St John


Two chapels dedicated to St John have existed in the tiny village of Clipston in south Nottinghamshire, although neither has survived to the modern day. The first was a medieval chapel of unknown provenance. At some point it became associated with the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Knights of St John, who had an estate at Cotgrave, a few miles from Clipston.

Domesday records a village at Clipston owned by Roger de Busli in 1086. It had three freemen, twelve villagers, and one smallholder. There is no mention of a church or priest.

The chapel is mentioned as paying 13d each year to the mother church in Southwell for the Pentecostal Offering. It is also referred to in a dispute in 1515 between a knight called William Pierpoynt – the Pierrepont family held lands across the county for many centuries – and a man called Hugh Taylor. William claimed various lands and a messuage, but also the advowson (the right to appoint a priest) for St John’s Chapel in Clipston. The chapel was described a free chapel or chantry – the latter being a chapel set up to pray for the souls of its benefactors.

The chapel is not mentioned in the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291, nor in the Nonarum Inquisitiones – the tax survey undertaken in 1341. Nor is it mentioned in later official surveys, such as the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535. As such it is not clear when the church was built, or when it was destroyed, although it had certainly gone before the 19th century. Given that the properties of the Knights Hospitaller were seized by Henry VIII during the Reformation it seems possible that the small chapel at Clipston was either seized, or, more likely, , in all probability it was simply a small chapel , with little income, that fell out of use with a declining population.  At the Reformation the lands of Clipston, formerly within Cotgrave parish, went to the Rempston family. All that survived was the odd place name – Church Gate, Glebe Farm – to indicate that a chapel had once been there.

The second chapel of St John was a much more recent construction, built in 1898. Associated with the parish church at nearby Plumtree, it was built as a chapel-of-ease to give the villagers of Clipston their own place of worship. The chapel was a ‘tin tabernacle’ – built of corrugated iron in prefabricated sections and around 44ft by 24ft in size, divided into a nave and chancel, and seating around 50 people. Tin tabernacles were common in the late 19th century as the new construction and engineering techniques being developed first allowed such prefabricated buildings to be made. Many churches and mission halls were built in this fashion by the Victorians during the religious revival of the time, and in order to deal with the needs of the rapidly expanding city populations. The new building was dedicated in a ceremony led by the Bishop of Derby on 9 November 1898, during which £19 7s 6d was collected towards the building fund.

The land the chapel was built on was leased to the rector of Plumtree in 1906, for 999 years at a rent of 1s a year. However the landlord and patron of the chapel, William Elliot Burnside of Tollerton Hall, insisted that if the building ceased to be a chapel the land would have to be returned to agricultural use. Whether this means Mr Burnside thought it likely that the chapel would not last, or whether he was a man of faith who wished to ensure it did last, is not entirely clear. In 1908 the chapel held its first Holy Communion and for several decades the church appears to have been in frequent use. In 1915 an American organ was acquired while in 1925 repairs were made, as the chapel had seen a lot of wear and tear.

However, by this time the chapel’s value was in debate. Mrs Alice Burnside, widow of William Elliot Burnside and the patron following his death, described the place as ‘a little iron mission room’ and that it was ‘not consecrated’. Her husband, she claimed, had ministered to “a mere handful of people, mostly children”. Other records show that there were perhaps six communicants at the church. As a result of these complaints the rector of Plumtree wrote to the Bishop in 1926, asking what should be done with the chapel and questioning whether it should be closed, or given a lay reader to take services.

The chapel was not immediately shut down. Records show it continued to operate through most of the 1930s. A Mr and Mrs Hall are mentioned in 1932 as having looked after the chapel, for example. Services ceased in 1938, and although the Sunday School continued for a few more years, records cease to mention the chapel entirely after 1942 and the building itself was quickly dismantled and sold off as scrap metal. Today nothing remains to mark the chapel’s presence.