Sutton-in-Ashfield (continued)

Considerable agitation existed about this time at the conduct of the sexton, and a public meeting was held at the Trooper Inn, the house of William Brandreth, to discuss what should be done with him. As the sexton, Canton Leeson, had been guilty of a misdemeanor he was " put out of his place or office by a majority of eight against him." We frequently come across items in the churchwardens' accounts such as this: "At a vestry meeting held at Mr. Wm. Godber's, the 14th day of August, 1797, it is mutually agreed that there shall be paid by the churchwardens to each and every person that shall bring a dozen of sparrows threepence, for every dozen of sparrows' eggs three halfpence, and for every dozen of crows one shilling." A dispute arose between the parishes of Sutton and Kirkby in 1798, about the boundaries of certain lands and an arbitrator was appointed to settle the matter. The church must have been reseated in 1799 because the accounts show the sale of old seating to pay for the new. It was customary for money to be allowed for ale at the change of officers, for the bellringers at festive seasons, and on various other occasions, but so frequently did items appear on the expenditure side for ale, that the vestry in 1813 passed the following drastic resolution:

"It was agreed that for the future there shall not be any money spent either at the chusing officers, or at any passing of accounts, ringing at Christmas, or on New Year's eve, or any other unnecessary occasions."

What were the necessary occasions?

An eccentric, but evidently generous blacksmith, John Shooter by name, used to walk from Hardstoft to Sutton to attend the services there, the reason given for his long tramp being that he was very musical, and at Sutton could hear the best singing in the district. He became so attached to the church that he gave an organ which has done duty for over 80 years, being played the last time at Easter. The churchwardens' book contains the following: "June 29th, 1825, at a meeting of the inhabitants convened for and held this day in the vestry to take into consideration the necessary alterations required for the reception of the organ presented by Mr. John Shooter, of Hardstoft, in the county of Derby, and other matters connected therewith. Resolved unanimously that the churchwardens be empowered to give to Mr. H. C. Lincoln, organ builder, High Holborn, London, an order for a 12-stop organ of the full value of 300gs., and to make every necessary alteration and provision for its reception." The thanks of the meeting were also given to the generous donor. Shooter's remains repose in Ault Hucknall churchyard.

The post of medical officer about these times was not a heavily paid one for we read that Mr. Valentine, surgeon, contracted with the parish to attend the poor and find them with medicine, surgery, and give other assistance for £30 a year. This gentleman had to attend all cases arising within a radius of five miles of Sutton.

We give just two other items from the same interesting source, limitations of space forbid more. At a meeting held on Easter Monday 1829 the overseers and Guardians of the Poor were empowered to make what arangements they deemed best with neighbouring parishes about trying the legality of Newstead's refusal of paupers on account of an assumed extra parochial privilege.

It would seem that the parishioners were not treated honestly in regard to the quality of meat they were supplied with about the year 1830, for the following gentlemen were appointed inspectors of the markets, principally relative to butchers, some complaints of bad meat being brought into the parish having been substantiated. They were requested to attend before the magistrates tomorrow to be sworn in, in order that they may commence their duties at once—William Beecroft, William Clarke, George Shooter, John Lindley, John Rhodes, William Clarke and Samuel Wooley.

Two years later, at a special meeting held on December 12th, 1832, the best method of raising the money or meeting the expense incurred by the verdict given against the Hundred in the trial relative to the damage caused by fire, etc., during October, 1831, was considered, and it was resolved that a memorial be sent to the Duke of Newcastle requesting him to mitigate the same or give time for payment on account of the poverty of the place. These extracts serve to show the varied duties which fell to the churchwardens to carry out or supervise. In the chancel is a mural monument (erected by the widow) to the memory of William Unwin, whose remains are deposited in the vault adjoining. He was born March 7th, 1751, married Elizabeth Cradock, of Walsall, Staffs., and died 1774, leaving four daughters. On the same stone is recorded the death of the widow and three of her daughters, the former dying in 1805. There is on the south side of the chancel a tablet to the memory of the Rev. Wm. Goodacre, who was incumbent of this parish, and who for the long period of 39 years discharged the arduous duties of his sacred office. He was taken to his rest November 13th, 1859, in the 76th year of his life. The tablet was erected by parishioners and friends. Limitations of space forbid a lengthy reference to this good man, whose bones repose with those of his wife in the churchyard at Mansfield Woodhouse. During his life he attended to the spiritual needs of the parishioners of Sutton, Mansfield Woodhouse, and Skegby, the livings being conjoined. We have already seen when Skegby was joined to Sutton, but have no evidence when Mansfield Woodhouse was added.

In the above illustration the bow and arrow as here seen are on the Forester's tomb in the chancel, and the seal is that of William de Sutton. It was dug up by the sexton in the churchyard in 1870. A description of it appeared in our first article dealing with the church.

Considerable trouble arose once at Sutton over the felling of an ash tree in the churchyard, a charge of assault arising out of it. Full particulars of the squabble are to be found in the Star Chamber proceedings. The decrees and orders of the Court of Star Chamber have, with two or three exceptions, entirely disappeared, and the value of the surviving records for legal purposes is therefore much diminished; but with regard to persons, places, habits and manners, they are full of information.