A Night in Kelham

En route to visiting my brother in Norwich we had a break in our journey for a night in Kelham. It is a small village in Nottinghamshire; northwest of Newark which grew up around a crossing of the River Trent. Very early bridges crossed the river upstream of the present one, somewhere near the church. Evidence of foundations of buildings have been found south of the church, which suggests that the settlement was originally in this area, and that a major flood may have forced a move to the present site. We stayed at the 18th century Fox Inn which is in the Brit Stops scheme. Members can park their campervans for free behind the inn and there is electric hook-up for £10. We had a delicious evening meal in the pub.

The name was originally spelt Kelum in the 12th century. In the 2011 census the population was 207; almost a half of that of Smallwood where we used to live. Currently, a large proportion of the residents are retired, with the younger people working in nearby Newark. Very little development has been allowed. Kelham has some interesting history; when King Charles I surrendered at Southwell in 1647, he was held at Kelham Hall by the Scots. An information board in the village shows the Scots encampment being situated on the other side of the river. The bridge over the River Trent was constructed in 1856.

It is wide enough to allow two cars to cross at the same time but larger vehicles have to wait until no-one is approaching from the other direction. The A617 is a very busy road running between Newark and Mansfield. There was an interesting notice about fishing.

Kelham Hall is a is a Grade I listed building sitting within 52 acres of park land. The original gate is on the main road in the village

but the current entrance is further down the road. The hall is hidden by woodland.

It has had several incarnations: including being the home of the Manners-Sutton family but was destroyed twice and re-built over time. The second rebuild was after a fire by Sir George Gilbert Scot in 1863. From 1903 to 1973 it was the home of an Anglican order of monks led by Father Herbert Kelly, who founded the Society of the Sacred Mission or SSM. They trained men for missionary work and later for the Church of England ministry. They were known worldwide as ‘The Kelham Fathers’. Father Kelly was responsible for the planting of the extensive collection of trees in the hall grounds, some of which have grown into excellent specimens. The grounds are now one of three sites designated by the ‘Men of Trees’ for memorial planting by individuals. The SSM cemetery is just outside the church wall. During the Second World War, the SSM were host to many military and civilian groups including some Texans. The first drilling for oil in the United Kingdom was in a field in Kelham in 1919 by Thomas D’Arcy. Small traces were found, but lack of money forced abandonment. He then went on to found a worldwide oil exploration company, returning to Kelham Hills in the 1940s to find oil and a small field was established. Later the Hall became the main offices for Newark and Sherwood District Council which was formed in 1973 and was available for weddings and conference but the company went into liquidation in 2021 and now has a new existence with new owners.

There is no shop but one house had a notice suggesting it had been one in the past.

The village is an old farming community which grew up as part of the estate to serve the lords of the manor of Averham and Kelham, providing employment for most of the inhabitants. Some families have lived in the village for several generations. The farms have amalgamated since the 1950s. The Hall home farm is in the centre of the village

and another one is closer to the edge.

The estate was used to develop the technique of growing sugar beet when it was introduced to this country during the First World War. The Kelham sugar beet processing factory was built in 1921. It is now known as the Newark factory and is one of the largest and most modern sugar factories in Europe. After a quiet night close to this busy road we continued on our journey to Norwich.