St. John the Baptist, Colwick

ARMS OF BYRON.—Argent, three bendlets enhanced gules.

TO trace the earliest Byron, the genealogist must go back to the days of the Conqueror, when he will find that one Ralph de Burun benefitted at the hands of that monarch, and appears as owner of various Manors in the Survey. Succeeding generations rendered conspicuous services to the State, and the family was especially staunch to King Charles and the Royalist cause. At the battle of Edge Hill, 23 Oct., 1642, no less than seven members of the family took part in the fray: at Roundway Down (1643) Sir John Byron worthily maintained the family motto of " Crede Byron," and won special renown by routing the " impenetrable regiment of Hazelrigg's Cuirassiers." For this service he was created Baron Byron of Rochdale, in the County Palatine of Lancaster. It was the fifth Baron who fought the much-talked of duel with William Chaworth in 1765, in which he killed his antagonist, and was in due course arraigned before his Peers.

This family of eminent Nottinghamshire men culminated in the illustrious poet. He inherited some of the fighting blood of his predecessors, but wasted his chivalry in a somewhat hopeless cause in Greece, where he died. His body was brought to Nottingham, and lies buried at Hucknall Torkard Church, in that County. Newstead Abbey, so closely associated with the poet, was acquired by the Byron family by favour of Henry VIII. at the time of the dissolution. The Colwick property came by the marriage in the fourteenth century of Joan, daughter and heir of William de Colwick, with Sir Richard Byron, of Clayton, in the County of Lancaster, as his second wife.

Tomb of Sir John Byron, Colwick Church.

It is in the Church at Colwick that may be found the massive alabaster tomb of Sir John Byron, Knight of the Bath, bearing the effigies of the Knight and his wife, Alice, daughter of Sir Nicholas Strelley, Knight, of Strelley. Sir John, who died in 1609, is represented in plate armour with a skirt of lances of metal, a frill round his neck and wrists, a long chain round his shoulders, sabbatons and a short-hilted sword. He is shown as wearing a moustache and extravagantly long beard. The effigies have evidently at one time been coloured. Round the chamfered edge is a prettily-lettered inscription, recording their names and those of their children, whilst on the wall, within an arch beneath the entablature, which is supported by carved pillars, is a long and nearly illegible inscription in Latin. In the spandrels of this arch are two shields of arms, viz., Byron, quarterly of four 1st and 4th argent, three bendlets enhanced gules (Byron); 2, argent, on a bend azure three annulets or, in the sinister chief a cross crosslet fitchee sable (Clayton); 3, gules, three fusils conjoined in fesse argent, in chief two cinquefoils pierced or (Colwick), and Strelley, quarterly of four, 1 and 4, Paly of six argent and azure (Strelley); 2 or, an eagle displayed sable, beaked and membered gules (........); 3, a fesse dancettee sable (Vavasour). On the front of the entablature are the quartered arms of Byron, surmounted by the crest of that family, viz., a mermaid proper, crined, and holding in her dexter hand a mirror, and in her sinister hand a comb, or, surrounded by a motto: "Honor virtutis premium." On the panels of the structure are some laudatory verses, nearly illegible, which commence: "Let ffame wyth golden trumppetts blast," and three shields of arms, viz., Byron impaling Lozengy argent and gules (Fitzwilliams); 2, argent, three bulls' heads erased sable, armed or (Skeffington), impaling Byron; 3, gules, three sparrow hawks argent (Atherton), impaling Byron.

There appears to have been a feud between Sir John Byron and his wife's family. The case is noticed in the State Papers, where the arbitration award occurs, and gives sufficient idea of what had taken place, and the means adopted for preventing a recurrence of the outbreak. The differences here sought to be amended in 1538 had arisen between John Byron, Knight, and Nicholas Strelley, Knight, and also between the said Nicholas Strelley and Richard Greenhill, servant to the said John Byron. Sir Nicholas was ordered to pay the sum of 53s. 4d. to Richard Greenhill for the "hurts and mayme" to him given by Sir Nicholas and his servants at Nottingham. Furthermore, Sir John and Sir Nicholas were to stay at each other's houses twice yearly during the next three years, "to hunt and passe the tyme togeder famylyerly, and to declare and open theyre myndes ayther to oder, to avoid future variences," &c.

On the opposite side of the chancel is the tomb of Sir John, father to the Sir John whose tomb has been described. It was to this man that Henry VIII. granted, in 1540, the Priory of Newstead. He was known by the sobriquet of " Little Sir John with the great beard," but who, oddly enough, is represented on the incised slab on his tomb as clean-shaven. He was steward of Manchester and Rochdale, and Lieutenant of the Forest of Shirewood: his son John was his issue ("born soon enough" Thoroton informs us) by Elizabeth, daughter of William Constantine, or Costerden, and widow of Roger Halghe, whom he subsequently married. Under these circumstances his son came into possession of the estates by deed of gift.

Sir John Byron, the stalwart cavalier, sold the Colwick estate to Sir John Stonehouse in 1643, but the exigencies of the war were such that he was never fully paid for it, and Sir John Stonehouse parted with the property to Sir John Musters, a wealthy London merchant, in whose family it has remained until recent years.

In the Church is a life-size statue of Byron's "Mary" (Chaworth), who married Mr. John Musters.