Sookholme church.
Sookholme church.

THIS quaint little church unknown, owing to its isolation, to few but those who live in the immediate vicinity, was restored fourteen years ago. It was, originally, a well-built Norman church, but various additions and alterations of a mongrel character had produced an unsightly building in which the really interesting part of the structure had become, except to the eye of an expert, unrecognisable. Beside, the tooth of time had done its work so well that to all appearance the building was about to crumble to the ground. On the 3rd December, 1893, the Bishop of Southwell preached in the church on the occasion of the reopening after the restoration. The work of repair included a number of dressed stone buttresses, the restoration of the east wall, the removal of an unsightly east window, the erection of three Norman lights (the gift of Sir B. FitzHerbert) in the east end, a new oak and tile roof, new floor, the raising of the west window, and a thorough dressing, pointing and repairing of the whole structure. The chancel was reseated with substantial oak benches, the body of the church fitted with comfortable chairs, heating apparatus, etc., at a total cost of £750. Representatives of old Sookholme families residing elsewhere testified their interest in a substantial form. Sir Richard FitzHerbert, after tea, in proposing a vote of thanks to the Bishop, said this was the third episcopal visit to the Sookholme pulpit during recent years. Referring to the restoration he said if he had taken the advice tendered he wovdd have had the building razed to the ground and a new erection put up on the site. Being a lover of old buildings he was loath to take such a step, and he spent some little time reconsidering the matter. Eventually, he decided to do the best they could with the old place, and they were now celebrating a restoration in which the original structure of the church, notably the east end, had been preserved.

The small chapel, consisting of nave and chancel, was built in the reign of Henry the Second. Its plan is almost two squares, with the larger square for the nave and the smaller the chancel, with door at the west end. This is not the original plan as designed by the Norman builders, for about a hundred years ago the west front was taken down and rebuilt further east, taking away about a third of its old length from the nave. With this third added Sookholme would be one of those small chapels with square-ended sanctuaries, frequently built in Saxon and Norman times. The original type came from Ireland, and passing through Scotland, was adopted in England, and in spite of Continental influence in favour of the apse, this square-ended chancel became part of the English parish church design. Nearly the whole of the walling on the north side and a small piece near the ground in the south, is the original Norman masonry. The chancel arch is wide, and enriched with roll molds. It has two colums, with slightly ornamented cushion capitals. The original font of bucket shape remains. It is devoid of carving, and stands on a new stem and step to the north of the west door.

With the exception of minor alterations and repairs, nothing apparently was done to this chapel for nearly two centuries until in Edward the Second's reign, when considerable building was undertaken. Probably then the west end and the south wall of the chancel were rebuilt, and the chapel re-roofed. Of this time there now remains the west window, a window in the south side of the nave and two beams of the roof. The windows are both of two-light, and good specimens of the style, and the roof beams are slightly molded and carved, the one near the chancel arch having upon it the head of our Saviour, surrounded by a halo, the rays of which are so pointed as to give the impression at first sight that it is a crown of thorns.

Sookholme was not destined to have another long period of inactivity as yet, for in the next Edward's reign more alteration took place in the chancel. On its south side is a piscina, and a rude sedilia, and on its north an aumbry. The piscina has a trefoil head and a large basin, the latter being "Scalloped inside and ornamented outside, with a band of cable mold." Sookholme then had a long period of rest until the 16th century saw the insertion of the three-light window on the south side of the nave. Then came the restoration to which we have already alluded.

The name Sokeholme is derived from two Anglo-Saxon words soc or soke, a privilege or jurisdiction, and holme, an island, or the rich land by a stream. So that Sokeholme originally meant the rich land by a stream, held in tenure by privilege. Before the Reformation the manor belonged to the Priory of St. Oswald, at Nostell, in Yorkshire, and was most probably served by the monks of that priory. According to tradition there was a branch establishment of the priory settled here, and althought no record of this remains, there is the signficant fact that in a field near the road leading to Shirebrook, there are—or were—a number of fine old yew trees planted in the form of a quadrangle—just such trees as one would expect to see near a religious house. In the reign of Edward III. the prior of St. Oswald claimed all sorts of privileges in the manor of Sokeholme, but the jury could not find that "he or his predecessors ever had the right of gallows, or of infangtheis,"—that is the passing of judgment on thefts committed within one's jurisdiction—"or that bread was ever baked there to be sold that he might have had the emendation of the assize." After the Reformation, "Sokeholme, with all its appurtenances" was granted to the Leek family, and from them it descended to the Cavendishes, one of whom was the Duke of Newcastle—the equestrian duke—who for some time was general of the royal forces in the Civil War between Charles  I. and  the Parliament. Anyone  acquainted  with  the  history of  the county of Notts,  and the time of the Civil War will know that the duke after Marston Moor retired to the continent in very humble circumstances, whilst his immense fortune was squandered by those who had assumed the reins of government. Out of eight magnificent estates possessed by him before the war Welbeck alone was preserved from utter ruin "by the noble exertions of his secretary," Mr. John Rolleston, of Sokeholme Hall. From the dukes of Newcastle, the manor passed to the dukes of Portland, and, through them, by an exchange of land, to Mr. Henry Gally Knight, and so on to the present owners, the FitzHerbert family. In the Warsop register may be seen:—

1681, "Buried Mr. John Rolleston, an aged person, of Sokeholme." A handsome marble tablet fixed in Warsop church records his good qualities as a trusty servant, a loyal subject, a faithful friend, a loving husband,  and a good Christian.

In the same register occurs the entry:—

1699 "Buried Elizabeth Knight, Lady and Widow of Sir Ralph Knight, of Church Warsop."

This lady had a most eventful history. She appears first before us at the altar, writes the Rector, as a Miss Barber, of Carburton, then for 20 years as the wife of John Rolleston, of Sokeholme, then as the second wife of Sir Ralph Knight, an old man of 68 years of age, and moreover one of her first husband's most determined opponents.

It was this Mr. Rolleston who, accompanied by Mr. Leek, waited upon Colonel Hutchinson in the common gaol, where he was confined labouring under severe indisposition, and acquainted him that the Marquis of Newcastle had received express orders from the King to send him up in safe custody to  London.

In one of the old Warsop registers containing" all christenings, marriages and burialls since 1539 as they were trewlie copied out of old paper books, written or copied per Thomas Lions, pedagogus," there is the following interesting memorandum:

"An agreement made betwixt the Inhabitants of Warsoppe and Soukeholme concerning Church levys. November the tenth, Anno Domini, 1626. Whereas heretofore there have been divers differences betwixt the Inhabitants of Warsoppe and Soukeholme concerning the payments of Soukeholme men to the Church levys, it is now agreed betwixt them as followeth: That Soukeholme men shall paye to the Church-Wardens of Warsoppe the fourth part of all charges to wind and weather, and to the keeping of the bells in repayre, and to the charge at the visitations. And in lieu of all other charges Soukeholme men do allow to Warsoppe men the benefitte of all burialls within the church: And upon the agreement there is a seat appoynted for Soulkeholme hall above the long seates for women, on the North side before the pulpitte, vearging to the crosse alley by the hall seates of Warsoppe. And this is entered in this booke by the consent of William Spurr, Rector of Warsoppe, James Clarke, and William Deane, Churchwardens then being, and with the consent of the Inhabitants of Warsoppe, as also by the consent of Henrie Lukin, gentleman, Henrie Wode, and the inhabitants of Soukeholme.

William Spurr, clerk.
James Clarke,
William Deane,
Church Wardens. Henry Lukin, Henry Wood of Soulkholme."

The agreement mentioned therein together with the "divers differences'' alas! continued to exist down to the abolition of church rates in 1868. By wind and weather was meant any injury which might happen to the fabric by the action of those elements. In his interesting booklet, written in 1884, the Rev. R. J. King says:—Sokeholme Hall pew is still remembered by some of the oldest inhabitants of Warsop. The hall itself stood on the site of the farm house which is commonly called Eyre's Farm, or more correctly Hall Farm. At the beginning of last century part of the old hall was in existence, and one of the upper rooms went by the name of "Lukin's Garret," and was said to be haunted by the ghost of a member of that family who, according to tradition, committed suicide there. A brass tablet to the memory of Henry Lukin, of Sokeholme Hall, may be seen in Warsop Church, from which we learn that he was born at Great Baddon, Essex, in 1586, and died at Sokeholme in 1630. Henry Wood, the other person who signed the agreement on behalf of Sokeholme, was a miller and farmer of that place, and his descendants continued to reside in the parish down to the middle of the eighteenth century.

We find on referring to another memorandum bearing date 22nd of January, 1615, wherein it was agreed that the church seats should be appointed to the inhabitants, etc., a portion of the seat numbered 2 on the plan was allotted to Mr. Ffoster, who resided at the hall before Mr. Lukin.

1600, "Buried: Oct. 30, John Cham; Nov. 1, Margery Cham; Nov. 28, William, son of John; Nov. 30, Robert Cham, son of the same John and Anna, daughter of Henry Woode, and servant of the same John Cham —on the same day and in the same grave; also Margaret, daughter of the same John Cham on the same day." It is very probable that the several members of the Cham family whose burials are here recorded were swept away by some such plague as that which was prevalent throughout England forty-two years before, as Bailey mentions in his annals. The years of 1590 and 1591 were noted for a great plague in London, and throughout England a drought attended with plague. Anna Wood was the daughter of the Sokeholme miller. The first time the name of the family of Herring appears in the register is 1547, and at subsequent dates the name appears in the various spellings here given—Heringe, Herringe, Hearinge. Heringe, Hereing, Hering, Herring and Herron. John Herring was churchwarden in 1638 at Warsop. Samuel Herron filled the the same office in 1654, and John Herring in 1762. In the old terrier of 1722 Joel Herring is mentioned as farming one hundred and twenty acres of land for which he paid a yearly rent of £25 14s. 4d. A Samuel Herring in 1739 married Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel Newton, the Coroner. He lived at the old Sokeholme Hall, the front part of which he pulled down and rebuilt in 1748. A stone bearing the date together with the letters H.S., and E. may still be seen on the front wall just below the roof. From an old rate-book we learn that at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Sarah Herring, a member of this family kept a public-house at Sokeholme, and that the parishioners of that parish used to meet in vestry at her house to pass the churchwardens' accounts for the year. Descendants of the Eyres of Mansfield Woodhouse lived at this place. John Eyre was among the number of those chosen for the honour of Knighthood when Charles II. contemplated forming an order of the "Knights of the Royal Oak."

The following entry from the register is quoted because of its quaintness:—

1646, "John the sonne of George Wilcocke and Anne, his wife, was born upon the 28th of January, about five of the clocke in the afternoon, and was baptized on the 5th of January, of Sokeholme.

1650, "Gervase, the sonne of Nicholas Hinckley and Elizabeth, his wife."

A branch of this family held the office of wood steward on the Warsop estate for several generations. A William Hinchliff, wood steward about the latter part of the eighteenth century was clerk of Sokeholme Chapel, and used to attend the services there, dressed in the lord of the manor's livery.

1763, "Buried: Francis, son of Francis Peacock, of Market Warsop."

The name of Francis Peacock is down in the old terrier for forty-two acres of land at a yearly rental of £11 1s. 9d. For nearly two hundred years a branch of this family lived at the Spring Farm Sokeholme. The death of the above mentioned Francis, at the age of 22 years, brought great grief to his widowed father, who made over some property he possessed at Shirebrook to trustees, directing that the profits of the same should be given away in bread to the poor of Warsop for ever on the second of February, and the eighth of August.

1789. "Baptized: Elizabeth, the daughter of William and Eleanor Herringshaw, Soukholme."

William Herringshaw, whose daughter's baptism is here recorded, was a miller, and succeeded the Clay's at the old Sokeholme mill. After his death, in 1820, his daughter, Elizabeth kept the mill agoing until her younger sisters were grown up, when she passed it on to James Johnson, who married her sister Eleanor, and who was the last miller of Sokeholme.

Sokeholme Chapel possesses one of the oldest pieces of plate in the county—a small silver cup and cover paten. The upper part of this cup is ornamented with a double seeded rose, a crown, and the fleur de lis; the bowl with a foliated band interlaced four times with the hour glass curve. It bears the York date—letter L which stands for 1568-69.