Knight and Lady Hand-in-Hand

Strelley Hall and church, c.1910.
Strelley church in 2005.
Strelley church in 2005.

STRELLEY. It lies off the beaten track, an unspoiled village with luxuriant lanes and a wealth of trees. From Norman days to Charles the Second there was an unbroken line of Strelleys in this place which gave them a name and a home, and it was their boast that twelve successive generations were knighted. They were renowned for their service to county and country, and were among the biggest landowners in Notts. One joined Earl John in his rebellion against Richard, others shared in the struggle with the barons. About 1356 Sir Sampson de Strelley made himself a lasting memorial by rebuilding the church which shelters their tombs. The last but one of them gave Bulwell a Free Grammar School which still stands, though no longer a school. In 1678 they sold the estates to Ralph Edge, who was three times mayor of Nottingham and has a memorial in the church, standing close to the hall, where his descendants were still living when we called. It is an 18th century house on the old site.

In the peaceful churchyard, where a fine old yew overhangs the road, is Sir Sampson's 14th century church, with remains of the earlier one in the wall of the south aisle, and a tower belonging to all three medieval centuries. The clerestory is about 1500, and of the old glass shields and medallions some are 14th century and some Flemish work of 300 and 400 years ago. The font is 14th century.

A great possession is the almost perfect 15th century chancel screen, with beautiful vaulting. The Jacobean pulpit with a lovely canopy has some older tracery, and two old misereres in the chancel are quaintly carved with a bishop holding up a cross and a crouching grotesque with limbs branching into foliage.

Sampson de Strelley and his wife (2005).
Sampson de Strelley and his wife (2008).

On a beautiful tomb in the middle of the chancel, enriched with 14 angels holding shields, lies Sir Sampson, a knight in armour holding the hand of his lovely lady who wears a richly jewelled headdress; Sir Sampson's head rests on the crest of a strangled Saracen's head. Of the floorstones to others of the family round the tomb two have traces of figures, and one has a fine engraved portrait of a knight. Two are to brothers and their wives: Sir Robert Strelley who fought at Agincourt, and John of 1421. Another stone has fine brass portraits of Sir Robert Strelley of 1487 and his wife Isabel, sister of Cardinal Kemp.

On a traceried tomb with a handsome canopy adorned with figures in niches and angels lie the alabaster figures of John de Strelley of 1501 and his wife Sanchia Willoughby. John is a knight with his head on the family crest, and sitting on the back of the lion at his feet are two weepers.

In the south transept are two Flanders crosses and a Book of Remembrance of the men who did not come back to Strelley and Bilborough. In Strelley all came home but one. In the cemetery facing the churchyard is a stone peace memorial crucifix.