Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pleasure Grounds, Thoresby Park

The Pleasure Grounds, Thoresby Park, are situated across the lake from Thoresby Hall next to the Woodyard. In the middle of the 18th century, when the 2nd Duke of Kingston was extending the lake for his boats, he also landscaped the surrounding area, and the Pleasure Grounds originate from that time. This was a place where the Duke and subsequent Earls could stroll in private with invited house guests, possibly accessing the grounds via a boat trip across the lake, or via Stone Bridge at the point where the River Meden leaves the lake to continue on its way to Perlethorpe, or the wooden bridge seen above which once stood in the region of the weir.

Simply referred to on maps today as "Park", the Pleasure Grounds remained a private, secluded area into the 1960's. However, "Keep Out" signs did not deter the frequent stealthy adventures of local boys who, on one occasion, took a camera inside the grounds. These photographs of Thoresby Park's Pleasure Grounds from 1964 may well be unique.
Above: This passage way through the centre of the Pleasure Grounds is part of a three mile route which once linked Thoresby Bridge with Buck Gates in a perfectly straight line still clearly visible on THIS MAP. The Duke's carriages would pass this way en route to Edwinstowe or Ollerton, and Newark beyond. The Woodyard is situated at the side of this route, enabling efficient deliveries of gas and wood fuels to the Hall. In the centre of the frame one can see deer feeding, whilst the mist beyond obscures the view of Thoresby Hall itself.
Above: The same area but viewed from the top of the landscaped embankment, over the rhododendrons. These embankments also harbored what was referred to in the war years as a bomb shelter, but which in all probability was originally dug deep into the embankment to store ice before the days of refrigeration.
Top and above: The River Meden leaves the landscaped Pleasure Grounds at the weir end of Thoresby Lake, before continuing on to Perlethorpe Village.

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River Meden, Perlethorpe, Thoresby Estate

The River Meden, called the River Medin as late as the 16th century, winds a picturesque course from where once stood the stone Mills and cottages of Warsop, through Budby, before being dammed to form Thoresby Lake, and then continuing its journey through Thoresby Estate to Perlethorpe, soon after which it merges with the rivers Maun and Poulter. It was this reliable source of water which must have attracted Saxon and probably earlier Viking settlements in the area. (Watch video of the place the River Meden meets the River Maun on THIS LINK).
The River Meden's winding journey through Thoresby made several small bridges necessary and researchers need to take care when they name what may or may not be Thoresby Bridge. These photographs from 1984 depict the River Meden as it passes through Perlethorpe Village. Top: A small bridge links the village with Perlethorpe Post Office. This would be the view walking away from the post office and towards the village, with the early 1950's red brick bungalows on the left and the white game keeper's lodge often referred to as White House coming into sight. There was once a mill on the side of this river, just north of Home farm, and powered by a water wheel. In 1875 one George Mawson started work there.

 Above & below: The floods of 2014 as the water level completely obscured the arch of the bridge.
Above: River Meden as it runs by Thoresby Hall. (2018)

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the Woodyard, Thoresby Park, Nr Ollerton

Above: The Woodyard, Thoresby Park, photographed in 1964 from a tree top near the start of Chestnut Avenue. The remnants of the Duke's carriage way, leading from Thoresby Hall to Buck Gates, are visible from mid left to bottom right.

The Woodyard is situated at the other side of Thoresby Lake from Thoresby Hall, outside the region known as the Pleasure Grounds. It was built in 1876, during the time of Sydney William Herbert Pierrepont, 3rd Earl Manvers, at a cost of £64,000. This is where the timber grown by Thoresby Forestry Department became the Estate fences, telephone poles, window frames, doors, and much, much more.

Selected trees would be felled after the leaves had fallen, and the sap was no longer rising. These would be taken to the Woodyard where the 40 H.P. gas engine of the large central saw mill cut them into their desired formats. This saw mill, the large central building on the picture below, was run by Jack Williamson and his staff of about six men. It was also the location of the band saw, lathe, and various other powered woodworking machines, the floor to the saw mill concealing a maze of pulleys, shafts and drive belts. I well remember waking to the sound of Jack's early morning saw, and the smell of the fresh cut timber which would then be stacked in the central drying shed for to years before being used in the joiners' shop at the Woodyard entrance. At the rear of the Woodyard, next sand pits, was the "shavings shed" in which younger, slimmer, timbers were manually stripped of their bark.

Beside the saw mill was a huge, black, metal creosote tank, 20 foot long and 5 foot diameter. This is where fence posts and poles would be left to soak after the tank was flooded with creosote, a banned substance today. It resembled noth less than a submarine, and young boy was able to stand upright inside.

As the nation's oil lamps gave way to gas a gas works was installed behind the Woodyard cottages on the northern side of the yard at a cost of £2,251. This supplied Thoresby Hall, Perlethorpe Church, the path to the Hall and its gates, Perlethorpe School, and Buck Gates. Two large circles where the gas works stood are still visible in the dry weather. During the 1930's Johnny Mellors lived in the Woodyard cottages and three times a week took a horse drawn cart to Ollerton Station to get coal for Thoresby hall's boilers.

In August 1940 a number of incendary bombs fell on Thoresby, and Walesby. During the night of 29th August the Woodyard caught fire as a result of this but no extensive damage was done.
On the right of the Woodyard entrance was the office of the Clerk of Works this being Johnny Mellors in the 1930's, Noel Whitworth from 1940 - 50, and Jack Bramley between 1950 - 1963. Opposite his office was the main joiner's shop in which worked such personnel as William “Jock” Craig, foreman of the Woodyard during the 1950's, and Gran Gilliver. Others in the workforce included Bill Nunn and Jack Kenyon, the latter of whom was also the church boiler stoker in 1959. All these men took great pride in their skills and versatility.

Above: The Woodyard in 1984. Three Gables can be seen on the distant right. The large central building was the saw mill, whilst the works van parked inside the building on the left. Below: Photo taken from the Hayride of 2015.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Perlethorpe Post Office

Above: The road over the bridge to what was the Perlethorpe Post Office. (Photo 1986). Below: The same road during the floods of 2014.
Perlethorpe Post Office also served as the only shop in Perlethorpe Village, and was situated in Meadow Cottage, at the end of a road which crosses the narrow River Meden. In 1940 Mrs Dawson ran the post office, to be succeeded by Mrs Blanshard by 1955. Mrs Blanshard had been an infant teacher at Perlethorpe School between 1910 - 1919, but retired to look after her husband who had been demobilized in World War 1.

Children's sweets would be weighed out from the large glass bottles behind the counter, whilst a "Fry's Five Boys" advert on the wall above heralded the post war arrival of pre-packaged confectioneries. "Sugar Pigs" (literally a large block of sugar shaped like a pig) were very popular, as were the new Lucky Bags which concealed a secret toy. In this way the children of the 50's would keep the dental profession in business for decades to come!
Mrs Blanshard would collect the letters from Perlethorpe Village's only post box on the wall to the right of the door. (Still visible in the1986 picture above). She would then use sealing wax to secure them inside a large brown post sack, this procedure being a veritable treat for the children who would stand transfixed at the sight and smells of her ritual. My sister and I were regular visitors to the post office, apportioning our pocket money as much towards note books as sweets; dull brown exercise books were threepence, whilst the glossy red one accounted for the full sixpence, and nothing left over for sweetie cigarettes.

In May 1999 Perlethorpe Post Office closed down when the final postmistress to work there, Sue Rose, resigned.

Jack Williamson, author of the booklet "My Life on a Nottinghamshire Country Estate", was born in the cottage next door, just visible at the edge of the frame.

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Perlethorpe Village near Ollerton, Newark.

Above: 2 White Cottages at the end of Radley's Lane, Perlethorpe, were occupied in 1862 by John Radley and Joseph Sills Batten. In the 1960's the properties merged to become the Chaplain's House.

The early history of Perlethorpe, situated within Thoresby Estate where the A614 (Blythe Road) crosses the River Meden, is made slightly more complicated by the fact it was once governed and owned as a region entirely separate from Thoresby.

In Saxon times this area belonged to two Saxon chiefs, Thurston and Ulmer. After the Norman Conquest, as was the fate of other lands in the region, Torp (Perlethorpe), became the joint property of the King and Roger de Busli (who also gained lands such as nearby Clumber), whilst Thuresbi (Thoresby), became the property of the King.

The origin of Perlethorpe’s name is subject to debate. “Thorpe”, an Old Norse name meaning ‘dependant settlement’, clearly suggests it started life as a Viking settlement, but Perle is more troublesome. In Old and Middle English that means “rush of water”, particularly apt considering the both the River Meden and the River Maun converge close by. However, before the printing press establish common spellings, and information relied on the spoken word as much as the written, the village was recorded variously through the centuries as Peureltorp, Peuerelestorp and even Peuerellingethorp. During the reign of Henry III, William de Peverel the younger had some interest in Torp and it has been assumed the “Peverelthorp” prefix was due to him. But many researchers discount that notion today. Decades passed and by the 18th century the common name for the village was Palethorpe. (Let’s not even begin going into speculation that “pale” can mean “an area enclosed by a boundary”).

In 1831 Perlethorpe (then called Palethorpe) had a population of 89 people living in 14 houses. That's an average of 6 to a house! The oldest buildings in the village today date from the mid 19th century, and were often originally in pairs. Typical examples of this are Rose Cottage on the A614 (see THIS LINK), which was originally divided into two dwellings down a line parallel to the road, and White Cottages on Radley’s Lane, which merged in the 1960s to become Chaplain’s House (above).

Each house had its own underground brick built soft water tank to contain the rain which was then drawn up via a hand pump. Starting in 1860 the 3rd Earl Manvers ensured all the houses in Perlethorpe underwent any necessary repairs, and had all the thatched roofs replaced with slate. At the turn of that century a water mains was laid through the village from Boughton water works, and in the 1920s / 30s a steam roller kept the pre-tarmac roads in order. In 1947 Perlethorpe Village was supplied with electricity, and the building of the red brick houses around the green soon followed.

Above: This schoolboy drawing from 1964 was made from the bedroom window of number 3 the Village Green, Perlethorpe, and shows some features such as the street lamp and railings around the smaller green which have long since disappeared. The arch of Home Farm is clearly visible, and the white building in the centre is White House, home to successive gamekeepers. In the late 1930's Head Keeper Frank Bebbington lived there; in 1940 the game keeper Mr Carey; and in the late 1950's / early 1960's Mr Carter. The small green on the bottom right of the drawing stands in front of the red brick bungalows built c.1950 (not shown), and this green was the location for the village flag pole. The road leaving the picture on the left is Jackson's Hill.

For more pictures information about Perlethorpe Village see:  Perlethorpe Village, Perlethorpe School, Perlethorpe Post Office, Perlethorpe Village Hall & Social Club, Perlethorpe Village floods, and Thoresby Estate Walks (video).

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Perlethorpe School


Above: Perlethorpe Church of England School, c.1956. Note the maypole, and the flowerbeds the children helped tend.

Perlethorpe Church of England School was built in 1861 by the 3rd Earl Manvers. It was designed by Salvin and predates the St John's Church, Perlethorpe Church, on the opposite side of the road. A typical attendance figure for the late 19th century was about 40 children. This figure would go largely unchanged as the decades passed, before dropping significantly in the late 1960s.

In October 1879 the school was extended, probably by the addition of a second classroom to separate the juniors from the seniors, and the new School Headmistress Sarah Jan Wass recorded that the desks had also arrived. 1879 was also the year when formal registration of the pupils commenced at the insistence of visiting School Inspectors. In 1897 the classroom was illuminated by gas supplied from the Woodyard, and became a popular reading room for people on the estate who paid a small subscription to attend on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, between 7 pm - 8 pm.

Teaching methods involved the use of a tiered seating gallery, which ensured all pupils could see and be seen at a time when children would sometimes be taught in mixed groups by a pupil monitor. The gallery at Perlethorpe School was situated under the windows on the front of the building, against which our backs were turned. I have memories of being a junior at Perlethorpe School but joining the senior's class for lessons in tying shoe laces and "weaving". On these occasions I remember seeming to look down upon Mrs Bruce's desk across the room from what must have only been a slightly higher level. The use of a gallery persisted into the early 1950's at Perlethorpe even though HMI reports of 1904 called for its removal.

Before the renovations of 1959 the pupils' toilets were stagnant metal drums with wooden seats situated on the right of the building where the modern entrance porch is today. Late 19th / early 20th century girls’ needlework classes involved making red cloaks from material provided by Lady Manvers, wife of the 4th Earl, which they had to wear to and from school. If ever a coach carrying Lady or Earl Manvers should come into view the children were expected to stop and curtsy or bow. This practice continued into the 1950's when my sister and I would stand still and politely wave until her car had passed. Until 1959 the two classrooms at Perlethorpe School were each heated by a central pot bellied stove, its fuel supplied by the Woodyard. According to HMI reports there had been no separate office accommodation for teachers as late as 1920, and this was still likely the case into the 1950's.

Pupils from Budby would walk to school via Thoresby Lake, until that route was banned when the ice on the lake became too great a temptation. Sometimes they would hitch a ride on the milk cart, and risk being told off if the cart was late. Education was not as high on the average family agenda as the seasonal chores on the farm which might require their assistance, and there was no Secondary School. On the day after their 14th birthday the pupils left school to start work on the Estate. That changed in 1927 when pupils over the age of 11 would move on to Edwinstowe School for the first time. In the early 20th century the Girls Friendly Society would meet in the school, engaging in such activities as knitting gloves or scarves for the Navy. This was a very popular club, as the boys played their cricket or rang the church bells.

During World War 2 a total of approximately 17 evacuees from heavily bombed Sheffield attended Perlethorpe School at one time or another, but their attendance was usually fleeting as homesickness set in. In 1940 Miss Lizzie Bradley became Headmistress and a year later was mentioned on the BBC for sending the £7 she raised by carol singing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. (You can read more about Perlethorpe during World war 2 on THIS LINK). 1943 saw the introduction of a school canteen, and records show that 19 pupils stayed for a hot meal at dinner time. In 1944 Miss Ida Brett became Headmistress, succeeded by Miss J E Bruce in January 1950.

 Above: Photographed 7th March 2015, inside Perlethorpe School / Environmental Education Centre. Today's children using the Centre on a day trip basis can experience the educational environment of earlier decades. Below: The rear of the building in 2017.

See also: Perlethorpe School Teachers, Perlethorpe School class of c.1954, Perlethorpe School (environmental centre), Perlethorpe School Environmental Centre renovations 2015.

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Perlethorpe School teachers

I was fascinated to read a comment from a HMI report on Perlethorpe School dated 1907 saying that children should be taught to think and not just memorise. Of course today we would all agree, but maybe in that post-Victorain age it was still a new concept to some. I can assure you that all the teachers at Perlethorpe between 1950 and its closure in 1984 certainly placed a healthy emphasis on thinking.

Miss J E Bruce became the Headmistress in January 1950. At the start of the school day, and after dinner, the pupils would line up in two orderly rows at the sound of her bell, ready to enter the school via the dark oak door which was situated on the left of the front of the building. (This porch entrance was converted to a window during the renovations of 1959, and the porch became a storeroom.) Coats were hung inside that porch. The seniors then turned right and sat in rows with their backs to two rectangular windows, awaiting Mrs Bruce's instruction. The juniors walked straight ahead, beneath the high arched window on their left, and entered the rear classroom to be taught by Mrs Ward. A spelling mistake might merit a slap on the leg from her, whilst good work could merit a new pencil, complete with the novelty of having an eraser on the end.

The curriculum involved a rich variety of pursuits from the learning of "times tables" (during which one was forbidden to sit down until you got it right), to plentiful nature walks in Thoresby Estate. The exercise books in which we recorded details from our Nature Studies were emerald green, a favoured book amongst older pupils. Juniors wrote in pencil in a small brown "My Bijou Book" (see sidebar picture).

Miss J E Bruce, a slim, reserved lady, usually dressed in grey, resigned as Headmistress in December 1960. She was noted for her dedication towards getting her pupils through the 11+ examination and to a grammar school beyond.
Above: Renovations to Perlethorpe School were completed in 1959. During the course of those renovations the children attended lessons in the Village Hall, 100 yards down the road, which had been built in 1957.

Mr Peter Pierpont took over as Headteacher in January 1961, with Mrs Morgan in charge of the juniors. The dinner lady was Mrs Langstaff. Peter Pierpont (no relation to the Pierreponts) was probably the first male schoolteacher Perlethorpe had employed. His outgoing nature, and slightly boisterous attendance at Village Hall socials, whilst the children got involved with Twist dance competitions, is something I well remember. Examination results for the 11+ in 1961 show standards of education were high with the majority of the applicants going on to grammar school. Mr Pierpont died in 1963.
Above: Mr Peter Pierpont stages a joke photograph with the pupils outside the side entrance to the school, c.1959, with Mrs Morgan in the rear. (Pupils names listed in the comments box). Below: My childhood sketch of either one or both of the Fretwell brothers who posed for the class.
Peter Pierpont was replaced by C. Alan Bollans in April 1964, whilst Mrs Morgan continued to teach the juniors. Mr Bollands would be the last teacher to work at Perlethorpe School before its closure. His service towards all aspects of the life of Thoresby Estate was notable, and when the school closed Mr Bollans became the attendant at Thoresby Gallery.
Above: Mr C. Bollans with a group of school children outside the school grounds in front of Perlethorpe Church, c.1962. (Pupil names are listed in the comments box. Many thanks to those ex-pupils who emailed details).

See also: Perlethorpe School, Perlethorpe School class of c.1954, Perlethorpe School environmental centre, and Perlethorpe School Environmental Centre renovations 2015.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Pierrepont and Thoresby Hall (the first building).

Above: Details from Tillemans' painting of 1725 showing Evelyn the 2nd Duke of Kingston hunting by Thoresby Lake on which his boats are visible. The original Thoresby Hall in the background would burn down twenty years later, c.1745, and a second Hall built on the same lakeside site.

Above: The first Thoresby Hall from a print by J. Walker.

Robert de Pierrepont came to England with William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest. In 1500 his descendants built the present Holme Pierrepont. In the first part of the 17th Century, Sir Robert Pierrepont (1585 - 1643), 1st Earl of Kingston upon Hull, bought Thoresby from William Lodge, an Alderman of London, for his second son William.

William Pierrepont (1607 - 1679), then spent £1000 a year aquiring land around Thoresby between 1633 and 1643. He was a Parliamentarian, referred to as "William the Wise" because his opinions were much valued by noblemen of the day. His moderate attitude and respect for the King, made him an obvious choice for mediator and negotiator between Charles 1st and the Roundhead movement, and this he did on more than one occasion. It is a known fact that Oliver Cromwell himself spent the night at Thoresby in 1651 on his way to the Battle of Worcester at Evesham.

Robert's first son Henry Pierrepont (William's elder brother) was the 2nd Earl of Kingston upon Hull. When Henry died without heir in 1680, his great nephew Robert became 3nd Earl of Kingston upon Hull. When Robert also died without heir his brother William became the 4th Earl of Kingston upon Hull, and that's where things become a little clearer.

William Pierrepont (1662 - 1690), 4th Earl of Kingston, obtained a further 1,270 acres of land for £7,100, combined them with what he already possessed in Perlethorpe and Thoresby, and formed Thoresby Park. Soon after this in 1683 he built the original Thoresby Hall (a.k.a. Thoresby House).
William the 4th Earl also died without heir, and so was succeeded by his brother Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 - 1726), the 5th Earl of Kingston upon Hull, later upgraded to 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull in 1715. Evelyn's only son died of smallpox and so he was succeeded by his grandson, also called Evelyn, the 2nd Duke of Kingston. It is this 2nd Duke who can be seen in the full version of the Tillemans painting edited below, and it was he who extended Thoresby Lake and built the second Hall after the first was destroyed by fire.

A mansion already existed by the lake, built c.1590, with some documents describing it as Elizabethan in character. But as it was built before the 4th Earl established Thoresby Park / Thoresby Estate, it doesn't merit the title Thoresby House. It was this mansion which William Pierrepont 2nd Earl of Kingston replaced in 1683 when building the original Thoresby Hall. This was a rectangular red brick building with stone dressings, designed by William Tallman who would go on to design Chatsworth House. It had two storeys plus an attic, featured 13 bays along its front, and was clearly influenced in it design by the Italian Palaces. In 1738 The Kennels were built about half a mile eastward of the Hall.

On 4th March 1745, only 58 years after it was built, this Thoresby Hall was badly damaged by fire, and much property lost. However, during the 22 years between the fire and the building of a second Hall, Evelyn the 2nd Duke of Kingston certainly had long periods of residence on Thoresby Estate, monitoring his extensions to the Lake, so quite possibly parts of the Hall were still habitable. Alternatively he may have resided at The Kennels.
Above: Leonard Knyff's painting of the first Thoresby Hall c.1705. Comparing it to the Tilleman's painting (made 20 years later) I think this one is from the other side of the Hall. The Stone Bridge (a.k.a. the Green Bridge) is in its original position, leading the Duke's carriage towards Ollerton and Newark beyond. I also think at this stage Evelyn the 2nd Duke hasn't yet extended the lake which would occupy the area to the upper right of this picture where those non-landscaped trees are depicted. Note the formal lines of the canal which would lead to a Mill and the Kennels in Perlethorpe Village.

Above: The location of both first and second Hall's as depicted on Chapman's map of 1774. After the demise of the second Hall the 4th Earl Manvers had this part of the old foundations flooded via a tunnel north of the weir, and frozen over as a Curling Rink for his daughter. In 1937 it was converted to a hard tennis court. The triangular complex of buildings, centre right, is The Woodyard. The formal line of trees leaving the bottom of the picture would have taken the Duke's carriages to Buck Gates.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Steam Train at Thoresby Park. Sir Nigel Gresley.

Above: Still visible today (2008) are the sleepers from the train's rail track in the area where it ran parallel to the River Meden.

Above: This steam train was called Sir Nigel Gresley, and took William Kirkland of Ollerton, twelve years to build. It was based on a real life locomotive. It became a popular attraction at Thoresby Hall, Thoresby Estate, in 1966 and continued to be so for several years before moving to Stapleford Park in Leicestershire. The steam train was situated in the area between the Cricket Pitch and the gates near Stone Bridge (a.k.a. Green Bridge). One can see that bridge leading to Perlethorpe Church in the background.

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