Second Day

ON Wednesday, about 10 o'clock, the members of the Society and their friends met at St. Mary's Church. Among those who attended were the Rev. A. J. L. Dobbin, Chairman of the Excursion Committee, and Mrs. Dobbin, the Rev. Canon Skelton, the Rev. T. W. Swann (Orston), the Rev. J. H. Heath and Mrs. Heath (Flintham), the Rev. R. J. Burton (Darley Abbey), the Rev. H. L. Williams (Bleasby), the Rev. A. M. Y. Baylay (Thurgarton), the Rev. J. G. Bayles (Hawkesworth), Mrs. Standish, Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Thorpe, Mr. H. Ashwell, J.P., and Mrs. Ashwell, Aid. J. Barber, Prof. F. S. Granger, Mr. J. P. Briscoe, Mr. T. Ward, Mr. B. S. Wright, Mr. C. H. Torr, Mr. W. Stevenson (Hull), Mr. A. H. Reeves (Scarrington), Mr. W. Wells, Mr. G. Harrison, Mr. Hugh Browne and Miss Browne, Mr. M. H. Hall and Mrs. Hall (Whatton Manor), Mr. F. Felkin, Mr. Chas. Gerring, Mr. P. J. Cropper, Mr. G. G. Napier, M.A. (author of “The Homes and Haunts of Tennyson”), Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith, Mr. J. T. Godfrey, Mr. F. W. Dobson, Mr. J. Wright, Mr. J. T. Radford, the Rev. J. Standish (Scarrington) and Mr. W. P. W. Phillimore (London), Hon. Secretaries, and others.

St Mary's church from the south-west.St Mary's church from the south-west.

Archdeacon Richardson met the party at St. Mary’s Church. He said that he was not an antiquary, not from lack of inclination, but from want of time. However, the party had a well-known antiquary in their midst, and he proposed to ask Mr. W. Stevenson to act as their guide. For a long time after he (the Archdeacon) came to the Church he accepted the view that the date of it was the end of the fifteenth century. He considered that those who held that the building belonged to the preceding century would have difficulty in maintaining their position. But the fact had been pointed out to him lately—and he was more or less convinced by it—that a tomb which would be pointed out, at the end of the south transept, was that of a man who lived at the end of the fourteenth century. That fact seemed to put the date beyond the reach of doubt, and the only answer that could be given by the advocates of the later date was that it was possible the Church was later than the tomb— that it belonged to an earlier Church, and was preserved when the Church was rebuilt.

Archdeacon Richardson then called upon Mr. Stevenson to act as conductor. Discussing the probable date of the Church, Mr. Stevenson said he relied mainly upon an article written on the subject by the late Mr. Thomas Close, who, in dealing with the heraldry of the building, fixed its date as of the reign of Richard II. It had been stated that the present building was a portion of an earlier Church, and was brought from Lenton Priory when it was destroyed, But that was purely legendary.

Practically the whole of the stone with which the Church was built seemed to have been obtained from Gedling. It had been pointed out that the south porch was in a much worse state than the rest of the Church, but that was probably owing to the fact that the stone was got from a bad vein, or perhaps was procured from the Mapperley Hills, where the stone, although of the same geological formation, was not so good. The design of the porch was the same as that of the tomb, and he thought it ought to be called Salmon's porch, for in all probability he gave it to the Church. It was evident that the porch had been added to the Church, not the Church built to the porch. Mr. Stevenson then took the party to the tomb of John Salmon (in the south transept, already referred to by the Archdeacon). He said that until very recently the existence of the tomb appeared to have been forgotten, but it was a neglect on the part of the local historian, for the tomb was known in Thoroton’s time. It was once an altar tomb, but only the effigy now remained. John Salmon died between 1395 and 1405, and about that time the Church must have been finished. It was just possible that the tomb was erected during Salmon’s lifetime ready for his interment.

That would put the date back a few years, and made it fit in with Mr. Close’s opinion.

In the course of his remarks on the tomb in the north transept of the Church Mr. Stevenson said it had been a magnificent monument. In the top slab Flemish brasses had been inlaid, but they had been taken away, probably about the time of the Reformation. It was generally supposed that they were removed during the disturbance caused by the Civil War but that was not the fadt, because Thoroton practically admitted that he did not know whose tomb it was. If the brasses had been taken out during his lifetime there would have been many people living in the neighbourhood who would have been able to give him information about them. The matrices of the brasses showed that the tomb was that of a civilian and his wife. The monument had been called Plumptre tomb, but that was owing to the fa<5t that a representative of the family had a plate fixed to the wall at the back. Mr. Stevenson then pointed out that the tomb was no part of the construction of the Church—but was of a considerably later period—and he gave reasons, based upon the position of the various mouldings of the tomb and the wall behind, which seemed to thoroughly satisfy the party. In Thoroton’s day, Mr. Stevenson went on to say, it was stated that there were three important tombs in the Church. Some years ago a seledtion of the wills preserved at York was published, and among them was the will of Thomas Thurland, merchant, of Nottingham. The will contained a clause which stated that if he died in Nottingham he wished to be buried in St. Mary’s Church. He said, “ If I die in Nottingham,” probably because he was a merchant, and might die away from home. When the death of Thurland’s wife took place some year's afterwards it was recorded by her will that she asked to be buried by the side of her husband in St. Mary’s Church. He (Mr. Stevenson) therefore identified the tomb as that of John Thurland, the great merchant, of Nottingham. The tomb, like that of John Salmon, in the opposite transept, had passed through many vicissitudes. The front of the slab, which was of costly Purbeck marble, had been cut away about three inches. He was of opinion that the work was carried out in London by Flemish artists. Possibly the tomb itself was local work, for the material was only found in Derbyshire. The apparent age of the tomb corresponded with the death of the merchant with whom he connected it.

The members of the society were then shown the alabaster figures preserved in the Church wall. Mr. Stevenson said it was a very valuable piece of sculpture, and for safety had been let into the wall and covered with glass. It was found under the floor of the chancel when the place was being restored, and probably was contemporary with the erection of the Church. He took it to be a fragment of the ancient reredos. The subject represented seems to be the investiture of a bishop by a pope, enthroned and surrounded by cardinals and others.

Commenting upon the doorway on the north aisle of the Church, Mr. Stevenson mentioned that it was referred to very fully in Mr. Close's article in which the heads are identified as representing Richard II. and his Queen.

In view of the visit of the society the foundations of one of the columns of the nave had been bared. Pointing to the masonry below Mr. Stevenson said it was evidently a portion of the shaft of the early English Church that preceded the present building. Turning the attention of the party to a battered effigy in the north side of the Church, Mr. Stevenson said the tomb appeared to have been destroyed in the early part of the century, and the figure placed on the Thurland Monument, where it rested for some years. When John Salmon’s tomb was destroyed his effigy was placed upon Thurland’s tomb, the figure which the party were then inspecting being taken away and sold for a few shillings. But the person who bought it did not take it away, and it was left outside the Church. The figure was portrayed in Thoroton’s work. In the middle of the last century the Bishop of Meath, during his travels through England, visited St. Mary’s, and he said that the hat or head dress was the most remarkable he had ever seen. It was possibly the head dress, Mr. Stevenson continued, of a civilian or merchant of the middle of the fifteenth century. There was sufficient evidence of the head dress to restore it even now. The hat must have been a very beautiful article of dress at the time the figure was sculptured. It was hopeless now to try to find out whom the effigy was intended to represent. The only other object in the Church to which special attention was devoted was the curiously inscribed font. The inscription,* which has been re-cut, is in Greek, and is read backwards or forwards. It runs as follows:—

In the churchyard Mr. Stevenson stopped at a quaint old headstone, of the date 1714, and explained that it was earthenware, the letters of the inscription being impressed on the soft material before it was burnt. There was, he said nothing like it in the county, and he did not think that any could be found in Derbyshire, though there were a few in the Pottery district in Staffordshire. The headstone was the finest specimen extant of old Nottingham pottery, and he thought that it ought either to be taken inside the Church or sent to the Castle Museum, but this view was strongly dissented from by several members of the society who expressed the opinion that it should be left there.

* This palindrome has also been used at Harlow in Essex ; Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire; St. Martin Church, Ludgate Hill, London, and other places. It may be rendered “ Cleanse lawless deed, not outward look alone.” “Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor” is a Latin example of this kind of ingenuity.—J. S.