Parish church – west view.
Parish church – west view.


The memorials of the dead, which are to be seen all over the country, took their origin in the 12th century from the lids of stone coffins, in which it was then the fashion to lay the bodies of important or rich people. The coffin itself was usually hewn out of a solid block of stone, and the coffin lid, often of great thickness, was fashioned out of a slab. The coffin was deposited below the floor at such a depth as would allow the lid to form part of the pavement of the floor.

There were a number of these coffin lids up to the 14th century in Hucknall Church, for besides those depicted above, portions of incised slabs may be seen at the back of the sedilia, the aumbry, and the piscina in the old chapel (parson's vestry). These were all discovered in the 19th century enlargements of the church, having been used by the 14th century masons for ordinary building purposes.

The slab to the left of the picture is familiar to Hucknallites on account of the prominent place it now occupies on the face of the tower wall. It marked the grave of a woolstapler, as the weight and the pair of shears indicate. The other two slabs are to be seen on the south transept wall. The right hand slab carries part of a, sword by the side of the cross, which, shows that it once formed the lid of a soldier's coffin—perhaps a Crusader. The stone cross on the roof of the nave, which was chiselled in 1888, was copied from the cross on the slab in the centre of the picture.

Burials in churches were common in early times, and the chancel of our Parish Church was used for sepulture long before the Byron vault was constructed, for in 1591 "Edward Fenton of Hucknall, gentleman," made his will which was proved on April 20th, 1592, and which read as follows:—"I give my soul to God Almighty, my Creator and Redeemer, and my body to be buried in the chancel of the Parish Church of Hucknall Torkard, near the place where my father lyeth." His wish was doubtless observed, for the old register has the following entry:—"Edward Fenton was buried ye XXIII. Februarie, 1592."

The Byron vault appears to have been constructed early in the 17th century, the family burial place previously having been Colwick Church. The first body laid in the new vault in Hucknall Church was that of Cicile, wife of Sir John Byron. This lady waa buried February 22nd, 1638. The remains of the following have since been placed in the tomb:—

1640,   April 7th, Anne, daughter of Sir Richard, afterwards 2nd Lord Byron.

1641,   May 10th (a supposed sister of the above lady).

1645, Mistress Cicile, daughter of Bichard Byron Esquire.

1655 or 1656, March 16th, Gilbert Byron. He was taken prisoner in the fight at Willoughby, and at one time was governor of Rhuddlam Castle for the King.

1656.—George and Mary, son and daughter of Christopher Byron.

1657, March 22nd, Lady Elizabeth Byron. She is commemorated on the marble mural monument in the chancel, and on her leaden coffin is the inscription:—''Here lyeth the body of Lady Elizth Byron, 1st wife of Lord Richard Byron."

1664 to 1675, the five children of the Honble. William Byron, of Bulwell Wood Hall—William, Richard, Henrietta, Ernest, and Anne.

1679.—Honble. William Byron.

1679. October.—Richard, 2nd Lord Byron. He fought at Edgehill, and held Newark Castle against the Parliamentary forces. His estates were sequestrated A.D. 1649, but restored A.D. 1660. His widow was granted a pension of £500 a year, and King Charles gave her 1,000 oaks in his Forest of Sherwood. He was at one time governor to the Duke of York, afterwards James II.

1683.—Honble. Mrs. Elizabeth Chaworth Byron. This lady was the donor of the chalice and paten still used in the Church every Sunday.

1695.—William, 3rd Lord Byron.

In Linby Church register the following note appears:— "Lord Byron died November 13th, about halfe an hour after nine of ye clock at night, and was laid in ye vault at Hucknall Torkard ye 16th day about 8 of ye clocke at night."

1703, April 10th.—Lady Byron, 1st wife of the 4th Lord, aged 27. She was daughter of the Earl of Bridgwater, and died of smallpox. Her coffin is in the vault, but her burial is not recorded in the register.

1712,  March.—Lady Byron.

1719, July.—George Byron.

1724, September.—Frances Byron.

1736, August.—William, 4th Lord Byron. In 1702 he was created "Bow-bearer in the Sherwood Foresters." He married a daughter of the Duke of Portland.

1756.—George Byron.

1768.—Frances Elizabeth Byron.

1798, May 21st.—5th Lord Byron, called the "Wicked Lord," aged 79. He killed Chaworth in a duel at the Star and Garter Tavern, London, in 1765, after a quarrel about the quantity of game on some Notts, estates. His sister married Lord Carlisle, who is frequently referred to in the poet lord's " English Bards and Scotch Reviewers."

1811, August.—Catherine Byron, the poet's mother. On her leaden coffin is the following inscription:—"The Hon. Catherine Gordon, mother of George, Lord Byron, and lineal descendant of the Earl of Huntley and the Lady Jean Stuart, daughter of King James I. of Scotland, died in the 46th year of her age, August 1st, 1811."

1824, July 16th.—Lord Byron the poet.

1852, November.—Ada, the poet's daughter.

The vault is formed of two arched compartments, and it will interest some to know that the marble tablet on the chancel floor was laid as near as was practicable to the place where the poet's coffin lies. The vault was finally closed in 1852, after Lady Lovelace's burial. On that occasion Mr. James Saxton looked into the vault with many others, and saw the coronet on the coffin, one of its five gilt knobs having been stolen. The vault entrance was about five feet wide, and there were about twelve steps into the tomb. At the foot of the steps to the left Mr. Saxton saw a large urn (as high as Lord Byron's coffin), bearing the inscription:—" In this urn are the heart and intestines of Lord George Gordon Noel Byron." The presence of this urn in the vault has been questioned, but the late Mr. Wm. Calladine, sen., publicly contradicted a lecturer on the point, and said he went into the vault at the time of Lady Lovelace's funeral and copied the inscription on the urn. The urn was certainly placed in the vault at the time of the funeral.


Considering the vicissitudes which have characterised our local Church history, it is almost a marvel that the old-stained and mutilated parchment registers since the year A.D. 1559 have been preserved to us. They were probably kept for over two centuries in the oaken chest; then in the 1813 iron safe, and now in an excellent modern fireproof safe. Such documents are not only interesting, but often valuable for the light they shed upon family and local history. The entries were made by clerks who had certain districts in which it was their duty to periodically visit all the Churches and transcribe the entries of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from the memoranda made by the clergy into the parchment registers kept in the Churches. This system was carried out at Hucknall as appears from the following entry in the register, evidently from the hand of the itinerant scribe:—

"NOTE.—In the yeare of our lord god 1577 the minister of the church then neglected to write downe in the parish register either christenings, weddings, or burialls as apeareth."

The first volume of registers comprises 56 leaves, the second volume 13, and the third volume 34, all of parchment.

At the end of the year 1629 appears the following:—" NOTE.— The minister hath neglected to write into this register either christenings, weddings, or burialls for certain years."

Weddings and burials were not recorded between 1592 and 1629, but christenings were duly entered up to 1617. In 1638, Cicile, ladie Byron, was buried, Feb. 22, and in 1640, Anne Biron, daughter of Richard Byron, Esq., of Newstead, was buried.

The register in 1640 is signed by Bj. Brough and Thomas Clark, churchwardens. In 1641 by Thomas Butler and Richard Lee, churchwardens. The entries in 1654 are prefaced by the words, "By mee, John Thorp, Register for Hucknall Torkard " (A). From 1665 to 1678 the register is signed by "Will Seddon, curate," and by the following churchwardens in the years specified, viz.:—

1665—Thos. Waine and Henry Greenfields.

1669—George Stayning and Wm. Cowe.

1670—Thos. Butler and Thos. Spray.

1671—Thos. Hardstaff and Nicholas Crampton.

1672—John Kitching and John Berry.

1674—Richard Newton and Lancelot Butler.

1675—Wm. Artin and John Beardsley.

1676—Wm. Symsonne and Thos. Button.

1677—Thos. Sargant and Robt. Cropper.

1678—John Butler and Robert Barton.

1682—Richard Gilman and Robert Hutchinson.

The names of probable ancestors of present-day residents in Hucknall first appear in the registers in the following years:—

1563—Faulkonbridge, Webster. 1699—Hodges.
1572—Raynor, Kerke. 1700—Kirke.
1575—Smyth. 1702—Harrison.
1576—Thorpe. 1704—Haslam.
1578—Jackson, Fysher. 1706—Shepherd, Granger.
1579—Shawe. 1711—Gothard.
1581—Hatfield. 1715—Taylor, White, Moss.
1583—Aulcocke. 1716—Beardall.
1584—Jonson, Williamott, 1718—Mason.
Waddington. 1719—Sears.
1589—Millott, Bredon. 1725—Woollatt.
1590—Tomsonne, Wilford. 1756—Barrett.
1600—Brecknocke, Byrd. 1757—Arnold, Otter, Hankin.
1608—Mafield. 1758—Severns, Leverton.
1616—Ball,  Spray. 1759—Bramley.
1633—Hutchinson. 1760—Daykyn.
1634—Allin. 1762—Cale, Webster.
1640—Collins. 1764—Howitt, Buck.
1644—Bonnington. 1765—Savage, Hewes.
1651—Wilkinson. 1766—Clay.
1654.—Drury, Truman. 1767—Widowson.
1655—Hanson. 1768—Brown.
1658—Betteson. 1770—Pickup, Bacon.
1662—Smithurst. 1773—Burrows.
1665—Parkins. 1776—Fell.
1673—Rodes. 1782—Hodges, Burton.
1674—Revell. 1783—Broomhead.
1676—Foster. 1784—Daws.
1694—Bradbury. 1785—Ricket, Goodall.
1696—Mellors. 1786—Coupe, Newbutt.

Here is a complete copy of the entries in one year, a.d. 1563:— Christenings, Anno Dni. 1563.

Helen, the daughter of --------- XIII. Aprill.
Richard, the sonne of John Clarke, XXIV. August.
John         ,,    s. of Alexander Daye V. Septr.
Robert      ,,    bastard of Robert Clarke V. Octr.
George       ,,    s. of Richard Pyghte XXVIII. Decr.
Margarett,,    d. of Thomas Warde III. Feby.

Weddings—Eodem anno (same year).

William Norman and Mary Burton, married XXth Maye. Thomas Aynesworths and Elizabeth Wright, XXI. Septr. Launcelott Rowlston and Helen Flower, XXIII. Jany. (B).

Burialls—Eodem anno.  
Helen, the d. of Thomas Williams was buried 11.Aprill.  
Grace, the d. of Robert Aspinall XXI. Julie.
Rafe, the s. of Peter Fawkonbridge XXII. Julie.
Helen, the daughter of Thomas Webster XXII. Augst.
Thomas, the s. of Thomas -------- XXI. Deer.
George, the s. of Richard Pyghte III. Jany.

The following table shows the number of christenings (births), marriages, and deaths during several years in Elizabeth's reign:—

A.D. Christenings. Weddings. Burials.
1562 21 3 9
1563 7 3 6
1564 15 4 3
1565 12 2 10
1566 8 1 3
1567 11 2 3
1571 13 1 7
1572 9 3 5
1573 6 2 14
1574 6 1 8

In 1678 the register contains the following interesting entry:—

"Robert Brough was buried the twentieth day of August, 1678, the first that was wound in fflannell at Hucknall."

In the same year "Margaret Allcock, widow, was buried in woollen, the first day of September."

It was not the custom in those days to bury in coffins, and in 1678, Charles II. being king, an Act was passed demanding that all persons should be buried in woollens, and persons who directed funerals were fined £5 for breaking this law, which was passed to encourage woollen manufactures in England.

In 1699—Sam Allin, a sojourner with Thomas Hallam, was buried,

Sept. 22nd. A.D. 1673—Thomas Rodes at Hucknall Wood, was buried.

A.D. 1674—Alice Revell, of Bulwell Forge (C) widow, was buried January 14th.

A.D. 1672—A poor wandering beggar, whose name was unknown, was buried, March the first day.

The second book is in a better state of preservation than the earlier one. The elaborate handwriting in the older register gives way to a plainer and more modern style, although at one time, in 1723-4, the entries appear to be the work of a parish clerk judging from the indifferent writing and spelling. Thus we have maid spelt " made," " wieder " for widow, " bucher " for butcher, " fare-mar," for farmer. The period covered by this register includes the interval between the years 1694-1725. The entries are not so restricted in this book, for in 1698 and afterwards the occupations of persons are frequently given, thus:—

John Pinn, a servant.

Anne Waters, a poor woman.

John, ye suppos'd sonne of John Briggs, a baker, in Lincolnshire.

Samuel Haslam, a milner.

Thos., ye soone of Richd. Palmer, stockiner.

Francis Hind, a miller.

John, ye sonne of Hy. Thorpe, a labourer.

Mary, ye daughter of Thos. Ball, shoemaker.

John Battson, a ship carpenter.

Elizabeth Walker, gentlewoman.

Wm. Morris, farmer.

John White, husbandman.

The entries made in the handwriting of William Hankin in 1755, and forward, shows this parish clerk was a good penman.

Some rudely written accounts appear on the cover, as follows.

  The Graves Ground.  



Ale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 2 3
Ale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   0 3
Ale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   0 3
Befe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1 6
Skins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1 0

One of the prominent Hucknall families shown by the registers to be living here early in the 17th century bore the name of Flower. George Flower, gentleman, was a trustee of the Byron Charity in 1637. In 1651, under the direction of Parliament, he presided over an inquisition at Bestwood with a view to ascertain whether that part of the Royal Forest of Sherwood should be sold to help to increase the national revenue. Richard Brough, Thomas Daws, Ra. Smyth, and Ri Shaw sat on the same commission.

The following entries are interesting:—

A.D. 1611—Elizabeth Mylnor, of Bulwell Wood, was buried.

A.D. 1698—The name of Darbyshire first occurs on the registers, and the last family entry is that of Hannah Darbyshire, aged 62, buried A.D. 1788. A note on the cover says she was confirmed by the Archbishop at Nottingham in 1743 .

A.D. 1791—James Moss, aged 93.

A.D. 1791Sarah Waine, aged 102.

A.D. 1821—John Spray, aged 71, and his wife Mary, aged 69, were buried on the same day, in the same grave. They had lived so happily together that they were called " The Two Doves." They were never known to quarrel, nor ever went out without accompanying each other. They are said to have afforded in their lives an example of loving attachment, in the midst of poverty, perhaps never excelled.

A.D. 1829—Mary Hunt, aged 90.

A.D. 1839—Elizabeth Shaw, aged 92.

A.D. 1846—Wm. Broomhead, aged 98.

A.D. 1847—Jane Burton (Jenny Burton), aged 95.

A.D. 1837—Two married daughters of Sam and Rosa Mellors, aged 31 and 27, were buried on the same day. Their names were Cassandra Taylor and Sarah Daykin.

A.D. 1852—Elizabeth Featherstone, aged 98. She was a native of Pentrich, but lived at Hucknall the last 30 years of her life.

A.D. 1853—Richard White,  F.W.K., aged 90.

A.D.  1854—John Daykin,  aged 90.

A.D. 1854—Henry Daws, aged 94.

A.D.  1867—Joseph Whyatt, aged 97.

A.D.  1868—Hy. Smith,  aged 90.

A.D. 1873—Sarah Wagstaff, aged 92.

A.D. 1876—Rev. Luke Jackson, aged 89.

A.D.  1877—Martha Spray, aged 91.

A.D.  1878—Matthew Otter, aged 91.

A.D.  1879—Ann Severn, aged 91.

A.D. 1879—Hannah Harrison, aged 95.

Mary Newton, aged 100.

A.D. 1883—John Godber, aged 85.

A.D. 1901—Joseph Hall, aged 99.

(A) During the Commonwealth, the system of parochial registration by the clergy broke down, so an Act was passed in 1653 whereby the clergy were required to give up their register books to laymen who were to be styled "The Parish Registers." John Thorp appears to have been the first "Parish Register" chosen by the Hucknall householders, on or before September 22nd, 1653.
(B) This Lancelot Rolleston (who it is suggested in Dickinson's "Southwell "lived at Hucknall) is located at Watnall in the "Visitation of Notts., a.d. 1569." He was one of the first trustees of the Byron Charity, and must have been an intimate friend and neighbour of John Byron, founder of the Charity in 1571, who lived at Bulwell Wood Hall. The Helen Flower, who was married to Mr. Rolleston in 1563, was the daughter of Edward Mering, of Hucknall, gentleman, founder of the Old Man's Charity. She married Edward Fenton, whose son was buried in the chancel a.d. 1592. She married again in a.d 1560, John Flower, at Hucknall, and bore a son named Thomas Flower, who married Miss Digby, of Mansfield Woodhouse, whose offspring was Edward Flower, B.D. Geo. Flower, of Hucknall Torkard, was appointed one of the first trustees of Byron's Charity. There is ground for supposing this much-married lady lived at the Elizabethan House down Coupe's Yard, which belonged to the Rolleston family, up to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
(C) Bulwell Forge, nowadays called "Forge Mills," was an ancient forge in the forest, its fires being fed by charcoal, so plentifully yielded by the neighbouring woods.