Sunday, 16 April 2017

Wysall and Thorpe in the Glebe

This has to be one of the prettiest villages we have visited so far .... greatly helped by the lovely weather and the time of year as the glorious daffoldils were shown off to perfection.  Every road was lined with them.  They came in all sorts of sizes and colour combinations.  Apparently there are 30,000 different cultivars of daffodils: a large number of which seem to be on display around Wysall.

Wysall is a 'Thankful Village' meaning every man who signed up to serve in the First World War returned alive.  Twelve Wysall men went to fight: one soldier, John Derrick, was shot in the leg so returned injured but he lived to tell the tale.  There are only 41 Thankful Villages in Nottinghamshire.

A beautiful church clock was commisioned in 1920 to commemorate the bravery of these 12 villagers.  It cost a grand total of £118 and was made by G & F Cope and Co.  This company was established by two brothers in 1845 and is still in business today as a family jewellers with shops in Nottingham and Newark.  They specialised in large public clocks for a time: the Council House clock in Nottingham city centre is another of their designs.

Wysall did not get off so lightly during the Second World War ... a plaque in the church informed us James Robert Elding, a 21 year old pilot in the RAF Voluntary Reserves, was killed in action.

Holy Trinity Church sits in the centre of the village and was built in the 14th century but the Normans had a church here in the 11th century ..... built on the site of an even earlier Anglo Saxon church.  According to the Southwell Church Project people have worshipped on this site for well over 1000 years.

The inside of the building must have looked very different in the 16th century when the walls were covered with "a blaze of murals" and the windows were filled with stained glass depicting the lives of the saints.  All this colour was removed along with the stone altar, the Great Rood (or cross) and the Holy Water stoup once Henry VIII broke with Rome.

Some stained glass has been reintroduced during the 20th century though:

Inside the church we found the alabastor tomb of Hugh Armstrong Esq and his wife, Mary, who was the daughter of  Henry Sacheverell of Ratcliffe on Soar.  Hugh had died in December 1572 while Mary had died ten years earlier.

The Armstrong family had a long connection with the neighbouring village of Thorpe in the Glebe.  Unfortunately this village no longer exists because in 1518 Hugh's father, Gabriel, decided to enclose his land, evict the villagers and introduce sheep.  Dr Thoroton, writing in the 1670s, was not impressed ... he thought Gabriel Armstrong "hath so ruined and depopulated the town that there was not a house left inhabited in this notable Lordship (except some part of the Hall), but a shepherd only kept ale to sell in the Church . . . ."  Today there are a few scattered farmhouses that make up an area called Thorpe in the Glebe but there is no real village .... other than the mounds and dips in the land near to Church Site Farm indicating the site of the original village.

Thorpe is a Scadinavian name for a 'second settlement' so Wysall was always the main village of the two.  Historically a glebe was an area of land used to support a parish priest but here it means 'a field' - an older name for Thorpe in the Glebe was Thorpe in the Clottes (referring to the heavy clay clods of soil here).

A second monument in the church was a colourful mural dedicated to George Widmerpole who died in 1689 at the age of 84.  The Widmerpools were a wealthy family who owned property in Wysall.  The mural was found when the south wall of the church was removed during the church renovation in 1872.

The amusing Green Man carving below is to be found on a 15th century misericord ..... a seat with two positions: one for sitting down properly and the second designed to make it look like you are standing up ..... the poor old clergy were supposed to stand a long time during some services!  I thought a Green Man in a Christian church would be quite unusual but apparently not .... 

During 1623 a number of Nottinghamshire court documents record people being reprimanded for taking sick relatives to see the Stroking Boy of Wysall.  There are about twenty such references showing people had travelled quite long distances (from Trowell, Wollaton, Broughton Soulney and West Bridgford). The boy obviously had quite a reputation as a faith healer. There are no further references to the child after 1623.

 In 1894 Wysall was a bustling place with its own school, wheelwright and blacksmith, joiner, bootmaker, grocer, butcher, shop and stilton cheese manufactuer.  Add the farmers and the public house and you have a self sufficient community.  The Plough public house is still there .... and well worth a visit ... but most residents now commute to work.

The Plough was the scene of an inquest into a murder in 1843.  Here are two extracts from The Times newspaper as the crime hit the national news:

The Times, Wednesday 31 May 1843
Supposed Murder of a Son by his Father
Last week the neighbourhood of Wymeswold was in a state of considerable excitement, caused by the discovery of the body of a gentleman named Isaac Kettleband, of Wysall, in a pond on the farm of Mr. Hebb ... Circumstances subsequently transpired which led to the apprehension of the father of the deceased, on suspicion of having committed the murder. On Wednesday and Thursday last an inquest was held before Mr. Swan, coroner, when it appeared that the deceased was last seen alive with his father near the pond in question on the 12th instant. Mr. Brown, of Wymeswold, surgeon, was of opinion that the neck of the unfortunate youth had first been broken, and that his body was afterwards thrown into the pond. The inquest was adjourned to the 30th instant, and the father of the deceased was committed to Nottingham Gaol to await the result.
The Times, Saturday 3 June 1843
Wilful Murder
On Friday, May 10, a lad named Isaac Kettleband, aged 10 years, son of William Kettleband, of Wysall, labourer, was missing. On the Tuesday following his body was found in a horse-pond, on the farm of Mr. Henry Hebb, situated near to a barn and a stable, at which the deceased and his father usually worked. An inquest was held on the body the same evening before Mr. C. Swann, coroner, and no evidence to the contrary being adduced, a verdict of "Accidentally drowned" was returned. On the same evening and during the next day, the village gossips, in talking the affair over, began to think it possible that foul play might have been used, as the father of the deceased was known to be a violent and passionate man, and it was notorious that he had always most shamefully and brutally maltreated the boy. Mr. Browne, of Wymeswold, surgeon, was sent for to examine the body, and he at once discovered that the neck was dislocated, and gave it as his most decided opinion that it was broken before the body reached the water. The pond in which deceased was found is about 10 ½ yards by 4, and a yard and a half or two yards deep in some parts; it is, except at one corner, surrounded by a dead fence, about 4 feet high, and is so situate that the boy could not possibly have broken his neck in falling in accidentally. These circumstances, connected with the anxiety the father exhibited to have the corpse interred before any surgical examination took place, excited such suspicions that the deceased had been unfairly "done to death," that a second inquest was decreed indispensable. Accordingly a notice was sent to the coroner, and Kettleband was taken into custody. Mr. Swann consequently commenced a most rigid inquiry on Thursday, the 25th, which was at the close of the day adjourned until Monday last, the 29th. Mr. Hebb, in whose employ the deceased and his father were, has three farms – one at each of the villages of Wysall, Keyworth, and Stanton – and there is no residence on the farms at Wysall. The farm buildings are situate about a mile from the village, and stand the width of a very large field from the road; they consist of a barn and stables at right angles to each other, and the pond spoken of is not more than 25 or 30 yards distant. On Thursday a jury assembled at the Plough Inn, Wysall, before whom Mr. Swann commenced his inquiry, and a verdict was returned of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." The prisoner was then discharged out of custody.

On 19th December 1843 William Kettleband was tried for the murder of his son.  The jury decided to acquit him of murder even though he had abused the boy and evidence proved he had ridden a horse through the pond to hide any evidence.  He was convicted of manslaughter for which he was transported to a penal colony for life.

 According to Wikipedia there are two more newspaper references worthy of our attention:

Remarkable foot race in 1847

The Derby Mercury, Wednesday 18 August 1847
On Thursday the 5th instant, at the quiet village of Wysall, a somewhat remarkable foot-race took place – remarkable, not for the distance run, nor for the speed of the runners, but for the fact that each of them has been running a race with old Time for more than ninety years – one having exceeded his great climacteric 28, the other 33 years. The distance was forty yards. The competitors were – Mr. Wootton Bryans, sen., aged 96, and Mr. John Hogg, aged 91 – the latter winning by just a yard – which so nettled or rather mettled his rival, that he challenged him to jump for a guinea. When this match is to come off, or whether the challenge was accepted, we have not learnt.

Death by oyster

With the Old Market Square in Nottingham being a popular destination for the nineteenth-century Wysall farmer, you would expect these hard workers to be treated well in town. If the following story is anything to go by, the remaining farmers in the area would be wise to consider giving up seafood.
The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Monday 17 February 1868; Issue 942
On Saturday night Mr. Richard Marshall, farmer, of Wysall, near Nottingham, met with his death by an extraordinary misadventure. He went to an oyster stall in the Market-place, Nottingham, and ordered some oysters to be opened. The first handed to him was a very large one, and stuck in his throat. He was unable to dislodge it, fell to the ground gasping for breath, and was carried at once to the hospital, but died on his way. The deceased was a married man and has left a large family.

The village is a very active community with lots of clubs, societies and events advertised on the Wysall website.

Saturday, 14 January 2017


Church of St Mary and All Saints.
On the day we visited Willoughby everyone else seemed to have left.  The streets were deserted; we passed the silent school and parked the car near the church where a large black cat was lurking amongst the old gravestones, it stopped to stare at us then wandered off.  Was this Willoughby or had we wandered into Thorpe in the Glebe?! (see footnote!).

We visited mid week .... years ago Willoughby would have been teeming with people as this used to be a self-sufficient agricultural village (prior to the First World War there were 13 farms here, a mill and a blacksmith forge): nowadays, whilst a couple of farms still exist, most of the residents are employed elsewhere as  Willoughby is very conveniently placed for transport links to Nottingham, Leicester or further afield.  In 1989 when the ladies of the WI published The Nottinghamshire Village Book they found "three full working farms .... and one public house.  There is a shop which is now a mini market, a baker and a pork butcher."

The Old School House
Well, we  passed the old post office .... now a house .... the old school house ... now a house  ....  the Old Bull's Head .... once the pub but now a house.  We found the Community Hall but no sign of a pub or a shop of any description.  The empty streets and lack of amenities made us wonder about any community spirit here.  It seemed to us there was nowhere to actually meet up and socialise.  We were wrong.  When we eventually found someone to speak to they told us there was a great community spirit.  People regularly meet up in each other's houses (they had 80 guests over New Year!); the community hall is a hive of activity with regular village breakfasts and social events; people meet at the school and there are fund raising events to improve the village (they bought playground and exercise equipment for the community park in recent years).  The photographs on the village website backs up the idea of a really friendly, supportive community.

So they don't seem to miss the pub! At one time the village had three public houses (as well as the church, a Methodist chapel, a Baptist chapel and a Primitive Methodist hall!).  The first to go was The Plough which was possibly a coaching inn and stopped trading around 1864.  The Three Horseshoes was demolished in the 1960s when a new pub was built ... also called The Three Horseshoes.  This has fallen victim to the recent decline in hostelries and new houses have been built on the site.  The Old Bull's Head we have mentioned above but the original inn had the distinction of being visited (in 1722) by William Stukeley (1687 - 1765), famous for his pioneering archaeological work on Stonehenge.  He was a close friend of Isaac Newton (1642 - 1726) and his memoir to Newton is the earliest source of the falling apple story.

The Old Post House
We were directed to the house of the church warden, Mrs Elizabeth Bryan, whose family have lived here since the 1600s.  If anyone could tell us the history of this place it was surely this lady .... 

This is an old village: The Roman town of Vernometum (meaning Spring Grove) stood close by here next to the Fosse Way   It is believed to have been a fortified town with a temple and theatre: a place where Roman soliders could rest on their long march between Lincoln and Exeter.  In the 1960s a new flyover was being built nearby and the remains of a cobbled Roman road were unearthed and we have already mentioned the urn containing 200 silver Roman coins found near here by a farmer in 1771  (Hickling).  It was interesting to discover that historians believe Emperor Hadrian spent the winter of 137 to 138 CE here!

An excavation near the village was carried out in 1964.  They discovered an Anglo-Saxon burial site.  A hundred graves were found: the archeologists found weapons, shields, amber brooches, beads and rings dating back to 600CE.

The Domesday book records the name as Wilgebi (named after willow trees) but the spelling changed over time and in the middle of the thirteenth century a wealthy resident decided to make the name his own.

This dynasty began in the late 1100s with a Nottinghamshire wool merchant, Ralph Bugge, who married a Miss Wollaton.  Nottingham University has a history of the Willoughby family here.  Over the generations the family bought 6 bovates of land (about 90 acres) and a large house in Willoughby. (Their Manor House once stood close to the church but was demolished in 1978 .... part of a wall may still be evident in the property now on that site).  Marriages brought them the Old Wollaton Hall and in later years the very large estate of Middleton in Warwickshire.  When Ralph Bugge's grandchildren inherited land they changed their names:  one became Ralph of Bingham while the other became Richard de Willoughby (this branch would go on to build Wollaton Hall).

Church of St Mary and All Saints.
Our friendly guide, Mrs Bryan, kindly gave us access to the church of St Mary and All Saints.  A number of  headstones in the graveyard bear the name of Bryan and a charity board (that dates back to the late 1700s) inside the church shows Elizabeth was not the first in her family to be a church warden here.

I was very surprised to find the old slate headstones in the churchyard are not listed.  They are very like listed ones we have seen in other graveyards.  This one commemorates John Wright, a 2 year old, who died in 1720:

1720 slate headstone

Inside the church was another surprise .... eight beautiful alabaster monuments to:
  • Two unknown ladies
  • Sir Richard Willoughby and lady (d 1325) ... he is depicted cross legged indicating he went overseas on a crusade.
  • Sir Richard Willoughby (The Lord Chief Justice who died 1362)
  • Sir Richard Willoughby (son of above ... died 1369)
  • Sir Hugh Willoughby (died 1448) and his wife Margaret Freville (died 1493) both very finely dressed indicating their great wealth and social position.
  • Isabel Foljambe (first wife of Hugh ....died 1417)
  • A priest ... possibly Hugh Willoughby Rector of Willoughby  (d 1344)
Sir Richard Willoughby (died 1362)

Lady Margaret Freville ... wife of Sir Hugh Willoughby (died 1493).  Their marriage brought the Middleton estate to the Willoughby family.

Rather old child breast feeding - panel on Sir Hugh's tomb

Panel on Sir Hugh's tomb

 They are tucked away at the side in a chapel of their own.

Memorial to Colonel Michael Stanhope

 Colonel Stanhope was only 24 years of age when he died in July 1648.  He was a Royalist and fell in the Battle of Willoughby Field during the Civil War.  The Stanhopes lived in Shelford: they were of equal rank to the Willoughbys and at various times they were connected by marriage; ex-marital affairs or rivalry!  A sketch exists of a plan for a grand house to be built at Shelford which would have put Wollaton Hall to shame ... work began apparently but the Civil War put an end to the dream.

On the day Colonel Stanhope died villagers used the church tower as a place of safety and a good observation platform across the fields to the action.  They were to witness the terrible scenes of the last battle of the Civil War in Notts. 

Colonel Rossiter commanded 150 Roundheads on horseback. The Royalists had the distinct advantage of numbering 7 or 800 men most of whom were experienced fighters as they belonged to wealthy families (Roundheads tended to be lower class not trained as swordsmen).  Rossiter's men had ridden many hours to reach the Royalist camp and without pausing to rest they charged the field.  The bean field belonging to Sir Willoughby would have been covered in the bodies of the dead and dying as the battle turned into close fighting with swords.  Colonel Rossiter was wounded in the thigh and lost his helmet because of a musket shot but continued to fight until his side was victorious and over 100 surviving Royalists were taken prisoner.  Only 30 Roundheads died.
The Royal Arms of King William IV

A large stone cross stood in the village ... made from one stone five yards in height apparently.  The Roundheads decided to pull it down and began to tie ropes around it.  The vicar had other ideas.  He served the men strong beer while he gave a long speech on the innocence of the cross.  Their drunken attempts to destroy it failed.

The cross is no longer here.

East window

Window hidden by the large organ hence the strange angle!

Eight men from the village are recorded as having died during the First World War: sadly three of them died in the final days of the war and two of those were brothers:

  • Jonathan Goodacre aged 28 died on 11th October 1918
  • Joseph Goodacre aged 24 died 18th October 1918
  • Harold Attewell aged 20 died 30th October 1918
The Second World War Memorial commemorates two deaths.  At that time though the population rose as children were evacuated from the towns. 

The Nottinghamshire Village Book by the WI tells us about an interesting resident from years gone by.  Her name was Mrs Wood:  wearing a long black cloak she would walk the eight miles into Nottingham in order to attend the Catholic Mass.  The poor woman put dried peas in each shoe before setting off as a penance for her sins!  She was convinced her house was occupied by evil spirits and complained the rats refused to say their prayers so she had the house demolished!

The peaceful atmosphere is disturbed when the Quorn Hunt meet here. In previous years Prince Charles was a frequent visitor on those days.

About a mile and a half west of the village are the sunken remains of Thorpe in the Glebe.  Pevsner describes it as "one of the best deserted medieval villages in the Midlands".  The remains of the church, which was still in use in 1743, lie in the farmyard of Churchside Farm.