St Peter


Farndon, Farneton, or Farendune, as it is referred to in Domesday Book is situated with the old Roman Road the Fosse Way to its east and the River Trent to the west. It is located just over two miles south-west of Newark. St Peter’s church is a grade I listed building and lies in the historic core of the village.

The present building is partially the result of construction work during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1598, but a building has stood on this site from at least the 12th century. Historians are undecided as to whether the church is Anglo-Saxon in origin or later. Some of this debate centres on the herringbone masonry which is visible in the north wall. It has been argued that the wideness of the jointing is evidence of the church’s pre-Conquest origins. Others have argued that it is primarily 12th century. However, the round-headed north doorway, with its crude voussoirs and long-and-short quoins, is without doubt Saxo-Norman in style and dates from the 11th century, thus we may conclude that there has been a church on this site since at least the 11th century.

The church’s history can be divided into at least two distinct construction phases although there is little evidence remaining of the first phase. Some of the earliest fabric is visible within the present north aisle. As stated, this first period of construction would have, at the very latest, occurred at the end of the 11th century. Evidence of Early English additions somewhere between the late 12th century and mid-13th century, include the piers, as well as the arches of the south aisle. Also of Early English origin is the font. The second phase was extensive repairs and reconstruction c.1598.

Farndon is regularly mentioned in medieval sources, albeit under different names. Domesday Book refers to the village as Farendune and describes it as an ‘outlier’ along with the neighbouring village of Balderton both of which belonged to the Bishop of Lincoln. Although Farndon is not specifically mentioned as possessing a church, Domesday states that the Newark wapentake had 10 churches - which have not been individually identified; Farndon may have been one of these, especially given its surviving 11th century fabric.

In 1287 the prebendary of Farndon, William de Newark, died and was so heavily in debt that his executors could not administer his estate, consequently William’s creditors were summoned to a gathering in Blyth Priory church to sort things out. In the event, a sum of £100 which William had left for pious uses was redirected to his creditors.

The parish is mentioned in the 1291 Taxatio return. St Peter’s taxable value at the time was calculated as £53 6s 8d. This calculation includes Balderton. The Taxatio actually refers to Farndon and Balderton as Farendun-cum-Balderton. In 1318 William Melton, Archbishop of York, issued a mandate to value Farndon church alone; the outcome is not recorded. In 1334 Melton provided a valuation to the king, of Farndon with Balderton, of 80 marks (£53 6s 8d). St Peter’s is also mentioned in Henry VI’s 1428 subsidy valuation where it is again joined with Balderton as a prebend in the said church of Lincoln [Lincoln Cathedral], the subsidy value is given as 106 s 8d - this being 10% of the annual valuation which would thus be identical to the 1291 value. Farndon and Balderton are referred to synonymously as prebends to the Bishop of Lincoln.

A colourful episode occurred during the opening years of the 14th century, when Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge issued a mandate to sequestrate the fruits of the prebend of Farndon, along with those of South Scarle and East Stoke on 4 August 1300. Apparently the vicars of Lincoln, whose prebends these were, had not been paid their stipends, and this was by way of recovering them. Another mandate was issued on 17 June 1302 for exactly the same reason. A year later, in July 1303, the archbishop relaxed the sequestration in the case of Farndon as the debit had not increased. However, six days later it was discovered that besides the stipends due to the prebendary there was a sum of 44s. 4d. due to the ministers and boys of the choir of Lincoln, so the archbishop was requested not to relax the sequestration until everything had been paid; a new mandate was duly issued on 31 July. The matter was resolved the next day, 1 August 1303, when the prebendary, William de Lenna, along with the ministers and boys, were satisfied that all had been paid. Letters of acquittance were issued by the chapter of Lincoln. However, the final twist came in October 1307 when Archbishop Greenfield issued yet another mandate to the dean of Newark to ‘guard the sequestrations’ of the churches of Stoke, Coddington, Farndon, Balderton, South Scarle, and Clifton [all prebends in Lincoln]; we do not know the reason or the outcome, but payments to Lincoln appear to be have been an ongoing problem.

The prebend of Farndon was reserved to the Pope during the lifetime of one of its prebandaries, Francis de Orsini, who was a papal notary.

Perhaps because of the payment problems discussed above, but more likely to provide local spiritual support in line with other churches, in 1318 archbishop Melton ordained that there should be a vicarage in the joint prebendal church of Farndon and Balderton. The vicars appointed to serve were to be presented to the prebendary. They were to have all oblations, tithes of curtilages, all other small tithes, dead mortuary payments from both vills, and living mortuary payments from Farndon alone, together with the whole tithe of wool and lambs. The prebendaries were instructed to meet all charges except for the repair of their vicarage and its outhouses, with provision for its construction.

In 1587 the churchwardens returned that ‘The parsonage house and chancel are in decay in default of Mr Pratt the parson or Sir Tho. Manners knight’, and again in 1602 ‘the parsonage house is far out of repair’; the following year they reported ‘our parsonage house is in great decay, in the default of Mr Bradwell’.

There is evidence in the fabric of the original medieval church, dating back to the 11th century; there was a major restoration in 1598. The church is dominated by the Perpendicular style which continued to be popular throughout the 16th century. An inscribed stone regarding the west wall of the basement attests to this date as it reads ’this was done Ano. 1598. W. Howel, Ed. Jaques, Th. Oliver, S. Stric, Rd. Garg.’ This refers specifically to the plain three-light square-headed window in the west wall of the tower ground floor but also confirms when the church was restored. The nave roof was replaced in 1664, and by 1623 there was obviously a serious problem as the vicar presented that ‘the church roof is in great decay and they [the churchwardens] take no order to repair it’. He also bemoaned that ‘they take no order for the keeping of the clock and the ringing of the bell at 8 o'clock; that they have not given an account of last year's receipts to the inhabitants as fully as they ought to do; they have neglected to gather in money for 'furs' [furze?] and other things as they ought to help pay to repair the church’ The wardens’ names are given as John Girton and Stephen Whalley. In 1664 the churchwardens reported ‘whereas the church was much decayed, it is now at present [in] repairing’.

The parish registers date from 1560.

The church is mentioned by Thoroton in 1677. He wrote that the vicarage, referred to here as Faringdon, was valued at £81 and is now 6l. 13s. 4d. in the King’s Books. Farndon and Balderton are still served by the same vicar at this time.

The church is mentioned in Archbishop Drummond’s Parish Visitations of 1764. The vicar at the time was William Broadbent, the deacon and priest was Samuel Bishop of Chester. The churchwardens were William Parker and James Hilton. Upon asking how many families there were in the parish Drummond discovered there were sixty, of which two were Roman Catholic. At this time there was neither a licensed meeting house nor any chapels. In addition, there was one charity school for eight poor children, founded by Anne Draper. The church was repaired by assessment. There was no residing curate. Communion was administered four times in a year. Although there were no surviving chapels in 1764, St Peter’s is situated close to where the medieval presbytery used to stand. However, by the 18th century it had long been demolished.

By 1790 the Lordship of Farndon ‘chiefly belonged to Samuel Peak, Esq’, according to John Throsby. In addition, the vicarage valued £140s. 0d. At this time the possession of the vicarage, including the still annexed Balderton, was in the hands of Reverend Robert Lock. St Peter’s also appears in cause papers during the 18th century. One case from 1799 involves thirteen witnesses and the defendant Margaret Bradshaw. The case was concerning a violation of church rights, specifically a pew dispute and the defendant was fined 18 pence.

The church is mentioned in the 1851 Religious Census when the village population was 590. This was made up of 281 males and 309 females. The general congregation was 250. It was noted that ‘the congregation is always much smaller in the morning service than in the afternoon or evening’. The officiating minister was H.S. Anders. The parish was 1,710 acres. The parish’s endowment was made up of £207 from land, £7 from tithe and £10 from fees. The census also mentions two chapels in Farndon, comprising a Wesleyan Methodist chapel built in 1827 and a Primitive Methodist built in 1847. At the time, John Randerson was the Wesleyan Minister and William Richardson the Methodist minister.

The Rev
Brough Maltby

Down to the year 1864 the parishes of Farndon and Balderton were combined under the same incumbent. The clergy had chosen to live in Balderton though there was a vicarage in Farndon adjacent to the church in the area now known as Prebends Close. It was occupied by tenants and structurally was in a dilapidated state and was described in White’s Directory 1853 as ‘an old thatched building occupied by poor people’.

In 1864 the parishes were divided. Documentary evidence in the parish chest of St Peter’s church deals with the new financial arrangements which were to prevail. The new incumbent, the Reverend Brough Maltby, was dismayed by the condition of the church (The Southwell Diocesan Magazine at the time described the church as in a ‘melancholy condition of squalor and decay’) and furthermore flatly refused to install himself and his family in the existing Prebendary house and pressed for more appropriate accommodation to be provided to suit his status and the size of his family. In a short biography of the Ven. Brough Maltby , compiled by a former Rector of Farndon, the Rev John Quarrell, Brough Maltby’s remarks to the Church Commissioners are recorded as 'This house is too small for such a large family'. Finally a dignified and spacious house was found for him at the corner of Main Street and Marsh Lane.

As for the church building, he was not long in carrying out improvements, largely at his own expense. Box pews in the chancel which obscured the view of the High Altar were removed, as was a decrepit gallery at the west end. An account from John Hardiman and Co. dated 1866 refers to the addition of a ‘becoming altar with fittings, an organ and, stalls’ at a cost of £300. The area underneath the tower was fitted out as a temporary vestry.

These alterations had to suffice for a while. Brough Maltby’s areas of responsibility expanded from Inspector of Schools in Newark to Rural Dean of Newark in 1870 to Prebendary of Lincoln in 1871 and Archdeacon of Nottingham in 1878. But he clearly had visions for the future when he opened a Farndon Church fund in 1868 – a bank account which steadily grew.

On March 19 1892 a petition for a faculty was drawn up for a major restoration programme, the particulars of which are dealt with under the archaeology page. The result was a major expansion of the size of the church which included a new north aisle but it is difficult to gauge the extent to the work undertaken without removal of the exterior render, despite the faculty specifying that the north doorway was to be rebuilt in such a way that it would not be mistaken for the original ancient one (but it clearly is 11th century). A new Lady chapel was constructed at the south east corner, a new vestry and organ chamber were erected at the north-east corner and beneath these was a stoke hole for a new heating apparatus. The chancel was widened and increased in height and a new chancel arch screen installed. The font was moved to a new position underneath the tower.

The work not only included restoration of the current building but also the rebuilding and enlarging of the church. A new north wall was apparently erected together with a new north aisle (though this cannot have been a complete rebuilding as an 11th century doorway and related fabric remain visible). The new north aisle cost £3,000 according to Kelly’s Directory of 1891.

However, although the north wall was a new addition, existing church features were incorporated in the corresponding new north wall. In addition a new chancel was erected, as well as a new side chapel. Both of these additions were built in the Perpendicular style, very much in keeping with the existing building.

The chancel arch screen was also a new installation, as well as the seating and the fabric.

On 9 June 1892 Brough Maltby, by this time an archdeacon, laid the foundation stone for the new chancel. On St Peter’s Day 1893 the church was re-opened to the public after this extensive restoration. The vicar in 1894 was A. Lee Sparkes.

The restoration work was carried out by the architect Charles Hodgson Fowler, who for a time held the post of architect for Durham Cathedral. It cost the equivalent of £1.4 million in 2014.

These alterations left the structure of the church in the state that was largely maintained until the latter part of the 20th century when the Rev John Quarrell was the incumbent.

St Peter’s is mentioned on numerous occasions in 19th century trade directories. The History, Gazetteer and Directory of Nottinghamshire of 1832 writes that the fees of the church were due to the Bishop of Lincoln and the Duke of Newcastle was the Lord of the Manor. At the time the Reverend Frederick Apthorpe was the incumbent.

The Post Office Directory of 1855 quotes the living of the vicarage, with that of Balderton annexed, at £244, consisting of 1,835 acres of land. Reverend Seymour Walpole was the incumbent at the time. 

Kelly’s 1891 Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Nottinghamshire quotes the rateable value of the vicarage as £240 deriving from 52 acres of land. At the time the Duke of Newcastle was Lord of the Manor and the Parish Clerk was George Fisher.

The Directory also identifies the master of the national mixed school in the village as John Harrison. This is corroborated later by Cook’s 1892 Newark Directory. The school was built by subscription in 1858 for 150 children and the average attendance in 1892 was 108. It is therefore a different school to the one referred to during Drummond’s visitation. Cook’s 1892 Newark Directory valued the living of the vicarage at £300.

The 20th century saw further restoration work for the church. The Newark Advertiser reported on 17 March 1973 that several thousands of pounds were spent on exterminating woodworm and beetles from the floors and ceiling.

In the 1990s, with the approach of the new millennium, money was made available to refurbish and/or upgrade a number of peals of bells throughout the country to ‘ring in the millennium’. The rector and churchwardens of St Peter’s were fortunate to be included among the beneficiaries of this project, and with the addition of grants from other sources and the voluntary advice and work from the Southwell Guild of Bell Ringers, what had been a pipedream for decades became a reality. The old decayed oak bell frame was removed and replaced by a galvanised steel frame to accommodate six bells. The existing four bells were refurbished at Taylors, though sadly the Noone bell could not be incorporated in the new peal and two new bells were cast and a further bell obtained from a church on the Isle of Wight. The dedication of the restored bells, which included one bell dating back from 1589, was on 25 June 1999.

An even bigger project was embarked on, planning beginning in 2004. In common with many churches, the congregation at St. Peter’s had found over the years that the wish to open up the church to events that would attract people in from the wider community invariably encountered three major difficulties: the coldness of the building, the absence of toilet facilities and the inability to offer anything other than very basic refreshments. Plans were drawn up, a faculty obtained and funds sourced to remedy all three of these deficiencies. As a consequence gas and water were brought into the church, central heating was installed, a modern disabled toilet fitted and the choir vestry redesigned to accommodate basic kitchen facilities. Further details of the consequence of these changes on the church fabric appear under Archaeology.