13th/14th century church of St Helen, Stapleford.
(© A. Nicholson, 2002)
The mining enterprise in this locality has wholly transformed
the scenery in the valley of the Erewash. Smoking furnaces
and densely populated towns and villages, with a network
of railways, now occupy what once was a quiet rural district,
little affected by the throb of manufacturing and commercial
activity in other parts of the country.
A visitor to Stapleford after an absence of twenty years
would scarcely recognise in the mass of buildings and
places of business the small hosiery village that he once
knew; but among all that is modern, near to the gates
of the churchyard, standing on a strong pedestal, is the
shaft of an ancient cross that deserves the closest attention.
The transverse arms are gone, and modern hands have surmounted
it with a cap and ball; but a careful survey shows that
it is a work of great andundoubted antiquity, and that
it must date back to the time when the district first
heard the glad tidings of the Christian faith. The shaft
is about ten feet high, roughly rounded at the lower part,
and gradually working into a square shape towards the
top. It is elaborately ornamented with interlaced and
knotted ribbon work, arranged in geometrical devices;
and on one of its faces, near the top, is a curious and
indistinct carving that looks somewhat like the outline
of an enormous bird. The shaft has fortunately been the
subject of special and careful study on the part of a
very competent authority.
The Rev. G. F. Browne (Disney Professor of Archaeology
in the University of Cambridge), referring to the evidences
of early Christian work in this county, says: ‘At
Stapleford you have a sculptured pillar of quite unique
beauty of ornament, and interest of ecclesiastical tradition.
It has cost me three days in three successive years to
make out the intricate interlacements of its ornamentation,
and it stands now revealed as a work of art as remarkable
as any page of the best Hibernian MSS. of .the eighth
century, the Book of Kells, or the Gospel of Lindisfarne.
And it is unique in this respect, that it has on it the
symbol of the Evangelist St. Luke—a great winged
figure treading on a serpent, with the head and ears and
horns of a calf. The church is an early dedication to
St Helen. The pillar is earlier than that, for if you
ask when the village feast is, you find it is fixed by
a complicated rule of thumb, which determines that Old
St Luke’s Day comes always in the wake week. The
pillar takes us to a time before there was a church there
at all. It records for us the first taking possession
by the first Christian missionaries in the name of Christ
and His Evangelist, St. Luke.’
Domesday Book records that before the Norman invasion there
were here four manors, which Ulcicilt, Godwin, Staplewin,
and Gladwin had, and that thereafter the famous William
Peverel held land in demesne. ‘There were then a priest
and a church, and 58 acres of meadow,’ valued in the
Confessor’s time at 6os., and in the Conqueror’s
at 40s. only. Peverel was a man of great influence, and
held large possessions, which had been granted to him by
the Conqueror. It is said that he was a natural son of that
fortunate warrior, but Mr. Freeman scouts the suggestion
as an utterly uncertified and almost impossible scandal
regards the cross as being "by far the most
important pre-Conquest monument in Notts."
The shaft is 10ft high, and the decoration consists
mostly of interlacings but with one doll-like figure
at the top. The cross has been dated to c.1050.
(© A. Nicholson, 2002)
His vassal or feudary at Stapleford was Robert de Heriz,
and from his grandson it passed to Avicia, wife of Richard
Cazmera. One of their descendants took the surname of
the village, and the estate was carried with the heiress
of the Staplefords by marriage to the Teverys, a Derbyshire
family resident at Long Eaton. Memorials of the Teverys
are still in a good state of preservation in Stapleford
Church. The last member of the family, Geoffrey, settled
his possessions upon Tevery Palmes, his grandson, from
whom it passed to William Palmes, and he sold it to Arthur
Warren of Toton. Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren rebuilt
the hall in 1797, and after the Peace of Amiens went as
Ambassador to Russia. He subsequently took part in the
American War, and was made a K.G.B., returning to Stapleford
to spend his last days. He represented Nottingham in Parliament,
and died in 1822. His only daughter married the Hon. George
Vernon, and by their successor it was sold to Colonel
I. C. Wright, the present owner of the Hall.
The church is an early English edifice, to which alterations
and repairs were made in 1878 at a cost of £2000.
On the shoulder of the ridge which separates Bramcote
and Stapleford Valley is a huge giant in the shape of
an enormous mass of red sandstone, known as the Hemlock
Stone, forty or fifty feet high, and fifty feet round
the base. There it has stood for centuries ‘a petrified
enigma,’ and there we doubt not it will continue
to stand for ages, one of the oldest and most curious
relics in this part of the county.
Chapel in the late 18th century (Throsby, 1790).
The chapel was described by Throsby as "bending
towards the earth like decrepit old age" and
had completely disappeared by 1832.
Very happily named is another pleasant stretch of country
which forms a picturesque part of the Erewash Valley,
and is known by the familiar appellation given to it not
less than six centuries ago. Beauvale has been partly
invaded by houses—it has given its name to a populous
locality containing a large Board School—but it
is a beautiful vale still, and, looking across the valley
to the Derbyshire border, the eyes rest upon as pretty
a panorama as can be seen in any part of the county.
The district is well wooded, and there are diversified
views of hill and dale—of busy, thriving towns on
the one side, and of quiet rural hamlets on the other,
with the handsome residences of the gentry nestling amid
the trees. Throsby, in his wanderings, seems to have been
struck with the varied scenes hereabouts, for, speaking
of Kimberley, which almost touches Beauvale, he writes
thus quaintly and enthusiastically: ‘The village
is one of the most romantic I have seen in these parts.
Its site is extraordinarily diversified; some of the dwellings
perch upon an eminence, others sit snugly on the side,
some on the base. Comparing little things with great,
the travelling of an insect over a succession of ant-hills
is like that of a man over the lanes or passages of this
village.’ Could the venerable antiquary revisit
the locality to-day, he would find a large part of it
covered with houses, alike at summit, side, and base.
But the vale itself, which runs at the foot of a thickly
wooded slope down to the broad Erewash Valley, has not
been greatly built upon.
Cornelius Brown, A History of Nottinghamshire
to A. Nicholson for the use of text and pictures: www.nottshistory.org.uk