Spires and Steeples: Art and Heritage

Potterhanworth to Nocton

Nocton Hall

‘Nochetune’, as it was described in Domesday Book, derives from the Old English for the ‘farm of the sheep’. There has been a hall here since around 1530 and Henry VIII is known to have stayed there in 1541 but over the centuries it passed through numerous owners before the Hobart family came here in the mid C18th. One of them, Robert, became Secretary of State for the Colonies and had Hobart in Tasmania named after him. The hall subsequently came into the ownership of the Earls of Ripon, the first earl (John) being prime minister – but only for five months – in 1827/28. A new hall was built by the Ripons but that burned down in 1841 and its replacement, after being an RAF hospital for many years, suffered the same fate in 2004.

St Peter’s Church

Nocton also owes its magnificent church to the Ripons but there is a story behind it! The mediaeval St Peters was demolished by the Hobarts in 1773 (it was too near the hall for their liking) and a new Georgian style church was built where All Saints now stands. That in turn was replaced by the present church, completed in 1862 and paid for entirely by the Countess of Ripon as a memorial to her late ‘prime minister’ husband. Described by Rev. Henry Thorold as “sumptuous” it was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott the leading Victorian Neo-Gothic architect. The spire is 130 feet high and the interior brims with carvings, wall paintings, mosaics, alabaster and glass all contrived as an elaborate imagined re-creation of a C13th early decorated church. The approach path is but one feature amongst several community artworks in the village. The tree-lined track opposite the church gate once led to the hall. (See also www.allsaintsnocton.org.uk) Scott also designed the school and three rows of cottages in the village; the first, Ripon Row is seen just across the road as we come into Nocton and enter The Avenue. Others are in Wellhead Lane and the Old Row behind the post office.

Nocton Artwork

As we walk through Nocton village heading for the green we see our first artwork beside The Avenue, a Roman centurion’s head by Robert Thompson. Then on the green we come to the ‘Dandelion Sundial’ by Cliff Baxendale surrounded by relief panels depicting various aspects of Nocton’s history. There are also a photographic installation at the village hall (in Main Road) by Jane Harrison, and a carved bench near the post office created by the villagers under the guidance of artsNK’s Denise Marshall. Perhaps the most delightful of all however is seen beside The Bridleway as we set off on the next section of the walk to Dunston. The ‘Cow’ was created by Nocton schoolchildren with artsNK from old scrap farm tools which had been ploughed up in the surrounding fields. There are other charming little way markers including a carved squirrel and a mosaic snail!

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