Aslockton and Whatton

Cranmer's Mound, Aslockton
Cranmer's Mound, Aslockton, is a well preserved motte still standing 16ft high. Two rectangular platforms surrounded by broad ditches lie to the south-east of the mound: these may be the sites of later houses of the Cramners.

ASLOCKTON is justly proud of its old associations; at all events, it makes the most of them and of the title to lasting fame which its connection with the Cranmers gives it. One of its inns bears the name of the Cranmer Arms, and the inhabitants will promptly point out to the visitor interested in such matters the site of Cranmer’s house, and a mound on which tradition says he was wont to sit to listen to the sweet music of the bells of Whatton Church. The spot on which the Archbishop’s residence stood is occupied by a modern house of a substantial type, and all traces of very old buildings have long since departed from the village, save the thick stone walls of an ancient chapel, which are visible under a house of brick and tile. The edifice is known locally as Cranmer’s Chapel, and on that account, as well as from its interest as the site of a religious foundation, most antiquarian visitors readily avail themselves of the permission of its courteous occupier to inspect its ancient arches and walls.

The church in the adjoining village of Whatton was that to which the Aslockton people mostly went, and it is here we must look for the burial-place of the Cranmers, and for any memorials of them that exist. Fortunately, there is still to be seen a fine incised slab in excellent preservation to the memory of no less a personage than the father of the Archbishop. It is inserted in the floor of the north aisle, and forms an interesting object in what is undoubtedly one of the most attractive of our village churches. Near to the Cranmer slab is a stone altar-tomb, bearing the figure of a cross-legged knight in armour (Sir Richard de Whatton, temp. Edward II.), and under an arch in the north wall the effigy of a priest with curled hair. The remains of the village cross are also preserved in the church, which has been restored with great skill and judgment.

St John of Beverley church, Whatton
St John of Beverley church, Whatton. The church was "over-restored" in the 19th century.(A. Nicholson, 2000).

We must not stay to describe the objects of interest in this beautiful church further than to quote the inscription on the Cranmer slab as follows: ‘Hic jacet Thomas Cranmer, armiger, qui obiit vicesimo septirno die mensis Maii, anno dni. MD centesimo primo, cui (cujus) aie (anime) ppcietur (propitietur) Deus. Amen.’ The arms upon it are: ‘A chevron between three cranes—Cranmer. Arg. on five fusels in fesse, gules, each an escallop or— Aslacton.’ The figure is that of a man in flowing hair and gown, and a purse at his right side.

In the parish registers are various entries of the baptisms and deaths of members of the family. Ralph Morice, the private secretary of the Archbishop, has left behind him some interesting notes of his eminent master, in which he gives colour to the belief that the first of the family to settle in this country came into the realm with William the Conqueror. Prior to their appearance in Nottinghamshire they lived at Lutterton, and occupied a good position there. By the marriage of Edward Cranmer with the heiress of the Aslocktons they assumed the arms of the latter. Thomas Cranmer, whose slab we have described, married Agnes, daughter of Laurance Hatfield, of Willoughby, Notts, and resided at the old manor-house at Aslockton. Their second son became Archbishop, and though we do not know much of his youthful days a few details have been collected in Strype’s ‘Memorials.’

Archbishop Thomas Cramner (1489-1556)
Archbishop Thomas Cramner (1489-1556)

Whether the future Archbishop was educated by the parish priest, or whether he went to a grammar school in any of the towns of the neighbourhood, is a matter of speculation. Morice says that when he went to Cambridge he left ‘a grammar school’ to go there. But if not trained at home in literature and the arts, he received in the open fields of this broad stretch of country what was of great importance to him in after-life, an efficient knowledge of outdoor exercises and pastimes, and the foundations of a strong constitution. ‘His father used him to shoot with the long-bow, and let him hunt and hawk and ride rough horses.’ Shortly after the funeral of his father at Whatton, in 1501, his mother sent him at fourteen years of age to Jesus College, Cambridge. His subsequent career is a matter of general history, and need not be dwelt upon here.

Leland speaks of Aslockton and the ‘heire of the Cranmers,’  the Archbishop’s elder brother, and it would be to his house that the martyr resorted when visiting the neighbourhood. He had, however, some property here, as appears by an entry in the State Papers, dated 1528, five years prior to his elevation to the episcopal bench.

In 1547 Edward VI. granted to the Archbishop for the sum of £429 13s. the rectories of Whatton and Aslockton, with the advowson of the churches, both belonging to Welbeck Abbey. After his death the property passed to his nephew Thomas, and subsequently to Thomas Molyneux, who married Alice Cranmer, daughter and heiress. The son of Thomas Molyneux, a Sir John Molyneux, Bart., sold the estate, and Aslockton and the Cranmer family thus became finally severed.