Bramcote: 8th August 1897

The picture of Town Street, the road through to Derby was at the cross roads a little way down. Being the main road through Bramcote it had shops, a School and the Inn called the White Lion.


Town Street looking North- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The photograph above shows the Inn and Cottages at the top of the small hill leading from the Derby Road. Buildings were built very is close to the road, which seems to step almost onto the road. Note the group of children who have congregated around for the photograph, perhaps at the invitation of the photographer.


Main (Town) Street-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The photograph above shows a view of the White Lion plus the cottages next door with their small front gardens.


Alms Houses on Town Street- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Alms houses on the corner of Town Street and Cow Lane, these were erected by Frances Jane Longdon in 1852. Opposite you will find the sunken church and grounds.


Town Street- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The above photograph is took looking back towards the island locally know as Bramcote Island on the A52. Again the White Lion and town street can be seen.


Article originally published by Peter Woodward of My Broxtowe Hundred Journal Website. 

Posted in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire Suburbs | Leave a comment

An Overview of the Three Stones Project

by Frank E Earp

The Three Stones Project: Tuesday 27th October 2015  saw me up and about early and, metaphorically speaking, wearing one of my many different hats, the Director of The Three Stones Project (TSP). The TSP, which is entirely my own conception, has been ongoing now for around 4 years, (it really doesn’t seem that long). Over that time I have mentioned it a number of times in my articles. Very briefly, for the new reader or those who may not remember, it was set up to make the first ever complete study of Nottinghamshire’s three well-known Geological features and the landscape which surrounds them. In order of size these three stones are; ‘The Hemlock’ Stone at Bramcote/Stapleford, ‘The Druid Stone’ at Blidworth and ‘Bob’s Rock’, at Stapleford. Each of these ‘stone giants’ has their own story to tell and secrets to unlock.

The Hemlock Stone and Phase One: By the very fact that they are natural Geological features, the three stones have stood in the landscape of our County for an unimaginable amount of time. In the case of the Hemlock Stone, the native bedrock from which it is made was laid down in the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago. Of the three stones, the best know is the Hemlock Stone. It is also possibly the most accessible, in the fact that it stands in a public open space rather than on private land as do the other two. I therefore decided to begin ‘Phase One’ of TSP with this site.

Nottingham Geospatial Institute: The Project has always been and remains ‘unfunded’ and from its out-set TSP has relied on the goodwill of the many experts, individuals and groups I have managed to recruit to it. One of these groups, now a central part of TSP is ‘The Nottingham Geospatial Institute’ (NGI). To quote their own literature, the NGI is a leading cross-disciplinary research and postgraduate teaching institute at The University of Nottingham, on campuses in the UK and China’.

3D Laser Scan: In 2012, with the permission of Broxtowe Borough Council, (the current custodians of the site) and the help of a local scaffolding company, ‘Judd Whyle & Son Ltd.’, the NGI conducted a 3D laser scan of the Hemlock Stone. The object of the exercise was to created the first ever 3D model of the Stone. Fine, I hear you say, but how does this wonderful use of modern technology benefit the project? By its very nature, the Hemlock Stone is slowly and irrevocably disappearing from sight, eroding away before our very eyes. The young D.H. Lawrence noted this fact in 1901 when he wrote “The Hemlock Stone is not nearly as impressive a great rock as a century ago. Since then, decade by decade, Its sandstone has dissolved and eroded…” With the 3D image we have done something no ordinary photographic image, no matter how good the quality, can do. We have capture for future generations the Hemlock Stone in its entirety as it was in a single moment in time. But this is not the only value in producing such an image. For the first time researchers are now able to view and study the Stone in detail from any angle and vantage point they might choose with out the need to visit the site. We can literally take Nottinghamshire’s famous Hemlock Stone anywhere in the World, (in fact it has already been enjoyed by students and experts in China). It is the intention of TSP in the second and third phases of the project to produce similar images of the other two stones.

Unfunded project: As part of a commercial project, the 3D laser scanning of the Hemlock Stone would have cost many thousands of pounds. Even the logistics of erecting the scaffolding platforms, taking up almost the entire workforce of the company, must have cost a considerable sum. However, as previously stated, the entire work was carried out free of charge with all those involved giving their own free time. Likewise after completing the scanning, the complicated processing of the raw technical data used to produce the image had to be worked on by Lukasz Bonenberg of the NGI in his own time. It is for this reason alone that it has been only within the last few months that, as Director of TSP, I have been able to make the processed scanned image public. Although the resulting 3D laser scan of the Hemlock Stone was deemed to be a success, the use of scaffolding to allow access to the top and upper parts proved to leave gaps in the recorded data, meaning that there are a number of ‘holes’ (un-scanned areas) in the model.

UAV scan: Imagine my surprise when I was contacted by Lukasz a few weeks ago to inform me that Geologist at the University had expressed an interest in TSP. But that was not the only news I received. He went on to inform me that via NGI and the University, a private company, ‘Ocuair’ had offered their services to rescan the Stone using the latest UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology. This method uses a remote flying drone carrying the latest digital camera to take hundreds of photographs of the subject, which when process using advanced software, produces an extremely accurate 3D model. Of course, I could not say no to this offer and arrangements were quickly made to carry out the work. Not only this, but the survey was to be carried out in the full glare of the local media.

Early start and Breakfast Show: So it was that together with my son Joe, I found myself, at 6.45 am on the 27th Oct, dragging my old bones up the steep hill to the foot of the Hemlock Stone. Even the dog-walkers were not about that early. Arrangements had been made to meet up with a reporter from B.B.C. Radio Nottingham and do an interview for the ‘Breakfast Show’. At just after 7 am the ‘radio car’ arrived and my not so dulcet tones were broadcast live to the good people of Nottinghamshire (at least those who were listening in). It wasn’t long before the rest of the team, – Lukasz from NGI and Richard Gill, the Ocuair’s operations director and drone pilot, – turned up. They too were given the opportunity to broadcast their part in the mornings operations. This however, proved to be just the prelude of what was to come, yet more interviews and filming for B.B.C. T.V. and the University’s own media.

Cameras rolling: By 8 am the flat area of grass at the foot of the hill where the Hemlock Stone stands had begun to resemble a car park. Geeta Pendse a well know local reporter for B.B.C. East Midlands Today, along with a ‘camera-man’, had arrived on schedule. It wasn’t long before Richard had his drone, – looking like something out of a Si Fi Movie, – flying in the air above the Stone. All of the time it was in the air, the rather spider like drone sent back live video footage of what its camera was pointing at to a monitor on the ground. To the delight of all present, including a couple of members of the public, we were treated to our first birds eye view of the Stone. However, the camera action was not all one-way. Recording the flight was not only the B.B.C., but also the University’s own camera man and reporter and of course Joe. For me, the real hard work of the morning came in the form of doing two recorded interviews, one for the BBC and one for the University. It wasn’t so much doing the talking, I’m use to that, it was climbing back up the steep hill to find a suitable spot to record.


B.B.C. reporter, Geeta Pendse and her camera-man, talking to Richard Gill of Ocuair- Photo Credit: Lukasz Bonenberg, Nottingham University.

Thou petrified Enigma – Question old: Following the first part of this article about the Hemlock Stone, laser scanners and UAV’s, I suspect that there are a number of readers who are thinking that the TSP is all about ‘boys with toys’. My answer to that thought is that you might be right, – all be it ‘big boys with expensive toys’. However, there is a serious side to playing with expensive toys. It is only now, with the use of modern technology that TSP is able to settle an argument over an important question, – ‘What is the true origin of the Hemlock Stone?” – that has been going on for the last 400 years. This however, is only the first of many questions that could be answered about the object that Henry Septimus Sutton (1825-1901) calls a “petrified Enigma”.

The argument begins: It is the Antiquarian William Stukeley that provides the first written reference to the Hemlock Stone in ‘Volume One’ of his book ‘Itenerarium Curiosium’, first published in 1724. Stukeley (1687-1765) was an English Antiquary and one of the founders of field archaeology, who pioneered the investigation of Stonehenge. The contents of his book is best described in its sub-title; An account of the antiquities, and remarkable curiosities in nature or art, observed in travels through Great Britain“. It was Stukeley’s rather cavalier, throw-away comment on the Hemlock Stone, which began the argument as to its origin; – Is the Stone a natural Geological feature or, the bi-product of quarrying?

Stukeley in Nottinghamshire: In 1722 Stukeley was passing through Nottinghamshire following the Roman Road, The Foss Way (now the A46). Whilst recording the ‘remarkable curiosities’ along the road he found time to visit and comment on others elsewhere in the County, including the rock cut chapel known as St. Mary De Roche. It is probably whilst staying at Wollaton Hall as the guest of Lord Middleton that he heard an account of the Hemlock Stone. There is no evidence that Stukeley visited the Stone in person when, after a brief comment on the Hall and its Park, he concludes by saying: “A little beyond, (the park), in the road, upon the brow of the hill, is a high rugged piece of rock, called Hemlock-stone, seen at a good distance: probably it is the remains of a quarry dug from around it”.

Not the Hemlock Stone, but Hemlock-stone: Perhaps I’m being a little pedantic when I say that there are two ways in which Stukeley’s words, “rugged piece of rock, called Hemlock-stone”, can be interpreted. It has always been assumed the Hemlock Stone – written as ‘Hemlock-stone’, – is the given name of the monolith or pillar. However, read the actual words again out-loud. It seems to me that what Stukeley is really saying, is that the material from which the pillar is made is a rock known locally or commonly as Hemlock-stone. To give an example; The sedimentary rock from which the Druid Stone at Blidworth is composed, is Geologically known as ‘Conglomerate,’ but is also more commonly called Pudding-stone. (note that I have used upper case letters as Stukeley would have done, for all proper-nouns, something which has now gone out of fashion). Imagine then if Stukeley had described the Druid Stone in the same style. He might have said: “In an open field, near the village of Blidworth, is a rugged piece of rock, called Pudding-stone, seen at a good distance”.

Perpetuated error: I believe that some time after the publication of Stukeley’s work, his brief paragraph on the wonder of Bramcote became corrupted, perhaps with the addition of ‘the’ between the words ‘called’ and ‘Hemlock-stone’. This simple addition would of course change the whole meaning of the sentence. I am, as far as I am aware, the first to suggest this idea about the name of the Stone. It seems to me that like so many errors in historical research, other writers and researchers have tended to quote the one before without carefully consulting the original reference and thus perpetuating the error. I must admit that I have to an extent been guilty of ‘committing the same sin’. Although I have researched the history and folklore of the Hemlock Stone and surrounding landscape for over 40 years it has taken TSP to re-focus my mind on original thought and research. Quite early in the history of the TSP, an associate member of the team purchased for his own pleasure, an original First Edition of Volume One of Stukeley’s ‘Itenerarium Curiosium’. It is from this volume that I have taken my reference.

Stukeley at work: Previously in this article I’ve described Stukeley’s reference to the Hemlock Stone as “cavalier” and a “throw-away comment”. But why should I have used such carefully chosen words to describe the work of such a well respected writer? There is no doubt that Stukeley was an excellent researchers and writer. Whilst in the field he would, in a careful and scientific manner, examine and take notes of his antiquities, and remarkable curiosities”. His books are full of printed engravings taken from his own carefully observed drawings.

Local Knowledge: However, Stukeley did not just wonder the Country blindly looking for these things. He was directed to them by those with local knowledge. It is also by questioning those with local knowledge that he was able to gain his first insight into the site and formulate his own considered opinion. When informed of the curious rock outcrop at Bramcote in Nottinghamshire, he appears to have done none of these things.

A throw-away comment: In considering my opinion, I have placed my emphasise on Stukeley’s use of the words “probably the result of quarrying…”. I take this to mean that Stukeley simply did not know what the “high rugged piece of rock, called Hemlock-stone” was. Here lies the root of the committed error when talking about the origins, – and even it would seem the name, – of this curiosity. It is often wrongly repeated that Stukeley states positively that the Stone is the result of quarrying when he does no such thing, – (Hence my use of the term throw-away comment to describe this part of the reference).

Non-committal: We may imagine how Stukeley arrived at this non-committal statement; Firstly, again I state that there is no evidence that he actually visited the site, – on the contrary, I feel that if he had, his opinion would have been radically different. Quite simply, when asking about curiosities in the local, I believe that he was casually informed that there was an an out-crop of native rock locally known as Hemlock-stone, close to the road on the side of a hill in the parish of Bramcote. In return, Stukeley equally offered the not so considered opinion that it was (probably) the result of quarrying. If we read Stukeley’s words beyond his reference to the Hemlock Stone, he continues his journey into Derbyshire. Having apparently satisfied himself that he had been told nothing significant about this site, he appears to have had neither the time nor inspiration/inclination to explore matters further. But as we will later see, Stukeley was not in full possession of all of the relevant information about the site as we are today. Had he been, he might have come to a far different conclusion and the Hemlock Stone would have received a greater write-up in his work.

But what does all this really mean for modern research into the origins of the Hemlock Stone? The answer to my question will become clear in the third part of this article where we will look at all of the potential origins of the Hemlock Stone.


“Thou mouldering relic of forgotten time!” Image taken from the 2015 UAV survey.


“Thou petrified Enigma – Question old”. Image taken from the 2012 laser scan.


‘Point cloud’. Raw data from the 2012 laser scan.

The Great Antiquarians: The Antiquarian William Stukeley’s book ‘Itenerarium Curiosium’, (1724), is the first such great work on antiquities and curiosities to reference the Hemlock Stone. Prier to Stukeley’s book ‘The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire’, first published in 1677 by Nottinghamshire’s own Antiquarian, the great Dr Robert Thoroton, (1623-1678), fails to mention the Stone. This failing by the good doctor was something that was certainly ‘made up for’ in later year by the Society founded in his name. The Leicestershire Antiquarian, John Thorsby (1740-1803), published a revised addition of Thoroton’s work in 1790 and again fails to mention the Stone. However, Thorsby also included in his edition, quotes from the works of his contemporary, Major Hayman Rooke, (1723-1806). Rooke too appears to have been unaware of the Hemlock Stone’s existence. It seems unlikely that he had an aversion to such curious objects in the landscape, for it is Rooke that provides the first reference and image of one of the other ‘Three Stones’, ‘Blidworth Rock’ (aka The Druid Stone). According to Thorsby, Rooke is assured that the cave cut into one of the broad sides is ‘man-made’ but can’t be certain if the Rock is natural or the product of human hands. (sound familiar?). I am certain that if any of these noteworthy Antiquarians had visited the Hemlock Stone in person, they would not have failed to be impressed. Had they also been aware of the ‘Diabolical Missile’ legend and the fact that the good people of the area annual lit a bonfire on its summit on May Morning, we might have had a more favourable account.

Thou mouldering relic of forgotten time!” For what is perhaps half a century after Stukeley’s first reference, the Hemlock Stone slipped quietly back into obscurity. It is only with the passing of the age of the great Antiquarians and the start of the 19th century that we find a renewed interest by a new generation of modern historians. However somehow, in this interval, Stukeley’s ‘probable quarry’ hypothesis had become a reality. There were those who read his words as a statement of fact; ‘The stone monolith on Stapleford Hill, called the Hemlock Stone, is the product of quarrying’.

19th Century: By the this time the historians, poets and other interested parties who indulged their curiosity towards the Hemlock Stone, opinions as to what they were looking at were firmly entrenched. Writers on the subject of the Stone were (and still are) divided into two camp; those who, without question, excepted Stukeley’s quarry scenario, and those who favour the natural geological argument. The great debate had begun. Even those practitioners of the then relatively new science of Geology added the voice to the debate.

Geology and Geologist: The first proper geological survey of the Stone, the Ordnance Geological Survey, conducted in 1908, concluded that the Stone was entirely the product of nature. Although an image of the Hemlock Stone is used as a logo by the British Geological Society, their survey of the Stone, the British Geological Survey, returned it to being the waste product of Stukeley’s unsupported quarry.

Tourist attraction: It would be tedious for me and the reader, if at this point I was to continue to give further examples of references to the Stone. It is perhaps suffice to say that there are enough to fill a book. The fame of the Stone grew and it became the wonderful tourist attraction it is today. Access to the Stone has always been easy as a public highway pass-by almost at its feet. Throughout the 19th century, the Stone attracted crowds of sightseers and day-trippers. Some admired it for what it is, whilst others could not resist leaving their mark upon it and the more adventuress climbing the 8ms to its summit.

Poetry: It is interesting to note that at-least two of the curious visitors to the great monument were inspired to poetry by its rugged charm. Robert Millhouse (1788-1839), addresses the Stone as “Thou mouldering relic of forgotten time!” His poem reflects on the Stone’s potential demise through natural erosion, hastened by the effect of those who would carve their initials on it. Millhouse laments the fact that he was himself one-such person when in the second and third lines of his poem he say; “Well I remenber how in youth I came, And grav’d yon rude initials of my name.” Henry Septimus Sutton (1825-1901), calls the Stone a “petrified Enigma” and asks of it what he calls an age-old question; “What eyes innum’rable O ages Stone, Have gazed and gazed thy antique form upon?” He then goes on to speculates on the countless tide of humanity that have passed it by and concludes by saying; “At last I stand upon thy withered side, Another drop of that still flowing tide..”

20th Century: At the very start of the 20th century in 1901 a young D. H. Lawrence cast an eye on the Stone and writes in his journal; “The Hemlock Stone is not nearly as impressive a great rock as a century ago. Since then – decade by decade – Its sandstone has dissolved and eroded..” Later, in his book ‘Sons and Lovers’, D. H. Lawrence describing the reactions of a group of visitors to the Stone says: “They expected a venerable and dignified monument. They found a little, gnarled, twisted stump of rock, something like a decayed mushroom, standing out pathetically on the side of a field.”

The Thoroton Society: In the same year as Lawrence took his first look at the Stone, included in the more learned class of visitors was a group of members of the prestigious Thoroton Society. One can only imagine the discussion and debate that ensued whilst they gazed up at the Stone. Certainly the visit produced some excellent academic writing on the subject of the Stone’s origin and history. Not least of these is the work produced by Mr Emsley Coke and Mr Samuel Page, later published in The Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 10 (1906).

Full circle: By the late 1960’s early 1970’s my own ‘eyes gazed and gazed’ on the Hemlock Stone. As an Earth Mysteries writer I was inspired by a booklet, ‘The Enigmatic Hemlock Stone’, published by Dr Robert Morrell. To me, at the time Morrell was the leading expert on the subject and ‘Mr Hemlock Stone’. Together with the Late Paul Nix and Syd Henley, Bob, as I came to know him, made up the members of the first ‘Nottingham Hidden History Team’. All three men became my very good friends and remain so today. After Paul’s death in 2008 my son Joe resurrected to title and reformed the Team. Things have now come full circle and the Nottingham Hidden History Team are once again looking with ’21st century eyes’ at the Hemlock Stone in the form of The Three Stones Project. Only now, using modern technology do we have the ability to answer all of the questions that surround Morrell’s Enigmatic Hemlock Stone.


Antiquarian William Stukeley 1687-1765. The man who started the debate about the origins of the Hemlock Stone that has lasted for centuries.


The 1901 visit by the Thoroton Society to the Hemlock Stone

Of all the unanswered questions that might be asked of the enigmatic monolith called the Hemlock Stone, the most important is that disputed mystery concerning its origin. But why should this be the case? Quite simply this question is the key that will unlock the door to all of the others. However, before we can ever hope to answer any question of origin we must first ask; ‘What is the Hemlock Stone?’ Fortunately there is, based on its Geology, a simple physical description on which all can agree.

Geological description: The Hemlock Stone can be called an ‘Inselberg’, – an isolated pillar native bedrock, (around 8m tall) standing out on the eastern slope of Stapleford Hill, Bramcote Nottinghamshire. It consists, roughly equal parts, of two types of New Red Sandstone, – Nottingham Castle’ Sandstone and ‘Lenton’ Sandstone, – which was first laid-down 200 million years ago during the Triassic Period. Top layer: The top half of the Stone is a dark brown, almost black in places and consists of stratified layers of ‘Nottingham Castle’ Sandstone. This is a medium to coarse-grained sandstone, in which the grains are strongly cemented together by baryte. Bottom layer: The bottom half of the Stone is made up of Lenton Sandstone, a very fine-grained and less well cemented structure and is predominantly red in colour.

Differential erosion: The Castle Sandstone top of the Stone ‘overhangs’ the Lenton Sandstone, giving the whole a rather mushroom like appearance. This effect has been caused by the geological process known as ‘differential erosion’ where the two layers have eroded away at a different rate in accordance with their density and composition.

Possible origins: Knowing what the Stone is, there are only three real possible origins, so three possible answers to the question. Each of these has their own plausibility which I will not attempt to relate here. Quite simply I will give each of these in their turn and leave both the description and analysis of the supporting evidence to the scientific analysis to come. I will however, give where possible, examples of other ‘Inselbergs’ created by the particular origin being discussed.

(1). Natural Geology: By far the simplest answer to the question of the Stone’s origin is that it is a natural geological formation. Such a process would have involved the great forces of glacial, water and aerial erosion first removing the soft layers of Lenton Sandstone from the surrounding landscape and exposing a deposit of the more resistant Castle Sandstone, (a process of natural quarrying). Once exposed this nodule of rock was then subjected to the forces of differential erosion and over aeons of time, produce the shape we see today.

Rock of Ages: If this origin can be proven to be the case, then the Stone’s age can be counted on a geological time scale rather than an historical one. Sutton’s question to the Stone,“What eyes innum’rable O ages Stone, Have gazed and gazed thy antique form upon,” can be answered immediately by saying “Every generation of humans who ever passed through the area would have cast their eyes upon the Stone!”

Comparisons: This possible origin can be directly compared to at least one of a group of Inselbergs on the North Yorkshire Moors. known locally as The Bride Stones. Amongst the Bride Stones is one called ‘The Pepperpot’ which can almost be described as the Hemlock Stone’s twin. Another good natural Geological comparison to the Hemlock Stone is the Devil’s Chimney, near Mount Vernon in Wisconsin, U.S.A. The Chimney is composed of a slightly older sedimentary rock known as St Peter Sandstone and is believed by Geologist to have been created by the eroding forces of the ‘melt-waters, of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago.

(2a). Product of quarrying: Stukeley’s use of the word quarry in his description of the Hemlock Stone creates something of an ambiguity. The process of quarrying is usually taken to mean digging an open pit (a quarry) into the ground to extract a useful product like sand or limestone. If this is applied to the Hemlock Stone site, we might assume then that the product was Lenton Sandstone and the area around the Stone nothing more than a giant sand quarry. At some stage in the operation the ‘quarrymen’ came upon a deposit of the less useful Castle Sandstone and instead of removing it, simply quarried around it. If this origin is proven correct then Stone itself is nothing more than a bi- product, unwanted waste once again sculptured into its current shape by the forces of differential erosion.

(2b). Deliberate quarrying: The ambiguity produced by Stukeley’s use of the word quarry gives us a third potential origin for the Stone, – ‘it is in its own right the deliberate product of quarrying’. There are two possible reasons for this being the case; The first is that the Stone was produced in historic times as a sort of joke, a ‘man-made curiosity’ for future generations.

Comparison: Once again if this proves to be the case, there is a direct comparison to be made in the form of ‘The Devil’s Chimney’, a Limestone rock formation in Leckhampton, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The important point here is the fact that it stands above a disused quarry. This pillar of stone has perhaps more comparisons to the Hemlock Stone than any other existing example. Like the Hemlock Stone it has its own diabolical myth and disputed origin. At least one Geologist has described it as being a natural geological feature subjected to differential erosion. However, popular opinion along with supporting evidence shows it to have been produced by 18th century quarrymen who left it standing as a man-made curiosity.

(2c). Pre-historic monument: The second possibility arising from the idea of deliberate quarrying is that the Stone was produced at sometime in the remote past, (pre-history), as a form of ritual monument. There is already a good body of evidence supporting the idea that the Stone, possibly as a natural object, was the focus of pre-historic attention. However, should it prove to be a deliberately created pre-historic monument, the ramifications would be enormous. I know of no other parallel in Britain and the Stone would be worthy of being a World Heritage site alongside place in Stonehenge.

Looking for evidence: Supporting each of the origin theories, are various degrees of written and circumstantial evidence. The recent UAV scan of the Stone provides us with the ability to examine the structure and surface of the Stone for any further physical evidence lie tool marks, pre-historic ‘rock-art’ and natural erosion. By combining any potential findings from the scan and the knowledge we already posses, it will hopefully be possible to solve the mystery of the Stone’s origin. Having answered this question, the scan will also provide us with a better knowledge of the Stone’s history and a greater appreciation of its continuing place in the landscape.


The Pepperpot, North Yorkshire. A natural geological feature that could be the Hemlock Stone’s twin.


Not the Hemlock Stone, but The Devil’s Chimney in Wisconsin U.S.A.


The Devil’s Chimney Gloucestershire. The creation of 18th century quarry workers.

Posted in Nottinghamshire Archaeology, Nottinghamshire History News and Events | Leave a comment

The Birthplace of Henry Ireton

by Joe Earp

Attached to the shadow of Attenborough’s St Marys Church is a picturesque unpretentious white house. Very little visitors who pass by on their way to the Nature Reserve know that there is great historical interest connected to the house. It was in this house that the famous Parliamentary General, Henery Ireton was born. He was the eldest son of German Ireton of Attenborough and was baptized in St. Mary’s Church on 3 November 1611.

Owing to the archaic practice of ultimogeniture, or inheritance by the youngest son, that was prevalent in parts of 17th century Nottinghamshire, Henry did not inherit the family estate when his father died in 1626. Ireton would go on to marry Oliver Cromwell’s daughter Bridget. Oliver Cromwell, England’s Lord Protectorate himself is said to have visited Attenborough and the house on a number of occasions.

R:  117 G:  255 B:  171 X:54188 Y:    0 S:   15 Z:   53 F:  148

Henry Ireton- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

R:  127 G:  255 B:  161 X:54188 Y:    0 S:    1 Z:   53 F:  170

The House in Attenborough Where Ireton Was Born- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

When Ireton become old enough he left Attenborough and at the age of 15 he attended Trinity College Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts on 10th June 1629. After his BA he read law in the Middle Temple, but was not called to the Bar. Although he was not called to the bar, Ireton probably practised as a lawyer during the 1630s. As tensions between King Charles and the Long Parliament grew, he became prominent among the Puritans of Nottinghamshire by organising the Root and Branch petition against Episcopacy in the county. As war clouds gathered, Ireton joined his kinsman John Hutchinson in recruiting a company to protect the magazine of the Nottingham militia from the King’s men.

As the English Civil War began he raised a troop of cavalry and fought for the Parliamentarians at the battles of Edgehill (1642) and Gainsborough (1643). He then served as quartermaster-general to the Earl of Manchester in Yorkshire in the Marston Moor campaign of summer 1644, and at Newbury in October. Ireton was at the siege of Bristol in September 1645 and took part in the subsequent campaign that succeeded in overthrowing the royal cause. On 30 October 1645 Ireton entered parliament as member for Appleby.

In the year 1646, King Charles I surrendered to the Parliamentarians, this was also the same year when Ireton married 22 year old Bridget Cromwell. The victorious army then became involved in arguments with parliament, in part about lack of pay. Ireton emerged as one of the ablest politicians among the army leadership. He played an important part in upholding his men’s interests, but declined to support their more extreme political ideas, proposing a constitutional monarchy. He was involved with negotiations with the king, but after Charles fled to the Isle of Wight, Ireton became convinced that there was no point negotiating further.

The second civil war, in which he served at the siege of Colchester, persuaded him that no deal with Charles was possible. It was Ireton who set in motion the train of events that led to the trial and execution of King Charles. Ireton drafted the Army Remonstrance, which demanded that the King should be brought to account for causing unnecessary bloodshed among his subjects. Ireton was closely involved in the organisation of the King’s trial, and was one of 59 who signed the King’s death warrant. King Charles I was beheaded on January 30, 1649 at the Palace of Whitehall in London.


Death Warrant of Charles I- Photo Credit: The British Museum.

Ireton accompanied Cromwell on his campaign in Ireland in 1649 – taking part in the storming of Drogheda and Wexford – and assumed command when Cromwell returned to England in May 1650. Whilst directing the Siege of Limerick in 1651, Ireton died and was buried in Westminster Abbey. After his death the government settled a pension of £2,000 for his widow and five children.

As a result of the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, Ireton’s body was disinterred from Westminster Abbey along with his Father-In-Law Oliver Cromwell, and was hung from the gallows at Tyburn. His corpse was mutilated in a posthumous execution in retribution for signing the King’s death warrant. Posthumous execution involved hanging the bodies “from morning till four in the afternoon”. Ireton’s body along with Oliver Cromwell’s were cut down and the heads placed on a 20-foot (6.1 m) spike above Westminster Hall. This was quite ironic in a way as this was the location of the trial of King Charles I.


Execution of Cromwell, Bradshaw and Ireton in 1661- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Cromwell's severed head

Cromwell’s Severed Head- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

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Hemlock Stone Scanned by Drone

New ‘UAV Scan’ of the Hemlock Stone and International Cooperation:

Preliminary results of the 3D laser scans of the Hemlock Stone at Stapleford have now been made public. The scans, using TLS, were conducted last year on behalf of the Project by ‘Nottingham Geospatial Institute’ based at The University of Nottingham. The ultimate aim of the scan has always been to produce a perfect 3D model of the Stone to be used for both academic research and educational purposes.

Interest in using the scans has already come from a number of groups including the University’s ‘Department of Geology’. Geologists from the University have expressed a wish to use the scan data to create an accurate physical model of the Stone using 3D laser printing technology.

However, although deemed a success, the TLS method employed in scanning the Stone involved the use of scaffolding to allow access to the top and upper parts. Inevitably, this method proved to leave gaps in the recorded data, meaning that there are a number of ‘holes’ (unscanned areas) in the model.

As a result, a new survey of the Stone has been carried out on Tuesday 27th October 2015. The new scans were carried out by a private company, ‘Ocuair’, using UAV (remote flying drones). The aim of the new work is to create a second full 3D model of the Stone.

Results will be compared for accuracy with the previous TLS scans. A combination of the data from both scans will produce the desired 3D model. The new scan will also allow an estimate of the feasibility of this approach/combination of approaches for surveying the other two sites, ‘The Druid Stone at Blidworth’ and ‘Bob’s Rock at Stapleford’.

Processing of the data from the new survey will be carried out by experts assisted by students, at the University of Nottingham’s China Campus, Ningbo, China. For the first time, dedicated time for the Project has been allocated for the work, which means that processing will be carried out in ‘real working time’.

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Geology and Possible Origin of the Hemlock Stone


The Hemlock Stone. This photograph show the two distinct band of sandstone which compose the inselberg- Photo Credit: Frank Earp.

Description: The Hemlock Stone is an inselberg, – an isolated pillar of 200 million-year-old New Red Sandstone, which stands on the eastern slope of Stapleford Hill, Bramcote near Nottingham. It has been identified that the inselberg consists of, roughly in equal proportions, two stratified layers different native bedrock laid down during the Triassic Period. Both rock types are classified as being a part of the New Red Sandstones of the Sherwood Sandstone Group.

a. Top layer: Nottingham Castle Sandstone, a medium to coarse-grained sandstone, in which the grains are strongly cemented together by baryte.

b. Bottom layer: Lenton Sandstone, a very fine-grained and less well cemented structure.

The Castle Sandstone top of the inselberg ‘overhangs’ the Lenton Sandstone giving the whole a rather mushroom like appearance. This effect has been caused by the geological process known as ‘differential erosion’ where the two layers have eroded away at different rate in accordance with their density and composition.


There are three possible origins for the Hemlock Stone:

(1). By far the simplest of these is that it is a natural geological formation created by long term erosion of the surrounding landscape exposing a deposit of Castle Sandstone, later acted upon by the forces of differential erosion.

If this can be proven to be the case, then the inselberg’s age can be counted on a geological time scale rather than an historical one. This origin can be directly compared to at least one of a group of inselbergs on the North Yorkshire Moors known locally as The Bride Stones.


One of the Bridestones in North Yorkshire. This one of a group of inselburgs in North Yorkshire show the same distinctive signs of differential erosion as the Hemlock Stone- Photo Credit: Frank Earp.

(2). The alternative to the natural geological origin of the feature is that it is the product of human hands. This is first suggested or rather inferred by the 18th century antiquarian William Stukeley. it is Stukeley who provides the first historical reference to the Hemlock Stone in his book ‘Itenerarium Curiosium’ published in 1724. In this work, in a brief and passing reference to the Stone Stukeley describes it as being: “….probably the result of bye-gone quarrying”.

Because of the amount of sandstone quarrying carried out in the area around the Stone it is commonly believed therefore that the feature is nothing more than the mere bi-product or waste of a sand-quarry. However, circumstances surrounding the account indicate that Stukeley never actually visited the site. The use of the word probably suggests both non-committal on his part and the fact that he was unable to obtain a positive opinion from others. Like other antiquarians of the time, Stukeley uses the term ‘bye-gone’ times to indicate a period beyond living memory. If Stukeley’s assumption is correct, then this would place any potential quarrying of the area to a very early date. At such a date there would have been very little demand at that time for the amount of sand that would have been quarried, especially with sand-rich Nottingham so close by. This would suggest that the Stone was the product of deliberate quarrying.

(3). Examination of Stukeley’s comment leads to the third potential origin theory for the Stone. Given folkloric and other historical references and possible archaeological evidence, if indeed, the Hemlock Stone is proven to be the product of quarrying, then this would have been in the remote past (Neolithic or Bronze Age) This would mean that the Stone is in its own right the deliberate product of quarrying rather than an accidental or unwanted bi-product.

If this origin proves to be the case then it would make the Hemlock Stone unique among the pre-historic monuments of northern Europe.

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The Story of Mortimer’s Hole

by Frank E Earp

Nottingham and its County like most big Cities abounds with famous ghosts, that is, the ghosts of the famous and the infamous and those ghosts famous for their persistent hauntings. Perhaps the most famous, in all aspects, of these is the female spirit which haunts Nottingham Castle. The haunting takes the form of a woman’s screams and a pitiful cry in Norman French of; “Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer.” The voice is believed to be that of the ghost of ‘Isabella of France’, wife of King Edward II. If it is real, then the haunting takes us back in the history of the Castle, to a moment in time nearly 700 years ago. This however, is not a just another ghost story but rather ‘the story behind the story’ and the part Nottingham and its Castle played in an infamous event in history.

Troubled King: The story begins with Edward II, an unpopular king who ruled England for 20 troubled year between 1307 and 1327. Edward the second son of Edward I, became heir apparent following the death of his elder brother Alphonso and ascended the throne after his father’s death. His troubled reign was in no small way caused by his relationship with a member of his personnel household, Piers Gaveston. Gaveston had been introduced to Court by Edward’s father in 1300 but later banished and exiled due to his bad influence on the then Prince Edward. Following his father’s death, Edward recalled Gaveston from exile and after his Coronation made him 1st Earl of Cornwall, – an appointment later to be confined strictly to royalty. The true nature of Edward’s relationship with Gaveston continues to be the subject of debate. Whatever that relationship, Gaveston’s power and influence over the King was greatly resented by the Barons. Such was the feeling against Gaveston that within months the young king was again forced to send him into a kind of muted exile, but this time Edward softened the blow by appointing him as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. We will leave Gaveston here for a while and return to our ghost, Isabella of France.

She Wolf: In an effort to alleviate tensions between France and England, in 1308 Edward married Isabella of France the daughter of King Philip IV. Isabella’s reputation and nature is best described by the ‘nickname,’ – ‘The She-Wolf of France’. Again, what ever the nature of the King’s relationship with Piers Gaveston, sexual or not, it had an impact on the Queen who like the Barons, began to despise him. Like so many other royal marriages then and since, this was primarily a political union. It was however a marriage intended for the production of an heir to the throne. In that it was successful and the future King Edward III was born at Windsor Castle on the 13th Aug. 1312. For a time, the royal birth brought the King back in favour with both the Queen and the Barons, but with Gaveston around this was something that could not last.

Brink of War and Gaveston’s death: Gaveston’s time as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was a successful one and it may have been this that allowed the King to persuade the Barons that he should be allowed to return to England in 1309 after just a year away. However, on his return to Court Gaveston’s personnel behaviour became so extreme and offensive to the Barons that they were forced to take action against him bringing the Country to the brink of Civil War. In 1311 the peerage and clergy of the ‘Kingdom of England’ imposed upon the King in the form of an Ordinance, a series of regulations which restricted his powers. One of the many stipulations addenda to the Ordinance was the exile upon pain of death, the exile of Piers Gaveston. So it was that Gaveston left the Country for the third and final time. Even the threat of certain death could not keep him away and once again, either through arrogance or stupidity, Gaveston returned to England in 1312. This time however, his enemies had the advantage, the King had signed a legal document ordering his death if he should brake his exile. Led by Thomas of Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, Gaveston was ‘hunted down’ and put to death by the sword on Blacklow Hill near Warwick on the 12th June 1312.

Isabella in Nottingham: With Gaveston gone we might think that the troubled King would have been reconciled with both his wife and his Barons. However, this was not to be the case. Edward had inherited from his father an ongoing war with Scotland and things came to a head in 1314 when the hard pushed Royal army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce. Isabella, who was in York at the time, was forced to flee back to Nottingham Castle. The Castle was not only one of the strongest Royal fortresses in the Country, but also provided some of the best accommodation in its fine apartments.

The Despensers: It was Edward who took the full blame for the mismanagement of the Scottish Wars and once again his relationship with the Barons was on a knife-edge. But it was not only the nobles who were aggrieved with the King. His constant feuding and general mismanagement of the Nation led to a period of hardship and famine for the general population. The King however took little interest in the plight of the ‘common man’ and with Gaveston gone his new favourites at Court were the Despensers. Hugh Le Despenser, Earl of Winchester, was elevated to the ‘peerage’ by Edward I in 1295 and fought alongside the King in France and Scotland and so gained a prominent place in the Royal Court. Together with his eldest son, also Hugh, he was one of only a few supporters of Gavaston, thus making himself an enemy of the Earl of Lancaster. Following Gavaston’s execution became the King’s chief advisor a position he used to promote both his own and his son’s interests.

If anything, the Despensers abused their position of power even more than the hated Gavaston. Together father and son had amassed a vast fortune and were protected by a private army, for all the World like latter-day gangsters. In 1315 political opposition led by Lancaster brought about Hugh’s dismissal from both Parliament and Court. However, this did not stop him promoting family interest and in 1318, through father’s efforts, the young Despenser was promoted by Edward to the position of King’s Chamberlain in 1318. Again it was Lancaster who became the Despenser’s chief opposition and together with a coalition of his fellow Baron’s forced the King to disinherit and exile both father and son. Hugh Despenser, probably without grace, excepted his exile and move to the Continent. However, his son, Hugh the younger moved no further than the coasts of Kent and Essex where he became a Pirate operating against the Cinque Ports.

We have reached a point in history where Sir Roger de Mortimer, 3rd Baron Mortimer, 1st Earl of March enters our story. For a time Mortimer’s name would become ceremonious with Nottingham Castle, a legacy which still exists today.


Queen Isabella, ‘The She Wolf of France’. Is this the face of the ghost which so passionately haunts Nottingham Castle?


Sir Roger Mortimer: Lover of the Queen and ‘de facto’ King of England.

This article is telling the story of the rich and fascinating history behind one of Nottingham Castle’s most famous features, a long passage-cave known as Mortimer’s Hole. It also tells the story behind what is possibly the Castle’s most famous haunting, the ghost of Queen Isabella. We have now reached the point in time within the story, where we are introduced to the second principle character, Roger Mortimer.

Roger Mortimer: Roger de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore, 3rd Baron Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, born 1287, was of ‘Royal Blood’ being the second cousin twice removed of King Edward II and fourth cousin once removed, of Queen Isabella. By one of those strange twist of fate Mortimer was born on the 25th April, the same day as the King but three years later. This family relationship and shared birthday was one of the factors which endeared him to the King.

Mortimer, as 1st Earl of the March, was one of the powerful Marcher Lords. These were English Nobles given lands in Wales and the border country (The Welsh Marches) by the King, to subjugate the Welsh and protect England from attack. Mortimer had gained his many estates in the Welsh Marches, – and hence his title, – through an extremely advantageous marriage to the wealthy heiress Joan de Geneville, 2nd Baroness Geneville.

Like so many of the English Nobles of the time, Mortimer was one of the Lords who opposed Edward’s relationship with the hated Gaveston. However, his opposition does not appear to have effected his relationship with the King. After Gaveston’s assassination, Mortimer was, in 1313, appointed to Gaveston’s former roll of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Royal Cousins: It goes without saying that Mortimer had gained a hatred for father and son the Despencers, during their time of support for Edward’s allegiance to Gaveston. Mortimer’s hatred of the Despencers was a personnel one and much greater than the mire fact they were supporters of Gaveston. The Despencer began their rise to power during the reign of the King’s father Edward I. The young Hugh Despencer was Knighted early in 1306, gaining Hanley Castle in Worcestershire. Later that summer he married Eleanor de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 9th Lord of Clare and 7th Earl of Hertford. Eleanor was herself of Royal Blood, being the granddaughter of Edward I and King Edward II’s cousin. The marriage appears to have been an arranged one, being the settlement of a debt of 2,000 marks (around £1,000,000 in today’s money) owed by her grandfather to Hugh’s father, Hugh le Despencer, Earl of Winchester (Hugh the elder).

One year after the marriage, in 1307, Edward II came to the Throne and continued his father’s war against Scotland. When in 1314, Eleanor’s brother Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester and 7th Earl of Hertford, died fighting alongside Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn, together with her two younger sisters, she became unexpected joint heiress to his vast estate in both England and Wales. Almost immediately, Hugh as her husband went from being a landless knight to one of the most powerful men in England. Of all the lands, castles and titles given to Hugh, perhaps the most galling to Mortimer and his family was that of the Lordship of Glamorgan which gave him possession of Cardiff Castle. Following his appointment as the King’s Chamberlain in 1318 Hugh’s greed and ambition went into ‘over-drive’ and he ceased the lands in Wales belonging to his sisters-in-law.

The Tyranny: This part of the article has told a parallel story to the first and we have now reached a point where the two parts come together. By 1320 the Despensers had become the most hated men in the land. In 1321 with some support from Queen Isabella, led by the Earl of Lancaster, the Barons forced the King to send the Despensers into exile. However, Hugh the younger’s reign as the ‘Monster of the Sea’s’ (Pirate off the Kent coast) and his fathers exile in Bordeaux, lasted a matter of weeks. With the Despensers gone, the Barons began to fall out amongst themselves and the King took advantage of the infighting to recall both father and son from exile. This brief interlude did nothing to slacken their greed and avarice and this period in time is often known by historians as ‘The Tyranny’.

The Despenser Wars: Edward and the Despensers now took direct action to re-establish Royal authority and after some minor skirmishes, Mortimer was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. One by one the Marcher Lords and their allies surrender to the King. Lancaster was forced to flee north where in early 1322 his army was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge. This brought to a close the first part of what became known as the Despencer Wars. Lancaster, – again another blood cousin of the King, – was taken prisoner and later ‘hung-drawn-and quartered’ for treason.

Mortimer escapes: For some reason, despite repeated pressure from the Despensers, Roger Mortimer was not executed and remained in the Tower, condemned to a sentence of ‘life in prison’. This mistake on the King’s part was to lead to his downfall. After two years, Mortimer, possibly with inside help, managed to engineer his escape to France.

The Queen’s Lover: With Lancaster defeated and Mortimer in self imposed exile, Edward must have thought that his absolute authority had been restored. However, he had overlook the fact that his marriage to Isabella was at breaking point. Whatever the internal situation in the Kingdom, International Politics continue, and in 1325 Isabella was sent together with her young son, the future Edward III, on a diplomatic mission to France. Here she met the handsome Roger Mortimer and the two became lovers. Perhaps it was their mutual hatred for Hugh Despencer and his father that first drew them together, but it was certainly this hatred that led to their plot to return to England at the head of a mercenary army.

Fall of the King and the Despensers: The plotted invasion of England took place in 1326. Mortimer and the Queen’s small army moved rapidly across the country gaining support along the way. Edward was taken completely by surpriseand he was forced to flee as his own supporters deserted him. After several action in both England and Wales the King and Hugh Despencers the younger were betrayed and captured north of Caerphilly on the 16th November, whilst trying to escape to Ireland. Edward was taken to Monmouth Castle and from there back to England where he was imprisoned in Kenilworth Castle. Despenser was taken to Hereford and on the 24th November and put on trial before Mortimer and the Queen. He was found guilty of all charges: For the charge of ‘thief’ he was sentence to hanging, for being a ‘traitor’ he was sentenced to be drawn and quartered and for “having procured discord between the King and Queen” to be beheaded. For an additional charge of returning to England after having been banished, he was sentenced to be disembowelled. Immediately after he had been condemned, he was dragged behind four horses to the place of execution. Here the full sentence was carried out all witnessed by Mortimer and the Queen who feasted with their supporters whilst they looked on. An account claims that at the final moment of death Hugh ‘let out a ghastly inhuman howl’.


The execution of Hugh le Dispenser. The grisly end of Hugh le Dispenser took-place before the Queen and assembled Lords.


A 15th Century illustration of the Queen’s capture of the King.

Having successfully conquered the country in a short military campaign, Isabella and Mortimer now set about establishing and consolidating their political hold on power. Isabella quickly declared herself ‘Regent’ on behalf of her 12 year old son Prince Edward. Edward accompanied by the King’s half-brother Edmund of Woodstock had been with the invasion force when it landed, thus legitimising the rebel cause. However, as there was no established procedure to remove a lawful monarch, although imprisoned at Kenilworth, Edward II was still in principle King of England.

The King abdicates: Isabella now showed why she had been given the nick-name the She Wolf. Her shrewd mine swung into action. Most of the Kings administration had been imprisoned or executed, now she needed to prove to the Barons, the Church, and Parliament that her husband was an unfit King. On her behalf, the loyal Bishop of Hereford, Adam Orleton, made a series of public allegation against Edward’s conduct as King. In January 1327 a Parliament was convened at Westminster to raise the question of Edward’s future. Edward stubbornly refused to attend. Whilst Parliament dithered over the matter, outside the hall the London crowd made the people’s feelings clear by calling for the young Prince Edward to take the Throne. By the 12th January Parliament had sided with the people and declared that Edward’s personal faults and weak leadership had led the Kingdom to disaster and he was unfit to continue his rule. However, this was not enough to depose a lawful King and Edward needed to be forced to abdicate. To this effect The Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were sent to Kenilworth Castle where they informed Edward that if he resign as monarch his son Prince Edward, would succeed him. If however, he failed, such was the situation, there was a danger that the Crown would go to another. It is said that Edward was reduced to a flood of tears and declared that he would abdicate. A proclamation was sent to London announcing that the King, henceforth to be known as Edward of Caernarvon, had of his own freewill, resigned his kingdom in favour of his son Prince Edward. Edward III’s Coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 2nd February 1327.

New King: The Coronation of the new King had the seal of approval of the people and they must have felt relieved that the torrid and disastrous reign of his father was finally over. However despite having the backing of the Nation the young Edward was King in name only. Barely a teenager Edward was legally obligated to rule through the guidance of a Regent until he reached his majority. That Regent of course, was officially his mother Queen Isabella, but the real power behind the Throne, as everyone knew lay in the hands of Roger Mortimer.

The old King at Berkeley: Although he had abdicated, Edward II was still a danger to Mortimer’s new regime. He quickly recognised the fact that there was those amongst the ruling class who would see his restoration. In April 1327 Mortimer moved the ex-king into the more secure accommodation of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, home of his brother-in law Thomas Berkeley. Here, Berkeley and another man John Maltravers, were given £5 a day (current purchasing power of around £4,000) to supposedly keep Edward in a state befitting his Royal status. From the records of the time there is evidence that luxury goods were bought to the castle on his behalf, but there is also evidence that Edward was mistreated and kept in appalling condition. Could it be that this extraordinary sum was paid to Edward’s jailers to buy their loyalty? By the late summer of 1327 rumours of plots to free Edward were rife. At least one attempt had already been made, getting as far as actually breaking into the room he occupied. With concerns growing, Mortimer secretly had Edward moved to different locations. However, this proved a logistical nightmare and by September Edward was back in Berkeley Castle.

Murder?: On the 23rd September 1327, news reached the young King Edward III that his father had “died of natural causes” during the night of September 21st. The story of Edward II’s demise is one of the most notorious and debated deaths of any English Monarch. At the time it was widely believed that Edward had died of natural causes, from a disease brought on by grief and despair. Although some might have had their suspicions, accusations of murder did not begin to ‘openly circulate’ until Mortimer’s trial for treason in 1330. It is not until 13 years later, written in the chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker, that we find the most infamous account of Edward’s captivity and death: “He was held in a cell above the rotting corpses of animals, in an attempt to kill him indirectly. But Edward was extremely strong, fit and healthy, and survived the treatment, until on the night of 21 September 1327, he was held down and a red-hot poker pushed into his anus through a drenching-horn. His screams could be heard for miles around”.

Funeral: Edward’s body was embalmed at Berkeley where it remained until 21st October when it was sent to Gloucester Abbey. The funeral which was a lavish affair costing £351 (over 2.5 million pounds today), took place on 20th December. It has been said that the long delay between Edward’s death and interment was to allow the young King Edward III time to grieve his fathers death and attend the funeral in person. We do not know if, when news of Edward’s death reached the people, the Nation mourned his passing, but ornate oak barriers were erected around the Abbey to manage the anticipated crowds. The chroniclers do not record if the expected crowds turned up, but there is one surprising thing that happened long after Edward was laid to rest. Edward’s tomb became a popular shrine. For many years thousands of pilgrims visited to pay their respects to the late King.

‘De facto’ King of England: It is clear that Edward II funeral had been carefully ‘stage-managed’ to demonstrate once and for-all that his reign was over. Although guided by the hand of his Regent, the (now) Dowager Queen Isabella, Edward III was now undisputed King of England. The reality of the situation was somewhat different. From the very outset Mortimer had looked after his own interests. His first action was to have Edward restore his lands in England and Wales and create him 1st Earl of the March. From this position of power he increasingly exercised his control over Isabella and thus over Edward. As his power grew so did his arrogance and open disdain for Edward. Mortimer was now King in all but name. Once again the Realm began to split into two factions, supporters of Mortimer and supporters of the Edward. Chief amongst the latter was Henry, Earl of Lancaster the son of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who had been his ally in the Despenser Wars. The two men were now set on a collision course which would lead to Mortimer’s down-fall. The first impact of that collision would be at Nottingham Castle.


Berkeley Castle. The covered walkway leading to the King’s cell.


The Tomb of Edward II in Gloucester Cathedral. Although he was an unpopular King, Edward’s tomb became an important pilgrimage site.

Roger Mortimer and Isabella had first become lovers in 1325, whilst she was on a diplomatic mission to France on-behalf of her husband King Edward II. The King had been faced with a demand from the French to ‘pay homage’ for to their king, Charles IV, for English lands in France, – The Duchy of Aquitaine. Edward however had more pressing matters at home and was reluctant to leave the Country. In a statesman like move Edward created his 12 year old son Duke of Aquitaine and together with his mother Isabella, – who was Charles’ sister, – promptly despatched them to France in his place. It was whilst in France that Isabella and Mortimer first conspired to overthrow Edward II. As a part of this conspiracy to gain French support for their cause, Isabella had the young Prince Edward engaged to a girl of the same age, Philippa of Hainault. Hainault was a small independent province of what is today Holland and was governed by Philippa’s father. In 1326 on the Princes’ behalf Isabella promised that they would be married within the next two years.

Heir to the Throne: In October 1327 the Bishop of Coventry was sent to Philippa in Hainault on Edward’s behalf “to marry her in his name”. This kind of ‘wedding by proxy’ was not unusual at this time. The full marriage ceremony took place in York Minster on 24th January 1328 just under a year after Edward’s Coronation. Philippa’s own Coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on the 4th March 1330. England now had a King and a Queen and was soon to have an heir to the Throne. It was soon to have a heir to the Throne. On the 15th June 1330, Philippa gave birth to the first of the couples 13 children. Christened Edward, later to become known as the Black Prince, as Edward IV, it was his descendants who were to fight for the Throne of England in the bloody conflict known as The Wars of the Roses.

The end-game: Despite his marriage and the production of an heir, Edward was still King in name only. Roger Mortimer effectively still ruled England. In Edward’s name Mortimer had continued the war against Scotland only to be met by crushing defeats and an enforced peace treaty. This embarrassment for the Nation, more than anything, stirred his fellow nobles into taking action. It was Henry, Earl of Lancaster who made the first move against Mortimer but without support from the young King, this was unsuccessful. Mortimer must have felt that his grip on power was loosening. His retaliation was through plot and subterfuge to weaken the King’s position. There were those at Court who firmly believed that Edward II was still alive and in hiding, having contrived his a fake death for the sake of his son’s reign. Chief among the believers in this rumour was his half brother Edmund, Earl of Kent and even, as it now seems, the young King himself. Mortimer further encouraged the rumour prompting Edmund into open support for the idea and thus exposing him to the charge of treason. In March 1330, Mortimer had Edmund arrested, tried and executed. Lancaster, realising Mortimer’s plot, explained the consequences of his uncle’s execution to the King. This time Edward listened and took action.

A ‘Band of Brothers’: Mortimer had many spies in the Royal Court and the King could do little without his knowledge. Certainly it would have been impossible to have raised any sort of military force against him. Perhaps it was that the young Edmund, – just short of his 18th birthday, – had seen to much of the consequences of open warfare. What ever the facts, it would seem that he had been planning a subtle coup d’état against Mortimer and his feckless mother Isabella for a long time. Together with a personnel friend, Sir William Montagu, Edward had gathered around him a group of 20 or so young men whom he had created knights. All had been hand picked by Edward for their fierce loyalty. What was now needed was a time and a place to make his move. Surprisingly it was Mortimer himself who provided both venue and opportunity.

Parliament at Nottingham: In October 1330, Mortimer, in the King’s name, summoned Parliament to attend him at Nottingham. Safely ensconced with Isabella in the Castle, one of the Country’s most comfortable and secure Royal residences, Mortimer must have felt invincible. When the King, Royal Court and the Barons with their retinues arrived, the Town must have been bursting at the seams. Although Edward found comfortable accommodation in the Castle with Isabella and Mortimer, the rest were forced to camp within the grounds, most likely the area now occupied by the Park Estate. To all concerned, this must have seemed like a siege situation. The siege was broken on the night of the 19th October.

Mortimer’s Hole: At what was clearly a prearranged time, Montagu and Edward’s loyal Knights were conducted by William Elan (Constable of the Castle) into a secret underground passage leading up through the rock. At the top of the passage the locked door was opened by someone from within, possible Edward himself or a trusted servant. Contrary to popular myth and the romance that surrounds Mortimer and Isabella, the passage led out into the Inner Bailey of the Castle and not the couples bedchamber.

Smashing the myth: The true account of what followed next, again smashes the romantic legend. The King and his knights did not burst into the room and snatch Mortimer from his bed and the arms of his lover. We certainly have no evidence that she pleaded with her son to ‘have pity on gentle Mortimer’. According to contemporary accounts Mortimer and Isabella were at the time, sat around a table in conference with several others. Mortimer and his men put up a desperate fight in which one, Sir Hugh Turplington, was killed. In almost a comic touch to the story, the cowardly Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln was captured whilst trying to escape down a ‘privy shaft’. Mortimer himself was overpowered and arrested whilst Isabella was placed under armed guard. Legend has it that Mortimer, bound and gagged was taken back down the secret tunnel, – perhaps to be displayed before the Barons. It is said to be Mortimer’s shuffling footsteps that still haunt the passage to this day. What ever the truth, it is said that Lancaster threw his cap in the air when he heard the new of the arrest.

A King begins his reign at Nottingham: The next morning Edward declared that the usurper Mortimer’s reign as de’ facto king was over. In a proclamation sent to London, Edward announced that he would hence-forth rule the realm himself, in a just manner and in accordance to the laws and constitutions of the land. It would have been the people of Nottingham who would have been the first here this welcome news. Perhaps in the heat of the moment Edward wanted to have Mortimer executed immediately. However, Lancaster persuaded him that this might not be a good way to begin his reign. Instead he was first taken to Leicester and then to the Tower of London where he was held until his trial before Parliament at Westminster on the 26th November.


‘The King’s men enter the Castle via a secret tunnel’. Romantic version of the story of Mortimer’s Hole.


“Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer.” In this 19th century image Isabella pleads with her son for Mortimer’s life.

Edward III’s independent reign began at Nottingham Castle with a coup d’état and It was from the Castle that he announce to the waiting Nation that he would be a true and good King. Edward went on to rule the Country for just over 50 years, making him England’s second longest reigning medieval monarch, (Edward’s great grandfather, Henry III reigned for 56 years). His reign saw many important changes including Parliament separated in to two Houses, Commons and Lords. It also saw the start of histories longest running war, the conflict with France known as the Hundred Years War. The darkest year in the King’s reign was 1338 when the bubonic pandemic known as the ‘Black Death’ reach the shores of England. Between June of that year and December of the following year, when the disease began to decline, it is estimated to have killed around half of the County’s population. But in November 1330 all of this was yet to come. Roger le Mortimer 1st Earl of the March still had to pay for the consequences of his treason against both State and Monarch.

Trial: The 43 year old Roger Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore, 1st Earl of March, was brought to trial before Parliament at Westminster on the 26th November 1330. He was arraigned on 14 charges including the murders of Edward III, procuring the judicial murder of Edward’s half-brother Edmund of Kent and unlawfully using royal power to enrich himself, his children and his followers. In keeping with trails of the day, Mortimer was forbidden to speak in his own defence. To further prevent him doing so he was gagged and bound with ropes or chains. There was little doubt in the outcome of the trial. Mortimer was found guilty on all 14 counts and many more, by ‘notoriety’; his crimes were notorious and known for their truth by all the realm. As all of his crimes were against the King and his Realm he was sentenced to a traitor’s death, to be hung drawn and quartered. However, in a much debated act of clemency, the King commuted the sentence to one of being ‘hung by the neck until dead’.

Execution: On the morning of the 29th November, Mortimer was forced to put on the black tunic he had worn at Edward II funeral. This was perhaps meant as a veiled reference to his hypocrisy. Taken from his cell in the Tower of London, he was dragged behind two horses to the village of Tyburn. Here was London’s most famous place of execution, a three-sided gibbert known as the Tyburn Tree, which stood on a site close to the Marble Arch in present-day London. It is often wrongly stated that Mortimer was the first person to be hanged at Tyburn, but executions had taken place here for at least 200 years. However, Mortimer does have the dubious honour of being the first Nobleman to be hung at Tyburn as a common criminal for his crimes, rather than being beheaded. Before the rope was put about his neck his cloths were stripped from him so that he died naked. Verses from the 52nd Psalm, beginning with the words ‘Why do you glory in mischief?’ were read aloud within his hearing. Before the end came, he was allowed to say a few words to the gathered crowds. Although he admitted his part in the death of the Earl of Kent, Mortimer made no reference to the King, Edward II or his one time lover Isabella.

Although he was spared the full horrors of a traitor’s death, medieval hangings were often slow and victims could take hours to die. For Mortimer however, mercifully the end came within a few minutes. From the details his trial and execution, it is clear that both were carefully staged to reduce the once proud Marcher Lord and De Facto King of England to a ‘common man’.

Burial: It was Franciscan monks or ‘Grey Friars’ who took charge of Mortimer’s mortal remains. Records show that his body was taken by the Friars for burial at Greyfriars Monastery in Coventry, although it may have briefly rested in their little church in London. A year after his execution, Mortimer’s widow, Joan de Geneville petitioned Edward to have his body brought home to his former Manor at Wigmore, Herefordshire. At first the King refused the request but later relented and his body was moved to the nearby Wigmore Abbey. Mortimer’s grave site is now lost, but his memory is still honoured in Coventry.

Isabella after Mortimer: Although arrested with Mortimer that night in Nottingham Castle, Isabella was never charged or implicated in any act of treason or murder. In the days following the coup she was initially conducted under guard to Berkhamsted Castle, Hertfordshire. She was later transferred to Windsor Castle where she was placed under house-arrest. However, this was not as bad as it sounds. It is recorded that Isabella spent Christmas 1330 with her daughter-in-law and new grandson. In 1332 she return to her own home at Castle Rising in Norfolk where she was permitted to live a life befitting her royal status until her death on the 22nd Aug. 1358. Like Mortimer, it was the Franciscans who took charge of her mortal remains. She was given a royal funeral at Christ Church Greyfriars, Newgate in London, – also know as simply Greyfriars Church. In a mark of love and respect for her husband, Edward II, Isabella was buried wearing her wedding dress and a casket containing Edwards heart was placed upon her chest.

Romantic legend of Isabella and Mortimer: Mainly based on Victorian writers, a romantic legend has grow-up around the historic Isabella and Mortimer. This story has Edward and his men entering the bedchamber of the couple in Nottingham Castle through a secret and mysterious underground tunnel. Here he is dragged from the bed whilst Isabella pleads to her son for his life. It goes on to tell how the young King mistreated his mother, blaming her for his fathers death. It is further stated that following Mortimer’s execution, Isabella for a time went insane with grief. At the end of her life she supposedly took to wearing the habit of the Holy Orders of The Poor Clares. At her death she chose to be buried alongside her lover in Greyfriars Church. Many writers on the subject still persist in wrongly stating that Mortimer was buried in Greyfriers Church London. Given the real history of events we can see how this tragic tale has come to be.

Ghosts: In the legend Mortimer is ‘spirited away’ from Isabella back along the secret tunnel through which Edward and his men entered the Castle. It is his shuffling footsteps which are said to echo through the passage to this day. If we believe that ghosts are really the spirits of the dead trapped by tragic events in this World, then Isabella is a very busy lady in the afterlife. Not only does her tragic shade still sometimes plead for Mortimer’s life in Nottingham Castle, her deranged spirit is said to haunt Castle Rising, whilst her tragic ghost still weeps for her lover in Greyfriars Church.


Castle Rising. The upper rooms and corridors of the Castle are said to be haunted by the ‘cackling and hysterical ghost of Isabella.


Victorian image of Greyfriars Church London. No memorial to Isabella exists in the Church, but in the twilight of evening, her ghost, clutching the still beating heart of Edward II, is said to flit between the trees and bushes of the churchyard.

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First Look at The Hemlock Stone Scans

















The origin of the Hemlock Stone in Stapleford has puzzled historians and geologists for centuries but for the first time, a 3D laser scan of the monolithic structure has been conducted.

The video has finally been processed and is currently being edited. This video shows the first look of the scan which was conducted by the University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute. The full scan is not yet complete, this video gives us a taster of what has been captured by the scan.

To watch the videos please click on the two links below:

Video 1:

Video 2-

The scan, is part of the Three Stones project, being ran in partnership with the Nottingham Hidden History Team and the University of Nottingham. To learn more about the project click on the link below:


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