Sunday, May 21, 2006

Perlethorpe School (Environmental Education Centre).



Above: Perlethorpe Primary School 1985, 1 year after its closure. The arch window on the left was originally the doorway where Mrs Bruce stood and rang her bell in the early 1950's.

Before the renovations of 1959 the pupil's toilets were stagnant metal drums with wooden seats situated on the right of the building where the entrance porch is today. The boy's urinal was a brick wall which separated them from the girls' toilet on the other side. This was open air, and swilled only occasionally by a solitary tap. A favourite game among the boys was seeing who could pee the highest up that wall.

Education at Perlethorpe in the 1950s adhered of course to a strict timetable, but always incorporated a rich tapestry of creative exercises in manual dexterity, from weaving to maypole dancing, and from plasticine modelling to drawing the butterfly specimens that surrendered their short lives to Mrs Bruce’s thumb. If the sun came out (which seemed to happen practically every day), we simply all went on a nature walk. The nature books in which we drew our collected specimens were dark green hard backs. Dip-in pens were a compulsory element of writing lessons. New nibs were periodically issued to the class who were then instructed to place the small brass nib in their mouths to suck off the protective wax coating. (Perlethorpe Church records list no fatalities from this activity!) The walls were covered by large posters depicting the different animals, birds and trees from each season. When my older sister and myself retrieved a stag's skull and antlers from beneath the rhododendrons of the Pleasure Grounds, that also became part of the display. (I think it's still there).

But the population of Perlethorpe Village was ever diminishing as the Estate's fortunes changed with the decades. In December 1984 the decision was made to close the school, which then had a total of only 16 pupils. Headmaster C A Bollans left in July. Mrs Morgan became the school's final Headmistress for one term, presiding over just 4 pupils.
Above: No longer a regular school the building now operates as the highly successful Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre, sometimes recreating the days of Victorian education for new generations of children, and exploring the rich natural environment of Thoresby Estate. For more about Perlethorpe School teachers click THIS LINK. For a Perlethorpe School photo class 1953 / 54 click THIS LINK. To see the 2014 renovations to Perlethorpe School / Environmental Centre see THIS LINK.
 Above: Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre as seen from the churchyard opposite. Countless generations of Perlethorpe shoolchildren have crawled along the long lower branch of that lime tree.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Robin Hood's Tree, Edwinstowe

Above: A postcard of Robin Hood's Tree dated 1957, when the dubious wisdom of climbing on or even inside the tree was not yet discouraged. People today don't realise that Robin Hood's Tree, the Major Oak, stands on an area of Sherwood Forest once owned and tended to by Thoresby Estate. The original irons which supported the branches were constructed in Thoresby Estate's blacksmith shop by a local man. However, in 1969 this area was leased to Nottingham County Council and further developed as a successful tourist attraction.
Above: The Major Oak, in the 1970's when fences and a more restricted access to the tree by tourists was necessary for preservation purposes.
Above: In 1990's the tree was supported by unattractive wooden supports.
Robin Hood's tree was named the Major Oak after the archaeologist Major Hayman Rooke, who lived in Mansfield Woodhouse during the 1780's. It was his favourite tree. During the 19th Century the tree was commonly referred to as the Cockpen Tree because game birds in wicker baskets were placed inside the hollow interior before being made to fight in a cock pen below its branches.
Above: August 31st, 2005. A modern theory as to why Robin Hood's tree is so large speculates that it started life as three separate oaks, which merged together as one. This might explain why the hollow nature of the tree is entirely different to similar oaks whose centres were burnt out by lightning.


Above: The path leading to Robin Hood's Tree, the Major Oak. (Winter 2006). Each side of the path are the dark mysterious shapes of ancient oaks.

 To see more about Robin Hood's Tree, the Major oak, see THIS LINK.
To see video of Robin Hood's Tree, the Major Oak, click on THIS LINK.
For other famous Oak trees in Sherwood Forest see THIS LINK.
For more information on Robin Hood and Maid Marian visit the Robin Hood blog.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Perlethorpe Church, Thoresby Park


 Above: Church of St John the Evangelist, Perlethorpe. The low surrounding wall pre-dates the current building.

Perlethorpe Church, the Church of St. John Evangelist, was built in 1876 by Sydney William Herbert Pierrepont, 3rd Earl Manvers, at a cost of £17,000. A memorial to the Earl can be found on the inner north wall. Designed by Anthony Salvin, the church stands across the road from Perlethorpe Church of England School (now Perlethorpe Environmental Education Centre). Some features within its grounds are said to date from the previous church, such as the "dwarf boundary wall" (1861), and gas street lamp (c.1861) by the western gate, several of which once illuminated the path leading to Thoresby Hall, the route the Duke and Dutchess's carriage would take when attending service.

As early as 1904 very extensive repairs were made necessary due to the poor construction methods used in the walls. Bonding stones had not been placed across the cavity in the walls, and the infill of rubbish there was causing serious decay. As the decades passed and mining subsidence occured, the strain caused by the six bells in the tower was also a cause for concern. In 1952 five of these bells would go to West Bridgford.
In the early 1900's the 4th Earl and Countess Manvers would arrive at the original wrought iron gates on the west end in a carriage drawn by a white horse. After the service the Countess would find out from her Estate Agent which of the village's children were missing. She herself would then visit those families in her carriage to ascertain how poorly the child was, before instructing the manager of Home Farm to send that family fresh milk, eggs and butter, whilst providing hot soup direct from Thoresby Hall.

The present entrance to St John's is the lychgate (covered gateway) on the south of its grounds. This was added in 1922 as a memorial to those men from Thoresby who fell in World War 1. (Budby village organised their own large cross). This lychgate was designed by A. Gleave, Nottingham, but the work was carried out by Thoresby Estate, and the carving by Tudsbury, Edwinstowe.


Above: Sunday School classes were held in the area to the left as one entered.

To encourage Sunday School attendance in the 1950's the children would receive attendance stamps. These richly coloured illustrations of passages from the Bible were then stuck inside small albums. Miss a week, miss a stamp!

In 1951 Reverend Barton, took over the Parish. He had been Principal of the Theological College in Newfoundland and his study was brim full of fascinating artefacts from this distant land, which engrossed the imagination of every child who stood patiently in his study awaiting his entrance so  communion classes could begin. Nicknamed "Pa", Mr Barton lived in a house by The Kennels until 1968, before retiring to move to Oban, Scotland. In 1956 Bill Langstaff (the dinner lady's husband), stoked the boilers at the church, succeeded in 1959 by Jack Kenyon, a plumber at the Woodyard who lived in the Alms Houses.

Perlethorpe Church's weather cock was removed in 1960 as a safety precaution. That same year school headmaster Mr Pierpont (no relation to Pierrepont) took a small group of the older boys from the school (including myself), across the road out onto the tower at the base of the spire to experience the view. Such was the quality of education at Perlethorpe, always enriched by unexpected little initiatives

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

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Thoresby Park Bank Holiday 1959


Even in the 19th century Thoresby Hall had frequently invited tourists and sight-seers when it was convenient and the Earl was away. However, in 1957 Major Beattie (then husband to Lady Rozelle,  daughter of Countess Manvers), oversaw the formal procedures of making Thoresby Hall open to the general public on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Bank Holidays. To mark this auspicious occasion he invited the voluptuous 1950's blonde celebrity Sabrina, whose "Sabrina Slept Here" publicity stunt had been targeted at several Stately Homes. Sabrina duly slept in Thoresby Hall on the night of 28th March 1957, the cause of much bawdy humour amongst male workers across the estate. It was also the Major's plan to have Sabrina dress as Maid Marian the following day (see picture above with Robin Hood statue) and serve the first guests with venison. As Lady Rozelle and Countess Manvers were holidaying in the Mediterranean at the time one might guess at their feelings on the matter.
Above: Thoresby Hall on a postcard dated August Bank Holiday, 1959, just two years after the Hall was opened to the public, but long after Sabrina had left the building. If you visited Thoresby Hall at this time admission was 2 shillings and sixpence (25p) per adult, children half price. Car parking was 1 shilling (10p), motorcycles half price. An admission figure of 46,000 in 1963 shows how popular an attraction Thoresby Hall quickly became. To see the Souvenir Brochure visitors bought during their visit see THIS LINK.


Above: The West front of Thoresby Hall.

To watch a video of permitted Thoresby Walks see THIS LINK. To watch video of Thoresby hall interior see THIS LINK. To read about Thoresby Hall's final days as a stately home open to the public, see THIS LINK.

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Welbeck Lodge, Welbeck Manor, Welbeck Abbey, the Dukeries.

Above: The Lion Gates at the North Lodge as seen form a departing Duke’s perspective.

At the time of the Doomsday Book, Welbeck Estate belonged to Hugh FitzBaldric. Thomas de Cuckney founded a Premonstratensian Abbey there in 1140. The Abbott of Welbeck was a wealthy man, and became an especially influential one when in 1512 all the houses of this particular religious order came under his care.

Above: The Greendale Oak. For pictures and information about other famous Oak trees in Sherwood Forest see THIS LINK.

After Henry 8th’s dissolution of the monasteries the property was granted to Richard Whalley of Screveton, then subsequently sold to Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1599 it was sold again to Sir Charles Cavendish, a son of Bess of Hardwick by her second husband. When it then passed to his son, William, destined to become 1st Duke of Newcastle, it became a ducal seat. (Seat of a Duke). The Cavendish family then converted it into a stylish country house designed by Robert Smythson. (Smythson had also designed nearby Worksop Manor in 1580). Parts of the original abbey were retained in the basements. The most famous story about the 1st Duke of Portland involves him and the Earl of Oxford. The Duke wagered he could drive a coach and horses through a huge oak tree. After much chopping, an arch through the tree was made and the wager won. Suffice to say the tree did not survive the centuries. In 1774 Welbeck manor passed via marriage to an heiress to William Bentinck, making him the 3rd Duke of Portland.

There is little doubt the most infamous owner was the so called “Mad Duke”, 5th Duke of Portland, (William) John Cavendish-Bentinck Scott. Inheriting the title in 1854, stories persist to this day about the maze of underground tunnels he had constructed, and wildly exaggerated accounts of how far they reached. Certainly he was a prolific builder. His expertise and enthusiasms as a gardener saw the construction of high walls in which braziers could quicken the ripening of fruit bushes. Similarly, he had a passion for raising horses, constructing what was at the time the second largest riding house in the world. Even today it is said many fine horses can trace their pedigree back to Welbeck. But it’s the tunnels on which his reputation as an eccentric is based, though they were never as numerous as rumour suggests.

Above: The south lodge exit from the tunnel (2014). Below: The Duke's infamous underground ballroom and 19th century illustrations showing the sheer scale of the tunnels.



One tunnel wide enough for a group to walk side by side led from the house to the riding school, whilst a workman’s tunnel ran close by. A further tunnel, estimated at 1.5 miles long, led from the coach house to the south lodge. (See above). Remaining stretches of tunnel do survive near the lake and their skylights can be seen from the public footpath, Robin Hood’s Way. But perhaps more impressive were the Dukes underground rooms, including a library, a chapel, and a ballroom. It has been suggested this indulgence was part eccentricity and part wiliness to provide meaningful labour for the estate workers. Certainly they were well looked after, apparently receiving from the Duke a suit, top hat, umbrella, and donkey, the latter for those who had to travel far. No wonder he earned the name “the workman’s friend”. In his old age the Duke took to living in just 4 or 5 rooms, painting them pink, as the rest of the house fell into a state of disrepair. He died in 1878.


His successor made effective renovations but the building’s Oxford wing burned down in 1900. Rebuilding work designed by Ernest George was completed by 1905 and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the assassination of whom would start World War 1, stayed at Welbeck Abbey courtesy of the Duke of Portland in 1913. During that war the kitchen block became an army hospital. Following World War 2 the Dukes of Portland leased Welbeck to the Ministry of Defence and Welbeck College became a respected army training college. The Ministry left the property in 2005 and it became once again a private residence.

 Note: The only public pedestrian access across Welbeck Estate is the footpath known as Robin Hood’s way.

Above: Old painting of the north lodge, artist unknown. Below: That same road today (2014).


The Lion gates were the back entrance, from which a red gravel path served Dukes and Royalty. The lodge gate (below) dates from 1884. The gate keeper(s), in top hat and tails, would be on 24 hour duty.
You can read more about Worksop, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK, and more about Bess of Hardwick's role in the formation of the Dukeries on THIS LINK. You can also read more about the first Thoresby Hall, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK.

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Thoresby Hall interior.


 In its heyday as a stately home, open to the public, Thoresby Hall's visitors would be greeted by the amazing spectacle of this perfectly preserved Victorian Great Hall, with treasures too many to mention. Sadly, when Lady Manvers died in 1984, the Hall had already been the property of the National Coal board for 4 years, in accordance with their possible intention to open a new mining vein beneath the Estate, and no doubt to minimize problems already caused by subsidence. Thoresby subsequently went through the hands of more than one speculator and much of what you see here was auctioned away. You can read more about Thoresby Hall's final days as a stately home open to the public, on THIS LINK.

Above & below: As long ago as 1907 the schoolchildren of Thoresby Estate would be invited to a Christmas Party at the Hall involving a meal, entertainment, and a gift. These parties were still a great treat in the 1950's. Gifts, dispensed at the end of the evening in the Great Hall, often had a distinct Robin Hood theme because they were mostly items that had been in the tourist's gift shop during the summer season!
Above and below: The magnificent Blue Drawing Room off the south west corner of the great hall, and deriving its name from the silk on the walls. Note the portraits of the 3rd Earl Manvers and his Countess, painted by Richard Graves (1846 - 1881).
One of Thoresby Hall's most popular attractions was always the carved oak fireplace in the library. (See picture below). This became erroneously credited to Richard J. Tuddesbury of Edwinstowe, who did indeed produce skilled carvings elsewhere for the interior, but was actually produced by Gerrard Robinson of Newcastle, where a newspaper reporter had witnessed its progress in his workshop. In 1869 Robinson was using a picture of this masterpiece as his trade card.
As a child, when walking around the Hall, it would greatly amuse my family that certain items of furniture had often been in our kitchen at 3 Gables, the Woodyard the night before as my father, the foreman at the Woodyard, effected their repair! Readers may also be amused to know that the firewood produced at the Woodyard for Lady Manvers had to be cut to very exacting specifications. Only "billet wood", 9 inches (23 cm) long, 3 inches(8 cm) diameter, and free from knots, was acceptable for her bedroom, sitting room, and dining room!

You can see video of Thoresby Hall interior on THIS LINK.

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Thoresby Bridge, Thoresby Park.



Above: Pierrepont Bridge, designed by Wilkins, an architect from Cambridge, stands near to William Castle (a.k.a. Budby Castle) and bridges the western tip of Thoresby Lake where the River Meden leaves Budby. In its prime one could stand here and see Kingston Island, with Thoresby Hall beyond, and even the spire of Perlethorpe Church in the distance. Not designed for mechanised traffic, but stout enough to serve as a route between the boat crews and later Clerkes of Work who resided at the Castle, today its ironwork railings and other features are long since gone. (See also sidebar pictures).


Above: Stone Bridge, now commonly referred to as Green Bridge due to the grass which covers its path, has retained much of its beauty simply because it became impractical to use as a regular route to and from Thoresby Hall once the second Hall had been demolished, the third Hall built further uphill to the north, and heavy mechanised traffic took over. Stone Bridge was originally sited further down stream, it's elegant design clearly intended for lightweight carriages, coaches and pedestrians visiting the original Thoresby Hall but presenting what was considered an unflattering end-on view of the building. So it was Charles (Meadows) Pierrepont, 1st Earl Manvers, in consultation with landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, who moved the bridge to its present location. The actual bridge was relocated, and not simply rebuilt. Today (2013) is is possible for visitors to stroll over the bridge on a walk towards Perlethorpe. (See also Thoresby Permitted Walks video for other routes).
Above: Referred to on this c.1913 postcard as Thoresby Bridge, this is in fact named 7 Ton Bridge on certain maps. It linked the present Thoresby Hall with Perlethorpe Village, and the main roads beyond. As the name implies, this bridge was designed not for horse carriages but for the heavy mechanized vehicles of the 20th century, including those used by the military in two World Wars when soldiers were billeted on the Estate. (See this link). 7 Ton Bridge did however close down  during the 1980's as ownership of the Hall changed, and the maintenance of certain properties on the Estate changed with it. Today it only allows access to the estate's own official vehicles.
Above: 7 Ton Bridge (2007) is once again open to access for pedestrains only, as one can park the car at Thoresby Gallery and walk through to the village of Perlethorpe, a popular activity for those staying at Thoresby Hotel.

Above: 19th century engraving showing the Green Bridge leading to Thoresby Hall. Visitors can still use this route across the sheep fields today (2014).

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Clumber Park, the Dukeries.

 Above: 18th century engraving of Clumber Park.

Above: Greyhound Gates and South Lodge, Clumber. c.1900. Below: The same subject photographed 2014.



Archaeological digs c.1960 found evidence that Clumber was once the site of a Bronze Age settlement. In Saxon times there would come to be two manors at Clumber, after which, as with similar properties across the country, the land was given over to a supporter of William the Conqueror. In this case Roger de Builli (Busli) who also gained Worksop. But to understand how Clumber became a ducal seat one first has to look to nearby Haughton.

Haughton was given over to Roger Pictavenis after the Conquest. Centuries and several family lines later it was sold by John Babington to Sir William Holles, Lord Mayor of London, in 1537. During the English Civil War the Holles families alternated between both Parliamentary and Royalist causes in order to keep possession of their estates. In 1663 Gilbert Holles of Haughton and his wife Grace Pierrepont of Thoresby, gave birth to John. John married Margaret Cavendish, heir of Henry 2nd Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne, seated at Welbeck. John then paid Henry’s debts, gaining in return the title 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (2nd creation). Choosing to live at Welbeck, Haughton Hall was left empty and eventually demolished. In 1711 John Holles died in a hunting accident and his estates were passed to his nephew Thomas Pelham-Holles with the title 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne being created for a 3rd time. As the title could only be passed father to son, the title Duke of Newcastle under Lyme was created to overcome this legality, making further creations unnecessary. So when Thomas died without a son, his Dukedom became extinct and the title Duke of Newcastle under Lyne went to his nephew Henry Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle under Lyne. It was this Duke who built Clumber House in 1770, making it his family seat. Designed by Stephen Wright it replaced the previous manor.


 Above: Lime Tree Avenue planted in 1838.

The Duke subsequently landscaped the surrounding park. The 4th Duke would be responsible for the construction of a one third scale frigate to sail on the lake, as well as planting the locally famous Lime Tree Avenue in 1838, still frequented today as a favoured public picnic spot. But he also spent much of his wealth recklessly. As reported on THIS POST he purchased Worksop Manor from the Duke of Norfolk, whose Catholic faith he didn’t approve of, only to demolish it soon afterwards.

In March 1879, shortly after the 6th Duke’s death, much of the original Clumber House (THIS LINK) was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt by the 7th Duke of Newcastle and designed by Charles Barry. The Duke also commissioned George Frederick Bodley to design The Chapel of St Mary in 1886, replacing a former less satisfactory chapel dedicated to St Paul. A second fire in 1912, plus the financial effects of World War 1 and the subsequent Great Depression, resulted in Clumber House being abandoned and subsequently demolished in 1938. Happily, the superb chapel remains.


 Above: The 2nd Clumber House building which replaced the original lost in the fire. Below: The terrace leading to the lake. Parts of this can still be seen today in the ground.

In 1941 secret trials of a trench digging tank called Nellie were carried out under the inspection of Winston Churchill, but the blitzkrieg rendered it obsolete before it was used.

Above: Clumber Chapel of St Mary (1886). Photograph taken in 2014.

Clumber Park is now the property of the National Trust.

You can read more about the first Thoresby Hall, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK, and more about Bess of Hardwick's role in the formation of the Dukeries on THIS LINK. You can read more about Worksop, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK and Welbeck, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK.

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