Visit Southwell and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Visible across 20 miles of the Trent Valley, Southwell Minster, the little-known mother church of Nottinghamshire is worth a visit if only for the incredible beauty of the foliage carvings in its chapter house. It is one of our more recent sees, created in 1884, and its early history is mainly based on legend.
Work on the present church began in about 1108 under Thomas, Archbishop of York, and the minster is almost unique in this country for retaining all three of its Norman towers, the pyramidal roofs of two of them having been rebuilt to the original design after a fire in 1711. The façade, nave, crossing, crossing tower and transepts date also from early Norman days. The capitals of the east crossing piers have roughly carved stories on them, Anglo-Saxon rather than Norman. The nave has very short, thick, circular piers, saved from being overpowering by the elastic design of the tribune arches above, and lit by a huge seven-light Perpendicular window at the west end, which was unfortunately added in the 15th century and necessitated the destruction of almost the entire Norman west front. The choir was added in about 1234 and is approached through a marvellously sculptured screen carved with 289 small figures, dated about 1340. But it is the chapter house most people come to see. This was begun in 1292, built without a centrally supporting pier, and decorated in a manner so felicitous by an unknown artist that it is probably the finest example of l3th century stone-carving in Britain. It is approached by a doorway carved with oak, mulberry and maple leaves and buttercups. Inside are more leaves, no two alike, chief among them oak, maple, vine, hop, ivy, rose, whitethorn, hawthorn, ranunculus and potentilla, copied from Sherwood Forest's foliage, or from sketches made on a possible apprenticeship in France. The artist has managed to impart to his work such delicacy and joy that the effect is light rather than overwhelming. Among the leaves are little people and animals.
The glass in the east window of the minster was brought from the chapel of the Knights Templar in Paris where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned. The brass lectern was found in the pond at Newstead Abbey — now known as the Eagle Pond — where the monks had hidden it 300 years before on the Dissolution. They had secreted their ancient deeds and charters in the ball on which the eagle stands in the hope of returning to the monastery and recovering them. Four pieces of sculpture are of special interest. The east end of the choir contains the kneeling effigy in bronze of the first Bishop of Southwell, the Right Rev. George Ridding, who was also headmaster of Winchester College for nearly 20 years. Over the door leading to the belfry is one of the oldest sculptures in the Midlands, a late Anglo-Saxon representation of St Michael with a lion, a lamb and a very scaly and well-coiled dragon. In the body of the church is the well-executed Elizabethan alabaster tomb of Archbishop Sandys, who died in 1588, with richly carved figures of his wile and eight children on the front panel. And in the corridor between chancel and chapter house is a carving of a “secular” cleric pulling both the ears of a “regular” monk, a reminder that South-well was founded as a collegiate church for secular clergy. These clergy did not live inside a monastery but outside with their families. In a chapel off the north transept is a more modern memorial made of parts of aeroplanes which crashed in the First World War. The minster itself must be the only place of worship in which there is a notice saying “Dogs Welcome”!
At the crossing of the main street of Southwell is the 17th century Saracen's Head where Charles I stayed on his way to raise his standard at Nottingham in 1646, and again on his way back in the same year to surrender to the Scots at K CLII AM. He spent his last night of freedom here before the long imprisonment which ended with his execution, and ate the last meal before his arrest in the coffee room.
On the south side of the minster is the Bishop's Palace built by Caroe in 1907- 9. It borders on the remains of the Archbishop of York's monumental palace covering 1+ acres, started by Thoresby in 1360 and finished by Kemp in 1430. Wolsey, whose seat is in the choir at the minster, came here in 1530 when the clouds had already gathered about him and did not leave until he went to Leicester to his death. While he was there he built a unique tower still known as Wolsey's Lavatories.
On Burgage Green is Burgage Manor, where Lord Byron lived with his mother in about 1810, when he was still at Harrow. His autograph is preserved on a wall in the hall. Nearby lived his friend, Miss Elizabeth Bridge Pigot, with her mother and brother, John. Not far from the house is a rustic gate dated 1807 which led to the ill-reputed House of Correction where inmates slept in chains in a dank dungeon beneath the floors. Vicars' Close is worth inspection since it consists of the houses of the vicars choral, who did the work of non-resident canons. It was rebuilt in 1780 and makes a delightful group, with the provost's house in the middle, embellished with a porch.
At the Easthorpe end of Southwell, in a small garden, is a famous apple tree which began its life in about 1805 as a pip planted in a pot. By 1857 Mr Bramley, the owner of that tree, was allowing grafts to be taken on condition that his name was included in the title. Patched-up and supported, it is still on view at Bramley Tree Cottage, and is the parent of thousands of descendants in this country and overseas.
Adjacent cities/towns/villages: Arnold, Bilsthorpe, Bingham, Blidworth, Burton Joyce, Calverton, Carlton-on-Trent, Caunton, Churchill, Cromwell, Eakring, East Bridgford, East Stoke, Edingley, Elston, Farnsfield, Fiskerton, Flintham, Gedling, Halloughton, Hawksworth, Hawton, Hockerton, Holme, Hoveringham, Kelham, Kersall, Kilvington, Kirklington, Kneesall, Kneeton, Lambley, Lowdham, Mansfield, Newark-on-Trent, North Muskham, Norwell, Ollerton, Ompton, Ossington, Oxton, Rainworth, Rufford, Shelford, Shelton, South Muskham, Staunton in the Vale, Staythorpe, Sutton on Trent, Thoroton, Thurgarton, Winthorpe, Woodborough
Have you decided to visit Southwell or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Southwell bed and breakfast (a Southwell B&B or Southwell b and b)
- a Southwell guesthouse
- a Southwell hotel (or motel)
- a Southwell self-catering establishment, or
- other Southwell accommodation