Langford
St Bartholomew

History

The village of Langford has perhaps had a church since before the Norman Invasion. Domesday Book mentions ‘a priest and a church’ at Langford as part of the land of Ranulf, Geoffrey of La Guerche’s man. Geoffrey de La Guerche was a prominent supporter of William the Conqueror during the Invasion and had been rewarded with extensive lands across the midlands.

This possible Saxon church has not survived to the modern day, however – the current church dates to between AD 1190 and AD 1254 during the Early English period of Gothic architecture. The church tower is the only significant part of the building to have survived from this period, with the rest of the building being variously dated to the 14th and 15th centuries.

During the reign of Henry III the church rector at the time, Walter de Grey, seems to have sided with Simon de Montfort and other barons in their rebellion against the king. An inquisition of 1265, shortly after the Battle of Evesham, found him and his reeve, William Bapster, guilty of being against ‘the King and Prince Edward’. Despite this the de Grey family seem to have remained important landowners in the area, and represented it in parliament, untill the 14th century when they merged with the Leek family.

There is no mention of Langford in the 1291 taxatio, probably because its income value was too low; similarly there are no records in the 1341 Nonae Rolls, or in the 1428 Henry VI subsidy.

During the 15th century an effigy was set up in the church depicting a mailed knight bearing the coat of arms of the Pierrepont family, who owned Langford manor house. The effigy still survives to this day in the chancel, although it is believed to have originally been sited near the south door. Sadly, the original inscription on it has long since become illegible. For a long while the locals believed it to be in memory of an officer killed in the churchyard during the Great Rebellion (more commonly called the English Civil War today).

In 1471 an indenture was agreed upon between representatives of the Guild of the Holy Trinity in Newark and several landowners for 32 acres of land and meadow to be given to the Guild in return for an annual obituary and anniversary day to be given by the parish priest at Langford for John and Emiline Gray (Lady of Langford), William More, a clerk, and Robert Edenham. The indenture also committed the Guild to giving 12d to the church for funeral rites.

The church seems to have fallen on hard times from the 15th century onwards. Records from 1519 state that the church roof was not covered in lead and that the windows lacked glass. This must have made attending the services rather unpleasant during winter months. Later on in the century, in 1575, heavy floods diverted the River Trent, which had previously flowed next to the church, westward to closer to its current position on the other side of the village of Holme. Not long after, in the 1590s, a dispute over land and tithes between the local parson, Mr Philpott, and the local lord, Sir Francis Leake, resulted in the latter ‘dispeopling’ the village forcing Mr Philpott to sell his land to Sir Francis. Four acres from the parsonage were added to the churchyard, and the village was subsequently refounded about half a mile away, leaving the manor house and the church itself isolated.

Meanwhile at some unrecorded point, likely in the 15th or 16th century, the north aisle of the church was destroyed. The arcades are still visible in the north wall today but the aisle itself was never replaced.

In the reign of Henry VIII the church was placed in the patronage of the newly founded Trinity College, Cambridge. The college remained patrons till the early 20th century and continue to hold much land in the area in 2013.

The church remained in some disrepair in the 17th century, or possibly suffered damage during the Civil War. A royal warrant of December 1684, signed by Charles II and renewed by James II six months later, permitted the felling of 100 oak trees for the repair of the churches of Hockerton and Langford.

In 1722 the perpetual curate of Langford (and Holme) was Matthew Bradford, LL.B., who that year also became the rector of nearby South Collingham. In 1726 William Tomlinson was admitted as curate and remained in that position till at least 1764. During his incumbency he gave two reports on the state of his parish requested by Archbishop Herring in 1743 and Archbishop Drummond in 1764. From these we know that services were performed in the church once every other week, but that before him they had been performed only once a month – another indication of the neglect the church had suffered but also of the reinvigoration the churches of England began to see in the 18th and 19th centuries. The 1743 report lists sixteen families in Langford but that one of these were Quakers.

By 1764 this had increased to nineteen families but no dissenters are listed – either the Quaker family converted or moved away. Sacrament was given in the church four times a year – the official minimum at the time – with about 18 to 20 communicants each time. In 1764 William Tomlinson was paid £10 per annum for his service at Langford, while the curacy as a whole was worth £14 per annum. These are not very high figures for a parish, even in the 18th century. As there seems to have been no priestly residence in Langford itself, Mr Tomlinson was forced to reside at Newark about 2.5 miles away.

In 1802 Thomas Blades became perpetual curate and remained so for several decades. In 1835 his overall benefice revenue was £40, a relatively low sum for such a position. In this same year Langford is recorded as not having a glebe house (that is, a house on land owned by the church for the use of the resident priest).

Shortly after, in 1841, the church was repaired and refurnished with new pews at a cost of £150. The money was raised by subscription with Lord Middleton being a notable contributor. The Middleton family appears to have been particularly supportive of the church - Lady Middleton donated church plate in 1841 and in 1867, when the Reverend W Brown was vicar, Lord Middleton donated some of his lands to the church. The Duncombe family were another notable 19th century sponsor of the church, including donating the font of Sicilian marble in 1867, donated by Captain George T Peirse-Duncombe. Several monuments can be found in the church dedicated to various members of the Duncombe family from this period.

Either during the repairs of 1841 or further repairs a few years later the workmen discovered a fresco painting on the wall of the nave depicting the arms of the Pierrepont family just as on the effigy of the knight.

In 1844 the church was a perpetual curacy worth £40 per annum and in the patronage of Trinity College, Cambridge (as were a number of other churches in the diocese). It had 30 acres of glebe land purchased with Queen Anne’s Bounty (a fund set up by her in 1703 to assist poorer churches and continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries). By 1864 this had increased to 35 acres.

In 1851 Joseph Mayor was the curate and gave similar figures for the religious census of that year – land worth £40, the Bounty providing another £15 and fees worth 10s. The census states that the average congregation levels were 40 in the morning and 60 in the afternoon and services now seem to have been performed once a week. There was still no school at the village though and the children had to go to South Collingham, about two miles away, for Sunday School and service.

In 1854 the parish was formally united with the nearby chapelry of Holme to become Langford-with-Holme, although there is some indication that the two were being jointly served as early as the 18th century, as in 1722 Matthew Bradford is recorded as serving Langford-with-Holme.

In 1862 the church was further restored. This included an enlarging of the churchyard, which was then enclosed in an iron palisade, and the erection of a parsonage near the church. The Reverend J Henry Brown was the curate at the time of the repairs.

Sir Stephen Glynne visited Langford in April 1866, and wrote an account of the church as it then was:

'The church has a short nave with south aisle chancel, western tower and south porch. The nave is unhatched and has a clerestory on the north, tough no aisle and the features are mostly Perpendicular. The aisle is tiled without parapet. The arcade of the nave has 3 pointed arches on octagonal pillars with embattled capitals. The windows of the aisle are of 3 lights. The clerestory windows on the north are perpendicular of two light as also those below. The tower arch is pointed and very narrow, on octagonal shafts. The chancel arch is pointed, on embattled capitals. The chancel is of better masonry than the nave and had once a chapel on the north, opened by an enriched arch having mouldings now walled up. The east window is perpendicular of five lights. Other windows are square headed of three lights. That to the south-east has the cill extended for a seat. There is a piscine without canopy and square basin.'

Glynne noted as well a mutilated sepulchral effigy with inscription in large letters of the 15th century, the font, the flat pitched roof of the nave, the ceiling of the chancel and the tower battlements.

In 1878, the chancel was reroofed, the work paid for by the church’s patrons, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Despite these repairs the historian John Charles Cox described the chancel and the tower exterior as being in poor condition in 1911 when he visited the church. By this time the vicar was the Reverend Charles William Hamilton Aitchinson who remained vicar from 1908 through the early 20th century. He resided at South Collingham, as there was still no glebe house at Langford itself. By 1912 the vicarage was worth £176 per annum and by 1922 this had risen to £202. In that same year the church had 88 acres of glebe land. Trinity College remained the patrons of the parish. Later in that decade however the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Southwell.

In the 1950s plans were drawn up to have the church moved, stone by stone, to the Ladybrook estate in Mansfield. The estimated cost of £17,000 was lower than the £25,000 estimated for building a new church. The plans were never completed and St Bartholomew’s remains at its original site at Langford.

In recent years extensive restoration efforts have been made, including the extensive rebuilding of the east chancel wall. In 2007 a grant of £8,500 was awarded to the church by the Nottinghamshire Historic Churches Trust to assist with the stripping and re-plastering of the chancel, nave, south aisle and vestry.