White's Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1853
Gotham, seven miles south south west of Nottingham, is a considerable village and parish, bounded on the west by the lofty hills of the Wolds, and on the east by an extensive tract of marshy land, which is often flooded by the numerous streams that roll from the heights after heavy rains. Its parish contains 792 inhabitants, and 2,740 acres of land, enclosed in 1804, when 427a 3r 11p were allotted to the rector in lieu of tithes, in addition to 43a of Keyworth common allotted to him in the 36th of George III. Earl Howe is principal owner and lord of the manor, but D. Hall Esq., Mrs Crane, Sir Arthur B. Clifton and others have small estates here.
All the water near the village is strongly tainted with decomposed vegetable matter, and with the gypsum that lies under the surface, so that the villagers were obliged to fetch their water from the summit of a hill, distant half a mile to the north. A few years ago, the Earl had pipes laid from Weldon Hills to the village, by which means a supply of pure water has been obtained. In 1829, his lordship erected a large school here, and supports the master, who has under tuition about 200 scholars. The poor parishioners have the interest of £57, left by John Barrow and three other benefactors.
The church, dedicated to St Lawrence, was repaired and repewed in 1835 at the cost of about £1,200, raised by subscription, , aided by a grant from the Incorporated Society for Building and Enlarging Churches. It contains 628 sittings, of which 477 are declared free for ever. In the chancel are several ancient monuments of the Andrews family. The rectory, valued in the King's books at £19 8s 6½d, now £513, is enjoyed by the Rev. John James Vaughan, and is in the alternate patronage of Earl Howe, Lord St John and George Saville Foljambe Esq., the former having the next presentation. The rectory is a commodious mansion on the south side of the church yard. The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel here.
Upon a hill, about a mile south of the village, is the Cuckoo Bush, said to have been planted to commemorate a trick which the inhabitants put upon King John, and which no doubt gave rise to the fabulous and ridiculous stories that were so much valued and cried up in Henry 8th's time, under the name of "the merry tales of the Mud Men of Gotham". The book containing the merry tales of the "Wise" Gothamites, is said to have been written by one Andrew Borde, a facetious travelling quack of the 16th century, whose professional fooleries are supposed to have given rise to the name and occupation of "Merry Andrew", and that the cuckoo bush story originated from the following circumstance:- The inhabitants apprehending that the ground over which a King passed, was for ever after to become a public road, prevented King John from crossing their meadows on his way to Nottingham. He afterwards sent messengers to inquire into the cause of their rudeness. To prevent any punishment from falling upon their heads, they thought of an expedient to turn away the royal displeasure. When the messengers arrived, they found some of the inhabitants endeavouring to drown an eel in a pond, some employed in dragging carts upon a large barn, in order to shade a wood from the sun. Others were tumbling their cheeses down a hill, that they might find their way to Nottingham market, and some were employed in hedging a cuckoo, which had perched upon an old bush that stood on the site of the present one. In short, they were all employed in some ridiculous occupation, which convinced the King's officers that they were a village of fools, and consequently unworthy of the King's notice. Fuller says, after alluding to those stories, "Gotham doth breed as wise people as any which causelessly laugh at their simplicity".
[Transcribed by Clive Henly]