Screveton and Car Colston

Screveton church in the 1890s.Screveton church in the 1890s.

Near the main road from Screveton to Car Colston is a pretty church, which has recently been restored; and in a field adjoining the sacred edifice distinct traces of old foundations are clearly visible. On inquiry the visitor will find that there stood for centuries on this eligible site a large house known as Kirketon Hall, and that this house was the abode of the Whalleys, and their progenitors, the Leeks and the Kirketons, the last-named taking their cognomen from the parish in which they resided.

Screveton Church contains memorials of the Whalleys, and at the west end, to which it has been removed, a fine monument to the memory of Richard Whalley, who died in 1583. The Whalleys were not originally a Nottinghamshire, but a Staffordshire family. They came to this county in the time of Edward IV., when an heiress of the Leeks married Richard Whalley, and conveyed to him the Screveton property. It was a grandson of this Richard to whom the monument is erected, and he was in his day a prominent man, being a ‘servant’ of the Lord Protector Somerset.

Monument to Richard Whalley
Monument to Richard Whalley, who died in 1584, in Screveton Church. The inscription on the tomb reads:
"Behold his Wives were number three :
Two of them died in right good fame :
The Third this Tomb erected she,
For him who well deserv'd the same.
Both for his life and Godly end,
Which all that knows must  needs commend:
And they that knows not, yet may see,
A worthy Whalleye loe was he.
Since time brings all things to an end,
Let us our selves applye,
And learn by this our faithful friend,
That here in Tombe doth lye,
To fear the Lord, and eke beholde
The fairest is but dust and Mold:
For as we are, so once was he :
And as he ys, so must we be.

In 1538 he obtained possession of Welbeck Abbey and other property adjoining, and was subsequently enriched by a grant of the college of Sibthorpe and its possessions. In the violent upheavals of Church and State of those times Whalley took a prominent part, and he only escaped the fate of his patron Somerset on payment of a heavy fine, to disburse which, and to meet other liabilities, he sold Welbeck, in 1558, to Edward Osborne, of London, ‘citizen and clothworker.’ He had now reached the age of threescore years, and had retired from active participation in public affairs. The family seat at Screveton saw more of him than it had ever done before, and continued to see him, as a constant resident, until his death, in 1583.

In his later years he was enriched by grants from Queen Elizabeth, and left behind him substantial possessions for his children to enjoy. He had been thrice married, and at Screveton and Welbeck (where he sometimes resided) had been born to him no less than twenty-five children, many of whom had intermarried with families of influence and position. His last wife, Barbara, erected to his memory the alabaster monument in Screveton Church, which is one of the finest in the county, and bears a quaint inscription in verse recording the virtues of the departed.

At the time of the Gunpowder Plot one of those suspected of participation in it was Henry Garnet, otherwise known as Whalley, whom Bailey and other writers identify with the Whalleys of Screveton. He was a Jesuit priest, whose extraordinary career terminated on the scaffold, but it is open to question whether he was one of the Nottingham Whalleys at all. Father Foley, in his ‘Records of the English Province,’ says he was born at Nottingham, and a manuscript life of him, still extant, states that his father was Brian Garnet, master of the Free School there. In reply to his inquisitors, Whalley affirmed that his real name was Garnet, and a nephew of his who was also a Jesuit priest bore the same patronymic.

On Richard Whalley’s death his son and grandson occupied the old Hall. The latter, also named Richard, took to the family home at Kirketon as his second wife Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell, and aunt of Oliver Cromwell, the future Protector. ‘Aunt Fanny’s’ second son Edward was one of the heroes of the Civil War, and made himself a name in history. As major of a cavalry regiment he took part with his famous kinsman in the skirmish near Gainsborough. Carlyle has reproduced the official despatch in which Cromwell describes this engagement; tells how General Cavendish was slain by a thrust under his short ribs, and mentions that Major Whalley did in this carry himself ‘with all gallantry becoming a gentleman and a Christian.’

Kirketon Hall from a sketch made in the 1890s, over 60 years after its demolition. Kirketon Hall from a sketch made in the 1897, some 60 years after its demolition.

At Naseby, in 1645, Whalley again distinguished himself, and in 1646 successfully conducted the siege of Banbury. Having been raised to the rank of Colonel, he so far won the confidence of General Fairfax that when the captive monarch was at Holdenby he sent Colonel Whalley to attend upon him. The Colonel met the King on the way to Newmarket, and as his Majesty refused to return to Holdenby he entreated him to stay awhile at a gentleman’s house at Childersley. From Childersley, under Whalley’s guardianship, he removed to Newmarket, and subsequently to Hampton Court, where he arrived on August 26, 1647. Here he remained, still attended by Whalley, until March 11, when he contrived to make his escape and retire to the Isle of Wight. There had been ugly rumours afloat that attempts would be made on the King’s life, and Cromwell had written to his ‘beloved cousins Whalley to have a care of his guards, remarking, ‘if such thing should be done it would be accounted a most horrid act.’ An anonymous letter had also been received by the King warning him of the possibility of an attack, and though his Majesty disclaimed being influenced thereby, it must have caused him some anxiety. Any way, he determined to make his escape, and one night passed quietly by the back stairs and vault to the water-side. When Colonel Whalley and the Commissioners, wondering why he did not come to supper, entered his room, they found he had left his cloak behind him in the gallery and two letters upon his table, one for the Parliament and one for Whalley, in which he subscribed himself, ‘Your friend, Charles R.’  The Colonel had to explain how it was that the King eluded his watchfulness. This he appears to have done satisfactorily, and trust was still reposed in him by the Parliamentary leaders.

The next time the King and his ‘friend’ met was when Whalley was sitting as a judge of that High Court of Commission which had been constituted for the trial and condemnation of his Majesty, and on the death-warrant of the monarch Whalley’s signature stands fourth, immediately after that of his famous relative.

At Dunbar, in 1650, he once more displayed his courage in battle, and the Commonwealth found in him a devoted and zealous officer. He represented Nottinghamshire in the Parliaments of 1654 and 1656, and Bailey states that when Cromwell broke up the Barebones Parliament, it was Whalley who took away the mace, and his son-in-law, Colonel Goffe, who led on the musketeers that drove the members from their seats. When Cromwell created a House of Lords, Whalley was one of the ‘ennobled.’

At the restoration of the Stuarts Whalley and Goffe retired to Vevay, on the borders of the Lake of Geneva, but being in danger of capture they fled to America, where they were sheltered by the Puritans. Whalley died at Hadley, New England, in the house of Mr. Russell the minister, and was buried in a tomb just without the cellar wall, far away from the sepulchre of his ancestors in the peaceful seclusion of Screveton Church.

Dr Robert Thoroton
Dr Robert Thoroton

The old Hall subsequently came into the possession of the Thorotons, but was demolished about seventy years ago. The memory of the Thorotons, the last occupants of the ancient manor-house, is more intimately associated with the adjoining parish of Car Colston, where the famous historian owned property, and built himself a home. It is in the churchyard of this village that various members of the family are buried—Robert Thoroton, who died of plague in 1604, and a second Robert, ‘a loyal servant of King and Church,’ who died in 1646, as a Latin inscription on a tablet in the wall, near the chancel door, plainly testifies. The parish registers attest the interment of succeeding Thorotons, the burial of the historian being thus briefly recorded: ‘Robertus Thoroton, M.D., sepultus, November 23rd, 1678.’ A fine stone coffin, in which his remains were placed, is to be seen in the vestry at the west end of the church.