Saturday, April 21, 2007

Perlethorpe Churchyard and the Pierrepont mystery.



Above: The memorial tomb of the mysterious Charles Alphonso Pierrepont. The lower photograph shows it fenced off in 2016.

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 exposed 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 independently 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 (seen on THIS VIDEO).

Above: The grave on the left is that of the 3rd Earl Manvers (1825 - 1900) who was responsible for so many of the buildings we see on Thoresby Estate today, such as Perlethorpe school. The grave in the foreground is that of both the 6th and final Earl Manvers (1881 - 1955) and his wife Lady Manvers, (Marie-Louise Roosevelt Butterfield) (1889–1984).
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 permission 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 the 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, apparently 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 took a 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: Beech Avenue late 1940s / early 1950s. 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 acquired the nickname "the Cathedral" because of the way its branches met over the roadway like the arches over a cathedral's aisle. Allegedly, even 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 (still visible from the air), and it is said that in the 18th Century one could view the Hall beside Thoresby Lake, from  Buck Gates lodge.

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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. No signs nor barriers indicating the Private Property of  Thoresby Estate were transgressed. Do please note and respect that much of this area 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 alignment of the original Beeches visible.

More about the Woodlands of Thoresby Park on THIS LINK.
More about Beech Avenue on THIS LINK and the possibility of a NEW 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 always the job of the lodge keeper to open the gates for everyone. The carriages and coaches of the Earls and Ladies would originally 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. As countless postcards show, Buck Gates was once  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 in that moment 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 previous. The post box is a later addition, made necessary when Perlethorpe 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 Perlethorpe Village Hall, and from which we would tease the pigs until they jumped over the wall. The pig stye was removed in 1964.

 Above: The rear of Perlethorpe Home Farm (2015). In the early 1960s the pig sty was to the left of this picture.

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.

Above: On the outer wall to the right of the Home Farm arch was the communal box from which the villagers in the 1950s / 60s would collect their bundle of newspapers and comics. This was a typical pocket money duty for many Perlethorpe schoolchildren, who would eagerly await that day in the week when the family bundle contained favourites such as "T.V. Comic" with Muffin the Mule (replaced by Sooty), or Dan Dare in "Eagle". The box was still there in 2007, but the railings we had to climb on to reach it were 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.
 Above: The Thoresby Hayride 2014 starting out from Home Farm. (Video THIS LINK).

For more information and pictures about Perlethorpe see THIS LINK.

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Three Gables, the Woodyard

Above: Three Gables, Thoresby Park, 1964. The kitchen extension is on the left. Below: A corner of the lounge, 1963.

Three Gables, built in 1876, is the main house by the road side at the Woodyard (see also THIS LINK), and was the customary residence of the Clerk of Works, such as Noel Whitworth in the late 1940s / early 1950s. A three bedroom house, one to each gable, the original kitchen was situated beneath the left gable before an extension with corrugated roof and plastic skylight was added. The original stone framed outside window was retained, making a fascinating feature to find inside a property. The former kitchen then became the central living room, but kept its cast iron range for cooking. This incorporated a small circular platform which would swing across over an open log fire to heat one's kettle. A drying wrack hung from the ceiling for the laundry which would be boiled in the copper stove in the "outhouse" across the yard to the left of the building. This copper stove was fundamental in the making of family Christmas puddings in the 1950's / early 1960s.

Three Gables was joined onto the Woodyard complex. In the very narrow, dark and dusty store next door were kept the shiny brass fittings for coffins, whilst a hand operated fire bell hung on the wall outside. In the early 1960s the property still featured an extensive garden laid out according to Victorian tradition; decorative flowers and lawns in front of the house, with vegetable patches and fruit bushes all formally arranged to the right alongside the Woodyard buildings. As can be seen in the photograph at the bottom of the page, this has long since gone.

Following the departure of Noel Whitworth the house was occupied for much of the 1950's and early 1960's by William "Jock" Craig, the Woodyard foreman.
Above: Three Gables, 1985. Below: c.1960, showing the formally organized Victorian style garden. The trees beyond are the Pleasure Gardens belonging to Thoresby Hall.


Above: As seen from the Thoresby Hayride of 2016.(Video on THIS LINK).

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Lady Manvers, artist.

Lady Manvers, born Marie-Louise Roosevelt Butterfield (1889 -1984), was a talented and prolific artist. Noting her obvious passion for the subject, her father Sir Frederick Butterfield of Cliffe Castle, Yorkshire, enrolled her in the Julienne School of Art when the family moved to Paris in her early teens. This School concentrated on studious drawing from observation, the benefits of which are apparent in the strong draughtsmanship underpinning all her work.

Her drawings and paintings of the many places she visited are of keen historical interest today. For example, I remember a small water color of a sunny street in Europe painted in the 1930's. A very pleasant scene, but one which upon closer inspection revealed a chilling small detail of the then rising National Socialist Party's flag hanging from just one window. Her studies of life on Thoresby Estate during the subsequent war years are also an invaluable and unique record of Thoresby at that time.

When Lady Manvers moved to Thoresby Park as wife to Gervas Evelyn Pierrepont, 6th Earl Manvers, she would take for her subject many of the people on the Estate. One such example was Verna Langstaff, a beautiful black girl attending Perlethorpe School, who posed for her in the 1950s, seated on the lower branch of a tree outside Perlethorpe Church. The water colour sketch above, dated 1962, depicts the interior of the main joiner's workshop situated on the left of the Woodyard entrance. The subjects are Gran Gilliver (left), and Works Foreman William "Jock" Craig (right), the latter of whom had run back nervously into his home the Three Gables to get a clean shirt!

After Lady Manvers died in 1984 her daughter Lady Rozelle allowed a small number of such sketches and paintings to be given to the sitters involved, and I still have the two letters from her authorizing this particular one to be given over to me. In 1991 Lady Rozelle oversaw the conversion of the Stable Block to the right of Thoresby Hall into an Art Gallery which could celebrate her mother's work as well as display paintings by new artists. Thoresby Gallery became a notable success.

 Above: Lady Manvers' superb painting of the saw mill at The Woodyard, Thoresby. Jack Williamson, who was in charge of the mill, is centre left, dressed in his characteristic black work clothes and hat. The larger figure in blue is (I'm fairly certain) his son Ted.

Read more about Lady Manvers, artist, on THIS LINK. See photographs of other Thoresby estate workers from the 1950s / 1960s on THIS LINK.

Lady Manvers is buried in Perlethorpe Church, see THIS LINK.

UPDATE March 2016:  Lady Manvers artist, my dad, and Coquette. See THIS LINK.


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Budby Castle, Budby

In the graveyard of St John's Church, Perlethorpe, is the grave of William Scott, "Captain of the Mary", who died in 1756. Captain William had no doubt sailed a boat called Mary upon Thoresby Lake for Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of kingston. He must have been a popular and respected member of the Duke's workforce because in 1756 the "castle" which was built in Budby to house the boat crews was named Castle William. This was the same year Charles (Medows) Pierrepont, 1st Earl Manvers, came to Thoresby.

Castle William was designed by John Carr and records show that in 1816 Charles Herbert Pierrepont, 2nd Earl Manvers, still had a crew stationed there. This practice continued through to 1851 when Captain Percy was living there in charge of the boats. However, by that time it is likely that Evelyn's lavish collection had subsided into a practical "fleet" engaged more with fishing and maintenance than public display.

From the late 19th Century to the 1920's Castle William became increasingly referred to as Budby Castle, the ivy covered home to successive Clerke of Works for Thoresby Estate. Names include Thomas Wickford Potter in 1895, William C Orkney in 1900, Henry Hill in 1904, and William Arundel Bonner in 1922.

It is not known exactly when such links to Thoresby Hall came to and end, but please note and respect that Budby Castle is now a private residence, standing on private property. This photograph, taken for historic purposes, avoided all invasion into the residential aspect of the property.

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