DOGs – Southwell Guided Walking Tour

4th October 2023

A large group of us gathered in the Minster Tea Rooms in Southwell having negotiated the pay and display machines with varying degrees of success. After hot drinks and a natter, our guide for the morning, Martin, joined us and we set off on our tour. Martin proved to be a very knowledgeable guide.

Martin in full flow.

We learnt about the governance of medieval England and the power and wealth of the church. Martin went on to describe the history of Southwell Minster before we went inside.

Southwell Minster

During our interior tour, we learnt more about some of the characters involved. John Thomas Becham was one such – more of him later. Leaving the Minster, we viewed the Palace gardens and then the State Chamber. Many historical characters have visited this room from Richard ‘The Lionheart’ in 1194 to Richard II in 1395. Cardinal Wolsey spent his last summer here. Having failed to gain a divorce for Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon, he fled the King’s anger. King Charles I was held in this room by Scottish Commissioners before his return journey to London – where he would face execution.

The State Room

Leaving the Minster Grounds, we walked towards The Saracen’s Head and learnt a little more about Charles I and his last few days. Continuing further along to The Burgage, we were told about some of the large houses there. Including one where Lord Byron lived from 1803 to 1808. The Prebend Houses were all built for Prebendaries – senior churchmen who benefited from multiple ‘Livings’. We saw several of these – with varying degrees of grandeur.

John Thomas Becher lived in Hill House from 1805 until his death in 1848. He was a major influence in the town, especially in relation to the Workhouse, Southwell Minster and the House of Correction. Normanton Prebend is among the best looking of the houses we saw and looked splendid in the October light.

Normanton Prebend

At the end of our tour, we retired to the Old Theatre Deli (a building with its own history) where the Old Theatre room had been reserved for us and lunch was served.

It was a grand day out. Many thanks to Sue and Graham Cowland for organising  the tour and to Martin, our incredibly knowledgeable guide.

Words and pictures – Paul Fileman