A View from the top

Having read the recollections of R H Whitworth “Blidworth and Neighbourhood” (Circa 1890), I found his first passage intriguing.

He alludes to the panorama that could be seen from the elevated position of Blidworth church. He quotes that “looking Northward on a clear evening, and especially with a glass, the tower and spire of Laughton-en-le Morthen, known locally as “Lightening in the Morning” come into sight.

The Church of All Saints with its spire rising 185 feet would be all of 20 miles from Blidworth.
I have often wondered, and was curious if the Reverend has viewed the tower from ground level (498 feet above sea level) or took advantage of the church tower?
By arrangement with the church warden Robin Sharpe and kind permission of the Rev. Hazel Robinson, on November 10th 2012, my son Darren and I were allowed to ascend to the top of the tower. It was a perfect early winter’s morning with clear blue skies. With a camera and a good set of binoculars, we photographed the village and surrounding area and attempted to look Northward towards Rotherham. Sadly, what R H Whitworth once viewed from the churchyard has long since ceased to be visible.
Nevertheless, many landmarks and buildings were easily visible, notably Lincoln Cathedral, Belvoir Castle, Mackworth water tower near Derby and much of the Trent Valley with its power stations. Excellent views of Blidworth Dale and Fishpool could be seen, with curious images of Old Blidworth farms seen from above.
John Durkin 2016


The Scissor Grinder

The changes that are brought about by social and economic reforms do not only disturb large businesses. This was evidently clear as I walked to Blidworth Colliery at lunch time in the year of 1961. There was a man with the tools of his trade walking towards me. His tools included a head high metal bar with small wheels at the bottom of the long bar. This enabled him to push or pull it up the roads. At the lowest end of the bar was a pedal which, when depressed rotated the circular sharpening stone at the top of the neck. This man and his chosen trade had become known locally as the Scissor Man and had plied his trade in the villages for many years. However most of the houses were now using their radios, (and TV was to come) due to this they could not hear the Scissor Grinder shouting so he had to send his wife to knock on the door and ask if they wanted any knives or scissors sharpening. The answer had become a firm NO as new ones could be purchased for the same price at the local shops or the shops in Mansfield. The Scissor Man had become aware of these facts and standing in the centre of the road, he had to retire to the causeway because a car was coming down the road. Another sign that life was changing rapidly. The car was the last straw for him, and seeing me carrying my sandwiches on my way to work, he delivered a tirade at me which according to him proved that all miners were illegitimate. I was then treated to a series of expletives including double and treble expletives as I realized the Scissor Grinder was taking out of me the changing pattern of the new world. I did not offer the man a reply as I realized his small business was desperately under threat.
The world was changing rapidly.
As witnessed by John Gilding

Sunrise over the Druid Stone

The Reverend Richard H Whitworth (1865-1908) first suggested that the sunrise on the Summer Solstice could be viewed from the Eastern aperture of the Druid stone. This was without evidence. Frank Earp and two colleagues from the Nottingham Hidden History Team in the mid 70’s tested this theory and concluded that this was not so. They calculated that a Beltane sunrise on May 1st was probable and the sun would appear over the site of the rock. This was further supported by my observations on June 21st 2014 and May 1st 2016. I photographed and recorded the sunrise on both of these occasions. The sunrise on May 1st 2016 was observed as it rose to pass directly through the Eastern aperture. This would confirm the theory that Beltane, the start of the Celtic quarter day May 1st and sunset on Samhain October 31st would be marked by the passing of the sun. There is of course the possibility that the hole is naturally occurring. However, those who have studied the boulder would believe that at some point in history, man created the hole for a purpose. Given that there are several of these conglomerates of similar size and construction, then evidence would suggest that it is indeed man made.
John Durkin. June 2016


Friar Tuck, a Hermit of Fountaindale and Copmanhurst. 
Robin of Loxley or Robin of Sherwood. It depends on which bit of English folklore you prefer. Yorkshire folk claim he was born in Loxley in 1160, where he roamed the Forest of Loxley Chase.
Loxley Chase was extensive, reaching south east to border Sherwood Forest. Fountaindale Lodge, once used as a hunting lodge, is within the Forest at Lyndhurst. It is here in Lyndhurst that Friar Tucks Well can be seen today.
With very little evidence to support the existence of one Robin Hood, early ballads have been used to create fictitious accounts of the outlaw and his merry men. One such account alludes to Friar Tuck fighting Robin Hood over a stream.
Two places of interest can be construed from these ballads, as to where the encounter may have taken place. Not surprisingly, Fountains Abbey near Ripon in Yorkshire, and Fountaindale near Blidworth in Nottinghamshire, might be interpreted as the possible site.
Fountains Abbey, built in 1132, was a Cistercian Monastery, whose order was given to a life of isolation and solitude. Ballads describe the Friar who fought with the outlaw, as being cordial about the waist, and his habit curtal. Because of the conformity of their divine vows, it is at best dubious, that one of their order would engage the outlaw.
The similar sounding Fountaindale at Lyndhurst however, with its Well and enclosed moat nearby, can also be attributed to the encounter having taken place there. Archives held at Nottingham refer to rough stones being removed about one hundred years ago from within the moated enclosure. The stones could well have formed part of a Cell or Hermitage. The moat diverted from the River Rain, is still to be seen today and would have been a formidable place of safety. A wooden bridge of sorts was the only point of access. A chalybeate spring, one of many along Rainworth Water is close to the moat. This natural spring water once filled a chamber and would then flow down a cascade of steps. Ornate railings and a low wall enclosed the Well. This is the site of Friar Tucks Well. A board was attached to the railings, and before a large Ash tree fell across it about 1955, it read that the holy clerk would pray at the Chancel of Saint Lawrence in Blidworth Churchyard. Much damage was caused by the fallen tree and the site is now almost ruinous. Several of these boards were to be seen around the moat and the enclosure. Nailed to trees, and discernible to all who could read, they describe the place of the bridge over the moat where the Friar met Robin, and another would tell that the King’s taxes were collected here in this part of the Forest.
The early ballads describe the Friar or Monk who would be sought out by Robin of Loxley, as being a stalwart shaveling, bound at the waist and his habit curtal or shortened. This would be similar to the cloth worn by the Franciscan order of Friars, but if the year 1160 was the birthdate of the outlaw then it would pre date the time that the Franciscan order came to England, 1210, and 1224, when a Priory was established at Broadmarsh in Nottingham. It is quite feasible that a holy man, a renegade, or one disaffected having abandoned his allegiance would have taken his abode in the Hermitage at Fountaindale. Newstead Abbey, only two miles from Fountaindale was once a Priory for Augustine monks, perhaps this is where the Friar came from. This I believe can be a greater cause than any other put forward by those who prefer Fountains Abbey.
The origins of the Well, the moat and the elaborate boards, that once described this famous encounter, can I believe be attributed to the Needs of Fountaindale. Two literary greats, Sir Walter Scott, and the American author Washington Irving would help to establish this as the place. Walter Scott stayed at Fountaindale writing parts of his "Ivanhoe" whilst a guest of Colonel Need. The Needs were at Fountaindale Lodge for the greater part of the nineteenth century. Lieutenant Colonel A Need lived there from 1815 until his death in 1885. A passage from Ivanhoe alludes to "The Black Knight having taken refuge for the night in the hut of a local Friar, the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst" The place of safety within the moat is Copmanhurst. Whilst it is fanciful that Colonel Need created Friar Tucks Well, the probability that the moat, diverted from the River Rain was once a stronghold of some tribe or legion cannot be discounted. The moat would have been plentiful with fish, and vegetables and herbs could be grown by the Hermitage. A place sufficient and safe. If Scott inspired Col Need to adapt Copmanhurst to support his Ivanhoe, then Irving who stayed at Newstead Abbey following the death of Lord Byron in 1824, further enhanced the whimsical creation of the Needs when he wrote in his "Newstead Abbey" a descriptive passage "Here is Fountaindale, where he (Robin Hood) had his encounter with that stalwart shaveling Friar Tuck". Irving was fond of hunting and rode to the resplendent Forest at Lyndhurst where, although not recorded, may have met the Needs. It can be said with some certainty that he came by the Well and the various boards that inspired him.
Friar Tucks Well, the Moat, and Copmanhurst, are well defined on early O/S maps of 1885, so they would seem to be of this period. There is, with historical evidence of the chalybeate spring, the moat and enclosure, reason to believe that the Hermitage did exist within Copmanhurst, but little, other than the fanciful creations of the Need family to support Scott's work, that this really was Friar Tucks Well. However, Fountains Abbey and the folk of Yorkshire would do well to put forward a more deserving claim than that of Fountaindale.
John Durkin 2014