Then and now series: Attenborough, Chilwell and Toton

Attenborough church
Attenborough church (photo: A Nicholson. 2004).

ATTENBOROUGH is a remarkable, ancient village, for all the land and houses there are either in the parishes of Chilvvell, or Toton. The residents in Attenborough pay parochial rates, but not to that parish, for it has no civil existence, and even the church stands in the parish of Toton, from which village it is a mile distant, and yet it is also the parish church of Chilwell, and part of the churchyard is in Chilwell, from which it is nearly a mile in another direction, nearly all the houses east of the church being in Chilwell parish. Further, although the parish is only an ecclesiastical one, its vicarage is not at Attenborough, Chilwell, or Toton, but at Bramcote, two miles away, that parish being an ancient chapelry to Attenborough. Its compensation, however, is that it has not only the fine old church, but also the railway station, which the other places lack. It is somewhat remarkable that although there is in the Domesday book, of A.D. 1080, the record of Chilwell and Toton, there is no mention of Attenborough. There was in Toton, and in Chilwell, "half a church," that is, the joint right to present a priest, and in the record of Chilwell the right is twice named, but it is not recorded where the church stood. There cannot, however, be any doubt that the church then stood where one now stands, but I have not seen any mention of Attenborough until more than a century after the Conquest, when it appears as Adigbure, or Hadinbur, and later Addinburg, Adenburg, or Addyngborough, etc. Walter, was parson of Adigbure in A.D. 1200, and witnessed a deed referred to in the Wollaton MSS.

According to the "Place Names of Notts.," the name meant either "the burh of the Endings," or "the burh of Eadda." In the Saxon period the burh was a more organized place than the township. It may be, therefore, that the chief man lived here, and that in some form his house was defensible, or fortified, a private stronghold with associated local jurisdiction, and the church was near to his house, the two districts being parts of the old parish, and the manors divided, but joined for the maintenance of one priest. Traces of an old moat may be seen on the south and west of the church and adjacent house.

When the Angles came up the Trent, about, or shortly after the year 600, the first location in the district practicable for them to build on, above the boggy land near the river, would be the ancient sand loam and gravel terrace on which the church and village now stand, and by which the Erewash, or one of its branches, then flowed; while other settlers would cluster round the many springs which are near to the surface at what is called Chilwell—that is, "the cold spring," or well—and others by the side of the Erewash,—then a good, clear, fishing stream,—at what is now called Toton. The division of the parishes might not be made until centuries afterwards, and there are some peculiarities that may, for want of a better place, be named here. Thus, while the division may be taken partly as at right angles with the Trent, yet there is a long strip by the Trent side extending considerably east of Attenborough church, which is in Toton parish. It is possible this division was made when the Erewash, or a branch of it, flowed near to the church, leaving the land south of the stream in Toton parish. On the other hand, 107 acres of land on the southern side of the Trent, opposite to the Beeston Ryelands, with the greater part of the water called Holme pit, is in Chilwell parish, and not in Clifton, although it belongs to the Clifton estate. It is further usually assumed that the Erewash is the boundary between Notts, and Derbyshire, but whatever it may be elsewhere it is so only partially in the parish of Toton, for on the main road to Long Eaton the county boundary is a little ditch about 177 yards west of the Erewash, and it is on the west of the big field where the Erewash falls into the Trent. Further, the boundary of parishes abutting on the Trent is usually at the mid-stream, but in Toton it is not so, for the southern bank is the boundary.

A Church. Within less than a century after their settlement, the Angles accepted the Christian religion, and the principal parishes would thereupon build churches, however rude, probably with timber, wattle, and clay, and covered with thatch. The buildings would in succeeding centuries be rebuilt in a more artistic style, and when the Normans came to Attenborough they found a Saxon church, it may be, dark and rough; but with their superior knowledge of church building, it would be replaced by a substantial, and still more artistic edifice built of stone, from which building it may be some knight departed to the Crusades. In 1171 the Pope directed the priest and churchwardens of each parish in the county to go, at Whitsuntide, to the church at Southwell, as the mother church, to join in the solemn procession, "according to the rational usage of that church," and they took as Pentecostal offerings for Addenburgh parish 1s. 4d. (equal to several pounds now) while Bramcote took 6d., Stapleford 1s. 5d.

The parishioners would he greatly annoyed when on Passion Sunday in 1208 they went to the church and found it closed by order of the Pope, and so it continued for six years, during which there were no services in the church for public worship, but mass might be said in the churchyard, or marriages in the church porch, and burials in unconsecrated ground, while the quarrel continued between the Pope and the wretched King John. Whatever indignation we may feel at both Pope and King, we must all rejoice that on Whit Sunday in 1549, the people first heard the service conducted in their own language, and not in the Latin tongue, which had been used from time immemorial.

St. Mary's. The present building, dedicated to St. Church. Mary Magdalene, consists of chancel with north vestry, clerestoried nave, aisles, south porch, and west tower, having a fine spire and five bells, inscribed according to Phillimore (1) "Henry Day, Collector 1733" (2) "Devs Remvnerorbit Benefactoribvs meis "(God will reward my benefactors) (3) "Jesvs be ovr spede 1631" (4) "John Lown John Earp, chvrchwardens 1749 " (5) " + Johns: in: principio: erat verbvm" (In the beginning was the Word). The late Norman, Transitional, Decorated, and early Perpendicular styles are represented here in the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, but the porch was rebuilt in the 18th century. Some of the capitals are grotesquely sculptured, those on the north side Dr. Cox regards us the earliest, being about A.D. 1300. On the east end of the south aisle is a fine example of a stairway which formerly led to a rood screen. A Norman north doorway, which has been blocked up, and the old door to the south porch, should be noticed, as should the square-headed windows, and a few remnants of old glass. The octagonal font is early 14th century. The carved bench ends of the 14th century, and good oak panelling of the 17th century. On one of the panels is inscribed I.P., being the initials of John Poutrell, and the curved legs of the Elizabethan communion table, should be observed. The arms of the Poutrell family may be seen on the east wall of the chancel, dated 1623. The family was for centuries connected with Thrumpton. In a Terrier made in 1777 it is mentioned, "The church is kept in very good Repair having ffive very ffine Bells, a good Clock; and an elegant new singing gallery" . . . "The Body of the Church is repaired by the parishioners by levy, &c. But the chancel by the Trustees at Chesterfield. The parish clerk chosen by the Minister . . . only one ffine Yew Tree in the church yard." This statement was signed by W. H. Davison Minr. Wm. Hunt, and Francis Smawley, C. H. Wards and by Thos. Charlton, Henry Daye, and other principal inhabitants. The eastern three-light window of the chancel has a stained glass memorial to Mr. John Royston Pearson (1876), and Elizabeth his wife (1891). It represents the resurrection of our Lord, and His appearance to Mary. There are various memorials to the Charlton family, as also to Mr. and Mrs. Holbrook; to Fredk. C. Smith, Esq. at one time M.P. for North Notts., and patron of the living. Cecil G. Savile Foljambe, M.P., who became in succession Lord Hawkesbury, and the Earl of Liverpool, records the connection of his family with the church for three hundred years. The Trustees of the Foljambe Charity still have to keep the chancel in repair. The Churchyard is well planted, and kept in a suitable state. On the south side is a fine old yew, and many other yews of various growths. The grounds are full of interesting memorials and associations. Among others may be noticed the grave of Mr. Hy. J. Pearson, who died at Assyut, in Egypt, Feb., 1913, and whose body remained there a year and a day, and then was removed here. (See Rev. J. Standish's paper in Thoroton Society Transactions, 1906). Patronage. The right of patronage of the church of Adinboro occasioned trouble, for the Chilwell half of the right of the presentation of the priest was shortly after the foundation of Lenton Priory (1105-8) given thereto by Odo de Boney, and the Toton half was acquired by the Greys, of Codnor Castle. A contention between the Greys and the priory arose, and continued forty years, the dispute ultimately being referred to the Archbishop of York, "who to make peace, and avoid the effusion of blood," in 1246 settled that the patronage should continue with the Greys, they paying 40/- as tithes yearly to the prior, who was ordered to pay a pound of Frankincense at Adinboro at least every year," etc. The Torre MS. gives a list of Rectors from 1230. when Robert de Stanford was presented by the Archbishop of York. Towards the end of the thirteenth century either very youthful or unlearned rectors must have been presented, for leave of absence was not uncommon to youthful rectors for the purpose, as alleged, of study. In 1280, William de Boseo, rector of Attenborough, had leave to attend the schools for three years, and in the meantime to let his church. (Dr. Cox, Vic. His. p. 51). A most reprehensible practice. The advowson of the church of Adyingburgh was, about 1343, given to Felley Priory, and it so continued until Edward VI. granted it to Sir J. Foljambe, knight, for the rent of £18 per annum. That priory had the tithes of Attenborough, subject to paying £6 13s. 4d. to the priory of Lenton. When Felley Priory was dissolved Christopher Bolton was the last prior, and was granted a pension of £6 a year, which, however, was cancelled on his being appointed rector of Attenborough. (V.H. p. 112). The church was in a deplorable condition in 1550, as reported by Queen Elizabeth's Commissioners— "Aponborowe. The wardens and parishioners present that the cure is unserved. They lake (lack) a comunion boke and other bokes." The Commissioners also presented the names of the clergy who having been summoned did not attend the Royal Visitation at St. Mary's Church, Nottingham, and among the names presented is—"Adenborowe, Sir Robert Bagley, Vicar." It is probable that the Vicar, being a Roman Catholic, departed on the accession of the new Queen, neglected to attend, and so was removed. The title "Sir" then used was merely a customary title of courtesy, as we now use "Reverend."

Sir Godfrey. Sir Godfrey Foljambe, by his will dated Foljambe. 24th Feb., 1594, left the lands belonging to the Rectory of Attenborough (which include the farm-house to the west of the church, with the farm) also divers lands and tenements in Ashover, charged with £40 a year, to provide "one preacher, a venerable honest man and learned in the Scripture, who should continually, diligently and sincerely exercise himself in preaching, and explaining the Word of God in Chesterfield, in the parish church there," and he directed that £13 6s. 8d. a year should be paid from the revenues of the rectory for finding a schoolmaster sufficiently learned for the education and instruction of children in Chesterfield, and Queen tllizabeth being earnest "as far as in her lay" to promote such pious works, confirmed his intentions. There were provisions for Cambridge colleges, and all the overplus of the revenue of the said lands to be devoted to the poor of Chesterfield, and other local parishes. Ford's "History of Chesterfield," 1839, gives (p. 252) the then Income as Rectorial tithes in Chilwell £116 14s. 0d. Property belonging to the rectory of Attenborough, houses, and 127 acres of land, and tithes, and 39a. 2r. 35p. in lieu of tithes in Bramcote, £186. Tithes of old enclosures, £72 2s. 0d. Tithes of Toton, £60; total £434 16s. 0d. Payments:—Jesus College, Cambridge £20; Magdalen College £13 6s. 8d.; Chesterfield Grammar School £13 6s. 8d.; Vicar of Chesterfield, the present Lecturer £40, and to the poor of Chesterfield and its townships (less certain expenses), £348 2s. 8d. £434 16s. 0d. This Charity was misappropriated by the old unreformed Corporation of Chesterfield one hundred years ago, but it is now otherwise, with probably a reduced income. The Vicar of the beautiful church, with a crooked spire (in which church are the Foljambe monuments) receives the Lecturer's portion. There was a very unfortunate experience by the old Corporation "under a simple misconception of duty," appropriating to the Common Box £784, which they had to restore, and Yeatman's History, p. 173 says, with interest. The Grammar School is now doing good work, as the County Council Higher Educational Centre, with 200 boys, and by means of its endowments and free scholarships on examination benefiting the district. The famous Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Seeker, a Notts, boy, was pupil here, as was Dr. Erasmus Darwin.

Isabell, the widow of Sir Godfrey Foljambe, did an unworthy thing, after her husband had done such an excellent one, for in 1595 she conveyed to Mr. William Ireton the Attenborough and Ashover estates, "paying no overplus as her husband had directed by his will," which appears to mean, making no provision for the poor's charities. The result was that the two Cambridge Colleges, the Churchwardens, Overseers, and Corporation of Chesterfield, joined in an action for the recovery of the estates, and to relinquish the lands and tithes to certain Trustees who were appointed, and in 1610 a decree was issued accordingly. German Ireton was the youngest brother of William. He settled at Attenborough about 1605, "having purchased a lease of the rectorial of that place."