Monthly Archives: June 2019

William Huntingdon’s bequest

St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire

St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire

I doubt I would ever have found my way to West Stockwith but for my curiosity to know where the Chesterfield Canal ended.

That’s how I found the attractive Grade II*-listed eighteenth-century church of St Mary the Virgin, which stands beside the River Idle as it joins the River Trent.

It was built in 1722 at the bequest of William Huntington, who died on Christmas Eve 1714 aged forty-one.  His monument, carved by E Poynton, sits in the north-east corner with his effigy gazing towards the altar.

The inscription explains that he was a ship’s carpenter, the second son of John and Mary Huntingdon,–

who by his Last Will & Testament after ye death of his Mother and the Marriage or Death of his Widow gave Seven-Hundred and Forty Pounds for ye Building of ye CHAPPEL and HOSPITAL round about it, and for ye Support of a MINISTER SCHOOL MASTER & ten POOR Ship-Carpenters’ Widows and other CHARITYS, bequeath’d all his Lands in West-Stockwith Gunhouse, and Misterton for ever.

When the River Trent was the only useful transport artery in the district, there was no doubt enough profit in shipbuilding for a second son, presumably without heirs, to amass so much surplus wealth.

The second minister, Rev Robert Pindar, complained in 1743 that the original trustees, once the building work was complete, were misapplying the income from the trust and a Chancery suit was slowly and expensively proceeding.

The church is a simple brick oblong, with a bell-turret, lit by tall round-headed windows filled with plain glass apart from a small panel in one window of stained glass dated 1842.

It was built with the adjoining almshouses on the site of William Huntingdon’s shipyard, replacing an older chapel-of-ease which stood on what is now Canal Lane.  The parish church was two miles away at Misterton.

There is no east window.  At the east end, two giant Ionic pilasters frame a blank space that seems to need something larger than the carved oak altar and reredos, given as a war memorial in 1922, and a modern cross.  Apparently, much of the original furnishing and decoration was removed in 1887.

Presumably the church once had box pews.  The present pine benches are dated c1900.

West Stockwith became an independent parish in 1892, and remained so until it was reunited with Misterton in 1957.  A Local Ecumenical Partnership with the local Methodist congregation was formed in 2000.

St Mary’s Church continues to function, is well looked-after, and is a haven of quiet in a particularly quiet part of north Nottinghamshire.

Waterways to West Stockwith

Chesterfield Canal: West Stockwith

Chesterfield Canal: West Stockwith

Nottinghamshire is a surprisingly large county.  It’s difficult to imagine, strolling in the East Midlands countryside that surrounds the city of Nottingham in the south, that the north-eastern corner is fenland, and feels like Lincolnshire.

The eastern boundary with Lincolnshire is the River Trent, always an important transport artery and notoriously unreliable in drought and flood.

Up to the late eighteenth century the hinterland of western Nottinghamshire, south Yorkshire and Derbyshire was badly served by roads and waterways.  Sheffield’s cutlery had to be carted by road as far as the River Don at Rotherham from 1740 and at Tinsley from 1751.  Chesterfield’s trade, including coal, iron and Derbyshire lead, had to be taken by road to Bawtry to join the nominally navigable River Idle, which joins the Trent at West Stockwith.

When a canal was proposed from Chesterfield to the Trent in the late 1760s, there were alternative proposed routes – to the Idle at Bawtry, to the Trent at Gainsborough or via Retford entering the Trent downstream of Gainsborough at West Stockwith.

The cheapest alternative – a 46-mile canal from Chesterfield to West Stockwith, recommended by James Brindley, was built.

Bawtry was cut out of the waterway traffic, but continued to prosper as a staging post on the Great North Road.  The River Idle practically ceased to be a commercial waterway, though navigation remained technically possible.

Retford gained greater importance because it was situated on both the Chesterfield Canal and the Great North Road.

West Stockwith is a quiet little place, out of the way for road-travellers, but still significant if you travel by boat.  It’s possible to walk in less than ten minutes between the canal and the River Idle, which has long been unnavigable, its tendency to flood moderated by a huge floodgate.

The canal wharf is now a marina and the original tollhouse of 1789 still overlooks the lock that leads down to the tidal Trent.

Of the eleven pubs that served this once thriving little port only two now operate.  One, the warm and welcoming White Hart [http://www.whiws.co.uk], has its own brewery:  http://www.theidlebrewery.co.uk.

Georgian transport hub

White Swan Hotel, Drakeholes, Nottinghamshire (2018)

White Swan Hotel, Drakeholes, Nottinghamshire (2018)

Chesterfield Canal: Drakeholes Tunnel

Chesterfield Canal: Drakeholes Tunnel

When my navigator Richard directed me to Drakeholes to photograph the tunnel on the Chesterfield Canal the first thing we saw was not the canal but a very large, very Gothick, very derelict building which turned out to be the former White Swan Hotel.

This marks a major transport interchange from the days when everything that moved along roads and canals was propelled by muscle power.

It sits where the junction of four roads, where the old Roman road between Bawtry and the Trent ferry at Littleborough crosses the road from Blyth to Gainsborough.  Here it coincides with the canal, which burrows under the road in a 154-yard-long tunnel as it turns north on its way to its terminus at West Stockwith.

Almost opposite the White Swan is a pair of lodges, beautifully restored after years of dereliction, flanking what used to be the gateway to Wiseton Hall.  The pair was in fact a single dwelling, one lodge for living, the other for sleeping.

It forms only part of the work of Jonathan Acklom, local landowner and the instigator of the Wiseton Enclosure in 1763, who marked the “surrounding eminences” with elegant farms, such as Pusto Hill Farm and Blaco Hill Farm, described by the late-eighteenth historian John Throsby as “ornaments to the domain,…highly creditable to the taste of the owner”.

At the time that Jonathan Acklom rebuilt his family seat at Wiseton Hall in 1771 the Chesterfield Canal was under construction.  He stipulated that it should not approach his estate nearer than two hundred yards.

He built the White Swan to serve traffic coming along the roads to reach the canal company’s wharf at the southern end of the short tunnel, which opened in 1776.

Drakeholes was the Georgian equivalent of a modern transport interchange, and it was all created within a decade.

Though the Hall has gone, replaced by a smaller neo-Georgian house in 1962, its stables survive opposite the old gateway, along with the newer avenue which crosses the canal by the ornate Lady’s Bridge, otherwise known from its decayed carving as Man’s Face Bridge.

The modern Wiseton Hall is strictly private.

For background information on the Georgian Wiseton Hall see http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/Jacks1881/wiseton.htm and http://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/03/14-acklom-of-wiseton-hall.html.