Manor Farm, Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).
Manor Farm, Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).

MOORGREEN was part and parcel of the Greasley Castle Estate, and probably the home Farm of it, with maybe some villain tenements and a few necessary labourers’ huts, and it has therefore no separate place in Domesday. Even now the chief farm there preserves the name “Manor Farm.” It was probably indifferently called the Moor and the Green before the two designations were united into Moorgreen. We have seen in Kimberley that as late as in the 33rd year of Edward III. Hugh de Cressy and Cecilia his wife, when surrendering certain properties to the Priory of Beauvale, reserved to themselves out of such properties a rent for their lifetimes, with the stipulation that in default of payment they should he entitled to distrain in the Priory lands (among other places) at the Moorhouses, which seems to have at that time been the name.

The first instance in which we meet with Moorgreen is in the reign of Henry IV., i.e., on May 31st, 1411, in the Borough Records. It seems probable from that entry that the Lords of the Manor of Greasley had set up a gate at Moorgreen, for it is certain that a man whose description is given as “William of the Gate of Moorgreen” was sued at Nottingham for a breach of some contract with the people of Cossall.

The Moorhouses therefore of the de Canteloupes’ days were in the early years of Henry IV. called Moorgreen, and there will by that time have been a few cottars or bordars here, who were at liberty to engage in employments away from home, which from their social condition of earlier times would not then have been admissible.

As a village or township it is necessarily not much antecedent to the Commonwealth time, and was not sufficiently populous when the Villare Anglicum was written to find a place in it. It is now next to Beauvale a very pleasing locality in our parish, and perhaps the most esteemed by visitors from Nottingham and by travellers which pass through to other places for a short rest here. We may miss some of the thatch-roofed cottages of 30 years ago, but instead thereof the township has very greatly gained in comfortable and comely new dwellings of a picturesque architecture, which owing to Earl Cowper’s general beneficence to the parish have been erected here. It may indeed be said that the locality, together with Earl Cowper’s improvements in the other hamlets and farms of the parish have put on a holyday attire, which from the substantial way in which the buildings have been erected is likely to weather the tests of time and of climatic influences for some generations to come.

Eighteenth century chapel at Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).
Eighteenth-century Congregational chapel at Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).

The Congregationalists have a chapel here, which until other places of worship of their denomination were established in the neighbourhood, (chiefly at Eastwood), was for years an important centre of attraction to their co-religionists. It was frequently asserted that the Moorgreen Chapel was first called into being by one of the Vicars of Greasley. We need not say that this seemed to us to call for explanation, and we are glad to be able to give to our readers a satisfactory result of our investigations.

The oldest reference in our own locality to the Chapel of Moorgreen (so far as we know) consists of some documentary evidence to the effect that in 1662 the Nonconformists held Divine worship at Moorgreen in an old barn, on the site of which a chapel was later on built, and that finally the much larger one of the present dimensions was erected on the same site; and it was said that a Vicar of Greasley, named Robert Smalley, was the originator of it in the said year of our Lord 1662.

We had necessarily to search our Parish Registers in that behalf, and what did we find? The last incumbent before the Civil Wars who signed himself as Vicar of Greasley was Samuel Tuke, in 1636. After him Robert Smalley did indeed minister in the Parish Church, but he did not sign himself in the Registers as Vicar of Greasley but simply as minister. To account for this we must turn to the political occurrences of the troublous times of the Commonwealth, of which Buchanan’s Woodborough gives a telling description.

Horse and Groom pub at Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).
Horse and Groom pub at Moorgreen (Photo: A Nicholson, 2004).

The Parliament of the time was bent on the destruction of the Church of England, and to enforce conformity with Presbyterianism. In 1640 it came to this that the Clergy had either to sign the Covenant, or to be ejected from their benefices. Seven thousand of them were thus dispossessed and Nonconformist ministers put into their places. In 1645 the use of the Common Prayerbook was prohibited, both for Churches and for use in private families, where some of the expelled Clergy had found a refuge as domestic chaplains. In 1656 the Clergy were even forbidden to teach children and to keep private schools, nor were they allowed to baptise or marry persons, or to administer the Holy Communion. The jails were overfilled, so that there was no more room to contain those who disobeyed the edicts, and not a few of them had to go to the hulks to die there, while others fled and left the country. There were it appears, only about one thousand of them left at the Restoration, and hence when the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662 it was so framed as to admit of the Nonconformist ministers who then held the benefices of the Church to retain them on the condition of submitting to Episcopal ordination. About 6,000 of them, it is said, accepted the condition, and about 2,000 (whether from religious scruples or from fear of examinations which might have to be passed we know not) resigned their position. Mr. Potter Briscoe, in his Old Nottinghamshire, 2nd series, p. 19, gives a compilation (from Palmer’s edition of Calamy’s Nonconformist Memorial, published in 1775) of the names of ministers in this county who were ejected, and amongst them is the name of Robert Smalley, of Greasley, above mentioned, who then founded the Nonconformist services at Moorgreen.

Some of the ministers, however, who had first objected to the conditions necessary to retain their benefices subsequently conformed, among whom in our immediate neighbourhood were Charles Jackson of Selston, and a Mr. Horn of Nuttall. Is it then correct to say that Moorgreen Chapel was founded by a Vicar of Greasley? We leave the answer to our readers.

The landed property of all that is now called Moorgreen belongs to Earl Cowper, with the sole exception of the Greasley Castle Farm and the Reckoning House Farm which were purchased by the Grammer family from the House of Rutland. The Reckoning House Farm then became the property of Lavinia (widow of Thomas Marshall), and of her sisters, Georgina and Jemima Grammer, spinsters, whose tenant was Antony Fletcher. This farm was subsequently alienated, and after some change came into the possession of the late Mr. John Godber, whose tenant was Mr. John Shaw (now of the Ruffs at Hucknal Torquard) and Mr. John Godber sold it to Lancellot Rolleston, the present Squire of Watnall Chaworth.