NOTTINGHAMSHIRE IN THE OLD DAYS
As a county, Nottingham was unknown in the early centuries, and of its actual history there is little to record. In A.D. 617 Raedwald of East Anglia, sheltering Edwin, exiled King of Northumbria, defeated the usurper Ethelfrith at the Battle of Idle, fought, so it issaid, at Rainworth, which struggle gave Edwin a kingdom which he kept until his death inA.D. 633 at the hands of Penda, at Heathfield, just north of the Sherwood Forest. AboutA.D. 630, St. Paulinus introduced Christianity into the valley of the Trent.
The Vikings came, plundering and harrying the people till the Danes took York in A.D. 867, and in the next year Nottingham yielded to those virile warriors. While the Danes ruled, Edward the Elder formed the counties of Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln. The history of Nottinghamshire after the Norman Conquest has been told many times. William the Conqueror came to Nottingham in A.D. 1068 and left the castle to be rebuilt by his powerful dependent, William Peverel. That building became the dominantfactor in the history of the town for a century and a half, at the end of which period commercial and corporate life began, and the great Forest of Sherwood was the playground of kings and archbishops. The civil war of Stephen’s reign played a large part in the life of the county, and the castles of Nottingham and Newark were often in the King’s hands, though the former changed sides several times. In the course of thesehappenings Nottingham was burnt. Henry II gave Nottingham Castle to his favourite son, John, in I174, and here he fought his brother Richard until he was ejected in 1194. After the conference at Runnymede, John made a last stand at Nottingham Castle. Newark, too, was faithful to him, and it was possibly the only place where his death was mourned.
But much of the real history of the county is revealed in the quiet picture of a group of active and thriving traders at peace with their neighbours and with themselves. Linen and woollen goods, iron-work, bells, brazen pots, goldsmith’s work and ale were all made inthis wealthy town. During the fourteenth century the coal that lay along the western border of the county began to be worked, and rich quarries of stone were cut to build the churches and houses that sprang up everywhere. Both Edward IV and Richard III were often in the city, and it was from here that the latter set out to wage his last battle at Bosworth Field in 1485. Henry VII passed from Nottingham to Newark while Simnel’s troops crossed from Mansfield to the Trent, which they forded, to fight a battle at East Stoke, where the Pretender’s forces were routed.
But greater than the visits and battles of kings was the invention of the stocking-frame in 1589 by the Reverend William Lee, who was curate at Calverton. Although the inventor died a poor man, his work went on to establish the lace and hosiery trades, which for twocenturies made the county famous. It is said that, in 1812, before the days of the big factories, there were 30,000 frames at work in the homes of the people. The coal trade now occupies one third of the county, and in 1953 Calverton had an up-to-date pit which hoped to produce a million tons of fuel every year. It was here that Princess Margaret went down to the coal face on 7th April, 1954.
Men of note have been sired in Nottingham. Darwin’s ancestors were born at Elston, near Newark, and his great-great-grandson, Mr. G. W. L. Darwin, lives at Oxton today.
At Southwell Christianity was introduced in A.D. 956, when land was granted there to Oskytel, Archbishop of York. Aelfric Puttoc, who was also an Archbishop of York, lived and died at Southwell, 1023-5o, but his reputation is not good. Possibly it was a later Primate (Thomas of Beverley, I 108-14) who pleaded for alms to build the Church of St. Mary, Southwell. He certainly inaugurated the `Whitsun Farthings’ which the Mayor and Corporation of Nottingham, together with the Justices of the Peace, paid in the North Porch of the Cathedral each Whit-Monday. This journey of the authorities to Southwell was substituted for one to York, and the custom survived till it became a formality (Nottingham paying 13s. 4d. and Southwell 5s.). The feast was observed with its attractions and sports until they passed into Southwell Races at Rolleston. The Chapter House at Southwell Minster is its chief glory, one which holds the spectator spellbound even today.
Life in the town was uneventful until 153o, when Cardinal Wolsey visited it. Both Henry VIII and Cromwell spoiled the Minster, even though the Church and estates were surrendered in 1540 to the King. It was Cranmer who influenced the King to restore the Chapter in 1541. Five years later, the authorities were rebuked for disposing of some plate and ornaments, and were ordered to send them to London for the use of the King. Thereafter the Prebendaries and other Clergy were in full enjoyment of their benefices until the Court of Augmentations caused the Chapter to cease to exist, while the Minster was continued as a parish church, the vicar of which received £20 a year. Complaints of dilatory and poor service were made when the Chapter was reinstated. In 1635 one canon complains that the organist is very negligent in his duties and especially in the management of the choristers. `He is a great lyer, as yr lordship knows if you please to remember him—and as soon as he has made a boy fit for the quire, he sells him to some gentleman, and soe by this means the quire is impoverished.’
In the Pretender’s Rebellion, Southwell entertained King Charles on his way to hoist hisstandard at Nottingham, and he spent some hours at the `Saracen’s Head’ before he gave himself up to the Scottish Commissioners at Kelham. The townsfolk were mostlyCromwellians, due probably to the influence of Mr. Edward Cludd, the outstanding layman of the area. Incidentally, Mr. Cludd married folk under an old oak tree in Norwood Park, once the home of the Archbishop, from whom he leased the place. He rendered a great service to the community in influencing Cromwell to spare the Minster and Nave from destruction. Thoroton, in his book on Nottinghamshire, gives an interesting story of King Charles I at Southwell. The incident occurred between the battle of Naseby and hissubsequent residence at Oxford. The King with a few faithful followers took refuge at Southwell. The day after his arrival he walked about the town unrecognized, and entered the shop of a shoemaker named Lee, who was a fanatic of the day. His Majesty, after some conversation with this man, bid him take measure for a pair of shoes. Lee, on taking the King’s foot in his hand and looking at him attentively, refused to proceed. The King, astonished at the man’s behaviour, desired him to do what he had requested, but the shoemaker steadily refused, giving the reason that the King was the customer he had been warned against in a dream the night before—a dream in which it was shown that he (the customer) was doomed to destruction, and that those who worked for him would never thrive. The forlorn monarch, whose misfortunes had opened his mind to the impressions of superstitions, uttered an ejaculation expressive of his resignation to the will of Providence, and returned to the palace, which was the place of his abode.
There is also the story that during the Civil War a lady took refuge in the room over the north porch, and during the time of her concealment gave birth to a child. It is said that all the time she was hiding from the Puritans, a body of these men were camping in thechurch, and her terror at being discovered was not lessened by hearing their shouts and ribaldry so near at hand. She was kept alive by an old friend who crept in every night to bring her food, and render her what other assistance was possible, in her terrible predicament. The Commonwealth soldiers stayed for some time in Southwell, especially during the siege of Newark, and many skirmishes are reported to have taken place in the neighbourhood, but there seems to be no truth in the tradition that Cromwell bombarded the palace. The so-called trenches, which are really gravel pits, are situated at a much greater distance from the palace than any cannon of that period could carry; and also that part of the palace which faces these very pits is today the best preserved part of the ruins. It may also be added that it would have been a marvelous thing that the church should have escaped if any considerable bombardment had taken place.
In 1805 the Chapter accepted the gifts of the brass eagle lectern, now in the choir, which had belonged to Newstead Abbey and had lain for more than two hundred years at the bottom of the lake at Newstead, where it had been hidden by the monks at the dissolution of the monastery.
Preface and Introduction
Chapter 1 – Nottinghamshire in the Olden days
Chapter 2 – Oxton in Olden Days
Chapter 3 -Oxton in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter 4 – The Chapels at Oxton
Chapter 5 – The People of the Village
Chapter 6 – The Charities Parish Church Hall and Village of Oxton
Chapter 7 – The Towns and Villages Roundabout