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Plumtree Parish Council

Village Sunday Morning

The following account of a Sunday morning service held in Plumtree Church in 1905 was printed in the Nottingham Journal on Monday 17th July 1905. It is reproduced below verbatim with explanatory information added in the form of footnotes.

Click on the numbers in square brackets [n] to display further details. Use your browser's Back button to return to the account.

A Village Sunday Morning

If it be true that in regard to the seating of congregations, social distinctions are still observed in some our churches, particularly village churches, it cannot be said to exist at Plumtree, that old-world spot well known of Nottingham people, and to which a representative of this journal repaired yesterday morning for the purpose of attending service in the venerable building. All are equal; there are no circumscribed areas for this or that family, and each man is the equal of the other when he enters the precincts of his parish church.

The building is a striking mixture of the ancient and the modern, but happily it has not been restored in a manner which has destroyed all its earliest significance and associations. Dedicated to St. Mary [1], it is a church of stone, consisting of chancel, nave, with an arcade of three bays, aisles, south porch, and embattled western tower, containing a clock and three bells. The choir stalls are of oak. A rood screen separates the chancel from nave, and at the east of the north aisle and chancel are stained memorial windows. There is a piscina [2] and triple sedilia [3]. The church was restored in 1875 at a cost of £3,000 [4] and affords 270 sittings [5]. The earliest date of register is 1558 [6].

The bells, which were probably hung in the year 1605 [7] and ring a minor third—that is to say, B flat, A, and G—bear curious inscriptions.

On the small one are the words:

Jesus be our speed,

and on the A bell:

All ye who hear my mournful sound
Repent before ye lie in the ground

The Plumtree bells have the reputation of being remarkably fine in tone, but by virtue of their pitch they do sound somewhat mournful, so that there was some reason for this singular call to repentance. At present some attention is being given to the bearings of the bells and only one can be used. This was tolled for Matins yesterday by an inhabitant who, stooped with age, yet looked hale and hearty.

The churchyard is picturesque and repays a visit. Walking round its trimly-kept pathways yesterday, in the bright sunshine and the breeze, as the first worshippers were arriving, and, later, when the organ tones could be heard, one was forcibly reminded of Charlotte M. Yonge's lines [8]:-

While on the ear the solemn note
Of prayer and praises heavenward float,
A butterfly with brilliant wings,
A lesson full of meaning brings,
A sermon to the eye.

Conspicuous amongst the tombstones is that dedicated to General Henry Hopkinson. C. S. I. [9], of the Indian Staff Corps, who was formerly Commissioner of Assam and Governor-General's Agent on the North-East frontier of India [10].

The living of Plumtree is a rectory, to which 666 acres of glebe land is attached. It is in the gift of Mr. John Elliott Burnside, and has been held since 1883 by the Rev. Samuel Benjamin Brown [11], B.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has the assistance in performing the spiritual duties of the parish of the Rev. John Cole Hamilton [12], whose father, the Rev. Henry Balfour Hamilton, has been Rector of West Leake since 1882 [13].

Mr. Hamilton is taking his vacation just now, and the rector had for a colleague yesterday a friend of the curate's in the person of the Rev. G.G.V. Stonehouse [14] (vice-principal of a theological college, in Edinburgh), who in the morning preached an evangelistic sermon upon the words "Christ Crucified." He dwelt upon the lessons of the Cross, showing that its message was just as strong to-day as it was twenty centuries ago, and affirming that the half-heartedness of professing Christians was the greatest hindrance to the spread of Christ's kingdom on earth.

It was a hearty rendering of the Church of England service. The choir, which is under the direction of Mr. Henry Walker [15], did not attempt to scale those impossible musical flights of which the Bishop of the Diocese [16] offered a timely warning some few weeks ago, but were content with rendering—and they rendered them efficiently—good plain chants and hymns in which the people in the nave could take an intelligent part.

It was not a purely rural congregation which we saw arrive and more than half fill the church, for many wore a distinctly urban dressiness. Venerable country folk were amongst the first to be in their places, followed by their descendants. Then some fifty children from the Sunday school, apparently, filed in, proceeding with marked orderliness, and afterwards the better-to-do went to their pews. But everyone was seated before the service commenced; there were none of the late arrivals which too frequently interrupt worship in large towns and cities. The material and the spiritual atmosphere of the village seemed to blend in a sweet simplicity which was in keeping with Christian truth, and it may well be said of Plumtree that it is not unmindful of its Sabbath day.

This item is based on an article that appeared in the Nottingham Journal, dated 17 July 1905 and is made available via the British Newspaper Archive. ©The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, the following notes are ©Fiona & Les Carruthers. All rights reserved.

[1] Dedicated to St Mary

There is some confusion over the exact wording of Plumtree church’s dedication...

Is it St Mary the Virgin?
The 1936 Terrier and Inventory for the church contains the handwritten markup: "Present dedication St Mary - the Virgin".

Historically, "St Mary the Virgin" is used on printed material produced by the church (including the parish magazine) and on the church notice board.

Or is it St Mary?
However, the Church of England’s official online faculty website and its A Church Near You website both clearly indicate that the legal name of the church (as given by the Church Commissioners) is "Plumtree: St Mary". This is reflected on the current Plumtree church website, on its social media pages and in the church logo.

Outside of the church itself, Kelley’s directories always indicate "St Mary"; and local newspaper articles from 1800 to 1950 refer to the church as "St Mary’s" or simply "Plumtree church".

Or is it a combination of the two?
Confusingly, the Plumtree entry of the Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project website (a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and the Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham) uses "Plumtree St Mary" throughout – with the single exception of the introduction page, which states "Plumtree St Mary the Virgin". Perhaps this came about because the introduction page was the only one compiled entirely by members of Plumtree church.

Is this an explanation?
Why are there two versions? Was the formal "Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Plumtree" expressly adopted to reflect the church’s 19th century heritage (and its 1980s restoration)? And is its recent reversion to the simpler "St Mary" intended to appeal to a younger congregation? This is a conundrum for the Parochial Church Council to unravel.

[2] Piscina

A piscina is a stone basin in which the priest would traditionally rinse the chalice and paten after mass. This is set within a fenestella (a canopied niche) in the south wall.

[3] Sedilia

Sedilia are stone seats set into the south wall (adjacent to the piscina) to accommodate the priest (celebrant) who celebrated mass and for the deacon and sub-deacon who assisted him. These are ‘stepped’ according to rank, the highest (nearest to the altar) is for the celebrant.

Over the years the chancel floor has been raised and steps added as the altar was moved forwards rendering the sedilia uncomfortably low but since they are no longer used, this isn’t a problem.

[4] £3,000

Equivalent to about £350,000 today. The restoration was paid for by the Lord of the Manor, John Elliott Burnside.

[5] 270 sittings

This seems overly optimistic; 150 seated is quite a squeeze today. Perhaps people were much smaller, and slimmer in 1905!

[6] Earliest 1558 Register entries:

7 April 1558 - Baptism of Margery Hubbard, daughter of Robert Hubbard

6 June 1558 - Marriage of Bartholomew White and Alice Wilborne

31 March 1558 - Burial of Robert Hubbard
(Probably not the father of Margery who's baptism is shown above; Hubbard or Hubbert was a common surname at the time, derived from the name "Hubert")

The old registers are held in the Nottinghamshire Archives.

[7] …three bells

The full inscriptions on the bells were:

  • IHESUS BE OVR SPEDE dated 1609; cast by Henry Oldfield
  • All men that heare my mornfull sounde repent before you lie in ground dated 1620; cast by George Oldfield
  • My roaringe sounde doth warning give that men cannot heare always live dated 1621; cast by George Oldfield

These three bells were replaced by a peal of six bells acquired from Clifton church (Notts) in 1992. Details of the six bells are given in the Plumtree entry of the Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project website.

Then, in 2010, two newly-cast bells were added making a 'peal' of eight. They have the following inscriptions:

  • Treble: Hark how the Welkin rings. Glory to the King of Kings.
  • Second: Ring in the love of Truth and Right

[8] Charlotte M. Yonge's lines…

From "Old Times at Otterbourne" by Charlotte Mary Yonge, describing one of the sights that met her eye in the old churchyard:

While on the ear the solemn note
Of prayer and praises heavenward float,
A butterfly with brilliant wings,
A lesson full of meaning brings,
  A sermon to the eye.

There on an infant’s grave it stands,
For it hath burst the shroud’s dull bands,
Its vile worm’s body there is left,
Of gross earth’s habits now bereft
  It soars into the sky.

Thus when the grave her dead shall give
the little form below shall live,
Clothed in a robe of dazzling white
Shall spring aloft on wings of light,
  To realms above shall fly!

[9] Lieutenant General Henry Hopkinson's local connections

Henry Hopkinson was born on 7 August 1820 he married Jean Montgomerie on 10 September 1849 in Bengal. They had three children:

  • Archibald Montgomerie Hopkinson who was born on 18 January 1850. He gained the rank of officer in the 97th (The Earl of Ulster's) Regiment of Foot. Unfortunately, he was drowned in Kingston, Jamaica, on 22 July 1874
  • Henry Lennox Hopkinson was born on 23 October 1855. He became a Barrister and died in London on 9 December 1936
  • Norah Montgomerie Margaret Maynard Hopkinson was born on 29 June 1857. It is Norah that represents the local connection. She married Thomas Arthur Hill in London on 28 April 1886. He was a Nottingham hosiery manufacturer living in Normanton-on-the-Wolds. Thomas was Churchwarden of St Mary's Plumtree and an inaugural Trustee of the Burnside Memorial Hall.

Henry died in London on 22 December 1899, aged 79; his wife, Jean, died on 16 November 1891 aged 62. They are both buried in Plumtree churchyard (plot 150).

Henry Hopkinson and his wife are commemorated in two windows in the south aisle of Plumtree church. In these windows, the lights depict Fortitude, Justice, Faith and Charity. The angel in the top-right pane of the window dedicated to 'General Henry Hopkinson' holds the Star of India medal.

Norah continued to live in Normanton until the death of her husband on 3 May 1931. She died on 18 December 1938, aged 81 and is buried, together with Thomas, in Plumtree churchyard (in plot 156). There is a memorial tablet to Thomas Arthur Hill in the north aisle of the church.

[10] Lieutenant General Henry Hopkinson. C. S. I.

Henry Hopkinson was the son of Benjamin Hopkinson and Louisa Ann Stedman; he was educated at College de Menars, France.

He was commissioned in 1838 in the service of the 15th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry and fought in the Punjab (West Pakistan) and Burma Campaigns. In 1858 he was appointed the Commissioner of Tenasserim Provinces. By 1860 he was the Agent for the Governor General of India on the North-East Frontier and, from 1861 to 1874, he held the office of Commissioner to Assam.

He is credited with setting up a Hill Station in Shillong (popularly known as “Scotland of the East”) in 1864 which became the headquarters of the District Officer of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Shillong’s picturesque setting and salubrious climate were found suitable for sanatoria and holiday homes of the British civilians, who were tormented by heat in the plains. Shillong is now the capital of Meghalaya state and has a population of around 300,000.

In 1874, Henry Hopkinson was appointed Companion, Order of the Star of India (C.S.I.). The window dedicated to him in Plumtree Church includes an image of an angel holding the medal. He was awarded the rank of Lieutenant General on 1 January 1884 and retired in 1887 after 49 years of service.

[11] Revd Samuel Benjamin Browne

Revd Samuel Benjamin Browne was instituted on 19 October 1883, succeeding the late Revd William Burnside.

He died on 17 September 1906 and was buried in St Mary's churchyard on 20 September 1906 (in Plot 232). The commemorative window at the west end of the north aisle was made by Burlison & Grylls and was unveiled on 31 May 1908.

It consists of four lights which have been filled with the figures of Moses, Melchisedek, David and Elijah. Each figure bears some emblem connected with the figure represented: Moses holds the tablet containing the ten commandments; Melchisedek is carrying a goblet of communion wine; David has a harp; and Elijah has a raven on his shoulder.

He married twice; his first wife was Charlotte Hope who died in 1870. His second wife was Mary Armitage whom he married in London in 1875. Mary Browne died on 23 November 1932 and was buried in St Mary's churchyard.

Samuel and Mary had two daughters and two sons.

  • Montague Bernard Browne was born in Suffolk in 1876. He lived in Plumtree before studying at Cambridge and working for Messrs Hole and Co of Newark, and the Nottingham Brewery Co.
    He enlisted as a private in the Sherwood Rangers and became a 2nd Lieutenant with the Sherwood Foresters on 15 July 1915 and served in the 2nd/8th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment).
    He died in hospital on 28 April 1916, aged 39, from wounds received in action in Dublin on 26 April, during the Easter Rising. Montague is buried at Dean's Grange Cemetery in County Dublin.
  • Mary Alethea Browne was born in Suffolk in 1878. She died in 1968.
  • Eleanor Dorothy Browne was born in Suffolk in 1880. She died in 1954.
  • Percival Leathley Browne was born in Suffolk in 1883. He lived in Plumtree before joining the army and became a Captain in the 2nd (and later the 6th) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.
    He died during fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, on 9 August 1915, aged 32 and is buried at Green Hill Cemetery near Anzac in Turkey.

There are two brass plaques, one dedicated to each son on the wall adjacent to the window dedicated to Revd Browne.

[12] Revd John Cole Hamilton

John Cole Hamilton was born on 4 March 1879 the son of Reverend Henry Balfour Hamilton [q.v.] and Hannah Sophia Moore. He married Ethel Mary Emma Buckland on 28 April 1921. He died on 7 May 1959, age 80.

Educated at Loughborough Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford holding a Darrel scholarship; he was ordained as a deacon in 1903, and as a priest in 1905 by Dr Ridding, Bishop of Southwell.

From The Loughburian (July 1959)


"We regret to announce the death of the Rev. John Cole Hamilton, B.A., which occurred on 7th May, 1959, at his daughter's home at Edale, aged 80 years.

Mr. Hamilton was ordained priest at Thurgarton Priory, Southwell, in 1905. His first curacy from 1903 to 1907 was at Plumtree and he was later curate of Seaton, Devon, and Normanton-on-Soar (1910-21).

From 1914 to 1918 he was a chaplain in H.M. Forces, and from 1924 to 1931 was Vicar of Edale, in Derbyshire. He returned to Normanton-on-Soar as Rector in 1932 and remained in the parish 13 years, respected by all.

In 1945 Mr. Hamilton left to be Rector of several parishes in the diocese of Salisbury until his retirement. He leaves a widow, Mrs. E. M. Hamilton, and two daughters."

[13] Revd Henry Balfour Hamilton

Revd Henry Balfour Hamilton was born 18 December 1849 the son of Revd William Alfred Hamilton, Rector of Taney, Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and Henrietta Catherine Cole. He married Hannah Sophia Moore, daughter of Canon John Hubert Moore of Taney, Dublin on 24 August 1875 at Taney Church.

He was vicar of West Leake from 1882 to 1909, and vicar on Normanton-on-Soar from 1909 to his death in 1932; he was succeeded at Normanton by his son, Revd John Cole Hamilton.

Henry died on 26 May 1932 of the Rectory, Normanton-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire. Hannah died on 5 June 1933 at White Lodge, Ruddington Hall.

[14] Revd G.G.V. Stonehouse

Revd George Gordon Vigor John Henry Thesiger Stonehouse was born in Nottingham in 1880.

He was the Vice-principal of the Edinburgh Theological College, which was founded in 1810 to train Anglican clergy to serve in the Scottish Episcopal Church. In 1891 the college moved to Coates Hall in Grosvenor Crescent where it gradually expanded to include residential accommodation and a library.

The following quote is taken from the Preface to "The Books of the Prophets Zephaniah and Nahum with Introduction and Notes by the Late G. G. V. Stonehouse B.D."

"The late G. G. V. Stonehouse, formerly scholar of Exeter College, Oxford, greatly distinguished himself (both before and after graduating there) in Theological and Semitic studies. After leaving Oxford, he was Vice-Principal of the Theological College at Edinburgh from 1903 to 1916; but his connection with his University was renewed when he served as Examiner in the Honour School of Theology for the three years 1916-1918.

He first became an author in 1911, when he published a commentary upon the Book of Habakkuk. Not long after that, he was asked to contribute to a series of commentaries on the Bible by Anglican Churchmen, which was designed to be fully abreast of the highest standard of theological learning.

The books assigned to him were Zephaniah and Nahum; and his commentaries upon these two prophets were apparently complete when he died in 1918 at the early age of 38."

[15] Mr Henry Walker

Henry Walker was the village schoolmaster from 1884, and the "reputation which he gained in those early days for erudition and knowledge of legal forms never forsook him. He became the unofficial village 'lawyer,' and many were the knotty points put to him by the villagers on a variety of matters. Many villagers enlisted his services in the making of their wills. He was secretary, at one time and another, of a number of village societies, a collector of rates and taxes, and the church organist." (taken from an obituary written by the Rev. E. Banting and published in the Nottingham Evening Post).

On 15 April 1909 he was presented with a conductor's baton by "the Plumtree Choral Society".

He retired from the position of schoolmaster in 1923, but still continued his activities in connection with St Mary's church. In 1936 he was given a watch by the church congregation to mark his 50th anniversary as organist; this was also commemorated by a brass plate on the organ case.

He died on 13 April 1940, aged 81, and is buried in Plumtree churchyard (Plot 170).

[16] Bishop of the Diocese

The Right Rev. Edwyn Hoskyns was Bishop of Southwell from 1904 until his death on 2 December 1925.

Sir Edwyn Hoskyns, 12th Baronet, was born on 22 May 1851. He was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, from which he obtained a BA in 1873 and MA in 1880. He was ordained deacon in 1874 and priest in the Church of England in 1875.

He was Vicar of St Clement, Notting Hill from 1880 to 1886, Rector of St Dunstan's, Stepney from 1886 to 1895, Vicar of Bolton Parish Church from 1895 to 1901, and an Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral. In September 1901 he was appointed Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, and he was consecrated as bishop in York Minster on 18 October 1901. He was appointed Bishop of Southwell in 1904 and was offered, but turned down, the position of Archbishop of Cape Town in 1908; he remained Bishop of Southwell until his death.