Chapter 6

THE CHARITIES, PARISH CHURCH, HALL AND VILLAGE OF OXTON

JAMES HARVEY, by virtue of his will dated 10th September, 1835, gave to the churchwardens and overseers of the parish of Oxton, the sum of forty pounds in trust, the interest of which amount was to provide the Poor of the Parish with bread every year on Old Christmas Day. Richard Chapman by will dated 21st September, 1725 left five pounds to be put out at interest, the dividends whereof shall be paid yearly to five of the poorest men of this parish, for ever. Similarly, John Littles, on 13th September, 1756 gave six pounds, with the direction that the dividends were to be laid out in sixpenny bread to be disposed of at the discretion of the Church Authorities, about 7th June and 7th December, to the poor of the parish, for ever. Mr. Sherbrooke gave three pounds to be paid yearly by his heirs on 5th November, to the poor of Oxton.

The painted Old Boards in Oxton Parish Church tell how the building was re-pewed in the year 1840, and eighty-seven additional seats obtained, seventy-three of which were declared to be free. A plan showing the situation of the free seats is fixed up in the vestry room. John Godfrey, in February, 1690, gave one and a half acres of land, the rent of which was to be dis­tributed to the poor of Oxton for ever. The county records of the eighteenth century show that Joseph Clayton the constable of Oxton, being a Quaker, took solemn affirmation instead of the oath. On 9th April, 1766, William Cullen of Oxton, a labourer, was ordered `to be whipped at a cart’s tail from the end of the town of Oxton leading from Nottingham, through the said town of Oxton to the end thereof leading to Rufford, for selling stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, and then discharged, paying his fees’.

The Poor Houses were six in number, and stood originally on the side of the road opposite the place where they now stand. In 1852 they were built with doors at the backs of the houses, and they were moved to their present position because the front doors of the old houses looked towards the street.

The Pleasure Ground, central in the village, has had no restrictions placed upon its use until recently, and this together with the fact that the Nottingham County Council took part of the Old Recreation Field to make the new by-pass and roundabout, has meant that no recreational facilities were available for the village folk other than for cricket. The Football Club has been dependent on the generosity of local farmers, for a field. However things are progressing and it now seems likely that such facilities will be forthcoming. It is just another example of the way that village awards have been lost to people in many places.
Over sixty years ago Oxton Cricketers played their games in the Old Recreation Field near to the round­about, some 300 yards south of Ye Olde Bridge Inn on the Oxton-Nottingham Road. In this field also was held the yearly Camp Meeting by the Primitive Methodist chapels of Oxton, Calverton, Woodborough, Arnold and other villages. The boys had an annual job of carrying all the forms from the Oxton Primitive Methodist Chapel to this spot and back again after the meeting. Thomas Richardson, of Oxton Grange Farm, drove a number of sheep from his farm into this Old Recreation Field for one week in every year, which, in the old Oxton award, was left to the poor of the parish as a field of recreation for ever. Another field used as a cricket pitch was Singletons in Water Lane. For many years the cricket matches have been played in the pleasure-ground opposite Oxton Hall, much to the enjoyment of visiting teams. The home team seldom leave the rural surroundings of their ground.

The Village Mills. In the year 1802 an indenture was made between Samuel Graves of Oxton and Richard Palethorpe, whereby Samuel Graves sold to Richard Palethorpe a parcel of land called Margets Close, for the sum of L215, upon which Richard Palethorpe erected the Oxton Windmill. There was until the year 1889, at the top of the village, a windmill which although a very large and heavy structure, could be turned round by two men on its own axle and base, so as to catch the winds from any quarter. The corn was ground by a pair of mill stones, and it was heavy work to raise these stones for the periodical recutting of their grooves. The last miller of Oxton, Mr. James Hopkin, the uncle of Mr. Levi Hopkin, had a large batch cart (so called) in which he went to the surrounding villages to fetch the farmers’ corn in sacks, and after grinding it, took it back to the farmers as flour. In the year 1889 there was a great storm of wind, and the mill was blown over. Jarvis Gibson, who was inside at the time, attending to the corn being ground, had both arms broken, and it was a wonder that he was not killed. After this an engine was installed to drive the corn mill.

There was also in Oxton a water mill, situated on the Dover Beck, and called Harvey’s Mill. It was one of twelve that used to work by the water power provided. Harvey’s Mill had a great paddle waterwheel which, by turning the stones, ground the corn. These mills, both wind and water, are now superseded by others such as Caudwell’s at Southwell, which are driven by steam or electric power.

Oxton Village Stocks. I understand (although I never saw them) that the old village stocks and whipping post were fixed near to the entrance of the Manor House, opposite the Parish Church. They are indicated on the oldest maps of the area.

The Harvest Supper. For many years during the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, a great harvest supper was held in the day school. Every man and boy who had worked on the estate, which comprised the Home Farm, the Fallows Farm and the Forest Farm, was invited. The food was cooked at the Hall and consisted of joints of beef, legs of mutton and rabbit pics, while for the men much beer was provided. It was a wonderful feast, and on one occasion the carver, who had cut some slices for his own plate, when my father passed him a dish of potatoes, replied that the mutton was good enough without potatoes. After the meal, some of the men would be asked to sing, and amongst those that obliged were Samuel Argyle, with `Just down the lane, over the stile’. Another was Tom Berridge, who sang, `My dear old Dutch’. Tom was a good all-round cricketer, despite the fact that he had only one foot, the other being a wooden stump. He played for the local team for many years. The supper was talked of for weeks before­hand, and for many a day afterwards. Alas that such feasts are no more!

The first Parish Council Elections. In December, 1894, the election of the first parish council caused quite a stir in the village. It was thought by many of the inhabitants that the new Act of Parliament ordering such councils would bring in a new era in the life of the community. This did not prove to be the case in many parishes. Oxton was entitled to seven councillors in those days, and four members were a majority and could elect their own chairman, and incidentally, rule the council, the chairman having a casting vote when there was equality in voting. There were two parties in the village, and one of them made four nominations. The vicar of that time ruled them all out, on a technical omission of the word `Oxton’ in the top corner of the papers. The decision caused great consternation among the adherents and much rejoicing on the part of the other party. The throwing out of the papers incensed the ratepayers of Oxton, and at the next council election, held three years after, the rejected nominees were elected and for a number of years afterwards were returned as parish councillors.

Matters Educational in the Village. In the days before the National School was built in Oxton in 187o, Miss Bird, who lived in the house where Mr. and Mrs. Adams now live (Elmfield), carried on the village school. She charged sixpence each child per week, whereas the National School charged only a penny per week, and in consequence Miss Bird lost a con­siderable number of scholars. This she countered by opening her school in the evenings, so enabling the parents to send their children to work in the daytime.

A new head teacher was required in the village school, and the Education Committee of the County Council sent to the correspondent three names, one of which was to be selected. The vicar, who was the correspondent, had received a visit from another vicar living in the county, who had brought along with him the lady who was the head teacher of his school. She visited the parish church, saw the organ she was expected .to play, and appeared before the managers, the only applicant for the post. She did not retire when they considered her application, and no reason was given for her desire to leave her present school. Having ascertained that her son would play for the village cricket team, and that she would insist on the scholars making their obeisances to the managers, she was appointed. No word was forthcoming as to the successes her scholars had obtained, and the subsequent report of H.M. Inspectors of Schools was of such a nature that her appointment was in the balance. The next year an even more adverse report was given, and it was met by the lady concerned with much opposition. Despite the motion that no action be taken, it was not carried, and with an excellent reference this person passed on to another school in the area! Suffice it to say that such happenings could not occur today.

The Passive Resistance Movement. This movement spread to the district, and the Baptist minister living at Southwell had his goods distrained and sold to pay the education portion of the rates. The intense feeling aroused by this act occasioned the return of the Baptist minister at the head of the poll against General Warrand of Southwell, who had long represented the Cathedral city on the council. The writer, then being a member of the Southwell Board of Guardians, felt very strongly the injustice of the Act of 19oz, and refused to pay the portion of the education rate, whereupon the Oxton parish clerk, instead of distraining something of the value of the rate in dispute, seized a new Premier cycle from his store. This was advertised for sale at Oxton, and it was bought by Mr. George Green, senior, of Oxton. It is not the intention to record in this book the persecutions suffered by nonconformist children in the village Church of England schools of this district. Suffice it to say that the numbers of children attending Council and Voluntary schools then, compared with the numbers today when the parents have a choice of schools, is very significant.

The Hall of Other Days. Oxton Hall in the olden days employed some fifteen female servants and a number of men servants such as butler, footmen, stable boys and the like. In the large kitchen there was a fine fireplace, the chimney of which had a fan and wheels attached to turn the joints slowly round until they were cooked. This contrivance was called a `smoke jack’, and had to be cleaned every three months. Cleaning in­volved going, early in the morning, up a ladder placed inside the chimney, to scrape the soot off the workings and oil the spindles. A suit of overalls was necessary for work, and a large hat with a very wide brim to keep the soot from falling on to the face and into the eyes. Never­theless, the boy came down from his work with a black face and rims of white round his eyes. A good wash was indicated, and then breakfast was provided in the servants hall. The cook at the Hall gave away the dripping from the beef to the poor of the village, who took their own basins for it. There was a head coach­man and an under coachman as well as. several men and youths at the Hall. The farrier was paid sixpence every weekday for looking over about fourteen hunters, beside coach horses, which meant over fifty feet to examine before they set out. He had to be there by nine a.m., and should any horse lose a shoe whilst hunting was in progress, the squire would say `See that it does not happen again’.

The coal yard at the Hall in those days would hold thirty tons of fuel, and was always kept well supplied from Lowdham Station. The gardeners who worked in the Hall grounds and kitchen gardens were in number about six. The grounds were thrown open every Oxton Feast Sunday, when crowds of people came in horse-gigs and brakes from the surrounding villages to see the sheer beauty of the gardens, but in those days Mr. Glover guarded the bridge leading into the kitchen gardens, and no one was allowed to pass. The generosity of the squire was evident in the many bunches of grapes which found their way from the Hall vineries to the bedside of sick persons. Oxton Hall is at present occupied by Lord Charles Cavendish Bentinck, D.S.O.

The gamekeepers kept by the squires in those days were very zealous in their duties, especially when the nobility came from all over the county to shoot at Oxton. Often they had fifty or more men from the villages round about, to act as beaters. Lunch was taken from the Hall in the shandydan in addition to the carrier’s van. The shandydan was a kind of horse dray with rails round to carry the game, and had swinging seats across the body to carry the shooters and the guns. The gamekeepers were busy at other times looking out for poachers, who, when they were caught, were treated unmercifully, sometimes to the point of death; which in their verdict the jury, which met at Oxton, would bring in as accident. It was commonly reported in those days that the magistrates would fine a man a pound for catching a rabbit, but only five shillings if he thrashed his wife!

The Manual Fire-engine. It was a great pleasure to the boys to go out with the fire-engine, housed at the Hall, with about a dozen men, to test the machine down at the lake. Eight men, four on each side, worked the handles up and down until at last (and then only some­times) a jet of water was thrown as high as a house. Stackyard fires were rather frequent in those days, and whole storages were destroyed because nothing was available but the old manual fire-engine. In one case at Oxton Hall men and women formed a chain and passed buckets of water, hand-to-hand, from a pond in a field, but their efforts were not effective in putting out the flames.

The Deer Leaps, Horse Turntables and the first Threshing Machine. In olden times, the land on the frontage of estates was allowed to the owners thereof, the width or depth of the same to be as much as a deer could jump at a leap. These were called `deer leaps’, and they are often to be found on the sides of roads today. They are mostly planted with trees.

In Oxton, less than a century ago, there were in use several old horse turntables. One was on the Church Farm and another was in Sherbrooke’s farmyard. They consisted of a large toothed wheel driving a smaller cog-wheel underneath, and were attached to a long iron spindle which extended into the barn. On the top of this contraption two large poles of wood were fitted at right angles, and two horses were harnessed, one at the end of each pole. The animals walked round and round for hours, cutting the hay and straw, which the men of those days mixed with the corn to feed their horses. They also cut mangels and turnips with the same machine, and even ground some kinds of corn into flour. The difference is most marked in the use now of the latest dynamo and tractor for the purpose.
The first portable threshing machine and engine was owned by John Richardson, who went round the neighbouring farms to do their work. The apparatus was drawn by four or six horses, and it proved a job to get both engine and machine up the lanes to some of the farms. It was driven by Joseph Shelton, the father of James and Samuel Shelton, who was in his time a good machinist and engine driver, as well as being a teacher in the Primitive Methodist Sunday school at Oxton. New tubes were fitted to the boiler by William Stubbs of Hawksworth, Aslockton. He also re-tubed the engine throughout in a week, for Aaron Richard­son, who had succeeded his father as owner of the engine. Mr. Stubbs, who was a very good preacher in the Bingham Circuit, was persuaded to stay and preach at Oxton.
After this, a Mr. Bird of Blidworth, and a Mr. Stephen Gibson of Halam, set up threshing machines, and went all round the countryside dealing with the corn. What a day threshing day was, not only for the farmer but for his wife, who fed the men in charge of the machine!

Space forbids me telling the story of these threshers sixty or more years ago. Some of them were hard-drinking and swearing men, others were notable Methodist local preachers. These latter folk bore their witness both on workdays in the farmyard and in the pulpit on Sundays. Such a man was Tommy Hopkinson, mighty in prayer and efficient in his labour.

 

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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