The Radford Union Workhouse

After 1834 the Radford Poor Law Union formally came into existence on 4th July 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 19 in number, representing its 4 constituent parishes as listed below: (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians) .

County of Nottingham: Liberty of Brewhouse Yard, Lenton (5), Radford (8), Snenton (5). with the falling population within the Union at the 1831 census had been 22,307 with parishes ranging in size from from Brewhouse Yard (population 30) to Radford itself (12,000). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £2,613 or 2s.4d. per head.

The Radford Union workhouse for 200 inmates was built in 1837-38 at the south side of what is now Hartley Road in Radford, Nottingham. The cost was about £2,600 to build and could accommodate 200 inmates. The designers of the building seem to have based it on the cruciform layout that was popular at this period.

 

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Radford Parish Workhouse, St Peter’s Street, Radford, 1898- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The Radford Parish Workhouse was used up to 1877. From April 1881 it was used by Nottingham Corporation as a ‘Children’s Training Institute’. In the beginning the training institute accommodated 81 children. By 1913 the Central Home and a receiving home plus administrative offices had been added and a further receiving home was opened on the site in 1923. Eventually children’s homes became less institutional and smaller more homely places were provided. However it was not until 1962 that this ‘institute’ ceased to be used and the buildings were later demolished.

 

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

Posted in Nottinghamshire Suburbs, Radford | Leave a comment

The 2nd Battalion 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Foot: Nottingham’s lost battalion

By Michael Kirkby

Home to the Sherwood Foresters Regiment, Nottinghamshire is one of the few counties in England that can boast of such a proud and varied military heritage.

Prior to the formation of The Sherwood Foresters Regiment the main infantry regiment to hail from the area was the 45th (1st Nottinghamshire) Foot. Awarded the county name in 1782 following the War of Independence the 45th was to become one of the major players in the next major war to engulf Europe, the war against Napoleonic France. The 45th was one of the first regiments to land with British forces in Portugal in 1807 and was to pretty much stay with the army there and see the rise and success of Sir Arthur Wellesley, later to become The Duke of Wellington as he took a small and ill equipped army and repeatedly defeated the superior French forces in Portugal, Spain and right into the heart of France itself seven years later.

However, very little is known about the counties other regiment, the 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire). Already an existing regiment from 1755, like the rest of the British army the 59th was issued with a county in 1782. The regiment consisted of 2 battalions during the war with Napoleonic France. The 1st battalion spent much of this time overseas on garrison duty in Java, Mauritius and India but the 2nd battalion, raised in Derbyshire in 1804, was to also play a hand in bringing down the French war machine that was threatening to sweep through Europe.

When war was once again declared in 1808 the 2nd battalion of the 59th Foot (2bn/59th) were on route back to England from Brazil. Needing all troops at hand to combat the French they were re-directed to bolster a force of 12,000 men under Sir David Baird to begin pushing back the French occupying Spain. The first few engagements were a success but the tide soon began to turn against the small British force and eventually they were forced to retreat to Corruna, from where they had first disembarked, under the command of Sir John Moore in late 1808. The retreat was an arduous affair, with scores falling by the roadside in the freezing temperatures, men succumbed to the cold, hunger and disease which cleaved holes through the British ranks. With barely a foothold on the continent, the British had nowhere to run once they reached Corruna and so were forced to turn and hold back the French army massing in front of them.

On 15th January 1809 the British fleet appeared to take the survivors home. With only 300 men to bring to arms, the 2bn/59th were to hold the extreme left of Moore’s line and prevent the French from sweeping around the flank. As the horses, artillery, sick and wounded were boarding the transports the infantry began to come under heavy fire from French artillery. The 81st regiment took such a battering they were pulled from the line and the 2bn/59th brought forward to plug the gap. As the French infantry tried to probe the line for weaknesses the 2bn/59th advanced to stop them. Lieutenant Colonel Fane, the 59ths commander was hit in the head by a musket shot and command fell to Captain Fairfield. The men of the Grenadier and No. 1 Company rushed and scaled a fence causing the French to withdraw form the position. Both these companies had been the furthest point forward of the entire British army covering the retreat from Corruna and the 59th was the last regiment to disengage the enemy as night fell. Their actions in holding the French back allowed the rest of the army to embark onto the transport ships at the cost of 60 killed and wounded. The 59th embarked onto their transport shortly after midnight on the 16th but were not safe from enemy action quite yet. A French shore battery holed the ship carrying the 59th’s Staff and began to sink, almost taking with it the regimental flags had it not been for the quick thinking of Sergeant Major Perkin who rescued them!

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Defence of Corunna- Artist : C L Doughty (1913-85).

The 2bn/59th reached England a day later and spent the next four months rebuilding their numbers by recruiting from local militias. During the British force’s retreat from Corruna, a new strategy had been proposed to open up a new front in Europe in the East. Britain’s European allies, the Prussians and Austrians, had been massing troops which caused Napoleon to take troops from Spain to deal with this threat. The Prussians and Austrians requested that Britain send 40,000 troops to Holland and open up another front to take up more French troops and lessen the pressure in the East. Their request was accepted and in July 1809, 40,000 British troops under the overall command of Lord Chatham sailed into the Scheldt to capture Antwerp.

The small inland island of Walcheren was to make a good launch pad for the British troops to assault Antwerp and disembark their artillery to take up positions. The first task was to capture Flushing, the main town on Walcheren. The capture of the town was not easy and the defenders had managed to bring up more reinforcements than expected but to add to the British frustrations, flooded the fields and surrounding areas of the town turning the ground into a large swamp. The siege of Flushing lasted 2 weeks and eventually only surrendered after two days of heavy British artillery bombardment. However, Flushing was to be the only action of the campaign. The flooding of the fields and the humid air had caused a deadly strain of dysentery to swarm through the British ranks. This ‘Walchern Fever’ had crippling effects on the British army and caused men by the scores to fall prey to it. Totals estimate that the fever claimed 4,000 lives and incapacitated a further 11,500. To make matters worse, Lord Chatham was slow to press home the success of the siege and French Marshall Bernadotte was able to filter in 26,000 troops to hold off a further advance. With so many troops affected by the fever and the French numbers growing Lord Chatham ordered the expedition to be lifted in February 1810. The 2bn/59th, being one of the Walcheren regiments saw no action and suffered 66 losses to the fever.

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The army leaving Walcheren- Photo Credit: http://www.95th-rifles.co.uk/.

By the time they had returned home to England, Sir Arthur Wellesley, now Lord Wellington, was commanding a second, more successful campaign in Spain and Portugal and troops were being redirected back to the Iberian Peninsula. Wellington however, requested that no regiments that fought at Walcheren be sent to Spain for fear they may bring the fever with them and infect his army.

The 2bn/59th would spend the next few years on duty in England, Ireland and Jersey but their luck changed in August 1812 when they were called up to join the army in Spain besieging Cadiz. Though the 2bn/59th arrived as the siege was lifted they spent the next six months on garrison duty in the town.

Napoleon’s disastrous campaign in Russia in 1812 had cost him his best troops and the French were now retreating across Eastern Europe in disarray, this gave Wellington and the Spanish the confidence to launch a new offensive and in spring 1813 the 2bn/59th along with other units sailed to Lisbon to bolster the forces massing there for the big offensive. Reaching Lisbon the 59th commenced upon a 21 day march along the banks of the River Duoro and then fast marched across Northern Spain. Joseph Bonaparte, the Emperor’s brother and usurper of the Spanish throne, moved in to confront Wellington with 60,000 men. On the morning on June 21st 1813 70,000 British and Spanish troops met Joseph Bonaparte’s 58,000 at a place called Vittoria. Between both forces ran the River Zadorra which Wellington intended to cross where a bridge lay at a village called Gamarra Mayor which was held by the French. He first needed to secure the village and bridge, and sent in Robinson’s brigade consisting of the 59th, 4th and 47th regiments to take the village and secure a crossing point for the main army.

The brigade advanced in 3 columns, but the French artillery and musket fire forced the steady advance into a run. As the columns hastily pressed on to the village they halted, formed line and fired a devastating volley into the French ranks, then with a cheer they broke rank and charged headlong into the French troops holding the village. Swarming into the village, the French were unable to hold them back and inevitably broke rank and scattered. As the brigade chased down the fleeing French and pressed on to take the bridge a dozen cannons opened fire on them from the French side of the river. This checked the brigades advance and forced them to retreat allowing the French to come back across and re-occupy the bridge. The British and French found themselves at a stalemate with the British occupying the village but the French occupying the bridge.

The fight for the bridge had cost the entire brigade 500 men of which 160 were from the 2bn/59th, including in that number Lieutenant Colonel Fane, who surviving the bullet to the head at Corruna was hit in the thigh by a cannon ball and died a few days later. Elsewhere on the field, Wellington managed to force an opening in the French lines and split the French position in two. This meant that the French units near the bridge were sent into panic and tried to cross back onto the British side to escape but found their way barred by Robinson’s brigade still holding the village. The result was complete carnage with a massive crush on the bridge forcing men and horses into the water to be swept away to their fates.

Vittoria was the victory Wellington needed to gain a foothold in Spain and secure his position there. Following the battle the 59th’s division was sent south to pursue the French who fell back onto the medieval fortress of San Sebastian.

(c) Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Battle of Vitoria (21 June 1813)- Photo Credit: Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery.

With a small French army holed up in the fortress Wellington decided to lay siege to the fortress in a manner similar to Badajoz and Cuidad Rodrigo in early 1812. Fearing the repercussions of these sieges, when the British troops, eventually breaking through after months of entrenchment, went on a rampage of loot, murder and drunkenness; Wellington wanted a quick siege to prevent any frustrations from boiling over.

The British first attacked the island of Santa Clara and took the monastery of San Bartolomeo to establish batteries from which they could bombard the fortress walls and bring them crumbling down, forming a breach to which Wellington could pour his infantry through. Learning from his lessons during Badajoz and Cuidad Rodrigo, Wellington ordered up a proper siege train to be brought up by boat with proper siege guns instead or regular artillery pieces and outdated Spanish cannons. This was also to be the first siege conducted with the newly established Corps of Sappers and Miners whom were created following the previous sieges where infantry had to dig all entrenchment systems.

As San Sebastian was on the coast, Wellington planned to attack on the morning of August 31st as he could guarantee the tide would be out and the men could assault a third wall. At 11am he sent in the Forlorn Hope, a group of volunteers who would be the first to attack the fortress. The survival rate of the Forlorn Hope was minimal as these were the men to take the brunt of any traps, such as mines exploding and also test the fire power of the defenders. Robinson’s brigade consisting on the 2bn/59th, the 1bn/4th and 2bn/47th, was chosen to attack the main breach and attacked in two columns. The Forlorn Hope had already attacked the main breach and had been slaughtered to the last man by the mines hidden within the rubble. This meant however that Robinson’s brigade only had to deal with defenders on the wall sand escalated the breach. Reaching the top of the breach however the brigade realised there was an inner wall behind from which the defenders were pouring heavy fire into the breach in which the British troops were bottle necked. To make matters worse between the breach in the main wall and the wall behind it was a 30 foot drop lined with chevaux de frise, blocks of wood with sharpened logs, and sword blades hammered in to snag, cut and maim troops.

Robinson’s brigade was left with very little option but to navigate their way either side of the breach across a narrow wall faced with heavy fire opposite them and buttresses that cut across their path. It was a risky and murderous manoeuvre. To alleviate the pressure on the British troops on the walls and building up in the breaches the British siege guns opened up and began to fire into the fortress sand onto the walls harbouring French soldiers. This helped to alleviate the fire being directed towards the British attackers as the French ran for cover. More and more British troops cleared the walls and began to pour into the fortress to tackle the defenders inside. With the town now in British hands the castle towards the rear fell a week later to the 2bn/59th with Captain Francis Fuller being awarded the Peninsula Gold Medal.

It had been a costly affair but San Sebastian had fallen to the British, but at a cost of 1,300 casualties. Robinson’s brigade, having led the attack, suffered 57% casualties of which 350 belonged to the 2bn/59th who’s Light Company was obliterated in the attack. General Robinson gave special mention to the 59th in his report to General Ross, the 59th’s Colonel, following the battle claiming that:

Nothing could exceed the intrepidity of the Regiment; it rushed forward cheering and gained the top of the breach under a fire that threatened the destruction of the whole party.”

In the months following San Sebastian the British army began to push onto the Spanish – French border, with the 2bn/59th being sent to occupy St Jean de Luz on the River Nive.

The next main objective was the extremely loyal Bonapartist town in the south, Bayonne. Bayonne was of strategic and moral importance for the army as the roads from the town kept the rest of the army supplied in France, if Bayonne was cut, then so was the army’s stomach and Paris lost its main coastal supply.

On 10th December 1813, the Comte D’Erlon’s force moved in to stop Wellington’s 63,000 strong army from marching on Bayonne. The 1st and 5th Divisions (where the 2bn/59th was) were stationed towards the town of Anglet. D’Erlon sent forward 50,000 men to pin them down so he could attack Wellington’s centre. D’Erlon and Wellington faced each other for three days attacking and counter attacking until the 13th December when General Hill and Marshall Soult’s forces became separated from their armies and battled it out alone with Hill forcing Soult to retreat on Bayonne. With Soult gone D’ Erlon’s force weakened and he was forced to retreat.

The Battle of the Nive had cost the 2bn/59th 159 dead and wounded sustained when being pressed by Soult’s forces to find a way through. The Battle of the Nive was to be the 2bn/59ths final encounter of the Peninsular War. Following the battle they were stationed on the French border and in April 1814 Toulouse fell to the British forcing the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. Following his abdication the 2bn/59th were sent to Ireland for garrison duty.

The 2bn/59th were not to rest long in Ireland however, as in March 1815 Napoleon skipped exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba and returned to Paris to once again plunge Europe into warfare. Wellington, now title The Duke of Wellington, was stationed in Brussels with the main bulk of his veteran regiments scattered over the globe. Wellington, together with the Dutch and Prussians pieced together an army ready to face Napoleon. Any British regiments still on home service were called up and hastily made their way to the Low Countries. The 2bn/59th sailed from Ireland to Kent and from there made their way to Ostend in Holland where they came ashore on May 3rd 1815 and quartered at Oudenarde.

On July 17th the French troops first engaged the British and their Dutch allies at Quatre Bras which though was an allied victory, Wellington retreated his force to the ridge of Mont St Jean close to the tiny Belgian hamlet of Waterloo, there to engage the main French force. The French drew up to do battle with the British and allied force on 18th June and in a battle that was 10 hours long the fate of Europe hung in the balance. Throughout the day the French attacked various positions in the allied line focussing heavily on taking the fortified chateau of Hougomont, they launched mass cavalry charges hoping to break the British line but still could not force an entrance. At about 3:30pm the Prussian army arrived at the field to support the British and Dutch and Napoleon launched one final gamble to break through. This was repulsed by Wellington who launched a surprise counter defence that was the final straw to break the French morale. Napoleon’s army turned and fled.

The 2bn/59th were not directly engaged at Waterloo but were stationed at the village of Hal to block the main Paris to Brussels road. This road was extremely important to prevent reinforcements form coming through but the 2bn/59th did succeed in holding off French cavalry who were scouting the area to find a route around the flank of the British army. Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo the 2bn/59th was placed at the head of the British army as it marched into France on 22nd June 1815 owing to the fact that they were at full strength.

The French army, though defeated, made several attempts to stand and fight during their retreat. At Cambrai the French tried to make a stand and killed 5 soldiers of the 59th, they were easily overwhelmed and surrendered. On July 5th the British army neared Paris and set up camp on the outskirts. The 59th encamped on the north side of the city separated from the French capital by a canal. With Paris still in French hands whilst the government deliberated a surrender, French and British sentries in both camps would frequently engage in taking pot shots at each other and during the peace negotiations a sentry of the 59th was killed in a skirmish with French soldiers.

Eventually, peace was negotiated, the British marched into Paris and Napoleon Bonaparte was once again exiled to the tiny island of St Helena in the Atlantic where he could be of no trouble to anyone. The 59th billeted in France for the winter and in December 1815 marched to Calais where they boarded a ship back to Dover and then to Ireland.

With the war with France over, Europe was still a very unstable place and war with any country was imminent. The 2bn/59th would have been guaranteed many more adventures soldiering.

Unfortunately, with a large army no longer needed, the 2bn/59th was disbanded in 1816. The 2nd Battalion of the 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment were only in operation for twelve years but during that time they had taken part in the largest evacuation of troops from the continent prior to Dunkirk at Corruna, holding off the French whilst the rest of the British army escaped, had taken part in the disastrous Walcheren Campaign and had been amongst the first troops into San Sebastian, the last major siege of the Napoleonic War. Furthermore, in sweeping up the last pockets of resistance following Waterloo they were possibly the last troops to become casualties of war with Napoleonic France that had been waged on and off since 1793.

The 1st Battalion of the 59th would continue to serve and have a long and distinguished career during the Victorian age of Empire building until 1881 when the army reforms merged them with the 30th (Cambridgeshire) Foot to become the East Lancashire Regiment and the colours of the 59th regiment were put up for good.

Further information on the 2/59th regiment can be found in:

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Radford: Ilkeston Road

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The White Horse, c 1906- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

This public House was built in 1661 and was located on Ilkeston Road in Radford. The original 17th century Coaching Inn was pulled down and replaced by the present building in 1912. In the front wall of the pub was a diamond date stone. The date stone can be seen in the above photograph just below the cast iron guttering that runs across the building below the two upstairs windows. The shape of the gable end and pediments also date the building. The building was built of hand made bricks that were formed in wooden brick moulds. They were measured  9″ by 2½” by 4″. Patterns in the brickwork were made using the different coloured bricks that were generated by the old fashioned way of firing bricks.

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Early Molded Brick- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Firing was done by making two parallel walls of brick. Bricks were placed across the top forming a long narrow passage. As the brick walls were being built up the space between was filled with charcoal and other combustible materials . A small fire was built at one end so that the wind would use the passage like a chimney and burn through to the other end. This method of firing would produce bricks of varying colour depending on the position of the bricks in relation to the fire. Colours would vary from light orange to deep purple. Bricks which were closer to the fire would vitrify. Very high temperatures would make the silica in the clay become molten and form glass. These bricks were particularly used to form patterns.

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Ilkeston Road, Radford, Nottingham, early 20th century- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Ilkeston Road runs from Canning Circus to St Peter`s Street near to the old Radford Railway Station.

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The Crown Hotel, c 1935- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The Crown Hotel  was located in an old area called Radford Marsh. This was on the main Nottingham to Ilkeston Road. Opposite to the Crown Hotel was Radford station. The station building can be seen on the bridge in the above photograph. The original Crown Hotel was demolished around 1935 due to road widening of the Ilkeston Road and St Peter’s Street junction. The net result of the demolition of this fine looking building was a gain of only about a yard or so. The title and licence of the Crown was taken in 1935 to the then very modern building at the Western Boulevard and Middleton Boulevard Island. The  second Crown Hotel still survives and is still in existence as a public house.

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The Present Crown Hotel, c 1975. Radford Bridge Road is on the left and Western Boulevard is on the right side of the photograph-Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

Radford Railway Station was on the Midland Main Line and Robin Hood Line in Radford. It was opened by the Midland Railway in 1848, and closed in 1964. No trace of it remains beyond different coloured brickwork on the A609 road bridge where steps went down to the platform. 

 

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Radford Railway Station, Ilkeston Road, Radford, Nottingham- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

 

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

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The Old General: A Christmas Tradition

by Joe Earp

Many residents and visitors to Hyson Green will fondly remember the Old General Public House. The pub unfortunately closed a few years ago. The pub building still survives standing on the corner of Radford Road and Bobbers Mill Road. The most prominent feature of the pub was the statue of The Old General. Many readers will have fond memories of seeing the Old General each Christmas in his Santa Claus regalia.

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The Old General Public House, c 1912- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

The statue which was above the entrance to the pub what that of Benjamin Mayo. Benjamin Mayo or ‘Old General’ was an eccentric character of Nottingham. The poor house of St. Peter’s was the home of Benjamin Mayo better known as the ‘Old General.’ He was born sometime about 1779 and he died in 1843. Ben would today be classed as someone who has learning difficulties. Moreover if he had lived today, he would still be a Nottingham ‘Local Legend’.

For more on Ben Mayo, click on the link below:

https://nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-old-general-benjamin-mayo-of-nottingham/

It was reported last year by the Nottingham Post that the future of the statue looked grim. The paper reported “ The future of a beloved 120-year-old pub landmark is hanging in the balance, according to campaigners. The statue of the Old General, a figure of local folklore, will be moved from its location in the window of the Old General, in Radford Road, as developers move in to transform the site. The development, which will turn the former pub into a mixture of shops and flats, will involve the repositioning of the statue from where it has stood overlooking the street for more than a century”.

Many of our followers on our Facebook page have many fond memories of seeing Ben at Christmas. One person commented “I lived at Basford and remember seeing the statue each time we went. Hyson Green use to be a good place to shop in those days. You had Woolworths, Parrs the butcher, and loads of pubs. We must have gone in all of them at one time or another. The highlight at Christmas was having a drink in the Old General and seeing the statue in his Santa outfit. I am 77 now, so that was quite a few years ago”. Another person commented, “You always knew it was nearly Christmas when you saw him dressed as Santa”.

Although there was a lot of concern from the local community and from Nottingham CAMRA, the local Council has shown little interest in saving the statue and keeping it in it’s original spot. A report from the council stated “Although the statue of the Old General is of local value, there is no statutory control to protect it and the statue could have been removed or lost at any time. The figure is in a very poor and dangerous condition. It is not considered practical to retain the statue in its first-floor position”.

The Old General was first dressed in his Christmas regalia in the early 1900s. He had just gone over 100 dresses when the pub closed. Recently there was a move to restore the custom of dressing the statue, but unfortunately this came to no fruition. Hopefully if the statue is restored at the original site or even moved to a prominent area, the custom of ‘dressing the Old General’ will continue for many more years to come.

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The Old General in his ‘traditional’ Christmas Regalia- Photo Credit: Ed Dexter.

Posted in Hyson Green, Nottinghamshire Suburbs, Nottinghamshire Traditional Customs and Ceremonies | 1 Comment

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 | 1 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.

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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.

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

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

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‘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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Henry Ireton- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted in Attenborough, Nottinghamshire Suburbs | Leave a comment