Whatton (or Whatton-in-the-Vale) lies in the Nottingham portion of the Vale of Belvoir approximately three miles east of the ancient market town of Bingham.
The generally accepted origin of the name Whatton is that proposed by the English Place Name Society (‘EPNS’). Their interpretation is that the first part ‘What’ is a corruption of Wheat (as in Wheatley, Notts) with the Saxon suffix of ‘ton’meaning farm or settlement. This would describe Whatton as being a Wheat Farm or Settlement. Given that the area was never heavily wooded and the quality of the land it would seem to be a fair description.
The Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova was published in 1738 (described as being ‘a new, exact and comprehensive Survey of the Ancient and Present state of Great Britain’). In the Whatton entry it proposes that Whatton ‘takes its name from its watery situation upon the River Smite, that runs close by, and continues often full of water than other larger and swifter rivers do’, this was the interpretation offered by the eminent Nottinghamshire Historian Robert Thornton. Recent history lends a ring of truth to this interpretation.
The earliest documented reference to Whatton appears to be the entry in the Domesday Book (1086) in which it is referred to as Watone. The tone suffix, as the EPNS proposes is of Early Saxon origin meaning farm or settlement that leaves us with Wa. The Saxon word for wheat was whoet and it doesn’t seem plausible that Whoettone would contract to Watone. However, the Anglo-Saxon words wæd (ford, water, sea, ocean), ’wæta’ (wetness, moisture) and ‘wætung’ (wetting)could easily contract to ‘WA’ or ‘WAT’’. This interpretation would provide the description Wet Farm or Settlement.
The earliest reference to Whatton in the Vale dates from 1375 and the ‘in-the-Vale’ suffix first appeared in 1783.
Irrespective of its meaning the Whatton name appears to be Early Saxon/Dane in its origin. Other names in the parish appear to have their roots in the Dane or Saxon language. The River Smite is almost certainly Germanic and its alternative name Cockerbeck is a fusion of both Danish and Saxon words.
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Whatton is an ancient settlement, artefacts have been found on the border of Aslockton and Whatton indicating that there was a settlement in Whatton in the late iron-age. The actual settlement wasn’t found but is thought to be located under the A52. It is of interest that the ‘finds’ were dated up to the 1st century BC and did not extend into the Romano-British period (1st to 5th Century AD). Whilst evidence has yet to be found it is entirely probable that there was a Romano-British settlement in the parish.
Names used in the parish, supported by the Domesday record provide evidence of early Saxon and Danish settlement in the 5th to 11th Centuries. The English Place name Survey (‘EPNS’) of 1948 proposed that the name Whatton is a contraction of Wheat with the Saxon suffix of ton meaning farm or settlement. Unfortunately, the EPNS used the modern spelling, the actual 11th Century spelling was WATONE, the tone suffix is indeed Saxon, but the wa appears to be a contraction of the Danish for Water. The bridge which carried the Nottingham Grantham road over the Smite (at the start of what is now the Bye-pass) is called the Cocker Beck Bridge. Cocker Beck is a combination of Saxon and Danish meaning winding stream. The name of the river itself, the Smite is thought to be of Danish origin.
Whatton was in an area of England called. ‘Danelaw’ was part of the North Sea Empire which also included Norway, Denmark and part of Sweden. The other parts of England were Mercia and Wessex (West Saxons.) On the death of Edmund Ironside, England was unified under CNUT (aka Canute).
In the Danelaw area, Manors were called Sokes and Wapentakes were the equivalent of Saxon Hundreds. We know from the Domesday record that Whatton was held by Ulf Fenwick who was a ‘Jarg’ the Dane equivalent of the Saxon Earl.
The Soke of Whatton also had jurisdiction over the southern part of Aslockton and the majority of Hawkesworth and was part of the Bingham Wapentake.
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In 1066, the Manor of Whatton was granted by William I (The Conqueror) to Gilbert de Ghent who in turn placed ‘his man’ Robert as Lord of the Manor. Robert and his family took their surname from the Manor and became de Watone, later changing to de Whatton and then just Whatton.
The Manor of Whatton not only held what is now the parish of Whatton, but also had jurisdiction one of the five Manors in Aslockton and one of the two Manors in Hawksworth. In all the Lord of Whatton held in the region of three thousand arable acres and a population of 40 villagers, smallholders or cottagers, 29 freeman spread over the entire holding. The largest population being in Whatton itself numbering about 28 villagers and 12 smallholders. The numbers quoted refer to able-bodied adults so the actual population would be in the range of three to four times the actual number quoted
Sir Richard De Whatton – Photograph courtesy the late Stan Stewart.
From Robert, the Manor passed to his son William and from him to his eldest son Robert. It is interesting to note that his younger son Walter was a Knight of the Second Crusade and lived at the Manor House in Whatton. Walters’ daughter Isabella married Reginald of Aslockton and was the great-grandmother of (Archbishop) Thomas Cranmer. Walters’ eldest son Richard was also ‘seated’ at Whatton Manor and was also a Knight of the Crusades.
Robert (son of William) had no surviving male heir and the Lordship of the Manor passed to his daughter Adelina who had married William Lord Heriz. However, it appears that William died before Robert and so the Manor did not pass to the Heriz family. Adelina is listed as the ‘Dame’ of Whatton in 1205 and therefore held the Manor in her own right. In about 1190, Adelina give land in Aslockton to Lenton Abbey and the Church in Whatton (and associated land) to Welbeck Abbey in memory of her late mother, father and husband (William Lord Heriz). She also paid a fine to the King of 100 silver marks to allow her to marry whoever she may wish.Sometime after 1205 Adelina married Ada de Novo Mercarto (later anglicized to Newmarch). Adam was Lord of the Manor of Bentley (Yorkshire) and continued to live there. The extended Whatton family continued to live at Whatton Manor. The Manor passed to Adams’ eldest son Henry and from him to his eldest son Adam. For reasons that are not clear the Manor passed from Adam to his younger son, yet another Adam, effectively separating the Bentley (which passed to Adams eldest son) and Whatton Estates. The Lord of the Manor of Whatton was again living in Whatton.
Adams’ eldest son Henry inherited the Manor from his father and in 1275 was granted a charter of free fishing from Edward 1st. His son, Thomas was summoned by Edward II in 1315 to “attend him at Newcastle-upon-Tyne to repel the Scots“. It was also during his Lordship that in 1344 that a Charter of Market and Fair was granted by Richard II. Thomas’s son, another Thomas became the 10th Lord of Whatton.
During this whole period the Gilbert de Ghent and his descendants were the ‘Tenants-in-chief’ of Whatton Manor it was Thomas’s son, Hugh who in 1377 purchased the ‘Fee’ of Whatton Manor for himself and his descendants.
Sir Hugh Newmarch – circa 1400 – Photograph courtesy of the late Stan Stewart
Hugh did not have a male heir so he was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth who married her distant cousin Ralph, Lord of the Manor of Bentley. Thus the Manors of Whatton and Bentley were reunited. The Manor then passed to Robert, their son. If the intention was to recreate the Newmarch ‘dynasty’, it regrettably didn’t work as Robert had no male heir and the Manor passed to his daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth married the younger son of the Earl of Westmoreland, John Nevil. They too had no male heir and the Manor passed to their daughter Joan who married Sir William Gascoigne in about 1458.
A later Sir William Gascoigne (there were sixteen Williams in succession) sold the Manor to Sir Thomas Stanhope (grandfather of Philip the 1st Earl Chesterfield) in 1516 thus severing Whatton Manors’ 450year connection with the 1st Norman Lord of the Manor Robert.
The Manor House which was located between what is now Whatton Grange and the Gables was not occupied probably from the early 1400s and almost certainly fell into disrepair. Certainly by the late 18th century no trace of the Norman Manor could be seen.
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By the time of Henry VII, Whatton Manor and the Estate were in the hands of the Gascoinge family. No history of Whatton would be complete without mention of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII.
Whilst Thomas was born in the neighbouring village of Aslockton, Aslockton was at that time (and probably technically still is) a Chapelry within the greater ecclesiastical parish of WHATTON cum ASLOCKTON. Thomas and his family would have worshipped in the parish church of St. John of Beverley. In fact, the Arms of the Whatton, Newmarch, Aslacton and Cranmer families were before it’s ‘restoration’ in the late 19 hundreds all in evidence in the Church and a memorial to Thomas’s father can still be seen in the ‘Cranmer Chapel’ of the church.
Thomas Cranmer. was born in Aslockton, on 2nd of July 1489. His father Thomas Cranmer, was the son of the first Cranmer holder of the Manor in Aslockton, Edmund, through his
(Edmund`s) marriage to Isabelle de Aslockton (Aslakston) in 1460.
Thomas spent the first fourteen years of his life in Aslockton, legend has it that he would sit on the prospect mound (Cranmer`s Mound in Aslockton) and listen to the bells of St. John of Beverley in Whatton.
His father died in 1503 when Thomas was 14 years of age and his mother sent him to Jesus College, Cambridge. He became a fellow in about 1511, although his fellowship was suspended when he married Joan, a relation (by many accounts the daughter) of the proprietor of the Dolphin Inn, in Cambridge, a favourite haunt of students. However, Joan died within a year and Thomas resumed his fellowship and sought holy orders.
Thomas may have been destined for quiet scholarship had it not been for the fact that he had been staying with relatives in Waltham, Essex. Whilst there, he met Gardiner and Edward Fox who were both counsellors to Henry VIII. Through this chance meeting Thomas entered the arena of the great events which were to follow.
By 1530 Cranmer was Archdeacon of Taunton. He was consulted as to the validity of Henry`s marriage to Catherine of Arragon and concluded that, as she was considered his sister (having been married to Henry’s late brother) , that they were unlawfully married. He was sent to Germany to consult with Lutheran princes on the subject. It was whilst he was in Germany that he met Margaret, the niece of Andreas Osiander, a prominent Lutheran theologian. Although, as a priest Cranmer had taken a vow of celibacy, his reading of the scripture (especially the fact that the apostles were married) convinced him that marriage was permitted and he and Margaret married in secret. The marriage was kept secret for some years.
In 1533 Henry appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer pronounced Henry`s marriage to Catherine void and that to Anne (Boleyn) to be valid. Subsequently, he pronounced the marriage to Anne to be void, allowing Henry to marry Anne of Cleves only then to announce that marriage unlawful.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Whilst it would be easy to view Cranmer as self-serving, it must be remembered that he believed, onhis reading of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, that the king was God`s appointed ruler. Despite his continued obedience to Henry, Cranmer pleaded for clemency (albeit in vain) for Thomas More and John Fisher who as loyal Catholics refused to accept Henry as the supreme head of the English Church. By now (1536) ,the English Church was severed from Rome and Cranmer`s theology was largely Lutherian, whilst Henry continued to insist on non-papal Catholicism (Anglo-Catholic). Despite the difference in theology Henry still liked and admired Cranmer and even summoned Cranmer to minister to him on his deathbed.
The Church of England become more Protestant when Edward VI ascended to the Throne.
It was during this freer climate that Cranmer wrote the Book of Homilies, the Forty-two Articles and the most enduring Book of Common Prayer.
When Edward VI was dying, Cranmer was persuaded, much against his will, to sign a document, by the King, designating Lady Jane Grey as his successor. The attempt to place her on the throne failed and Mary Tudor became Queen. Cranmer was charged with treason and sedition and committed to the Tower of London. Pardoned from the charge of treason and sedition he was taken to Oxford charged with heresy. For reasons that are not known he recanted his opinions. However, when called upon to recant openly, he refused and recanted his recantations.
Cranmer was burnt at the stake on the 21st March,1556 at Oxford. The day was said to be overcast and stormy.
Following the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ Thomas purchased the patronage of the Church of St. John of Beverley, along with the lands associated with it that had been held by Welbeck Abbey in 1547. On his execution all his holdings including those in Whatton and Aslockton were forfeit to the Crown, so for a time Queen Mary and her successor Edward VI held land in Whatton (and Aslockton) and the patronage of the parish church.
Edward VI eventually passed the ‘holdings’ back to Thomas’s heir his nephew, another Thomas. This Thomas later petitioned Queen Elizabeth to be allowed to sell the patronage of the Church which he subsequently did.
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The current fabric of the church dates from probably the 11th Century, with 14th Century additions. There is evidence that suggests that the current church is built on the site of an earlier Saxon or Anglo-Dane church.
In 1197 Adelina de Whatton give the church (along with parcels of land) to Welbeck Abbey, in memory of her late father, mother and husband. This meant that the greater tithes (and the Rectorship) and the power to appoint a Vicar transferred to Welbeck Abbey.
Prior to that date, the first recorded Rector of the Parish was Robert FitzWalter in 1188, he was appointed by Adelina’s father Robert de Whatton. Thereafter, until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 the Vicar was appointed by Welbeck Abbey. After the dissolution for a period the Church was in the hands of Henry VIII it was he who appointed Christipher Butterie as Vicar in 1545.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer purchased the patronage (church and land) from the Crown (along with others) in 1548. He retained the patronage until his death (in Oxford) in 1556. During that time no Vicars were appointed.
After his death Whatton along with his other holdings were forfeit to the Crown and Queen Mary 1 become patron, she appointed one Vicar, William Stevenson in 1558. After Mary’s death Edward VIth become patron, until he restored Archbishop Cranmer’s holdings to the Archbishop’s heir, his nephew Thomas Cranmer.
Thomas Cranmer petitioned Queen Elizabeth to sell the patronage, which he did. The patronage of the Church lay in a number of families hands between 1597 and 1841. The families were Gelstrop, Shipman, Hewitt and Foljambe. The lordship of the Manor and the patronage of the church were reunited in 1841 under Thomas Dickinson-Hall.
Until the school was built (School Lane) in 1864, lessons were held in the church.
By the end of the 18th century the Church was in a state of disrepair. It was repaired and repewed in 1807 (or 1804).
Extensive ‘restoration’ financed by Thomas Dickinson Hall. The chancel and nave were rebuilt in 1848, the chancel length was reduced by 4ft. More extensive ‘restoration’ was undertaken in 1870-71, financed chiefly by TD Hall. An original ‘Norman’ arch was moved from the South Wall to the North Wall, it can be seen from Church Walk, by the North door. The tower was taken down and rebuilt. One of the stain-glass windows was designed by Edward Burne-Jones.
There is a recess containing a statue of a former incumbent, Robert de Whatton [1304–10], and a double piscina. There is a late 14th-century effigy of Sir Richard de Whatton in armour, another of 14th century Sir Adam Newmarch, a third of Sir Hugh Newmarch (circa 1400) and a tablet in memory of Thomas Cranmer, father of Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury.
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