Chapter XXIII.

The Cursham Family

The name of the Revd. Thomas Cursham appears in the Registers of Sutton-in-Ashfield Church in a.d. 1775, when the Rev. Thomas Hurt was Incumbent, and from 1776 to 1780 signs himself as Curate. He then removed to Ashover, and on 8 July, 1784, he married Ann Leeson, at Skegby, by licence, and settled at Sutton-in-Ashfield, where he commenced to keep a School. A letter from the Rev. John Wesley is still extant highly approving the venture " as such a school is much wanted."

This school soon became famous, and a prospectus now in the possession of Mr. Clarence Brooks states that young gentlemen would be taken in as Boarders at so much per annum, and in the British Museum is an Arithmetic book specially compiled for the school entitled " English Syntax Rules, composed for the use of Sutton Academy, Notts. Mansfield, printed by J. Drakard, stationer, bookseller, and binder, 1798." Inside it has the name of Charles Neale, 1804, who was probably Steward to the Duke of Portland in after years.

To accommodate this school he built the house on High Pavement near the S. end of Hardwick Street, the playing field extending over the site of the present Station and Cursham Streets. The Rev. T. Cursham was appointed Incumbent of Annesley in 1795 and his character may be gauged by the entry he made in the Annesley Parish Registers " Lord bless my congregation at Annesley, and grant that I may be the happy and honoured instrument of making them ready as a people prepared for Thyself." St. Luke, I, 17. 28 October, 1795.

He died 16 January, 1805 and lies buried in Skegby Churchyard immediately left of the entrance gate. His widow survived him many years, dying at Eastwood 27 January, 1843. The Leesons lived at an ancient farmhouse in Skegby at a bend in the road called the Great Way in 1232, leading to Newbound's Mill Bridge (Egtredes-brigg), Ann Leeson (Mrs. Cursham's mother) dying there 21 January, 1802, aged 78.

The eldest son of Thomas and Ann, named Thomas Leeson was born probably in 1785, but where baptised does not appear. A man of great ability he took the degree of D.C.L. and was of some influence as he was presented to the Living of Mansfield Parish Church in 1813 at the early age of 28.

It is most interesting to note that Dr. Cursham assisted at the burial of Sir John Moore after the disastrous retreat to Corunna in 1809. The verses of Charles Wolfe's on that occasion will always be remembered :

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note As his corse to the rampart we hurried, Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot O'er the grave where our hero was buried. It is noteworthy that on 14 July, 1809 a licence was granted to the Revd. John Cursham, 2nd Master and Usher at the Grammar School to perform the office of Parish Clerk at Mansfield upon the nomination of the Rev. John Durham, Vicar. Probably he was a brother of the Rev. Thomas Cursham of Sutton. A second son born to Thomas and Ann, named William, was baptised at Sutton, 25 October, 1788, who became an Attorney, practicing at Nottingham. A third son, John, entered the Army attained the rank of Captain, and was killed in the first Burmese War at the storming of a stockade at Zittaum. A fourth son baptized 30 December, 1792, and named George became a doctor of medicine and was honorary physician to the Brompton Hospital for Consumptives.

A fifth child, named Mary Ann, born at Sutton but probably baptized at Annesley, developed remarkable poetic gifts. In 1825 she published a long poem of over 2,000 lines on ' Martin Luther,' and in 1833 another still longer called ' Norman Abbey,' another name for Newstead, and in 1844, from Southwell came the ' Eastern Princess,' and a drama entitled Walberg, or Temptation, under the name of Sophia Mary Smith. Her father being Vicar of Annesley, Miss Cursham became a close friend of Mary Ann Chaworth, and many letters from her are still extant. This friendship naturally led to a meeting with Lord Byron, and he expressed great appreciation of Miss Cursham's work. She corresponded with many literary lions of that time, Bulwer Lytton, Tom Moore, etc. From Sutton she moved to Derby, Lichfield and Nottingham, but died at Derby about 1800, and is buried there. Two other daughters were born to Thomas and Ann, of whom nothing of note is to be found.

The Vicar of Mansfield (Dr. T. L. Cursham) married 27 December, 1810, Miss Sabina Stretton, at Lenton, by whom he had a family of three sons. William Shelton, the eldest, took Holy Orders and was Curate to his father who was also Vicar of Blackwell, and resided there, his father becoming Vicar in 1833. A second son was named Curzon, who married and died leaving a daughter, who married a Tollemache. A third son, named Arthur, was a well-known Solicitor in Mansfield. The Revd. Wm. Cursham had two daughters, the elder one, Mrs. Vaughan Radford, of Carnfield Hall dying at Kirkby Old Hall in 1928.

The connection of this family with Sutton disappeared soon after the death of the Rev. Thomas Cursham in 1805, but the name is preserved by Cursham Street running from High Pavement to Reform Street.