Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Buckland’s 1896 Book - The History of Woodborough etc.

Buckland ~ CHAPTER XI


Authorities: Dickinson's Southwell.  Dickinson's Newark.  Lane's Notes on

Church History.  Notts. Weekly Guardian; June 10th, 1893.

It has already been stated that the Prebends of Southwell were originally Secular clergy and were allowed to marry, but the right to marry was taken away from the clergy by Odo and Dunstan about A.D. 950 and Lanfranc about A.D. 1070. So all the Prebends and Vicars Parochial of Woodborough were unmarried men from the time of the Conquest to the Reformation. But the right to marry was restored to the clergy in the time of Edward VI., 1547 to 1553, and from that time the clergy of the Church have been free to marry or not. Whether Matthew Torte, the first Prebend of Woodborough after the Reformation, was a married man does not appear.

With the exception of the invention of the Stocking Frame nothing of importance happened to this place in the reign of Elizabeth. At her death James I., dressed in English hose, passed through Southwell on his way to London. He was much surprised at the sight of so large a pile of buildings in so small a town, and when reminded that York and Durham were more magnificent structures replied in his strong Scotch accents, "Vary wele, vary wele, but by my blude this Kirke shall justle with York or Durham or any Kirk in Christendom."

I cannot discover that Woodborough or its people took any active part in the Civil Wars. All know that Charles I. raised the Royal Standard at Nottingham in 1643, and a full account of the sieges of Newark and Shelford Priory may be read in Dickinson's "Newark." Doubtless John Wood, of Woodborough, first Recorder of’ Newark, was deeply interested in the defence, if he was not himself one of the Royalist defenders. Woodborough lies off the main roads, but our people must have seen and heard something of the soldiers and great people who travelled from Nottingham to Southwell or from Nottingham by Shelford to Newark. Charles I., the Parliament generals, and the Scotch Commissioners all lodged at Southwell. Montrevill, the French Ambassador, sent to negotiate between the King and Parliament, resided at Southwell. Cromwell halted there on his way to Preston, on which occasion, the Palace having been dismantled, he put up at the King's Arms and stabled his cavalry in the Nave of the Minster, which had been condemned to destruction; so did General Monk on his southward march to restore Charles II. It is said that one day, at Southwell, Charles I., being much distressed, walked into the shop of a fanatical bootmaker named James Lee, who had no sooner taken the king's foot into his hand to measure him than, eyeing him very attentively, he was seized with a panic and would not go on, but said he had been warned in his sleep the night before to have nothing to do with a customer who much resembled the King, as he was doomed to destruction and those who worked for him would never thrive.

The Parliamentary Committee of State was at the Archbishop's palace at Southwell when the king arrived at the King's Arms, now called the Saracen's Head, where he dined and slept. On the next day he surrendered himself to the Scotch Commissioners who sold him to the Parliament for £400,000. This surrender ended in the execution of the King in 1647. The Room in which the King dined is still the dining room of the Saracen's Head.

It must not be forgotten that the Civil Wars were quite as much a struggle for the old National Church against the new Puritanism as for Absolute Monarchy against Constitutional Government. One object of the Parliament was to destroy the ancient Church of England and enforce conformity with Presbyterian methods. Every action of the Long Parliament commonly called the Rump was illegal. It acted without the House of Lords and without the King, and all the moderate members were prevented from attending by soldiers placed at the doors. The Rump was a minority of extreme members acting without an opposition. When Cromwell dismissed the Rump he ruled England as an absolute despot. In 1640 the Long Parliament appointed a Committee to enquire into complaints against the Clergy; evidence against them was sought for; evidence in their defence was not received; the one point of importance was whether a clergyman favoured the King or the Parliament, whether he would sign the Covenant or not. Seven thousand clergy were ejected from their livings and it was not for several years that a fifth part of the income was ordered to be paid to the wives and children of those ejected. Puritan preachers, many of them illiterate and unordained men, were intruded into their places. In 1645 the Parliament forbade the use of the Prayer Book in every Church and "also in a private place or family."

The Parliament had issued a commission to destroy all monuments, images, altars, and painted windows in the Churches; so the common people broke open the churches, smashed the windows, defaced the statuaries and destroyed the market crosses. Perhaps the "fabrica crucis de le ston in parte occidentali vilæ de Calverton," the fabric of the cross of stone at the west end of the village of Calverton, to which Thomas Belfin of Calverton bequeathed vi(s). viii(d) [6s. 8d.]. by his will in 1649 was destroyed at this time. (Southwell, Wills, p.220.) Perhaps the Woodborough people then rendered their Church windows "so filthy, broken and patched that little could be made out to please by description." They spared the Gable Crucifixes, possibly because they could not get at them, but every trace of a Strelley disappeared and John Shirley's "St. Swithyn." Cathedrals and Churches were used by the Parliament soldiers as barracks, stables, hospitals and fortresses. At Winchester the soldiers burst open the cathedral door during service and marched in with flags and drums; they rifled the tombs, flung the hones of the dead through the painted windows, dressed themselves in the surplices and marched in mock procession with banners and crosses, tooting on the organ pipes as they went. The Chapel of Winchester College would have shared the same fate had not one of their own officers, who had been a scholar of the college, stood in the college gate and dared his own soldiers to pass over his dead body. At Alton, near Winchester, a small body of the King's men was cut off by the Parliament troops and took refuge in the Church where they were shot down, their officer, Sir Richard Bolles, being killed in the pulpit. In 1653 the Parliament ordered all the Cathedral Churches to be pulled down and the materials sold.

But Cromwell was not satisfied with having ejected the Clergy, who endeavoured to maintain themselves and their children by teaching. In 1656 he issued an edict forbidding them "to teach children or keep a public or private school or preach or administer Baptism or the Lord's supper, or marry any persons or use the book of common prayer." The jails were filled and for want of room the clergy who disobeyed this edict and tried to obey God rather than Cromwell were sent to the hulks to perish of cold or heat. Most of them fled the country or hid or were in prison. As an instance: "Roger Clark, Rector of Ashmore, near Shaftesbury, was plundered of all that he had and twice imprisoned. Two of his children, twins, were stripped naked and laid in a dripping pan before the fire to be roasted; their mother being almost denuded of clothing." The laity fared no better. One tenth of the income of every Royalist throughout England was demanded and payment enforced. This probably ruined the Strelleys of Woodborough, coming on the sacrifices already made by the King's friends. Neither Baptism, Marriage, nor Communion in accordance with the Prayer Book Services could be had except by risk of fine or imprisonment. When Evelyn on Christmas Day, 1655, ventured to go to Communion, the Church was surrounded by soldiers who levelled their muskets at the Communicants "as if they would have shot us at the Altar," and afterwards the whole congregation was taken prisoners. The unsettled state of the country of course raised the price of everything and provisions were so scarce that the Borough of Nottingham had to take precautions to prevent speculation in wheat, for we find in the Borough records, 1655: "Proesentatio Juratorum ex parte occidentali villæ prædictreæ. (Presentment of the Jurors from the West part of the Town.) Item we presente Jhon Belle, off Wodeborove, for a regratare, fore be case he beythe corene in the marekete and hath to sareve heyme off hes one," because he buys corn in the market and has enough of his own to serve him. He was not the last Woodborough man who has speculated a bit.

At Southwell, in 1640, every one of the Prebends was ejected, including Peter Measell, our Prebend. For the needs of the people of Southwell a Puritan Minister was appointed, not by Archbishop or King, but by "His Highness, Oliver, Lord Protector of England, as the Patron thereof, under his seal manual," at a "salary of one hundred pounds," which he complained of as being unpaid. In 1647, part of the Manor of Southwell, in the Bishopric of York, was purchased by William Pierrepont for the sum of £1,494; another part by Edward Cludd for £219 9s. 10d. and so on; the Bishop's Palace with the New Park and Hexgrave Park by Edward Cludd for £1,666 7s. 3½d. The property of the Woodborough Prebend was sold to "Lady Chaworth and Edmund Andrews" subject to the provision of a Minister for Woodborough Church, a provision which they did not observe.

The order to destroy the Cathedral Churches did not pass over Southwell. A warrant to take down the Nave of the Minster and all such other parts of the Church as were not necessary for the purposes of the people came down from London; but Mr. Edward Cludd, who had not scrupled to buy the Manor, the Palace and the Parks, drew a line at the Minster. He had known it from his childhood. Puritan though he was he had some love and respect for the venerable building, and by his great interest with the Parliament he procured a revocation of the order. Thus for the second time the Minster narrowly escaped destruction. Still it stands in its grandeur, one of the only two Collegiate Churches which escaped destruction at the Reformation by the accident of Beaumont's disgrace, and owing its second escape to the accident of a Puritan's local pride. Churchmen have reason to be grateful to Mr. Cludd, who had such influence with the Parliament in these parts that his servant, when asked "how matters went in Nottinghamshire," replied, "I and my master rule all there." The Palace, however, having afforded a lodging to the Parliamentary Commissioners, was dismantled by their orders and all the documents in the Parish Library were destroyed, a piece of wanton destruction which can never be made good. The Liber Albus alone escaped, which was in the Minster Library.

The affairs of the Church were, of course, in the direst confusion. Seven thousand clergy had been ejected, but no proper provision had been made to fill their places. At the Shire Hall, "on the 14th August, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and fifty, by virtue of a commission from the Keepers of the Liberties of England and under the great Seale of England," an enquiry was held into the various parishes and their ministers. It was entirely hostile to the Clergy of the Church and aimed at intruding Puritan ministers into every parish. But the report shows the absolute dearth of all spiritual ministrations. St. Mary's, Nottingham, had been unserved for a year. Mansfield and Skegby, Mansfield Woodhouse and Papplewick had no minister. At Hucknall Torkard there was a preaching Minister," i.e., a Puritan, but "a drunkard and a common swearer." Other places had a service one a week or once a fortnight. Where the Clergy had not been ejected, they were reported as "disaffected towards the Parliament's proceedings."

Of Woodborough the report said: "No minister although Lady Chaworth and Edmund Andrews have and ought to find a minister at their peculiar charge."

Since the ejection of Peter Measell, the prebend, our Church had been served by Puritan preachers, many or few, and probably many. Perhaps they could not get their "sallaries." Our Registers confirm this. From 1640 to 1660 they are very ill-kept and the entries are in many hands. It was ordered that Woodborough and Calverton should be served by one minister, but in 1654 they were "destitute." Mr. Thomas Ogle, of St. John's College, Cambridge, then offered himself for the double charge and a Board of Triers approved him by a certificate as follows: "Know all men by these presents that the fifth day of June in the year 1654, there was exhibited to the Committee for approbation of publique preachers, an order of the Committee for plundered ministers, whereby Mr. Thomas Ogle is settled Minister of Calverton and Woodborough, in ye County of Nottingham, together with a testimony, on behalf of the said Thomas Ogle, of his holy lyfe and good conversation." Upon perusall and due consideration of the premises and finding him to be a person qualified as and by the Ordinance for oure approbation is required the Commissioners above-mentioned have adjudged and approved the said Thomas Ogle to be a fit person to preach the Gospel, and have granted him admission, and doe admit the said Thomas Ogle to the Vicarage of Calverton with Woodborough aforesaid to be full and perfect possessor and incumbent thereof. And do hereby signify to all persons concerned therein, that he is thereby entituled to the profitts and perquisities, and all rights and dues incident to the said vicarage, as fully and effectually as if he had been instituted according to any such lawes and customs as in this case have formerly been made had or used in this Realm. In witness whereof they have caused their common seale to be affixed and the same to be attested by the hands of the Registrar by His Highness in that he hath appointed. "Dated at Whitehall, the 7th of June, 1654."

But this pompous document did not get him his salary, so he resigned in 1655 and went to Rolleston Vicarage, from which he was ejected in 1662. He afterwards took part in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion against James II. and was imprisoned in Chester Castle.

Mr. Henry Walker then offered himself  "unto the Trustees for the Settlement in the same Church" and it was ordered that "the said Mr. Walker be settled Minister of the said Church provided he first secure the approbation of the Committee for the appointment of publique preachers in that behalf." Henry Walker was the Calverton Candidate, but the Woodborough people even then dearly loved an election and they put up the "Rev. Daniel Jackson, Minister of the Word," and it was ordered that he too should be "settled therein," but in the end they lost the election, for on the 20th March, 1656, "on the humble petition of Henry Walker, Minister of Calverton and Woodborough, it was ordered that he have the herbage and feeding of the Churchyard of Woodborough and the profits thereof, so long as he continue there, until further order of the trustees." He spent his Sundays at each place in turn, which being deemed insufficient, on October 20, 1657 it was ordered that "the towns of Calverton and Woodborough, co , Notts., being one parish and Henry Walker, the incumbent preaching in each on alternate Sundays, John James, a godly and able preacher, preach in each on the vacant Sundays." [Record Off. S.P. Dom. Commonwealth. Vol. 53, I. 78, p. 220-225.] Perhaps he too failed to get his 'Sallary' and found he could not live on the herbage of the Churchyard. Anyhow he disappeared and on February 24, 1659, another travelling preacher, the Rev. John Allott, offered himself. He was accepted by the Trustees who made an effort to end the scandal by providing a decent salary, as follows:- "Whereas the yerely maintenance of the minister of Calverton and Woodborough doth not exceed £xx, and the lease of the tithes at Calverton and Woodborough, lately of the Dean and Chapter of Southwell, is now expired, it is ordered that £30 be paied for the maintenance of such godlie and painful preacher of the Gospel as shall from time to time be settled minister of the Parish Church, and be duly appointed as by the authority of Parliament is directed, and that the same be paid to Mr. John Allat Minister there of whose godly conversation ability and fitness for the said place the Trustees have received good testimony to hold as long as he shall continue faithfully to discharge the said duties there." But the Woodborough people were not satisfied. Their thirst for elections had been whetted but not slaked and they made objections to Mr. Allott, which were deemed so serious that the Committee ordered that "on the 15 November, A.D. 1659, he must preach, (in the old Norman church of Calverton) as a 'probasioner,' to the parishioners of Calverton and Woodborough, to the end that some tryall be had of his gift and abilities, and of what was the desire of the well-affected to have him settled accordingly." The Woodborough people were again ready with their candidate, the Rev. John Jackson, son of the Rev. Mr. William Jackson, the Puritan Minister of Oxton. In deference to the Woodborough petition the Trustees issued an order whereby "Mr. John Jackson was commanded to preach there (in Calverton Church) upon "tryall" and on the 30th December, A.D. 1659.

But the merits of the two candidates were so equal that the parishioners could not form an opinion. Never was there such a chance for parson-baiting, and great was the delight and keen the excitement when, the Trustees decided to intervene and ordered another tryall at which both men were to preach together in Calverton Church on the 16 January, A.D. 1660.

So the trial was held, the men preached and the voting followed. Mr. Allott headed the poll and kept his seat. The Woodborough people swallowed their disappointment and Mr. Jackson disappeared.

It is difficult to conceive what influence for good Mr. Allott could have had, especially in Woodborough, after such a process. But he was a good man, hardworking and a useful preacher. The Puritans however, had had their day. In the same year, less than four months after his success, Allott listened to the Woodborough bells as they rang in Charles II, May 1, 1660. ¹He would no doubt have accepted the new order of things for "On September ye 23, 1660 (he) collected at ye Parish Church (of Woodborough) and among the inhabitants of Woodborough for and towards the reliefe of the destressed inhabitants of Willenhall in the County of Stafford being commended hityr by ye King's Majesty's Letters Patents, under Gorat Sale, for and towards their loss by fire ye sum of 4s. 10d. Witness John Allott, Ministr. James Jeb, Hny Moorelaw, Church-wardens." But it was not so to be. The old order of things was restored at Southwell. The see of York being vacant, the King appointed Francis Leeke to be Prebend of Woodborough and John Allott had to go. Only about one thousand of the seven thousand clergy who had been ejected by the Parliament were still alive and they returned to their Parishes. The Puritan clergy were allowed to remain provided they accepted Episcopal Ordination and the Prayer Book and subscribed to the thirty-nine Articles. Nearly 6,000 were content to accept these conditions, but about 1,200 refused and were ejected after three months notice. This was to be regretted but they were mildly treated under Charles, as compared with the sufferings of the Clergy under Cromwell. Allott went to London, where he ministered to a chosen few and died. His rival, John Jackson, was strongly urged to conform but refused, and settled as schoolmaster and preacher at Morton, whence he moved to Kneesall, a place noted for Puritans. There he taught and preached twice every Lord's Day. He died December 26th, 1696, and rests in Kneesall Churchyard.

1: This was one of the so-called "Royal Briefs," which were orders issued to the Clergy to make collections in their churches to relieve distress caused by fire or other disasters. They were made with increasing frequency, until the laity refused to respond to such constant appeals. Fire Insurance Companies also were organised to deal with distress caused by fire. Nothing is known at Willenhall now of any disastrous fire at that time, but the Vicar of Willenhall suggests that Charles II issued the brief in gratitude to Colonel Lane, of Bentley Hall, at Willenhall, who sheltered him after his escape from Boscobel and helped him to escape to the coast disguised as Miss Lane's Groom. For this service the Lane family has been allowed to quarter the Royal Arms ever since.

This state of affairs may be taken as typical of what was done throughout the county of Nottinghamshire. The tyranny of the Parliament and of Cromwell and the unsettled state of religion had caused a revulsion of feeling. Francis Leeke, our new Prebend, had suffered much in the cause of the Church and had been presented as a delinquent and fined, as is mentioned above. In September, 1676, he made an account of the inhabitants within the peculiar of Southwell which is quoted by Dickinson as follows:- "The number of inhabitants (of age to receive the Communion) popist recusants and other dissenters from the Church of England in the several parishes within the jurisdiction of Southwell.

At Southwell itself the estates of the Minster were restored, to the disappointment and loss of Mr. Cludd and those other Puritans who had not scrupled to buy Church lands from a Parliament which had no legal title to sell. The whole transaction had, in fact, been illegal throughout. It may seem hard that Cludd and the others lost their money, but they had run the risk always involved in the purchase of stolen goods and the bargain had gone against them.

But Puritanism had left a mark on the Church, the traces of which have not even yet passed away. For this place it may be summed up in the grievous remark of Dr. Thoroton already quoted: "Calverton, like Woodborough, is a great populous village, with an empty Church for the most part."


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