Saturday, March 15, 2014

The birth of the Dukeries and Bess of Hardwick.


 Above: Detail from Chapman's 1774 map of Nottinghamshire showing the layout of the Dukeries estates.

The Dukeries is the name given in the 19th Century to an area in the north of Nottinghamshire covering approximately fifty square miles, and which contained no less than four ducal seats in close proximity: Clumber House, seat of the Dukes of Newcastle, Thoresby Hall, seat of the Dukes of Kingston, (subsequently the Earls Manvers), Welbeck Abbey, seat of the Dukes of Portland, and Worksop Manor, seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. From the mid-16th to the mid-20th century these estates were owned by some of the most prominent, influential families in England.  A fifth large country house, Rufford Abbey, was not a ducal seat but was closely associated with the above.

The reason this unusually large number of ducal families resided so close and in apparent harmony is due to a shared heritage. It started when Elizabeth Hardwick (Bess of Hardwick) married Sir William Cavendish. Being a court official during Henry 8th’s dissolution of the monasteries, William Cavendish was able to pick and choose the best areas of land and buildings for himself. It was probably Bess who persuaded William to then sell his properties in the south and purchase the Chatsworth estates in Derbyshire (her home county). Bess’ passion for building and forming estates had begun.

Their first child, Frances Cavendish, would marry Sir Henry Pierrepont, MP. Their son, Robert Pierrepont, would become the 1st Earl of Kingston-Upon-Hull, and purchase Thoresby from William Lodge, an Alderman of London. It would be Robert’s second son, William, who became the 4th Earl of Kingston and merged the lands he owned in Perlethorpe and Thoresby to form Thoresby Park.

Bess and William’s 5th child, Charles Cavendish, married Baroness Catherine Ogle. Their family home became Welbeck Abbey, eventually the ducal seat of the Duke of Portland, and their son, William Cavendish, would become 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the title associated with the ducal seat of Clumber House.

Lastly, Bess and William’s 7th child, Mary Cavendish, became the wife of Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, giving birth to Alethea (a.k.a. Althea). Alethea Talbot would marry Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Norfolk, the title associated with the ducal seat of Worksop Manor.

By the time of her fourth and final marriage to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Bess was already one of the richest and most influential women in England. Talbot was one of the premier aristocrats of the realm, and Lord of the Manor of Worksop. He had seven children by his first marriage, two of whom would marry two of Bess’s in a double ceremony: Mary Cavendish, aged 12, married
Shrewsbury's eldest son Gilbert, aged 16, while Henry Cavendish, aged 18, married Shrewsbury's daughter Lady Grace Talbot, aged 8.

So it was that Elizabeth Hardwick’s (Bess of Hardwick’s) descendants inherited, purchased or gained by marriage Worksop Manor, Welbeck Abbey, Rufford Abbey, Clumber and Thoresby, lands which because of their interlinking relationships and close proximity would become known as the Dukeries.

For more information about the beginnings of Thoresby Estate, and Sir Robert Pierrepont 1st Earl of Kingston upon Hull, click on THIS LINK. I shall post individual articles on Clumber, Welbeck, Worksop and Rufford at a future date.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Perlethorpe floods, Thoresby Estate, January 2014.

This Dukeries blog has always concentrated on the historical aspect of the subject. However, because what is happening right now in Perlethorpe Village, Thoresby Estate, is in itself a historic moment with far reaching consequences, I thought a post about contemporary issues would be in order.

In late September, 2013, it was already apparent that the River Meden's water level at Perlethorpe bridge had risen significantly. Not only that, but it appeared to be in a state of stagnation rather than flowing. (See this video). By January, 2014, the condition had worsened dramatically, as these photographs show. Where the river runs through Budby, before entering Thoresby Lake, the current is flowing quite freely and continues to do so as it passes Thoresby Hall at 7 Ton Bridge. The problem is clearly in the Perlethorpe region.

I had assumed perhaps wrongly that a lack of dredging in previous years had accounted for the problem, especially as the UK has seen a significant change in rainfall patterns. But I am informed that subsidence caused by old coal mines beneath Thoresby Estate may have compounded the issue. (The same kind of subsidence which affected the Hall so badly in past decades). Whatever the cause, the solution is likely to call for significant changes to that part of the village if the water remains. Will the road have to be raised? Would that mean the sad loss of the current bridge? Is that road even necessary to anyone apart for the farm workers, as other routes are certainly available. Time will tell. But Perlethorpe might never look quite the same again.

Above: The view looking towards the village from the roadside near the old post office.

 You can read more about Perlethorpe Village on THIS LINK and THIS LINK.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Kennels, Thoresby Estate.

Most people are totally unaware that the original building of The Kennels, on Thoresby Estate, is much older than the current Thoresby Hall. Or that it was directly linked to the Hall via “a long straight canal”. (H. Repton). The Kennels were built c.1738, about half a mile east of the first Thoresby Hall which was situated very close to the lake. (See THIS LINK). The name of the building is self explanatory, this being the site where the Duke's hunting dogs were kept. Just how much of the building standing there today is part of the original would be hard to assess. We do know that architect John Carr renovated The Kennels in 1790, c.20 years after the second Thoresby Hall was completed. During the 22 years between the fire of 1745 which destroyed the first Thoresby Hall, and the building of a second (THIS LINK), Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston, certainly had long periods of residence on Thoresby Estate monitoring the progress of the new building, and of course the extensions to his beloved Lake. So it is more than likely The Kennels were the place he lived for at least part of that time.

The precise route of the canal which linked the Kennels with Thoresby Hall, and exactly how much it redefined the natural course of the River Meden, cannot be exactly determined. A painting by Knyff (1705) (see THIS LINK) places as much attention on a very geometric canal as it does the Hall in its intention to convey the wealth and landscaping tastes of the Duke. In 1791 the notable landscape gardener Humphrey Repton suggested changes to this “600 yard straight canal leading to a corn mill” which would both reduce a tendency towards stagnation near the Hall and allow the water to find its own more natural course as it approached the Kennels, thus freeing space there for a glade or lawn.
Above: The route of the canal in 1774 as compared to the River Meden today. The Kennels can also be seen on THIS LINK, in a video made on permitted walk through Thoresby Estate.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thoresby & Perlethorpe during World War 2

Above: Records state that a brick building near the dam, used by gardeners and park keepers working in the Pleasure Grounds, became a place for gas mask training during WW2. I have a strong suspicion this is it. Hence an obvious reluctance to demolish it and disturb the poisonous chemicals involved.

During World War 2 the Midlands became a training ground for tank crews. The MoD thought (wrongly), that the terrain resembled that of France. During this time both Thoresby Hall and The Kennels were taken over by the military. However, this article is not about the military aspect of those years but rather the activities of the people of Perlethorpe and Thoresby.

The Perlethorpe and Budby War Effort:
The women of both villages organized several contributions towards the war effort. From November 1939 to February 1940 they knitted assorted garments for the Notts Services Comforts Fund. Everything from pants to blankets. Both villages also donated eggs to Mansfield hospital, whilst a waste paper salvage scheme in Perlethorpe involved boys making weekly collections for a stockpile to be sold in Nottingham. Similarly a dump was established for tins and bones, waste materials helpful in the production of munitions. Mrs Dawson ran Perlethorpe Post Office at this time and she organized a successful National Savings Scheme for both villages to help fund the fight for victory, whilst other women instigated a Perlethorpe Spitfire Fund. 1941 saw a further fund raiser: Warship Week.

Perlethorpe School during the war:
During 1940 the school only closed for one week in August. This was on account of all the evacuees on the estate who naturally needed monitoring as much as educating during what must have been a stressful time. Thoresby started taking in evacuees from the South as early as June 1940. It also received evacuees from Sheffield before the end of that year. One activity the school children are known to have been involved in was the posting of tobacco to sailors via the Overseas League, for which they received postcards of thanks. Of much less fun must have been the regular practise sessions wearing gas masks for fifteen minutes at a time. In early 1941 parents received a letter advising their children be inoculated against diphtheria, but I was surprised to discover a County Survey health report from March that found the children to be sub normal regarding their nutrition levels. And this in a countryside where fresh meat and vegetables were plentiful? The school raised further donations to the war effort by Carol Singing, which was duly sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, resulting in a mention on BBC radio news in December 1941. The year after that their carols raised money for Red Cross Prisoners of War, whilst the girls made and sold soft toys to support the Wings for Victory fund. In January 1942 temperatures inside the school dipped below freezing, and a subsequent outbreak of mumps and whooping cough in February and May was perhaps not surprising. In the Summer of 1942 funds were raised by children collecting nettles for the medicinal properties. The following year they collected Foxgloves for the same reason. 1943 was an important year in the history of the school as it saw the start of a school canteen system, providing a hot dinner for the significant number who stayed during the lunch break.

(See more about Perlethorpe School on THIS LINK).

Was Thoresby Estate bombed during the war?
During late August 1940 Thoresby, Budby and nearby Walesby were bombed on four occasions. Light, probably speculative attacks. Air raid warden W A Mendham noted in his diary that a rabbit was killed on the 19th August in the north of Budby. But the following week the Woodyard actually caught fire from an incendiary bomb. In May 1944 a Wellington bomber from Gamston, intended to be taking part in a supply drop on France, suffered engine failure over Thoresby and collided with the tree tops. It crashed North West of the Kennels (before the junction with Netherfield Lane.) Five of the six man crew were killed.

After the War:
During the 1950s, long after the tanks had all left the Park, the children of Thoresby Estate were left with one very tangible reminder of their presence. The infamous Tank Dip! Constructed in the north of the estate, the other side of Netherfield lane, and slowly filled by a tap from Piper Well underground reservoir, this stagnant installation which had once tested the waterproofing on the tanks became the school swimming pool. I remember hanging on to a pole the width of the pool, together with the rest of the class, and being dragged down the its length. I'm unsure whether we were meant to be learning to swim or simply dredging the green scum from the surface. (Note: Contrary to some opinions, the Tank Dip is now filled in and planted over.)

Above: Children Ian & Christine Craig dangle their feet in Thoresby Estate's tank dip / swimming pool. Father & grandfather sat behind. c. 1954.


Credit where it's due: The years described in the above post are before my time on the estate. My research comes from several lectures, conversations & sources. But the "Thoresby Park" research notes compiled by C. A. Bollans, especially as they relate to Perlethorpe School, were of particular and valid help and I credit them as such.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thoresby Estate walks. The "permitted walk" part 2.

Thoresby Estate's permitted walk, late September 2013. Thoresby is steeped in history, but much of its well tended estate has been off limits for decades. Happily one can now access many scenic areas of interest. For part 1 of this Thoresby Walks video see THIS LINK.

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Thoresby Estate woods, plantations, groves & avenues.


 In 1706 the 5th Earl of Kingston applied for permission to make a “ride” through Bilhaugh Wood. Permission was necessary because, although the 4th Earl had gained the right to create a Park by enclosure from Sherwood Forest, the 5th Earl’s plans travelled beyond that boundary. The route so created would facilitate a quicker journey direct from the original Thoresby Hall (1683), to Ollerton town and Newark beyond. Permission was granted.

Clearly visible on Google maps (though long since abandoned and off limits today) the “ride” led from the original Thoresby Hall by the east of the lake, over the original site of the Green Bridge, through the Pleasure Gardens, behind where one day would be built the Woodyard complex, before taking an absolutely straight line for one mile south, stopping at the lodge which would later become Buck Gates. Emerging from those gates the route continued in another straight line southeast for one mile to reach the town of Ollerton. The last part of this route became Beech Avenue, a very popular and scenic site in its heyday, whilst the part nearest the Hall, a few yards up the road from the Woodyard complex, became known as Chestnut Avenue.

Chestnut Avenue suffered like every other landscaped area of Thoresby as trends in forestry changed. However, there is a story that the Estate Manager Mr Holder was dismissed in the early 1950's when Lady Manvers discovered he had started felling trees there. Holder was replaced by Mr Tapper, who's foresight started a vigorous planting scheme in Thoresby. Apparently Chestnut Avenue was restored in 2000 by clearing it of the silver birches which had taken root along its length over the decades.

Above: Two photographs from 1964 taken in Chestnut Avenue. The lower shows the view from atop one of those chestnut trees looking towards the woods which concealed proteus camp and the A614.
Above: Green Drive is less easy to pinpoint. This postcard places it near to Buck Gates, and at the end of Chestnut Avenue there were indeed several such woodland paths converging at the lodge.

See also these links for Beech Avenue, Buck Gates, and Thoresby Lodges.

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Thoresby Park / Thoresby Estate various photographs part 2.

Above: Oil painting (1959) depicting a fox hunt gathering in front of Thoresby Hall. The artist, Guy Marson, was a friend of Lady Manvers at the time and I believe he either stayed in the Hall or perhaps one of the flats around the courtyard. 10" x 8" prints were made from this work and during the early sixties they could often be found framed and hung on the walls of many an estate worker's home. The original would hang inside the Social Club at Perlethorpe Village Hall.


The Carpenter's Grave, Perlethorpe Churchyard.

It is well reported that successive Pierrepont / Manvers families held their estate workers in high esteem. In the 1960s, joiners like Gran Gilliver could as readily find themselves repairing or making new parts for Victorian and Queen Anne furniture items in Thoresby Hall as they could making new window frames or doors for the estate’s places of residence. Of some prominence in Perlethorpe Church graveyard is a remarkable headstone for one such joiner, Alfred Middleton. Buried there after his death in January 1935, the tools of his trade are carved into the base of a rustic cross.

You can read more about perlethorpe churchyard on THIS LINK, and THIS LINK.

The Tank Roads of World War 2.

The wooded areas close to Thoresby Hall retain the concrete roads which were put down at the start of World War 2 when Thoresby became a training ground for soldiers bound for France.

You can read more about Thoresby at War on THIS LINK.

A new Beech Avenue?

 Above: Persons staying at Thoresby Estate's  Sherwood Hideaway have access to several walk ways through the woodlands. The planting along this one seems destined to become a replica of the original Beech Avenue which lies parallel, very heavily overgrown, a few yards to the west, although still visible on aerial photographs. (More about Beech Avenue on THIS LINK).

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Perlethorpe Village Hall and Social Club.

In the mid 1950s the possibility of building a Village Hall in Perlethorpe began to be discussed by a Committee largely led by Lady Rozelle Manvers, recently become Lady Rozelle Beattie following her marriage to Major Alexander Beattie. It was agreed that the Ministry of Education would provide a third of the building costs assessed to be c.£4,500. The villagers themselves were also required to make a contribution for the equipment involved and this was raised via a range of typical fund raising events such as dances, prize draws, and even a clay pigeon shoot.

No sooner was the Village Hall completed than it became the temporary site for local school children to continue their classes whilst a similarly modern extension was built on to the original Perlethorpe C of E Primary School a few yards up the road. The Village Hall was a big success with the locals. I remember dancing in childhood Twist competitions and even on one occasion miming to the theme from the TV series “Rawhide”.

In 1962 a Social Club was added by the side of the hall. This was efficiently run by Jerry Mountjoy whose family had moved from London and lived in Perlethorpe Village on Jacksons Hill. At the time of writing (2013) both Perlethorpe Village hall and its Social Club, are still a thriving business today.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Thoresby Estate. The "permitted walk, part 1."

Thoresby Estate's permitted walk, late May 2013. Thoresby is steeped in history, but much of its well tended estate has been off limits for decades. Happily one can now access many scenic areas of interest.Of especial interest here is the Mill beside the River Meden. This was still in operation at the start of the 1920s to grind oats and corn for cattle feed.

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Places close to Thoresby with a Robin Hood connection.

Persons visiting Thoresby, staying at Thoresby Hotel, or residing in the area, might like to know of locations nearby which are historically linked to the legend of Robin Hood. If so, my "Robin Hood Was Here" blog contains many videos, pictures, and information, which will be of interest. Most of these locations are within an hours drive of Thoresby. See this link: http://robin-hood-was-here.blogspot.com/

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thoresby Estate workers c.1962

Seated on the steps leading from the Blue Dining Room into the gardens at Thoresby Hall, these seven workers were mostly based in the Woodyard on Thoresby Estate. Back row left to right: Ted Williamson (son of Jack, and one of the operators in the saw mill), Les Dennison, Charlie Leepins, Bob Dickinson. Bottom row left to right: William (Bill) Craig (foreman at the Woodyard and also known as Jock), Bill Nunn (plumber), Alf Dennison.

Any errors in these names / details can be reported via leaving a comment.
Above: A team of workers no doubt sent down from The Woodyard to clear the snow in front of the gates at Perlethorpe Church. The only person I can recognise with any certainty is Jack Kenyon on the left, who lived in the Almshouses. I believe the picture was taken c.1960. (Credit goes to David Reddish for making this photo available).

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Perlethorpe School c.1953 / 54

Top L - R: Mrs Storer, Carol Mendan, Pauline Johnstone, John Singleton, Richard Gill, Pamela Cooper, Stuart Johnstone, Denise ?, Mrs Bruce.

Middle: Bry?, Hazel Wood, Ronnie Pashley, Janet ?, Josephine Jackson, Christopher Deveraux, David Reddish, Philip?.

Bottom L - R: Unknown boy, Joanne Wignall, Unknown girl, Kenneth?, Ian Wigley, Virginia Crowden, Christine Craig, Cynthia Wilk, Madelaine Crowden.

Perlethorpe School children, with their two teachers, c.1953 / 54. Mrs Storer was in charge of the juniors prior to the arrival of Mrs Ward. Mrs Bruce was the Headmistress, and in charge of the seniors as they approached the all important 11-plus. (Her pass rate was very high).

Apologies to anyone whose name may be misspelt. Mistakes can always be corrected upon request. For more about Perlethorpe School, now Perlethorpe Environmental Centre, visit THIS LINK, THIS LINK, and THIS LINK.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Thoresby Park / Thoresby Estate various photographs.

Above: Nelson's Pyramid. Charles Pierrepont, like his father before him, served in the Navy and saw active service against the French in 1798. Not surprisingly then, the Pierrepont family were ardent admirers of Lord Nelson. The south side of Thoresby Lake in particular features many tributes to the famous admiral, such as Nelson’s Grove, incorporating Nelson’s Lodge (used for many years by the game keepers), and Nelson’s Pyramid. It is approximately 12ft high (c.3.5 meters). It was built in 1799 by Charles Herbert, specifically to commemorate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile, and on each inner side of the entrance way were listed both the French and English ships involved, together with details about guns and casualties. I have not visited Nelson’s Pyramid myself, but am told that soldiers billeted in that region during the first and / or second World Wars added their own names to the walls. (My thanks to Stephen Richard Aizlewood for the use of his photograph).
Above: Proteus Camp. There are several post cards depicting troops billeted in Thoresby Park during both World War 1 and 2, especially in tents across the road from Perlethorpe Church. Also, there are Lady Manvers’ splendid paintings which record such times. In 1942 a more permanent military presence, Proteus Camp, was established in the woods near Ollerton roundabout. This photograph shows Proteus Camp as it was in 1965. At its peak Proteus Camp contained 1,000 personnel. In later years the camp became known as the Dukeries Training Centre before becoming “surplus to requirements” and closing down in 2004. In 2008 plans were developed to use the site for new cabins as holiday homes.
Above: The Roundhouse, also known as “Summer Boxes”, stands amongst the trees a little further up the hill from Thoresby Hall itself. In the days when horses were the most common source of power throughout Thoresby Estate, for transporting timber, or working on the farm, this is where they would be kept during the Summer months. During Winter they would be moved into the stables in the courtyard opposite. These days the Roundhouse is used to sell plants to visitors. Below: Today, a feeding trough in the corner of Thoresby Gallery indicates its former use as just such a stable.

Above: William Gordon Craig (centre), father of William Craig the Woodyard’s foreman of the time, was the head gardener at Thoresby Hall during the second half of the 1950s. I don’t know the names of the two men seated each side of him. (Possibly Charlie or Edgar Leapins on the left?) When William Gordon returned to the land he was homesick for he was replaced by Mr MacSkimming, another lowland Scot, who would be replaced in turn by Mr Nettleship (1963 / 64).

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gargoyles on Perlethorpe Church, Thoresby.

This is just a selection of the splendid gargoyles to be found placed around Perlethorpe Church, Thoresby Estate. (Church of St John the Evangelist). There are many others, and it seems no two are the same. Surely as splendid a collection as can be found anywhere.
For more about Perlethorpe Church see THIS LINK, and THIS LINK.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thoresby Hall's final days as a Stately Home.

Thoresby Hall the "Stately Home", as opposed to the successful hotel it is today, opened its doors to the general public on 29th March, 1957. It was an event largely organised by Major Beattie, Lady Rozelle and Countess Manvers being on holiday in the Mediterranean on that day. (Link). Chris Stanley, originally appointed as Estate Accountant, would then take over in subsequent years as the main organiser for such Open Days. Typically, the Hall would be open on weekends, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Bank Holidays.

During the late 1950s / 1960s, when visits to stately homes were a favoured pastime with the British public, Thoresby Hall was a great success. It’s charm originated from the authenticity of the place, combined with simple “novelty attractions” as a the model railway which operated for there for a time, and even a late 60s attempt at a small "zoo" inside the gates and organised by a Mr Dewhurst. Standing inside Thoresby Hall one sensed that this was indeed a Home; an atmosphere Countess Manvers’ paintings made even more tangible.

It is a sad irony that the coal mining beneath Thoresby Estate, responsible for much of its wealth, would one day help provoke the downfall of the Hall itself as the 1970s drew to a close. I remember visiting Thoresby Hall in 1979. Countess Manvers was standing by the piano in the Main Inner Hall, and spent some time chatting to my parents, especially my father with whom she’d had a lot of contact during his years on the Estate. Amidst the nearby boxes of souvenir pencils and brochures, there was a sense of things coming to an end.

In 1980, whilst still permitting Thoresby Hall to remain the home of Countess Manvers, the National Coal Board purchased its actual structure. Their motivation for doing so made sound business sense: Mining was still active in the immediate surroundings, resulting in considerable damage to Thoresby Lake, and a risk of structural damage elsewhere. Lady Manvers was allowed to open the Hall to the public if and when she so desired, but I have no precise date for when Thoresby Hall, as a “stately home” closed its doors to that practice. Lady Manvers passed away in 1984.

According to the Telegraph colour supplement (27 November, 1988), the subsequent sale of Thoresby Hall to the Australian-based Roo Management, would it seem prove controversial: Roo were apparently clear about their intention to strip the five main Victorian State Rooms of their contents, converting them to part of a hotel. In opposition to their proposal was local developer Geoffrey Whittaker, who vowed to preserve intact the unique contents of these State Rooms as a part of his own plans also to convert Thoresby Hall into a luxury hotel. Not only that, but Whittaker outbid Roo in a written offer of £1.6 million as opposed to Roo’s £1.5. However, and for whatever reason, The National Coal Board seemed intent on selling to Roo, “in spite of strong opposition and protests from the heritage lobby and at least 15 Mps” *. As a consequence, in May / June 1989, Sotheby’s auctioned off much of the original and unique contents of Thoresby Hall, soon after Roo had acquired the property. Roo would then own the Hall for approximately only one year, before putting it back on the market with an estimated price of £3 - £4 million. This time Geoffrey Whittaker was successful in buying it, but only six months later the developers went bankrupt and the Official Receiver had to take over.

The 1990s was surely Thoresby Hall’s darkest decade. I remember having a conversation with retired Perlethorpe teacher C. Allan Bollans (see sidebar credits), during this time, when he was working at the Art Gallery there. The threat of looting had been a problem, and perhaps understandably, repairs such as those made by the National Coal Board to the Lake in 1992 (this link), were based on finances rather than historical restoration. But there was to be a happy ending…

In 2000 Warners successfully took over Thoresby Hall and opened a luxury hotel on the site. Not only that, but their policy towards an adult clientele, was surely a positive influence on the re-opening of scenic walks  leading from Thoresby Hall to Perlethorpe Village. Such walkways, now enjoyed by hotel guests and visitors alike, had not been accessible for considerable years. (See THIS LINK for video). The success of Warners, combined with the quality of the Art Gallery, restaurant, and craft shops based in the Courtyard, once again make a visit to Thoresby Hall an attractive proposition.

Note: This website has no official links to Warners Holidays, nor Thoresby Estate itself. Recommendations to visit the same are 100% positive; given in independent good faith.

(*Quotes and details regarding the sale of Thoresby Hall in 1988 / 89 taken from Telegraph Magazine, November 27th., 1988. The details and machinations of this sale have no links to subsequent sales of the Hall).
Top b & w photo: A final family visit to Thoresby Hall, the stately home. 1979. Above: The Inner Hall now used by the hotel guests. 2008.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Thoresby Estate Lodges and Cottages.

Thoresby Estate has what may be an almost unique collection of lodges and cottages dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, all originally intended to house key workers on the Estate. Many are under private, well maintained ownership today. Above: Home Farm Lodge.
White Lodge (above) stands on the Southern side of Thoresby Estate, approximately a mile along the A614 from Ollerton Roundabout. It was once called Proteus Lodge, and is referred to as such on late 19th and early 20th century maps, even though local records of 1904 / 08 at that time refer to it as White Lodge.
A building known as White Lodge stood in this area in 1683 when the 3rd Earl Kingston purchased 1270 acres of Bilhaugh woodland for £7,000, thus making it a part of Thoresby Estate. It is not known just how much of the present building (if any) is that original house, but records indicate that the private road alongside the property and leading into Thoresby Estate, was the one originally laid by Evelyn Pierrepont the 4th Earl. However, the arches that stand there today are the ones which originally stood at Buck Gates until the 1950s.
In 1832 White Lodge was occupied by Chas Paschoud the park keeper, and the Estate's fox hounds are believed to have been kept in the vicinity. In 1851, subsequent park keeper Richard Kemshall shared the lodge with Reverend Augustus C Masters, followed in 1862 by Joseph Cross, in 1864 by head game keeper Thomas R Kemshall, and in 1922 by Thoresby's Estate Agent Hubert Davys Argles. When Lady Sibyl Pierrepont (daughter of the 4th Earl) married Argles in 1923, alterations were carried out on the lodge which became their marital home. Lady Sibyl Pierrepont was superintendent of the Perlethorpe Sunday School.
Rose Cottage (above), which stands a little further up the A614 from White Lodge, was originally built as two homes. Curiously absent from most maps, some 19th century Thoresby Estate records refer to the property as Rosedale Cottages. In 1851 it was the home of Perlethorpe Village miller, J. Chamberlain. In 1862 the estate's milkman Thos Day lived in one cottage, whilst Henry Dodd occupied the other. By 1864, Dodd had moved on and been replaced by miller Robert Budd. It is known that in c.1947 - 52, Rose Cottage was still divided into two properties, one of which was occupied by carpenter & joiner William Craig.
Shepherd's Lodge (above) stands near the mini roundabout, approximately another two mile up the A614 from Rose Cottage. At various times in the 20th century it has also been referred to as Clarke's Lodge. It was built c.1800 by John Carr, at a time when he was engaged in modifications to Thoresby Hall itself. Records indicate that in 1862 John Carnall lived there, and in 1864, Joseph Ellis. One can only assume from the Lodge's title what their occupations were. However, in the 1930s George Hind, who worked the boilers at Thoresby Hall, was the resident.
Cameleon Lodge (above) stands approximately two miles South West of Shepherd's Lodge, alongside the road which cuts through Thoresby Estate and by passes the Hall and the Lake.
Cameleon Lodge was known as Red Lodge in the 18th century because of its red tiles. However, Repton had the lodge washed with stone colouring, painted, and thatched. The name Cameleon was taken from the Roman Goddess. This property has been most associated with the head woodsmen who have worked on Thoresby Estate over the decades, examples including David Jamieson in 1864, and John Smith in the 1930s. Dennis Turnbull took on the role of Head Forester at Thoresby directly after his demobbing from National Service, and lived there in the 1950s / 60s. (Note: Cameleon Lodge is spelt as such on Ordnance Survey maps from at least 1906 to the present day. Some sources, such as THIS LINK, do spell it as Chameleon lodge. I have chosen the former.)
The Almshouses, Perlethorpe, (above) stand opposite Home Farm, on route to Perlethorpe Church (St Mary's), and were built in 1894 by the 3rd Earl "for the benefit of the old labourers on Thoresby Estate". This implies such elegant properties were perhaps intended for those retiring from their labour? Certainly by the 1950s they were occupied by still active workers from the farm and the Woodyard, such as Jack Kenyon.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Perlethorpe Churchyard and the Pierrepont mystery.

Above: The memorial tomb of the mysterious Charles Alphonso Pierrepont.

There were at least two churches in Perlethorpe before the present one. In 1744 Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston, laid the foundation stone from a previous church to commemorate its rebuilding. That stone (long since gone), used to lay in the right east end of the current graveyard and read: "The Church of Peverelthorpe, The Noble and Generous Prince Evelyn, Duke of Kingston, Knight of the Garter, Rebuilt in the year 1744".
Perlethorpe did not have its own vicar. A shrewd agreement was reached in which the vicar of Edwinstowe would receive a small fee from the Duke to hold a service in Perlethorpe once a fortnight, but not be able to lay claim to the kind of tythe he received from other villages. (A tythe barn was a place where 10% of a farm's produce was given to the church and stored). The site of the building was apparently called Pinfold Close. It was described as being of elegant stone, with some stained glass, and carved figures of "Hope" and "Meekness" in the western end. At the east end, inside the buiding and near to the High Altar, stood the memorial tomb of the mysterious Charles Alphonso Pierrepont. His monument stands there to this day, but sadly open to the elements.
In 1836 an Act of Parliament allowed Charles Herbert Pierrepont, 2rd Earl Manvers, to combine Perlethorpe and Thoresby as one parish, supported by his Estate independantly of others, and granting him and his heirs the right to select their own vicar. In 1837 an endowment was made by Charles Herbert of £100 a year. This would be the only source of income for the Vicar of Perlethorpe, and would be charged to Whitemoor Farm.
Above left and below: The grave of the 3rd Earl Manvers (1825 - 1900) who was responsible for so many of the fine buildings we see on Thoresby Estate today. Above centre: The grave of the 6th and final Earl Manvers (1881 - 1955)
The church of 1744 was still standing when in 1876 the 3rd Earl Manvers built the present one, designed by Anthony Salvin, just a year after building the present Thoresby Hall. It was not until 1877 that permision was granted to demolish the old church, and one can only imagine what they must have looked like side by side!
The present graveyard naturally contains the graves of Dukes and Earls, whilst others are situated at Holme Pierrepont. But who was Major Charles Alphonso Pierrepont? His imposing tomb is dated 1812, and tells us he was "A Major in the British Service who lost his life so gallantly while storming an outwork near Burgo". It goes on to describe him as "Of an ancient and respectable family on whom, by his excellent conduct, he conferred honour. He was interred on the field where he fought and fell, September 19th 1812." But although his military records are quite detailed, no-one has established exactly who his parents were, nor where he was born...

For more about Perlethorpe Church see THIS LINK and THIS LINK.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Beech Avenue, Thoresby

Above: Birklands Wood.
In the 19th Century the wooded areas of Birklands, around the Major Oak, and Bilhaugh, next to Ollerton Corner, were popular tourist attractions, both a part of Thoresby Estate. Birklands was landscaped and maintained with a mixture of Oak and Birch, and there is an interesting record of how a 1902 scheme to seed the area with new birch trees was thwarted by pre-myxomatosis levels of rabbit population, before which up to 10,000 rabbits had been shot annually on the estate. The 20th Century naturally took its toll on both the Bilhaugh and Ollerton Corner areas in particular. Timber was needed for two wars, not to mention the opening of a Colliery (the name of which was at first objected to by Thoresby Estate). In 1942 Proteus Camp (eventually re-named the Dukeries Training Area) was established, and both Birklands and the woods at Bilhaugh and Ollerton Corner, were used as ammunition dumps. During these decades the emphasis was clearly not on landscaping for leisure pursuits, but on hard core profitable production and National needs.

Above: Beech Avenue 1969. Photo copyright 2013 Graham Travis and used with permission.

Above: Two paintings of Beech Avenue. For a video of Beech Avenue click here.
Beech Avenue.
These four rows of trees apparently rivalled Robin Hood's Major Oak as a place of both local and national interest. When in 1925 a railway track was planned to run from Thoresby Colliery, through Cockglode, and into Ollerton Corner, letters of protest appeared in The Times. Thanks to public support of Earl Manvers' petition the scheme was dropped. But the woods of Ollerton Corner were cleared for timber needed by the mine.
It is known that the war time entertainer Gracie Fields once visited Beech Avenue whilst staying at the Coaching House, now known as the Hop Pole. Beech Avenue aquired the nickname "the Cathedral" because of the way it branches met over the roadway like the arches over a cathedral's aisle. Alledgedly, at the height of summer, the only light which penetrated was from each end of the Avenue.
Beech Avenue was finally cleared in 1976 / 78, following decades of neglect, overgrowth, old age, the storm damage of 1976, and of course the military presence of Proteus Camp. But it is still clearly labelled on certain maps, and marked by an aging gate at the side of the A614 near Ollerton roundabout (although I believe it was situated a few yards to the right of that gate).
Above: The gate near Ollerton roundabout where Beech Avenue was once situated.
Chestnut Avenue.
From the north western end of Beech Avenue one could continue to Buck Gates and Chestnut Avenue. Chestnut Avenue was a straight carriage ride to the original Thoresby Hall, and it is said that in the 18th Century one could view the original Hall beside Thoresby Lake from the area of Buck Gates lodge.You can read more about Chestnut Avenue on THIS LINK.

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Beech Avenue video, Thoresby Park

Above: Beech Avenue 1969. Photograph copyright 2013 Graham Travis and used with permission.

This film was taken at the gate where the entrance to Beech Avenue once stood. Just inside that gate no signs nor barriers indicating the Private Property of Thoresby Estate were transgressed. Please note and respect that this is private property. The woodlands of Bilhaugh have long since been replanted with quick growing firs, which combine with the brambles to make no reliable allingment of the original Beeches visible.

More about Beech Avenue on THIS LINK.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Buck Gates bucks, Thoresby Park

Contrary to popular belief it was not the job of the lodge keeper to open the gates for everyone. The carriages and coaches of the Earls and Ladies would carry a boy whose job it was to leap off as they approached the gate, open them, close it behind, and leap back on again. He had to be fast as the pony was not meant to stop.
Buck Gates had once been a favoured and picturesque entrance to the Estate, especially prior to World War 2. But that region of the woods between Ollerton and Thoresby would change dramatically due to the timber demands of a Colliery, (not to mention its tip), the war itself, and the establishment of the military training area originally called Proteus Camp. The lodge at Buck Gates was already a thing of the past before the fire which destroyed it in 1956. But the bucks survived.
These magnificent statues were first taken to the Woodyard, where plumber Jack Kenyon attended to some repairs with molten lead and a hot blade, as small boy William Craig Jnr. looked on fascinated, deciding even then what he wanted to do when he grew up. Such was the skill of the workers on Thoresby Estate. It seemed like no task was beyond them when duty called. The stone arches were then moved approximately 2 miles north east of their original site to White Lodge, and the bucks placed on top. In 1980 they were still there but, no doubt a temptation to a growing culture of thieves and vandals, I know not of their present whereabouts. Doubtless melted down.

Above: The stone arches that once stood outside Buck Gates, now on the A614 beside White Lodge.

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Home Farm, Perlethorpe Village

Above: Home Farm (2007) looks almost identical to the way it did sixty years ago. The post box is a later addition, made necessary when the village post office closed down.
Home Farm was one of the three main employers on Thoresby Estate, especially during the post war years of the 1950s. School leavers deciding to stay on the Estate might work on the farm, the Woodyard, or for the Forestry Commission. A growing number were tempted by the wages of Thoresby Colliery at Ollerton, whilst few vacancies now existed in service at Thoresby Hall. I remember the sights, smells and sounds of a wide range of farm produce, from the tall sugar beet which grew where the car park is now situated behind the houses at perlethorpe, to the hay bails stacked high in the central Dutch barn, (burnt down in the early 1960s), to the pig sties which were once located opposite the Village Hall, and from which we would tease the pigs until they jumped over the wall. The pig stye was removed in 1964.
During the 1920s the villagers would take their own milk cans to the farm for their morning and afternoon milk. The dairy maid worked from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. milking the cows and making the cheese and butter. Thoresby Hall was sent daily fresh supplies. In 1936 Frank Cooper was in charge of the farm, and for long after it was sometimes referred to as Cooper's Farm.
On the outer wall to the right of the Home Farm arch was the communal box from which the villagers in the 1950s would collect their bundle of newspapers and comics. This was a typical pocket money duty for many Perlethorpe children, who would eagerly await that day in the week when the family bundle contained their favourites such as "T.V. Comic" with Muffin the Mule (replaced by Sooty), or Dan Dare in "Eagle". The box is still there today (2007), but the railings we had to climb on to reach it are not.
In the early 1960's Maldwyn Fisher was in charge of Home Farm, succeeded in 1963 by John Roberson who died in 1975, after which John Orr took over.

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