This inspiring article comes from our Winter 2009/2010 Newsletter:

The Bramley Apple story begins around 1809 with Mary Ann Brailsford, a young Southwellian who took some pips from the apples her mother was preparing and planted them in a flowerpot. As one of the pips was doing so well, it was later transferred to the young girl’s garden where it began to thrive. It is this tree that first began to bare a unique apple, one that has become the most respected apples in the world. Sadly, however, Mary left the family house and her apple seedling, and later died, without knowing how influential her seedling would become in the future.

Photograph of two Bramley apples

Above: Bramley Apples (By Marcin Floryan - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.5)

The apple that has become one of Southwell’s most celebrated assets may have gone unnoticed if it had not been for a certain young Henry Merryweather who was born in Carlton-on-Trent in 1839. His father, also called Henry, had been in the employment of Reverend John Drake Becher as a gardener in Carlton-on-Trent until 1840, when the Reverend moved to take up residence at Norwood Hall in Southwell, taking his gardener with him to look after the extensive gardens which supplied the needs of the house.

Henry Jnr joined his father working in the gardens of Norwood Hall at the tender age of 10, allowing him to gain a first-class knowledge of horticulture and develop a particular interest in the may different fruits which were grown in the grounds and walled kitchen garden.

In 1854, father and son ceased working at Norwood Hall so that they could begin their own business as nurserymen. They invested in buying two acres of land (adjacent to Norwood Park) which was just sufficient for the Merryweathers to concentrate on cultivating and selling fruit, strawberries in particular.

It was purely by chance that one day, young Henry Jnr noticed some fine-looking apples that the gardener of the Vicar Choral of Southwell Minister was carrying in a basket. Upon asking the gardener where he had got the apples from, the gardener replied that they were off the tree that grew in Mr Bramley’s garden at No. 73, Easthorpe. Henry immediately went round to see Mr Bramley to ask if he could take some grafts from the apple tree, so that he might propagate it for he believed he had found a unique apple.

Mr Bramley was happy to oblige and said that Henry could take as many grafts as he wished, as long as he named the apple that they produced after him. Henry was extremely successful in cultivating the grafts and was soon producing an award-winning apple.

Image of Bramley Apple sapplings

Above: 'Painted by John Ralph Starkey at Norwood in 1910', some Bramley seedlings planted by Mr Starkey at Norwood Hall park at the start of the 20th century (By PresstheStarKey - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0). You can find out more about the Starkey saplings at Norwood Park and even possibly buy a Bramley sapling clone here.

Henry Merryweather first presented the ‘Bramley Seedling’ to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit Committee on the 6th December 1876 where it was highly commended. On presenting the variety again in 1877, the apple received a First-Class Certificate by the Committee of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Apples in Manchester.

Since those early years, the Bramley Apple has received several first-class certificates and is now recognised as one of Britain’s best loved varieties. Many celebrations of the apple are hosted in Southwell to this day including the Bramley Apple Food and Drink Festival hosted by Southwell Minster in October.

Did you know it was only 30 years ago that the last pit pony finished working in British mines? Their service was over in Nottinghamshire’s pits by the 1970s, but prior to mechanical removal of coal, pit ponies were used in large numbers. By 1913, 70,000 pit ponies and colliery horses were at work in Britain’s mines. This book traces the lives of the pit ponies from the collieries around Sherwood Forest through exploration of their underground stables. Miner2Major, a landscape partnership scheme aimed, with support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to explore and celebrate the built heritage of the Sherwood Forest area including these fascinating stables.

This new publication examines the colliery stables around Sherwood Forest through the twentieth century. Based on archival research, photographic evidence and oral histories, this book examines the stables built to accommodate the huge equine workforce that were hidden underground.

Book Cover of Colliery Stables and the Nottinghamshire Pit Pony

Loan copies are available in all Nottinghamshire libraries. Printed copies will be available free of charge from larger Nottinghamshire libraries while stocks last (at Hucknall, Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse, Ollerton, Southwell, West Bridgford and Worksop). Also available at Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham and ‘The Bookcase’ in Lowdham, Bilsthorpe and Kirkby Heritage Centres. It is also available to download as an e-book here.

Colliery Village Records on the Historic Environment Record (HER):










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Scattered across the country are the traces of small medieval communities that disappeared from the countryside centuries ago. A deserted medieval village (DMV) refers to a settlement that was established during the medieval period in Europe, approximately between the 5th to 15th centuries AD, which has since been abandoned and left unoccupied. These were small, self-sufficient, agricultural communities, paying taxes to the feudal lords. Many of these sites are now protected as scheduled monuments.

In Nottinghamshire, LiDAR technology, aerial photography, historic records, and field survey, have so far revealed traces of 55 villages lost to time. Click here to discover their names and locations.

Have you ever seen a church in the middle of nowhere and wondered why it was built there? One local example is the ruined church of St James at Haughton. Check out the Church of St James record here.

Photograph of the deserted church of St James

Above: Ruins of the Church of St James, Haughton.

These ruins are all that remain of the church and the only indication of the medieval village that was once here. First named as Hocton in the Domesday book, it was renamed Haughton in 1316. The early Norman church was restored in the C14th and served as the parish church. Check out the deserted village of Haughton record here.

During the Tudor period, common land that belonged to the people was claimed by noblemen and enclosed, with the villagers evicted. This was the fate of the medieval village at Houghton. In 1509, William Holles enclosed a park of 240 acres. He evicted the villagers, built Houghton Hall, and annexed the church as a domestic chapel. In 1691, Houghton Hall passed into the Holles family, but they preferred to live at Welbeck Abbey and left Houghton Hall and the church to fall into ruin. By 1790, records reveal that both buildings were ‘in total decay’. The Hall was demolished in 1770 and the upper parts of the chapel were reduced in the 1960s to the ruins visible today. 

The site is visible in the LiDAR Survey of 2021. The outline of the church is clearly visible, but apart from a few sections of stone walling, there is little trace of the medieval village to be found today, in the surrounding arable landscape.

LiDAR image of a deserted church

Above: LiDAR image of the deserted church at Haughton.

LiDAR images are a good source for identifying deserted medieval villages. Earthworks (trackways, ponds, ditches, boundaries, tofts and crofts and rigg and furrow) are often the only surviving signs of occupation, and they are easier to identify in LiDAR images than through field survey.

Enclosure was a common cause of the desertion of medieval villages. In some cases, it was necessary due to changing cultivation practices at a time when sheep farming was more profitable than agriculture. This is known to be the reason for the desertion of Thorpe in the Glebe. Other reasons for population decline and desertion include famine, disease and conflict. Urbanisation was also attracting some people to migrate to towns and cities. Check out the Thorpe in the Glebe deserted Medieval village record here.

Some impacted villages did survive. Today, the village of Little Carlton near Newark, is a linear settlement, with houses built along Bathley Lane. In medieval times, the populated area was further west, close to the manor house. Today this area is farmland, but the marking of medieval trackways, sunken pathways, boundaries, house platforms, tofts, and a pond are still visible. Little Carlton is an example of a village that has either shrunk over time or shifted its central point. Check out the shrunken village of Little Carlton record here.

Map showing the shrunken village of Little Carlton

Above: The area marked in green shows the scheduled site of the shrunken village of Little Carlton.

Through the combination of modern technology and historical texts, the long-gone villages of medieval Nottinghamshire are re-emerging. Pioneering archaeological techniques might yet tell us more about their demise. At a site featured on Digging for Britain, Tephra particles were identified in soil samples taken from the deserted medieval village of East Hestlerton, in Yorkshire. This is the first direct evidence that volcanic activity in Iceland, may have caused crop failures in England in the sixth century, and perhaps resulted in the demise of some medieval villages. Could this be the case in Nottinghamshire too?

With Christmas approaching and the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, charities are appealing for donations to help those in need this Christmas and beyond. Thankfully, attitudes towards those in need have come a long way since Dickens introduced us to Ebenezer Scrooge.

Built in 1824, the Workhouse at Southwell stands as an exceptionally well-preserved window into Victorian attitudes towards the poor.

Photograph of the Workhouse in Southwell

Above: The Workhouse, Southwell. By DeFacto - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia.

The English Poor Law of 1834 led to the establishment of around 1800 workhouses throughout England and Wales. Built to eliminate pauperism, they effectively became prisons for the most vulnerable in society. Victorian attitudes were harsh: unsympathetic, and morally judgmental. Conditions in the workhouses were intentionally austere and unpleasant to deter all but the truly destitute. Upon entry, families were split up into male and female wings, and children separated from their parents. They lived and worked segregated lives, with no contact. Workhouse inmates slept in communal dormitories on narrow beds, with very basic bedding. They wore institutional uniforms and were put to work on gruelling physical tasks like breaking rocks, picking oakum fibres from old ropes, laundry work or corn grinding. The food provided was of very poor nutritional quality and meagre portions.

Whilst life for the 160 inmates at Southwell was undoubtedly bleak and unpleasant, there is evidence that gradual improvements were made as attitudes changed and new poor laws were passed. One major advance was the distinction made between the non-disabled ‘undeserving’ poor (the idle) and the infirm and elderly ‘deserving’ (blameless) poor, who were to be housed in an infirmary and cared for by nurses. The number of school places was expanded, and inmates began to work in the community with a view to a future beyond the walls. Decorative elements such as flower beds were introduced to create a more humane environment.

In 1929, new legislation transferred control of the workhouses to local authorities, who were required to run them as hospitals for the elderly and infirm who were unable to leave. The name was changed to Greet House, and people with social needs continued to be provided for here, until the late 1970s.

The site was purchased by the National Trust in 1997, and after years of restoration, was opened to the public in 2002. Today, the building is brought to life through the stories and objects of those who once lived here. The workhouse building has been designated as a Grade II* listed building as the most complete example of a workhouse in Britain and for its historical and social significance, representing the poor, who are largely missing from history, and the impact of poverty across the generations.

Check out the HER record here 

Pubs have been an important part of life in Nottinghamshire for centuries, not only providing refreshments but as the focus of community life. The origin of pubs can be traced back to the Roman period when ‘Tabernae' selling wine were set up along roads and in towns. In the Medieval period, Alehouses emerged. These were private homes where the householder brewed ale. The brewing process meant ale was safer to drink than water. Taverns were built to accommodate more people and to offer food, and larger Inns were built to include lodgings and accommodation for travellers. Collectively, these establishments are known as public houses (pubs).

Many old pubs are listed by Historic England or Locally Listed by local planning authorities to conserve them as an important part of our cultural heritage. More than 200 public houses are recorded in the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (HER). Use this link here and enter ‘public houses’ to see the complete list.

Nottingham has a claim to the oldest surviving pub in England - the famous ‘Trip to Jerusalem’ inn carved into the rock below the castle, is said to date to 1189 AD. It is reputed to have been used as a recruitment centre for knights signing up to join King Richard I on the Crusades. The earliest parts of the timber structure date that survive today, date to the early 17th century. The pub was Grade II listed in 1952.

Photograph of Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub

Above: The famous Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub

Many of our old pub buildings have historic value. They often retain original features such as timber frames, flagstone floors, and leaded windows. Their building style, construction type and materials vary. The name of the pub often reflects local history, referring to historical people, landscape features, animals, hobbies and occupations.

Pub names are often based on heraldic symbols. The most common pub name in Britain is The Red Lion, originally the heraldic symbol of King James I. Six are recorded in the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (two are now domestic houses). Other heraldic symbols include Lions, Dragons, Unicorns, Griffin, and Crowns.

Examples include:

Photograph of the 18th-century Crown Inn at East Markham

Above: The 18th-century 'Crown Inn' at East Markham. Check out the HER record here

Other pub names refer directly to Kings and Queens, famous people and local aristocracy:

Photograph of the sixteenth century ‘The Queens Head’ at Newark

Above: The sixteenth century ‘The Queens Head’ at Newark. Check out the HER record here

Photograph of The Manvers Arms (Radcliffe on Trent)

Above: 'The Manvers Arms' at Radcliffe on Trent. Check out the HER record here

Other pub names can give us clues about the landscape, names such as The Willow Tree, and Bridge Tavern. Names may be based on local wildlife, such as The Black Swan or The Fox. Some tell us about the interactions between humans and animals, The Butcher and the Bull or The Jolly Angler or even domestic animals like The Greyhound. Other pub names mention local industry and pastimes: Miners, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Gardeners, and Cricketers to name a few.

Photograph of The Old Greyhound Public House at Aslockton

Above: The Old Greyhound Public House at Aslockton. An early nineteenth-century stable and coach house. Check out the HER record here

Like the rest of the UK, Nottinghamshire has seen a decline in the number of pubs over the last couple of decades. Increased costs, changing drinking habits and the smoking ban have made running traditional pubs more difficult and resulted in the closure of many pubs. Often the buildings are converted into homes or businesses. Statutory Listing, Local Listing and Listing as Assets of Community Value (ACV) are all designed to conserve these historic buildings.