Flawford Church

Flawford Excavation


The Chantry Chapels of Flawford

During the Middle Ages it was the custom for persons of means to endow a chapel and one or more priests to pray daily for their souls and those of their ancestors. These were known as Chantry chapels. There is evidence of such chapels existing within the church of Flawford from the late fourteenth to the middle of the sixteenth centuries.

A chantry chapel was often situated in an aisle or side chapel and it seems likely that this was the case at Flawford. The Victoria History of Nottinghamshire quoting the York Episcopal Register states that Robert de Prebend was consecrated Bishop of Dunblane in Scotland in 1258 and that in 1280 Archbishop Wickwane gave him permission to dedicate a new chapel which he had erected at Flawford, the place of his birth. This chapel contained an altar dedicated to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostle Saint Andrew, and All Saints. This became known as Dunblane's Aisle or Chapel.

We are indebted to Throsby for recording what he describes as the Dunblane Legend, which is given below in his own words:

"A swineherd's boy of a happy countenance was placed near the church to tend pigs, a gentleman coming by questioned him respecting his parents and situation in life, who at length by fair promises, persuaded the boy to go away with him, brought him up, and made him his heir at his death. Many years afterwards he came back in the habits of a gentleman, and found his parents dead and buried on the outside of the church. He in consequence ordered a tomb to be built over their graves, with a cur dog at their feet, and walled it in, which was ever after called Dunblane's chapel, the name of the boy's parents".

In his additions to Thoroton's text, Throsby includes some notes, from an unpublished manuscript in his possession, written in 1721 by a gentleman who visited some parts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. These notes included a reference to Flawford and a list of inscriptions on the tombs in the South Aisle. For the most part the details tallied almost exactly with those recorded earlier by Thoroton; however, after recording the inscription on the tomb of Galfred de Malquinci, he added the following note:

''Trad: of his being a Swineherd that built the Isle "

The suggestion that Galfred was the swineherd seems so improbable that one wonders if the writer had been misinformed or had himself misunderstood the story; he was, after all, only a visitor. It would, on the other hand, have been quite understandable had he said that Galfred was the benefactor: indeed, a very good case can be made out for this.

Thoroton had accurately named the builder of the Aisle. He wrote: "In the Church is a South Quire, called the Dumlaw's Quire, corrupted, I suppose, from Dunblane (the Bishop whereof, I guess built it) ——." And of the Bishop's identity he wrote: "John, son ofSigerus de Clifton, remised to Richard called Martell ofRodington land, sometimes the Bishop ofDunblanes —— 'Tis like the Bishop was of this family and that the Rodingtons were afterwards called Martells."

Writing in The Reliquary in 1874, Capt. A. E. Lawson-Lowe says that the Martells, an ancient Nottinghamshire family, had a mansion not far from Flawford. Early in the fifteenth century, Robert Martell became Bishop of Dunblane in Scotland. Some incident in his life, he suggests, may have given rise to the old story. In the next issue of The Reliquary, Lawson-Lowe's facts were challenged by Col. A.S. Allan, who claimed to have studied the records of the Scottish Sees and found no mention of a Robert Martell. Lawson-Lowe replied that his conclusions were incontestable, though he did admit that it might have been considerably earlier than the 15th century. In the next issue he was vindicated: Allan reported that he had found Robert de Prebend, the prelate who had given his name to the Aisle.

Robert became Dean of Dunblane in 1258 and died in 1284. He played an important part in affairs of state. In 1268 he was sent to Rome to protest against the contributions imposed upon the Scottish clergy by Ottobone the Papal Legate. He was ambassador from King Alexander II of Scotland to King Edward I of England in 1277. Allan admitted that Robert's connections with Ruddington remained obscure. Both Thoroton and Lawson-Lowe were of the opinion that the Bishop of Dunblane was a Martell. It is thought that the Martells acquired Ruddington Manor through the marriage of the de Rutington heiress about the middle of the thirteenth century. They were occupying this manor when the South Aisle was built in 1280. We are told that Robert, who died in 1284, had become either Bishop or Dean of Dunblane in 1258, so that it is unlikely that his birth would have been later than the 1230s. This would have been before the Martells married into the family, so that he would have been born a de Rutington.

Recent research by Mrs. D. M. Shrimpton has produced convincing proof of his identity. From a Nottinghamshire Assize of 1287, we see that Robert, Bishop of Dunblane, was an elder son of Geofrey de Rutington, a brother of Adam and uncle to Richard Martell. He was, therefore, a de Rutington3. Thoroton gives a brief family tree of the de Rutingtons but includes only the direct line so there is no mention of Geofrey or his sons. Further research is needed to establish their exact position in the family.

In the 14th century the Martells held the manors of both Ruddington and Chilwell, and it seems that Hugh Martell of Chilwell took some action to found a chantry in the chapel of Saint Andrew at Flawford which was in the Dunblane Aisle, though there is some doubt as to whether this was implemented during his lifetime. Records show that it was his descendant William Babington who brought his plans to fruition.

Early in the 15th century the Martell heiress married Sir William Babington of East Bridgford and the manor passed into the hands of that family. The Martells had held

Ruddington Manor for almost two hundred years, yet there is no record of a Martell tomb at Flawford.

Sir John Babington's sister Sidonia, who died in 1448, and William his son and heir who died in 1474, are both buried in Dunblane's Aisle. William held the office of Sheriff of Notts, and Derby in 1459 and it was he who completed the foundation of a richly endowed chantry at Flawford4. In 1459 he obtained a licence from Henry VI to found what was known as the College of Ruddington. This consisted of a warden and four chaplains, two to officiate in the chapel within the Manor of Chilwell and two in the chapel of Saint Andrew within the church of Saint Peter of Flawford.

Their duties were daily to celebrate Masses for King Henry VI, Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales, also William Babington the founder, and his wife Elizabeth, the souls of Sir William and Margery Babington, Robert de Prebend, Bishop of Dunblane, Richard, Hugh and Robert Martell. The lands assigned to this chantry or College were worth £25 .Os. Od., but by 1534 this had risen to £30. Os. Od. per annum. The warden of the chantry at Flawford, Henry Scott, drew eight marks per annum and the two chaplains, William Halome and Edward Ersden each drew seven marks. The other two chaplaincies at Chilwell appear to have been vacant for some considerable time.

The survey of Henry VIII in 1545, taken before the suppression of the chantries, found that the chantries at Flawford which were then owned by Lord Sheffield, who appears to have succeeded the Babingtons, were worth £14. 18s. 4d. The two priests should have received £4. 13s. 4d. per annum, but for two years Edward Sheffield had retained the stipend of one of these priests, and since then the other had died. Henry Scott, the warden, still drew £5. 6s. 8d., though the Vicar of Ruddington claimed that he did nothing for it. Scott, however, maintained that he did duty at Chilwell.

The Churchwardens of Ruddington told the Commissioners that Scott had not been living in the village for three years or more, and that when he left he had taken with him the chalice, the plates, the ornaments and other goods belonging to the chantry. The mansion house in Ruddington in which the warden and the priests used to live was now partly in decay. From this we can see that by the early 16th century the chantry at Flawford had sunk into a general state of neglect. In view of this it was no great loss to Ruddington when Henry VHI brought about the dissolution of the chantries around 1548. It did, however, mark a further decline in the status of Flawford Church. The existence of the chantries had afforded some protection and care for the old building.

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Where is Flawford?

What’s in a name?

The excavation

Mid Bronze Age

Late Iron Age

Romano-British Villa

The Saxon Church

Building the Church phases 1-5

Building the Church phases 6-10

What did the church look like

The Chantry Chapels of Flawford

The Demolition

The Gravestones

The Scattered Stones

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The Flawford Alabasters

Harry James

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