Hawton Church and Newark Museum.

By the Rev. F. H. Burnside.

ON September 26th the Society visited Hawton Church and Newark Museum. It was a blustery day with considerable intervals of sunshine.

The party assembled in Parliament Street, and left by char-a-banc at 1.30. The route chosen was via Radcliffe, Bingham, Scarrington, Hawkesworth, Sibthorpe and Cotham, and en route various objects of antiquarian interest, such as the earthworks at Saxondale and the Dovecote at Sibthorpe were discussed.

The party arrived at Hawton at 3 o'clock, where they were joined by a great number of members and friends who had proceeded to Hawton in their own cars.

A paper on Hawton Church was read by the Rector the Rev. F. H. Burnside, at the conclusion of which the Rev. Du B. Hill and Mr. Blagg pointed out various architectural points in the building and the secretary ventured the suggestion that it was possible that the York School of Masons had settled in Nottingham and had become the progenitors of the Nottingham Alabaster workers.

The Society then proceeded to Newark where tea was provided at the Clinton Arms Hotel after which a a visit was paid to the Newark Museum, under the guidance of Mr. Bradley, Colonel Hodgkinson and Mr. Smith.

The return journey was made via the Fosse Road and Nottingham was reached at about 7.45.


When your Secretary asked me to read a paper to the members of your Society I told him that I was quite unqualified to deal with the architectural features of such a Church as Hawton—but I would do my best to piece together what little is known of the history of the Parish and Church—unfortunately the materials for such a purpose are very scanty, and but for the work of Thoroton, after whom your Society is named, would probably have been more scanty still.

The parish is unquestionably a very ancient one— the name of it appears to have been spelt differently at various periods in its history—in the Domesday Book it is spelt "Holton" in the time of Sir Thomas Molyneaux, (end of 16th century) it is referred to as "Houghton," "Hawton" or "Houton." The Domesday Book as quoted in Thoroton's "Antiquities of Nottinghamshire" records that the most part of this township was the fee of Raph de Leinesi.

"there was a priest and two Churches and one mill 5s." it goes on to say. Here were likewise four Manors which in the Confessor's time Hugo, Raynalds, Torvet and Hugo had . . . . . . . . . . These Manors Alured held of Raph."

Thoroton adds "Richard de Houton was the first successor to Alured that I have found, and he I suppose, lived in the time of Henry the second. (1154-1189 A.D.)

He goes on to record that William, son of Roger de Houton, gave to Walter des Mores, son of Robert des Mores certain land in Houton and then follows a long list of witnesses after which he adds:—"Sir Rojer de Houton son of William de Houton, Knight, gave with his body seven bovats of land in Houton, to the Priory of Thurgarton, for the sustentation of a Canon to celebrate the Mass daily in that Church where he intended to be buried—for the health of his soul and Agnes his wife and all his Ancestors and successors. Walter, Archbishop of York confirmed the church of Houton to the said Priory, which it had of the gift of Roger, son of William, and afterwards granted to the Prior and Convent two Besants yearly, out of it to be paid by the Parson in the name of the Pension."

There was a fine levied at Nottingham 42 Henry III. (1258 A.D.) between Richard, Friar of Thurgarton and Robert de Houton, by which the said Prior passed the advowson of the Church of Houton to the said Robert and his heirs, who then gave to that monastery three Bovats of land in Houton, and confirmed the gift of land previously bestowed upon it.

The oldest portion of the existing church, namely the north arcade of three arches, together with portions of the north wall, including the north doorway, are generally assigned to a date circ. 1275. It seems fairly safe to assume that this church, begun about that date, occupied the same site as that on which one of the churches mentioned in the Domesday Book, was built.

There is no trace of the second church—but I would hazard the suggestion that in those days the Parish may well have been larger than at the present time, and the site of the second church may have been the site of some church which now serves a separate Parish.

But by whom was the present church begun? There is no definite information on this point—but evidently the principal land owners about this period were this family named "De Houton" and Thurgarton Priory—if therefore the date assigned for the commencement of the building be correct—it is fair I think to assume that they were mainly responsible for it.

But not very long after this—for one of them died and was buried in the church in 1308—another family of the name of "De Compton" from "Fenny Compton" in the County of Warwick appears to have succeeded the "De Houton" family as the principal landowners of this Parish.

Thoroton records that Robert de Compton, Lord of Houton gave to Theopania, daughter of Adam de Vavasur one message, two bovats of land, etc., in this town paying yearly half a pound of wax at Christmas. Then follow the names of the witnesses and a note to the effect that "the seal within the Circumscription of his name is on a long straight lined triangular shield, three helmets: which Arms were on all the Seals of this family in the reigns of several kings, though differing sometimes in the shape of the helmets." It is interesting to compare this description of the family Seal with the Shield represented on the founder's tomb associated with the Easter Sepulchre—erected in memory of the Sir Robert de Compton who died in 1330. Thoroton records that "Sir Robert de Compton was a Knight 1302" and that "there was a fine levied of the moiety of the manor of Houton by Newark 29 Edward 1st. (i.e. 1301) by Robert de Compton to Hugh Barry.

This refers to the first Sir Robert whose tomb stone is now under the Tower. In a paper read by Bishop Trollope in 1871, there is a note—to this effect—"In the tower there is a coffin shaped slab of perbeck marble having thereon the matrix of a fine cross legged brass to Sir Robert de Compton who died in 1308. There are only five such extant."

Easter Sepulchre, Hawton church.
Easter Sepulchre, Hawton church.

There can I think be little doubt that not only the founder's, the Easter Sepulchre and the North Chapel (now destroyed) but also the chancel itself and probably the South Aisle was the work of the De Compton family —but it is more difficult to say to which member of the family the different parts should be assigned. In these successive generations the name of the head of the family is Robert. The first Robert died 1308—the second 1330, the last date at which Thoroton finds reference to the third Robert is 43 Edward III., i.e. 1370, so that his death must have taken place towards the end of the 14th century.

There can be little doubt but that the founder's tomb, the Easter Sepulchre and the North Chapel were erected by this 3rd Robert de Compton in memory of his father who died in 1330—but it seems possible that the Chancel and South Aisle were begun by the second, if not by the first Robert de Compton.

The family apparently continued to be associated with Hawton till towards the end of the 15th century, if not later.

Thoroton's last reference to them is as follows:—

"I have not seen further of these Comptons, saving that 5 Henry VIII. (i.e. 1513) William Compton Esq., claimed against Robert Molineux and Katherine Molineux widow, two parts of the Manor of Houton which was then in the inheritance of that family, whereof the first was Thomas Molineux . . . . . . . . which said Thomas was made Baronet by Richard, Duke of Gloucester at Barwick in the year 1482 and built the church and a fair house at this Hawton: his first wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Markham of Gotham by whom he had Robert Molineux who succeeded him here; his second wife was Katharine, the daughter of John Cotton . . . . . . . he died 6 Henry VII. The part of the church built by this Sir Thomas Molineux was the Western Tower—his arms with those of his second wife are to be found in the spandrils of the west doorway. To this period also are assigned the west door itself— the three light plain clerestory windows over the nave arcades, the windows of the aisles save the East windows (which are contemporary with the chancel and the massive oak pews). There is a tradition to the effect that Henry VII. watched the progress of the battle of Stoke 1487 from the top of the West Tower, then in course of erection, when the west door was examined this summer by Mr. W. C. Woodhouse under the direction of Captain J. H. W. Ford, of Newark, a bullet was found embedded in the oak behind the moulding and it had, apparently, entered without in any way damaging the moulding. Now the door is of three parts. In the centre is the main framework—on the inside are cross beams of oak to strengthen it and on the outside is the ornamental moulding with the remains of the inscription "Jesu Mercy, Lady Helpe" carved in it. I leave it to the members of this Society to discuss the point as to whether this lead bullet entered the main framework before the door was completed, namely, about the time of the battle of Stoke, or whether it could possibly have reached the position in which it was found without damaging the moulding by entering the woodwork at an angle. In which case one would naturally assume that it was fired in the course of the civil wars since Hawton was in the line of the Parliament troops attacking Newark from the South. The two parts of the door are the main framework, and cross beams on the inside were apparently put into position first—then the hinges of Sussex fagg of iron were put into position, fastened to them by means of rivets. The rivets were nails on studs driven through holes in small diagonal pieces of metal and beaten down on to it. There was no evidence that the door had even been taken down since the day that it was erected.

With reference to Thoroton's statement that Sir Thomas Molineux "built a fair house at this Hawton" it is interesting to note that the field opposite the west end of the church is still known as "The Park" and quite recently stone foundations have been uncovered in this field which may well have been the foundations of this "fair house."

But so far as one can tell no houses "fair" or otherwise of any size or durability survived the civil wars in Hawton and the only wonder is that the church itself did not suffer more damage although the Parish is one with such a long history there is not a single really old house in it.

The church was well restored in 1884, in the time of the late Rector the Rev. R. Washington, at a cost of £1645 and in 1887 the south porch was added by Mrs. Hutton—but an ancient building like this is in constant need of something being done either to the fabric or fittings. We have just had the west door repaired and I think you will all agree with me that it is high time that a suitable system of heating was introduced and the unsightly stoves done away with. All who are interested in this church would also, I think, like to see the North Chapel re-built on its old foundations which still exist,—but all these things cost money and in these expensive days a great deal of money, and we are only a small Parish, so we shall be glad if any Archaeologists who are anxious to see such buildings as this maintained and when need arises suitably restored—will come forward and give us their assistance.

The Parish Registers go back to 1564—volume one consists of forty leaves besides those leaves at the beginning, the first blank and the others bearing various interesting notes and memoranda.

The whole volume contains entries of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1564 to 1696 inclusive, besides entries from 1697 to 1706 which are repeated in duplicate from 1584 to 1602. In 1641 appear the signatures to the oath of Protestation of thirty-seven parishioners attested by the two church wardens.

The marriages 1564 to 1811 were extracted by Mr. T. M. Blagg, and printed under his supervision by permission of the Rev. R. Washington.