History and Heritage

It is widely believed the butterstumps were used by 

farmers wives in the 1600s to sell their wares.

The butterstumps are located on the junction of 

Mansfield Road and Woodhouse Road.

The Butterstumps

There are no recorded facts regarding the Butterstumps. What we have is folk tales.

The accepted folk tale is that from some time in the 1600’s the farmer’s wives of Woodhouse were in the habit of taking butter made in the farmhouses in baskets (it is not stated in what form it was made up or packaged – that is left to the imagination) to the Butter Stump site. They either rested themselves or their baskets on the stumps. The reason for this activity was to sell their produce to passing coach traffic (in those days horse drawn, of course). Leeming Lane being a main north/south route up and down England.

It should also be noted that Mansfield Road was the main link between Woodhouse and Mansfield for many centuries up to the early 1900’s. The only other links from Woodhouse to the main line route of Leeming Lane would be Butt Lane and Warsop Road. Even Butt Lane would have been a late comer to these links. Most of the land to the east of Woodhouse beyond the Maun valley was heath and woodland. There would be no need for links out to the east as no human activity was taking place out there.

Other than the occasional drover (Packman’s Way) (Donkey Steps). Butt Lane relates to the butt end of the Wake Hills area, of which the Leeming Lane rec. still remains. If you examine the Butter Stumps you will see that there are six in-situ. Clearly two are missing as they form a U shape. The open end of whatever is facing what is now invariably called Woodhouse Place.

However, if you look at a number of the old written records you will see that it was historically referred to as Mansfield Place. Our much vaunted Major Hayman Rooke who lived there referred to his residence as Mansfield Place. He lived there from 1723 to 1806. He died at Mansfield Place on 18th Sept. 1806.

The strange thing is, with the butter stumps being almost in his front garden, he being a great antiquarian, you would have thought he would have come up with some definitive on record, but he didn’t. So was there any story to be told!

Further examination will show that whoever erected the stumps would have had to pay a pretty penny for them. They are tapered from bottom to top in an octagon shape. A bit of good Woodhouse stone mason’s skill. The stone is magnesian limestone – as you would expect in Woodhouse – and to all appearance is of the same origin and lineage as the stone in the wall close by, that surrounds the front garden of Mansfield Place. However there was at one time one or two separate entrances through to the south end of the garden. These old gaps have been blocked up at some later date by slightly different stone work.
Could the stumps have been guards or guides for people, or perhaps ridden horses to enter and exit the property? A safety device? Or were they there to stop coaches parking close up to the entrance and thereby blocking use? The road junction could have been quite different in the past to what we see now. At some point the entrance(s) were blocked up and the stumps left out on their own. Could they have then been appropriated by our clever women of Woodhouse to sell their goods.

From the description of the stumps – given later in these notes it seems very unlikely that they would have been out in such an ornate manner, just to serve the trade of artisans. Somebody with status and money must have been at the back of such craftsmanship when they were originally set up. The stumps are only 9 inches across at the top and as such would hardly be suitable to support a conventional basket. Butter could have been sold out of a long narrow barrel.

The stumps have not been well looked after. They have obviously had little respect from the County Highway authority and have had no protection. It is essential that a good protecting rail is put round them as soon as possible and a vandal proof plaque put up to recognise their place in the highway verge. The two missing stumps have been located and can readily be put back in place.

There is no indication that anything was attached to the stumps. It is very unlikely that they were tethering posts – especially with a taper to the top. They would have been very awkward for mounting posts if not downright dangerous. But with a flat 9 inch top, planks could have laid from one post to another. A flat top for a post is unusual and suggests some special usage. As they stand they are only 12 inches above verge level. However excavation reveals that the cut taper faces are 3 feet long. Which suggests supporting something of table height. That tapered column is on an uncut larger base. Which goes on to suggest table/bench structure to carry some considerable weight. But all of that could be purely ornamental or to stand up to some heavy coach collision.

Each face of the octagon is cut at 45 degrees to the next. The cut faces are 3 feet in length, so surely that amount originally stood above ground level. Three feet is above normal table level and is more like serving counter level. Adds to the concept of display and service of goods.

Only one foot is now showing above ground level which leads to a dilemma in the best way to go to seek restoration and full display of what was original. Either we dig them out and thereby cause a drainage problem if left at their original level. Or they will have to be raised to accommodate current day verge levels. Either way they need an iron protective fence around them.

Is there any significance in the number 8. Eight sided pillar and eight pillars. It must be remembered that if these pillars have anything to do with Hayman Rooke, he was in his time an accepted authority on the practice and lore of the Druids which in his time, and right up to modern times was all mixed up with the Celts. One of the prominent beliefs of the Celts was in nine fold sequences. Arthur’s search/quest for the Cauldron of Annwn warmed by the breath of nine maidens. The nine fold sisterhood found throughout Celtic tradition. The nine gifts of Brighid to bless new-born children. So on and on. I could write a whole book on this. I think we have the ninth pillar of our stumps in the wall behind them. Or am I being too fanciful!