Burton Joyce, Lowdham, and Gonalstone Spittal

Church of St Helen, Burton Joyce (© A. Nicholson, 2005).
Church of St Helen, Burton Joyce (© A. Nicholson, 2005).

The names of villages and towns frequently furnish surnames for the manorial owners, but in the pretty little suburb of Nottingham by the side of the Midland Railway, known by the euphemistic appellation of Burton Joyce, the name of an ancient family has become inseparably attached to that of the locality. In Henry II.’s time the owner of Burton was Robertus de Jorz, or Joyce, and at a later time the Stapletons settled here and wielded considerable influence around them. They derived their name from Stapylton on the river Tees, and one of them was so distinguished as to be honoured with the Order of the Garter. The ownership of Burton was contested by John Walker in the reign of Henry VIII., and again by Sir William Babthorp in Queen Elizabeth’s time, and the suit of the latter, Thoroton says, ‘helped to transfer it to the family of Stanhope, with which it continueth.’

The memorials remaining of these once powerful people are all at the east end of the south aisle of the church. First there is a plain stone tomb bearing the effigy of an armed knight, on whose shield was carved a bend, and on it three water-bougets — the arms of the Jorz family.

Next is the tomb of Alice Roose, daughter of Francis Roose, of Laxton, first wife to Brian Stapleton, younger son of Sir Brian, then wife to Anthony Stapleton, of Rempstone, and lastly wife to Thomas Leeke, of Hasland. This much married lady died about 1595, and was buried in Burton Church. There has been her figure cut on the upper slab of the tomb, but it is now defaced. Then there is a tomb with the upper slab bearing a deeply incised figure of Sir Brian Stapylton, ‘Knyght and barinet, which departed this life the second day of April in the fourth year of King Edward VI.’ These tombs, now placed in a row, are lasting reminders of ancient families who once made the village their home, and exercised a wide influence in the locality.

Church of St Mary, Lowdham (© A. Nicholson, 2005).
Church of St Mary, Lowdham (© A. Nicholson, 2005).

In the immediate vicinity of these pleasing riverside villages is one of equal importance, whose history in its very name carries us back to times anterior to the Conquest. We shall not precipitate ourselves into the region of controversy if we claim Lowdham as bearing a name clearly indicative of a Danish origin, for it so happens (as in many other cases that might be cited) that it is practically identical with a Danish village existing to this day. Lowdham, in early documents, is spelt Ludham or Ludholme. There is a Ludham in Norfolk in the midst of that part of the county where the Danes congregated in overwhelming numbers, and there is a Danish village called Luddeholme, which is the same name in a slightly different guise. On the banks of the river, two miles or so away, are two other little villages with a Danish affix — Gunthorpe and Caythorpe, and there are other ‘thorpes’ and ‘bys,’ all more or less indicative of the advent of the pirate Danes and their settlement in these parts.

Twenty years after the Conquest Roger de Builli, the favourite of the Norman Conqueror, to whom vast possessions were assigned, gave a portion of the tithes of ‘the hail’ at Ludeham to the monastery at Blyth, and in the reign of Henry II. we have mention made of a mill at Gunthorpe on the Trent and a mill at Lowdham on the Dover Beck being given, the one to Shelford and the other, with the church, to the Canons at Thurgarton for religious purposes. The name of one of the mills on Dover Beck was Snellingmilne—the name is not perpetuated—but some of the witnesses to a deed of gift at this early period bore names still common in the locality. In the next reign (Henry III.) we have a glimpse of two important figures who became associated with the district. The famous Simon de Montford had granted to him by the King the Manor of Gunthorpe, and Walter Byset and his heirs had given them by the same royal personage the Manor of ‘Ludham’ until the Bysets should recover their lands in Scotland.

History has much to say of the doings of Simon de Montford which need not be reproduced here, and therefore we shall refer at greater length to the Bysets, who were of more local consequence.

‘The Bysets,’ says a recent authority, ‘held high office about the persons of the Plantagenets. They witnessed the confirmation of Magna Charta, endowed abbeys and priories, and left that indubitable mark of their importance by the additional name which some English parishes have received from them.’ Walter and his brother John while residing in Scotland made themselves conspicuous in that country, and seem to have been more feared than respected. Walter earned the reputation of ‘a brave though crafty knight,’ and was often to be seen participating in the tournaments which were common at this period. On one of these occasions he sustained a reverse, and as reverses were probably not common to a man who united bravery with cunning, he did not relish the infliction.

Unable to accept defeat with a good grace like an honest soldier, he conceived a method of revenge totally inconsistent with his reputation for bravery. His antagonist had been an Irishman, one Patrick Fitz-Thomas, of Galway, and Patrick with other nobles was staying at a place called Edmanton. After the labours of the day they were in a ‘calm sleep,’ when Byset stole in upon them, and set. fire to their house. He ‘blocked up the door outside with some trunks of trees, inserted fire in several places in the walls by means of lighted sticks, and burned nearly all who were inside’ (A.D. 1242).

So dastardly a crime aroused prompt indignation, and the murderer and his brother were banished from the land. The English monarch, needing the most powerful military aid he could command, at once enlisted them into his service. Gifts from the royal treasury were made to Walter Byset for his military activity, and the Manor of Lowdham was granted towards his support until he should regain his Scotch possessions and make peace with those he had so grievously wronged and offended. Lowdham was selected for obvious reasons. The Bysets had long held land at East Bridgeford, and many years before had granted Cliff Mill (Clive Milne) at Lowdham to the Priory at Thurgarton. There were members of the family living at Bridgeford at the time, and they had always been loyal and daring subjects. It is believed by Mr. Chisholm Batten, no mean authority, that Henry Byset of  1198, the courtier of King William the Lion, was a member of the Bridgeford family.

Six years before Walter Byset fled to England for protection, Henry III. had experienced a narrow escape from assassination. A madman entered the King’s apartments during the night with an open knife in his hand, for the purpose of killing him, when Margaret Byset (granddaughter of Henry Byset, of East Bridgeford), one of the Queen’s maids, who had been ‘singing psalms by the light of a candle,’ discovered him, and raising an alarm, the would-be assassin was seized, and was subsequently torn limb from limb by horses at Coventry. This timely service to him, rendered by one of the family, was probably in the King’s mind when he extended his protection to Walter Byset. In 1246 he received the gift of Lowdham, but did not long require it, for a few years later we find him back in Scotland, participating once more in national affairs, and in the quiet enjoyment of his ancient inheritance.

Almost the only relics of antiquity now remaining in the parish are an alabaster slab and the figure of a knight in armour in the chancel of the church, the latter bearing an inscription to the memory of Sir John de Loudham. At the feet of the effigy is a dog, so that we may assume the knight to have been a warrior. Dr. Brewer says: ‘Many of the Crusaders are represented with their feet on a dog, to show that they followed the standard of the Lord as faithfully as a dog follows the footsteps of his master.’

As the pedigree of the family who took their surname from Lowdham does not begin in Thoroton until Eustachius de Ludham, who was Sheriff of Notts and Derby in King John’s reign, we cannot trace the Crusading members of it (if any), but it is probable the monument commemorates a Sir John of a much later period. There was a Sir John in 1345, and two others in succession, after which the family in the direct male line seems to have become extinct. The distinguished position which some of the Ludhams attained does not appear to have been recognised by our Nottinghamshire historian. Godfrey de Ludham became Archbishop of York in 1258, and his brother Thomas was chaplain to the Pope, and Prebendary at York and Southwell. Robert de Ludham was Bailiff of Prince Edward in 1256. William de Ludham was one of seven justices itinerant for the county of York (15th Henry III.), and Walter de Ludham was at the great muster at Nottingham in 1297, when those holding lands of sufficient value in the county were summoned to render military service against Scotland. The Archbishop seems to have been a man of much firmness and daring. In the conflict of authority which raged between the Pope and the clergy he bore the brunt of it as the clerical nominee with much nonchalance. He went bravely to Rome for consecration, and obtained it after much trouble and expense. On returning, he entered London boldly bearing his cross erect, and was heartily received by the King and people. He died in 1265, and was buried in the south transept of York Minster.

Associated with Lowdham was Sir Peter de Montford, slain at the Battle of Evesham, and described as ‘a great man in those days,’ who was once tenant of the manor in the reign of Henry III.

There are fewer evidences of the remote past in the villages round Lowdham. At Epperston Ralph de Limosin, believed to be the founder of the Priory of Hertford, once held the greater part of the village; and through his family it passed to the Odingsells, who were connected with the place for many generations. The Rossells of Ratcliffe owned property here; and Herbert Rossell married a sister of Archbishop Cranmer. There is a letter extant from Cranmer to Brother Rossell, advising him to send his son—who is ‘very apt to learn and given to his book ‘—to school at Southwell. Hearing subsequently that the sweating sickness was prevalent in that place, he suggested the Free School at Bingham, which had been set up by the parson, Mr. Stapleton.

At Gonalstone Spittal once stood a chantry or hospital, founded by the Heriz Family, known as the hospital of Brodbusk. There is on record an agreement, made in 1235, between Sir John de Heriz and the Prior and Convent of Thurgarton, to the effect that the priory should have common of pasture for fifty cattle in the woods of Gonalstone and Thurgarton, and Sir John and his heirs pasture for four score; the said priory to have fifty swine, or in a fertile year of acorns sixty, in Thurgarton woods without pannage, and Sir John and his heirs as many as they pleased.

In these days heiresses were not permitted to marry without the consent of the monarch, except on payment of a fine, hence Adelina, who had been wife of William de Heriz, owed 100 marks that she should not be compelled to marry but whom she pleased. So likewise Emma de Bellafago gave account of no less than 6oo marks in King John’s reign for having Lowdham as her inheritance, and that she should not be distrained to marry. One other item illustrative of ancient tenures may not be uninteresting. Sir John de Loudham (temp. Edward II.) held his capital messuage in Lowdham of the Priory of Shelford by the service of twelvepence per annum, and in the same town one messuage and five bovats of land of Sir Peter de Edensowe, by the service of the twentieth part of a knight’s fee, and three shillings per annum, and likewise another bovat of him by the service of twelvepence per annum and two pounds of cummin.