Kelham boasts of its thousand years of history

Kelham church (photo: A Nicholson, 2000)

For something like a thousand years, the records of Kelham have been so rich that nothing beyond a rapid and selective survey can be attempted here. The forepart of its name is Old Norse and is stated to indicate a keel, the simile being suggested by the local hill ridges. Norwegian also is the name of Park Leys in this parish, for it derives from "hlada," a barn, and there, suitably enough, the monks of Rufford in later days established a grange. The suffix "ham" denotes a Saxon farm or enclosure of homes, and it may thus be assumed that the village was founded by Saxons and developed by the Danes.

THE Norman Conquest found four manors, each held by a different proprietor, and some smaller owners, of whom Aldene was the progenitor of the Cromwells. Most of the 43 inhabitants mentioned in Domesday were practically free men and the fact seems to suggest a Danish predominance. The survey alludes to no church or priest, but it is improbable that a community which must have numbered at least 150 souls was unprovided with a place of worship.

The Conqueror dispossessed the manorial owners, sharing their territory among Roger de Busli, Walter de Aincurt, Ralph de Burun (Byron) and Gilbert Tisun, but some of the sokemen appear to have been allowed to retain their holdings.

Aincurt's share included the most populous part and was soc to his manor of Rolleston. Roger installed Throld de Lisures as his tenant, but ere long new ownerships, clerical and lay, crept in.

The Monastic Invasion.

Rufford Abbey, founded about 1146, was the first religious house to gain a footing and, when King Stephen was at Worksop in 1154, he confirmed to it the gifts of Malger de Rolleston, Galfrid de Staunton, and Gilbert de Chelum (Kelham) with the lands it had by gift or purchase from William le Touk, this last by consent of Ralph Silvein, Touk's mesne lord. By 1160, the canons of Southwell had been given lands by four of the smaller owners and about that time Roger de Cressy succeeded to the Kelham estates of Turold de Lisures.

There was a church here by the reign of Richard I of which the advowson with its lands came to be held by Welbeck Abbey and Shelford Priory, apparently by gift of Roger de Kelsold and his wife, heiress of the Kelhams to whom it had belonged.

The division of interest in the advowson was the source of much wrangling, a long dispute between Welbeck and Shelford being ended by the exchange of the former's chapel of Bulcote to the priory in return for a moiety of Kelham Church, though the canons of Shelford continued to receive a yearly rent of 20s. and a stone of wax until 1289, when the claim thereto was dropped.

Upon one occasion the rector presented by Rufford was forcibly ejected from the church, but the abbot won the resultant lawsuit. In 1244, Walter de Tuke and the abbot made concord respecting common of pasture and there were other controversies in which Rufford generally secured the verdict.

The Changeful Trent.

In 1195, William de Touk forfeited his lands after being captured in Nottingham Castle in rebellion with King John, but Richard I restored them to him on payment of a light fine, and about that time the Trent made a remarkable change of its course. The Suttons of Averham, deeming the current of a little stream which ran through Averham and Kelham insufficient for their mills, made a cut in the Trent bank to increase its flow, with the result that the river poured through the new channel, by-passing Newark at the distance of a mile, as it has continued to do ever since. The Suttons had to build new bridges over the Trent's new course to replace those washed away here and at Muskham, and in 1225, Henry III granted to Retford "the toll belonging to the men of Nottingham, from the bridge of Kelum as far as the Doverbeck where it falls into the Trent."

In 1276, complaint was made that Walter Touk, of Kelham, was levying blackmail from strangers crossing the Trent between Kelham and Newark when off the king's highway, "by which they cannot cross for want of three bridges."

A jury found that the Bishop of Lincoln was responsible for the lack of these bridges, but when the case was tried the bishop won.

Walter and the lady of Averham were alleged to be seizing carts on the royal road between Kelham and Newark and holding them until ransomed at such price as they chose to fix.

They probably called this taking toll, but there was no equivocation concerning the crime of John de Doncastre, who was hanged for coining and the vill made responsible for his goods.

In 1290, Sir Walter de Tuke made peace with Rufford Abbey respecting property rights in Kelham, but he declined to seal the deed, which was accordingly preserved in the abbey "to his disgrace." The Tukes were then holding the principal manor of the Honour of Tickhill, formerly Roger de Busli's, and the Suttons held half a knight's fee of the Mowbray Barony, but soon after that time names of many new owners begin to appear.

In 1347, the Willoughbys were granted free warren on their lands at "Kelm"; men of Newark, including William Saucemer, obtained interests here; an annuity of six marks out of Parkkthes was diverted to a Newark chantry; land acquired by Thurgarton Priory was charged for the support of a Chesterfield chantry, and three of the Edenestowe family made over 10a. of land "and a weir in the water of Kelm" to the vicars choral of Southwell.

Unhappy conditions.

Local conditions under the Edwards left much to be desired. There were murders and outrages and the roads were unsafe and bad. In 1246, the villagers were granted "pontage for three years on wares for sale passing over or under their bridge and 'cawsies,' for the repair of such bridge and Cawsies," but the evil persisted.

In 1386, a further grant of pontage for three years was allowed "in aid of the repair of Kelm brig over the Trent."

Sums of money were given from time to time by merchants and others for repairs to the road to Newark and the bridge at Kelham, where the tolls, which belonged to Nottingham, were a constant source of complaint. They were leased out and in 1496, some horses were driven over the bridge without payment to test the rights of the lessee; he defended his charges and further troubles ensued.

There was at that period, and probably had long been, Flemish weavers at work in the village, and about 1475 the ancient aisleless church was replaced by one displaying marked architectural affinities to that at Lambley. In the last year of that century, Thomas Meering left property to be devoted either to his chantry chapel in Newark church "or els unto ye makyng of brigges in divers places upon the cawsy of Kellom."

Sir John Babington dying without issue in 1501 his possessions here descended through the Delves to the Earls of Sheffield, but the Kelhams were the principal owners, their demesne including nine messuages, 80a. of land and 20a. of meadow here and at Kneesal, held of the Crown by payment of 8d. a year, and they had other extensive properties not held from the king.

Another large proprietor was Sir Thomas Sutton, who in 1506 was granted "a course of water called a Goore, following from the Trent to a river called Grimsdyke with two mills called Kellom mylles on Averham water, and a free fishery." Prominent also were the Willoughbys and the Fitzwilliams, the latter of whom then had the old Touk manor, but in 1515, the heiress of that family conveyed it by marriage to the Foljambes, who long retained it.