For this church:
The Nottingham Domesday recorded in 1086 that at ‘Brugeford here is a priest and a church’, and evidence of this Saxon building came to light in the restoration carried out between 1901-1914. Domesday also named the Norman tenant-in-chief of many Nottinghamshire manors as Roger de Busli, and it was later, at his castle of Tickhill, that Queen Matilda in the 1130s, founded a chapel known as the Royal Free Chapel of Blyth, to which East Bridgford came to be regarded as attached.
In 1193 the Count of Mortain, later King John, bestowed the Chapelry of Blyth with all its appurtenances, including East Bridgford, upon the Archbishop of Rouen. It is possible that the Archbishop and the Canons of Rouen exercised their patronage as builder when the Saxon church was rebuilt in the early thirteenth century. The remaining evidence of that rebuild is in the chancel and plinth course of the tower.
In this early period of the church’s history, known variously as St John Baptist, St Mary’s and St Peter’s, there is no record of the rectors, and it is not until the middle of the thirteenth century that a name appears in this position, that of John Clarel.
In 1291 the church was valued at 30 marks (£20) annually, in the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV. The patronage was secular and was in the hands of Roger le Brabanzon, knight. There is no record of the church in the 1341 Nonae Roll returns, but it appears again in the subsidy of Henry VI in 1428 where the 10% subsidy is listed as 40s., i.e. the clear annual valuation given in 1291 remained unchanged.
A century on, between 1320 and 1340 a major enlargement of the nave was undertaken whilst Thomas de Outheby was rector. This rebuilding changed the form of the building from one of three cells - chancel, nave and tower, by the addition of north and south aisles, transepts and a south porch. At the same time, William Dayncourt endowed a chantry for three chaplains, probably sited in the south transept. In addition altar tombs were located in each transept. These were seen by Dr Robert Thoroton in 1677, who identified them as representing John Caltoft and Thomas Hethe. Thoroton also noted that the recess in the present north aisle wall was a wall tomb with an alabaster slab inscribed to John Babington.
During this period the patronage of the benefice continually changed, but in 1317 the advowson settled on two families, the Caltofts and the Multons. Within a few years Multon’s passed to the Dayncourts and in 1375 the Chaworth family obtained that of the Caltofts. In 1486 Dayncourt settled his share on William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, for the benefit of Waynflete’s new college of Magdalen at Oxford, but the Chaworths retained their presentation until 1838 when Magdalen College acquired that as well.
Serious settlement of the chancel’s foundations, causing the south wall to lean out, necessitated work to be carried out in the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century, in common with many churches at this time, the nave received the addition of a clerestory and a new nave roof. At the advent of the Reformation therefore, St Peter’s had a tower, nave, aisles, transepts, chancel, clerestory, stained glass and altar tombs.
For East Bridgford, the period of the Reformation appears to have been relatively quiet. The first Register of Baptisms was started in 1557 and marriages and burials were recorded from 1614. In 1920 the Rector, Arthur du Boulay Hill, transcribed the first four volumes of the church registers, covering 1557 to 1812, together with Terriers, mortuary fees and sundries, into one book, a copy of which is held in the Rectory.
Although the neighbourhood was the scene of much skirmishing and fighting during the Civil War, the parish of East Bridgford, again, seems to have been relatively unaffected, and in 1650 the Parliamentary Survey Commissioners recorded that the Rectory of East Bridgford was worth £110 per annum, and that Magdalen College and Lord Chaworth shared the right of presentation.
When Dr Robert Thoroton wrote his history of Nottinghamshire in 1677, he recorded that the church still had its stained glass windows, the transept tombs and the old tower and roof, but that the fabric was decaying. This decay continued until 1771 when it was so bad that a Brief was issued under letters patent of George III towards the expense of work of repair estimated at £1,118.
This drastic work entailed the rebuilding of the tower from the plinth upwards and the replacement of the nave roof. A tablet dated 1778 on the south wall of the tower records the restoration under the supervision of the architect, Francis Moore:
The work also involved the complete removal of the transepts with the aisle walls being extended across their openings; the disposal of the altar tombs, which were thrown into the graveyard, and the acquisition of a new pulpit with sounding board and enclosed pews.
The Rector at this time was Peter Priaulx, and as well as undertaking the reparations of the church fabric, he also rebuilt the Rectory, insisted on full details being entered in the parochial accounts as well as compiling a full Terrier of the glebe and arable lands in the four open fields.
The village was visited by John Throsby c.1790. He observed:
The church was, till lately, larger, but it is now reduced according to the present whim of the day (when a reparation takes place) and the old tombs, as customary, tumbled into the church-yard, or knocked in pieces.
Without this church lie three fine pieces of sculpture, weather beaten under the eaves of the church roof; insulted by parish-officers, pelted at by boys, and disregarded by priests; whose originals, it cannot be doubted, were some of those worthy lords of manors by which the churches were enriched, and the poor fed bountifully without a compulsatory law. Alas! how little noticed are the remembrances of those pious men. Their uplifted hands, in devotional exercise, shield them not from the vilest insult! from the most consummate neglect! See two of them copied from Thoroton ... A third that now lies also without the church, is a cross-legged figure, noticed by Thoroton, but not engraved. They are all now strangely mutilated. The church has a square tower with six bells.
Between 1796-1801 the common land was enclosed and the population of East Bridgford began to rise. This was partly from the enclosures, but also because of the burgeoning new industries of weaving, malting and brick-making.
Priaulx was followed as Rector by Peter Broughton, presented by Chaworth, and was a non-resident, like many Rectors East Bridgford had. Broughton held the living for forty-four years until 1827. Throsby described him as a man of good fortune, who on his death left £50 to the parish poor.
During his incumbency the curate-in-charge, Thomas Beaumont, let the Rectory as a private school for girls run by a Miss Beach. At the same time a private boys’ school was carried on at Burneham House, and whilst Broughton’s successor, Richard Hutchins, was Rector, a National School was built on glebe land adjoining the churchyard, made possible by subscriptions from Hutchins himself, Magdalen College and others.
Non-conformity arrived in Broughton’s time, when in 1803 William Lockwood came to East Bridgford and erected a Congregationalist chapel. This was followed later in 1840, when the Primitive Methodists, with the support of Lockwood, built a chapel in Brown’s Lane, and in 1877 the Wesleyans built their chapel in Main Street.
In 1862 a partial restoration of the church took place. The old high pews were taken out and replaced by benches of red deal, the gallery at the west end removed, the floor relaid, the font moved to near the main entrance, oak altar rails added, the south porch restored, a 'new open roof' erected which involved 'the principal rafters being brought down on ornamental stone corbels' and a vestry built on the north side of the chancel. Also a new five-light east window was inserted and the round-headed seventeenth-century windows of the chancel were replaced with two new two-light traceried windows. The architects were Wilson and Walker of Nottingham and the work cost £400.
Later in 1863 a font, dating from 1663, was brought from Bingham church. This replaced a wooden font costing £2 12s 6d in 1779 when it was set in place, and in 1890 the church received a brass lectern given by Henry Jalland.
Continued outward settlement of the south chancel wall, falling plaster and long vertical cracks appearing in the tower necessitated a complete restoration. Following a report and plans by the architect C. E. Ponting (of Marlborough, Wiltshire), this took place in two stages: November 1901-April 1903 and June 1913-April 1914. The ten year gap was due to lack of funding. The total cost was in the region of £5,000 and involved, in summary, the following:
In June 1920 the War Memorial was erected at the east end of the churchyard and before the 1939-45 war, Magdalen College relinquished its patronage of the benefice.
On 17 July 1932 members of the Sunday evening congregation had a lucky escape when minutes after leaving the church a large memorial to a member of the Heathcote family fell from the north wall and demolished a pew.
The organ which dated from 1875 was replaced in 1937 by Roger Yates of Nottingham and in 1985 it was expanded and renovated.
Two structural changes of the twentieth century were the blocking-up of the priest’s door in the chancel south wall in 1940 and the construction in 1985 of a small extension on the north-west corner to provide a kitchen and cloakroom.
Other small changes and alterations include four new weather vanes installed on the tower in 1965. Through heraldic devices they record the church’s history - north-east, the arms of Province of York; north-west, diocese of Southwell; south-west, Griffin rampant of Brunt’s School; south-east, Magdalen College Oxford. At the same time the opaque glass in the east window was replaced with clear glass. In 1981 the numerals and hands of the clock were regilded. Finally, in the winter of 2002 St Peter’s acquired two new bells, one celebrating Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the other was a private donation.
Stages in the development of the building can be seen in the development plans.
1086Domesday Survey records a priest and a church
1255Enlargement of nave
C14New sedilia and piscina
C15Addition of clerestory
1778Tower rebuilt and transepts removed
1862Partial restoration by Wilson and Walker
1887Clock installed to mark Victoria’s Golden Jubilee
1901-03First stage of complete restoration by C E Ponting FSA
1913-14Second stage of complete restoration by C E Ponting FSA
1936Lych gate erected
1940Priest’s door blocked up
1960sSouth side of churchyard levelled and gravestones reset
1965Installation of four weather vanes on tower
1985Small extension built on north-west corner
2002Two new bells hung