The Thoroton Society’s 125th anniversary year has generated mixed emotions. Our summer visit to Car Colston, the ancestral home of Dr Robert Thoroton, reminded us of the many reasons why we take our name and example from the first historian of Nottinghamshire. As we look forward to marking the 400th anniversary of Dr Thoroton’s birth in 2023, we are working with St Mary’s Church to develop their plans for better interpreting the surviving memorials to him, including his architecturally and historically important tomb. We also held a series of talks in partnership with the Friends of Nottinghamshire Archives, at which we renewed our shared commitment to ‘celebrating heritage together’. This reminded us of the tremendous variety of work undertaken by our members, and the importance of communicating that research to as wide a range of people as possible. The Society is currently working with the Archives to sort and catalogue its own archive (DD/TS), as a foundation for future work and publications. Other highlights include the launch of John Beckett’s edition of Sir Stephen Glynne’s Church Notes for Nottinghamshire at Norwell and, most recently, our traditional annual lunch.

Appropriately enough, this was held in Nottingham, where the Society was founded in 1897. Amongst those present was Geoffrey Bond, whose generous financial support of the Thoroton Society Research Award has helped many independent researchers in history and archaeology over the past six years.

Yet, as our guest speaker and Vice-President, Sir Neil Cossons, reminded us at the lunch, as well as evoking the past, the Society needs to keep an eye on the future. History as it is studied, thought about and interpreted today, encompasses a far wider range of subjects and approaches than the Society’s founders would have recognised in 1897. To maintain our relevance, to attract new members with different types of historical interests, and to retain the scholarly excellence for which we are well known, the Society will need to consider ways of engaging those with different types of background and interests, so that the achievements of the past are secured for the future. All of us can be part of this conversation: our recent membership survey raised a number of important topics which are currently being considered by the Standing Committee.

A few days before the Annual Luncheon, we learned that John Wilson had passed away. This was a shock to us all, notwithstanding the fact that ill health had necessitated John’s resignation as Treasurer during the summer. With John’s passing, the Society has lost one of its most committed and unfailingly supportive members and a long-standing officer of dedication and goodwill.

John's work as Treasurer and Membership Secretary over fifteen years was undertaken with quiet good sense, humour and a modesty which belied the considerable effort involved. He was also the convenor, for many years, of the Thoroton Society’s Research Group, which gave members new to research, as well as more experienced hands, the chance to meet and discuss their work in a supportive and friendly environment.

It was a fitting tribute when the Society elected John as one of its Vice-Presidents, earlier this year - an honour which I know he was deeply sensible of.

John was very grateful for the support and good wishes which he received from members during his illness and had asked me to pass on his love and best wishes to everyone at the Annual Lunch - an event which he and his family had attended for the last twenty-four years.

Like other members who have died during the past year, John exemplified the best values of the Thoroton Society, and we remain indebted to him - and them - for all they have done in its service.

Richard Gaunt


Halloughton Solar Farm

There has been an application for a further variation following the inspectorate decision for two 29 metre connection masts. These would be even more intrusive in the landscape and have a significantly increased impact on views from the ancient Stubbins Lane and the district roundabout than the infrastructure which has already been approved.

The proposals for the former Elms Street school site have not been determined and there seems to be a pause in the process.

The proposal for the demolition of property called Oban House in Broxtowe District has been refused.

Proposed Sainsbury Store on the edge of Southwell

There is still no outcome of what is obviously a very unpopular proposal to bodies such as the Town Council, Southwell Civic Society, several neighbouring parish councils and many individuals from whom numerous objections continue to appear on the Newark and Sherwood planning site. There are also serious issues from the Environment Agency regarding sewage disposal and further

Barbara Cast


Geoffrey Bond, a long-standing member of the Thoroton Society has once again generously provided funds to support research into the history or archaeology of the County of Nottinghamshire. The Society also makes an equal contribution to support this of our remit.

The terms and conditions of the award can be found on the Society’s website, or you can email me for a copy. The closing date for submissions for an award in the next round will be the 1st September 2023.

It is hoped that a variety of individuals and groups will apply for this useful financial support for their research, start planning now.

Following below is a report on the Geoffrey Bond and Thoroton support project on the Roman wall plaster from the Southwell Villa.

Barbara Cast, Hon Secretary.

The Report sent by Stephen Rogers and Zoe Tomlinson to Barbara Cast on work which was aided by ‘The Thoroton and Geoffrey Bond Research Award now follows .


A quantity of Roman painted wall plaster from a bath house complex of the villa site in Southwell was recovered by Charles Daniels in his 1959 dig, prior to the construction of the school on the Church Street site. Forty-eight wooden fruit boxes, lined with newspapers dating from 1961-1964, were packed with this plaster and later stored in the northwest tower of Southwell Minster. Some of this material was first stored in the basement of the Dean’s residence and one resident of Southwell has produced a piece given away by the then Dean. Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that other pieces were similarly given away to guests. Davey and Ling (1981) record that an amount of this material was in store at Avebury with the former Department of the Environment. Some further pieces are in the Lakeside Museum stores in Nottingham. Painted wall plaster from a large building complex was recovered from digs by Pre-Construct Archaeological Services in 2008/9 and later in 2012. Members of Southwell Community Archaeology Group (SCAG) recovered pieces of wall plaster from a survey of the Dean’s Garden in 2018. This material may have been part of spoil left over from Daniel’s 1959 work.

In September 2019 permission was granted to Peter Kent (SCAG), Zoe Tomlinson (professional archaeologist from Bishop Grosseteste University) and Jo Gray (professional archaeological conservator) to examine the state of the plaster. Some of the boxes contained mouse droppings and the original newspaper used by Daniels’ team to wrap the plaster in. A box was removed for inspection, and the examination demonstrated that the plaster would benefit from cleaning, repacking and further recording. The initial research and conservation work, possibly undertaken in 1972 by Norman Davey, included some reconstruction which is now displayed in the Minster itself. The main area of wall painting on display represents Cupid in a marine setting. Further reconstructed fragments stored in the roof space show parts of this marine environment including two standing nude figures. Although marine subjects are a common motif in bath-houses (with British parallels in villas at, for example, Sparsholt, Winterton and Witcombe), the presence of Cupid in a marine context is unusual (Davey and Ling, 1981). The excavation of the bath house proved complex, and the materials we are dealing with probably come from the collapsed ceiling of a later bath sealed under a layer of rubble. Daniels reports that:

"The site from which the decorated plaster was recovered was small and congested. Medieval robbing had removed about one third of the Roman bath, and workmen had removed a considerable amount of the plaster before they were stopped. The bulk of the decorated plaster lay directly on the floor of the bath, but many fragments also occurred in the demolition-rubble covering the area. Later drains and ducts crossing the site added to the difficulty of excavation. After an initial rushed 'dig', the site was left, partially excavated, for many months before the building-contractor moved in. Some flooding occurred, but the waterlogged rubble was carefully removed to reveal the fallen plaster lying on the floor. This was then lifted in numbered areas and conveyed to the studio at Lacock.'

At some date after the foundation of the villa, a cold bath had been added to its eastern wing. This was almost completely demolished later on, and replaced by a new bath 25 by 25 feet in size. It was from this later bath that the fragments of elaborately-decorated plaster were recovered. Some time in the early third century this second bath was demolished and a considerable amount of its wall-plaster was sealed beneath a new floor laid over the remains of the bath. When we consider that the painted plaster decorated a structure which was itself a rebuilding of an addition to the original east wing of the building, and that the earliest pottery from this area of the excavation was of the second half of the second century, it is unlikely that the paintings date much before, if at all, the last quarter of the century.

They appear to have been demolished in the early third century”. (In Davey and Ling, 1981, pp. 64-65).

When excavated the plaster was overlain by a grid and each square numbered, and the numbers supposedly placed in the boxes. Unfortunately, on unpacking of the boxes we found many of the numbers missing and joining up pieces may have to await a future software solution. The plaster essentially consists of a lime and aggregate mix. It is possible that dolomitic limestone from Nottinghamshire or local tufa may have been used but as yet it is not possible to verify this scientifically. The 2012 excavations revealed that tufa had been used as an aggregate in some of the plaster layers, something very unusual for Roman plaster (Morgan, 2015). Although there is some discussion over the methods of applying pigments, it is likely that the material represents a fresco technique wherein pigment was applied to the plaster, with brushes, whilst still damp.

All work is being carried out to professional conservation standards. The process of conservation is delicate and painstaking and volunteers from SCAG are being trained and carefully supervised in the processes by Zoe Tomlinson and Jo Gray. In addition, Emily Philips, who recently graduated with a Masters degree in conservation work, was able to gain valuable work experience and go on to employment at The British Museum. Each crate contains many fragments and after carefully unpacking a box the number of fragments and its original state is recorded. The piece then goes for careful dusting followed by a very light sponge with distilled water. After which the original colours are revealed, and some are stunning. Whilst the colour is still vibrant it is photographed against a colour scale. Next the piece will be measured and its details recorded. The following data is being put on to a database: its colours and colour saturation; the scheme and decoration; the quality of painting and condition; surface characteristics such as brush marks, laying out lines, burnishing and graffito; the number of mortar layers and a type for each layer; surface plaster skim and colour if present.

The aim is to compile a robust database and a standardised type series for the material that can be used as a public research resource. The database will form the basis of a full report complete with photographs and analysis of the findings. Once all this is recorded the pieces are carefully laid onto acid free paper in specially made cardboard boxes. The completed boxes will be returned to the Minster, hopefully safe-guarded for future generations. At the time of writing, and after four sessions with around 33 participants, some 240 volunteer hours have been completed. We are nearly half-way through the original boxes. At some point we hope to have a public display of the work in progress within the Minster and Zoe Tomlinson will be writing a full report. SCAG are very grateful to Geoffrey Bond and The Thoroton Society for the award, which has enabled us to buy the necessary conservation materials and equipment, and to build suitable cardboard boxes to keep the plaster safe for some time into the future.

References: Daniels, C. M. “Excavations on the site of the Roman villa at Southwell, 1959”, Trans. Thoroton Soc. LXX (1966), pp. 13-54.

Davey, N. and Ling, R. (1981), Wall-painting in Roman Britain, Britannia Monograph Series No. 3; London, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Morgan, G. (2015) “The Painted Wall Plaster and other Building Materials” in Appendix 10 pp 203- 205, Savage, R. D. and Sleap, J. Proposed Residential Development, Former Minster School Site, Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire: Draft Archaeological Excavation Report Volume 3: appendices Unpublished report

Stephen Rogers and Zoe Tomlinson