Transactions of the Thoroton Society, vol 111 (2007)

Editors' Notes

Archaeology in Nottinghamshire 2007

Notwithstanding the rather poor record of archaeological excavation and survey in Nottinghamshire in the past twelve months reported to the editors (see Chris Robinson's report at the end of this volume) 2007 has seen some significant developments in the county's archaeology.

Mike Bishop, the County Archaeologist, a long-serving figure of great influence, retired from Nottinghamshire County Council in September 2007. Mike came to the newly-formed authority in 1974, having previously been keeper of archaeology for Warwickshire Museum. One of his first actions was to start work on the Nottinghamshire Sites and Monuments Record. He was instrumental in carrying out many excavations in the county, including at Snape Wood, Bulwell (1976), and directed at Kimberley malt kiln (1978), St Leonard's cemetery, Newark (1979), and Cotgrave Anglo-Saxon cemetery (1983-6). In more recent years, via his role in the archaeological implications of gravel quarrying in the Trent Valley, he helped to set up training excavations at Besthorpe Quarry in conjunction with the University of Manchester. Mike also played a leading part in strategic projects such as the development of the Regional Research Agenda. He was convenor of Trent Valley Geoarchaeology and was instrumental in the multi-agency partnership delivering an impressive array of projects largely through funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. He was a senior member of both the Institute of Field Archaeologists and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers and contributed to their national role. He was delighted to be elected to the Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries in 1999. The Society wishes him well in his retirement, suspecting that his involvement in the archaeology of our county is far from over.

Another long-standing player in the county's archaeology took on a new face in 2007 with the relaunch of Trent & Peak Archaeology. Established in 1967 as the Trent Valley Archaeological Research Committee it was one of the first regional units born of the emergence of 'rescue' archaeology and was later known as the Trent & Peak Archaeological Trust and subsequently the Trent & Peak Archaeological Unit. Trent & Peak Archaeology (TPA) emerged with a new identity in 2007 as a fully integrated part of the University of Nottingham. To mark its new status the University of Nottingham hosted a re-launch event in October. The unit now has a staff of about 20 and is led by Dr David Knight. Working principally in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, TPA also undertakes projects further afield although the emphasis remains on archaeological research within the region.

Mediaeval contracts for church monuments and brasses

Written contracts for the manufacture of mediaeval church monuments or brasses are relatively rare. Known examples include one between Sir John Willoughby and a 'marbler' from Lincoln to supply a memorial brass for his wife at Wollaton in 1515. This document is in the Middleton Collection in the University of Nottingham Department of Manuscripts, where another earlier draft contract has recently come to light. It was drawn up in c.1466 between Richard Willoughby (d. 1471) and James Reames - one of the leading London 'marblers' - to supply a brass for himself and his wife Anne (Leek). Unusually this brass - of high quality - still survives as part of an elaborate stone monument in Wollaton church, Nottingham, and is discussed by Nigel Saul in Nottingham Mediaeval Studies, vol. L (2006). Richard was the first of his line to be buried at his new home of Wollaton, his forbears being represented by a fine series of church monuments at their ancestral seat of Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, the south Nottinghamshire village from which they took their surname. The author makes out a convincing case that by re-locating his family seat to Wollaton Richard was deliberately rejecting the link with his past. As the elder son of his father's first marriage he was alienated from his immediate family by a protracted legal dispute over his inheritance with his step mother and her sons.

He only acquired the bulk of his inheritance after arbitration by Ralph, Lord Cromwell.

The mediaeval Chantry Priest's House at Southwell Minster

Chantries were small chapels or altars built inside mediaeval churches by wealthy patrons who endowed them with priests to sing masses for the souls of the founder and his family after their death. In 1372 there were nine such priests serving various chantries in the minster at Southwell, and, unusually, a communal lodging house was built for them in 1385.

Although an extensive architectural and documentary history of the collegiate and prebendal buildings of Southwell was written by the late Dr Norman Summers (A Prospect of Southwell, 1974, reprinted 1988) he apparently never saw a plan of 1818, recently rediscovered, of all the buildings then standing on the north west side of the Minster grounds up to the corner of Westgate and Church Street. It was drawn up by the Minster architect Richard Ingleman II and shows the ground plan of the former Chantry Priests' house still surviving -in an altered state - on the site of the present Minster centre. The building was constructed on a quadrangular or courtyard plan similar to those in contemporary great houses or universities, and would originally have contained an open-roofed Great Hall and single living and sleeping rooms for each of the priests. The plan complements a drawing of the building by the artist Samuel Hieronymus Grimm in 1773, showing it to be apparently a mirror image of a similar building built in 1379 for the Vicars Choral on the site where the Georgian Vicars Court now stands. The new information is described by Professor Stanley Chapmen in an article - 'The Minster's Chantry House' - in the Southwell Minster magazine Leaves (March 2008); he hopes to write a more detailed study for a future volume of the Transactions.