More Rolleston History

Picture of the (now defunct) middle ford, Brookside, taken in June 1955 by David Yates.

Picture of the (now defunct) middle ford, Brookside, taken in June 1955 by David Yates. 

Rolleston History Day
Saturday 31 January 2009, 9.30am – 4.30pm in The Old Grammar School

In view of the waiting list for the History Day held in October and other expressions of interest there is a provisional arrangement for a repeat day. The event will go ahead if a minimum of 20 people register for the day. As before the fee for the day, including a buffet lunch, is £20. All proceeds in aid of St Mary’s Fabric fund. In view of the waiting list for the History Day held in October and other expressions of interest there is a provisional arrangement for a repeat day. The event will go ahead if a minimum of 20 people register for the day. As before the fee for the day, including a buffet lunch, is £20. All proceeds in aid of St Mary’s Fabric fund. Further details can be found here.

The Old Grammar School History Mug

The Old Grammar School is nearly 500 years old, being one of the first Free Grammar Schools to have been founded in the country. Since 1909 when the Robert Sherbourne Primary School was built and the school room was purchased by Canon Tyrwhitt it has been St Mary’s Church Room. In commemoration and in association with Rolleston History Day a limited edition, porcelain mug was produced in November 2008, illustrating this history. The mug gives a brief history with pictures of the founder, Bishop Robert Sherburne (approved spelling), his seal (shown on the left), the school room circa 1909 with Canon Tyrwhitt and today with the Rev. Ian Whitehead. Mugs were sold at £6 each or 2 for £10 and were quickly sold out!! All proceeds went to St Mary’s Fabric Fund.


The oldest tomb in St. Mary's Church is now on the East wall of the Easternmost arch of the North Arcade. The oldest description we have of the tomb is in Stebbing Shaw's "History and Antiquities of Staffordshire", published in 1798-1801. At that time, the monument was in a "burying chapel to the South ... on a low altar tomb."

Torn Martin has found a description of the tomb in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association of August 1851: "On the floor of the aisle is a monumental slab with the effigies thereon of a knight in armour, and his wife by his side." An accompanying illustration shows that the slab was broken in two just above the knight's knees; the repaired break is still visible.

Rev. Edwin Wardle in his "Peeps into the Past and Present of Rolleston Church and School" (1904), says that in 1884 "this large slab was discovered below the flooring of the South Aisle." An unnamed visitor to the church at the time described it thus: "Upon a large white slab of alabaster are incised figures, the lines filled in with pitch, of a man in armour with his wife, the latter on the dexter side, which is unusual." In 1904, it was on the ground under the Easternmost arch of the South Aisle. I have not yet discovered when it was placed upright in its present location, perhaps one of the readers of "Rollestonian" can enlighten me.

As well as having been moved several times, the slab has undergone at least two major restorations, with some changes to the surrounding inscription. The circumscription given by Stebbing Shaw reads: Hic jacet Joh'es Rolleston, armiger, ffilius et heres Alveredi Rolleston, armigeri, et Margareta uxor ej' una filiaru' Joh'is Agard de ffoston, qui quide' Joh'es obiit xxviij die mensis Julij, anno d'ni millesimo cccc lxxx et d'na M'gareta obiit …. die me'sis …. a'no d'ni milio cccc …. Quoru' animabus misericors sit Trinitas s'ta. ("Here lies John Rolleston, knight, son and heir of Alured Rolleston, knight, and Margaret his wife one of the daughters of John Agard of Foston, which same John died 28th. July in the year of Our Lord 1485, and Lady Margaret died … day of the month of ....14… On whose souls may the Holy Trinity have mercy" - my translation). Note that Margaret's date of death was not filled in except for 14.... ; she was obviously expected to die within fifteen years of John.

These words are repeated in the 1851 B A.A. Journal but, curiously, some parts, including the last sentence, are missing from their accompanying illustration. Perhaps they had lost their pitch infilling. In 1904, Rev. Edwin Wardle reported that many of the words were not legible, so they have obviously been restored since then. The present wording varies slightly from that in Stebbing Shaw and the B.A.A. Journal, in that "et heres Alveredi Rolleston, armigeri" has been replaced by "Alveredi Rolleston de Rolleston"

The B.A.A. Journal describes the arms below the figures: "argent, a cinquefoil, azure, on a chief, gules, a lion passant guardant, or, impaling, argent, a chevron, gules, between three boars' heads, sable", so the background was white, on the left the top was red with a gold lion and a blue cinquefoil below, and on the right a red chevron between black boars' heads. The cinquefoil and lion were the Rolleston arms, the chevron and boars' heads those of Agard.

The visitor in 1884 described the figures in detail: "The man is bareheaded, with flowing hair, his head resting upon his mantelled helmet, his shirt of mail showing at the neck. He is clad in complete plate armour; his hands, raised in prayer, are encased in laminated gauntlets; his feet, in pointed sollerets, rest upon a lion couchant: from a belt at his waist hangs on his left side a large cross-handled sword. His lady, whose head reclines upon two tipalled square cushions, wears a stiff head-dress with ornamental crown and lappets failing over the shoulders, a tight-fitting low bodice, with cuffed gloves, and band at the neck, her dress falling in plain folds to her feet. A girdle round the corsage has perhaps supported a chatelaine or jewel, and a cord suspended from the neck a pomander. At her feet is a small collared and curly tailed talbot. Beneath are figures, much worn, of three female children, and two sons (almost obliterated), and a coat of arms. From the closed hands of both figures are libels [sic. = labels], which have prayers or texts upon them in black letter, now illegible." The tomb is now very difficult to photograph because of the pews; the best attempt I have seen is a colour photograph by Ken Rolston, a descendant of the family.

Sadly, another alabaster tomb described by Stebbing Shaw has disappeared. It was close to the first and also had two effigies with five children at their feet. The text read: "Here lyethe Lawrence Rolston, esquyer, and An'es, his ,wyfe, whyche Lawrence dyed...... a thousand, fyve hundred, fiftye and eight, on whose souls Jhesu' have mercy. Amen. ii sonnes, iij daughters."

Account by Arnold Burston (Rollestonian - Autumn 2001)


Following my article on the tomb of John and Margaret Rolleston in Rollestonian Autumn 2001, I have been provided with additional information by Mr. Idris G. Bowen, who has kindly given me a copy of a letter sent to members of his family by T.W.Rolleston of County Wicklow in August 1907.

Here are some extracts: 

"The oldest existing memorial of the family at present in the Church of Rolleston-on-Dove in Staffordshire, where this family were lords of the manor from the 12th. to the 17th. century, is a large slab of alabaster which once formed the top of a low tomb. On it are sculptured the figures of a knight in armour and a lady, and round these figures runs an inscription recording the death in the year 1485 of 'Johannes Rolleston, Armiger', and of 'Margarita' his wife, daughter of Agard de Ffoston. A shield between the figures bears the arms of Rolleston impaled with those of Ffoston, and the motto of the former family. 

The sculpture is not in relief, but in incised lines carved deeply into the stone, and filled with a dark composition like pitch, so as to give somewhat the appearance of a bold line drawing. The design is rich in ornamental detail and is a masterly piece of work - it forms a valuable and interesting memorial from every point of view, and contains probably the oldest extant record of the armorial bearing of the family.

"On a visit to Rolleston which I had during the present summer I found that this stone, which was formerly in the crypt where it had remained comparatively free from injury for 400 years, had been removed (about 20 years ago, according to the valuable Notes on Rolleston Church by the Rev. Edwin Wardle), and sunk in the pavement of the South aisle, where it is necessarily trodden over by the feet of those who occupy sittings in that quarter of the Church.

The result is that the sculpture, being in a soft material, is becoming rapidly obliterated, and in no long time, if the stone remains where it is, there will be not a trace of the figures or the inscription left visible.

"It occurred to me that members of the family directly or collaterally descended from John and Margaret Rolleston would, if they were aware of the facts, be willing to unite in providing the small sum necessary for lifting the slab, carefully restoring the sculpture where much worn by passing feet, and placing it in an upright position against the wall of the church, where it will be secure from further injury.

"On consulting the Rev. the Hon. Leonard Tyrwhitt, who has lately been appointed to the Rectory of Rolleston, I hear from him in a letter dated August 14th., that he not only gives his cordial consent, with that of the Churchwardens, to the proposed alteration, but will be ready to give his personal supervision to the work and to facilitate it in any way. .....

"P.S. I should be much obliged if you could send me the address of Admiral Rolleston, now retired, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Ireland when he commanded the 'Royal Oak'. "

I now have colour prints of the memorial on plain paper from a photograph by Ken Rolston, a descendant of John and Margaret. The A3 prints cost £2.50 unframed, £7.00 framed. They can be bought from the Church, or at the regular Thursday coffee mornings held in the Church Room. All profits go to St. Mary's Church Building Fund.

Account by Arnold Burston (Rollestonian - Winter 2001)


Throughout the Nineteenth Century, the important affairs of the village of Rolleston, the Poor Law, collection of rates, the roads, the Church, housing, education and even employment, were under the control of a handful of men who met in the Vestry. The dominant members were the Rector, who acted as Chairman, and the Mosleys: from 1834 – 1868, even the Rector was John Peploe Paget Mosley. Women were not listed as attending the Vestry until 1919: in 1921 Mrs Dale seconded a vote of thanks, and in 1924 Miss Barker moved an amendment.

Until the late 1830s, Vestry business was dominated by the administration of the Poor Law. This included relief in money, medical care, coal, clothing and bedding. Weekly allowances were small: two shillings, (10p), is typical, compared with professional expenses. In 1821, "Thomas Morley, a Surgeon at Uttoxeter , for the setting of Gilbert F.’s leg and attendance in consequence thereof" was paid £8.15.6, and a "G. Alsop, a Surgeon of Uttoxeter, for opening the body of George T. who was killed by a gig", claimed £1.11.6. In 1823, James Morris of Burton had 5s., (25p,) towards curing Ann H. of scurvy with a promise of 5s. more to complete the cure, and a midwife was allowed 5s. In 1830, a doctor was paid £3.14.0 for attending a case of typhus fever, and in 1831 a nurse was allowed 3/9d worth of leeches "for Robert B. when ill". By 1834, leeches had gone down to 2/- and attending to a broken leg to 2guineas (£2.05). Coal was expensive: in 1821, it was ordered "that the Overseers of the Poor do allow Elizabeth S. sixteen shillings instead of Coals and that they buy Widow S. a cart load of Coals.

In the 1820s, clothing was often provided: "for Philip, the son of Widow S., a Jacket, a pair of Trowsers, and two Shirts"; "a pair of Strong Shoes to be made by Geo. Carter the Younger for Jane F." Bedding was provided for the poorest families: "Ordered that Widow D. be provided with necessary articles of Bed clothing and Linen….and that necessary clothing should also be provided for the Child when born"; "Ordered that James J. be allowed 2/- to buy a bed tick".

Upkeep of the roads was a constant problem. In 1836, one of the Surveyors of the Highways was out of pocket to the enormous sum of £89.11.8, and Sir Oswald Mosley bought the Poor House, gardens and a marl-pit from the Parish to help pay for a new road. In 1852, Sir Oswald made a new footway to Anslow, and promised to keep one of the bridges in repair "by himself and his Heirs". In 1876, the Parish sold Newlands Gardens "to erect a new Iron Bridge over the Brook near the Alms Rooms." In 1877, Marston Lane and Tatenhill Lane were diverted and improved, and in 1888, concern was expressed about "injury caused to a portion of the Forest Roads, through the building at Byrkley"; Lord Burton was asked for £30 compensation which he refused to pay.

Much of the village belonged to the Mosleys, who were also major employers, as well as contributing generously to the Parish expenses. In addition to the Almshouses and the Poor House, (later the House of Industry), some housing was provided by the Parish, and the rent for the poorest paid by the Overseers of the Poor. Others were charged the going rate: in 1832, Rob P. was to pay 9d/week for his house, and Edmond J. 8d. The Parish employed a mole-catcher at £5/year, a schoolmaster, the wardens of the Poor House, and later a sexton at £9/year "together with one Pound paid by Sir Oswald Mosley, Bart., for the care of the South Aisle". Poor married labourers were employed by the Parish. In 1819, it was resolved that "Each Inhabitant or Occupier who shall be rated at Fifty Pounds, shall employ such Labourers for a Week…Eleven shillings per Week to the best Labourers, and Nine shillings to such as are less able". Women and children were employed on jobs like stone-picking: ("do find Sarah A. and her son work at stone-picking and that the said Stones be sold…..for the use of Roads"), spinning ("do purchase a Wheel for the use of the Parish, and do let it out to the daughter of John H. for the spinning of Flax to be found her by the Parish"), and sewing, ("that Linnen and thread be allowed to Frances….to make shirts of"). The Parish organised apprenticeships, ("all boys who are chargeable in this Parish, who have attained the age of 9 years & thereby liable…to be bound as an apprentice"), and exported unemployed people to Manchester, ("do pay Josh. H. …aged 17 & upwards, the Sum of Seven Shillings, for the purpose of going to Manchester to obtain a place").

The Church was at the centre of village life. Heating, lighting and repairs were as important then as now. A new heating system in 1834 cost £40, of which Sir Oswald Mosley, Mr Mosley, Rev. P. Mosley and Mr Thornewill gave £30. In 1837, repairs to the battlements, buttresses and walls, and the churchyard cost £15, and "a Rate of Five Pence in the Pound was granted and raised". Gas was introduced in 1876, and in 1878 repairs to the steeple cost £117.19.6, of which Sir Tonman gave £20. Major restoration was undertaken in 1884, to which Sir Tonman promised £350. In 1892, the church was extended and re-roofed; "the expense of the new Aisle and roofs to the Nave and Chancel was provided by the bequest of Miss Mosley who died in 1886. The renovation of the South Aisle was carried out by Sir O. Mosley".

In 1873, consternation was caused by the implementation of the 1870 Education Act, when the Vestry was informed that "Additional Public School accommodation appears to be required for 40 boys". It was proposed by the Lords of Committee of Council to appoint a School Board, to build a new boys’ school and to employ a Certificated Master. A long and often acrimonious correspondence ensued between the Rector and their Lordships, who claimed that the instruction given in the Free Grammar School was inefficient and the buildings very low, very dark and not properly ventilated. In the end it was agreed to raise "a voluntary Rate excluding the poorer class of Ratepayers" in order to raise £50. Sir Tonman promised £25 and others £28.10.0., and the schoolmaster agreed to take a test to qualify as a teacher.

Account by Arnold Burston (Rollestonian - Summer 2000)

Rolleston Constables’ Accounts 1740 to 1750

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels will be familiar with such terms as “watch and ward” and “hue and cry”. The Ankh-Morpork Watch was better organised than the Rolleston equivalent, and spent more time catching criminals than on paperwork.

The accounts run up to Michaelmas (29th. September) of the year given. From Mediæval times to the 19th. century, the appointment of constables was a manorial responsibility, though in practice they were often chosen by the parish. I have chosen the period from 1740 to1750 as it includes the 1745 Rebellion, when the Scottish army reached Derby and the cavalry Uttoxeter. They must have been scary times for Rolleston.

Here are some samples from the accounts. There were 12 pence (d) in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound.

1740 £ s d
ffor a Warrant to keep Watch & Ward ? ? ?
ffor writing Duplicates of ye Window Tax & spent at assessing yt 0 2 0
ffor a Presentment [official report] of ye State of ye High Ways 0 0 6
ffor carrying a Hue and Cry to Tutbury (1) 0 0 2
ffor lodging a big bellied Woman one Night passing to Ashborne 0 0 8
ffor apprehending [catching] & lodging a little Girl & carrying her first to Marston & afterwards to Stretton 0 2 0
ffor 2 new Stails to the Watch Bills (2) 0 1 0
ffor going to Burton with the Wagons yt carried Soldiers Baggage 0 1 6
ffor taking a List of Such as sell Ale to Fradley 0 1 6
Gave to an old Soldier upon Travell 0 0 6
ffor Ale drank at cleansing the Forest Pool 0 1 8
ffor meat [] and attendance on a Vagrant taken up here 0 1 3
Gave 3 poor Sailors by Sr. Oswald Mosleys Order 0 1 2
Expences abt. 3 Vagrants taken up here 0 13 10
ffor some small Repairs abt. ye Pinfold (3) 0 0 8
ffor Teams [horses and carts] & Labourers at cleansing Limbrook Mire 1 2 2
ffor 2 Teams going to Loughboroug wth Soldiers Baggage 1 10 0
ffor 2 Teams going to Ashby wth Soldiers Baggage 0 15 0
ffor altering ye Forest Branding Irons (4) 0 1 0
Paid ye Blacksmith’s Bill for repairing Picks and Crows [crowbars] 0 3 8
Expences abt. Jno. Cox when taken up as a Deserter 0 5 10
ffor driving a drunken Vagrant from this Town ? ? ?
Gave to three sailors by Sr. Oswd. Mosleys Order 0 1 0
For a Strike5 and a half of Lime and 20 bricks ? ? ?
Spent on Thos. Stafford for getting Gravil at Tutbury Bridge 0 2 0
For Wood and Mending the Stocks (6) 0 0 10
For Brobs [spikes] and Nails and a Pin for the Stocks 0 0 10
Paid to Two Poor Men 0 0 4
Paid the Coroners Charge for the Poor Man found Dead 0 16 8
For going to Three Towns to Charge Jury for ye Poor Man 0 1 0
Gave to a Poor Man and his wife 0 0 3
Paid for 5 Lode of Stones for the High Ways 0 1 4
For my self and a Man Turning the Beasts back Into the Markit againe 0 1 6
Paid for mending a Staple for the Stocks 0 0 3
For Two Teams going from Burton to Derby with Soldiers Baggage 0 17 0
For mending Picks for the High Ways 0 1 8
Paid for Ale Concerning the High Ways 0 19 2
Gave to a Deaf and Dumb Man 0 0 3
Paid for 6 Jury Men and my self going to Tutbury to a Coroners Inquest 0 7 0
Almost all the entries (27 out of 32) are for keeping up with the paperwork. 21st. century constables would sympathise.      

1 When a criminal escaped, the constable raised the hue and cry, and all the inhabitants had a duty to chase the fugitive on foot or on horseback, armed with knives and sticks, shouting “Out! Out!” and blowing horns until he was caught.
2 Bill in this sense was a pole-weapon, then widely used by national armies. One form of it was the “Lochaber Axe” used by the Scots in “the ‘45”. It was originally a home-made weapon made by fastening a bill hook (hedger’s tool) to a shaft or “stail”. The military version had a point like a spear, a sharp blade with a hook for pulling down horsemen and an armour-piercing spike on the back.
3 The pinfold was an enclosure for keeping stray animals until a fine was paid, a little like wheel-clamping.
4 Horses running semi-wild in the Forest of Needwood were rounded up for branding. The brand was changed each year.
5 A strike was an official measure, a large pot which was overfilled and the surplus struck off.
6 Anyone breaking the law was kept in the village stocks until he could be taken to a Justice or sent to the nearest prison.

Account by Arnold Burston (Rollestonian - Spring 2008)

Rolleston Constables’ Accounts (Part 2) 1751 - 1785

The accounts run up to Michaelmas (29th. September) of the year given. In theory, the Constables were a manorial responsibility, but in practice they were often appointed and supervised by the Vestry. In Rolleston this came to the same thing, as the Lord of the Manor sat on the Vestry with the Rector and the two Churchwardens. The few other members were co-opted for specific purposes. The advowson (the right to appoint the Rector) was owned by the Baronet whose family had bought it from Charles II: one Warden was nominated by the Lord of the Manor, the other by the Rector. Throughout the period, the dominant names in the village, apart from the Mosleys, were Pyecroft (whose beautiful slate tombstones lie to the south-east of the church), Mason, Higgott, Sutton and Taylor.

Here are some samples from the accounts. There were 12 pence (d) in a shilling (s) and 20 shillings (240 d.) in a pound. Notice that in 1751 ale for the highways (thirsty work!) came to 17s. 5d. (209d.), whereas in 1778 Francis Warren gave to poor people 2d. Unless you are a schoolteacher, some of the spellings may prove difficult, so I have sometimes added an alternative.

1751 Henry Talbot £ s d
Paid for a Warrant for the Survayers of the Highways 0 1 0
Paid for a notice of Scowering up of Water Cources 0 0 2
Paid for mending picks for the Use of the Highways 0 7 10
Paid Thomas Holloways bill for Ale for the Highways 0 8 9
Paid Thos. Falkoners Bill for the same 0 8 8
Paid John Sutton for 2 Load of Stones 0 0 10½
When Francis Warren took over in 1752 he “Paid the Old Officer what he was out of Pockit £1 13 3. Apart from mending picks and buying ale, he spent the whole year on paperwork.. There is then a gap in my records until:
1776 Henry Tallbut £ s d
Pd. the Clarkes for 3 persentments [presentments] 0 2 6
Pd. the high Cunstable for 3 notepapers 0 1 2
Pd. for assing [assessing] warand for the Land Tax 0 1 0
for writting 2 dublicates for the Land Tax 0 2 3
for writting these a Counts & enttring in the Book 0 2 0
for giveing notice of the meteen 0 0 2
for mending the Stockes 0 1 2
1777 William Mason      
paid ye Clark for 2 presentments for ye Highways and Roman Catherlicks 0 2 0
paid for 2 Jurey men and myself at Tutbury 0 8 0
for goaing to wichnor with a list of ye ale sellers 0 1 6
the Expence of a Burriel of a poor Child 0 7 0
paid for altring ye forest Brand 0 1 0
1778 Francis Warren      
gave to poor people 0 0 2
an inquest at Tutbury 0 8 6
1779 Francis Warren      
spent for Sessing the Landtax 0 2 0
for taceking a List of militia in 0 1 6
pd. James Atkins Bill for the Pinfold 0 1 3
pd. for the pinfold gate 0 8 0
1780 Thomas Robinson      
Paid to Gilbert Higgott for a Stoop for the pinfold 0 11 6
Paid to Jams Atkins for orterin the forest brand 0 1 0
Paid to Joseph Blackshaw for Repers to the pinfold 0 1 0
1781 Joseph Talbut      
Gave to Joseph Lovett solgier 0 0 6
for Reparse Done at the pinfold 0 6 8
1782 Joseph Mason      
Gave to fore poor Woman & Children 0 0 5
1783 William Cope      
Gave three poor women 0 0 3
for horshire [horse hire] two days 0 3 0
Gave a poor woman 0 0 2
1784 William Heap      
My Gorney & ye servaers of ye Hiwase to wicnor briges 0 3 0
1785 Samuel Somers      
Paid ye Hiconstable 0 5 6
Given to a por man with a pas 0 0 2
pd fr 2 worans fr ye Housetax & windertax 0 2 0
pd fr riting y Gublicates [duplicates] for ye windose 0 2 0
Gave a pore Womman with a pas 0 0 2
Gave to 2 pore men with pashis 0 0 4
paid our Expence at Richard Rooland when the Crowner [Coroner]
Came on our a Count of William Heap Death
0 7 0

To put these accounts in historical context, we might remember that in:

1751 The Chinese conquered Tibet (plus ça change ...)
1756 Start of the Seven Years’ War. Black Hole of Calcutta.
1759 “Year of Victories” (Quebec, Minden, Lagos, Quiberon Bay). James Brindley designed the Worsley - Manchester canal.
1764 Hargreaves invented the “spinning jenny”.
1773 Boston Tea Party.
1774 Priestley discovered oxygen.
1776 American Declaration of Independence.
1783 First flights in hot-air and hydrogen balloons.

Account by Arnold Burston (Rollestonian - Autumn 2008)

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Last updated: 17 July 2017