Mansfield Woodhouse (1)

Mansfield Woodhouse church in 1787.

BISHOP Wordsworth, of Lincoln, once observed to the present vicar of Mansfield Woodhouse, the Rev. Charles Webb, who has held the living over 30 years, that there was no vicariate in that large diocese that was so much coveted as Mansfield Woodhouse. What were the reasons for this? It was not that the stipend was unusually lucrative; it is far from that. The probability is that it was because the village was a picturesque one, and that several old county families resided there. We cannot recall a village in the county that can lay claim to such a list of distinguished residents as can Mansfield Woodhouse. At one time or other there have lived within the sound of the bells of S. Edmund's, several generations of the Digbys, whose residence was the beautiful old house at the west end of the churchyard, now tenanted by the widow and daughters of Captain Need, R.N.; theDands, the Pinckneys—one of whom was a Teller of the Exchequer in the reign of Charles the Second, and whose son was verderer of the Forest, and usher to several sovereigns of the land; the Stanhopes, whose names are so frequently found mentioned in the history of the county; the Halls, of Park Hall; the Goulds—one was Sheriff of Notts.; a branch of the Eyres, of Rampton, and the Masons, a member of which family was Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, to mention but a few. Sir William Willoughby, Bart., had a house here which Sir Thomas Blackwell built, and wrhich in 1673 was occupied by the Pinckneys. Long, long before this the manors of Mansfield Woodhouse and Sutton-in-Ashfield, amongst many others were settled upon the Duke of Norfolk for the great victory over the King of Scotland at Flodden Field. This was in the sixth year of the reign of Henry VIII.

Although little of the ancient church remains there are monuments and other evidences which prove beyond question the importance in days long past of this erstwhile forest village. Until quite recent times— within, say the last two decades—much of the charm of old Woodhouse remained. The collier had not invaded the parish, and the sanctity and old-world air which for so long had clung to the church and the neighbouring residences, the "Castle," the Grange, and the Priory, was still to be felt as one strolled along the Priory Road, now alas! overlooked by streets of cheaply built property in which to house the toilers in the adjacent mine. Until the past few years no colliery headstocks raised their unsightly figure within the parish boundary. To-day, but a few hundred yards divide church from mine. But we must not dwell upon this new phase of the parish history. We are more concerned with the church and the life story of its most distinguished members. There is no mention of a church existing at Mansfield Woodhouse at the time of William's great survey, and if there was one in his son's reign it would pass into the hands of Lincoln, as did Mansfield, and all belonging to the manor, to endow the  newly-founded see at Lincoln. In a Forest Roll of Parchment containing the customary of the Manor of Mansfield, in the possession of the Duke of Portland, mention is made of the burning of the town of Mansfield Woodhouse and part of the church in the reign of Edward I., a period when merry Sherwood's residents probably supported the Barons in their efforts to wrest from the King the full execution of the Charter of the Forests. The record runs as follows: "Be it had in mynd that the Towne of Mansfield Woodhouse was burned the Saturday next afore the Fest of Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the year of our Lord MCCCIIIJ., and the Kirk Stepeell, with belles of the same, for the Stepeell was afore of Tymber werke, and part of the Kyrke was burned." This same fact is recorded in similar words in one of the registers. The result of this fire was to destroy almost every trace of the early church, in fact, the only relic to carry us back to Norman times is the square font, the basin of which is said to be the original.

Shortly after the rebuilding of the steeple, the Stuffyn family, who have left a remembrance of their connection with the district in the name of Stuffynwood, were prominent people in Woodhouse. In the year 1336, amongst those who paid to the King's wars were two of this name, Alan and Richard. Alan is the first name on the list, and from this position, and the amount of his contribution ranks as the most prominent man in Woodhouse. These two had a brother Robert, a merchant of Newark, who in 1339 established a chantry in his native church. The money was left to the rich church of Attenborough, then a possession of the Austin Priory at Felley. In consideration of this gift the Prior of Felley undertook to find a secular chaplain and pay him and his successors, six marks of silver yearly to pray for the souls of Robert, and Alice, his wife, whilst they should live, and for the souls of Richard Stuffyn, and all their ancestors; and after the death of the said Robert and Alice, for their souls, and for the souls of all the faithful, at the Altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mansfield Woodhouse. The said Robert Stuffyn in every vacancy to present a fit chaplain to the Archbishop of York, and after his decease, his sons according to seniority. After their death, the right of presentation was vested in the Prior of Felley, and in case he neglected the duty fifteen days, it lapsed to the Vicar of Mansfield, and, failing him, the Archbishop of York.

The following is a list of the cantarists taken from the Torre MMS.:—

1344   Job Stuffin.
1349   Ric de Billings.
1365   Ric de Newbold.
1379   Thos de Faby an de Wardon.
1417   Ric Susanson.
1432   John Wryght.
1434   Waryn Knight.
1447   Rog Lynton.
1458   Ric Warter.
1511   Peter Pilkynton.
1521   Tho Hareson.
1533   Tho  Southworth.

From the first cantarist being a Stuffyn, it seems the family early used their influence to gain a post for one their members.

Robert Stuffyn left Mansfield Woodhouse for Newark, but as he amassed money he invested it in property in his native place. This property must have been of considerable extent, for on June 15th, 1334, he obtained a grant to pull down the houses he had acquired in the village, and carry them without the forest limits, where he liked either to "re-build them or make his profit of them otherwise." Thus Stuffyn had a double reason for founding his chantry in Mansfield Woodhouse Church. In 1548 the chantry is described thus: " ys worthe by yere in land and tent, granted for the contynuance of obity and lights there for ever, vis. vid." What became of the money after the spoliation seems unknown. The annals of this period teem with references of the Stuffyns, who were foremost in church and village. In 1328 a deputation from Mansfield Woodhouse visited the King at his palace of Clipstone to complain of the aetion of the late King in enclosing a portion of " Wodhouswod in Shirewod Forest, adjoining the old park called Clipstone Park, of which part the men and tenants and their ancestors had common of pasture, etc." The deputation was headed by Alan Stuffyn, backed up by Walter de Wolfhunt, Robert de Kirlyngton, John de Athelsay, Alan, son of Mathew, Richard Stuffyn and other men tenants of Mansfield Wodhous." His Majesty ordered the ditching, hedging, etc., to be thrown down and the land to be restored to the people for ever, and caused the grant to be enrolled on the rolls of Chancery. The second name in the deputation brings up another prominent parishioner, Walter de Wolfhunt, who held land by service of blowing a horn to scare the wolves in the forest. In 1336 another Wolfhunt was possessed, for on September 25th, 1336, a grant for life was made to "John Churchman, King's Sergeant, of the lands in Mansfield Wodehus, which escheated to the King by the forfeiture of Alan de Wolfhunt vacated by surrender in April 12th, in the 13th year of the King." There is still a house standing in the village on the site of these lands known by the name of Wolfhunt House. Shortly after this the name of Foljambe occurs, "and Godfrey Foljambe Chr, son of Godfrey, son of G. Foljambe Knt, died possessed of I mes and half a carucate of land in Woodhouse." This land descended to his daughter Alice, and she married Sir Robert Plumpton Knyght, who died in 1433-4, having held the Wolf Hunt land on the same service as before mentioned. This is one of the latest records of such a tenure, although according to the best authorities wolves were not extinct in England until the reign of Henry VII. These lands eventually passed into the hands of the Digby family.

In 1480 William Plumpton, probably the son of Sir Robert was the possessor of the advowson of the chapel of Woodhouse.

Recently, the Historical MSS. Commission issued Part XI. of its calendar of the MSS. at Hatfield belonging to the Marquis of Salisbury, and there is amongst the communications one sent by Sir John Byron, from Newstead, which shows how dangerous it was to discuss political events in the early part of the seventeenth century. The letters were written in the year 1601. The one mentioned exposes the methods employed by the Privy Council of getting information and of punishing those who displeased it, and as it concerns the curate of Mansfield Woodhouse, we will quote it in full:

One Farmer, whose name is subscribed to these enclosed articles, yesterday brought me the same. I presently sent my precept to the Constables for the apprehension of Collie, and direction to others that might give testimoney to come before me. Who this day have answered as being the note which my servant, this bearer, hath to show you, may be perceived. I have committed Collie to gaol till your pleasure be known, and the rest have bound over to appear at the next Assizes.—Newstead, this 26th of April, 1601.

The Enclosure:—William Farmer's articles: It was my chance at two sundry times since the execution of the late Earl of Essex to be in company with three or four of my neighbours of Mansfield and Mansfield Woodhouse, to wit, James Colly, Curate of the said town of Mansfield Woodhouse, and preacher of Mansfield, Christopher Wasse, Robt. Snoden, and Henry Wadsworth, who falling in talk of the said earl, James Collye, the said curate uttered these speeches, "that the said earl's death would be revenged," and it being asked, "who durst be so bold?" he answered "Even by the enemies who loved him so well." Item, healso said, "That he had rather be the poor curate of Mansfield Woodhouse than Sir R. Cecils." Item, he also said, "That it were better to lose a hundred such R. Cecils than one Earl of Essex." Item, he also said "That the Earl of Turone in some sort had just cause to do as he did." Item, he also said, "That he heard a gentleman say that he would lay a wager that before Whit-Sunday twenty thousand men should go forth of England by reason of the said Earl's death." Item, whereas I said that I had sent me the sermon that Dr. Barlowe preached the first Sunday in Lent concerning the said Earl and his rebellion, the same party answered again "That it was a paltry sermon." Item, upon other speeches that we had concerning the said Earl and Sir Robert Cecils, it was added by the said party, that whilst the said Earl was occupied in her Majesty's wars the said Sir R. Cecils got away one of the said Earl's officers.

Between Sir Robert Plumpton's time, and the troublous days of the Civil War we have little information about Mansfield Woodhouse and its church, because the history was merged in that of Mansfield. Mention has already been made of the Dand family, but we might here pause to look a little closer into their history and association with the village. The first Dand noticed is Rowland, whose arms, impaling those of his wife Margery, are to be seen in a handsome piece of heraldic glass recently removed from the chancel to the south aisle, thanks to the energy of Miss Need. We understand a marble monument used to exist in the chancel to the memory of this pair. To-day nothing remains but the Dand arms on an alabaster medallion and a slab fixed on the north side of the chancel bearing the following inscription:

"Here underneath lye interred Rowland Dand, gentleman, and Margery, his loving and beloved second wyfe, eldest daughter of Laurence Wodenothe, of Shavinton Wodenothe, in County Palatyne, of Chester, Esq., which Margery being of a generous nature, true religious, pittyfull and liberall to ye poor and needy, having lived in happy marriage with her said husband 46 years and 107 days, died in the Lord Jesus Christ, on Tuesday, the 13th May, in ye yeare of Christ 1617, and of her age 73, and the said Rowland Dand for his approved wisdom, integrity of life, loved of his friends, piety towards God, and propensues to ye doing of Good, being much esteemed and having merited thankful and never-dying memory of his children and posterity which he lived to see to ye fourth generation, ended his praiseworthy and well acted life in the true, faith of Chirst, the 9th of December, in the yeare of Christ 1623, and of his age 91."

A son of this Rowland, also similarly named, married Mrs. Margeret Savile, at Aston, Yorks, and this information is gathered from St. Peter's Church registers, Mansfield, wherein is entered: "1631, Feb. 2nd,—Mr. Rowland Dand, of Mansfield Woodhouse, gentleman, and Mrs. Margaret Savile were marryed at Aston, in Yorks.

As at Mansfield, the Dands became possessed of part of the tithes. The 1650 Parliamentary survey discloses this fact. Here is the entry: "Also the impropriate Rectory of Mansfield Woodhouse, worth one hundred and tenne pounds per annum, whereof the State receiving four score and fifteene pounds per annum, and Mr. Dande ffifteen pounde to his own use. Edward Manisty, the present Incumbent, who hath the cure of souls there, and receiving twentie pounde per annum out of the Impropriation for nis salary, and is a preachinge minister."

It is highly probable that this cleric was turned out of the living, because in a report of an enquiry held about the same date respecting the tithes of Mansfield in which Messrs. Dand and Blackwell were interested, we find it stated that Mansfield Woodhouse is about two miles distant (there being noe vicarage indowed), there being a church, the parishioners having noe curate, but whom they procure at their own charge with some voluntary allowance from Sir Thomas Blackwell Knight.

A daughter of the grandson of the first Rowland married Leonard Robinson, of Kirkby Ravensworth, in the county of Yorks, on the 9th of January, 1671, and had issue by him, one daughter who died young. For her second husband she married Sir Thomas Wharton, Knight of the Bath, brother to the Hon. Lord Wharton, in 1676. and by him had two daughters, Elizabeth and Jane, the former marrying Thomas Bennet, of Salthorpe, Wilts., Esq., and Jane, John Digby, of Mansfield Woodhouse, probably the son of Sir John previously mentioned. She lived to be 75 years of age, dying on the 14th of June, 1714. These particulars are gathered from a tablet in the church. On the same stone is recorded the death of her granddaughter, Jane Benet.

We get some idea of the position and wealth of the Dands in Elizabeth's days by turning to the Lay subsidies granted in the 35th year of the Queen's reign. Rolandus Dande was assessed at £3 12s. (in terris) precisely the same amount as Maria Digby widow.  At this time there was a Thomas Dande amongst those assessed at Mansfield.

Dr. William Chappell, the author of "The Whole Duty of Man,"—sometimes attributed to Archbishop Sterne, was buried at Bilsthorpe, in 1649. He was bred in arts and sciences at Christ's College, Oxford; afterwards became Dean of Cassells, and Provost of Holy Trinity College, Dublin. Subsequently he was appointed Bishop of Cork and John, " a good preacher and theologian, of great promise'' was buried at Woodhouse. Mr. John Chappell, of the same village, who found money for the erection of the Residence House at Southwell, was probably a descendant of the famous doctor. The chapter agreed to demise certain lands to him on consideration that he gave them £150 towards the expense of furnishing the house.

Reference has already been made to several of the memorial tablets in the church, but there are others which deserve notice. The interior of the church is somewhat dark, and unless the sun is shining, to read some of the inscriptions on the tablets is no easy matter. In the south chapel is a stone effigy of Sir John Digby and his wife, and on the opposite side a stone bearing the following, is let into the wall:

"That it may be known where the remains of the worthy persons deceased are deposited. John Digby, Esq., son and heir of Sir John Digby, of Mansfield Woodhouse, Knight, married Frances, sole daughter of Leonard Pinckney, of Westminster, whom he had issue Kenelm, John George, Lucy Elizabeth, and Frances all of whom, except John, died young. The first-named, John, died in the 58th year of his age, leaving Frances, his widow, who afterwards married Charles Osborne, Esq., sole brother of Thomas Duke, of Leeds, who died in the 80th year of her age, 1725. John, surviving son and heir of Sir John Digby, July 2nd, 1696, married Anne, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edmund Ayscough, of South Kelsey, in the county of Lincoln, Knight, who died 14th October following, as appears by the adjoining monument, who afterwards married Jane, youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Wharton, of Edlington, in the county of York, Baronet. Jane married Fycher, of the Grange, near Grantham, in the county of Lincoln, Esq. Lucy, Anne, Elizabeth, who all died young. John died August 11th, 1728, in the 23rd year of his age. Philadelphia married Sir George Cayley, of Brompton, in the county of York, Bart. Rosamund and Thomas, both of whom died young. Mary married to George Cart-wright, of Ossington, in the county of Nottingham, Esq. Priscilla, Henrietta and Lucy. John Digby, the father, died August 16th, 1722, to whose memory, and to his ancestors here named, and to his eldest son, his widow, Jane Digby, and his daughter Legard, in testimony of their duty and affection, have erected this monument, MDCCLVII.

Sir John Digby lived in stirring times. The closing years of the King's life witnessed a panic lest a catholic successor to the throne should arise, a dread of which the after history of James fully justified. Charles brought forward a plan for restraining the power of his successor by which proposal the presentation to church livings was to be taken out of the new monarch's hands. It was just at the time when the country was wondering who the next monarch would be, that Sir John Digby passed away, the year before his Royal Master, whom he had faithfully served. His loyalty cost him £1,058. He spent £320 5s. 9d. on what is put down as a powder mill. He petitioned Charles II. twice, but in 1551 was still unpaid.