Ollerton from the bridge, c.1920.
Ollerton from the bridge, c.1920.

In course of time Sir John became Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, from 1396 to 1406. He was twice married. His first wife was Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Henry de Cressi, lord of Hodsac. Sir John married for his second wife Milicent, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas de Bekeryng, and widow of Sir Nicholas Bourdon, by whom he had two child­ren. Of the first, Sir John, afterwards Lord Chief Justice of England, of whom Camden says, " he was the greatest ornament of this family, who tempered his judgments with so much equity that his name will endure as long as time itself." The judge died in the tenth year of Henry the Fourth.

Sir Robert Markham, who was a warm supporter of the cause of the White Rose, married Joan, daughter and heir of Sir Giles Daubeny and Mary, daughter of Sir Simon Leake, in whose right he held the manors of Gotham and Houghton-by-Newark; Joan carried the lordship, as heir to Sir Robert Markham, her husband. Thoroton says that the family then made Gotham their principal residence, and were of great note. Sir Robert died about the year 1476.

Sir John Markham is mentioned as one of the leaders who were present at the battle of Stoke in 1488, on behalf of Henry the Seventh. He was a man of great prowess. "But," says Dugdale, "he was an unruly spirited man, and, striving with the people of Long Benington about the bounderies of their lordships, he killed some or other of them—it was rumoured that he hanged the priest—for which he lay in hiding at Cressi Hall. Here it was his good fortune to entertain the Lady Margaret, mother of King Henry the Seventh, who not only procured his pardon, but married her kinswoman Anne, the daughter of Sir George Neville, to his son, likewise called Sir John."

Sir John Markham, who married the daughter and heir of Sir George Neville, was, on the female side, of royal descent. His mother, the daughter of Sir Humphry Fitz Lewes, was a grand-daughter of Edmund Beaufort, Marquis of Somerset, and grandson of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (third son of Edward III. and Catherine Swynford). During the reign of Edward the Sixth Sir John Markham was Lieutenant of the Tower.

''Besides the large possessions which devolved upon Sir John by his marriage with the heiress of Sir George Neville, he had grants of several others, among which is one bearing date 28 Henry VIII. "The House and Site of the Abbey of Rufford with large manorial possessions attached, were demised under the Court of Augmentations to Sir John Markham, and his assigns for twenty-one years."

He was thrice married: first to Anne, daughter of Sir George Neville, by whom he had two sons, John and Henry. The latter was in holy orders and died without issue.

John Markham, the eldest, was seated at Sireston, and died in his father's lifetime, leaving issue by Katherine, daughter of Sir Anthony Babington, one son, Robert, who succeeded him, and two daughters : Saunchia, who married William de Hardwicke, and Anne, who died unmarried.

Thomas Markham, known as the Black Markham of Kirby Bellers, a man of some eminence, settled at Ollerton in the latter part of the sixteenth century. He inherited a considerable estate from his mother, and by his wife, who was daughter and heiress of Ryce Griffin, he became possessed of much more valuable lands. The Ollerton estate was left to him by his father's will.1 The large, handsome mansion of the family is still a conspicuous object in Ollerton, although there is evidence that the present house was not entirely erected by the first owner, but in all probability either wholly or in part rebuilt early in the eighteenth century. How Kirby Sellers came into his possession is not known. It is an old house of the time of Queen Elizabeth, standing in what appears to have been a park.2

Thomas Markham is said to have been in high favour with Queen Elizabeth, who bestowed numerous offices upon him. He was High Steward of Mansfield ; Ranger of Sherwood Forest; and standard bearer to the Queen's band of gentlemen pensioners. At the latter part of his life he suffered severely from two of his sons adopting the Popish faith, for which he humbly apologised to Lord Burleigh in 1592-4.

Isabella, sister of the above Thomas Markham, was maid of honour to the Princess Elizabeth before she came to the throne, and a favourite. She was a lady of great beauty, and the subject of many amorous letters from Sir John Harrington. With the approval of the Princess, Sir John and "sweete Isabella Markham" were married, and shortly afterwards Elizabeth was committed to the Tower for not conforming to the Catholic faith. Lady Harrington and her husband were also severely punished, both being sent to the Tower; she on account of her heresy, and Sir John for forwarding a letter to the Princess. Through life they retained Elizabeth's favour and intimacy, who became godmother to their son, in whose welfare she also took a lively interest.

Another member of the family, Robert Markham, who was born in 1536, and married as his second wife the daughter of W. Burnell, of Winkbourne, was a favourite attendant on the Queen. He was one of the four named in the distich in which the Queen celebrated her Nottinghamshire knights:—3

"Gervase the gentle, Stanhope the stout, Markham the lion, and Sutton the lout."

Frances, the eldest sister of Thomas and Isabella Markham, married Henry Babington of Dethick, who after her death married, in 1560, at Aston as his second wife, Mary, daughter of George, Lord Darcy, and was by her the father of Anthony Babington, one of the prime movers in a conspiracy to set at liberty Mary Queen of Scots, for which offence he suffered death. Henry Babington died in 1571, and his widow married, secondly, Henry Foljambe, Esq., by whom the young Anthony was taken charge of during his minority, at Kingston-on-Soar, Notts.

Sir Griffin, the eldest son and heir of Thomas Markham, of Ollerton, commenced life with the brightest prospects, showing evidence of great ability, but he was ambitious and reckless, and he ended his days in poverty and exile. He, with other young men of family, served under the Earl of Essex in an expedition sent by Queen Elizabeth to the assistance of Henry IV. of France. In this war he received the honour of knighthood for his valour during the siege of Rouen. He afterwards served with distinction in Ireland under the same general, by whom he was made commander of all the Horse in Connaught. But Sir Griffin had a restless spirit, and in addition to becoming a Papist, gave some further offence to the Queen, and was banished from Court nine or ten years before her death. It was not, however, until the reign of James I. that he began to tamper with treasonable matters.

In the Parish Register of Mansfield it is stated that Gryffythe Markham (sic) was present on the 31st of March, 1603, at the Market Cross at Mansfield, with Sir John Bryon, Mr. Henry Chaworth, and other gentlemen at the proclamation of the accession of James I. to the Crown.

In July of the same year, Sir Griffin Markham, with Sir Walter Raleigh, Lords Grey and Cobham, Mr. Brooke, Watson, a priest, and some others were apprehended on a charge of conspiring to raise Arabella Stuart to the throne in place of James I. On the 4th of November, in consequence of the sickness then severe in London, all the prisoners were sent under strong guard from the Tower to Winchester for trial. They were all condemned (Markham on his own confession). After the condemnation, great efforts were made to obtain the pardon of Sir Griffin and some of his confederates, which to the surprise of Markham were rejected, as he had been led to hope his life would be spared. On the 7th of December the King signed the warrant for the execution to take place on the next day but one. Markham was the first led forth to suffer; he complained that he had been deceived with false promises of life, but though surprised, he was by no means dismayed by it, and when a kind friend offered him a napkin to cover his eyes he remarked courteously, "I am still able to look death in the face without blushing." Just at the moment when he was preparing to lay his head upon the block, a Scottish gentleman of the King's household stepped forward and presented the Sheriff, Sir Benjamin Tichbourne, with a warrant, whereupon he told Markham that he was to have a respite of two hours, and caused him to be led down the Castle Hill. Next, Lord Grey was brought to the scaffold, and when all preparations were made and the prayers ended, the Sheriff, as before, ordered the execution to be stayed for a while, neither of the prisoners taking any comfort from the delay. Then came Lord Cobham's turn, and when he was prepared to die, Sir Benjamin sent for the other two, and when they again mounted the scaffold, all the three were lost in amazement, for each thought his companions were dead. The crowd was full of wonder, and the Sheriff solved the mystery by explaining that the King had been graciously pleased to spare the lives of all three. Though Sir Griffin's life was spared, he was banished from the country. He survived for many years, though in a state of great indigence, and it is said he frequently visited his native land in disguise, and that he assisted in the attempted escape of Arabella Stuart.

On the attainder of Sir Griffin, his brother George succeeded to the Ollerton estates. The second son of this George Markham, also named George, settled in the year 1670 at Worksop Lodge. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Marmaduke Tunstall, of Wycliffe and Hutton, and by her had two daughters: Katherine, who died unmarried, and Elizabeth, who married her distant kinsman Major Markham, father of the Archbishop of York; and one son George, who succeeded him, but died without issue. The Archbishop was born in 1719, and died in 1807, leaving a large family, of whom the eldest son, William, married Elizabeth, daughter of Oldfield Bowles, Esq., of North Aston, Oxfordshire, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. The third son, David, the author of The History of the Markhams, was born in March, 1800. He entered holy orders, and became Rector of Great Horkesley in Essex, and Canon of St. George's Chapel, Windsor. He married Catherine, daughter of Sir William Milner, Bart., of Nun-Appleton, by whom he had three sons and three daughters. The second son, Sir Clements-Robert, born in July, 1830, is the President of the Royal Geographical Society.

Thomas, the eldest son of George Markham, succeeded to the Ollerton estates. He was a devoted adherent of Charles I. in his struggle against the Parliament. He joined the King when the Royal standard was hoisted at Nottingham, and was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment of horse formed by General Cavendish, brother of the Marquis of Newcastle. Colonel Markham was very successful against the Parliamentary forces at Grantham and Stamford, but misfortune overtook the army near Gainsborough, where General Cavendish, attacking a superior force under Cromwell, was killed in the action. Colonel Markham was also mortally wounded. He came home to die, and is buried in Ollerton Church, where his gravestone may be seen in the floor on the north side. He died July 22, 1643.

On the death of Thomas Markham, grandson of Colonel Markham, unmarried, in 1743, the estates were sold, Ollerton becoming the property of the Saviles of Rufford. Thus the Ollerton branch was extinct.4

The owners of Ollerton in 1612 are said by Thoroton to be Lord Vaux, George Markham, gent., Thomas Stirrop of Normanton, gent., James Bacon of Wellow, William Walheade, Mary Huddleston, widow, William Harwood, Robert Hooton, and Robert Bullock.

1 Extract from the will of Sir John Markham, father of Thomas Markham, the founder of the Ollerton branch of the family, who died in 1564:—
"In the name of God Amen. ... I, Sir John Markham of Cottom, in the county of Notts, knighte, hole yn bodie, my wittes and memorie symple but not decayed, do make and ordayne this my laste wille and testamente as followethe.
"Firste, I give and bequethe my soule to Almighty God. . . . Further I give my bodie to the earthe, and my sinnes to the Divell and the Worlde.
"I will that my cozen * and heire Robert Markham shall have suche ymplements at Cottom as can be prowed heyr lorns and no further.
"Also I give and bequethe to Thomas Markham my sonne my house at Ollerton as yt is furnished when I lie at Cottom, and accordinge to one Inventorie writte with the hande of the vicar of Edwinstowe: excepted a paire of racks to torne spittes in, and three spittes, my second bason and ewer, ye goblets of sylver, ye little salte gilded, a silver great salte, ye silver spones with square knobbes; six kyne and one bull, two hundreth wethers, and six oxen."
2 Kirby Bellers was afterwards in the possession of Sir Francis Burdett.
* His grandson, who succeeded him.
3 Probably this Robert Markham is the member of the family Sir Walter Scott has introduced in Kenilworth as one of the followers of the Earl of Sussex, the rival faction to that of the Earl of Leicester.
4 A manuscript note in a copy of The History of the Markhams, in the possession of the present writer, states that the name of Thomas Markham, of Ollerton, County Notts, is mentioned in Cosin's List of Nonjurors, as having been fined £879 in 1715.