The long history of Sturton Le Steeple:
The area of the Trent Vale has been occupied for at least 8000 years. The first record of Sturton as a defined settlement appears in the Domesday Book as “Estretone” Over the centuries the name of this village has changed many times, however these changes merely reflected the language of the time, the name “Sturton” means “The Homestead on the Street” The Homestead in question was almost certainly a major Roman settlement with direct links to Segelocum, the “Street” can only be the Roman Street on which it is built.
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Changes to the name over time are:
100-400 AD The Romans – “The town on the steet”
1086 Estretone (Domesday Book)
1425 Stretton in the Clay
1500 Stretton, and Stirton
1640 Sturton cum Fenton
N.B. The addition of “le-steeple” in 1823 probably refers to the twelve pinnacles on the Church tower that can be seen for miles around and probably done to differentiate it from Sturton-by-Stow that is on the same road over the river Lincolnshire. The name of Clay, refers to the North Clay Wappentake of the Bassetlaw District in which the village resides. In essence the name of the village has not changed since the Roman occupation, minor changes in spelling merely reflect how language develops through time.
Sturton Le Steeple earliest occupation predates the Roman era who was followed by Saxons and Danes. The Domesday Book records that it was farmed with about 25 landowners. 1 Manor is recorded at Sturton that was probably on the site of Manor Farm. The settlement is built on the major Roman military road that ran from Doncaster to Lincoln, crossing the river Trent at Littleborough. The Parish includes Littleborough Fenton and the abandoned medieval village of West Burton.
The population of Sturton is about 500 and is smaller now than in Victorian times and probably smaller than in the medieval era. The area has been farmed since ancient times, before the enclosures of 1828 it was mainly open field with some areas of strip farming as is still used at nearby Laxton. There is about 4,300 acres of high grade arable land. Historically known for its high quality wheat, now crops such as rapeseed, onions and sugar beet are a common sight. There are several Dairy farms but locally these are gradually moving towards high grade beef cattle.
In the past the area around the now abandoned village of West Burton was part of the major Trent Valley willow production. Willow used for the basket weaving industry that flourished up to the 1950’s.
The area used to be famous for its cheese production, known as “Trent Side” with a variation that included the use a sage – similar to sage derby. “Trent Side” was an excellent cooking cheese made in a similar way to double Gloucester, but the wheels were only about 2 inches thick – which allowed quicker maturing. The cheese was sold at both Gainsborough and Retford Markets and was a premium grade product. The cheese was sold where the cannon is in Retford and at Gainsborough Market. Local Butter was sold regularly at Retford Butter Market next to the Town Hall and in Gainsborough Market Square. Like many other cheeses and local butter they went out of production after World War Two.
The Church of St. Peter & St. Paul was built around 1180 and financed by Lady Oliva, the daughter of Alan Fitz Jordan, and Lady of the Manor of Oswaldbeck Soke.
When the church was undergoing a major restoration in 1870 a monument to Lady Oliva was discovered placed face downward on the north side of the chancel. This is now located at the base of the tower. Lady Oliva died about 1236. The tower was built in 3 stages, from 1340 to 1480. This probably replaced an earlier wooden Bell Tower. There was a major fire in 1901 resulting in the loss of most of the church records from before 1640 and some later ones that were kept in the vestry. Inside the Church is the last resting place of Colonel Francis Thornagh who was killed whilst leading his Parliamentary army against the Royalists in the battle of Preston. : Further details about the Church
The village school was built in 1837 funded by the Foljambe family. Built on glebe land it remains a church school today. The school used to be the home of a Schoolmaster and wife who lived on the top floor – and one classroom downstairs. Although there was a school in the Church since 1604 – one of the clergy was prosecuted for teaching the children to read and write?
Sturton le Steeple is the birthplace of Pastor John Robinson who founded the fundamentalist religious group that became known as the Pilgrims. They were not called Pilgrims at the time and it is a rather strange title as they never went on a Pilgrimage! About 45 “Pilgrims” sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 plus about 13 of their servants (The Pilgrims were very wealthy people who commonly hired servants). Robinson was born in Sturton le steeple 1576 to a very wealthy family and died in Leiden, Holland 1625. His parents paid for his education at Cambridge University where he matriculated from Corpus Christi in 1596. He married a wealthy landowners daughter, Bridget White of Greasley Beauvale at Greasley Parish Church on February 11th 1603.
See information on the Separatists. Another religious leader of the same time was also born in Sturton le Steeple. He was John Smythe the Se-Baptist. John Smythe was born 1570 and died in Holland 1612. Smythe and Robinson knew each other very well and spent many days deliberating together over religious matters. It is no coincidence that both of them died in Holland where they fled to avoid the restrictions imposed by the Anglican Church and its head, King James I.
Extract from the Gazzeteer: William White 1832
Comprises the village, of Sturton-in-the-Clay and the hamlet of Fenton, and contains 118 houses, 638 inhabitants, and about 4000 acres of land, of which, at the enclosure in’ 1823, an allotment of 727a. in. 4p. was awarded to the Dean and Chapter of York, in lieu of the rectorial tithes, and 127a. 3r.8p. to the vicar in lieu of the small tithes.
Sturton-in-the-Clay is a good village, consisting of four streets, in which are nearly 100 houses, on the Littleborough road, 6 miles E. by N. of Retford. It was anciently called Streton, from the Roman road which passed through it to Doncaster. The church dedicated to St. Peter, is a large ancient structure with a lofty tower, handsomely pinnacled. It is inferior to none in this part of the country, and contains some neat monuments of the Thornhaughs of Fenton Hall, one of which has a handsome white marble effigy of a female as large as life, but the inscription has long been illegible. The fenfire is a vicarage valued in the King’s books at £5. 7s. 3Jd. The Dean and Chapter of York are the patrons; the Rer. Francis Hewgill, M. A., the incumbent, and the Rev. H. V. Hodge, the curate. O. S. Foljambe, Esq, is lord of the manor, and owner of a great part of the soil, as well as lessee of the Chapter land. His ancestor obtained the manor in marriage with one of the Hewitts of Shireoaks, who descended from the Thornhaughs,of Fenton. It was of the King” soke of Mansfield, and was held by the Darcys from the reign of Edward III., till the attainder of Lord Darcy, whose estates, &c. were granted by Henry VIII, to George Lascells, Esq. whose heiress married Sir Fras. Rodes. John Serjeant, Esq. owns several farms in the parish, which lately belonged to the Ramsdens. The annual feast is on the last Sunday in September.
Fenton hamlet is distant three-quarters of a mile S.E. of
Sturton. It was formerly the seat of the Fenton family, the’ first of whom was Sir Richard Fenton, and the last, Katherine, wife of Sir Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in Ireland. In 1614, it belonged to the Thornhaughs, who resided here till one of them took the name of Hewitt, and removed to Shireoaks.
Charities.—In 1725, Francis Hopkinson left £24, and all his lands in Sturton, to the overseers in trust, that they distribute the interest and rents yearly, in clothing to the poor of the parish. At the enclosure, an allotment of 5a. 2r. 16p. now let for Je7 a-year, was given in exchange for part of this charity estate ; the rest of which consists of the Poor’s close, 3a. Or. 18p. (also let for £1 a-year,) and four gardens and cottages, occupied rent-free by four poor people. In 1710, George Green left Goodsmore close, (3a. 3r. 34p.) now let for £6. 14a. per annum, for a schoolmaster to teach eight poor children to read. This close is exonerated from tithe, and John Wilkinson is the trustee. In 1800, William Connell left the interest of £100 (now vested with Mrs. Stancer) to be divided amongst the poor parishioners on St. Thomas’ day.
Those marked * reside at Fenton, and the rest at Sturton.
Bell Joseph, shopkeeper
Bingham Mr. John
*Bingham Wm. shoemaker
Briggs Wm. shoemaker
Dawson Edward, schoolmaster
Downs Joseph, shopkeeper
Drayton Ann, shopkeeper
Drayton Geo. blacksmith & shopkeeper
Hallifax James, wheelwright
Hill William, shoemaker
Hind George, joiner
Hodge Rev. Hy. Vere, curate
Illingworth Wm. shoemaker
Johnson David, blacksmith
Justice Mrs. Elizabeth
Levick Wm. corn miller
Lister Thos. vict. Stag (The Stag Inn – now called the Reindeer Inn)
Otter J as. tailor & parish clerk
Pearce John, joiner
Pearce William, joiner
Staniland John, sen. tailor
Staniland John, jun. shoemaker
Warburton Mary, vict. Crown
Welton Char. shoemaker FARMERS.
Marked + are Yeomen. + Ashton Benj. +Ashton John
Bingham Fras. Justice John
Bingham Jan. Keywoith John
Bingham John, Field house Keyworth T. Merrills Wm. & overseer Bingham John
Bingham Mary +Motley Geo.
Booth Jas. OHivant John
Brown John Parkinson J.
Burwell Wm. Quihle Thos.
Carver Wm. Rouse John
Chambers Wm. Seels Thos.
Clayton Geo. Smith John
Clayton John Spencer Wm.
Cobb James Stancer Hanh.
Downs Mary +StancerJohn
Drayton Ann Stancer Wm.
Fenton Jph fTemporalJno.
Fletcher Wm. Watkin Thos.
+Gauntley T. Welton Geo.
Gray Jph +Watkinson E. HileyJph +Wilkinson J. (Sturton)High House
Hill Geo. Hind Geo. Wilkinson My.
Jackson John Wright Wm,