Priory and Church of St. Peter's, Thurgarton, Notts.

Plan of Thurgarton Priory. Measured and drawn by William R. Gleave, 1902.
NOTES.—The east window has been rebuilt into modern work, as also has the door to porch. The west gable appears to have been almost rebuilt externally, the original gable being much higher, as indicated by rough stonework on tower, see sketch in Transactions for 1898. The tower is the only portion of old work outside that has escaped the modern restorers. It is understood that this church had a nave seven bays long, with central and two western towers. Of these, there remain only three bays of nave and the north-west tower. The nave walls have been reduced in height, the triforium and clerestory windows having been removed.


A SMALL village in Normandy called Aincourt, not far from Mantes on the Seine, gave its name to the Anglo-Norman family of D'Aincourt. The first English baron of this name was Walter, who was connected by marriage with William Duke of Normandy, and was also a kinsman of Remigius, the first Norman bishop of Lincoln. Remigius when Almoner of the Abbey of Fecamp, by the Norman seaboard, made an offer to Duke William of a ship and twenty armed men as a contingent for the invading force. He embarked with his fighting men, landed with his chief at Pevensey, and if not with his arms—which is by no means unlikely—certainly by his words, influenced and contributed to the Norman victory.

Harold's English forces spent the night before the battle in drinking and singing, the Normans spent their night in listening to the religious exhortations of the bishops and other clergy and in prayer and confession of their sins. Of these exhorters, Remigius was one, and contemporary chroniclers have been careful to present us with his portrait; dwarfish in stature, dark in complexion, undignified in aspect. "Nature," says William of Malmesbury, "seemed to have "formed him to show that the noblest spirit might dwell in "the most wretched body."

Of the cousin or kinsman of Remigius, that is to say, of Walter the first English Dayncourt, contemporary history is silent. He is said by Dr. Thoroton to have given his tithes of Gotham, Thurgarton, Granby, Hickling, Knapthorpe to the Abbey of St. Mary's at York, to which his wife Matilda was also a benefactor. Quite apart from family relationships, he must have been a soldier of distinction, if we are to judge from the numerous baronies he received from the Conqueror :— 1 lordship in Northamptonshire, 4 in the West Riding, 11 in Derbyshire, 17 in Lincolnshire, of which Blankney was made the head of his barony, and 34 in Notts, including Thurgarton, which had been, previously, Swayne's.

Walter D'Aincourt had two sons, William and Ralph. William went to the Court of William Rufus, died young, and was buried before the western door of Lincoln Minster. A leaden epitaph found in his grave speaks of him as regia stirpe progenitus, and also informs us of the kinship with Remigius. Ralph became his father's heir, and was 2nd baron. Of other members of this family, perhaps we may note, in passing, that Walter the 3rd baron fought for Stephen at Lincoln in 1141, and that William the 9th baron fought for Edward the Third in the French war, and was the custodian of King John of France.

But we must return to Ralph D'Ayncourt, the 2nd baron. Sixty-three or four years had gone by since the great invasion, and less warlike times, and for a little space, more settled days had come with the strong rule and administration of Henry the First. In the midst of the busy life of those days, the Benedictine monasteries were still the harbours of refuge for all who did not care to fight or to trade. And the Normans had brought into England a new religious order, the Canons Regular of S. Augustine. For them Ralph Dayncourt, "consilio et petitione" acting under the advice and at the request of Thurstan, Archbishop of York, founded a religious house at Thurgarton for the Augustinian Canons, and dedicated it to St. Peter. He bestowed upon this religious house all Thurgarton and Fiskerton and the Park by Thurgarton and all his

churches, eleven in number; "exceptis decent solidis quos iidein Canonici reddent annuatim, de dono meo, iiifirinis de Stokes" (St. Leonard's Hospital). They were called Austin Canons because their rule of life was taken from the writings of St. Augustine, and they were known as the "black canons" in England on account of their dress. They wore a black cassock, with a white rochet—black cloak and hood and black cap or biretta; and they also wore beards.

As was often the case, this monastery stepped, here and elsewhere, into the place of the parish priest, sending vicars to act for it in the performance of its new duties. In Thurgarton itself the whole population soon became servants of the convent, a parish priest ceased to be appointed, and the canons themselves ministered to the parish. Subsequently the priory was enriched by many other benefactions, a detailed account of which may be found in the Cartulary of Southwell, and a MS. copy of the Cartulary, now in possession of Mr. James Ward.

A chantry was founded in this church on the 12th Jan., 1431, by Alice, wife of William Dayncourt; and on the 25th June, 1442, Sir Win. Babington, knight, Nicholas Wimbish, clerk, John Mykulberghe, chaplain, and Robert Halome were licensed to found a chantry at the altar of St. Katherine.

At the Dissolution in 1537, John Berwick, the last prior, and the ten canons of that time resigned to the king. The income was then valued at £259 per annum, and was granted to William Cooper, a member of a Derbyshire family, and a servant of King Henry VIII. From him was descended Sir Roger Cooper, who played a prominent part in the wars of Charles I.'s time, and who spent his patrimony in the service of the king.

But let us now turn to the buildings. Of the church and priory of Ralph Dayncourt's days, nothing whatever remains, except perhaps a few wrought stones scattered here and there about the gardens and the village. The portion of the conventual church now remaining is of the 13th century. There is also an undercroft or cellar of the same date to be seen under the present house. Some of the work was as late as early in the 14th century; for Archbishop Melton's register speaks of a Commission dated Ap. 21, 1323, to dedicate the altars in the monastery of Thurgarton "which "have been constructed de novo;" and the two decorated windows now over the altar and many of the carved stones about the village are examples of 14th century work and later.

Bishop Trollope tells us that it was cruciform, had a central tower, two western towers, and a nave of seven bays. It must have been a very fine church, and no mean rival to its neighbour, Southwell Minster. Of the original 13th century work only one-half (the western half) remains; and there is also the north-west tower.

Let us first look at the central doorway. The large undercut mouldings and the dog-tooth ornament are distinctive features of 13th century work. Eight pillars on either side of the doorway enrich its deep jambs and the recessed archway with its numerous mouldings is very beautiful. There are three rows of tooth ornament on the face, two on the soffit, and one on the label mould. Notice that there is a smaller doorway in the lower stage of the tower of the same character as the central doorway and almost as beautiful. It is not quite so rich in dog-tooth ornament. There are two rows on the face, one on the soffit, and a smaller one on the label mould.

I would now draw particular attention to the portion of an old capital which is to be seen to the left of the gable, and on the south face of the tower. It is beyond a doubt the spring of a lancet window or arcade in the 13th century gable, and the rubble stonework above indicates the spring of the ancient gable wall. According to measurements taken last week by Mr. W. R. Gleave, one of our Nottingham architects, who kindly came with me on a journey of help and of inspection, the old west gable was 5ft. thick, and seeing that the spring of the old capital is 4ft. 6in. above the label mould, over the present side windows of the gable, the 13th century gable must have been 15ft. higher than the present one, more or less. Notice also that the line of 13th century gutter is to be seen and also the gargoyle from which the rain-water once issued.

Now let us look at the tower, the form and details of which are most beautiful. Nothing can be more chaste in profile and moulding than the arcade round the staircase buttress. This alone is a most delightful example of Early English work. Then there is a rare example of peculiar carving to be seen in the lancet window under the belfry. It has a likeness to, and seems to be a development of, the zigzag ornament round Norman arches, of which Castor Church, Northamptonshire, affords a well-known example.

The buttresses of the tower have gabled tops. The staircase buttress at the N.W. angle is of exceptional size and gives a distinctive feature to the work.

In its second stage the tower has a single lancet, and above this a band of arcade work, and finally a grand belfry stage with long louvre windows and more arcade work; the whole being surmounted by an embattled parapet of later date, and Perpendicular in character, and, at any rate, decidedly later than Early English work. The rest of the exterior is modern except the arch of the porch on the north side, and the two east windows of two lights in the chancel. In the north porch the arch and capitals have apparenrly been removed from some other position and built into the later work. The east windows are also earlier than the work which surrounds them and are of the Decorated period. Notice the roll and fillet moulding, which is certainly of the Decorated type.

Within, let us first go to the chancel. First notice that between the very beautiful two-light windows is a richly sculptured statue niche, surmounted by a canopy, adorned with very beautiful carving of the Late Decorated period.

The Chancel Chair is a piece of modern patchwork embodying some fine oak panels of Jacobean date. The upper panel represents the Magi offering their gifts, and the lower one the  Sacrifice of Isaac. Figures of Virtues are in  the lower side panels.

An old altar slab marked with six crosses now makes the top of the present altar. It was found in 1854 during the restoration by Mr. Milward. Below are two incised slabs of the 14th century. Notice, too, the three oak miserere stalls, with square ends well carved and of the Decorated period.

The name misericord or miserere was of course given on account of the merciful provision these seats afforded for the relief of wearied human nature. They offered a partial support to the body during the protracted services of the earlier Church. Our modern attitudes of sitting, and of half sitting, half kneeling (an attitude technically known as "hunkering") are much less reverent. Drowsiness, however, must have been much more fatal to the tired monk than to the modern sleeper.