The Hall, East Stoke.
Stoke Hall was enlarged in 1812 but incorporates much older work: there are medieval figures and decoration built into the fabric, possibly related to St Leonard's Hospital, founded in 1135.

IF the artist, whose painting—a bit of Thames scenery, calm and reposeful, put the Bishop of Peterborough in such an amiable frame of mind, that a priest or a curate might play with him with impunity, were to paint a particular reach of the Treat at East Stoke that I could point out to him, he might gain a fair amount of episcopal patronage, assuming that all the Bishops are amenable to the soothing influence of skilful waterscapes, and receive the blessing of erring curates and refractory clergymen. Stoke Hall is removed from the river by a distance of park land that could almost be covered by a stone’s throw, a gentle rise in the ground where it stands, being sufficient to secure immunity from the floods which rise in the neighbourhood of the Trent after protracted rains. A full view of the river can only be obtained from one or two of the upper rooms in the house, for the park is thickly studded with lofty trees—beech, elm, and horse chestnut, wide spreading and thickly foliaged. There are oak trees also, but these are not remarkable for size or for luxuriance of foliage. Through the openings, however, you can discern in the sunshine quivering patches of silver, down where

The river glideth at its own sweet will.

In the fishing season when the barbel should bite, the owner of Stoke walks across the park and under the trees to the river’s edge, before the dew has yet dried on the long grass, which clothes his enclosed domain. A fishing punt is moored at the water side, and into this the baronet steps, and is assisted in his exposition of the gentle art by old Tom Davis, who probably finds that baiting a hook, putting the line to rights when it has "caught " at the top of the rod, and the occasional throwing in of a plumb or a weighted float, for an indulgent master, is not quite such hard work as cricketing. Sir Henry Bromley is an inveterate fisherman. In the fall of the year he will sit in his punt all day long ; facing down the river in full view of the sparkling reaches. A skilful fisherman, an excellent shot, an enthusiastic lover of cricket, a game in which some years ago he used to participate with zeal, energy, and sometimes with success ; an ardent admirer of his ancestral trees and of his fine flowers, Sir Henry Bromley has abundant resources within himself, and the world without his own domain really sees but little of him.

St Oswald, East Stoke
St Oswald, East Stoke, was largely rebuilt in 1738, but the chancel has late 14th cenury windows and the tower dates from the 13th century (photo: Andrew Nicholson, 2001).

Stoke Hall is a handsome brick building of baronial pretensions. It stands away from the river, a circumstance which may be recorded as illustrating the wisdom of its founder. It is confronted, and flanked on the one side, by as fine an expanse of park land as can well be seen in this part of England. When there have been heavy rains, the low lying portions of the park are flooded. After the waters have subsided some time elapses before the grass assumes its original brightness. The trees are abundant and lofty, and there is a row near enough to the water’s edge to fling shadows upon the surface of the river. The best view of the park and grounds, a view which embraces a lovely bit of river scenery, and the elegant spire of the parish church at Newark, is to be obtained from a long asphalte walk to the right of the house, which marks the termination of the pleasure grounds. The asphalte can be walked upon with comfort in wet weather, and the overhanging trees of laburnum and hawthorne form either a graceful shade or a tolerably effectual shelter according to the humour of the elements. The Stoke laburnums are remarkably fine and very numerous. They rain their golden showers with great liberality at every turn, and outside the walls of the park, the ground is thickly strewn with their auric favours, turning to a pale brown in decay. To the right of this asphalte walk that I have mentioned is a deep gorge, which gradually shelves down to the meadows. It is pointed out as the place where the rebel army, which, in the reign of Henry VII., made an unsuccessful attempt to assert the claims of an impostor, the misguided son of an opulent baker, to the British Crown, lay concealed. It is now filled up with a thick, sturdy growth of alder and thorn, and game finds a safe retreat in its dark recesses. The blue of the germanderspeedwell and the white of stitchwort and saxifrage, give some colour to the walk, and turn one’s thoughts anywhere rather than to the unhappy disturbances, which have given Stoke a place in national history. This battle, between Henry VII. and the army of the imposter Simnel, who assumed the title of the Earl of Warwick, and put forward a claim to the British Crown, is said to have been fought some little distance from where the village now stands. In writing of Stoke, one could not well omit to make some mention of the battle that was fought there, as far back as 1487. Thoroton alludes to the event in the following terms :—The army of the invader landed in company with the Earls of Lincoln and Kildare, Lord Lovel, and a German general. These were joined by a small body of English troops under command of Sir Thomas Broughton. This combined force marched towards York, while Henry was advancing to Nottingham. At this place lie discovered the Earl of Lincoln’s design to march to Newark-on-Treat, which he resolved to prevent, if possible. He therefore marched hastily to that place, and encamped between the enemy’s army and Newark. The same day, the Earl of Lincoln, who commanded the rebel army, advanced to Stoke, and encamped on the side of an eminence. ‘The next day, the 6th of June, or as some say, the 16th, Henry offered him battle, his army being drawn up in three lines, the front being composed of his best troops. The battle commenced with determined vigour on both sides, and continued for three hours, without either of the armies giving way. At length, by the death of the Earls of Lincoln and Kildare, and other great officers in the rebel army, and the prodigious slaughter made amongst the German forces, the Irish and English fled from the field of battle, leaving almost 4,000 dead. This contest and victory cost the King about 3,000 slain. Simnel, we are told, spent the remainder of his days in the Royal kitchen in the capacity of a turnspit, and history relates how the remains of Lord Lovel, another of the insurgents,were found years afterwards in a vault in Oxfordshire, where he had perished, either through treachery or accident.

The entrance hall at Stoke is used as a billiard room, a very good idea on the part of the owner, for there is abundant light and plenty of space here for the practice of that excellent game. The players are overlooked by Royalty, for at one end of the room are full-length portraits of William and Mary, which, I think are credited to Kneller. There are some interesting paintings by old masters on the walls, for Stoke is rather rich in good pictures—chiefly portraits. The dining room is well stocked with them. Here one is introduced to the Queen of Bohemia, daughter of James I., and there are a dozen other celebrities of a bygone day. Vandyck is represented by Prince Rupert, Sir Peter Lely by the Duchess of York, a good example of that great artist’s incomparable flesh painting, Jan Stein by Frederick, King of Bohemia, a dark, handsome monarch. The Duke of York, is here too, and that little boy with the beautiful features, over the mantelpiece, is the present baronet’s father. The house, I have already stated, boasts a fine collection of portraits, the largest portion of which is to be found on the walls of the great staircase, where one can again detect the work of the masters. In the large drawing room—a fine apartment—the walls of which are covered with a pictorial paper, where oriental birds are enjoying themselves in oriental fashion, there are some handsome painted vases, which owe their beauty to Lady Bromley’s skilful touch. Her ladyship has executed a quantity of this beautiful work, and the accuracy of drawing and fidelity of colouring in the flowers and other objects introduced, show proficiency in an art which is by no means easily acquired. There is another lady of artistic acquirements in the house—Mrs. Henry Bromley. The carved oak cabinet in the hall is her handiwork, and so is the oak pulpit in the adjacent church. There is some more graceful work by these ladies in the small drawing room. A splendid room is the library, with its rows of books, and decorated ceiling. The three courtly faces within one frame at the far end, are of Charles I., in as many different aspects, and the small picture "Cleopatra," in another part of the room, is by Guido. The house has not undergone much alteration during the time it has been in the hands of the present baronet. It was thoroughly well built by its founder, and the substantial walls, close fitting double doors, with which all the principal rooms are provided, look capable of defying time. There are some twenty bed rooms over these lower apartments that have thus briefly mentioned, and those on the north-east side command a view of the river. Sir Henry is a great grower of fruit and flowers. Under the management of a head gardener, who has been with him for a quarter of a century, his greenhouses, forcing houses, and conservatories are always filled with something beautiful, and his four acres of kitchen garden produce abundant fruit and vegetables of the finest descriptions. There are some lovely flowers in the hot houses— begonias, gloxinias, with delicate waxy throats, and a small frame of gardenias enshrines a perfume, the rush of which is almost stifling when the covering is removed. There is an ample range of glass for growing grapes, and figs are produced in’ a separate forcing house. You have only, as it were, to step out of the hall into the church of St. Oswald, whose square, low tower and roof were, years ago, the home of "pigeons and sparrows." It is now as bright and as cheerful a little church as any in this county. At the east end there is a coloured window, designed by Lady Bromley, and the handsome altar cloth is her ladyship’s handiwork. The church contains several tablets, including one to the memory of Admiral Sir Robert Bromley, who died in 1857, and to that of Robert Bromley, his (Sir Robert’s) eldest son, who once represented South Notts. in Parliament. An ancient tablet of stone says that a certain Elizabeth, wife of Richard Wightman, who died in 1696, was "full of charity to the poor," and the resting places of the first baronet, Sir George Smith, of Nottingham and Stoke Hall, who died in 1769, having enjoyed his title for twelve years, and his wife are similarly marked.

The first baronet married a granddaughter of Prince Rupert; the second, also Sir George Smith, assumed by sign manuel, the name of Bromley in 1778. Sir Henry is the second of the twelve children of the third baronet, Sir Robert Howe Bromley. He is a Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for Notts., a Magistrate for Newark, and was formerly a captain in the 48th Foot.