Bulwell Wood Hall is one of the oldest secular buildings in the parish. The estate on which it stands was given in the year 1344 by William de Cossall, a King's Clerk, to Newstead Priory. William, who lived at Cossall, made it a condition of his gift that the Prior and Convent of Newstead were "to find two chaplains, fit and sufficiently learned, and of honest conversation, to celebrate divine offices daily in St. Katherine's Church at Cossall for my (William's) "soul, my parents' souls, and the souls of all faithful de-parted, also a secular chaplain to celebrate daily in their own house (at Newstead) in Shirewode, for the same souls."
There were doubtless buildings on the estate before 1584, but possibly the erection in that year was the first large house built in that part of the parish. There is a stone in the cellar dated "SEPTEMBER XX4, 1584, C.R." The Byron family table shows that John Byron who founded the Hucknall Byron Charity, owned the estate at that time.
Six rooms were destroyed by fire 150 years ago and were not rebuilt, but some additions were made to the building by Mr. Truman, grandfather of the present tenant, Mr. John Truman Falconbridge.
In the Hall is a spiral solid oak staircase which must have been used for centuries, but is still in very good condition.
The old mullioned windows were replaced by sash casements in the 18th century, but the present Duke of Portland, soon after he inherited the property, had the building thoroughly repaired and he reintroduced mullioned windows on the ground floor.
The Byron Charity is a very serviceable agency in the parish. It was established on February 21st, 1571, by John Byron, Esquire, who granted to Lancelot Rolleston and twelve others, a close, estimated as containing 16 acres, called " Broomhill," to hold themselves and their heirs for ever.
John Byron is an interesting personalty in the history of Hucknall. His father was called "Little Sir John with the great beard," and his marble effigy in Col wick Church agrees with this description. There is a portrait of Little Sir John in Newstead Abbey.
The founder of the Charity probably lived at Bulwell Wood Hall until his father died in 1576, and although the son was born out of wedlock he was permitted to succeed to the title and estates.
He married Alice, daughter of Sir Nicholas Strelley, who lived only a twenty minutes' ride from Bulwell Wood.
A document lately found throws an interesting light on the relations of the Byrons and Strelleys. It is entitled "Award of Anthony Coope (A) and Edmund Hesselwodd, Esquires, Arbitrators between John Byron, Knight, and Nicholas Strelley, Knight, and also between the said Nicholas Strelley and Richard Greenhill, servant to the said Sir John Byron."
The judgment was that "Sir Nicholas is to pay 53s. 4d. to Richard Greenhill for the hurts and mayme to him given by Sir Nicholas and his servants at Nottingham. Sir John and Sir Nicholas are to stay at each other's houses twice yearly during the next three years to hunte and passe the tyme together famylyerly and to declare and open theyre myndes ayther to oder, to avoid future variences," etc. The marriage between Sir John's son and Sir Nicholas's daughter seems to show that the two knights afterwards became good friends.
The founder of the Charity was created Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I., and went to live at Newstead Abbey, where he entertained Anne of Denmark, Queen of James 1., in 1603. After leaving the Abbey on June 22nd she was met at Cow-lane end (Clumber-street) by the Mayor and Corporation, clad in scarlet gowns, accompanied by forty men carrying halberds. The Mayor handed to the Queen a cup, value £22, and gave young Prince Henry her son a purse of gold.
Byron's gift is the most important charity Hucknall possesses. In 1637 a fresh deed was drawn up by the trustees, which stated that 16 acres were in the tenure of Sir John Byron, K.B., and it was provided that the tenancy of the land should be let to the highest bidder. The trustees in 1637 were John Chaworth and John Rolleston, Esquires, also Lancelot Curtis, George Flower, Anthony Curtis, George Brough, Michael Pogson, Richard Sergeant, John Kitchen, Richard Kitchen the younger, John and Thomas Butler, Robert Eire and Thomas Purder. This deed set forth the manner of distributing the Charity, and the election of trustees by co-option.
In 1700 Joseph Heath was tenant and the yearly rental was £6 13s. 4d.
In 1725 the trustees were Lancelot Rolleston, Andrew Mat-thews (Vicar), Ralph Newton, Samuel Wyld, John Brough, John Curtis, Richard Sergeant, Joseph Burton, Daniel Hardinge, Daniel Wood, John Hodgkinson and George Weightman.
In 1746 the trustees were Lancelot Rolleston, George Chaworth, Ralph Newton, Thos. Carter (Clerk), John Curtis, William Hodgkinson, Samuel Wood, Richard Sergeant, Christopher Jackson, George Weightman and William Darbyshire.
Between the years 1750—1773, John Curtis was an active trustee of the Charity and from his list of recipients the following names are interesting:—Wm. Truman, John Allen, Edward Savage, John Dobb, John Barrett, Thos. Thorpe, Elinor Wag, Ann Bay, John Mellors, John Betteson, Thos. Rodes, Elizth Butler, Hannah Ball, Thos. Spray, Mary Allcock, Widow Shepard, Paul Mellors, Thos. Clay. The sum of £10 13s. 4d. was doled out by John Curtis and Wm. Darbyshire on August 6th, 1752.
Other familiar names occur as follows:—In 1753, Mary Huis; 1757, Vincent Saxton, Thos. Raynor, John Starr; 1758, Wm. Hutchinson; 1763, Hannah Darbyshire.
After the death of John Curtis the Revd. T. Nixon took a close oversight of the charity. In 1766 John Collins was repairing the church, and a large folio prayer-book was bought at a cost of 22s. The minute-book contains the following entry:—"On Jan. 24th, 1788, at a meeting of the Trustees of the Poor's Land, held this day at Hucknall, it was unanimously agreed that for the future £8 per annum shall be paid to George Green for his management of the Sunday School, and that no person hereafter shall receive any charity that may be at the disposal of the said trustees who shall not regularly send their children every Sunday to be instructed by the said George Green.—Signed, Lancelot Rolleston, John Newton, Thos. Hudson, Luke Jackson, H. Hankin."
On June 3rd, 1754, the Byron Trustees "paid to Robert Kirkby what was adjudged by arbitration treaty, £20 10s. 6d. for all work done by him in ye gallery at Hucknall Torkard Church."
Early in the 18th century the Charity estate at Broomhill was largely covered by trees and in 1769 Samuel Wagstaff bought £25 worth of the timber therefrom.
In 1806 all the trustees were dead except John Newton, so the Revd. T. Nixon, Revd. T. Hurt, and Messrs. Luke Jackson, Hy. Daws, John Taylor, John Mellors, Thos. Millott and Richard Flint, all freeholders, were elected, Mr. Newton still retaining office.
In 1820 Jane Burton, widow, was tenant, paying £20 per year for land, cottage and outbuidings which had been erected many years previously by one of her ancestors. The accompanying sketch of Jenny Burton was sketched by a wandering artist, unobserved by the old lady herself, whilst the late Mr. James Widdowson attracted her attention in conversation.
In 1795 the rents of the Charity produced £12 10s.; in 1796, £15, and in 1811, £20. About the year 1770 the trees were cut down and sold for £440 10s. 6d., which was invested first in mortgages, then in Consols. In 1813, £900 was invested in the names of the Rev. Charles Nixon, Rev. Thos. Hurt and Mr. Luke Jackson, yielding an annual income of £47.
The trustees used to meet annually on a Sunday in October in the church, on which day the tenant paid her rent, one-third going to the poor of Hucknall, one-third to the church for its repair and embellishment, and the remaining third to the benefit of the parish. Out of the parish share, £2 was given to Nottingham Hospital, £8 to the Hucknall schoolmaster, and £2 13s. 4d. to his assistant. The cost of school stationery and coal was paid by the charity money. The Rev. Chas. Nixon in October, 1827, completed 40 years' stewardship of the charity.
In 1871 the land was re-measured and found to contain 21a. lr. 7p.
In 1888 the Charity Commissioners directed that there should be eleven trustees, seven to be chosen by co-option and four by the Local Board. The co-opted trustees now are the Vicar and Messrs. Wm. Granger, Hy. Rhodes, Charles Daws, Hy. Johnstone, Peter Howis, and Wm. Musson. The District Council four trustees are Messrs. Frank Whyatt, Wm. Stainforth, William J. Calladine and William Elkington. Mr. William Jacklin is the clerk. In 1906 the income was £271 16s. 8d., £82 Is. 6d. being yielded by rents ard £189 15s. 2d. by investments.
This benefit was founded by Edward Mering, who lived at Hucknall in the 16th century, springing from a prominent north Notts, family, and related by marriage with the Byrons and the Strelleys. William Mering and John Byron represented Notts, county in Parliament in 1476, and Edward Mering's sister Jane married Fitz Herbert, the King's Remembrancer. His daughter Ellen married first Edward Fenton, and afterwards John Flower and her third husband was Lancelot Rolleston.
Edward Mering made his will in 1596 and died soon afterwards. He directed that 26s. yearly, produced by lands in the parishes of Fenton and Sturton in north Notts., should be annually given to one poor man in Hucknall. At an early period of the existence of this charity, the rent collector failed to send the money, but after enquiry the money was obtained and it was then decreed "That the said sum of 26s. should be yearly, for ever, paid to the said (Hucknall) churchwardens, to be levied and paid out of the said Mear-inge's lands to the relief of one poor man in Hucknall." The money is given to the oldest man in the parish. During the last 30 years the recipients have been Matthew Otter, Charles Allen, Charles Smith, Joseph Hall, George Shepherd, and William Meakin. Mr. Meakin is 93 years old.
By an Act passed in 1769 for enclosing open fields and commons in Hucknall, it was provided that the Commissioners should set out and allot about 25 acres, to be let or set annually by the churchwardens and overseers, the money arising therefrom to be given to poor housekeepers annually, as should be agreed upon by the majority of freeholders at their annual meeting every Easter Monday.
The land was let to one tenant up to the year 1844, when, in compliance with the wish of a number of householders, the land was set out for gardens, the new tenants paying 15s. each to compensate John Price, the outgoing tenant. A committee was formed for the financial management of the gardens, which were let by ballot on Shrove Tuesday, 1844. In 1874 party feeling ran high in Hucknall and efforts were made to transfer the control of the land from the committee to certain other persons, but a County Court decision enabled the committee to retain their management of the gardens. The land was regarded in 1844 as the most barren in the parish, but constant spade culture has wonderfully improved it, and it now ranks amongst the most productive soil in Hucknall. There are 200 gardens and the annual income amounts to £22 10s. nett.
In 1771 the Enclosure Commissioners set out three roods adjoining the Common Gardens, in lieu of a small piece called the "Crown Piece."
The Charity Commissioners in 1839 were unable to find out from what source the Crown Piece was derived, but the annual rent of 15s., called by the name of "Widows' Groats," was distributed to 15 poor widows on each Good Friday by the minister, churchwardens, and such of the freeholders as chose to attend. This practice is still continued.
This was founded in 1903 by Messrs. Moss and Plumb, two natives of the parish, who prospered in their business, and who conceived the commendable idea of helping the oldest person in the parish. The £200 given by the founders was invested in Consolidated Stock, and yields £2 10s. per cent, interest.
The Urban District Council and the Vicar were appointed trustees and the charity is paid quarterly to the oldest man or woman who has lived in the parish 20 years prior to his or her application for the charity. Applicants possessing £30 or more are ineligible. The first and present pensioner is Mr. William Meakin, born January 28th, 1815.
(A) Afterwards Sir Anthony Coope, Chamberlain to Queen
Katherine Parr, an author and a polished gentleman.