For this church:
The village of Coddington is 2 to 3 miles east of Newark on the old Sleaford Road, close to the Nottinghamshire-Lincolnshire border. The village is approximately ‘T-shaped’; the church lies in the centre of the old village. After several extensions to its graveyard, All Saints’ Church now lies between Main Street and Chapel Lane (formerly called Church Lane).
Area of the Graveyard
The graveyard currently occupies an L-shaped piece of land running between Chapel Lane (previously called Church Lane) and Main Street. Early maps (1835) show the graveyard confined to the curved frontage of Chapel Lane, hemmed in by two farmsteads. A path flanked with occasional yews loops around the south of the church between the two gates opening off Chapel Lane. A later path with yew avenue (through the extended graveyard) links the south porch to the Main Street entrance gate to the South.
The graveyard is significantly raised relative to the level of Chapel Lane (which slopes down to the E), with a brick retaining wall from WNW to NE, with additional iron railings in places. The eastern entrance (lower Chapel Lane) has a flight of steps and there is an iron arch with lantern light was bought by Coddington Women’s Institute. The low open metal-rail fencing of the Main St boundary allows clear views of the church and graveyard from the South. Opposite the site on Main St are the high distinctive walls of the former gardens of Coddington House, built by James Thorpe for his widowed mother Anne, on the site of Ordoyno’s Farm.
The graveyard was no doubt in as bad a state as the church and was re-landscaped following the 1863-5 rebuilding. (An 1869 trade directory states that the churchyard was enlarged and planted with ornamental shrubs in 1866.)
Surviving Churchwarden Accounts from 1785 to 1869 frequently mention building materials for ‘church wall’ (although it is not clear if it is the church building or site boundary wall), including:
An urgent need to extend the plot was expressed in the Newark Advertiser report of the church’s re-opening ceremony. The graveyard was eventually extended southwards towards Main Street, and the ground was consecrated in 1890. The School Logbook tells us that in April 1890 the school headmaster set ‘The New Part of the Churchyard’ as one of 29 essay subjects for the 6th and 7th standard children. Later in the 20th century the new graveyard to the south was extended eastwards, taking in some land from the former orchard of Charity Farm. The graveyard was still open for burials in 2012.
The graveyard was likely to have been much disturbed in the 1865 rebuilding and landscaping. A path around the north of the church next to the boundary wall is made of gravestones set face down. The oldest standing gravestone still legible dates to 1803; the oldest burials cluster close to the church and about 15 have dates between 1803 and 1864. There was recent disturbance to the north of the church with the construction of the toilet extension.
The Thorpe Gravestones
Segregated from the rest of the graveyard by a chain along the path, in the north-west corner by the west gate is the area dedicated to three or four generations of the Thorpe family. The family bought Beaconfield House around 1840 and became the de facto squires, churchwardens and village patrons.
The oldest gravestone here is an unusual low stone tomb with carved Celtic cross pattern on the top, belonging to James Thorpe (d1842). This tomb matches that of his brother John (a tenant of Elston Hall) in Elston churchyard. His son James Thorpe (d1902) and his first wife Mary (d1868) share a low red-granite tomb whose deeply gabled ridge is in the shape of a cross. The remaining graves are of his mother Anne (d1877), second wife Annie (d1920) and of some of their children and descendants. They are in the form of upright crosses, including one with an elaborate hooded crucifixion sculpture, and three plainer matching ones set on truncated pyramidal bases.
The Penswick Smith Gravestones
By the south Porch are the graves of the Penswick Smiths. They comprise three white crosses on rectangular stepped bases:
Another gravestone records her parents:
The graves were renovated around 1951 (by Miss Smith’s nieces from Southwell) when the Lady Chapel Altar was re-dedicated to the memory of Constance Penswick Smith. It is owing to Miss Smith and her supporters that the festival is celebrated during Lent and has a different basis to the American festival of Mother’s Day.
The Rev Penswick Smith was the second of three long serving vicars of Coddington; he served the village from 1890-1922, after which the parish was amalgamated with that of Newark. Many of his sons also entered the church and supported their sister’s campaign.
Moses Ashwell’s Tomb
This large worn table-tomb (with fielded panel whose corners are scooped out, and its inscription almost gone) stands close to the chancel south door. It is the only large old monument in the churchyard and dates to 1815. It records the burial of one of the last of a long line of Coddington churchwardens, swornsmen and yeoman farmers. In 1404 John Ashwell was appointed as the first chantry priest for the De Codyngton chantry. Ashwells are listed in the earliest surviving Coddington Arcdeacons Presentments of 1570s and in surviving 16th century wills. Four Ashwells received land grants in Coddington’s Enclosure Act in 1760. Moses Ashwell was the churchwarden preparing vestry accounts (1797-1807), and we have his signature (along with that of Stephen Ashwell) on them. The family left the village in the middle of the 19th century, and spent its strength and fortunes in a destructive court case, Ashwell v Ashwell. (The Thorpes acquired some of their holdings and the story comes down to us in the proof-of-title documents for some of the lots in the 1918 Estate Sale.)
Other notable gravestones
The oldest legible dated gravestone in the churchyard, dated 1803 is that of Mary Ann Cooper, wife of Thomas Cooper.
The gravestone of Coddington’s first real vicar, the long-serving John Maximillian Dolphin records his service of 27 years (1863-1890), his death in 1899 and that of his wife in 1926.
The third of the triumvirate was the Rev Peter Gordon Wright, who surpassed his predecessors’ terms. His grave reads:
The church was filled beyond capacity with villagers on the day of his funeral.
Most of the inscriptions are brief and only relate to family relationships; a few relate to long years of dedication:
The Ross family farmed at Hall Farm, which they bought in the 1918 Estate Sale. (I have been told he was a large bearded man with a surprising alto voice.)
Joseph took over Coddington National (Church of England) School aged 23 in 1883. The first school Log Book of 1872-1901 records his daily struggles and triumphs, along with those of his predecessors John and Mary Roberts. Chauntry-Hunt lived in the former Vicarage house, opposite the west gate of the church. We know that Mary Roberts, who had been mistress of the school for 25 years was buried here in 1882, and her husband likewise in 1888, but we cannot identify their graves now.
One of Chauntry-Hunt’s teacher-pupils, Elizabeth Gomer, the daughter of the butler at Coddington Hall, became a qualified teacher and taught at the village school all her life. She was buried in the churchyard in 1956 and is remembered to this day with affection and respect by the older villagers as ‘Prodder Gomer’.
Also commemorated in the churchyard are members of the Bryan family who served in World War I – Walter Leonard and Alfred are mentioned on their father Joshua’s gravestone (d1917). Two of his sons were awarded Military Medals, Alfred Bryan (died and buried at Pozieres 1918) and Sergeant J F Bryan who captured a German machine gun, and also their brother Walter Leonard Bryan was killed in 1915 at Loos.
The headstone of the only Coddington soldier killed in World War II: Gunner A. Thompson, aged 26, of the Airlanding Light Regt. R.A. of 53rd Worcester Yeomanry, who died on 07/07/1944.
In addition to these few mentioned are buried representatives of all the old village families – names like Young (farmers and lime-burners), Lee (millers), Daybell (farmers), Cargill, Tallents, Handbury, Hough, Brownlow, Booth, Bryan, Campion.
A graveyard survey was carried out by Nottinghamshire Family History Society in the 1980s and further surveys have been undertaken by Coddington History Group. The data can be found on its website.