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The Scrivener: In The Time Warp

Brian Barratt takes us on a tour of a very exceptional gallery which provides "windows'' into past centuries.

One of the most eye-catching pictures in the gallery is of a gentleman with a no-nonsense expression on his time-worn, weather-beaten face, Thomas Ordoyno.

He was born in Newark-upon-Trent or the nearby village of Coddington between 1770 and 1775, and died in 1815. He was a descendant of Dutch or Flemish dyke engineers who went to England in the 1600s to help drain the fens and other threatened areas. He owned land behind two inns: the Wise Owl, off Stodman Street, Newark, and the Malt Shovel. He became not only a property owner but also a benefactor to the poor of Newark. There is a plaque in his honour at the parish church of St Mary Magdalene.

As a botanist he became famous for his authoritative book Flora Nottinghamiensis (The Flora of Nottinghamshire), which was published in 1807. One of the subscribers was Lord Byron. It was printed by Samuel and John Ridge, Bridge Street, Newark. Here is an extract from Cornelius Brown’s A History of Nottinghamshire, published in 1896:

In 1807 Mr. Thomas Ordoyno, nurseryman and seeds-man of Newark, published his ‘Flora Nottinghamiensis; or, A Systematic Arrangement of the Plants growing naturally in the County of Nottingham.’ The work consists of 344 pages, and is arranged after the Linnean system of classification. The list of plants, with their stations, is very full; and the work bears evidence of the intelligence and industry of its author. It is interesting to observe in the preface the remark that, since the appearance of Deering’s work, ‘the busy hand of human industry . . . has altered the face of nature, and expelled many of these inoffensive tribes from the habitations which they formerly occupied.’

Hanging fairly close to this picture there are three hand-tinted etchings of Newark-on-Trent, made in the early 1800s. They depict variously: Newark Castle or, rather, the one magnificent wall left standing after Cromwell's men demolished the rest of it; St Mary Magdalene's church, one of the finest in England with its 14th century graceful spire standing over 76 metres high; and the local hustings of the South Nottinghamshire Election, in Newark market place.

The original etchings were produced 200 years ago. In the 1960s, an antiquarian bookseller in Newark made copies of them and did the colour tinting himself. His skilful work looks very authentic. You can see another 19th century etching of Newark Parish Church here:

In a shaded corner, away from direct sunlight, is a totally authentic item from Newark Parish Church. It is a brass rubbing of a memorial to William Phyllypott, who died in 1557. The brass is nearly 80 cm high, and depicts him in a fur-lined gown with hanging sleeves. You can see a photograph of the brass itself here:

One of the most unusual items hanging on these walls is a resin reproduction of a Green Man in Lincoln Cathedral. There are carvings of the Green Man is many churches and cathedrals in Britain and Europe. They are in widely varying style. Nobody knows the origins of this mysterious figure but he seems to represent the spirit of the leafy forest from pagan times. You can see the Lincoln version, read more about it, and perhaps even buy your own copy:

Another unusual artefact is in the form of an actual size replica of the famous Lincoln Imp. It is made from reconstituted sandstone which was removed when the cathedral was being repaired and renovated. Less than 30 cm high, it has cloven feet; one leg raised so the foot rests on the other knee; both hands holding the raised leg; open mouth with sharp teeth; cow ears; and a hairy body. Its overall expression is eerily cheeky rather than malevolent.

The original carving is amid the stone tracery at the top of a pillar, two levels below the clerestory, in the beautiful Angel Choir of the cathedral. Famous it may be, but it is difficult to see from ground level if you don't have someone to help you.
There is a nice write-up here, with photos, here:

'The gallery' has been mentioned several times. Is this gallery open to the public? No, it is not. It comprises my parlour and dining room. These items are just a small part of my collection which has accumulated over the last 65 years. A couple of years ago a first-time visitor paid it a lovely compliment when she looked round in astonishment and declared, 'It's like walking into a time-warp!'

Thomas Ordoyno, by the way, was my great-great-great-grandfather. He is one of my many ancestors who were involved in writing, books and publishing. The picture I have is a small copy of the original oil painting which is for sale in London for £3,000. If it is still available, you can see it here:

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2013.


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