Thursday, 27 August 2020

Beckingham & Sutton, Fenton and Stragglethorpe, Lincolnshire: The Saxon Estate and the Formation of the Fees

This paper was written in about 1980 for William Sergeant by Tony Litchfield and sets out the early history of Beckingham, Fenton and Stragglethorpe.

"M. In Holm Ulf had 12 carucates of land in demesne and 12 carucates of land [which was] soke[land] [assessed] to the geld. There is land for as many teams. Gilbert has 4 teams there in demesne, and 28 sokemen and 28 villeins and 3 bordars having 14 teams. There are 2 priests there, and 2 churches, and 1 mill rendering 13 shillings and 4 pence. T.r.e. it was worth 10 pounds; now the like amount; tallage 3 pounds"1.

At the compilation of Domesday in 1086 listed amongst the holdings of Gilbert de Gant is the manor of Holm, previously held by Ulf Fenisc one of the largest landowners of pre-Conquest times. Gilbert de Gant had come to Britain with William I and was given large grants of land by the Conqueror, 75% of which was in Lincolnshire, including the estates of Ulf Fenisc of Funen. Today what is referred to as Holm in Domesday can be identified with the parishes of Beckingham, which includes the hamlet of Sutton, Fenton, and at least part of Stragglethorpe. Much of the Western boundary of the estate followed the Nottinghamshire/Linconshire county boundary and the old course of the river Witham, with the villages of Beckingham, Sutton and Fenton situated to the East of the river above the flood level, and Stragglethorpe at the opposite end of the estate close to the river Brant, which formed the farthest Eastern boundary. The area covers a little under 4,000 acres and is divided between the parishes thus:-


Acres
%
Beckingham and Sutton
1,964
50
Fenton
1,231
31
Stragglethorpe
729
19

3,924
100


Evidence of late Iron Age and Roman occupation has been found around the beginning of the bridle road running from the Eastern end of the road leading from Sutton2, and a stone found at Stragglethorpe Grange is thought to be from a Roman altar3. Several Roman sites have been found close to the river Brant in Leadenham, Brant Broughton and Welbourn. Of the three sites located in Leadenham one is immediately to the East of the river Brant and two are in an elongated extension of the parish to the south of Stragglethorpe. Through one of these, at a later date, a ditch has been cut coinciding with the boundary between the two parishes; the other site is close to the opposite, southern boundary of the area. Romano-British pottery has been found on both sites and the latter has produced Samian ware and coins of Commodus (AD177-192) and Constantius (AD 337-361)4. The possibility therefore arises of a villa with its estate of satellite farms, the occupation of which continued at least until the latter part of the Roman occupation. It does not seem unlikely from their records that the later Stragglethorpe estates, whose limits had little to do with the parish boundaries, were based on those of the Roman period. From numerous terriers and deeds it is clear that all the vills had cultivated their land individually on the three field system, but the Stragglethorpe estates had a considerable amount of "ancient enclosure" both in Stragglethorpe and in the parishes of Leadenham and Fulbeck which may have originated from the old Roman fields5. It is interesting that in an undated terrier the chapel at Stragglethorpe, like the estates, was drawing income from outside the parish6.

The name Beckingham, derived from the Old Norse "bekkr" a river and the Old English "ham” suggests an Anglo-Saxon settlement by the river Witham with Sutton the "ton" to the South, and Fenton in the fenland, stemming from the original community which contained the mother church, or brought together to form an estate. Stragglethorpe from the Danish "thorpe" a hamlet or village, and possibly incorporating a personal name Trager or Strager may indicate a later acquisition of at least part of what had been the old Roman estate by a Danish settler.

Soon after 1066 on a mound to the South of the hamlet of Sutton was erected one of the forts built by the Normans to control the countryside. The low lying area to the West and South of Sutton, and stretching as far as the Witham, no doubt was already known locally as Holm, meaning in Old English an island or rich flat land by a river, and this was the name entered in the Domesday survey: thus within twenty years of the Conquest Gilbert de Gant had built a manor surrounded by a wooden palisade and a moat as an admministrative centre for his estate7. The demesne tithes of this estate he gave to Bardney Abbey8. Walter de Gant, Gilbert’s son pledged and later redeemed "Holm" during Henry I's reign9 and possibly granted the tithes of the mills (de molendinis) in Holm to the Abbey10, although except for a confirmation c.116011, no later records of the monks holding these tithes have been found. A charter of Gilbert de Gant II, the son of Walter, grants the "manor of Holm and Beckingham" to Bardney in exchange for a third of Baumber and its mill12. This appears to have been rescinded, since after his death his son-in-law, Simon St. Liz pledged the "manor of Beckingham and Holm" as surety for the return of property which Gilbert had given to the Abbey, and which was then being claimed by his widow13. Gilbert had divided the estate, creating a new manor centred on Fenton, and the coupling of Beckingham with Holm in the documents would be to distinguish between what was by now two separate estates.

The new manor of Fenton Gilbert granted to his constable, Herbert son of Adelard14. Herbert's grandfather had originated from Bessingby, part of the Gant estates in Yorkshire, and members of the family had acted as constables to the Gants for several generations15. The grant to Herbert was for 37 bovates of land in Fenton, and a further 16 bovates in Walcott16, which he granted to Sempringham Priory where his daughter was a nun. It was made between 1150 and 1156 probably to recompence Herbert for lands in Bressingby which Gilbert had given to Bridlington Priory17. Herbert also acquired property in Orby, a village on the East coast of Lincolnshire from which the family tóok its name in the next generation18.

The balance of the estate, which contained the fortified manor of Holm together with Beckingham and Sutton was granted to Elyas Foliot. The grant appears to have been made by Simon St. Liz after the death of his wife’s father Gilbert II in 1155/6. Simon claimed the Honour and Earldom of Huntingdon, which had previously been held by his ancestors, and it may be that he made the grant to Elyas in an effort to gain support from the Foliot family who were tenants of the Huntingdon lands and traditional supporters of the rival claimant. Robert Foliot, Elyas’ elder brother was a baron of considerable wealth and no doubt influence; he had lands in the shires of Northampton, Huntingdon and Cambridge, and held the position of sewer to Earl Simon, as he had to Simon's predecessor in the honour, Henry the son of king David of Scotland19. Elyas witnessed several of Simon's charters20, but apparently none of Gilbert II's, and in 1166 was holding half a knight s fee in Lincolnshire21.

Prior to the Conquest Ulf had been assessed on 12 carucates of land in demesne and 12 carucates of sokeland. The assessors of 1086 agreed with this assessment in as much as they stated there was land for as many teams, namely 24. According to them however there were only 18 teams of oxen working the land, 4 in Gilbert's demesne and 14 shared between 28 villeins and 28 sokemen. This accounts for threequarters of the teamlands but offers no explanation for the omission of the other six carucates. The two churches mentioned in Domesday would have been at Beckingham, the mother church of the area and Stragglethorpe where Saxon features are still in evidence today. The latter was serving a community on the outskirts of the estate whose lands were probably largely contained in the 6 carucates or teamlands unaccounted for by Domesday. It is evident that Gilbert had no demesne land in Stragglethorpe from the records of Bardney Abbey. When he refounded the Abbey in 1087 Gilbert granted the monks the tithes of his demesne in Holm and its vills, and in a dispute of 1253 these demesne lands are described as being situated in Beckingham, Sutton and Fenton, which are the vills specified by Gilbert in his charter22. There are no records of the Abbey receiving tithes from Stragglethorpe and the following entry in the foundation charter, granting the demesne tithes in "Thorp" to the Abbey is concerned with some place other than Stragglethorpe.

In an exemplification of 1345 Geoffrey Baard, the tenant of a fee in Stragglethorpe in the second half of the Twelth Century, is described as having "the manor of Stragglethorpe and tenements in Sutton, Beckingham, Fulbeck and Leadenham of Gilbert de Gant, in chief by the service of a knight’s fee and a fourth part of a knight's fee" 23 The wording 'in chief’ suggests that although the fee was included in the Gant estates, and was listed amongst their holdings in the Book of Fees, it was in fact held of the king, particularly as the exemplification goes on to say that the de Gants had never received any service from the fee. The holding consisted of one knight’s fee in Stragglethorpe the manor holding, and a quarter knight’s fee, described in 1212 as in Beckingham and Fenton24, presumably from an old description made prior to the division of the Gant estate, as in other references there is no mention of Fenton, and the quarter fee being said to be situated in Beckingham and Sutton. According to court evidence given in 1227 the quarter fee was given to Geoffrey Baard by "Count Simon of Huntingdon", which suggests l174 as the earliest possible date of the grant, the year Simon received the honour25. Under the Escheat of the Normans in 1204 the holding came into the king’s hand and from that time, whatever the previous position, it was the king who appointed the subsequent tenants. Possibly it was in the capacity of some royal official that the de Gants held the land; certainly they did not have complete suzerainty over this part of the estate, holding the land for rather than from the king, and this would seem to be the reason for the exclusion of the 6 carucates from Gilbert's holding as recorded in Domesday.

From Saxon times a holding of 6 carucates was considered to be a suitable grant by a tenant-in-chief to an immediate undertenant to enable him to provide the service of one knight26, although the ultimate sub-tenant who actually performed the service was unlikely to receive more than one or two carucates. It may be that such a grant was the origin of the manor fee which, after the Conquest, was retained by the king and not granted to Gilbert de Gant, who had interests in Stragglethorpe other than those of the king.

The manor holding included tenements and land in nearby vills, and the quarter knight's fee in Beckingham consisted of 23s 4d rent from free tenants27; thus much of the holder’s income derived from outside the parish. Although no mention has been found of villeins belonging to Stragglethorpe, the manor fee does not appear to to have included demesne land some of which may have been in Beckingham, where references to lands of the Abbot of Notley, a later holder of the fee, are more fitting descriptions of demesne property than free tenant holdings of the quarter knight's fee the rents of which were paid by the Beckingham miller, presumably after he had collected it from the tenants concerned28. A meadow in Caythorpe called "Wydnes" was included in an extent of the manor at the time of the Dissolution29, and a lease of 1341 also mentions Caythorpe amongst the places in which there was manor property30. Gilbert de Gant lost a dispute over a meadow in Caythorpe in 108631, and Kirkstead Abbey was renting a meadow there from the lords of the manor of Beckingham in the 13th century32, but there are no apparent connections, and how and when the property was acquired by the manor remains obscure.

During the middle years of the 12th century Gilbert II gave to “the nuns of Sempringham and their brothers the fee and service of one knight in Thorp that is the land of William with his homage and service”33. The grant was made for the soul of his father Walter de Gant who had established the Order with Gilbert of Sempringham. This property, unlike the manor holding, was not subject to any outside intervention and is described in the Testa de Nevill as being "held of the feif of Gaunt of ancient feoffment, and he of the king”34.
It was a grant made by Gilbert out of his inherited Domesday holding and it follows that his manor of Holm was not confined to Beckingham and Fenton but extended into Stragglethorpe. The wording of the charter and the apparent absence of Stragglethorpe villeins implies a grant to Sempringham of Gilbert’s rights as the tenant-in-chief to receive service from land he held in socage. William the free tenant was presumably the same William de Thorpe who was holding one knight's fee in the time of Henry II35, and witnessing de Gant charters as late as 118536.

About 1160 the Priory is recorded as having 3 carucates in demesne37, and it is evident not only that Gilbert relinquished his right to the service in the fee, but that William actually granted Sempringham some of his land. The "granges of Fulbeck and Thorpe" were granted to the Priory in the reign Richard I (1189-1199) by Umfridis son of Walter38, and in the following century 6 acres of arable land in Stragglethorpe were given by John son of Helias of Stragglethorpe39; the prior acquired 1 carucate of land in Thorp “by feoffment of John de Thorp"40, and was claiming "free warren in his demesne lands in Stragglethorp"41. However at the Dissolution there remained five tenants in Stragglethorpe and Fulbeck who were paying small amounts of free rent. Two other properties in the district are listed in the 16th century Particulars of Grants as belonging to the Priory, a cottage in Carlton-le-Moorland and "one sheepgate called le Maidenhouse” in Fulbeck42. The enclosure map shows the latter as an enclosure on the heath high above the village at the opposite end of the parish from Stragglethorpe43; there the nuns of Sempringham are still commemorated today by a sign on the A17 road announcing "Maidenhouse Farm”.

Soon after the middle of the 12th century there was a general reduction in ratings of holdings as expressed in terms of knights' fees. Costs had risen due to the increased complexity of armour, the need for stronger horses to carry the extra weight and the additional expense incurred when serving abroad in foreign wars and the holder of a fee was finding more and more difficulty in meeting his obligations. Extracts from Earl Simon’s charter of 1166 show Herbert son of Alard (sic Adelard) having a holding, presumably at Fenton rated at one knight's fee (militem) which between then and sometime after the death of Henry II had been reduced by 50%. William de Thorpe was also rated at one knight's fee in 1166 but is omitted from the later list, presumably because his fee was by this time in the hands of Sempringham Priory. In the case of Elias Foliot no mention is made of him in 1166, but after Henry's death he was holding one third of a knight's fee in Lincolnshire. His omission from the earlier charter seems most likely to be explained by his not having been given the manor of Holm until after this date44.

A charter dating between 1173 and 1179 confirms to Roger son of Reinfrid "hulmum" (sic Holm) and land in Suttona and land in Bechingeham given to him by Alice de Gant in exchange for £15 of his inheritance of Toft and Manethorpe (Manthorpe), to be held of her by service of a third of a knight's fee45. This was a confirmation of her husband’s charter which appears to post date the original gift to Elias Foliot and was to be the cause of dispute at the beginning of the next century. As in the Foliot grant this may have been given in an effort to gain support for Simon's claim to the Huntingdon Earldom as Roger and his son Ralf are listed as having land in this area at "Gameningeye" or "Gamelingehey"46.

By 1212 according to the Book of Fees the Fenton manor had been further reduced to one third of a knight's fee. Of the Stragglethorpe property Sempringham's was still rated at one knight's fee and the quarter knight's fee also remained unaltered, whilst the manor holding had, in line with the other manor fees been reduced to a third47.

The Domesday survey was compiled for tax purposes and in the region covering the Danelaw assessements were made in terms of carucates and bovates, there being eight bovates in one carucate. It must be stressed that the assessment was merely a notional value of the holding, and no more an indication of true worth than is the rateable value of a property today, and although presumably when the assessment was first raised, some attempt was made to equate the values, the tenant-in-chief and his sub-tenant were at liberty to arrange terms with their under-tenants as they pleased. A village was assessed on its arable land and efforts were made to assess each village in a multiple of 6 carucates, but the property on which the assessement was made was not necessarily all situated in the village itself or belonged to a single tenant-in-chief.

Prior to the Conquest Holm was assessed at twenty four carucates and, was capable of being divided into four single knight's fees of six carucates and, if the Stragglethorpe quarter knight's fee is ignored, had the whole estate been divided and enfeoffed within a century of Domesday this would have occurred. Both Geoffrey Baard and William de Thorpe held a knight's fee, and it is evident from the comparative size of the villages that in order to value Stragglethorpe at two knights' fees the estates must have had interests outside the immediate area of the village. Fenton was first held at a single knight's fee which was later reduced to a half, and Beckingham and Sutton were enfeoffed at a third of a knight's fee after a further devaluation. The quarter knight's fee belonging to the holder of the Stragglethorpe manor was taken from Beckingham and Sutton which covered a considerably larger area than either of the other two villages, and therefore was presumably capable of
producing a greater income.

In an era of continually rising prices it would become less and less of an economic proposition for a holder of a fee, whose income was static to actually provide the services of a knight. In the case of a manor holding some action could be taken to maintain the income value; the lord could farm his demesne land himself or lease it out on more advantageous terms. The villeins' services could be commuted to a fixed payment instead of their labour, or they could be granted manumission. The income from land held in socage, being of a fixed rent, was hit particularly hard by inflation whilst being an advantage to the actual farmer. Such may have been the position of William de Thorpe, whose fee appears to consist only of sokeland and may account for his willingness to relinquish the property to Sempringham Priory. Such an institution was possibly contented to purchase tenants’ rights or wait for uneconomic land to return to their direct control when they could farm it themselves or re-lease it, as ultimately happened, the property being leased to Notley Abbey.

Thus at the approach of the thirteenth century, at the level of under-tenant to the tenant-in-chief, there were four estates, two at Stragglethorpe with additional interests in the surrounding area; Fenton apparently containing only a single estate complete in itself; and Beckingham and Sutton again containing a complete estate but also a holding of Straggglethorpe manor.

1.         L.R.S. Vol.17. Final Concords Vol.II p.296-7 (1227).
2.         Nottingham University aerial photographs. Pottery found on the site.
3.         Stone now in Lincoln Museum.
4.         Found by Mr. W.Sergeant proprietor of the land.
5.         L.A.O. Enclosure Awards of Fulbeck and Leadenham.
6.         L.A.O. Stragglethorpe Terriers.
7.         Newark Museum: Report on Excavations at Holm.
8.         B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx. Arc. Soc. R.P. Vol. 32, p38. (1086-7).
9.         Reg. Regum Anglo-Normannorum Vol.II 1100-1135 p.268.
10.       B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx.f.69. (c.1120-1130).
11.       B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx.f.63. (c.1159-1161).
12.       B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx.f.65d (c.1150-1161). Arc.Soc.R&P. Vol.32 p.55.
13.       B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx.f.65v (c.1159-1166). The Gant Family in England, Mary Abbot.
14.       B.M. Chart. Harl. 50131. Genealogist I (1846) p.317.
15.       The Gant Family in England, Mary Abbot. Complete Peerage.
16.       B.M. Chart. Harl. 50131. Genealogist I (1848) p.317.
17.       B.M.Ms. Add. 40008 f22v. Bodleian Ms. Dodsworth ciix fl57. Early Yorks Charters II (1915) no.1156).
18.       Complete Peerage.
19.       The Gant Family in England, Mary Abbot. Honours and Knights' Fees - Foliot
20.       Records of Social & Economic History Vol.IX pp.184-6. B.M.Ms.Add.
40008 f 160v. B.M.Ms .Harl. 1063 Kirching; 1063 f2v. The Gant Family in England, Mary Abbot. Charters 67, 84-86, 105-106A.
21.       Red Book of the Exchequer p.382.
22.       B.M.Ms, Cotton Ms. Vesp.Exx.f,213-2124d. Arc.Soc.R&P. Vol 32 p55.
B.M.Ms. Cotton Vesp.Exx, Arc. Soc. R.P. Vol. 32, p38. (1086-7).
23.       Calendar of Patent Rolls 19 Ed.Ill pt.2. p.521-2.
24.       Book of Fees pp.187 & 359.
25.       Curia Regis Vol.XIII pp.3-4 Bo.17.
26.       The Knight and the Knight's Fee in England Sally Harvey, Peasants Knights and Heretics Ed. R.H.Hilton.
27.       Curia Regis Vol.XIII No.17.1227-11.
28.       L.A.O. Misc.Dep. 146/3/2, /3, /8.
29.       Letters 8t Papers Foreign & Domestic 1544 36 H.VIII 166(21).
30.       Calendar of Patent Rolls 18 Ed.Ill 1344 April 20.
31.       L.R.S. Vol.19. Lincolnshire Domesday 74/36.
32.       L.R.S. Vol.17. Final Concords Vol.II p.296-7 (1227).
33.       P.R.O.159.187 (Exchequer Memoranda Roll Hilary 12 H,IV.)ml2 (13). E.M.Poynton Sempringham Charters. Genealogist xv p.223. (Charter of R.I).
34.       L.N.Q. p.248. Testa de Nevill p.324.
35.       Red Book Exchequer pp.381-384 Simon St. Liz's Charter
36.       The Gant Family in England, Mary Abbot. Charter 74 $ 75 (1185-1191).
37.       L.N.Q. ix p.124, P.R.O. Subsidy 242/113.
38.       Genealogist xv p.223 (Charter R.I.)
39.       Genealogist xvi p.227. (before 1153).
40.       Calendar of Inquisitions Misc. Vol.I no.1569 p.441.
41.       L.N.Q. ix p.248. Quo Warranto R. p.402.
42.       P.R.O.E318/19/945&6. Particulars of Grants.
43.       L.A.O. Fulbeck Enclosure Map.
44.       Red Book of the Exchequer pp.381-384
45.       E. Riding Yorks. C.R.O. DDCS/35/1.
46.       Red Book of the Exchequer pp.377,582.
47.       Book of Fees p.187.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Lincolnshire comb back armchair by Marsh Sleaford, with curved crest rail, with 8 long spindles, the outer of which are turned stiles above the arm bow, which is chamfered at its ends, 6 short spindles, turned underarms, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 208

Lincolnshire comb back armchair by Marsh Sleaford, with curved crest rail, with 8 long spindles, the outer of which are turned stiles above the arm bow, which is chamfered at its ends, 6 short spindles, turned underarms straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 208
This comb back Lincolnshire armchair is from the wonderful collection of former Regional Furniture Society member, James Drake. I was delighted when he said that I could include it here, as it's so important and you all will be able to appreciate it. It has an impressed name stamp towards the rear of the upper surface of the seat which reads MARSH, so from the workshop of father and son, Thomas and James Marsh of Sleaford. The legs and underarm turned supports are typical of their patterns but the chair is of overall compact proportions, the like of which I have never seen before. The particular pleasing feature are the two outside long back support spindles (stiles), which start at the seat level and pass through the armbow the continue with the decorative turning up to the back comb, an elegant touch. This could easily become my favorite Lincolnshire armchair.

© William Sergeant 2019

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Lincolnshire low bow back Windsor armchair, probably Hubbard Grantham, with 5-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 6 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, straight seat edges, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 201

Lincolnshire low bow back Windsor armchair, probably Hubbard Grantham, with 5-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 6 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, straight seat edges, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 201
The low profile of the back bow gives this chair a distinctive squat appearance, like no other Lincolnshire chair that I can think of. I knew that they existed as a signed pair are illustrated in published works on vernacular furniture but I had been waiting for years for one to appear on the open market so that I could add it to my collection. It was offered for sale in a Shropshire sale room, with a good description and photos, so I bid with confidence and secured its purchase. After a couple of months the chair was delivered to my home and I was delighted with the overall condition. The seat is of elm, while all other components are made from yew wood with the back legs of ash; a typical combination that is so often found in Lincolnshire best chairs. It has one feature that is so rare on chairs made in the county, that is the incised scratch mark around the edge of the back bow.

This chair is not stamped by the workshop owner but the two that appear in Dr B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990) at figures NE24 and NE25 on p. 118 were stamped clearly HUBBARD GRANTHAM, so I am in no doubt that this chair was produced in the workshop of Richard Hubbard of Little Gonerby about 1807 - 1820.

© William Sergeant 2019

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, Marsh of Sleaford, with 7 long spindles, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 106

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, Marsh of Sleaford, with 7 long spindles, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 106


See chair WS 92 - I just knew that I would find one of these chairs with a stamp of the maker on it . This one turned up on eBay along with 3 other chairs at the very northern edge of the county of Lincolnshire. I won the bidding and was delighted to find on collection that this one was clearly stamped MARSH SLEAFORD. A bit of polishing restored this fine chair to its full glory.


© William Sergeant 2018 and 2020

Monday, 15 June 2020

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, probably by Marsh of Sleaford, with 7 long spindles, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 92

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, probably by Marsh of Sleaford, with 7 long spindles, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 92
This chair was consigned to a regular house clearance sale in Grantham and didn't even get considered for the better antiques sale.  Although there is no maker's stamp to be found on it, there are however tell-tale signs all over it which makes me believe that it was made by Thomas or James Marsh in Sleaford. There are a whole load of features that they used: darts at the either end of the cross stretcher; scratch markers on the side stretchers for the drilling of holes; thicker front leg ; thicker seats which sweep out at the front; carefully selected wood for the legs with no wild grain; tiny square sprigs driven into the back of the bow to secure the middle and two outside back spindles and finally the distance between the upper and lower rings on the front legs are always identical. Everything about their chairs was just that bit better than anything produced in the neighbouring town of Grantham. PS: after a recent visit from Bill Cotton, I can confirm what I had thought for a while: that the seats of Marsh chairs are usually made out of ash wood, as is the case here.

© William Sergeant 2018 and 2020

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, with 3-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 4 long spindles, straight seat sides, ball and cove front leg turning with 1 lower ring and vase-shaped feet, 2 ring back leg turning with vase-shaped feet, H stretcher with darts WS 122

Lincolnshire hoop back Windsor side chair, with 3-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 4 long spindles, straight seat sides, ball and cove front leg turning with 1 lower ring and vase-shaped feet, 2 ring back leg turning with vase-shaped feet, H stretcher with darts WS 122
This chair was part of the estate of an antique dealer that was offered for sale at the auction house in Grantham in early 2014. Description : the seat is made from ash as are the back legs. The front legs, stretchers and back support are all made from yew wood. All parts appear contemporary with each other and there is no sign of alteration.

There is no maker's stamp but much of this chair design would point to it having been made in Grantham. However the back legs are typical of what would be expected as front legs on a Grantham side chair; just compare with the front legs on WS 96, WS 49 & WS 17. The back hoop, spindles and splat are very similar to a chair which appears at figure NE41 on p. 121 of Der B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990), which is stamped Taylor Grantham. The real enigma is the design of the front legs with their large ball and small cove turnery, the like of which can be seen on WS 72, a chair stamped by Shirley.


© William Sergeant 2018 and 2020

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

3 x Lincolnshire comb back Windsor side chairs with curved crest rail, turned stiles, 3-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 4 long sticks, straight seat sides, 2 ring front leg turnings with vase-shaped feet, plain back leg turnings with vase feet, H stretcher WS 49

3 x Lincolnshire comb back Windsor side chairs with curved crest rail, 3-piercing fleur de lys and teardrop piercing splat, 4 long sticks, straight seat sides, 2 ring front leg turnings with vase-shaped feet, plain back leg turnings with vase feet, H stretcher WS 49
A set of three Lincolnshire comb back side chairs, probably made in Grantham or possibly Stamford. 

© William Sergeant 2011 and 2020


Friday, 12 June 2020

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor spindle back armchair stamped AMOS GRANTHAM, with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings, with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 190 & WS 189

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor spindle back armchair stamped AMOS GRANTHAM, with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings, with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with darts WS 190
This is a typical early Lincolnshire windsor armchair. Plain back legs with the front ones having the design of a thin ring above an exaggerated shallow cove, an all-spindle back support and curved underarm supports. This one has an ash seat with yew for the other components. I believe that this is the very essence of a chair that was made in the first period of Windsor chairmaking in the county, namely 1800-1812. 

The name stamp on the edge of the seat is AMOS GRANTHAM, so we know exactly in whose workshop it was made. It came from a house just outside Newark and it had been in the family for many years. It was in a slightly distressed state when I brought it at auction but I got a restorer to make it usable again.

John Amos was a wheelwright and as such ran a business for the first 15 years of his working life making wagons and carts for farmers and merchants as well as servicing ones that were already in use. It was not until 1809 that the first advert by him was posted in the paper searching for journeymen chairmakers. All of the chairs that I have seen from his workshop are of the second period type, which I believe started to be produced in about 1812 but I was not surprised to seen this design by him. This leads me to think that this chair was probably made in the first 3 years of his manufacture, namely 1809-1812.


Bench holdfast marks on medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor spindle back armchair WS 190 stamped AMOS GRANTHAM WS 189
This picture shows part of the underside of the armbow of this AMOS chair. You can see quite clearly the small areas of cross-hatching that are impressed into the surface of the wood. This was caused by bench holdfasts. These have been used by woodworkers since ancient times and are used, as their name suggests, to hold a piece of wood firmly to the workbench. They are the shape of a swan's neck, with the neck part slipped down a hole in the bench and the crooked head part tapped with a mallet to spread the bend and hold the wood secure. They can easily be released with a sideways tap. 

For the holdfast to grip the wood better, there is cross-hatching filed into the end. This is what has left the marks above. The length of yew wood would be soften in the steam box and the placed against the profile form that it is to be moulded around and once bent, it is held firmly in place while it cools by a series of holdfasts. 


© William Sergeant 2017 and 2020

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped BRAND SLEAFORD with 9 long spindles, 8 short, turned underarms supports, bell-shaped seat, 2 ring and cove legs with 2 lower rings, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher, WS 192/199

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped BRAND SLEAFORD with 9 long spindles, 8 short, turned underarms supports, bell-shaped seat, 2 ring and cove legs with 2 lower rings, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher, WS 192/199
At first glance this is a typical Lincolnshire spindle back Windsor armchair. It is stamped BRAND SLEAFORD. The solid thick seat is fashioned from elm, the front legs are made out of cherry and the back legs turned from ash. Every other component is made from yew wood. What makes this chair slightly unusual is the turnery design to the front legs - the element of added decoration. There is a double ring turning above the cove and towards the base of the leg the turnery design is a double ring again. This striking feature is almost identical to the Shirley chair in WS 198.

Chairs by this maker are very rare. This one is the first that I have handled after many years of searching and I was pleased to add it to my collection. I had come across John Brand before - see WS 163 and 164
That chair with the seat stamped BRAND and MARSH proves that they must have been working together for a while.

The tradition of chair making in Sleaford has three names which standout and often appear in the directories and censuses, namely MARSH, BRAND and MASON. While many MARSH stamped chairs have been recorded, very few BRAND stamped chairs appear on the market and not one single chair stamped with MASON has ever been found.  After many years of searching, I was so pleased to find this BRAND chair advertised on the internet by a dealer in the south of the county. We agreed on a price and as he was about to visit the Newark Fair, he offered to deliver it as well.

© William Sergeant 2017 and 2020

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped SHIRLEY GRANTHAM with 3-piercing fleur de lys upper splat, teardrop pierced lower splat 6 long spindles, 8 short, turned underarms supports, bell-shaped seat, 2 ring and cove legs with 2 lower rings x 4, H stretcher with darts WS 198


Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped SHIRLEY GRANTHAM with 3-piercing fleur de lys upper splat, teardrop pierced lower splat 6 long spindles, 8 short, turned underarms supports, bell-shaped seat, 2 ring and cove legs with 2 lower rings x 4, H stretcher with darts WS 198
Signed chairs by William Shirley senior are so rare that in all the years that I have been searching for Lincolnshire chairs, this is the very first signed armchair that I have ever come across.  When it appeared at the local sale room in Grantham in June 2017, I decided that it should join my collection. You may have noticed that a side chair already exists on this blog, WS 84, and I have another signed SHIRLEY side chair in my collection which is remarkably similar to it. Beside those three, very few have been recorded. There's an armchair in the Geffrye Museum and I know of a couple more. The side chair at figure NE 53 at p. 123 Dr B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990) may be an example but is merely stamped SHIRLEY. This minimal number of stamped Shirley Grantham chairs strikes me as slightly odd as he was a chair maker for some considerable time in Grantham.

William learnt his trade in the workshop of the Taylors, first with John during the years 1808-1811 and then with his younger brother William during the years 1811-1815 after which he became Freeman of Grantham. He advertises in the Stamford Mercury in April 1818, seeking an apprentice and a dish turner. He describes himself as a Turner, Windsor and Fancy and Spinning wheel maker of Westgate Grantham. He places a similar advert in June 1819, giving his address as No. 11 Westgate Grantham. This is of significance as it is the same address as William Taylor used when he advertised in the same paper in Dec 1811, which would indicate that he had moved into the premises once occupied by his second master. He marries in 1816 and at the birth of his son Frederick in 1824, he is described as a chairmaker of Southwark. Also, at the birth of his son George in 1828 he is noted as being a chairmaker of Old Kent Road. He advertises twice in 1834 using the address of Westgate Grantham again.

The chair pictured above is typical of a good quality Lincolnshire chair with underarm support pattern that is used by so many makers. The interesting feature is the design motif for the front legs, it has an extra ring above the usual ring and cove decoration as well as an extra lower ring. I wonder if this a nod to the Victorian trait of incorporating more detail into their furniture and getting away from the classical lines of the Georgian period? The middle parts of the H stretcher are fatter than many Grantham examples.


The seat and the stamp may be admired below.


Fine elm seat of medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped SHIRLEY GRANTHAM WS 198
 SHIRLEY GRANTHAM stamp on upper rear of seat of WS 198

© William Sergeant 2017

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Thomas Simpson, Boston stamped high bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair with 5-piercing fleur de lys upper splat, double pierced lower splat, crook underarm supports, 2 x 3 long spindles, 2 x 3 underarm spindles, ring and cove front leg turnings & plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 207

Thomas Simpson, Boston stamped high bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair with 5-piercing fleur de lys upper splat, double pierced lower splat, crook underarm supports, 2 x 3 long spindles, 2 x 3 underarm spindles, ring and cove front leg turnings with lower ring & plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 207
Another chair from the collection of James Drake, this time a yew wood chair with reduced legs, but stamped clearly on the edge of the seat: T SIMPSON & Co BOSTON. There is another Simpson Windsor armchair at WS 123, and if you compare the back splat of both, I think that you would agree with me that both were made from the same master pattern, with the main difference being that this chair has a crinoline stretcher whereas WS 123 has an H stretcher with darts.

© William Sergeant 2020

Monday, 8 June 2020

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped TAYLOR GRANTHAM, turned underarm supports, 8 long spindles, 2 x 3 underarm spindles, ring and cove front leg turnings with single lower ring & plain back legs, H stretcher with cross stretcher turned with darts WS 85

Medium bow back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair stamped TAYLOR GRANTHAM, turned underarm supports, 9 long spindles, 2 x 4 underarm spindles, ring and cove front leg turnings with single lower ring & plain back legs, H stretcher with cross stretcher turned with darts WS 85
I happen to find this one at the Newark Antiques Fair and I was convinced it was made by Marsh of Sleaford but on close inspection there is a faint stamp on the rear of the seat which says TAYLOR GRANTHAM. Fortunately no one had noticed this maker's mark and it joined my collection for a very small fee. The underarm turnings are so similar to Marsh of Sleaford that only when they are stood next to each other can you spot the differences. Compare this chair with WS 29 and you will see what I mean.

Other differences are that Taylor has 8 long spindles and 6 short, whereas Marsh uses 9 long and 8 short; Marsh puts a slight chamfer on the underside of the end of the arm bow, absent from the Taylor chair. The ring on the front legs of the Taylor chair is slightly deeper than that on the Marsh.

© William Sergeant 2018 and Julian Parker 2020 

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Lincolnshire medium bow back Windsor armchair, stamped I * TAYLOR GRANTHAM with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove turned front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 211

Lincolnshire medium bow back Windsor armchair, stamped I * TAYLOR GRANTHAM with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove turned front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 211
Regular students of Lincolnshire Windsor chairs will have seen the image of this chair before. It is simply remarkable. It appears on p. 138 of Thomas Crispin's The English Windsor Chair (1992) and again in Dr B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990) at figure NE12 on p. 113. Both books show the name stamp of I*TAYLOR which relates to the eldest son of Roger and Sophia Taylor, one John Taylor. Those of you who have seen my lecture at Conway Hall on Youtube will know that he made chairs for only three years, from February 1808 until January 1811, after which he became a mail coach guard for 31 years. The only other recorded I*TAYLOR stamped chair passed through the now closed auction room of Neale's of Nottingham in 2002. 


Detail of upper rear of seat of Lincolnshire medium bow back Windsor armchair, stamped I * TAYLOR GRANTHAM



WS 204 on the left, WS 211 on the right

You may also wish to compare this chair to yesterday's post WS 204, which has no makers mark, but I am sure both were made by the same hand.

The extraordinary fact is that this chair appeared on eBay recently and was spotted by a fellow enthusiast (one Julian Parker) who kindly notified me. The young lady in London selling the chair had seen the name stamp but had been unable to decipher the name. She had acquired the chair off Greenwich market at least 15 years before, besides that there was no other provenance.


© William Sergeant and Julian Parker 2020