East Markham church and The Manor.
East Markham church and The Manor.

I.—Situation and Geology.

The village of East, or Great Markham, is built upon the eastern slope of a ridge which separates the valleys of the Idle and the Trent, six miles S.S.E. of Retford, and fourteen miles N.N.W. of Newark. The formation on which it stands is that New Red Sandstone, or Trias, which extends from the mouth of the Tees, and down the vales of Mowbray and York, into Nottinghamshire. Geologically, the valleys of the Idle and the Trent are but a continuation of the great vale of York. To the westward, this Trias formation is bounded by the Permian rocks of Anston and Steetley, where the streams flow between ranges of whitish crags, half concealed by yew trees; and to the eastward rise the hills of Lias formation, crowned by the eminence on which Lincoln Cathedral stands.

The Trias escarpments are most abrupt to the westward, so that the ridge rises steep from the Idle, and slopes gradually for a distance of four miles to the Trent. The drainage of the parish of East Markham converges to a stream, which falls into the Trent at Laneham. West Markham is a mile distant, just beyond the culminating point, and within the basin of the Idle. The ground is undulating, broken into gently sloping hill and dale, and over the rich green meadows are seen, in early spring, the fruit gardens of plum and pear trees, forming one mass of lovely blossom, with the red-tiled houses appearing here and there. Above all rises the well-proportioned tower of East Markham Church. To the south is seen the spire of Tuxford, and in the far-distance, to the eastward, the great mass of Lincoln Cathedral, on its lofty hill, stands out against the sky.

II.—The Name.

In the most ancient times, Sherwood Forest extended down to the left bank of the Idle, but Markham was always an important place amidst cultivated land—the ham (home or village) of the mark, or township land.* Markby, in Lincolnshire, has the very same meaning, only with a Danish termination, by being a village in Danish, as ham is in Saxon.

III.—Early Settlers.

The vale of the Trent was within the territory that was largely settled by Danish immigrants during the two centuries between the time of Alfred and the Norman conquest; and Markham, no doubt, contained a large proportion of Danish inhabitants, mixed with the previous English settlers. The names of four of those early landholders who occupied the manors of East and West Markham before the Conquest have been preserved to us. We have the names, but nothing more. Godric and Edwin were the chief men in the western, Ulchel and Godwin in the eastern village.

IV.—Roger de Busli.

When the length and breadth of England were parcelled out among the followers of the Norman Conqueror, a great man became possessed of East and West Markham, the list of whose lands in Nottinghamshire alone covers more than five pages of Domesday Book. This was Roger de Busli (or Builli, the Bully of modern maps), who took his name from a lordship in the land of Braye, near Rouen, on the high ground which overlooks the forest of Saint Saen. Mr. Freeman tells us that "Roger de Busli in extent of his possessions ranked as one of the foremost men in England. He sat by the hearth of Eadwine, and by the hearth of Waltheof. Yet he plays no visible part in history. He lives only in the record of Domesday, and in his still-abiding work in a minster and a castle of his own rearing."

Roger de Busli built Tickhill Castle; and parts of the circuit wall and of the gatehouse may have been his work. He also, in 1088, founded the monastery at Blyth, dependent on the Abbey of the Holy Trinity at Rouen, and his nave, in the earliest Norman style, is still standing. His wife, Muriel, was high in favour with Queen Matilda, who granted her lands in Devonshire. He died in 1098, and his only child followed him in 1102. But he had a sister Beatrix, married to Robert, Earl of Eu, and a brother Arnaldus, who continued the line. For a time, however, they were deprived of their inheritance. Robert de Belleme, the son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, by his wicked and cruel wife Mabel, heiress of Belleme, obtained a grant of all the possessions of Roger de Busli, on some plea of kindred, from William Rufus. But this merciless Norman oppressor did not retain them long. He espoused the cause of Duke Robert, and was defeated and expelled from England by King Henry I in 1102.

Tickhill Castle was retained by the King. Sheffield and Worksop were granted to William de Lovetot. Other possessions of Roger de Busli reverted to his brother and sister. Idonea de Busli, the last of the line, married Robert de Vipont in 1235.

V.—Tenants of Roger de Busli.

The great Norman lord retained a demesne, and parcelled out the rest of his possessions in knights' fees. The names of his tenants are recorded in Domesday:—Turold and Fulc de Lizours, William, Ralph, Ernulf, Claron, Goisfrid,and Giselbert. In West Markham, his tenants were Claron and Goisfrid, while Turold and Fulc occupied his manors in East Markham.

VI.—The Markhams of Markham.

Claron of West Markham was the forefather of Sir Alexander Markham (or De Marcham), who held the post of Constable of Nottingham Castle during the reign of Henry II. His son William married Cecilia Lexington, a great heiress; and their son Richard was Lord of West Markham and Tuxford. We next find that Sir Robert de Marcham was "a great man, and had an esquire named Robert de Fowick". When he died in 1289, his land in Markham went to his brother Richard, but his estates inherited from the Lexingtons were divided among his three daughters, who married into the great Nottinghamshire families of Sancta Cruce, Longvilliers, and Bekeryng. The nephew of Sir Robert, son of his brother Richard, was Sir John Markham, who was an eminent lawyer, and arrived at the dignity of King's Serjeant. He was buried at East Retford in 1329. By his wife Joan, daughter of the lord of the neighbouring village of Bothumsell, he had a son Robert, who was also a King's Serjeant, and who also married a neighbour's daughter, Isabel, heiress of Sir John Caunton of Caunton. Their son was Sir John Markham, the Judge, who became Lord of East Markham. Camden says in his Britannia, "Markham gave its name to the family of Markham, which was very famous heretofore, both for antiquity and valour."

VII.—Landholders of East Markham.

In East Markham there were several possessors during the three centuries following the Conquest. Turold, who was a witness of the foundation deed of Blyth Abbey, was the tenant of Roger de Busli. He was succeeded by his brother Fulc, whose granddaughter Albreda married William Fitz Godric, ancestor of the Fitzwilliams. Fitz Godric's nephew, Roger de Cressy, succeeded to the lordships of Hodsock, near Blyth, and of East Markham. The Cressys afterwards acquired, by marriage, the estates of Exton, Claypole, Risegate, and Braytoft, in Lincolnshire. The line of Cressy ended with two heiresses, Katherine, who married Sir John Clifton of Clifton, and Elizabeth, the wife of Sir John Markham of Markham, the judge. By this marriage the Markhams became lords of both East and West Markham.

Other early owners and occupiers of land in East Markham are mentioned. William de Lyneham had Nigel de Marcham for his tenant in 1281, who made plea that his landlord exacted undue services, "to the manifest damage of the said Nigel'*. There was also a Fulc, son of Roger of East Markham, who made a gift to the monks of Blyth. William, son of Gaufridus de Marcham, seems to have been a tenant of Avicia, daughter of Ranulf the Sheriff, and wife of Jordan de Chevercourt. For that lady granted a bovate of land held by this William, to the monks of Blyth, "for a refection on the day of her anniversary, that, by their intercession, her soul in heaven might have refection with spiritual meat and drink".

But all these holdings seem to have centred in Judge Markham, after his marriage with the Cressy heiress, who also brought him the estates of Risegate with Cressy Hall in Lincolnshire, Braytoft, and Exton. In 1392, we find that James Bosevill released to Judge Markham all his rights in all the tenements in East Markham, which were of Adam de Lyneham and Henry Cressy.

VIII.—Judge Markham.

John Markham, the future Judge, was sent up to London by his learned father, and he received his legal education at Gray's Inn. He was eminently successful at the bar, and became a King's Serjeant during the reign of Richard II. He was entrusted with the duty of drawing up the instrument for deposing that monarch, and was appointed one of the commission to receive the crown which Richard resigned in favour of his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke. Sir John Mark-ham had already become a Judge of Common Pleas, in which high office he dispensed even-handed justice from 1396 to 1408, the year before his death. His judgments were of sufficient importance to be collected and printed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth." They may be read in their original quaint Norman French, as the Judge delivered them, in an old black letter volume with an allegorical title-page.

If the tradition of the lawyers be true, that an intrepid judge, in the reign of Henry IV, committed the Prince of Wales to prison for contempt of court, Sir John Markham was probably the Judge in question. The story was first told by Sir Thomas Elyot in 1544, in his book called the Governor, and it was repeated in the well-known scene in Shakespeare, but neither Elyot nor Shakespeare give the name of the judge. It is told, also, in Hall's Chronicle, published in 1548, and by many others, who all copy from Elyot or Hall. It was not until afterwards that the deed was attributed to Sir William Gascoigne, who was chief Justice from 1400 to 1413. The evidence in favour of Sir John Markham is as follows.

There is a manuscript history of the Markham family, written by Francis Markham in July 1601, which contains the following passage:—"In H. 4 time he was a Judge of ye Common Pleas. When a servant of ye Prince of Wales was to be judged before him, ye Prince sending to have him released, ye Judge refused, ye Prince with an unruly route came and required it, ye Judge refused, ye Prince stroke ye Judge on ye face, ye Judge committed ye Prince to ye fleet. Ye King being told it, thanked God he had so good a judge, and so obedient a sonne to yield ye law." This statement, standing by itself, is not conclusive* But it is supported by the existence of a similar tradition, independently preserved in another branch of the family, which confirms its truth as regards the main fact. Sir Robert Markham of Sedgebrook, descended from a younger son of the Judge, says in his Pocket Book, which is preserved in the British Museum:— "Now the reason that I have thus diligently enquired among the historians, concerning the name of the Justice that committed Henry V when Prince of Wales, is because my own father alwaies persisted in it, as a tradition in our family, that it was Judge Markham whom the Prince struck, for which he was committed." Sir Robert's father was born in 1597 and died in 1667. Thus traditions had been handed down in two branches of the family, those of Cotham and Sedgebrook, descending from the two sons of the Judge, and they corroborate each other. There is no such evidence in favour of Judge Gascoigne. Mr. Gairdner, one of the most accurate and critical of our living historians, is of opinion that there is a great probability in favour of Judge Markham. The story is remarkably characteristic of Henry V, of his father, and of the times—of days in which, whatever mad pranks may have been played, either by Prince Hal or any one else, there was really a higher and stronger sense of authority, and a clearer sense of where authority resided, than there is at the present day.

Judge Markham retired in 1408, to end his days in his native village, and at this time the church was in course of being built. The Judge's residence is believed to have been a manor-house to the westward, within a few yards of the church tower, and a moat surrounded the eminence on which both house and church were built. The Judge's first wife was Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Sir Roger de Cressy of Hodsock, who brought him East Markham and other possessions. He had by her, his son and successor Robert, and a daughter Adela, who married Richard Stanhope of Rampton. The Judge's daughter Adela is the ancestress of the Duke of Newcastle, the present possessor of East Markham. The second wife of Judge Markham was Milicent, daughter of Sir John de Bekeryng. She was the widow of Sir Nicholas Burdon, who was slain at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1408, fighting on the side of the Percys; by whom she had an only daughter Elizabeth, who became the wife of her second husband's son and successor Robert. Milicent married, thirdly, a knight named Sir William Mering, and she died on September 27th, 1419. She bore Judge Markham a son John, the future Lord Chief Justice.

The Judge died on the feast of St. Sylvester (December 31st) in the year 1409, and was buried under an altar tomb in the chancel of the church which he probably founded. Camden says of him: "He tempered his judgments with so much equity that his name will endure as long as time itself." He seems to have been a warrior as well as a lawyer, for a friend at East Retford, named Robert Usher, bequeathed to him, in 1392, all his armour, except one hauberjon and a pair of plate gloves. The coat of arms used by Judge Markham, with the crest, was preserved at Clifton. It was azure, on a chief or, a demi-lion rampant issuant gules. His crest was a winged lion of St Mark with glory, holding in its paws a pair of horse hames. The lion of St. Mark and the hames are evidently intended as a pun on the name. The same crest occurs on the seals of Sir Griffin Markham on letters preserved at Hatfield, and is given in the Pedigree drawn up by Camden during the reign of James I.

IX.—Successors of Judge Markham.

Robert Markham succeeded his father, the Judge, and married Elizabeth Burdon, his stepmother's daughter, who brought him the manors of Maplebeck and Boughton. They were both buried at Sedgebrook, the seat of his half-brother, the Chief Justice. Their son, Sir Robert Markham, who married the heiress of Cotham, was a warm supporter of the White Rose, and was created a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Edward IV, on January 27th, 1461. He assembled the tenantry of East Markham, and fought, with his Sovereign, in the desperately contested battle of Towton.

"The township was an organized self-acting group of Teutonic families, exercising a common proprietorship over a definite tract of land, its Mark, cultivating its domain on a common system, and sustaining itself by the produce."—Maine's Village Communities, p. 10. In Danish, Mark means a field or common.