related to other documents held elsewhere. Documents of particular interest were those which shed some light on the history of communities involved in church life and how those communities have, in the past, recorded, curated or managed their own history.

The initial scoping project has been developed during 2017-18 and has now been extended thanks to the award of a further grant for 2018-19.


Through conversations with Churchwardens at churches in North Nottinghamshire, it was found that there were documents which were important from a heritage perspective, but which were not accessible to the public. These were either held in churches or within the communities they served. Furthermore, there was considerable interest in documents relating to these churches which had been transferred to Nottingham Archives, but which had not been digitally recorded and were felt to be remote and somewhat inaccessible.

A research project was subsequently developed which sought to address three principle objectives:

  1. Identify documents of interest, and details about where these were held, either at churches, within local communities or deposited in archives;
  2. List and prioritise these documents/sources;
  3. Record and, where appropriate, make the documents available through the Bassetlaw Christian Heritage (BCH) website or other appropriate repositories.

Two churches volunteered to take part in the initial project trial - Clayworth and Babworth.


There was a need to obtain the appropriate equipment to carry out the work. This had to be capable of taking photographs at reasonably close quarters, had to take reasonably high-resolution images and have the ability to transfer them to storage facilities in the cloud, and hard disc. The equipment also needed to be simple enough to be usable by non-specialist volunteers with minimal training. Following advice from local photographers and technology store staff, a Canon Bridge camera was purchased, combining the lens and capture quality of a full single lens reflex camera with the simplicity of a compact. The camera chosen was available at a promotional price and a case and extended warranty was also purchased. Thanks to the extension to the initial project grant for this year, further support equipment will be purchased, including a portable hard drive for storage and back-up.

In early 2018, the opportunity arose to interview Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, for a contribution to BCH’s annual Religious Tolerance Forum. In addition to recording archival material, it was clear that the equipment was also valuable for documenting oral testimony, which could be further improved with a wireless microphone.


Clayworth lies along a stretch of the Roman road from Lincoln to Doncaster and is bounded on the south side by the Chesterfield Canal1.

The square tower has eight pinnacles and gargoyles and contains some of the oldest work in the church from the early 12th century onwards, with potential for some pre-Conquest in date). Most of the windows in the church date from the 14th century, and many are enhanced by modern glass.

The chancel is decorated with fine murals by the renowned Scottish artist Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852-1936). The murals were completed in 1905 and renovated to their original state in 1936 by Elizabeth Hirst, an internationally acclaimed art restorer. The murals are the largest work of art in the east of England and are one of only two murals in England by this artist: the rest are in Scotland.

The tower has a ring of eight bells; the oldest is dated 1629 and was cast at the Doncaster bell foundry. In the tower, the oldest memorial in the church is a floorstone with a worn inscription to a rector in 1448. The tower wall has a memorial to William Sampson, the Rector who founded the first village school and left behind sixty-two closely written leaves of parchment giving a history of the parish from 1676 to 1701. Known as the Rector’s Bok, the original has been deposited in the Nottinghamshire Archives. Sampson endowed the school with a bequest of land (now known as the Clayworth Educational Foundation, supporting village children in further education).

The village school was first held in the church, in the rear of the south aisle (then known as the Lumber Room, now known as the Otters Corner). As well as the entrance to the tower staircase, this corner of the church contains the original stone font which has traces of paintings, and memorials to the Otter family of Royston Manor, Clayworth.

There is a 20th century copy of the Rector’s Book held in the safe in the church and as a first step, the relevant pages of this publication were identified for photography and digital capture. To optimise the opportunity, an open call for documents held in the community was made to coincide with the photography. The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham had an Open Churches Weekend on 7th and 8th July, which was promoted through a brochure and leaflets. A flyer was designed and distributed to all residences in Clayworth, inviting local people to bring any documents of interest to the church for photography. One important, although disappointing, finding was that a large number of documents of interest (village magazines etc) had already been lost.

BABWORTH (All Saints’ Parish Church)

There is evidence of a church here from the 13th century2. It was here that that the rev Richard Clifton preached from 1586 - he inspired the Separatist movement that eventually led to the Mayflower Pilgrims and their voyage to America. There is still in existence a chalice from 1569 that had been buried under the chancel floor for 350 years and so dated to Clifton’s time, as well as a Geneva (Breeches) Bible. In the 1603 visitation returns there was an estimated population of 96 (including 2 non-communicants), 57 of whom were adults, and no recusants were shown. The church was not universally popular at this time, as demonstrated in February 1607 when the rector, Turvin (Clifton’s successor) reported that the wife of John Denman from East Retford disturbed the Easter service and she also did ‘impugne the rite and ceremonie of the crosse in the sacrament of Baptisme by force and violence’ contrary to the order of the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer, the statutes of the realm of England and the ecclesiastical canons and constitutions.

In 1790, the famous landscape architect, Humphry Repton, was commissioned to improve the landscape around the neighbouring hall. This led to diverting highways and clearing the village from around the church - as mentioned in the 1850 Report to the Poor Law Board on the operation of the laws of settlement and removal of the poor: 'there was once a small village, but that was pulled down about 30 or 40 years ago for the purpose of improving and ornamenting Mr. Simpson’s mansion and grounds.'

Members of The General Society of Mayflower Descendants made their first pilgrimage - ‘by planes’ - to Babworth church in the autumn of 1955. A plaque in the porch commemorates the visit. Babworth is well known for its connection with the Pilgrims. Richard Clifton was parson here between 1586 and 1605. He is associated with William Brewster and William Bradford, both passengers aboard the Mayflower. The church contains many interesting items recalling the Pilgrims’ story. Bones were discovered in a vault under the north aisle in 1951, along with the chalice that Clifton may have used. It is thought it may have been hidden here to save it from being stolen or melted down - possibly during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century.

Rev Edmund Jessup (1950-85) was instrumental in reviving interest in the connection between Babworth Church and the Mayflower Pilgrims and the USA. Several original papers, diaries and collated ephemera curated by Jessup have been identified as of interest and these are currently in private ownership. The papers have been displayed in church in the past and are in danger of deterioration. Negotiations are ongoing to obtain these documents on loan to photograph and digitise them. As well as being available electronically on the BCH website, it is hoped to be able to provide copies for display within All Saints’ Parish Church, Babworth.


Once agreement has been reached about the papers at Babworth, the data capture of the Jessop documents is planned.

A more comprehensive review of archived and catalogued church documents relating to the Bassetlaw & Bawtry Deanery area with special reference initially to those with connections to the Mayflower Pilgrims, Separatists, and early Puritans will be completed during 2018/19. Wherever possible, this will complement other research activity being conducted by organisations involved in the various partnerships and networks working towards 2020 400th Mayfloweranniversary activities.

The experience at Clayworth highlighted a need and interest in capturing documents and stories held by people within the communities around these churches. To this end, further events inviting local people to engage with the project are planned to encourage participation and capture this information alongside relevant/supportive oral testimonies from local residents.

1. Historical background from

2. See for this historical context, prepared by Hillery Harrison, Andy Nicholson and Dr Tony Power

Rick Brand, Chair - Bassetlaw Christian Heritage