Chapter 5

THE PEOPLE OF THE VILLAGE

TOM SHIPSIDE was taken by his parents to the Wesleyan Methodist chapel at an early age. His father was a class leader, a trustee and Sunday school superintendent. The school anniversary was a great day, when forms were made into a platform and recitations were given by the scholars. The teachers of 1877 included John Foulds, father of Tom Foulds. There was no harmonium or organ to lead the singing, the music being provided by Stephen Kirk and Stephen Glover, who played a big bass viol and a small fiddle. These men lived in the Chapel Houses, and were gardeners at Oxton Hall.

The day the writer came to Oxton, 6th August, 1877, was his sixth birthday. He remembers that as soon as the family arrived at the blacksmith’s shop house, some boys, Tom and Harry Turner, Harry Johnson the Hall coachman’s son, Herbert Husbands the keeper’s boy, and others, came and asked for apples which were growing on a tree near the shop. He was ready to let them have some, but when they were eaten, the boys came back for more, and his father, finding out about their earlier visit, forbade him to give any more away. The boys said `If you don’t fetch us some more we will fight you’, and as he refused, they were just about to carry out their threat when Polly Cottingham, who was passing by at the time, took up the cudgels for him, and prevented them. Just before Polly Cot­tingham (then Mrs. George Willies, and over eighty years of age) passed away, she well remembered the incident, then over seventy years ago. Oxton was different in those days, in most respects. The main street of the village had not the quantity and variety of traffic that it has now, there was no radio, no television, no aeroplanes or buses, but just the carrier’s cart which went once a week a distance of ten miles to Nottingham. The charge for this ride was sixpence for adults and threepence for children, and the carrier took from eight o’clock in the morning until twelve noon to arrive at journey’s end, starting again for home at four in the afternoon. There were no motor-cars or lorries, no raised walks on the side of the road, and the roads themselves, roughly mended with broken stones picked up from the fields and not rolled in by any roller, had ruts often inches deep. There was no pure drinking water—only that which came from the pump, often contaminated by sewage that seeped into the wells from the crewyards which mostly adjoined them. The people then had as a rule much larger families—six to twelve or more children were common, against the one or two of today. Men went to work on the farms at six in the morning until six at night, and afterwards to their cottage gardens to work until dark. The women and children went gleaning in the fields after the corn was led, and they put the ears they gathered into sacks. Some families gleaned sufficient to have it ground into flour, and then baked their own bread. Others kept a pig, and the gleanings were useful to feed that also. Many of the farmers in Oxton and district in those times kept, for their eldest sons and daughters, a hunter or two which the writer’s father shod. Although farming was reputed to be bad in those days, one can look back upon large families of farmers’
sons who were each placed by their parents upon a farm. They have mostly done well and prospered, going to live in farms not only in Nottinghamshire, but in many other counties as well.

Many years have passed since the writer first took the Morris Agency, in 1913. He was then forty-two years of age, and a certificate granted in 1955 commemorates forty-two years of service with the Morris business—no small reason for gratitude to God for health and strength.

Mary J. Shipside, the wife of Tom Shipside, was a member of the County Council Children’s Welfare Committee, and was made a Justice of the Peace in 1934. She was a trustee of the chapel, and entertained the preachers who came for the day’s worship. Mrs. Shipside founded the Women’s Institute at Blidworth, and still goes to their birthday party. It was she who organized the working-party in the first world war, and welcomed the refugee boys in the old Sunday school during that period. In the influenza epidemic she attended to the sick and dying with Mary Bonser of Wesley House. Her achievements have been many and her offices varied, including for many years that of the Southwell Circuit treasurer for Women’s Work.

John Richardson of Wesley House, Oxton, took the lead in the building of the present chapel in 1839. He had eight sons, one of whom, Aaron, later left a sum of money for a new school to replace the one under the chapel. John Richardson was practically blind when the writer took up residence in Oxton. On our first Sunday in the village he came at a quarter to six to take us to chapel! On the way was a cellar with an opening to the road. This cellar belonged to the shop then occupied by Octavius Barton, and now owned by James Berridge. Mr. Richardson, being almost blind, found the way with a stick in each hand, and on reaching the open cellar he called out `Don’t fall into this hole’. His home, Wesley House, was generous to Methodist preachers, as was that of his son, Aaron. Mr. Aaron was never married, but had a good Method­ist housekeeper, Mary Bonser, who was helped in her service by her daughter, Annie.

One snowy day, four local preachers were appointed to take the services at Oxton, Epperstone, Wood­borough and Calverton. The Oxton preacher was George Bowmer of East Kirkby. They travelled in a small pony trap pulled by a diminutive horse, and the three others joined Mr. Bowmer when he went to Aaron Richardson’s house for refreshment. Mrs. Bonser gave them all a drink which she called burnt milk, and, after partaking of this, they proceeded on their homeward way. A man coming down Gravelly Hollow found the pony and trap standing still in the snow, with the reins thrown across the animal’s back, the four occupants singing lustily `Glory, glory, hallelujah!’—a result partly of Mrs. Bonser’s burnt milk!

The Annual Foreign Missionary Meetings were great days at Oxton. Some of the leading members of Wesley Chapel, Nottingham, Mr. and Mrs. Morris, Mr. and Mrs. Wootton, Mr. and Mrs. Eden, Mr. and Mrs. Wibberley, the Rev. and Mrs. Amos Burnet, Mr., Mrs. and Miss Parker, came in a large horse-drawn brake. After the meeting the friends from Nottingham adjourned to Wesley House for supper, followed by a prayer meeting and a lovefeast, which remain a blessed memory. The hospitable Aaron and his housekeeper lived for the chapel, and from the orchard of the farm many baskets of apples, plums and damsons, with some­times a rabbit, found their way into the preacher’s home.

A boy was asked by the squire of Oxton what trade he would like to follow when he grew up. His reply was `I shall go up Warmen Hill with Mr. Richardson, and shoot pheasants and rabbits’. In those days that was a great offence, and the squires, who were magistrates, would punish a man more for stealing a rabbit than for beating his wife.

Another member of the chapel was William Baguley of Spowage House. He was a class leader, together with G. Herrod and Thomas Shipside. He played the first harmonium placed in the building. One could tell the time as he walked up the village to conduct his class on Thursdays. It was always ten minutes to seven. One Sunday afternoon it was snowy, and the new minister appointed to preach, came to the few who gathered and decided to conduct the service from the com­munion rail rather than from the pulpit. Mr. Baguley was the chapel steward then, and a mild man, but he said `No, go into the pulpit’. The minister declined, and was met with the comment `If you don’t preach from the pulpit, I shall leave the chapel and the service’. On the preacher refusing to give way, the steward took his hat and walked out. He died at the age of sixty-two years, and his wife, Mary Baguley, lived to the age of eighty-four years, and came regularly to the services until the time of her death. At the last service at which William Baguley played at the chapel, he walked across to Tom Shipside and, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder said `God bless you, my boy’. For thirty-four years that boy played the instrument at the services.

Mrs. Bessie Reavill was another character. She walked down the village in her pattens, from the poor house where she lived, to do a day’s washing at Harvey’s at the Mill. She always ended her experience at the class
meeting by saying: `May I be found at the last without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ Mary Glover was a member who sat in the bottom pew, and immediately behind her sat Rebekah Strutt. One wintry Sunday the preacher failed to arrive, and it was decided to have a testimony meeting. The first to speak was Mary Glover, who, turning round and looking Rebekah Strutt full in the face said: `I thank God that smoking was never any temptation to me.’ It was well known that Rebekah, although a good Methodist, sat for hours at her cottage door, smoking a long clay pipe.

George Herrod was a smith, and a class leader, who with Thomas Shipside showed integrity and Christian living which was a reproof to all evil doers. George Herrod lived at the smith’s shop in Main Street as it is now called. He married his deceased wife’s sister, which, according to the Church of England, was not allowed. For this reason he was compelled to leave the black­smith’s shop, and built a new one in the village in Low Road. Relatives of his still live at Blidworth, near by.

Many other characters could be mentioned, for they were men of sterling character and fearless courage. In simple records such as theirs is the story of the British nation. They believed in the family altar, and no pressing call, no great personage was allowed to break the routine. Apprentices and journeymen joined in the prayers, though often they were godless and hard-drinking men. In those days, the vicar of Clifton, Bristol, the Rev. Neville Sherbrooke, called at the smith’s shop and suggested `Shall we go up to your house and have a word of prayer?’ Mr. Smith, the village carrier of Farnsfield, was a man mighty in prayer. A night-school boy who lived at Oxton, called on him one night, only to find the door locked. From within came the sound of effective prayer for safety, for grace and for power. The lad turned again into the dark road, made confident by this good man’s prayers for safety, on the long walk back to Oxton. Similar in prayer power was Johnny Tongue of Farnsfield and Tommy Hopkinson of Blidworth. These are but several of a host of mighty men of those days. They influenced apprentices like James Stokes and Robert Parr, who later became Methodist local preachers. It is the answer for all time to those who claim that there is no such thing as conversion. To quote my own case: it was as the Methodists sang at Skegness that, as a boy of thirteen, I determined to follow Christ. Returning to Oxton I had to grind coke for the blacksmith’s forge, and I found it a joy indeed to work for, as well as worship, God.

Charles Reeve was a great singer in the choir at Oxton. He followed Mr. Wood and Mr. Gervase Gibbon as estate carpenter at the Hall, about the year 1880. Of his large family, Tom, who was co-superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school, was a fine Christian man. He has been in hospital for some years, and was followed there by his son and daughter. It was a means of grace to hear him pray. His wife (who died recently) bore the absence of her husband and son with real bravery. The original Charles Reeve had another son, Fred, who some thirty years ago went to America, where he has done well; but he longs to get back to England and Oxton again.

To these names of noble characters must be added those of the ministers, the list of whom appears in the Appendix II. They were all, each in his own way, men of God.

Four handbell ringers, towards the end of the last century, were remarkable. The first was Edward Palethorpe, whose nickname was Neddy. The second, William Wain, Senior, was for many years churchwarden and parish clerk. The third was William Cottingham the father of Polly who became Mrs. George Willies. This man was part sharer in the fortune that came to Oxton through George Wood’s efforts. He thought that money was due to him from the will of some relatives of a former Duke of Devonshire, and that he would win his case if he could find a record of the death of a certain man. This he did, in a churchyard at Heath, near Chesterfield, but the fortune of many thousands of pounds was largely spent in law costs. The fourth man was Thomas Allwood, a woodman at Oxton Park, who became a village grocer and post-master. In 1895 the bells used by these men were sold first to me, and then to Taylors of Loughborough. It was at Christmas time that these men entertained the folk.

Another old family of the village were the Smiths of Angel Row. There was Jack, Sam and George, who drove a team of donkeys and bought and sold wood bundles, called kids, which were used as pea-sticks. They journeyed through the villages, and on their return drank their earnings away. One brother was found drowned, while George, living in hard times, ended his days in the workhouse. The family is now extinct in Oxton.

Dicky Burton, who lived in a tumbledown cottage at the back of Wesley Richardson’s house, was reputed to be a miser. He had a famous watch with figures of horses and a plough in colours. He was found starved to death, and the police took possession of his effects.

Tivey Kirk was a noted Liberal in this Tory village. To him came tragedy, as his granddaughter was lost in the flood and her body found some days later in the sluice grating at Harvey’s Mill. He was a frame-work knitter, and his stocking frame was one of the last in Oxton, seventy odd years ago. He was a well-informed man, and a great admirer of Cobden, Bright and Gladstone. He kept his machine bright, and when it was sold for twelve shillings and sixpence he was dis­appointed. He too went over the hill to the workhouse.

John Paulson was a wheelwright who was church­warden and highly respected in the village. His daughter Ellen became headmistress of the village school at Upton, Notts.

The Aslins, who lived at Holly Lodge in 188o, decided, on the death of the father, to emigrate to New Zealand as a family. At the sale of the widow’s furniture, the auctioneer was about to offer some chairs, when a boy was found to be sitting on one of them. He offered to sell him as well, but the boy’s bellowing prevented this ! One of the Aslin boys came back, more than sixty years after, on a visit to Oxton, and preached in the Anglican Church in the morning and at the Methodist Chapel in the evening, indicating the seats where his father and mother had sat.

The Green Dragon Inn was the home of John Hopkin and his wife. He lived to be ninety-six years of age, and a year before he died, he went up in an aeroplane. Old John Hopkin and his brother James, cooked the famous dinners for the Oxton Feasts at Whitsuntide. He had a large family of boys and one girl. One boy, John, toiled at the Derby Gas Works for fifty-three years, and has retired now to Alvaston. This son played for Derby County at cricket against Chester­field, and also was a member of Derby West End Club. He played football also for Derby County, and was a colleague of Steve Bloomer. John is an acceptable local preacher and took the Sunday School Anniversary Sermons at the chapel in 194.5. He celebrated his golden wedding in 1953. Another of the sons of the original John Hopkin is Levi, who married Frances Mary Shipside in 1918. He gives film programmes to the community, and during the war period gave regular weekly pro­grammes to the camps in the area. He took a great part in the building of the Aaron Richardson Memorial Hall, and is a member of the Oxton Parish Council, and in the Church of England controlled school has rendered fine service. His wife is a magistrate for Nottingham County, the chairman of the Juvenile Bench, presides over the Nottingham Committee of the Elizabeth Fry Memorial Trust, and is the district secretary of Women’s Work in the Methodist Church. She is secretary of the Chapel Trust, and society steward, as well as being Sunday school superintendent for many years. The organ is her particular care. She has been the steward of the Southwell Circuit for seven years, and these among her many other duties have been done cheerfully and well. Her daughter, Kathleen Mary Hopkin, married John Crew of Calverton in 1947, and is now with her father a manager of the Church of England controlled school.

Peter Massey, who farmed at Thurgarton Quarters, was a member of the chapel at Oxton, with his large family of boys. His father was a local preacher, and his son Peter, together with his wife are zealous workers at Thurgarton. Richard Massey, another son, before his death was a farmer in this district, and his children have entered upon his work for the chapel at Flintham, Newark.

Joseph Johnson, of Graves Lane, Oxton, was a local preacher for seventy years. One son, William, is still a local preacher at Blidworth, and another boy, Leonard, is a chapel steward and steady worker at Farnsfield, while a daughter of Joseph—Mrs. T. Bramble—is a Sunday school teacher at Oxton. Her son, T. Bramble Junior, is a sidesman at the chapel.

Robert Martin and his wife were the village bakers at Oxton for many years. They came from Worksop, and their son George Martin was a society steward, having been for a long time Sunday school superinten­dent. His son is a fine cricketer for the village. His good lady is assistant organist at the chapel, and a school manager.

Mrs. K. Adams, the younger daughter of the writer, is the secretary of the firm of T. Shipside Ltd. She lives in the village, at Elmfield House, and her husband is trustee of the chapel at Oxton.

Mrs. E. E. Barmby has been a trustee of the chapel since 1931, in addition to being the poor steward. Both she and her husband serve loyally, and the society is fortunate in having such folk to take over the various duties to be done.
Mrs. Ada Francis is a trustee of the chapel and the Womens Fellowship secretary. Her devotion to the cause is exemplary.

Herbert Rowlston represents another old family. He was foreman at Moorfields Farm before he took over Beanford Farm at Calverton. He is a trustee of the chapel, and his son, Cyril, a foreman builder, is Sunday school superintendent and a class leader. He has been made a trustee of the Oxton cause, and with his wife, Olive, does a full day’s work at the chapel.

Healy Martin was a character in the old days. He was a harnessmaker at Oxton Whitowe. His claim to fame rests on a story of the rent audit for the estate, when a dinner was given at the Green Dragon Inn. Octavius Barton kept the grocery shop and post office now owned
by James Berridge, and Mr. Toffee Towers came every Sc_turday from Bulcote where he manufactured large striped bulls’ eyes which were dear to the hearts of Oxton boys. These sweets were indestructible, and they could be used for marbles. On Good Friday each year the boys began the games of whip and top, and the girls shuttlecock and battledore.

Richard Gibson, whose father was killed in early life, loading a wood drug, and whose mother was a hard­working dressmaker, was a great Methodist. He married a Miss Freeman of Calverton Lodge. Their daughter, Miss Nellie Gibson, is the village postmistress.

Laughton Harvey, son of William Harvey, of the Church Farm at Oxton, was a village boy who made good in Lincolnshire, where he was an alderman of the Lindsey County Council.

George Richardson, the old carrier of Oxton, had several sons. William was a farmer at Calverton, who married a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Footitt of Woodborough. Arthur, who farmed at the Lodge, Saxondalc, Notts, became the president of the Notting­hamshire Farmers Union, and was greatly esteemed by the farming community. His funeral at Oxton brought hundreds of mourners, a number only exceeded by those attending the funeral of Henry Bird, the Primitive Methodist preacher and leader.

Another Arthur Richardson was born at Oxton in April, 1856. He attended the Oxton Sunday school and chapel. He farmed at Quarters Farm, Thurgaton, and was a keen athlete interested in local sports, being a successful competitor in ploughing matches. He was awarded the Champion Silver Cup for all England in 1913, and his motto was `Never say can’t, but always try’. After judging for some years, having gained the presidency of the South Nottinghamshire Farmers Union, he died at the early age of fifty-four years, and was buried at Oxton. The farm he had was continued by his widow, with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Plowright, until the widow’s eldest son came of age and took over the domain. Mr. Samuel Plowright died at seventy-five years of age, in January, 1953.
Robert Bradshaw of Oxton (who is commemorated by a plaque in the church) was fined £20 for having a peaceable meeting at his house, and was deprived of animals worth that amount.

Francis Scothern was similarly persecuted, and fines were imposed on him and his friends to the extent of £176. No wonder that the Friends in London published a book The Cry of Oppression Continued and Increased in Nottinghamshire 1676. Persecution has a habit of undoing the perpetrator, and Robert Thoroton died suddenly in 1678. His coadjutor, Pennistone Whatley, died in gaol, and thus ended the persecution of Oxton men as suddenly as it began.

Robert Scothern, his son, who was baptized in the parish church of Oxton on 23rd April, 1659, sailed to America in 1684 with William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania, and thus the village is linked with the United States.
John G. Hancock of Woodborough with his wife served the cause there finely. In addition to being for a while the Member of Parliament for the local division in which he lived, he was the father of the Mr. Hancock who has served the firm of T. Shipside Ltd. through­out the years.

The Sherbrookes. Related by marriage to the Lowes, the Sherbrookes have been leading folk in Oxton during 400 years. In the wood yard opposite the Green Dragon Inn is the tomb of one Robert Sherbrooke who died 8th May, 1710. He it was who left money for the succour of poor Quakers. Possibly the reason for his burial in this spot is that it was the resting-place of the Quakers and the site of their meeting-house. It is interesting to note that the only tomb marked with a name is that of Robert Sherbrooke. In 1803 a volunteer force was raised in Oxton Parish at the time of the threatened invasion by Napoleon, and this effort on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Sherbrooke led to his bust appearing in the Shire Hall at Nottingham. Another of this illustrious family was Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, who was the Governor-General of Canada in 1816. Yet another was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1868, for which, twelve years after, in 1880, he was made Viscount Sherbrooke. In the present century it was Captain Henry Sherbrooke, D.S.O., who flew the White Ensign displayed at the West End of the Parish Church, in H.M.S. Tarantula. That was during the first world war. The other ensign hanging in the Church was flown in H.M.S. Onslow in the second world war, during the command of Captain, now Rear Admiral, R. St. V. Sherbrooke. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and Distinguished Service Order for outstanding and courageous service in a Russian-bound convoy. The title `Sherbrooke’ comes from the village of Shirebrook in Derbyshire, and the family settled in the village of Oxton in the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth. Their hatchments were hung in the Parish Church. (For the meaning of this term see Appendix I.)

Samuel Richardson, together with William Flower put up the famous black flag in Oxton at the time of the jubilee of Queen Victoria, in 1887. Oxton had decided on a celebration, but Henry Parker Sherbrooke, the squire, died in Wales and was brought home to Oxton Hall for his burial. The villagers had raised a fund for the jubilee celebrations, and the squire had promised five pounds, but the churchwardens sent back the subscribers’ money and gave notice that no celebrations would take place. Thus the two Methodists, Samuel Richardson and William Flower had a black flag printed with the words `Poor Old Oxton. Peace and Poverty!’, and this they suspended between Yew Tree House and the house of the parish clerk. On Sunday morning, returning from church, the churchwardens saw it, raised a tumult, and threatened penalties. The real reason for the abandonment of the fête was dis­covered to be that the folk responsible for the squire’s estate felt that five pounds could not be afforded!

Edgar Aaron Richardson, son of Samuel Richardson perpetrated an amusing trick on some archaeologists. They were excavating on the Oxton Lowther Hills at the site of the tumuli, hoping to find some ancient weapons or coins, but without success. An old carving knife was found at the smithy—a knife without a handle —and Edgar, with his brother Wesley, hid this at the bottom of the trench where the excavators had been working during the day. The vicar found the `relic’, and supposing it to be an old Roman Sword, the archaeologists informed the Press of their valuable `find’. The news spread far, but it was exploded months later by rumour and confession.

CONTENTS
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
Appendices

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