Saturday, April 18, 2020



I have now gone through every post and reinstalled those pictures which, for reasons which elude me, disappeared from view. Hopefully now all is well and will remain so.

NOTE: I have now given Thoresby Estate exclusive permission to use any and all of my photographs, and associated texts, for whatever purpose they desire.

19 / 04 / 2020

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The NEW Thoresby House, Thoresby Park.

Lady Rozelle Raynes was the only surviving child of Lady Manvers, so when she passed away in 2015, she (to use an old legal phrase) died “without issue”. In other words, no children of her own to inherit Thoresby Estate. Persons studying the history of the Pierrepont family line as it applies to Thoresby will be aware this situation had happened several times in the past. For example, between 1680 and 1773 there had been no less than four Pierrepont Earls and one Duke who died without a son to take over the estate, and so which had to be passed on to other family members. This time it was a situation well prepared for.

In the late 1960s, Thoresby Estate had been divided between Lady Rozelle and the Trustees of the Thoresby Settlement. Her estate in Kneesall was called the “Lady Rozelle Raynes' Pierrepont Estate”. In the early 1970s, she decided to leave her property to Nottinghamshire-based cousins. Her Kneesall estate went to I.D.P. Thorne, a descendant of the 3rd Earl Manvers, while she and her husband lived in Newham and Devon before retiring back to Thoresby in the early 2000s.

Thoresby Estate was eventually inherited by Hugh Matheson, another descendant of the 3rd Earl Manvers, who had managed the farming and forestry enterprises there since 1975, not to mention being Sheriff of Nottingham in 1997. However, amongst his many outstanding achievements, one in particular must have caught the eye of Lady Rozelle (she being a lifelong yachting enthusiast), should any interview / application process have been necessary: Hugh Matheson was a keen rower since his university days, had coached several winning Oxford boat race crews, and gone on to coach Olympic winners in that sport. One can be sure they had much to chat about.

The new Thoresby House, home to the Matheson family, began construction in 1994. It looks out onto Thoresby Lake, its grounds partly extending on to the site once known as the Pleasure Grounds. In September 2019 I took advantage of their Heritage Tour of the property, guided by Mr Matheson, and was able to view artwork and furniture from the original Thoresby Hall. A highly recommended seasonal event should it come around again.

Please note: This is a private residence. Publishing photographs taken inside this house is quite rightly strictly forbidden.

Above: The "waif and stray" sculpture which used to stand at Lady Rozelle's residence now stands in the grounds of the new Thoresby House. It's them reflects her charitable activities.

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The Woodyard, Thoresby Estate. One last look around.

During the Heritage Open Day tour of 2019, I gained permission from the owner of Thoresby Estate to take a few photographs of The Woodyard. Please be advised that security throughout the estate has to be a prime issue these days, and the public road that once linked this complex of building to Perlethorpe in one direction and Edwinstowe in the other, no longer exists.

Times change, as change they must. The “industry” once so active behind these walls is much diminished, and there has been speculation that what still exists could perhaps be more profitably moved to the farm building in Perlethorpe Village. Time will tell.

 Above: One time home to the Williamson family, and later the Dews.

Above: Once the office of the Clerk of Works.

 Above and below: Three Gables. Gone is the once so well established Victorian garden.
For more information about The Woodyard see also the following links:

Three Gables, the Woodyard

the Woodyard, Thoresby Park, Nr Ollerton

Thoresby Estate workers c.1962

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Perlethorpe Primary School class of 1964 / 65.

I am thankful to ex-pupil Eric Fretwell for this school photograph, one I hadn’t come across before, it being from a time just after I had left the estate. The teachers are of course Mrs Morgan and Mr Bollans. We are neither of us exactly sure of all the pupils’ names involved, so If anyone can help do leave a comment.

Left to Right: Yvonne Graham, Gordon Hodgkinson, Valerie Johnson, Unknown, Unknown, John Dew, Unknown, Unknown, Simon Morgan, Eric Fretwell (Back), Nicholas Almond, John Wignall, Unknown (Front), Alan Wignall (Back),
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, David Dewhurst, Nigel Dew, Brian George, Brian Lupton, Unknown, Janet Carter (Back), Unknown, Michael Roberson, Dawn Johnson, Jonathan Bollans, Unknown.

For more about Perlethorpe School, now the Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre, see the following links:

 Perlethorpe School

 Perlethorpe School teachers

Perlethorpe School c.1953 / 54

 Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre / former Perlethorpe Primary School.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Walled Garden, Thoresby Estate.

At the time of writing (June 2018), a rather significant event is taking place on Thoresby Estate: The renovation and restoration of the Walled Garden (now known as the Echium Garden). What makes this site of particular historical importance is that its construction was completed even as the present 3rd Thoresby Hall was still being built.

The Walled Garden was designed to provide for the needs not just of the Duke’s family and guests, but for the staff and servants associated with the Hall. Indeed, such would be the hustle and bustle of this year round task, the garden was deliberately situated at a distance east of the Hall in order to minimize disturbance. Ordinance Survey maps of 1906 show it already semi-secluded by trees.

Believed to have been built c.1765, the earliest reference to the Walled Garden I have found comes from the estate’s 1860 Directory:

“A new Hall is about being erected on a commanding eminence near the rockery and in line with the Gardens, the latter of which have been newly formed and enclosed by a neat brick wall. The gardens, including the orchard and kitchen grounds, cover about 10 acres of land. There is a neat residence for the gardener on the grounds”.

The Head Gardener is listed in all the estate’s directories from 1864 – 1900 as Archibald Henderson. Directories from 1904 – 1930s list this position as being taken over by Arthur Simmons. (Simmons is also listed as making a 10 shilling contribution towards the World War 1 Memorial gated entrance to Perlethorpe Church. THIS LINK).

A reliable description of the Walled Garden can be found in Robert White’s “Worksop, The Dukery, and Sherwood Forest” (1875):

“To the East of the Hall are the gardens, which cost £4,000, covering 8.5 acres; 5.5 acres of which are enclosed by brick walls. The rest is in slips on the East, North and West sides, with an orchard on the North. The kitchen garden is intersected by two fine broad walks 550 feet long which from North to South pass out through a pair of very splendid iron gates into the park. The lofty conservatory occupies a central position in the long range of 20 well-stocked forcing houses which are about 560 feet in length”.

The World Wars of 1914/18 and 1939/45, both of which saw a military presence on Thoresby Estate, would have a negative impact. The former mostly from the enlistment and loss of life of young male workers, the latter due to the Estate being requisitioned by the military. Evidence of their activity here is still present today in the “tank dip”, the brick vehicle maintenance ramp, and perhaps most significantly the concrete roads in close proximity to the Walled garden itself.

The Walled Garden never really recovered from those times, being abandoned altogether upon the death of Gervas Pierrepont, 6th Earl Manvers, in 1955. The news that this site is being restored, when so much history risks being lost, is welcome news indeed.

For more about Thoresby Estate during the war years see THIS LINK, THIS LINK, and THIS LINK.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thoresby Estate Historical Bazaar. 20th May 2018.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Dukeries and Fox Hunting.

Above: Charles William Sydney Pierrepont, 4th Earl Manvers (1854 – 1926) was Master of the Rufford Hounds. Pictured here with his huntsman outside Thoresby Hall as everyone indulges in a well-fuelled hunt breakfast.

Fox hunting, as one would recognise it today, really began in the 18th century. Previous to that, deer had been the hunter’s choice of animal, but this started to change after the first of the Inclosure Acts in 1750 which resulted in open lands being sectioned into farmable fields and the deer population going into decline. At that point foxes and hare became the target. Fox hunting was never truly about the cull. As any gamekeeper will tell you a fox is a creature of exacting habits, taking the same routes every night at almost exactly the same times. So, if you do have a problem with a fox, it would be very easy to locate and shoot. No indeed, fox hunting was all about pomp and circumstance, an excuse for the Dukes and Lords to don their bright red finery, mount their thoroughbred horses, and follow their equally well bred packs of hounds across their vast estates, exhibiting as they did so just how wealthy and powerful they were. In the evening there would be an equally lavish ball, a banquet with tables well stocked with game from the Duke’s estate.

It is for this very reason, wanting to impress and display one’s wealth and social position, that the hunt became a favoured subject when commissioning artworks. Such paintings would have pride of place within the great halls, and on occasion hung in notable galleries in London. To reach an even wider audience, engravings would be made from the original artwork and mass produced for circulation. One such example is the above print from Tilleman’s painting of 1725, depicting the 2nd Duke of Kingston, with the original Thoresby Hall and his impressive estate in the background. (See the painting itself on THIS LINK).

Another fine painting (below) which was shown in the Academy of 1789, is F. Wheatley’s “Portrait of a Nobleman returning from Shooting". It depicts Henry Pelham Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle, and his shooting party, with the Clumber spaniels and, beyond the bridge, Clumber House in the background. Painted in 1788 it received the mass-produced engraving treatment in 1803.

Above: The Guy Marson painting of a 1959 hunt gathering outside Thoresby Hall, also received the mass-production treatment. I well remember a colour print of this hanging in our family home when I lived on Thoresby Estate. The original hangs today (2017) in Perlethorpe Social Club. (For more on Guy Marson see THIS LINK).

Above: “Black Prince”, inside the stables at Thoresby Courtyard, Thoresby Hall. This was a favoured horse of Sydney William Herbert Pierrepont, 3rd Earl Manvers (1826 - 1900), himself a onetime Captain in the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Cavalry.

Today: In November 2004 a free vote in the House of Commons made "hunting wild mammals with a dog" unlawful in England and Wales from February 2005. Since The Hunting Act 2004 was passed several previous hunt organizations have gone on to perform displays of jumping and cross country riding with hounds within the Dukeries area. It remains a controversial subject.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dukeries cigarette / trading cards.

Starting in 1880s America, trading cards, given free inside a variety of products, were a very successful promotional device. Indeed, so successful when included in packets of cigarettes that they became known as Cigarette Cards. These cards with a Dukeries link, are from a large series depicting stately homes across the UK. Cigarette cards were discontinued during World War 2 to save paper, and never fully recovered their popularity after that.

Below: The back of the Thoresby Park card.

Above card: Not named on the card, this is Worksop Manor.

For more information about these individual places click on the links: Clumber, Rufford, Thoresby, Welbeck, Worksop.

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Monday, November 02, 2015

Thoresby Hall and Charles Dickens.

In 1999, Thoresby Hall was chosen as a suitable location for a BBC production of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations". In that excellent version of the classic novel Thoresby Hall became Satis House. Miss Havisham's room was the former Ante Room (also known as the Small bar), whilst her famous deserted wedding banquet was set up in the Blue Drawing Room (also known as the A La Carte Restaurant). Much use was made of the echoing corridors, and the library doors are also clearly visible on the above compilation of clips. Below: Stills from the film.

To understand how Thoresby Hall had fallen into such a poor state of repair by 1999 see THIS LINK.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoresby Hall 1950s / 1960s souvenir brochure.

Thoresby Hall opened its doors to the public in 1957. If you were a visitor in the late 1950s / early 1960s, this would have been the souvenir brochure you could purchase for two shillings and sixpence (12.5p). The cover features a water colour painting by Lady Manvers of the Hall itself, whilst the black and white photographs inside depict different rooms. I think it is the first such brochure the Hall produced, so have chosen a few which might be of historical interest.

Above: View from Thoresby Hall first floor showing the one time direct route to The Kennels where the Duke's hounds were kept in decades past, and visible here on the horizon.

Above: The Library. Below: The Small Drawing Room. Guests of the hotel can still access many of these today and make comparisons.

 Above: The South Terrace Garden. Below: The Great Hall.
Above: The Blue Drawing Room, so named after its distinctive wallpaper.

You can read about the model steam railway which operated at Thoresby Hall in the 1950s / 60s on THIS LINK, and more information and pictures of Thoresby Hall interior on THIS LINK.

For information about how and when Thoresby Hall became closed to the public see THIS LINK.

Also, see how the BBC used Thoresby Hall as Miss Havisham's "Satis House" when filming Dickens' "Great Expectations" on THIS LINK.

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Lady Rozelle Raynes 1925 - 2015.

 Above: Lady Manvers' portrait drawing of her only daughter Lady Rozelle, looking rather proud in her Wren's uniform, 1944.

Lady Frederica Rozelle Ridgway Pierrepont would have been 15 years old when, in 1940, her father became the 6th Earl Manvers (succeeding his cousin) and took up residence in Thoresby Hall. She was the youngest of three children but the only one to survive to adulthood.

Soon after the family moved into the Hall it was requisitioned by the military, bringing her into close contact with the armed forces. As a small child she had been fascinated by the sea, and the Second World War presented an opportunity to join the WRNS as a tugboat stoker. (Much preferable in her eyes to a finishing school in Switzerland). She would recall those times as being a “peak of happiness”, and burst into tears upon being demobbed when the war was over.

But her sailing days had really only just begun, and subsequent adventures on her 25ft yacht the Martha McGilda provided ample material to fill a series of self-penned books. In 1953 she married Major Alexander Beattie of the Coldstream Guards. Whilst her mother continued to reside at Thoresby Hall, Lady Rozelle inherited the place in 1955 when her father died. Thoresby Hall was opened up to the public in 1957 (see THIS LINK), and first husband Major Beattie was much involved in it becoming a popular attraction during a decade when visits to stately homes became a favourite national pastime (see first Thoresby Hall souvenir brochure on THIS LINK). However, the marriage ended in 1961.

In 1965 Lady Rozelle married Dr Richard Raynes. In the mid-1970s, with the support of husband Dr Raynes, she embarked on a scheme to help rehabilitate East End boys in care. This involved taking them out on the Thames in the Martha McGilda, half a day every fortnight, and teaching them to sail and navigate. These “Tuesday Boys” became the subject of a subsequent book, and in 1980 she established the Martha McGilda charitable trust so as this successful scheme of support for such boys might continue.

After Thoresby Hall was sold to the National Coal Board in 1984 (see THIS LINK), the estate would be managed mostly by agents, but Lady Rozelle still became lifelong friends with many of the people living and working there, in particular, the Courtyard Gallery where her mother’s paintings enjoy a constant presence (see THIS LINK). In the 1980s she and her husband had a house built on the estate, and moved there in 2010 after suffering a fall and could no longer manage to reside in London. Lady Rozelle died June 22nd 2015, a year after her husband. They left no descendants.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoresby Estate Hayride, June 2015, naming the historic sites along the way.

The Thoresby Estate Hayride does not always take exactly the same route every year. This video shows the route taken on June 2015, and names the places of historic interest along the way: Home Farm, Perlethorpe Village Hall, Radleys Lane, The Kennels, Whitemoor Farm, Whitemoor House, Whitewater, Whitewater Lane, Druids Grove, Buck Gates, White Lodge (a.k.a. Proteus Lodge, once home to Lady Sybil Pierrepont), Henry's Grove, Charles Wood, the original carriageway the Dukes took from the first Thoresby Hall to Ollerton and Newark beyond, Chestnut Avenue (a favourite place of the late Lady Manvers), Nelson's Grove, Icehouse Wood, Three Gables, The Woodyard, and Perlethorpe Church.

NOTE: I make no apology for the camera shake. Such is the character of a fun Hayride, and I wanted to preserve that.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre / former Perlethorpe Primary School.

The above photographs were taken on 21st May, 2015. It appears to be renovations to the roof only, and I do hope this fine old building isn't affected by the subsidence which has caused some problems recently with Perlethorpe Church on the opposite side of the road.

You can read more about the history of Perlethorpe school / Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre, on the following links:

 Perlethorpe School
Perlethorpe School teachers
 Perlethorpe School c.1953 / 54
 Perlethorpe School (Environmental Education Centre).

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Rufford Abbey.

Although frequently grouped along with Worksop, Welbeck, Clumber and Thoresby, Rufford was never actually a ducal seat. It gets classed as a Dukeries property because of its geographic location and family links.

Before the Norman Conquest, Rufford was the property of the Saxon Lord, Ulf. William the Conqueror gave the land over to Gilbert de Gand. His successor (also a Gilbert), founded a Cistercian abbey there in 1148. The English Pope, Adrian IV gave the blessing for the abbey in 1156, after which the villagers of surrounding Grimston, Cratley, Inkersall, and Rufford itself were evacuated to make way for the expanding abbey grounds.

In 1538 the abbey was dissolved after two agents for of the Crown, sent specifically for the purpose, brought dubious charges against Thomas Doncaster the seventh abbott. The only part of the abbey which remains today (2014) is the crypt, which later became the servants’ quarters, and the adjoining cellars.

After the dissolution the remains of the abbey, its grounds and three water mills, soon passed to George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury in an exchange with the Crown for castles and properties in Ireland. When George’s grandson the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury married Bess of Hardwick the link between Rufford and the emerging “Dukeries” was forever sealed.

Starting in 1560 the old monastic buildings were gradually converted into a house. In 1626 Mary Talbot, daughter of the 6th Earl, inherited the estate which then passed to her husband upon her marriage to George Saville in 1590. The Savile family and their descendants would make it their home. Notable additions to the building were to be a new north wing in 1679, with reception rooms and a long gallery, and a large stable block. The property continued to be a family home to the Savile’s until 1938 when the third Baron Savile inherited the estate as a 12 year old minor and his trustees divided the property into lots for auction.

During Word War 2, in November 1941, the 144th Regiment RAC was formed at Rufford Abbey with the intention of converting the 8th East Lancashires infantry unit into an armoured tank division. Lt-Col S.T. James was the commanding officer. I can also verify, due to the fact my father was one such soldier stationed there, that they received a visit from a not too healthy looking King George 6th, apparently reduced to wearing a degree of make-up in order to compensate for his sickly appearance.

You can read more about The Dukeries on these links: Welbeck, Thoresby, Worksop, and Clumber, and more about Bess of Hardwick and her role in the formation of the Dukeries on THIS LINK. And more about World War 2 and the Dukeries on THIS LINK.

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