The Summer Excursion, 1919

ON Tuesday, July 15th, a half-day Excursion was made to Newstead and Linby. Members left Nottingham in char-a-bancs, and were joined at their destination by an additional party from Mansfield, arriving at Newstead Abbey at 2.30. By kind permission of Lady Markham, and the local arrangements that had been made by Mr. J. H. Beardsmore, the party was enabled to go over the whole of the house, grounds, and ruins of the church, under the guidance of Mr. A. Hamilton Thompson, F.S.A., who contributes an account of the remains to this volume of the Transactions.

The house, now known as Newstead Abbey, occupies the site of, and is constructed out of the conventual buildings surrounding the cloister garth of a small Priory of Austin (Black) Canons, founded by Henry II. in 1170 —Sancta Maria de Novo Loco in foresta nostra de Sciwurda.

The beautiful west front of the church, built in the last quarter of the 13th century, and still retaining much of its delicate geometrical tracery, was left by Sir John Byron, the first lay-owner after the suppression of the priory, as an embellishment to the facade of his newly constructed residence. The Chapter house of the same date as the church, with its fine groined roof, supported by clustered shafts, is preserved as the domestic chapel.

The Frater, or Canons' refectory, occupies the south side of the cloister court as a modern dining room, and the usual arrangements of the rest of the monastic buildings of several periods can be traced in the modern dwelling rooms. Fine carved coloured over-mantels, with busts of Henry VIII. and others, survive in two of the rooms, dating from the time of the first lay-owner. Under the fifth Lord Byron the house was allowed to fall into an almost ruinous condition.

George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, the poet, lived very little at Newstead, but the many relics that are preserved here, the poet's chamber, and even the monument to his favourite dog in the sacred area of the dismantled church, were eagerly inspected.

To Colonel Wildman, who purchased the property in 1818, we owe the restoration of the present building, and the preservation of some of the features of the earlier times, a work which was carefully carried on by Mr. W. F. Webb the next possessor, and his daughters.

From Newstead the party went to Linby, where tea was provided in the rectory garden. The very picturesque features of Linby village, its two crosses, standing over the little stream which flows down the village street, were inspected. The "Top Cross" was restored in 1874, and the "Bottom Cross" bears a date of 1469, but a cross here has probably marked a forest boundary line which at one period ran along Linby village street.

Linby Church was then visited, and a descriptive account of it by Mr. W. Stevenson, whom we were glad to see with us, was read by the Rector, Rev. A. B. Reid, to whom the thanks of the Society were accorded for his welcome to the church.



Linby church (photo: Andrew Nicholson, 2005).
Linby church (photo: Andrew Nicholson, 2005).

In name the village is of Danish origin. At the Norman Conquest, William Peveril the Lord of Notting­ham and its Castle, became its owner, whose son William founded the great Lenton Priory in 1103, endowing it with his estate of Linby and Papplewick, a gift which would include Linby Church, the existence of which is implied by the Domesday note "there is a priest."

In the fabric of Linby Church there remains a large part of what was probably the earliest church here of stone, the successor of one whose material was mainly timber. This ancient part, now limited to the north, east, and south wall, of no great extent or height, is interesting in its rudeness, and absence of detail and ornament.

The thickness of the walls, 21/2ft, indicates that we have before us a small Norman work of the 12th century. The rubble walling is primitive indeed, and was plastered over inside and probably outside as well. Its material is local limestone gathered off the land or the loose surface of the living rock, in blocks nothing larger than what a man could lift, the stones not being bedded in horizontal courses. Turning to the mason's work, as distinct from that of the "waller" we find his handiwork in the north doorway of the nave, plain to a degree, with no moulding or sculpture. It is a square-headed opening formed by a lintel of three stones, the centre one acting as a key; over this a round arch with the intervening space or tympanum— that usual field of sculptured ornament—filled in with a sunken panel of plain ashlar, and the top edge of the lintel bevelled off. Other work of this date, or possibly later, occurs in the doorway and westernmost window in the south wall of the chancel, seen on the inside face. The latter has a circular head, but this may be merely a discharging arch over alower window head, still in position with the tympanum filled in, as it has remained down to this century when the walls were bared of their original plaster.

In the chancel arch we see the rudest of mason-work: it is little more than a facing to the jambs, and a lining of the soffit with slabs. The hagioscope or squint in the southern pier is probably late 15th century, and seems identical in work and character with the chancel arch.

Two gaping holes are visible in the chancel arch, evidently cut by some daring man for the upholding of a rood or other beam; and a little cutting away of the arch as if for headway for a stair to a loft, may be noticed on the north-west.

In the 13th century the church was enlarged by the addition of a south aisle, marked by the pointed arch and Early English water-mould in the bases of the columns. This member is much compressed vertically in the western respond, but not in the eastern one: the former in its cap is ornate with fillet and cable ornament, while the caps of the arcade have the nail-head ornament, and the eastern respond is quite plain. One of the bases is enriched at the corners with water-leaves springing out of the mould­ing and lying on the angles. The westernmost window on the south side is a two-light lancet in one frame with the tympanum pierced by a circle with quatrefoil cusping. This is a type of plate-tracery, before bar-tracery developed from it, which gives a date of 1220.

The tower arch and its moulded corbels seem to indicate that the lower stage of the tower is about this date, though in the main it is of the 15th century.

Outside the east wall of the aisle there lies the half of a monumental slab ornamented with the head of a floriated cross and resetted shaft of this particular date. It suggests that we have here the remembrance of the builder or founder of this aisle, and that the plain wide base of the eastern respond marks the original position of his tomb.

The present east window of the aisle marks the further advance of bar-tracery of the "decorated" period of the first half of the 13th century.

All the other windows of this church are of later date and call for no special remark; but the Tudor table and Jacobean altar rails should be noted.

The north porch was constructed in the 15th century, and reveals its history through the armorial shields on the gable (Strelley) and on the eastern and western angle buttresses (Hunt and Savage). Elizabeth grand-daughter and heiress of Thomas Hunt of the manor of Linby, widow of John Strelley (died 1487), married James Savage, 1488. By this married couple, the porch was doubtless built, and to them are also credited on architectural grounds the I5th century western tower, and the important remains of the old hall of Linby.

The porch has a stone vault supported on corbelled ribs, and an unusual feature of a small cusped squint looking outwards through the eastern jamb of the archway, perhaps for the convenience of the priest awaiting a funeral in the porch.1

(1) An illustration and full account of the porch, shields, and squint may be seen in an article by Mr. H. Gill, on Low Side Windows of Notts, 1910.—Trans. Thoroton Soc. Vol. XV. pp. 104-5.