Skegby

Skegby church in 1787.
Skegby church in 1787.

THE Church at the ancient village of Skegby was for years nameless. All trace of the dedication was lost. The directories of a few years back were silent as to the particular saint whose memory the old church was to perpetuate, hut in quite recent times an ancient deed, in the possession of the squire's family—the Dodsley's—was turned up, and when submitted to Mr. J. T. Blagg, of Newark, was found to contain a reference to St. Andrew's Church. It is a very singular circumstance that all trace of the dedication should be lost for so lengthy a period, and then turn up so unexpectedly.

There is little of the ancient edifice to-day remaining. In 1870 it was restored somewhat extensively at a cost of £1,500, and was enlarged by the addition of a north aisle, organ chamber, vestry, and the nave was heightened by the addition of a clerestory of twelve lights on each side, and the south porch was rebuilt. No trace of the original Norman foundation of the church remains. The only reminder of those early days is the chancel arch which, in its rebuilt condition is still semi-circular, and invites inquiry as to its origin. One of these Norman arches setting forth the straitness of the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven was the original, and it was embellished with rude indented ornament, but owing to its dilapidated condition had to be pulled down and the present wider one erected. Probably about the reign of Henry III. Skegby underwent a complete re-building, but the only remaining feature of that time is the south nave arcade of three bays. The arches are pointed, and the columns octagonal. A variation in height of the latter is noticeable, the eastern column being higher than the others. The capitals are rather plainly molded, and one is decorated with small uncarved bosses. It will be noticed that the bases are good. During one of the many alteration Skegby has undergone, the tower was built over a bay of the nave arcade. From this it may be argued that originally Skegby possessed no tower, and considering the size of the church it seems very feasible that this was the case. In the south aisle is a piscina of the same date as the arcade. It has a square basin and pointed arch, and under the basin is carved a head to act as a corbel. As far as can be judged nothing of any moment was done here during the time the Decorated style of Gothic prevailed, but in the 15th century more building became necessary. It was at that time that the north side of the edifice was restoredj new windows inserted, and the chancel rebuilt. To-day the east window and one in the south wall of the chancel, of this period remain. At the restoration some thirty-seven years ago, during the incumbency of the Rev. F. J. Taverner, the south aisle was widened, clerestory windows inserted, and the north aisle, vestry, organ chamber and porch added. The east end was pulled down and re-erected about nine feet further east, the old windows being kept intact. To-day the church consists of nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch, tower at west end, and vestry and organ chamber. Built into the wall of the south aisle is a kneeling figure of a priest, with part of an inscription left. This carved figure used to be outside, but in 1870 was built into its present position. In the walling of the church many fragments of incised slabs are to be noticed, with various symbols upon them, including a sword, chalice, shears and crosses.

For some considerable time the church has been in the builders' hands owing to damage caused by the working of the coal beneath, and but for a very fortunate discovery the probability is that the building, despite the large sum of money spent upon its restoration, would soon have needed more repairs. The subsidence caused by the removal of the coal under the glebe was intensified by sand-cracks in the lime stone. Fortunately the contractor noticed this small streak of sand in the limestone crop out in an adjoining quarry. He traced it to the church and found it passed under the damaged portions of the church and vicarage. By the terms of the agreement the colliery company were responsible for the repair with the exception that, as the tower was damaged to start with, £50 was returned from the amount received for the coal, towards its restoration. What the cost has been to the company we are unable to saw, but it must have been very heavy, for girders had to be fixed across the sand channel, and the tower rested thereon, and a similar foundation had to be laid for the support of the north aisle which had sunk in such a manner as to cause considerable alarm, and which for a long time had been strengthened and supported by timber baulks. Ere long the building, so pleasantly situated on rising ground, overlooking the plain red-brick dwelling—Skegby Hall—will be quite sound again, and having been so thoroughly repaired there is little fear of any further trouble from subsidence.

There are many interesting entries in the registers which date back from 1571. When the Act for burial in wollen came into operation it was not at all unusual for the names of witnesses to the preparation for burial to be bracketed at the side of the entry in the register. We find them here at Skegby, but the entries cease in 1679, a year after the Act was passed. Towards the close of the 17th century Hault Hucknall is described as Hinging Huoknall. The entry in which this occurs is as follows:—"John Eyre, of Mansfield Woodhouse and Ann Parsons, of Rowthorne, in ye parish of Hinging Hucknall, was marryed on the 8th day of October, 1695." There is abundant evidence that Skegby was a stronghold of the Quakers in the 17th century. Not only is proof of this forthcoming from the registers, but we find in the return, made by Fra Chapman, that meetings of this body were held in the village. The rev. gentleman reports as follows:

"At Skegby . . . there is a conventicle of Quakers at the house of Elizabeth Hatton, widow, but I cannot learn who they are who frequent them, they being all of other towns. In the same towne of Skegby, alsoe, there is another conventicle, reputed Anabaptists, and ffifth monarchy men, held at Mr. Lyndley's (excommunicate also), but I know neither their speakers nor hearers,— Sir, your most humble servant,
Fra. Chapman."

The priest was probably in error in describing the woman mentioned as Hatton. It is more likely she was Elizabeth Hooton, a Quakeress of some distinction. She joined George Fox in 1647, and is described as a Skegby woman. Hooton was the first female who openly joined in the crusade with the leader, and after Fox was the "first minister in the society of Friends." In our article dealing with Selston we mentioned Elizabeh Hooton as the lady who went to America with Fox. She died out there. In face of these particulars, therefore, it is highly probable that the woman mentioned by Chapman was Elizabeth Hooton, the preaching Quakeress. Another family in Skegby who were prominent Friends were the Leadbeaters, and we find their names frequently appearing in the registers. Did Skegby possess a burial ground other than the churchyard early in the eighteenth century? An entry in the register leads us to ask the question: "Thos. Chambers, a stranger, was buryed in the graveyard upon the first day of Aprill, in the year 1704." This seems to imply a burial place at Skegby in addition to the churchyard, or it may have been the stranger's bones were deposited in an unconsecrated piece of land added to the churchyard.

To live to be eighty years old at Skegby was something remarkable we should suppose judging from the following entry:— "Ffrancis Stuk. Being dyed eightie one years and five months as appears by ye old Register Booke was Buryed Aprill ye 22 day 1711."

There are no weddings entered during the years 1711, 1713 and 1715.

At the end of one register the names of four parish clerks appear and written in a different hand, is the following singular entry:—"A quart and halfe a pinte of claret, and a quarter of a pinte of sack." What this may mean, or why it should appear in the register, we are at a loss to understand, but there it is.

Among the marriages we came across this one: " The Rev. Thos. Cursham, clerk of the parish of Ashover, in the county of Derby, and Ann Leesom Cursham, of this parish, were married in this church, by licence. 8th July, 1784."

Thos. Cursham afterwards became clerk, in 1791.

In the list of burials there is one strange inscription: "1798. Widow Beighton, a very old woman."

The visitor to St. Andrews will notice two interesting effigies, now reared against the tower wall but which were no doubt originally recumbent, and their excellent preservation may be largely due to this change in their position. Mr. G. G. Bonser says there can be little doubt that they are of the late 13th or early 14th century. At that time the manor was held by Edmund Spigurnell, who was also seized of the manor of Staun-ton, in Essex, and as his father was sealer of the King's writs in 1227, and his grandfather was sergeant of the King's chapel about 1207; he was a man of some importance. Mr. Bonser therefore suggests that these effigies are those of Edmund Spigurnell and his wife, A.D., 1296. The residence of these SpigurnelPs was probably near the site of the Great Northern Railway as a building situated near the station, and now belonging to the farm, shows undoubted traces of Transitional Norman, and Early English work.

Dr. Cox, in his "Royal Forests of England " describes the male effigy as a Forester of fee, or some minister of Sherwood Forest. He says: "He wears a close-fitting cap, probably of leather; the tight-fitting sleeves of his inner jerkin show up at the wrists through the short hanging sleeves of the outer garment, and over it he wears a tippet that had doubtless a cowl at the back. A hunter's horn hangs at the right side, suspended from a strap over the left shoulder. The feet rest on a hound." The effigy of the female is on the south aisle of the tower arch. The costume is 14th century, and she was sculptured in a wimpled head-dress. On each side of the head are angels as supporters.

The following names of the parsons of Skegby appear in the register. Some are styled curate, and some officiating minister:

1750. James Lynam, curate.
1767. John Wright, curate.
1791. Thomas Cursham.
1800. Thomas Hurt, curate.
1812. Wm. Rawlins. Rector of Teversal.
1812. Richard Randall Rawlins, curate of Skegby.
1813. William Goodacre, curate.
1860. F. J. Taverner,  incumbent.

F. J. Morgan (Teversal), and Wm. Brooke Stevens (Sutton) frequently officiated between 1857 and 1860. The dates given are the years in which the names first appear. The Rev. Wm. Goodacre, who is well remembered by the older inhabitants of Sutton, Skegby, and Mansfield Woodhouse, used to ride from place to place on a white pony. A copy of a letter is extant, that the Rev. gentleman addressed to the Rev. Brooke Boothby, of Kirkby, who desired the curate, Mr. Goodacre asked for, to share his time with the parishioners of Kirkby. With three parishes like those named, Mr. Goodacre's time was fully occupied, and he endeavoured to describe in verse " The Labours of a Day." The poem is somewhat lengthy, but we give it in full. It is follows:— This Journal of the eight of May,

In Eighteen Hundred and Twenty-five;
Is penned to show that after all
The night is come and I'm alive.
My breakfast done at half past eight,
I left my home and took my way;
Towards  Mansfield Woodhouse, where began
The labours of the toilsome day.
The Sunday Schools to teach the young,
Their duty both to God and man;
I first inspected, and approved
The faithful labourers and their plan.
At half-past ten to Church I went,
Said prayers and preached,
four pair did ask;
A woman churched, and half-past twelve,
Completed saw my morning task. I mounted steed, to Skegby rode, Imparted to a femaleill The Holy Eucharist, as before
She had to me expressed her will. At this place too, I prayed and preached,
And set the congregation free; Then mounting steed to Sutton hied,
And reached the church just after three. Two children here I first baptized,
Then prayed and preached as heretofore; Seven couples published, when the hour
Exceeded somewhat half-past four. Two children more I christened, then
Ten minutes in vestry staid,
Among the teachers of the schools,
To hear some plans which they had laid. Again to Mansfield Woodhouse bent, A corpse in waiting there I found; The last sad rites midst weeping friends, I   read,   and   human   dust   consigned   to th' ground. A fourth time then I prayed and preached, And this performed the hour drew nigh; When of Kirk hammer against the bell, Eight strokes would sound to passer by. Two  children  more I then did name,

In private manner, as allowed,
By Holy Church (tho' not approved),
But 'tis the humour of the crowd.
A person  sick who wished my prayers,
I called to see as I was bound,
And after giving some advice,
My duty done with joy I found.
Bestowed with welcome by a friend,
Some food I ate with eager zest;
Which dinner or my supper call,
Or any name that likes you best.
I sat awhile as loth to move,
But knowing I was not at home,
I sallied forth and safe arrived.
Beneath my humble peaceful dome.
This scrawl complete, the hour of twelve,
Brings my day's labours to a close;
The past fatigue secures my rest,
To you I wish a sound repose.

Mr. Goodacre was at one time second master at the Grammar School, and was called as a witness in a remarkable trial heard at the Notts. Assizes in 1831, in which John Coke, Esq., late High Sheriff for the county charged the headmaster of the Grammar School, the Rev. W. Bowerbank with sending him a threatening letter. The epistle was signed " Swing," and singular to observe Mr. Goodacre also received one bearing the same signature. We quote it as an example of the kind of epistles these " Swing " letters were:—

"Sur, I heres as ow u dose not use soap wen u washes ursen and if u doant curage that trad u will here moar from Swing.
Mr. Godaker, Sutton
in Hashfield, Notts."

After this digression let us turn to the more ancient history of Skegby. The Thoroton Society's transaction contain a reference to the Spigurnels:—Henry, who was a judge, was called to Parliament in 1297 and 1316, and between those dates—1312—he was one of the two judges who condemned Piers Gaveston. We have already made mention of an inquisition found in the keeping of the Dodsley family from which the dedication of the church was traced, and we might add that it dealt with  the Bride family, who

possessed lands in Skegby. John Bride was archdeacon of Derby from 1431 to 1473. The inquisition, dated 1460, stated that Roger Bride, with lands in Skegby, died, and these lands passed in 1435 to three sons, John, John, and Robert. The elder of the John's died on February 13th, 1460, at Skegby, and the other brothers came into possession of his property. The elder John's son, named Robert accused his uncle John with having ill-treated his father, his mother, and himself, and it was because of this charge that the archdeacon called for an inquisition. The result of the inquiry was to clear the cleric's character. Those to whom the duty of enquiry was entrusted found that he had always treated his family well.

Before concluding we might take another look at the interior with a view to noticing the memorial stones and brasses. The beautiful glass in the three-light east window was placed there " In honour of Christ crucified, and in memory of the Rev. Fredk. John Taverner, B.A., first vicar of this parish, who was born April 28th, 1831, and after 32 years' service in the same, died June 28th, 1892, his relatives, friends, and parishioners dedicate this window.

There is a brass over the piscina in the south aisle bearing the following words:— " Here lieth the body of the Rev. John Wright, 13 years curate of this parish who died 13th July,  1800. Aged 63 years."

Lydia Morley, who died on the 7th of September, 1768, in her 87th year is remembered by a stone fixed in the floor of the chancel. There is another stone to a Lindley, but the lettering on that, and others, is undecipherable.

There are several stones to the Sheppard family bearing dates 1777, 1781, and 1811, and one in the south aisle to Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Ordige, who died at the age of 88, in 1775.

Skegby possesses a handsome chalice, very similar in design to the one at Sutton. It has the London Hall mark, and was made in Elizabeth's time, 1571. There is also a pewter flagon, and a couple of pewter plates. On the flagon is marked CWT. In the seventeenth century the use of pewter for flagons became general. The canons of 1603 require that the wine " be brought to the communion table in a clear and sweet standing pot or stoop of pewter, if not of purer metal."

The bells are three in number:

(1). "I.H.S. Nazarenus Rex Judeorum fili Dei miserere 1684." There is no name or bell founder's mark. The lettering is Roman.

(2). "God save his church, Midworth, Mansfield, 1830." This inscription is in very large Roman lettering. During the restoration of the tower this bell was hung on the scaffolding and tolled therefrom.

(3). " Donavit, John Linley, Arm, 1737." Again the lettering is Roman in character. It appears that this bell was cracked so lustily did the ringers celebrate the marriage of the late squire's father, and the village blacksmith undertook its repair. He drilled a large nick where the crack was, but this did not answer, and the bell has gone to be recast.