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Making History – Burl Bellamy

Geddington has produced many men and women who have left their mark on the history of the village, shaping its growth and adding to the understanding of its origins. One such was Burl Bellamy whose historical research and archaeological investigations brought the older history of the village and Geddington Chace/Chase, and its role within the Rockingham Forest, to a wider public. To mark Burl’s contribution to our knowledge of our history and his legacy we have re-visited some of the material he published in his book, Geddington Chase – The History of a Wood, in The Newsletter and items presented at the exhibition he, and others, ran in the village in 1992.

Burl’s main interests were in how the archaeology shaped the landscape and the lives of the communities within it. His research took him back to medieval times, the role of the woodland and the riches to be found in the limestone quarries.

In 1086, Domesday records that Geddington consisted of two manors, that of the king and a manor belonging to the Abbey of St Edmunds. In later centuries the lands of these manors were held by freeholders, copyholders and rent paying tenants even before they came into the hands of the Montagus, so Geddington was never forced into the closed village constraints as the other estate villages were. This is probably the reason for the greater diversity of buildings.

 As to be expected, Geddington, with its earlier dominance in the landscape as a royal vill, has the most imposing church. Though nothing is visible outside, inside, architectural features suggest that Geddington may have been an important settlement even before the conquest. In the north wall of the nave, the round headed Norman arch can be seen to cut through a late Saxon splayed window, this in turn disturbs earlier Saxon, ornamental, triangular headed blind arcading. The east end of the nave is also defined by long and short work. The earliest Saxon work is tentatively dated to c850 to 950 AD (Taylor & Taylor 1965).

Geddington was a small community where personal names indicated ownership or tenancy, but there are echoes of these names in the village as it is today and in the family names still within living memory. There was a Widow Bellamy to start the list, followed by Rowlets, Chapmans, Islips, Ashleys and Holdings amongst others.

Geddington was the venue for some unexpected industry.

Apart from the use of woodland for hunting, timber was used for buildings, tools and transport. Burl also refers to the site of a medieval iron smelting furnace in Geddington. ‘This is visible by the dark colour of the soil caused by burning and the waste products of the furnace, this includes the iron slag which can be seen mixed in with the soil. The furnace, which was built with limestone and clay, was fired by charcoal. Fragments of pottery, also found within the dark soil, date the furnace to around the 13th-14th centuries.’
References were also found in relation to cloth production in Geddington, in 15th and 18th century documents. ‘The cleaning and drying of cloth was carried out by the fuller ‘walker’ by treading the cloth in a trough of water to exclude grease and dirt, often with the aid of fuller’s earth, which was an earlier method of carrying out this process. Later, this same process was undertaken in a ‘fulling mill’ where water passing through the mill turned a wheel which supported large wooden blocks, these hammered the cloth which also created a denser fabric. Following this process the wet cloth was stretched on tent shaped wooden frames, called ‘tenters’, this enabled the cloth to retain its shape while drying.’

Many of the present villagers may not know that the village centre owes its existence to the market held in the village: ‘The village was also granted a market charter in 1248 attesting to its status in the 13th century, this was the high point in Geddington’s history.

 Burl continues; ‘Plainly then, Geddington was an important place in the middle ages, but with the decline of the royal house, which also reflected on the importance of the market, ceased to function in the 14th century, Geddington also fell into decline. Its earlier importance however, almost certainly had a lasting effect on the village. The central open area has remained, set around by the church to the northeast, adjoined by the old blacksmith’s shop, the Star Inn and the 19th century school and playground, which encroached upon the former market area. The remaining market area, dominated by the Cross, still remains the focal point of the village even though no market has been held here for 600 years. Other factors of earlier origin have also affected how Geddington looks today.

A little known image of the 14th Century Gatehouse to the Priory reminds us of the status of Geddington at this time and, while there is no evidence of a religious house on the site, Burl’s commentary illustrates the threads of history and language we have inherited today.

Although the property is almost certainly on the site of the manor once held by the Abbey of St Edmunds, there is no evidence that there was ever a priory or nunnery here.  Documents, of the 17th century refer to this place as Curries, or New House, an earlier document, of 1460, refers to a ‘Currys Place’, perhaps this is derived from the Latin ‘curia’ – court, and may have been the place where the St Edmunds court was held.

Burl Bellamy 23.10.1942 – 19.7.2020
Geddington Chase – The History of a Wood, published 1998.
Landscape History and Field Archaeology: Buildings in the Landscape.
The Villages of Boughton Estate: an interpretation of their buildings and building materials. How landscape history and field archaeology can identify evidence of medieval woodland clearance in the Forest of Rockingham.
Early smelting in the Rockingham Forest: a survey of evidence of Anglo Saxon dispersed sites and woodland at Geddington in the Rockingham Forest.
The Lands and Landscape of the Priory of Fineshade.
Medieval Pottery Kilns at Stanion.
History of the Deer Park at Brigstock.

Cransley Hospice Treasure Hunt

The Diary shows a compete lack of events in Geddington, however, Cransley Hospice is having an event that will include Geddington.
Community Fundraiser, Ash Davies, has asked if would include the news about this event, so here are the details.

Good afternoon,
I thought it best to forward over an event taking place this Saturday in support of the Hospice, as it involves a treasure hunt that will include a visit to Geddington.
If you could share this with your readers, that would be much appreciated:

Best wishes,

Community Fundraiser
Cransley Hospice Trust
Fundraising Office
St Mary’s Hospital site
77 London Road
NN15 7PW
Telephone: 01536 452423

Heading for the Coast?

It is unusual for to highlight any charity, other than village ones. However, this headline and poster, in their quarterly magazine, caught my attention. It seems very appropriate with the summer holidays fast approaching.

So I make no apologies for offering the advice that the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) gives, concerning safety at, and near, the sea.

Safer Streets

Northamptonshire County Council has initiated a new project to increase the safety on our streets.
It has published the following:

Geddington’s own travel group, Let’s Gedd Going, has supported and encouraged village residents to add to this initiative with the following comments:

Get your neighbours involved
The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected. Share the project with people you know locally.

Please note that this website is not monitored for immediate defects. If you are reporting a street or road defect (e.g. a pothole/poor road surface/overgrown vegetation) please report it directly to Street Doctor.

Elderflower Cordial

This week, if you have the time and inclination, is the right time to make Elderflower Cordial. It’s a delicious refreshing drink for a hot day and it’s so easy to make.

The flowers on an Elderflower bush don’t last very long, so take advantage now – leave it too long and it will be too late for this year.

25 Elderflower heads (white flowers only, although the more you have, the stronger the flavour)
50gms of Citric Acid (helps cordial last longer)
3 pints Water, boiled and cooled
3lbs Sugar
2 Lemons, large, wax-free, rind and juice

Mix all together and leave for 2 days, stirring occasionally.
Strain and bottle.
This will be strong enough to dilute to drink.

The flowers on an Elderflower bush don’t last very long, so take advantage now, leave it two weeks and it will, most likely, be too late for this year.

Make sure you pick Elderflowers from a bush and not Cow Parsley from the road side. There’s plenty of both about at the moment.

May 2020

May is usually the month that sees the start of the summer activities in Geddington – the cricket field in tip top condition, the bowling green looking even greener and smoother, flowers being chosen and grown on for the flower festivals and, of course, at the start of all these, the school has chosen its May Queen and her attendants for the all important May Day Festival.

Well, there was no ‘May Day Festival’ this year, so we thought that we would have a look at some of the previous May Days and recall the pleasure that this custom has given to so many parents, grandparents and the children, by the school.

The well-known ritual of the May Day Celebrations with May Queen, Consort and attendants, as we now know them, first took place in 1951. It commenced the Festival of Britain celebrations in the village. The event started with a church service conducted by the Revd Brodie, with the church filled to capacity by children, parents and friends. After the service, the children lead the way, by horse and carriage (or cart?) to the playground, in what is now the garden of The Old School. Margaret Cooper was the first May Queen and was crowned by the vicar.

Every year since has seen the same or similar scenes played out, usually under blue skies, although in 1952 it obviously rained and shelter was taken under the entrance to Home Farm in Grafton Road. By 1954, the May Queen, her attendants and many of the parents, then changed direction and paraded down to the Eleanor Cross.

The Eleanor Cross, The Star Inn and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, have provided the perfect setting for this nearly 70 year-old custom.

Finally, after weeks of practising, the various dances were performed by all the children.

To view the list of May Queens, click on the link below:

Women of Geddington: Eleanor of Castile

We know her name, we may know a little of her history; her presence in the form of the Eleanor Cross is a constant reminder of her life and her links to Geddington but what do we know of her as a woman, a mother, an intellectual, a wife and a queen?

For most of the population outside Northamptonshire she is a forgotten Queen. She lived in a period of history where records are less accessible and through the lapse of time accurate reports of Eleanor have been blurred by a gloss of romanticism, not least because of the existence of her Crosses.

This story of Eleanor draws extensively on the research by Sara Cockerill in her book ‘The Shadow Queen’. It is an attempt to pull back the veneer of history and consider the realities of her life. Eleanor was no ‘shadow’ but a vibrant, innovative, cultured and brave individual who deserves our full and renewed attention.

Sara Cockerill describes Eleanor in vivid terms; she was dynamic, with a forceful personality whose influence in the world of arts, politics and religion is still with us today. This personality was forged in the court of Castile where Eleanor absorbed the active kingship of her father, the chivalry and the glory of the Crusaders and the intellectual debates around nobility and about promoting the security of a realm and its dynasty.

Eleanor’s coat of arms

Eleanor was highly educated and was surrounded in her early years by those who encouraged her learning. She could read and write and insisted that her own children learnt too. She admired the illustrated manuscripts of the day and sponsored the more widespread production of them through her own ‘scriptorium’, a medieval equivalent of a publishing house with illustrators, calligraphers and bookbinders. It was the only scriptorium in Northern Europe at the time. Thanks to Eleanor, domestic life in royal residences gained the refinements of table forks at mealtimes, carpets on the floors and tiles in the bathrooms. She revolutionised the notion of the ‘garden’, introducing different planting schemes, new types of fruits and the water fountains that were so common to her native Castile. Eleanor also reputedly introduced the hollyhock to England. Its old name of ‘Spanish rose’ tends to confirm this notion. She appreciated good style in dress too when the occasion demanded it, but was not in any way flamboyant, rather the opposite. Practicality of dress was her preference for her working days.

However much Eleanor liked her luxuries she was also a woman on a mission. Married at around 12 years old and understanding the political nature of the union, she rejected the idea of being a Queen in name only and insisted on sharing the responsibilities of Edward. She was a member of his inner circle of advisors and had responsibility for the acquisition of properties for the Crown. Her early years in England were difficult; she was young; she was in a new country with no obvious personal allies and both her parents-in-law were lukewarm in their support. Indeed Eleanor of Provence, her mother in law, was quite jealous of the new arrival. It is to the credit of our Eleanor that she won that battle and guided Edward to a more independent outlook, better financial standing and the acquisition of the skills he would need to be a great king.

Her bravery was never more obvious than when the Baron’s Revolt took place not long after her arrival in England. Unlike many of the court ladies, including the Queen herself, Eleanor stayed, oversaw the defence of Windsor Castle on behalf of her husband and when forced to yield was herself imprisoned and was left destitute, in fear of her own life and Edward’s.

Yet she came to the throne with Edward, bore him numerous children, traveled widely around this country and as far away as the Holy Land, with Edward. She continued her property development ‘portfolio’ and was very much a hands on manager of estates and buildings in counties as far apart as Essex and Derbyshire. Geddington would have been very familiar to her. She visited Geddington at least three times to allow her to visit Crown estates and properties in the area. In 1274/5 she already owned or had an interest in property at Great Bowden, Market Harborough and Kingsthorpe and was interested in acquiring property at Apethorpe and Rockingham. The hunting lodge at Geddington, with its kennels for the royal greyhounds, was one of the first places the royal couple visited on their return from the Crusade, and Fotheringhay was also a place the court stayed on these journeys to scope out possible property purchases.

Leeds Castle in Kent | The Loveliest Castle in the World
Leeds Castle acquired by Eleanor in 1278.
Eleanor established the legal precedent of women holding property in their own right.

Eleanor was also a great matchmaker and, like Victoria in later years, she successfully negotiated with many of the noble and royal houses of Europe for suitable marriage alliances for her children and her family members. The subtlety with which she achieved this marks her out as a woman with considerable diplomatic skills!

As a mother she was often absent but she seems to have always maintained good relationships with her children and to have ensured they were ready to take their place in the world. For all that it was reported that she had a fiery temper she is also remembered for her sense of fun, her excellent horsemanship, her love of hunting and horse breeding as well as her love of languages, poetry and music. She also played chess rather well!

Like most of our ‘Women of Geddington’, Eleanor had a role model in her life, her grandmother. Berengaria of Castile was regarded as the epitome of what a Castilian princess should be: intelligent, capable, astute, regardless of self in relation to her duty and fiercely loyal to her family;

‘A wise lady and a great expert and sharp in political affairs who understood the risks of government’ (Primera Cronica General)

Eleanor matched and perhaps even exceeded her grandmother’s achievements because, despite dying relatively young, she had established such firm foundations in so many aspects of English life that her legacy lives on today. She would not have recognised the terms ‘feminist’ or ‘property developer’ but she was certainly a woman who was determined to shape her own destiny and a woman who had sufficient vision and courage to shape the destiny of others too, for the better.

She was, according to Sara Cockerill ‘ awesome’ . I can only agree.

She deserves her place in our history.


Leeds Castle in Kent was one of Eleanor’s favourite places. She owned it independently from 1278 -1290 and Edward inherited it on her death. The defences of the castle reflect her understanding of warfare and by contrast a small building on one of the islands became known as The Gloriette. Its name comes from a Spanish term meaning a pavillion at a crossing point of paths in a garden.

The Leeds Castle website is worth a visit and on it you will find an excellent podcast looking at Eleanor’s life, her acquisition of Leeds Castle and the changes she made. Sara Cockerill is one of the contributors.

THE NEWSLETTER -Summer issue no 156

As promised earlier, The Newsletter twins with the website, with the Summer Issue produced online.

Just click on the link and away you go with the ‘Flippin Book’ version.

30 May 2020 UPDATE
A message from The Newsletter editor, Justin Brice: The trial period for the Flipping Book website has now ended and is no longer viewable online.

Instead please click on the http link below (then the image), to read the summer issue of The Newsletter
click on the image in the box below the link.

Women of Geddington: Nurse Bessie Mary Rumbold

The village nurse, like the village policeman, was part of the village furniture. In the nurse’s case, intimately involved with most of the families of the village and a source of knowledge and wisdom often deeper and wider that most of her patients.

Nurse Rumbold followed a tradition set up in 1909 when the Nursing Association was established to provide a service to each community for a small payment of around 2d (<1p) a week for a family. Given how large some families were this seems to be good value for money!

It was the Nurse who attended to all the minor (and sometimes not so minor) ailments, supported mothers in childbirth and children with fevers and infectious diseases and was there at the end of life to ease a passing in practical and caring ways. Nursing was done in the home, however small, in rooms with no heating other than a smoky fire, no running water, sometimes not even a sink and certainly no electricity. There were no antibiotics and no vaccines against common diseases like polio, diptheria and measles.

Geddington’s first Nurse was Nurse Miller in 1909 and she lodged with a family on Wood Street opposite the Royal George, as did her successor Nurse Holmes. When Nurse Rumbold arrived in 1923 to take up her first post after qualifying, she lived in West Street before moving to what is now No 5 Queen Street, opposite the Village Hall and close to her beloved Chapel.

Born in Hampshire in 1897, Nurse Rumbold had all the qualities vital to a community nurse. She was supremely practical and would always leave a chalk board on her door with a list of her visits for that day so that if she was needed in a hurry she could be hunted down. She had high levels of energy and would cycle or walk between her patients’ homes in Geddington, Grafton, Weekley and Newton. She was adaptable and coped with being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no provision for a day off.

She was, above all, supportive, non judgemental and sympathetic to the circumstances in which she found herself with her patients. She offered hope, advice, sympathy and her time as well as her medical knowledge. She befriended the children and counselled their parents. She tried to improve the living conditions of villagers and to promote hygiene and good nutrition amongst her families. She led by example and her home was always tidy and welcoming. She also kept Lady Scott at the Priory and Mrs Brookes at ‘White Gates’, up to date with news of families who needed help and they would send over supplies of soup, fruit and other basics to help the family out.

She socialised among the community but her greatest commitment, outside of her work, was to the Union Chapel where she worshipped, taught at the Sunday School and, in later years as the Chapel secretary, was the one to organise the arrangement of preachers. It must be said, however, that many a Sunday service for her was interrupted by a small child tugging at her sleeve saying ‘Me Mam says ‘can you come ?’

In 1944 ‘Nurse’ Rumbold became a ‘Queen’s Nurse’ in recognition of her 21 years of service to her community and the regard in which she was held there. She received her cheque of 110 guineas from Queen Mary at a presentation ceremony held at Lincoln’s Inn Hall.

In 1957 Nurse Rumbold retired and the very first ‘baby’ she had delivered way back in 1923, a Mrs Barbara Last of Chase View Road, presented her with a cheque from the villagers whom she had supported for nearly 25 years. Mr Harker, as Chairman of the Parish Council, summed up the views of villagers by saying that everyone had been pleased to give and that the kindness and encouragement she had shown was particularly appreciated by the older residents.

Nurse Rumbold remained unmarried throughout her years in Geddington, but built up such a strong bond of affection with the village that when she died in 1981 her funeral service in the village was full of village friends from several generations, whose strong memories were of a much loved lady who was admired for her professionalism and respected for her unwavering devotion to the physical and spiritual needs of her patients.

She was known simply as ‘Nurse’ .


There are many of you still living in the village who will remember ‘Nurse’ or know that she helped your family in a previous generation. If you have a picture or a story to add to her history we would love to hear from you before memories of her life are lost. Please use the Comments button or Contact Us on the Home page to get in touch.

Parish Council meetings in May

The two meetings normally held in May, the Annual Meeting and the usual Monthly Meeting are both being held on Monday 11th May (the Clerk apologises for the late alert).

However, this WORDPRESS system will not allow two meetings on the same day – so the Annual Meeting Agenda is dated 11th May and the Monthly Meeting is dated 12th May. Click on either of the Agenda links in the Parish Council page (in Quick Links above) and you will find both Agenda.

The Annual Meeting starts at 6.30pm and the Monthly Meeting starts immediately afterwards at 7.30pm. Both are VIRTUAL meetings and instructions to join, via ZOOM, are given at the top of each agenda.

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