Transcribed from the Epworth Bells 9 & 16 October 1875
We lately fell in with an old Manuscript (written 90 years ago) which gives an account of the celebrated DRAINAGE of the Levels, near Epworth, and also the names of the persons who came over to Sandtoft above 200 years ago with Vermuyden. Having long been in search of a list of those names we publish the whole as we find it, to preserve it from being lost.
The manuscript contains several expressions which may be considered unnecessarily strong ; but we think it desirable to give every word as it is, and even the original spelling, so as to give a true copy of the manuscript. The following is the first portion of it :
LEVELS OF HATFIELD CHASE.
King Charles the Ist being Lord of Hatfield, Epworth, and Misterton, and fourteen other Contigioua Manure, the Demeans whereof consisted of a Level of above Seventy Thousand Acres of overflowed waters, whereon he had (as also his Progenitors had) a Royal Chase of Red Deer.
For the good of his Tenants and all his subjects, he contracted with Vermuden, a Dutchman, and his Participants in 1626, in the Second year of his Reign, to dischase and Drain the same, reserving one third part for himself as Lord of the soil, allowing one third part to the Drainers for their charges, and of meer-grace granted the remainder to the respective Tenants for their Common. The said Level was dischased and Drained at the expense of above Three Hundred Thousand Pounds ; and the allotment was by consent decreed in the Exchequer, and his Majesty sold the Drainers his share under the Feefarm Rent of £1,228 17s. Per Annum. This Rent was soon after granted to George, Duke of Buckingham, Son to that Duke Stabbed by Felton, at Portsmouth. These Lands were quietly enjoyed at first, and great Numbers of Dutch and French Protestants being planted there, • Church and Minister’s House was erected at Sandtoft for their congregation, and a Salary of Eighty Pounds Per Annum was settled on their Minister, and he preached to them on each Lord’s day in both Languages.
But the Tenants of the Manours of Epworth and Misterton, in ill return for the great favour indulged them by his Majesty above the rest, did in the Civil Wars take up Arms against him, and with the help of the Parliament Soldiers, they laid waste the enclosed Lands within these Marioure ; Burnt and destroyed Houses and Corn thereon to the Value of £20,000, defaced the Church and Ten Commandments, buried Carrion under the Communion Table, carried away the Leads and Seats, pulled up the Sluces and would have thrown this famous Level into its former Chase, had they not been suppressed, for which they were even in those Days excepted from pardon. No order, no decree, could now be put in Execution ; no Officer durst execute any such thing for fear of their lives from the Islanders, and this improvement was in great danger of being entirely destroyed. Several of the Commissioners refused to act for fear of insult ;
Upon which Sir Arthur Ingram, and other great Participants, prevailed upon Nathaniel Reading, Esq., to undertake the subdueiug these Monsters. They agreed to give Mr. Reading a Salary of £2OO Per Annum, to indemnify him, Reimburse him in all his charges, and to reward him further; and in the year 1655 he entered upon the Difficult undertaking. He obtained several Writs of assistance and orders of the House of Lords, and Deputies from the Sherriffs of York, Lincoln, and Nottingham. He provided Horses, and arms, and necessaries, with Twenty hired Men at £20 a year, and their Diet each, with a Surgeon in ordinary, and on particular occasions he hired many more ; and after Thirty-one set Battles, wherein several of his Men were killed, divers others wounded and lamed, he subdued those Monsters, quieted the Crown and the Participants in their allotment. He repaired the Church, settled another Minister, restored the Congregation, and made the Levels and parts adjacent quite safe and flourishing. But about the Year 1692 the Rioters had again laid waste the Lands that he had with so much difficulty and danger recovered.
Upon which Mr. Reading had a Lease granted by the Participants of a great part of the Land in Epworth Manour, and he at great expense made several miles of Fences. But he had now to fight with Hydra Ground more formidable than ever. He Plowed and Sowed above one Thousand Acres, and a consultation being made among the Rioters, they assaulted him and his Sons and Servants, night and day ; Killed his Goods, Fired his house with design to have burnt him, his Wife and family, in their Beds, and afterwards great number,’ of them being disguised and armed, destroyed all his Outhouses and Tenant Houses, Chopt down Hundreds of Fruit and other trees, plundered a New House he were forced to build to lie in, carried away his goods, burnt his fences, turn’d their goods into his corn, and gave him the Diversion of all kind of Military Execution. He complained of these insults, and obtained Pardon for the discoverers of these villains, and had several of them in prison, and several of them being outlawed, they outbraved the laws, and detached some of their Principals to go up with a Publick phrase, and defy the Parliament itself.
The Rioters inclosed part of the Lands belonging to the Crown and the Participants, to raise Money to defy the Government &c. These insults were frequently committed, till the Act against Rioters passed in the first year of the Reign of King George the First, and now these famous Levels are at peace, and in forty years time improved to that degree by the management and care of the Participants, officers, and Tenants, that it is thought there is no better farms in the three forementioned Counties.
Note.—The Islanders claim their common from a deed of Sir John Mowbray once Lord of the whole Isle of Axholme, Dated the First of May, 1359. But Roger De Mowbray after that forfeited this fine Estate by Rebellion against King Edward, and against whom he held out in his Castle at Kinnard Ferry upon Trent for a long time, but was at last reduced.
About the year 1715, Colonel Robert Reading leased part of the decreed lands in Belton of the Participants called Woodcarr, which fences were pilled up by the Islanders. He had several of them in Prison, and compounded with them that had money. But to keep up the enclosure he had part of Clayton’s Regiment of Foot encamped on Ross. But the Riot Act passing as above, all was soon quiet. This Gentleman was son to Nathaniel Reading, Esq., before mentioned by Arabel Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, and own Aunt to that Hero, John, Duke of Marlborough. The Colonel behaved very well in his Military capacity at the Battle of Dumblaim, in 1715, and Commander in Chief at the Battle of Gleuehet, the Year after, where he took live Hundred Spaniard* Prisoners.
In the 6th Year of the Reign of King George the Second, a decree passed in the Exchequer, which settled all the disputes between Robert, and Thomas Reading, Esq., and the Isle people, since which time the Levels has flourished.
King Charles the first, sold his third part (as was said before) to John Corcellis, and John Gibbons, under the Fee-farm Rent of £1,228 17s. Per Annum. When the Isle people committed these unheard-of cruelties against Mr. Reading, Mr. Popplewell’s wife was by his encouragement at the head of them ; and when they was Indicted at Lincoln Assizes, Mr. Popplewell made application to Colonel Witchcoat, and Colonel Pownel, to pacify Mr. Reading, and they awarded Mr. Popplewell to pay Mr. Reading £6OO to save his wife and the rest of his friends the Rioters, which he paid to Mr. Reading. in the year 1692.
The following are the Names of the first Drainers and People that came over from France and Holland, :
Sr. Cornelius Vermuden
Isaac and Pietre Vanpeeren
Widow of Edwd. Biahoppe
Picolf & Sebastian Frankler
Widow of Mich’. Crayealin
The Professor Dyoell
Sir James Cato.
These the first drainers from Holland.
Sir Phillip Vernatti
Sir John Ogle
Sir Jamea Campell.
These the 1st from France.
Egard or Egarr
Lelew or Lew
Delanoy or Lenoy
Chavatt or Savatt
Letalle or Tall
Lenard or Lenard
Delapriam or Prime
Vermin or Vennay
Clebaux or Box
Leraux or Booth
These following Holland,
Butterwick, June 13th, 1785.