For this church:
In the early 1300s Roger de Brunnesley obtained a licence to build a chapel on his lands at Brinsley near to his manor house. Brinsley Hall is believed to be an ancient house and to have had an adjoining chapel which was dedicated to St Chad. There have been some human remains found in the vicinity which could indicate a burial ground. Possibly inhabitants were allowed to worship at this chapel, rather than make the journey, especially in inclement weather, to the parish church of St Mary at Greasley which is about 2 miles away across hilly terrain. Historically it was this church which served the small community and the dead had to be carried there for burial. The traditional coffin-route can still be traced, and there are a number of designated rest points along the way.
With the steady expansion of the population, there was a desire for a separate place of worship to serve this growing community. The parish was extensive, so in 1837 a small chapel of ease was built at Brinsley, on land given by the Duke of Newcastle. He also provided the Mansfield stone and £100 towards the total cost of £1290. Further donations of £200 from the Church Building Society and from Barber Walker, the colliery owners were forthcoming and Col. Rolleston, Mr. R.C.Rolleston and Mr. Joseph Cooper Gething, a local farmer and innkeeper, also contributed generously to the building funds.
The original chapel was a small stone building, consisting of a nave with two small turrets at the west end, one of which housed a bell. (The other turret served at one stage as a chimney for the heating boiler.) It had a saddleback slate roof. The internal dimensions were 53 feet in length and 30 feet in breadth. The east gable is coped with a cross. At the west end the nave is flanked by the two octagonal crenellated turrets already mentioned, each with chamfered openings. The nave has four bays with buttresses. The vestry is a single storey extension with a coped gable. The south porch is gabled and houses a pointed doorway
Pevsner describes it as “the type of the Commissioners’ churches all over the country, but looking less cheap here than usual because of the Mansfield stone used. Oblong shape, two polygonal turrets flanking the west front with its three lancets; lancets also along the sides.”
It was equipped with a harmonium with 8 stops.
The church was opened for Divine Service on Sunday 10th June 1838. A copy of the poster announcing the event can be seen at the Nottinghamshire Archives. The first four services were conducted by local clergymen, including the Rector of Eastwood, the Rev H W Plumtree.
The church remained for many years under the care of the Rev John Hides, Vicar of Greasley, with a curate to assist him. Much of the administration, such as the keeping of registers, the payments of cleaning, heating and lighting costs were all carried out from the church at Greasley.
By 1861, faced with an extensive parish whose population was continuing to expand, the decision was taken to create a separate Ecclesiastical Parish for Brinsley. The Church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the first incumbent was Rev Edward Cayley, who was a perpetual curate until the death of Rev John Hides in 1866, when a vicarage was established. The living was under the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle who, in 1862, established a rent charge of a total of £100 as an endowment. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners paid £33 per annum for the benefit of the incumbent. The original vicarage was a large rambling house, situated in Hall Lane. The present vicarage is sited more conveniently adjacent to the churchyard.
Forty years later, particularly with the expansion of the coal-mining activities in Brinsley, the church was found to be too small. In 1878, at a cost of £1236, it was enlarged by the addition of a chancel and an organ chamber, the windows were renewed and new seating, which was to be free to the parishioners, was installed. The chancel has corner buttresses at the east end and a lower, steeper roof than the nave. Lighting was provided by gas lamps. The work was carried out by Fisher Bros. of Mansfield.
In 1875, a further £400 was found to build a Mission Church and School Room at New Brinsley. Ground rent of five shillings per annum was paid to the Earl of Mexborough. The Bishop of Lincoln granted a licence to hold services there on 25th August 1875. It was called St John’s and used for many years until 1914 as an infants’ school. Older children in Brinsley had received their education at the National School, situated at Brinsley Moor. Eventually, in the 1930s, St John’s became redundant and was demolished, leaving only the name of St John’s Close as a reminder today.
A Reading Room for the benefit of the parishioners was built in 1884 and a nominal rent of two shillings paid to Barber Walker. Like the Mission Rooms this no longer exists.
The Church continued under the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle until this was transferred to Barber Walker, (sometime after 1894), then to the National Coal Board and subsequently, in 1958, to the Bishop of Southwell.
The dedication of the church was changed to St James the Great in the 1890s though Wright’s Directory of 1894 still referred to it as Holy Trinity.
In 1913 the Vicar’s vestry, which had at one time, been the north porch, was enlarged, and then was further enlarged following a centenary appeal, which resulted in raising more money for church improvements, including new doors to the main entrance and porch.
Sited at the far end of the car park, the brick built Church Hall at Brinsley was erected by W.H.Slater in 1952 to provide the community with a focal point for Parish activities though it is now in need of replacement.
In 1964 there was an agreement for the removal of coal from beneath the church and the churchyard. Subsequently, there have been signs of subsidence and some movement of the foundations which are currently being monitored. A few of the poplar trees have been removed, as it was thought that they were a contributory factor.
In 1996 the windows at the east end were damaged in a storm and this necessitated their repair and the renewal of plaster on the wall of the sanctuary. More recently woodworm has affected the floor and this has been replaced and recarpetted.
The Wesleyan Methodists had a strong following in Brinsley and there were chapels in both Brinsley and New Brinsley with, additionally, a Primitive Methodist Chapel erected in the latter in 1886. The first and last of these former chapels are still standing but have been converted to commercial use.
The Parish Registers date back to 1861, when Brinsley was created as a separate parish. Formerly, baptisms, marriages and funerals for the villagers were recorded in the Parish Registers of Greasley. Copies of these registers are available for consultation at the County Archives Office, Nottingham and the Public Library in Eastwood.