For this church:
The earliest record of the existence of Hickling is in AD 971, when Aernkitel granted land in Hickling to Ramsey Abbey. The Fosse Way, a Roman road, lies only two or three miles from Hickling and there was a Roman settlement which has been identified with it. It is not known whether people continued to live there during the early Saxon period, but in the middle of the 10th century Hekela, an Anglo-Saxon chieftain, settled there with his people. The suffix ‘ing’ means a place which was used as a patronymic in 10th century Anglo-Saxon. In the 1820s an Anglo-Saxon grave-cover with both Christian and pagan symbols was found buried in the churchyard. However, there is no record of a priest or church in Domesday Book.
The dedication of the church may have changed as it is was variously recored in documents as St Wilfrid, St Mary, and St Luke.
In 1156-7, when Henry II made a confirmation of gifts given by William I, William II, Henry I, and others to the monks of St Mary's York. The village of Hickling was held in chief by Walter D'Aincourt (junior) who had other lands appropriated to York; the origin of a portion of the church appropriated to York may stem from this time. We do know that during the episcopate of Archbishop Roger of Pont L'Eveque, 1154-1181, sealed letters were compiled concerning the possessions of St Mary's, York, and these letters claim the rights to sundry sheaves and tithes in connection with the parish of Hickling.
At the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291, three sums are detailed for Hickling church. The clear annual value of the church, without other portions is given as 30 marks (£20); the portion due to the abbot of St Mary, York is 2 marks (£1 6s. 8d.), and the portion for a man named Adam Poterton/Poton or perhaps Peterton, was a further 2 marks (£1 6s. 8d.).
The church was clearly portioned in 1301 as the portion of Hickling is detailed in the schedule of arrears due that year for a tax of three tenths imposed by Pope Boniface.
In 1319 a coadjutor was appointed to oversee the aged and incapable (corporis debilitate) rector, Hugh de Halam, who resigned the same year. Although Adam de Preston was appointed rector the same year, a note in Archbishop William Melton's register for 1319, whilst sending a list of vacant parishes to the Pope, states that the living was vacant on 30 May that year due to the death of Henry, the last rector. We have no other record relating to this man.
In 1321 Archbishop William Melton issued an order to pay procurations for the dedication of the church of Hickling in the sum of 5 marks (£3 6s. 8d.). This evidently represented a rebuilding or remodelling of the church and the nave, south aisle, and church door appear to date from this time, as do the backs and arms of two benches in the chancel. From the evidence above there was clearly a church prior to this, possibly a pre-Conquest structure as an Anglo-Saxon grave-cover was unearthed in the churchyard in 1829; the parish had its own rector from at least 1227.
In August 1328, the rector, Adam de Preston, was granted leave to study for one year at the University of Cambridge. He was frequently granted periods of leave by the archbishop and in 1332 went to stay for a year at Garendon Abbey (Leicestershire), with provision for appearing by proxy at synods at Southwell. In 1336 Preston was summoned to resume residence within a month, sub pena juris, but the following year he was again given licence for absence until 1 August. He finally resigned the benefice in or around 1339.
There is no mention of Hickling in the taxation of the ninths in 1341 but in 1428 Hickling was taxed at 40s. (i.e. 10% of £20) so it retained the same annual value as it had in 1291.
When Archbishop Henry Bowet made a visitation in 1409 the vicarage of Hickling was appropriated to the archbishop and was not mentioned in his visitation accounts.
In the will of Ralph Babington, who was parson of Hickling and who died in 1521, he asked to be buried in the chancel 'streght before the high alter, so that my feete rest under the preste as he stands at Masse', but did say it could be in either Kinoulton or his other church, Althorp (Northamptonshire). He made bequests to both his churches, in the sum of 5 marks (£3 6s. 8d.) 'sterlyng money, to be bestowed upon ij vestymentes, the one to have the pictour of our Lady on the crosse, and the odir w[ith] the pictour of Saynte Michaell, havyng my armes and name sett ther upon'. Babington also made bequests to the mother churches of Southwell and Lincoln, to the churches of Duffield and Ashover, and to his relatives and his chaplain, Sir Thomas Hand.
In 1529 the patron saint was St Wilfred, as mentioned in various wills dated from 1529 to the 1540s. The village is called Hickling in the Vale in Robert Mann's will of 1598 and also in the inventory of Richard Daft in 1654. According to Thoroton the church was dedicated to St Mary. It is now dedicated to St Luke, but it has not been ascertained why or when these changes in dedication occurred.
In the inventory of church goods drawn up in the reign of Edward VI, we have: 'Thes are the goods of the Churche of Hikling one chalice of silver with the patent of the same oon corprasse withe Crosse ij altr clothes ij candelstiks of brass ij albes ij amyasse ij stoole ij fanelles ij vestments oon of white bustyan the oyf of green silk ij Coopes of green silke a Canapy of brasse the piks of brasse a Crosse of Woode in ameld the clothe of lynyn ij surplisses on for the priest & an other for the Clarke oon crismetory of brasse ij cruett of pewdr oon haly water cave of brasse j shete of lynyn iij baner clothes ij towells of lynyn clothe within the stepull ij bells & a sanctus bell ij handbelles two pillowes covered wt grene silke j pixe of latten j crosse of brasse'. It is signed by Sir John Belby, the parson, George Welles and Laurance Jams, 'Church Masters', Ralph Pilkington and Thomas Man, 'of the town'.
According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the rectory of 'Hyklyng' was valued at the clear yearly sum of £18 8s. 2d. John Baylle was then rector, and an annual pension of £1 6s. 8d. was paid to the Prior of Thurgarton. The village is documented under Thurgarton Priory where it was worth in rents and farms with a portion of St Mary's Abbey, York, £12 1s. 9d. It paid to the lord at the sheriff's town yearly, for the common fine, 8d., hence the net annual valuation to Thurgarton was £12. 1s. 1d. The church too is listed under Thurgarton Priory, but in respect of pensions to the prior, and is grouped together with the churches of Thurgarton, Granby, and Cotham, where the total value is given as £6 13s. 4d.
In 1587 the churchwardens returned that 'the lead of the church is in decay, but we appointed a court man to mend the same; our parishioners rang curfew on All Saints evening [regarded as a superstitious practice], but who they were we do not perfectly know'. Ten years later they presented the following: 'Mr Stubinges keeps house upon his benefice [-]ing his poor neighbours, besides giving 4 shillings this month last past to the poor man's box; we have given 11s 8d this month to the poor of our town; moreover, they that have need are relieved at our houses; in respect of coming to church on Wednesdays and Fridays they [the parishioners] were somewhat slack at the beginning but since they have come more orderly than heretofore; our parishioners do forbear flesh on such days as are commanded by law to eat fish, and do also forbear suppers on fasting days, Wednesdays and Fridays'.
In 1621 the fabric of the church was in disrepair as in April that year the churchwardens stated that 'our church is out of repair; a beam in the south aisle has falled down and remains underpropped; the whole church walls want whiting and painting; as these reparations were such as could not be performed in the winter, we humbly crave further time to be assigned and granted us'.
In 1623, one of the churchwardens, Thomas Dafte the elder found in himself in serious hot water with the other churchwarden and minister as he had 'been absent from church in time of divine prayer, both at morning and evening, for the space of forty days; he neglects and refuses to come to church, even when messengers are sent for him, to execute his office of churchwarden or to consult or confer with William Smyth his fellow churchwarden over urgent repairs, consequently the inhabitants of the town are put to a greater charge to repair windows etc; Dafte has received several sums of money to be disbursed upon urgent and necessary business in and about the church, but says that if money is wanted he will present those inhabitants that have not paid their levies to him; Dafte says that he will make it manifestly appear to any ecclesiastical judge and justify that the churchwarden elected by the parson [i.e. Smyth] shall stand as a cipher and not receive any money to disburse; as a result of his rigorous speeches, protestations and threatenings, the inhabitants withhold their payment from Smyth and he has not received any money since the last visitation; Smyth spent £3 more than he received on necessary repairs and now cannot get the money back; Dafte has refused to collect and gather from seat to seat for all briefs since becoming churchwarden; Smyth has often brought the briefs to him and offered to do it himself; Dafte refuses to subscribe and set his hand with the minister and churchwarden to the said briefs, but instead subscribes or procures to be subscribed the name of one John Frankeland of the said town, who is not elected churchwarden, and refuses to let Smyth sign them; they present Dafte for his 'resisting turbulancy, vile unreverent and unlawful demeanour' against the minister, Edward Cooper, within the parish church on 5 August; for his 'bourding', unseemly and injurious contrameddling with the said minister about a brief, to which Dafte refused to subscribe properly'.
The following year the curate and one of the churchwardens presented Thomas Dafte the elder, the other churchwarden, for divers defaults and misdemeanours committed within the township and church of Hickling.
Small parcels of land were given to daughters as dowries and others were sold off, so that there were some twenty freeholders and many husbandmen or tenant farmers in the village. The last traces of these families were William Stapleton who was churchwarden in 1552, and William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden, whose tombstone now lies in the chancel of Hickling church.
No records remain of additions or alterations to the church before what is recorded in the parish register by John Thomas Jordan, rector from 1797-1820; though rector Thomas Deacon, who died in 1484, ordered his executors to cause the ground of the church to be covered with square stones. Orton's Thesaurus of 1763 says that the church 'comprises a nave, north and south aisles, south porch, chancel and western tower'.
An inscription on the outside gable on the east wall of the south aisle indicates that it was restored in 1736 with the initials of the then churchwardens, JD and TS (John Daft and Thomas Skellinton).
At the time of Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743, Hickling had 90 families. The only nonconformists were two Presbyterians. John Warde, who made the return, lived in the parsonage house and read the services. He administered Communion three times a year, when thirty or forty individuals communicated. The situation was little different when Archbishop Drummond visited in 1766, although no dissenters were reported. The rector lived in Kent, and paid a curate, Thomas Clarke, to reside in the parish and take services. He preferred to reside with a local farmer than to live in the parsonage house. Clarke was allowed £40 per annum. Rand, the rector, recorded that James Brewster and Elizabeth his wife ’performed penance for ante nuptial fornication’.
In 1809 John Collishaw reported a hole in the wall.
In 1829 an Anglo-Saxon grave-cover was unearthed in the churchyard and brought into the church.
The chancel was pulled down and rebuilt in Victorian Gothic style in the years 1843-5, with a few pieces of the original glass included in the Victorian stained glass east window. In 1840 the Bryceson organ was installed.
W.H. Walker, the rector, made the parish return for the 1851 religious census. The parish had a population of 613, and on Census Sunday the general congregation was 66 in the morning and 96 in the evening. Sunday Scholars were 23 in the morning and 6 in the evening. He reckoned the average congregation was about 80 or 90 in the morning and 150-160 in the evening.
On 1 November 1887 a gale blew the lead off the roof. In 1907 the rector Francis Ashmall described the roof as ‘like a moth-eaten umbrella’.
The repair of the roofs of the nave and south aisle was expected to cost £600 and another £90 needed to re-hang the bells, with only £163 in hand. An architect's report that year described the roof of the south aisle as dangerous.
In 1914, at the time of Bishop Hoskyns’s visitation, the rector was F.J. Ashmall. He reported 26 children on the Sunday School roll, and 8 baptisms and 5 confirmations over the previous year.
On 23 August 1915 the east end of the roof collapsed due to dry rot. The necessary repair work could not be carried out until 1924.
In 1949 the chancel floor and window were repaired and the east end of the south aisle was re-laid with concrete flags. In 1983 the war memorial of the Methodist Chapel was installed in the north aisle of the church.
In 1990 the paving in the churchyard was repaired and subsequently Commander and Mrs Cadogan Rawlinson had the paintings of Royal Coats of Arms in the tower restored. The Vaux tombstone and the Anglo Saxon grave-cover were restored and the Vaux tombstone moved into the chancel.
In 1998 death-watch beetle was discovered in the rafters. Shortly afterwards a toilet and a new kitchen were installed in the south-west corner of the church.