North and South Wheatley Family and Local History Society

by | 14 September 2018 | Gainsborough, Heritage, Retford, Social Group

The North and South Wheatley Family and Local History Society met on Monday 16th July and welcomed three guests from Retford who, along with a good turnout of regular members, enjoyed a talk by Chris Weir who, now retired, was chief archivist at Nottingham Archives. His subject was ‘Nottinghamshire’s Dark Side’ and starting with a quote from Macbeth ending in “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble,” that set the scene for a morning of tales about witchcraft, murders and hangings in previous centuries and mainly in our own county.

The talk started locally with John Darrell an exorcist working from Mansfield but travelling to Mattersey, Sutton and West Drayton. His own brushes with the ‘law’ in the form of the Foljambe family and the Archbishop of York interrupted his activities. The group heard about the ghost of Sophia Hyatt, dubbed the ‘White Lady of Newstead’ and how her infamy came about. Then there were the arguing Carmelite Friars and their ‘armed’ combat in 1532 which led to a coroner’s court hearing. Chris then took members into the murky area of medical research and the disappearance of corpses from several places but in particular Southwell Workhouse. If the body of an inmate was not claimed or there were no known relatives, then the body could be disposed of rather than buried on site. This led to a lucrative trade in bodies for dissection in particular at Cambridge University School of Anatomy. Their final resting place being recorded many miles from where they died.

In 1851 a group, numbering 30 to 40, labelled ‘rogues and vagabonds’, but more likely men with starving families at home, set off from Mansfield and Sutton in Ashfield on a mass poaching mission on the Rufford estate. News of the raid reached Rufford before the men and the head Gamekeeper, Frederick Brocksop raised a party mainly of fellow estate workers, to protect the game including rabbits. In the affray that followed William Roberts, also a gamekeeper was killed. The killer was tried, found guilty of murder and transported for life. There were many other true stories that Chris had researched from records kept at the archives/newspapers and he kept the group entertained for more than an hour.

At the group’s September meeting, members welcome back the family historian Lynda Hotchkiss on who will use her skills to investigate ‘A Family Tangle’. This meeting will take place on Monday 17th September at 10.00am in the Village Hall. For details call Dave Valentine on 01427 880934 or Alan Guest on 01427 884147. A friendly welcome and a cuppa are assured, so why not come along and join the group?