Civil War skirmish

During the Civil War a Roundhead force from Retford attempted to capture the mansion occupied by the Royalist Gervase Lee, but the attack was beaten off and the besiegers compelled to retreat as a party of Cavalier troops from Newark approached rapidly. When hostilities ceased Lee was heavily fined for "delinquency," but after many petitions his penalty was greatly reduced because of his advanced age, his heavy debts and his plea that he had a wife and 16 children unprovided for. He may have been the Gervase Lee who in earlier years had been fined £500 by the Star Chamber for lampooning the canons of Southwell in lines, such as:

Again they preach unto their Uxoribus,
And say it was written in Aristotle's De Moribus.
That the right summium bonum to cozen the pooribus
Is to say that the butter has gone out of the dooribus.

Perhaps his penalty was not too severe. An undated document in the Staunton archives reveals that in one year (probably about 1644) the Royalists levied £80 from this parish, and its proximity to Southwell must have involved the village in many exciting perils and scenes.

Another Norwell cavalier was William Curtis who, when summoned before the Notts Parliamentary Committee to disclose the estates of local "delinquents," flatly refused to appear. The committee reported the fact to the London Committee, which directed them to arrest him, but the reports do not mention him again.

Marriages under the oak

After the surrender of Charles I in 1646 the possessions of the archbishop were seized and sold. The minster suffered a like fate and the prebendaries were driven from their estates. Much of their property was purchased by Edward Cludd, a member of the Barebones Parliament, who also acquired Norwood (Norwell) Park in which he built a mansion and resided in good repute, near what is now the middle pond.

The oak under whose branches he conducted many marriages as a magistrate in conformity with the Commonwealth law, long bore his name but now lies prone in the last stages of decay. Such was his influence that his servant is reputed to have declared that he and his master ruled all Notts., but his enduring title to fame is that when the Minster was condemned to destruction, Cludd interceded with Cromwell and saved the building.

At the Restoration, the Minster was reinstated and Norwell Park returned with other of his possessions to the archbishop of York, but Cludd stayed on as tenant of the prelate. There he spent the rest of his life on the property once his own. His memorial in Norwell church states that he died in 1672, but he was alive in 1675 and when he died the lease of the park and its residence descended to his nephew.

When W. Sturtevant sought the title of gentleman in 1614 his claim was disallowed but that family became prominent in the parish. John Sturtevant was tenant of the Palacehall estate in 1652 and an inscription in the church states that "Thomas Sturtevant, the last of the family of that name at Palace Hall" died in 1772.

Under the Indulgence of 1672 a Baptist named Easam. related to the Sturtevants, was licensed to conduct worship in his own house, but this illegal permission soon had to be withdrawn. An ecclesiastical return records that in 1676 the adult population was 147 inclusive of nine nonconformists, who may have formed Easam's congregation.

In 1689 a subsidy of 1s in the £ was levied for the defence of the realm. Norwell was called upon to pay £45 9s. 6d., Sir Beaumont Dixie and Mr. Mumpessant" (?Mompesson) being each assessed at £5; Capt Lee paid £3 14s., and the long list of others is virtually a directory of the householders of that time. In the following year William Lee gave the books which commenced the library at Southwell Minster, and the park was supplying timber for the repair of the church and the erection of a residence house at Southwell.

Norwell's church of many styles

Norwell's fine cruciform church long known as St. Lawrence's seems to have had St Andrew as its earlier patron saint. It is a large edifice of which the oldest surviving part is a late Norman doorway probably dating from about 1175. The two lowest stages of the massive tower with lancet-lights were built about half-a-century later, the upper portions of the tower being added in the 15th century.

During the time of the War of the Roses the much admired clerestory heightened the nave and the enlarged tower received its buttress. The chancel with its arch and east window go back to the 13th century and the structure exhibits every style of architecture from Norman to Perpendicular.

Effigy of a lady in the south wall of nave, Norwell church.
Effigy of a lady in the south wall of nave, Norwell church.

The building was drastically restored in 1875, but its interior retains many items of interest. In the south wall of the nave is a recess, with the effigy of a 14th century vowess, remarkable for its almost perfect preservation of the refined features of the lady.

The stone figure of a cross-legged knight in the north transept may represent Sir John de Liseurs (the name is variously spelt) to whom, as Mr. Blagg has suggested) the wimpled lady may have been akin. In that transept three steps lead to the steep and narrow rood-stairs.

The south transept, formerly the chapel of St. Mary, now serves as the vestry: it has a 14th century piscina and the church has other points of interest of which Mr. Blagg treated in his illustrated contribution to the 35th volume of the Transactions of the Thoroton Society.

At Norwell the 19th century opened with a population of 776 in the wide ecclesiastical parish and 463 in the village. The two vicarages had recently been consolidated and under George IV about 1300a. here and at Willoughby were enclosed.

Other benefactors

Mary Hatfield, who benevolently allowed a dozen girls to seam gloves in her home and under her tuition, may have resided at Willoughby. Another benefactor was Mr. S. T. Sturtevant, of London, who in 1827 built Preston chapel on the site of an ancient hall here and allowed the Methodists the free use of it until his death in 1843, when that body purchased it for £75.

The schoolmaster's salary in 1819 was £24, for which sum he taught the three Rs to 12 boys and 12 girls, his wife instructing the latter in the mysteries of knitting' and sewing, but he also took paying pupils.

His successor soon had a stipend of £50 with a house, and it was pointed out that unless such extravagance was curbed the poor would receive little benefit from the charity funds. A few years later 15 poor widows were receiving loaves after morning service on Sundays out of the bread charity provided by Mary Sturtevant, some also sharing in a sum of 25s. a year for flax, and there were other doles for the general poor.

A decaying village

By 1851 Norwell itself had 599 inhabitants but thereafter it was a decaying village, the number falling to 372 by the end of the century. In 1871 the present school (subsequently enlarged) was erected on a site presented by Viscount Ossington, and between 1875 and 1877 N. Carlton, hitherto a chapelry of Norwell, was created a separated parish, and Middlethorpe was transferred to the parish of Caunton.

Meanwhile Norwell Park ceased to be the home of the Suttons and in quick succession was owned by Mr. J. E. D. Chambers, occupied by the Marquises of Carmarthen (later Duke of. Leeds), Lord Hill and Dashwood Fane, finally being sold by auction and purchased by a Yorkshire gentleman named Starkey. The days of archiepiscopal and prebendal ownership were over and the old Minster properties passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

In 1911, the village population numbered 350 and the outlying portions of the reduced ecclesiastical parish had 422. In that year Col. Craig bequeathed the interest of £307 for distribution among the needy.

To-day the inhabitants cherish the local traditions and can show a variety of memorials of the past. In the churchyard are ancient coffin slabs. Near the church is one of the six moats of the parish; it is silted up but is otherwise intact and is railed off as a kitchen garden.

The Palace-hall mansion, so long the abode of the Sturtevants, remains in the form of separate tenements. Here is a watermill, an old dovecote, and if the old custom of mumming at Christmas is no longer indulged in it can have ceased only during the last few years.