News for Spring 2012

The Reverend Peter Thornton

By Geoffrey Oldfield

I was interested to read the item in issue 66 of the Newsletter about the monumental inscription in the Isle of Thanet church. The memorial was to the reverend Peter Thornton who was the Rector of Colwick and West Bridgford from 1793 to 1817. The patron of the living was John Musters who was the owner of much of the land in both parishes.

About thirty or so years ago a large collection of letters was placed in Nottinghamshire Archives and these were mainly from a Nottingham firm of solicitors, written to John Musters and included his replies. Adrian Henstock drew my attention to the deposit as I was then the secretary of West Bridgford Local History Society. I made a copy of all the letters in the deposit. They dealt mainly with the management of the lands owned by John Musters in the two parishes.

Some of these letters were reproduced in Aspects of West Bridgford's History 2, published in 2007 by the Local History Society and some of the letters concerned the late Rector. They start with one from Thomas Hildyard of Flintham Hall dated 29 December 1817. He had changed his surname from
Thoroton upon marrying a lady from another landed family named Hildyard. This letter was addressed to Mrs. Musters and sought to ask her husband if he would allow Thomas Hildyard to make a concession, as he was the administrator of 'poor' Peter's estate. Peter Thornton was his nephew. The issue arose because Thomas Hildyard's nephew, as Rector, had the use of glebe lands but, like other tenants, had a clause which meant no hay or fodder could be removed from the land. As he explained, 'poor' Peter had no arable land and so had to buy food for his horses as he could not grow any. John Musters gave his permission for the fodder which existed at the time of Thornton's death, to be sold.

There were several further letters about Thornton and his relations; he never married. He had six brothers and sisters, one of the sisters became the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Further details of Peter Thornton are given on page 45 of the above mentioned book, in an article contributed by Sheila Leeds who summarises the lives of West Bridgford rectors.

Mothers and Midwives. A history of maternity in the East Midlands

The subject of the current exhibition at the University of Nottingham's Weston Gallery seems particularly topical at the moment with the start of the BBC series Call the Midwife coinciding with the exhibition opening.

Mothers and Midwives: A History of Maternity in the East Midlands gives a Nottingham perspective on the subject. Its main object is to explore the story of maternity care in the East Midlands over the last century, looking both at how the experience of pregnancy and childbirth has changed for local mothers and how professional midwives have pursued their careers. The iconic image of the district midwife, complete with bicycle, is among the photographs on display, while an example of the equally familiar midwife's bag, complete with typical contents, provides one of the case displays.

The exhibition was curated by Dr. Tania Mcintosh, Lecturer in the Department of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, and inspired by her recent historical research into the history of local midwifery. Her fellow-curator was Dr. Denise Amos who will be well known to Thoroton Society members for her work on the Society's Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway web site. Denise extended the interest of the exhibition to include the fate of the new born, with information on local infant mortality rates at the end of the nineteenth century. Her talk in January on Infant Welfare examined the patterns and causes for infant deaths at the turn of the 20th century in Nottingham, Leicester and Derby.

Although the experience of childbirth is a universal one, the juxtaposition of modern records and historic accounts shows stark differences in expectations, practices and outcomes. Accounts of individual midwives, such as Hannah Jeffcott, and records of training and work in hospitals or in the districts, show the steady professionalism of the career midwife. The historical dimension has been taken further back to the early modern period by supporting content from the historic collections in Manuscripts and Special Collections.

The exhibition is by Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham, and will be open at the Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre until Sunday, 15 April.

A series of lunchtime talks accompanies the exhibitions. These are open to the public and admission is free but places are limited so advance booking is required via the Box Office on 0115846-7777.

The only talk available following the publication date of this Newsletter is Wednesday, 14 March when Julia Allison, former district midwife in Nottingham, past-President of the Royal College of Midwives and author of Delivered at Home, a history of district midwifery in Nottingham, will talk about the development of district midwifery and the experience of having a baby 'on the district'.

The Thoroton Family and the Alfreton/Swanwick Collieries.

A recent enquiry addressed to the Society was from the Archivist of the Friends of Cromford Canal and was seeking information about the name of Thoroton in connection with a map of circa 1787 relating to a proposed Langley Mill to Pinxton canal.

Adrian Henstock responded and his comments will be of interest to members of our Society: 'The Thoroton Society was founded in 1897 and named in honour of Dr. Robert Thoroton (16231678) who wrote the Antiquities of Nottinghamshire in 1677. He was a physician from Car Colston near Bingham, where his family had owned a small estate since the Middle Ages.

He had no male heirs and in 1672 his second daughter, Elizabeth, married a wealthy self-made colliery owner, John Turner, of Swanwick, Derbyshire. The Turners' extensive colliery interests in the Alfreton area eventually reverted in 1767 to Robert and Thomas Thoroton, descendants of Dr. Thoroton's brother, Thomas, who had prospered as a London merchant. However, in 1789 they sold all their mineral interests to George Morwood for £16.100 and used the proceeds to purchase Flintham Hall near Newark. The family (who later adopted the surname of Hildyard) still live there.


By John Beckett

This newsletter will reach you almost 200 years to the day after the publication on 10 March 1812 of Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Such has been the international reputation since 1812 of Byron that it is hard now to recall just how important this was in his life. Byron, born in 1788, had inherited Newstead Abbey in 1798 on the death of his great uncle, and with that responsibility had come the barony as 6th Lord Byron. After Harrow and Cambridge, he had taken his seat in the Lords in March 1810, and then gone with John Cam Hobhouse on a belated Grand Tour, from which he returned in June 1811. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was written during that European adventure, and its publication turned Byron from being a relatively obscure (and poor!) minor aristocrat, into a major literary figure, initially in London but subsequently on a global scale.

The poem, in four parts, of which the first part came out in 1812, describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man looking for distraction in foreign lands. It brought Byron immediate fame. He was later to recall that 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous'. Subsequently Byron more or less gave up his fledgling political career, and in August 1812 he reversed all he had previously said about the importance of Newstead in his life, and offered it for sale. Subsequently he had several high profile affairs, including perhaps most notably with Lady Caroline Lamb who described him as 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know', made a disastrous marriage to Annabella Milebank, and with allegations ringing in his ears of having committed incest with his half-sister, Augusta, departed for Europe in Spring 1816, never to return.

By now he was one of London's leading literary figures, and each publication was eagerly awaited by his followers, particularly perhaps his second epic, Don Juan, part of which was set in a fictional country house which was clearly intended to be recognized as Newstead. The house itself was finally sold in 1817. Bryon was interred at St. Mary's, Hucknall, after his notoriety led to Westminster Abbey refusing burial. Byron was neither born in Nottinghamshire, nor did he die in the county, and he spent relatively little of his life at Newstead, but he remains one of the county's most iconic figures and Newstead Abbey is forever associated with his memory.


By Barbara Cast

You will probably have read that lead, including the decorative lead pipes installed by Colonel Thomas Wildman, was recently stolen from the Abbey.

This is, of course, very distressing to those who believe that Newstead Abbey should be given the highest standard of care, security and, indeed, accessibility in view of its history, architecture and associations. The Society has long been concerned about the Abbey and its gardens and, having made enquiries of the City Council, received some assurance from the museums manager. He states that there is some good news re the drainpipes in that the police have recovered a significant part of the stolen lead and made arrests, They also recovered more lead from a local scrapyard. All this recovered lead has been identified by staff, using a full photographic survey made of the Abbey leadwork.

Council staff removed the leadwork which remained after the theft to safeguard it while the police conducted their enquiries. The Council officer goes on to say that extra security measures have been put in place and that once they are satisfied that these are fully operational and effective, they will replace the historic lead pipes.

The Society is still of the opinion that all interested parties need to give fundamental consideration to the Abbey's future. Substantial investment is needed now and ongoing to ensure this iconic and internationally renowned place is restored to top class condition and its continuous maintenance secured.

Newstead Abbey is to be a venue for the Antiques Roadshow later this year so we hope that it will be spruced up and looking good in time for this.


Have you ever wondered what lies behind the door at the end of the hallway in the townhouse between the newsagents and charity shop on Angel Row? Well, in May you will have a chance to look around the secret garden that nestles at the back of Bromley House Library.

The Library is holding an 'open garden' event to raise funds for Maggie's, the cancer care charity, as well as the conservation work we are doing here at the library.

The walled garden, usually only open to members of the library, is a place of tranquility and calm in the busy city centre. It is one of the last remaining gardens from the eighteenth century, when Nottingham was known as the 'garden town'. It will be looking its best in May.

Maggie's offers cancer patients and their families practical and emotional support to complement their medical care. The latest Maggie's centre, designed by Piers Gough and Paul Smith has recently opened in Nottingham. Piers calls the building 'Maggie's Teapot' but really it is more of a tree house. Balconies extend from the kitchen and meeting rooms and a terrace opens onto the garden, which is designed to use scent and texture to create a secluded and uplifting area for people to enjoy.

Elizabeth Robinson, the Bromley House gardener, will be on hand to answer any queries. Carol Barstow and her staff will be able to answer any questions about the library (which will not be open for visits on this occasion) and June Perry will be playing the Hammer Dulcimer. Cordials and cake will also be served.

Opening time: Saturday 12 May from 1400 to 1700.
Admission: £2.00 per person. £4 families (2 adults plus children).
Further information: Geraldine Gray - 0115946-9839.
email: enquiries www.maggiescentres.or/centres/nottingham/int roduction.html.

Miss Marjorie Boot's Canteen in France

By John Wilson

I came across the following note in my historic weather records, regarding a severe rainfall episode in Nottingham. The note is from the Nottingham Evening Post of Friday 16 July 1915.

The Headline reads 'March Weather in July - record fall of rain in Nottingham'.

The heaviest fall at the castle since records began there in 1876. Castle total was 2.578 ins in the 24 hours. Other heavy falls were 2.357ins on 24 August 1903, 2.157ins on 8 August 1875 and 2.136ins on 19 September 1869.

Between 8pm on the 16th and 1.45am on the 17th, about inches of rain fell. It was still raining at mid-day on the 17th. There was also a North to North-West gale which did much damage to fruit trees, gardens and growing crops. Several large trees were brought down, including two onto the tram lines near Basford Gasworks and another near the Mapperley Tram Terminus. There were severe effects on telephone and telegraph services. A military camp (Royal Field Artillery) on Wollaton Park was washed out - 'the tents provided no protection against such a downpour'. The troops remained cheerful though. One described it as a 'little damp' and another was dreaming about swimming and woke to find his head in a pool of water. Much barley had been flattened in the county.

The Evening Post has been asked to state that the garden fete organised for today [Saturday 17 July] by Lady Boot at the Plaisaunce, in aid of Miss Marjory Boot's canteen in France, has been postponed for a week. Also today should have been geranium Day on behalf of funds for the National Children's Fund and Orphanage. Some 'brave and philanthropic vendors' ventured out, but sold very little'. Another day was to be fixed for later.

Does anyone know anything about Miss Marjory Boot's canteen in France? If so please advise the editor of the Newsletter.


The Place-names of Nottinghamshire

The definitive English Place-Names Society volume of Nottinghamshire place-names was one of the earliest to be compiled and, this being so, a great deal of scholarship and name retrieval has taken place since it was written. Discussions have been underway between Thoroton and the EPNS to see if there was any way in which new research could be undertaken to produce a more up to date version but, due to other pressures, this has stalled.

We are asking any researchers that, if you come across a source of Nottinghamshire place-names during your research, to let us have the reference and location so that this can be followed up as part of a new compilation.

If you have any such source information please get in touch with Barbara Cast at, and we will follow up the information provided.

The British Newspaper Archive (

An ambitious project to digitize every newspaper, periodical and journal ever printed in Britain has been launched, making more than a million pages of pre-1900 newspapers available to readers online.

The British Newspaper Archive will allow readers to search by date, title and keyword, and will include material previously only available at the British Library.

The project aims to build to four million digitized pages over the next two years, and to 40 million pages over the next decade. Some Nottingham papers are already available online.

To access full reports a subscription is available with three options, annual, month or two days.

Nottinghamshire Local History Association

The Association holds its spring event at Ravenshead village hall on Saturday 31 March 2012 starting at 10 am and ending around 4.15 pm.

The day's theme is New Windows on our past and deals with recent archaeological discoveries in Nottinghamshire.

Speakers are:

The cost is £6.50 for members of the NLHA and £7.50 for non-members. There is no need to book in advance although booking forms for advance booking are now available. More information from 01623-870515

The John Player Archive

A project by the University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Museums and Galleries is in progress to create an online archive of over 20,000 object relating to John Player & Sons, including adverts, packaging and enamel signs from the 1890a to the 1980s. The archive will include people's memories of the factory.


Nottinghamshire Archives hold regular Wednesday Workshops usually on the third Wednesday of each month. They cost £4 per place and are limited to 15 places per event so booking is essential by contacting the Archive office. Each event starts at 14.30 and last for an hour.

18 April - Military records
16 May - Police records
20 June - Records of Royalty
25 July - Apprenticeship records
15 August - Nottingham City and its records
19 September - Electoral Registers.

In addition there are skills workshops with the same booking conditions. These events start at 14.30 and last between one hour and one hour and a half.

13 March - Dates and Weights
8 June - Reading Parish Registers in English
15 June - Reading Parish Registers in Latin (no experience of Latin is required)
24 August - Finding Your Way Around Nottinghamshire Archives

A further talk takes place on 10 July at 2.30 pm, cost £4 with 30 available places -Nottinghamshire's Sporting Heritage will explore the county's sporting heritage as reflected in the holdings of Nottinghamshire Archives.
Recently catalogued items now available for research are:


From Tuesday 15 May to Sunday 10 June 2012 to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Rufford Gallery turns regal with some right royal exhibits and majestic fun-themed activities.

A selection of archives from Nottinghamshire Archives will be on display from April with associated workshops and activities.

Details from 01623-822-944 or