in rural Nottinghamshire  


Medieval :: Chalice :: Earl of Clare :: 19th Century :: Thankful Village:: Post War

Early history
Although the existence of human and domestic animals remains in the Beck valley between Maplebeck and Caunton suggests that this area has long been inhabited, it is likely that the current site of the village was settled by the Danes moving up from the Humber and Trent valleys in the 9th century. The name, ‘Maplebeck’, incorporates the Old Norse word ‘bekkr’ for stream rather than the Old English word ‘broc’ or brook which suggest Danish rather than Anglo Saxon origin. Many of the old field names such as Foxen Wong (the field running on the right hand side of the road beyond Butt Lane) Meadow Ing, Hag Ley, Far Brakes are from the Old Norse words for field, meadow, hillside and clearing.

The first firm evidence of settlement in Maplebeck comes from the Domesday Book. After 1066 ownership of land was made over to the Norman Lords and much of the land in Maplebeck, like the surrounding villages, came under the overlordship of Gilbert of Gant, a nephew of William the Conqueror.  The entry for Maplebeck in the Domesday survey gives no detail of existing landowners nor does it make any mention of a church, though that does not necessarily mean that there was not a religious establishment in the parish. The survey does not give the population but it is likely that the village was no bigger than it is today.

The Medieval period
The village of Maplebeck is situated on a belt of a sandstone rock called Keuper Marl or Skerry and  this rock has been mined since medieval times with the stone being used not only to build St Radegund’s Church, but also the bridge over the Trent at Newark. The location of the mines in the village is suggested not only in the old field names such as Cliff Close (behind the houses on Church Lane) and Stone pit close (near Mather Wood) but also because several of the roads leading out of the village are substantially lower than the surrounding land. TOP

During the 12th and 13th century considerable outright grants of land in Maplebeck often at the edge of the Parish, were made to Rufford Abbey in return for the right of the Lord of the manor and his family to be buried in the abbey.  Grants of land or a right to the produce of the land were not always made for money as for example, during the 13th century Alice Burdon was required to provide a pound of cumin as annual rent for her grant of land.

In 1404 the lord of the manor, Sir Nicholas Burden was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury and his daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, married into the Markham family and so the manor of Maplebeck passed to that family.

The dissolution of the monasteries, the poor and the Quakers
When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries between 1536 and 1541, the land in Maplebeck held by Rufford Abbey and the Hospitallers was granted to different families. The effect of the end of the monastic orders and the rising population toward the end of the 16th century resulted in increasing desperation of the poor and those in need. Members of the Bristowe family and the Burnell family left bequests for the poor in their wills and John Sudbury gave land in perpetuity, the rent from which was to be shared between the poor of Maplebeck and Egmanton. The John Sudbury Trust is still in existence today. TOP

In 1540 Anne Bristowe gave the church various utensils and is it possible that one of these is the beautiful silver chalice currently on long term loan by the village to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Whilst Anne supported the established church, many in Maplebeck did not, and in 1680 seven inhabitants were fined for not attending church. John Camm was repeatedly in trouble for not paying his tithes, or taxes to the church, and the Constable and Churchwardens threatened to sell his personal belonging to meet this debt.

The following website has the history of the Bristowe family who resided in Maplebeck at Beesthorpe Hall and estate, CIRCA 1547~1935

16C chalice in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
©Victoria and Albert Museum,London

The Holles family and the end of Great House
According to Thoroton, the 17th century Nottinghamshire Historian, Sir Robert Markham brought himself close to bankruptcy by his extravagances at the Elizabethan court. In 1591 he sold the manor of Maplebeck to Sir John Holles (later the 1st Earl of Clare) for £2,000. The Holles family had their home at Haughton and had no need of the great house that the Markhams had built in Maplebeck and it was rented out.  But during the civil war, it appears that the hall was 'very ill abused' and that doors were pulled off their hinges, windows broken and lead from the roof removed. Following this attack the hall seems to have fallen into disrepair and in 1666, Thoroton records that he bought some of the materials to build his own house as did Thomas Bristowe for use at Beesthorpe Hall. TOP

Act Books of the Archdeacons of Nottingham is inserted a set of six leaves of paper stitched together and endorsed "Visitatio Domini Archaediaconi Nott. Anno Domini 1635. D. Newarke." This Visitation was held at Newark on 29th April, 1635, by Edward Mottershed, doctor of laws, the Official of the Archdeacon, Richard Baylie, professor of theology. This set of leaves contains a list of the clergy and laity (populi) who were summoned to attend the Visitation, among which the following names occur :— Maplebecke. Mr. George Jackson, curate.

Posted 17 February 2016

The Earls of Clare continued to acquire more land in Maplebeck and in 1636 the Second Earl of Clare acquired the rectory, glebe lands, tithes and the advowson and right of patronage of the vicarage from the Burnells of Winkburn. However, clearly this gentleman’s agreement did not find favour with the King and in 1640 the Earl of Clare had to pay 100 shillings to obtain a pardon for ‘the trespass committed when the rectory of Maplebeck, Nottinghamshire was conveyed without licence’.

A Transcript from The Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

By E. L. Guilford, M.A.

The interest of this document lies in the fact that this list was drawn up at a time when the religious question was very acute. The Puritan theocracy of the Commonwealth and Protectorate had been followed by a period of rampant Anglicanism. Presbyterianism was crushed out by the Clarendon Code and the English Church found itself faced with a new foe in the secret Catholicism of the Court party. As Charles II's reign drew to its end the country was faced with the prospect of a king who was avowedly Roman Catholic. An exclusionist party grew up, but split on the question of a successor to James. It was evidently of interest to discover what were the religious opinions of the people throughout the country. This list provides us with the information for our own district and at the same time furnishes us with a rough estimate of the adult population at a time when no other evidence exists.

Tanner MSS. 150, fo. 129.

1676. The Enquiries. Decanat. Nottingham.

(1) What number of persons, of age to receive the Communion are within every parish ?
(2) What number of such persons are Popish Recusants or suspected for such in every Parish ?
(3) What number of other dissenters (of what sort soever) which either distinctly refuse, or wholly absent themselves from the Communion of the Church of England at such times as by law they are required to Communicate ?

The names of the Parishes or Chappelries. The names of those who certified their Answers. Ans. to 1st Q. Ans. to 2nd Q. Ans. to 3rd Q.
Rich Eyre Church- ( Gab. Surgie ) wardens
87 00 01

Posted 17 February 2016


The Dukes of Newcastle
The wealth and prestige of the Earls of Clare grew during the 17th century and through a series of purchases and marriage settlement they acquired huge estates. In 1694 the 4th Earl was elevated to the Duke of Newcastle and in 1707, Queen Anne granted him land in Sherwood Forest on which to build a new mansion, Clumber.  Maplebeck now became a tiny part of a huge estate. One of the inhabitants was William Doncaster born circa 1700 a Quaker,

'was the village blacksmith, his shoeing forge was on the village green, the old family home a large cottage abutting on to the village green, its oak beams in the ceilings black with age'.  Source reference:>

The 19th century: TOP
Around the beginning of the 19th century, some of the old ‘stud and mud’ houses were replaced with brick built houses and cottages. The Beehive pub was built in 1803 and the cottages at the top of Church Lane were built by the Key family in 1804. The Keys were independent landowners in the village. The bricks were made in several brickyards around the village and receipts still exist for their sale to other villages.

But although some of the newly built farm houses and the imposing vicarage built for the Reverend William Turton indicated some wealth in the village, Maplebeck was a desperately poor place particularly for agricultural labourers. There is evidence that the poorest labourers lived in hovels built on the village green itself. Many of these labourers had to continue working well into their seventies and William Wombwell, who had run the pub before the Henfrey family, ended his days in the Southwell Workhouse. His grand-daughter, who lived with him, had an illegitimate child in 1841 and she too was sent to the workhouse where the baby died.  

The dilapidated church, described in 1820 by William Stretton as ‘the worst and most disgraceful church I have ever seen’ together with the deplorable conditions of the village led to the 4th Duke of Newcastle noting in his diary in March 1849:

‘I am ashamed and annoyed to see the wretched condition of the village – it would take 5 or 6,000 pounds to put it in proper order’.

But the Duke had other uses for the money.  His newly appointed clergyman advised him that the existing accommodation was too small and run down and the Duke recorded how ‘very inconvenient’ it was to have to build a new vicarage but the expense was necessary because ‘no village certainly more requires a resident clergyman than Maplebeck’. So the church remained in its ruinous and unsafe state. Towards the end of the century, Revd Turton had to conduct services in a room in the vicarage. It was not until 1898 when the money left by Turton in his Will, together with that provided by Earl Fitzwilliam (See below) enabled it to be restored.TOP

The sale of the village
As previously reported, Maplebeck was not a wealthy village and in 1838 the Duke tried to interest his neighbour, the Earl of Scarborough in an exchange of Maplebeck and Wellow for Morton. After the 4th Earl’s death, the 5th Earl discussed the sale of the village with the Burnell family from Winkburn but he declined saying the village was undesirable. Eventually on 11th February 1857 a buyer for the estate was found and Maplebeck passed to the estates of the Earls Fitzwilliam whose magnificent house in Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire, was evidence of their considerable wealth.
Sale Catalogue 1857


A Thankful Village
Maplebeck is only one of about 52 villages that lost no men in either of the world wars. As such it was referred to as a ‘thankful village’ by Arthur Mee in the 1930s. Men from the village did serve in both wars and Percy Whitworth was badly injured in World War 1. In Maplebeck Churchyard there is the war grave of Arthur William who served in the Veterinary Corps and died in 1917. He married Ada White whose parents lived at Maplebeck House. But there were different casualties. Albert Elvidge from Caunton served in the war, came back, like many, a shattered man. He worked as a labourer for Jim Wombell at Red Hill Farm and was often teased by the children who found him ‘weird’.

In the Second World War Fred Broughton, Cyril Wood and the sons of Percy Whitworth went off to serve and the older men formed the Home Guard. Newark, with its engineering works, was a target for German bombing and so a searchlight battery was installed in Mill Hill Field behind Ricketts Cottages and some 40 soldiers were stationed there. For the children of the village the war seemed a great adventure and they would follow the home guard on exercise, cycle to Ossington Aerodrome and best of all, collect souvenirs from the sites of plane crashes.  The crash site of a Lancaster bomber in a field near Hagleys Dumble which killed a number of Polish Airmen was a particular treasure trove.

Post War Modernisation: TOP
Although piped water was introduced in 1936, sinks and flushing toilets were slow to make an appearance. Electricity was introduced in 1947 into the village but the supply remained very erratic and even up until the early 1990s the village continued to experience many power cuts.

In 1947 a number of the tiny cottages in the village were condemned as unfit for human habitation but it was another ten years before these completely disappeared.


RIGHT:- The remaining end of terrace cottage from a row of four on Church Lane, which has been in continues occupation and is now part of a much larger property.

last cottage of a row of four on Church Lane

1947 was the year in which Maplebeck Farm, part of the Beesthorpe Estate, was sold. This was also the year that Winkburn School stopped taking children of all ages and the older children started attending secondary school in Bilsthorpe. Buses were also introduced in the 1950s and, although agriculture continued to be the dominant occupation, some of the men went to work at Bilsthorpe pit, others at the oil wells in Eakring and at Trent Concrete. 

The end of an estate village: TOP
In 1979 the 10th Earl Fitzwilliam died and it came as no surprise that the village was to be sold piecemeal, if the tenant farmers did not want to continue. Three of the farms did continue for some years.  The considerable land and buildings of Brecks Farm were bought by C A Strawson Ltd, a farming company based in Bilsthorpe. Over the next few years the other farms were sold to individuals and developers and in the 1980s seven new households were created out of the barns of former farms and cottages that had been derelict. The four fields next to the Beck, 'Penny Pastures', in the North East of the Parish were eventually bought by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to preserve these wetlands and which in 1975 were designated in as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Mole catches in the early 19C.

The photograph is inscribed 'A mornings catch' on the 16th February 1920, Arthur Henfrey (right) and a member of the Burrell, family where in the allotments at the top of the village, mole catching..


Modernisation of agricultural practices
In order to derive economies of scale in early 1982, the small fields with their hedges and trees were cleared to make huge fields suitable for modern machinery. In addition, the village saw the disappearance of old ponds and the byway referred to as Moor Lane or Cherry Lane which ran along the boundary between of Maplebeck and Winkburn in the South West of the parish. The work to do this was carried out in a very short space of time. Older villagers who had lived in Maplebeck most of their lives described how the trees that had been cut down were ‘lined up like corpses’ to be removed and another said that the changes ‘broke my heart’. The opposition to these changes and the barn conversions was, at times, considerable and the villagers successfully campaigned to have Maplebeck made a conservation area in 1982.

With the retirement of the last remaining farmer, further housing development has taken place, consequently Maplebeck, like many villages, has largely become a village of commuters and retired people. However there are some 12 children including a Christmas 2010 baby.

This information is largely taken from ‘Maplebeck, continuity and change’ by © Rachel Gardner which is available from the author.

Source reference:-

There is an interesting extract for the Mediaeval history of Maplebeck and surrounding area in the Nottinghamshire Archives...Link

Posted Oct 2010

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