For this church:
Clayworth, referred to as Clavood in Domesday Book and Claworth in Thoroton’s Antiquities of Nottinghamshire, lies along a stretch of the Roman road from Lincoln to Doncaster and today is bounded on the south side by the Chesterfield Canal. The ancient church, dedicated to St Peter, is a captivating image of grey walls and roofs, a timber front porch and a line of windows six centuries old, surrounded by trees.
It is clear from Domesday Book that the remainder of land was granted to Roger to Busli, which records a value of 5s in 1086. Domesday further suggests that there was limited Saxon inhabitation of village due to its poor agricultural capabilities as a result bad drainage and flooding of the River Idle.
Domesday Book makes no mention of a church in Clayworth, though one may have existed. Norman remains are more certainly identified and include the north and south doorways, part of the chancel arch, and the bases of the pier arcades.
Archaeological analysis paints a confusing picture of the history of the church building. The Weekly Guardian for 2 June 1956 discussing the church’s architectural history entitled its piece ‘Puzzles at Clayworth’, and quoted Pevsner’s comment that ‘the arcades of the two aisles inside are very weird, and not yet fully explained’. The cause or reason for this incongruity is unknown and leads to the somewhat speculative dating of the church building.
Norman work is apparent in the north and south doorways, and it would appear to be almost certain that the original chancel arch was Norman, as well as what remains of the capital of a Norman pillar on the south side of the present chancel screen, and a small piece of carved work immediately below.
Between 1114-1133, during the reign of Henry I, the King issued a precept to Archbishop Thurstan, and to Thurstan the Archdeacon of Nottingham, to cause the Bishop of Lincoln to have tithes and rights and customs pertaining to Clayworth church, and especially their rights over the King's men and all other parishioners.
In 1231 the living had been divided into quarters, as Archbishop Walter Gray gave Odo the fourth part of the church, having previously given him the other three parts.
Archbishop Walter Giffard called an inquisition on 12 November 1266 as to why the church was vacant (ie. had no rector). He found that the incumbency was in dispute (quae eam litigiosam asserit, vidimus) as Richard Clifford was claiming the advowson. The archbishop ordered that dispute be resolved, or that Clifford was to give up his claim, and that he would not admit the Dean of Lincoln's presentee until this issue had been concluded.
In the 1291 Pope Nicholas IV taxation, Clayworth had a clear annual value of £23 6s 8d, and in the same church was a pension paid to the Dean of Lincoln with a clear value of 6s 8d. This indicates that the church was annexed to, or appropriated by, Lincoln prior to this date. The 1291 valuation is confirmed in the Nonae Rolls of 1341, and the value at that date, comprising ninths of sheaves, lambs, and fleeces, plus altar fees, came to the same; however, an additional sum of £1 14s 8d arising from agricultural land was given. In 1428, the Henry VI subsidy levied £2 6s 4d in tax, thus indicating that the accepted value had not changed since 1291.
In 1302 Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge issued letters testimonial, following an inquisition, that the rector of Clayworth, Henry de Bourne, was innocent of the death of Richard del Wodehalle (Woodhall).
Archbishop William Melton gave a commission to the official of York in September 1320 to determine the cause, previously begun before the archbishop, between the rector, Mr. John de Nottingham, plaintiff, and John son of Ralph, William de Beltoft, and Hughe de Suththorp, parishioners of Clayworth, defendants. We are not told the nature of the charges brought.
In August 1328 William Daubenay of Clayworth challenged the Dean of Lincoln's advowson to the church, and a write of prohibition was issued by Archbishop Melton. In November the same year, Melton found in favour of Mr. Henry de Mammesfeld, Dean of Lincoln, by Daubenay's default. Also in 1328 several men who took trees from the churchyard pleaded before the archbishop that they should not be excommunicated. They had been given just 10 days to make restitution.
In 1346, Thomas Beek, formerly the Bishop of Lincoln, left the sum of 40 s. to the church of Clayworth.
At the time of the Reformation Mattersey Priory held lands and tenements in Clayworth to the annual value of 73 s. but they had no rights to the parish church itself.
In 1589 the glass windows were in decay, and in 1602 the churchwardens and swornmen presented Roberte Bette for not paying 2s due to the glazier for the mending of the church windows. 1602 was a colourful year for presentments as William Wogden and Roberte Bett were also presented for ‘haunting the alehouse in time of divine service’.
Thanks to the Revd. William Sampson who was the rector from 1672 to 1702 the domestic affairs of this parish during that period are better known than those of any other parish in the county. Church affairs play a significant role. He tells of charitable gift, harvest and Christmas feasts and of droughts and frosts. A most notable entry refers to his reluctant reading of the proclamation of King James II for ‘Liberty of Conscience’ on two successive Sundays in church and the cold suspicion with which the congregation heard it. E. L. Guilford published the writings of William Sampson in 1910 with notes and illustrations.
In 1672 Sampson gave permission for the church building to be used to teach the village children. He extended this offer when its permanent foundation was proposed, pledging to add a quarter of the whole amount donated, but the project subsequently failed. In 1702 he left substantial rentals for a school in which six poor boys were to be taught.
Thomas Herring, Archbishop of York, conducted a visitation of his diocese in 1743, and reports were made of the state of each church. He recorded that there were 'about Ninety families in this parish' with none of them labeled as dissenters. There was no Meeting House, neither were there Alms Houses nor a hospital but there was a charity school endowed with nine pounds per year for the teaching of eight poor children.
At the time of Archbishop Drummond’s visitation in 1764 the Rector, William Dawson, recorded that there were 89 families in the parish, all of them Church of England. He lived in the parish, held two services each Sunday, and administered the Sacrament five times a year. He noted also a charity school in the parish endowed by the late Revd William Sampson c.1700.
John Throsby noted that the Lordship of Clayworth was enclosed in 1791. It contained 2,076 acres and the rector's glebe was 281 acres. He provided details of the interior of the church at Clayworth citing an old inscription in the chancel, on a brass plate in black-letter that read: 'Humphery Fitzwilliam, esq: was buried at — the 18th day of — Anno 1556, who had to wife Ann, dau: of William Dallyson, of Laughton, in the county of Lincoln, esq: which Ann was buried at — the last day of June, Anno 1558, and had issue, sons, William, Roger, Edward, Humphery; and daughters, Margaret, Dorothy, and Anne, whose souls God rest'. He continued by describing monuments and inscriptions that were in the chancel, and within the rails of the altar.
According to the 1851 census of religious worship, the Parish of Clayworth consisted of the townships of Clayworth and Wiseton. The parish spanned 3,080 acres and had a population of 299 males and 302 females. The majority were situated in Clayworth – 474 of the total – while the remainder were in Wiseton. There is reference to two churches in the Clayworth township; a Weslyan Methodist church and St Peter’s, referred to as Clayworth Parish Church. The vicar was the Revd. Thomas Henry Shepherd and he described the church as having ‘Thirty-five open stalls beside the loft, fifteen pews, total 300’. A further detail recorded in the census, is the late return of information – dated 14 August 1852 – but there is no reason given.
Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church on 25 August 1870, and reported that it was ‘a large church in a very neglected and unworthy condition having a clerestoried nave with aisles, chancel with north and south chapels, south porch and west tower. The roofs are low pitched, covered with lead. The walls are partially stuccoed externally. The porch is of brick. The tower is engaged only with the south aisle.’ He noticed also that ‘the east end of the Chancel has been shortened and patched in brick’. Internally the church was ‘in as wretched and dirty a condition as is possible to conceive.’
John Oldrid Scott carefully restored the Church in 1874-5. Before, part of the north aisle was blocked, a ceiling across the chancel showed its section through the arch, and the musicians’ gallery occupied the western end. These obstructions were removed, together with the high backed Jacobean pews, although much of their wood was used in the new open benches. Many old features were preserved, including the screen of the Chapel of St Nicholas and a cross slab to a former rector, dated 1448. Relics of nearly 1,000 years can still be seen in the masonry, and nine windows contain stained glass by Charles Eamer Kempe.
The church is home to the largest single work of art in the East Midlands, the Traquair Murals. Created by artist Pheobe Anna Trequair in 1904-5 and restored in 1996 (after partial destruction during the 1960s), they cover all four walls within the chancel of the church. These murals were commissioned by Lady D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne to celebrate the safe return from the Boer War of her son, Captain Joseph Frederick Laycock.
Edwyn Hoskyns, the Bishop of Southwell, visited the Church in January 1913, as part of his parochial visitation of the Bawtry Deanery. The Deanery had a population of about 9,500, with church accommodation for 3,400. He makes reference to the presence of seven Church day schools, where Clergy play an active role in teaching. He states that in no other Deanery did he find “greater cause for sympathy of the Bishop” – the parishes are very scattered, with no good centre and the “furthest removed from my Diocesan centre”. The Bishop does not specify but makes note of a “very hostile spirit upon the part of the non conformists” in one or two parishes.