Whistle-Stop Tours: Southwell
Welcome to another Whistle-stop tour, an idea that arose from the idea of exploring the beautiful area of Newark & Sherwood from the comfort of your own home, whilst we all prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).
How is everyone doing? Did you have a nice weekend? Did you spend some time in your garden, on your balcony or on a walk around where you live?
For this instalment of Whistle-stop tours, we’re going to explore the town of Southwell. Often called the ‘jewel in Nottinghamshire’s crown’, the small, picturesque, town of Southwell is a real hidden gem; with beautiful architecture, intriguing history and stunning scenery!
Situated in the centre of town is the awe-inspiring Southwell Minster. With its famous twin ‘pepperpot’ towers, it’s hard to miss! This stunning building is a beauty to behold, both inside and out and has been welcoming worshippers and visitors for over 900 years. A Roman villa used to sit on the site of the present-day Minster and in 956 King Eadwig gave this section of land to Oskytel, the Archbishop of York to establish a minster church. Very little is left of the roman villa, but you can see panel of painted plaster, which was excavated from the bath-house of the villa, on the wall of the south quire aisle.
In 1108, the Norman construction of the Minster began, the stunning Norman Nave is one of the only surviving elements from this version of the Minster – it took 50 years to build and during the English Civil War this space was used as stabling for the Parliamentarians. One area of the Minster we really most implore you visit is the 13th century Chapter House. This stunning room is richly decorated with world-renowned naturalistic stone carvings – known as the Leaves of Southwell. We love spending time looking at these amazing carvings, from local hedge-grows, to green men and creatures straight from a fantasy book!
The Minster was also once attached to the Archbishops Palace, the Palace which can be seen today dates from the 14th Century and was wrecked during the Civil War; the surviving part of the Palace, the Great Hall, was restored in the Edwardian era. The Palace has also witnessed a lot of history too, from the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey to the arrest of King Charles I during the English Civil Wars.
Depending on which exit you leave the Minster from, you’ll either end up on Church street or Westgate, either way you’ll soon be greeted by Southwell’s exquisite independent shops. There are over 50 in the town and they are a real highlight, they sell everything from clothes, to high quality furniture and there is even a shop to feed your current baking obsession! For these shops retail and hospitality is a passion and we can promise you that you’ll receive 5 star service throughout Southwell. The town also boasts a number of lovely tearooms, cafes and restaurants for when you need something to drink and a little something delicious to eat.
Whilst it is a private home, and therefore not open for visitors, located at the end of King’s Street is the Burgage and Burgage Manor. In 1803 the famous poet Lord Byron stayed here with his mother during holidays from Harrow and Cambridge. At that time he had become 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale, but the family home, Newstead Abbey, located a couple of miles up the road still required repairs.
Did you know that Southwell is also the birthplace of the UK’s favourite cooking apple; the Bramley Apple? The first ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ tree grew from a pip planted by local Mary Ann Brailsford when she was a young girl in her garden in 1809. Later the cottage was sold to Matthew Bradley and in 1856 local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apples. Matthew argues but insisted the apples should bear his name, and so the Bramley Apple was born! Every year the town celebrate their connection to this famous apple with their Bramley Apple Festival which includes a food and drink festival, apple related competitions and the crowning of the Bramley king and queen! The tree still stands and Nottingham Trent University are the current custodians of the tree and the cottage.
The Workhouse, whilst a little way out of town is well worth the visit. The Workhouse is the best preserved example of the hundreds of workhouses built across the country. This austere, yet incredible, building was built in 1824 after Reverend John T Becker and George Nicholls had an idea to shape the way in which the poor were treated during the 19th century. Now owned by the National Trust, The Workhouse provides a startling insight into the harsh realities of what life would have been like in a Victorian workhouse. Through this exhibitions, events and brilliant storytellers, they bring to life the real stories of those who lived in the Workhouse. Whilst this excellent attraction brings light to some of the cruelties of this system you can also find a bit of light and happiness with their guided tours around Southwell, their children’s trails, and even the ability to pick fruit and vegetables the volunteers grow on the site.
Similarly, just located down the road from Southwell in the village of Upton is The Museum of Timekeeping at the beautiful Upton Hall. Home to the British Horological Institute this museum is a clock-lovers heaven! Many of the clocks, watched and other timepieces, displayed in their fascinating exhibits are in working action – there is something so soothing about the chorus of ticking, you’ll understand when you visit! You’ll be able to discover the watch worn by Captain Scott on the ill-fated polar exhibition of 1912 and see Britain’s first three Speaking Clocks and head the voice of the original 1936 machine!
They’re not kidding when they say Southwell is a hidden gem, with so much to see and explore we can’t wait to welcome you back when this is all over. For the timing being, please check out our video of Southwell on our Facebook page and explore our website.