Close Helmet of Sir Rowland Cotton

Whilst visiting the Royal Armouries in Leeds I came across the close helmet of Sir Rowland Cotton.

The helmet was suspended over the alabaster monument designed by the famous architect, Inigo Jones, commissioned for his first wife by Sir Rowland Cotton and in which he himself was later entombed. Son of a prosperous London draper, he was elected Member of Parliament and later knighted. Cotton was Justice of the Peace for Shropshire and mayor of Newcastle.

On loan from St Chad’s Church, Norton-in-Hales.

The close helmet or close helm was a military helmet worn by knights and other men-at-arms. Sir Rowland’s helmet is believed to be German or Flemish, about 1550.

Bricks and History

When I look at any building I alway look at its brickwork. Why? because the different types of brickwork can help date the construction of a building, but be careful, bricks can be recycled and may be older than the building itself.

Brick Bonds

English Bond – This bond is formed by laying alternate course or rows of ‘stretchers’ the length of a brick and ‘headers’ the end of a brick. This is one of the strongest bonds but requires more bricks than other bonds. Used from 1450’s as the standard bond for most houses built in England for almost three centuries. It remained a popular bond for use in industrial building because of its strength.

English Bond

Flemish Bond – This is a ‘stretcher’ followed by a ‘header’ alternating throughout a course or row. This bond was first used in England in 1631, it became very popular and was the dominant brickwork used for houses then for over a century.

Variant of the Flemish Bond

Stretcher Bond – Most commonly used in recent times this bond is formed only using ‘stretchers’, with the joins on each course or row centred above and below by half a brick.

English Garden Wall – This is similar to the English bond but with one course or row of ‘headers’ for every three courses of ‘stretcher’.

Flemish Garden Wall – This is a variant of Flemish bond that uses one ‘header’ to three ‘stretchers’ in each course or row. The ‘header’ is centred over the ‘stretcher’ in the middle of a group of three in the course below.

Brickwork of Oakley Folly

The Brick Tax 1784 – 1850

The brick tax was introduced in Great Britain in 1784, during the reign of King George III, to help pay for the wars in the American Colonies. Bricks were initially taxed at 2s 6d per thousand. To mitigate the effects of the tax, manufacturers began to increase the size of their bricks. In 1801, the government responded by limiting the dimensions of a brick to 10 in × 5 in × 3 in and doubling the tax on bricks that were larger. The level of taxation was raised regularly, until its peak of 5s 10d per thousand bricks in 1805. The brick tax was abolished in 1850, as it was considered to be a detriment to industrial development.

Lairding it up

This half term we’ve been lairding it up at the Old Place of Monreith, a Landmark Trust property in Scotland. Landmark Trust buy these historically significant properties, restore them and rent them out. This one was discovered in 1981, when the house and outbuildings were being used to store hay and shelter the occasional sheep. The Old Place of Monreith is a traditional fortified tower house or Fortalice built in the 16th century for the Maxwell family.

drawings of the Old Place of Monreith
Beautiful drawings found in the guest book

The Devil’s Ring and Finger

The Devil’s Ring and Finger (a standing holed stone, similar to Mên-an-Tol in Cornwall) lies on the boundary of Norton-in-Hales, Shropshire and Mucklestone, Staffordshire. There is much debate about its origins, some presume it is a megalithic chambered tomb, the site of which is now lost [1]. Victorian historian, Mr T. P. Marshall believed it was a Druid’s altar, within a sacred grove. The religion of the Druid’s consisted of three concepts, to worship gods, to do no evil and to act with courage. They had several gods but he believed the circular stone was an altar piece for their sun god, who represented the power of life, of good, of increase and the finger represented the serpent god, which represented evil and death [2]. There are even theories for its later use, that the grooves on the finger were formed by the sharpening of prehistoric tools or weapons [3].

The Devil’s Ring and Finger
[1] Newman & Pevsner 2006, 215
[2] The Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, March 26th, 1887
[3] Simms, WSL, Sept. 1

Domesday Book Facts

The Domesday Book was completed in 1086. Written in abbreviated Latin with a little French. Place-names are crossed through with a line of red ink, to highlight them. The book named around 19,500 people and over 13,400 places. Of the people names, 63% are Norman. No survey approaching the scope of Domesday was attempted again until 1873 (the Return of Owners Land).

Domesday details for Norton-in-Hales and surrounding villages