Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Historic Capital of Mercia

After our walk at Staunton Harold we drove through several villages all associated with ancestors on my father's side of the family.  Villages like Ingleby and Foremark where the Edwards family can be found in the parish registers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and only the earliest census returns before they moved to the larger towns of Swadlincote, Church Gresley and Newhall to work in the coal and pottery industries.  Our goal was the village of Repton which was one of the most important centres for the rulers of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia.

High Street, Repton
The village dates back to Anglo Saxon times and it was here in c.653 that Christianity was first preached in the midlands when four monks were sent from The Kingdom of Northumbria to convert the royal family of Mercia.
Tudor Houses on the High Street
Soon after an Abbey was founded in Repton, known as a double abbey because it accepted both men and women to follow their Christian beliefs - interestingly it was ruled by an abbess not an abbott.

Ancient cross in the middle of High Street
Members of the Mercian royal family are buried in the Saxon crypt in the church notably Kings  Ethelbald and Wiglaf.  Wiglaf's grandson Wystan  was murdered c. 850 by his uncle.  Soon after miracles were attributed to Wystan and pilgrims came from all over to see his remains.  He was later accepted as a saint and the church was dedicated to him.

The Priory - now Repton School
In the Domesday Survey of 1086 Repton is known as Rapendune but by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 it is known as Repingdon.  Many of the priory buildings were demolished at this time but the priory guest house was left standing - this was bought by Sir John Port of Etwall who left money to set up a free school for boys there.  It is now a private school for both boys and girls.

Cottages on Willington Road
We had a lovely time walking around the village and around the churchyard  but it was time to move on and find some afternoon tea before travelling home.

St Wystan's Church

View of the school across the churchyard
I was intrigued by the stone below so took a photo of it to try and find out who C. B Fry was - we guessed he might be an 'old boy' of the school.

Memorial to Charles Burgess Fry

I soon found reference to him - he was a Polymath, sportsman, politician, diplomat, writer and teacher amongst other things.  He is best known as a cricketer and the commentator John Arlott described him as 'probably the most variously gifted Englishman of any age'  - here is a link to his Wikipedia page.  I was intrigued by the story that he could still, at the age of 70, perform his 'party piece' which was 'jumping backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position'

We drove towards Willington and stopped for afternoon tea and cake at the Mercia Marina - we first found this place  early in the summer when I'd being doing some family history research at Aston-on-Trent  (see my family history blog)  -  the tea room was very busy so we sat outside on the veranda and watched the boats bobbing up and down on the water - it was a very colourful sight.  For some reason - probably because I was enjoying my lemon slice and hot tea I didn't take any photos!


  1. A very interesting post Rosie, especially about the man who could jump backwards onto a mantelpiece!!! You do have some lovely days out. I find it difficult to retain all the historical information though despite my Dad being a local historian where he lives!!! I never got that gene!

  2. Hi Rosie, I had forgotten how lovely Repton is. Growing up in the area I don't think I ever really appreciated it. Sadly my memory of the place was the The Bulls Head and The Red Lion.

  3. I wish I'd know the history of my country as you do with yours :-)

  4. Repton looks a lovely place, thanks for the tour. We have done a bit of research into my husband's family but everyone seems to have the same christian name which makes it a bit difficult to sort out one from the other!

  5. Fascinating history, Rosie! I love the school ... imagine working in a building as beautiful as that!
    Love Kathy xxx

  6. Jaw dropping open in disbelief!!! When the weather was so glorious last Monday, I took a drive/walk down to Twyford, Willington and Repton in search of some fresh air and some decent blog photos! My Repton posts are set up for publication in just over a week! Believe it or not, four of your photos are very similar to mine! Small world! Very informative post too :)

  7. Dont be trying that at home Rosie!!! Wonder if he is related to Stephen Fry? another man of many talents. Ive never been to Repton - but it makes you think about how such important towns now are just picturesque pretty places - What will happen to our "important" towns these days that are in decline at the moment. Another place I would love to step back in time! xxxx

  8. I love the history of English villages. I've been watching The Story of England and it has been fascinating. The sense of history is one of the things that I miss most about living outside the UK.

    Enjoy your weekend,
    Marie x