Friday, 9 June 2017

Widmerpool

 
I HAVE to begin this post by showing you a fabulous memorial effigy located inside the village church.



Here we have the stunningly beautiful memorial of Harriet Annie Robertson who died in 1891 at 42 years of age.  How ironic that she looks so lifelike!


 Beautifully coiffered and dressed; holding a spray of lilies in one hand, you could imagine her sleeping in comfort up at the Big House! Her head rests on three cushions with detailed trims, tassels and creases .... the stone looks so soft.  Her cover is tucked under the side of the bed and you can see seams and stitching in the material! A magnificent memorial.  She was obviously loved. 


So who were the Robertsons?  Members of this family settled in Widmerpool in 1804 but George Robertson, who moved from Scotland during the 1700s, started the family business by setting up cotton mills at Papplewick, Linby and Bulwell.  They were so successful he passed on a considerably large fortune to his decendants.  Major George Coke Robertson was a great-grandson of the original George.  The Major was one of the members of the first Nottinghamshire County Council Committee.  He was a kind and charitable gentleman: when the price of corn fell to a record low and most of Widmerpool farmers were on the breadline the Robertsons were there to help.  Even today, all this time later, one of the villagers referred to the family as "Benevolent Squires".  The village church owes them a great deal of thanks:


Members of the Robertson family had first started to restore the delapidated St Peter's Church in 1832.  The spire and porch were replaced, part of the building was re-roofed and windows were added.  Unfortunately a huge storm hit in 1836 and destroyed the windows and half the newly built spire collapsed. A few years later they invested in the place again.




Major Coke Robertson married Harriet Low in 1873.  She was the daughter of an extremely wealthy cotton king from Savannah, USA.  She spent £10,000 making the ruined church what it is today.


 A vestry was added; the organ, stain glass windows and the beautiful reredos were installed and the ceiling redesigned.  The stone mason bill must have been enormous but it was worth it.













Harriet Robertson's father, Arthur Low, also hailed from Scotland but had emigrated to America when he was 16 and started working in his uncle's cotton mill.  Pretty soon he was a partner in the business and had a large palatial house in Savannah (see it here).   When William Makepeace Thackery (of Vanity Fair fame) visited the family in 1853 he wrote "Know that I write from the most comfortable quarters I have ever had in the United States."  General Robert E Lee also stayed at the house where the young Harriet lived as a child.


 The Arthur Low House is on the USA tourist map ... not because of the wealthy Arthur but because of his daughter-in-law, Juliette Gordon Low.  She married Wiolliam Mackay Low in 1886.  It was not a happy union and by 1901 the couple were discussing divorce.  William died in 1905... there is a memorial plaque inside Widmerpool church and his large tomb is in the church yard.






  Juliette inherited the Low House in Savannah, USA.  In 1911 while in England Juliette met Sir Robert Baden-Powell amd was so inspired by the Boy Scout movement she organised two Girl Guide patrols in London then returned home to America to spread word of the movement over there.  Arthur Low House was the US Girl Scout first HQ.  They celebrate their Founder's Day each year on the 31st October: Juliette's birthday.




Lovely green men on the pillars inside.



  Plus one woman with an "evil eye"!





 











Widmerpool Hall was built for the Robertsons in 1872 and is a Grade II listed building.  Gargoyles cling onto the Italianate clock tower .... but the clock was never added out of respect for Harriet Robertson who died before that detail was completed.

Widmerpool Hall
 The Major died in 1924 and the estate passed to Thomas Towle then 1943 - 1947 Mrs Forman-Hardy (owner of the Evening Post) was in residence.  The house was up for sale in 1949 with an asking price of £9750 ....those were the days!!

Here's the Gardener's Cottage .....


The estate became the training school for the AA (Automobile Association) patrolmen in 1950 but in recent years it has been converted into nine residential apartments (each selling for approx. £500,000 nowadays!), eleven mews style houses and detached houses have been built nearby.

Before we leave this family history and the church here is another sad connection.





 The child depicted in the window sitting on Christ's knee is six year old Bevil Grenviele Bruce Grenfell born May 9th 1878 and died July 19th 1884. He was the son of Dame Amy Grenfell, Harriet's sister.









  A couple of ancient but unmarked graves in the churchyard belong to two soldiers who were killed during the Civil War battle at nearby Willoughby on the Wolds ... the same battle where Colonel Michael Stanhope died on 6th July 1648.



Also buried here is Thomas Andrew Barton, the son of the founder of Barton Buses.






The stone carvings in the porch echo the carvings on the altar piece:







Only  Matthew seems to be a bit worse for wear from the elements.


We could not help but notice the large number of mature trees around the village: a lovely  mixture of evergreen and deciduious trees.  Some of the cedars were imported from Lebanon before 1700 but a number were added to the Robertson's estate gardens when cedars and redwoods were in vogue.  Some are quite spectacular.
 
Main Street


 We didn't find a shop or a pub on Main Street. The Smithy is a house and Station Road did not lead to a railway.  This once busy farming community is now a peaceful village completely given over to beautiful houses.

Smithy Farm

The Old Rectory
 Under the village sign is a blue plaque giving details of the accomplishments of one resident:  Sophie Hahn who had set a world record time and won a Gold Medal for the 100m and Silver for the 200m at the International Paralympic Championships in Lyon 2013.  Great achievement!





 The village dates back to Roman times.  It is believed the Roman Commandant of near by Vernemetum lived in a villa next to the village brook.


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