For this church:
The area of the county in which North Leverton is situated has seen layers of occupation dating back to Roman times, owing to its closeness to the River Trent. The Danum – Lindum road (Doncaster to Lincoln) runs within two miles of North Leverton in its journey to Littleborough, the ford over the river and the colonia of Segelocum. A Saxon grave cover has been discovered at Coates, a small hamlet which is part of the parish. In 627, according to Bede, Paulinus baptised people into the Christian faith at Littleborough.
Domesday Book does record a ‘half church’, but on that part of Leverton (or Legreton) settled on Count Alan and Roger de Busli. In 2007 Anglo-Saxon stones were discovered in the fabric of All Saints, South Leverton, leading to speculation that there may have been a pre-Viking church there – possibly, even, that recorded in Domesday. Domesday Book duly recorded this land as in the possession of the Archbishop of York.
The Archbishop’s new acquisition of land at Habblesthorpe resulted in a new prebend for York Minster. North Leverton became a part with Beckingham of a prebend granted by Archbishop Thurstan to Southwell between 1119-1133, during the reign of Henry I. Henry confirmed Thurstan's gift of the prebend at the same time, namely the churches of his manors of North Leverton (Legreton) and Beckingham, thus proving both churches existed at this time. From 1171 onwards, Dickinson claims, it sent 1s. yearly at Whitsuntide as its Pentecostal offering; a practice that continued to the latter part of the 18th century.
Around 1200 there certainly was a stone building, as the late Norman doorway dating from that period attests. From 1203 into the 15th century the de Everinghams held the manor of North Leverton from the Archbishop of York for a knight’s fee and common suit at the court of the archbishop, the manor being worth £18 yearly.
Before the time of the Black Death villeinage in North Leverton had been commuted to money payment, presumably by an archbishop exercising the right through his jurisdiction in the Soke of Laneham.
In 1291 North Leverton was separated from Beckingham by Archbishop Romayne and it became a new prebend of the college of Southwell with a value of £5 (rated for tax at £13 6s. 8d. in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV) A provision was made for a non-resident prebendary who was able to appoint a vicar for the parish and a vicar choral for Southwell duties. It formed one of the six post-Conquest prebends of Southwell. The prebend was made possible by William Rothersfield, prebendary of Beckingham, resigning Leverton church for that purpose.
With North Leverton as an independent prebend, there seems to have been rebuilding at some time around 1300-1340, with the chancel being rebuilt and a south aisle added as the tracery and the arcade are of that period’s style. The south aisle may have been constructed to form a chantry chapel or might have become one over a period of time. The probable patrons were the de Everinghams of Laxton who held the land from the Archbishop during the relevant period. There was certainly a chantry priest when such chapels were suppressed in 1547 in the reign of Edward VI. William Rede, recorded as ex-chantry priest of North Leverton, received a pension of £5 a year in 1547/8, which was reduced to £4 10s. in the reign of Mary Tudor.
In 1314 Archbishop William Greenfield ordered the dean of Laneham to enquire into the fruits and rents of both Beckingham and North Leverton churches, in neither of which were vicarages ordained or vicars instituted. The outcome of the enquiry is not recorded.
In 1341, at the taxation of the ninths, North Leverton was taxed at 20 marks (£13 6s. 8d), the ninths of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth £9 a year at true value and no more, and the glebe, altar dues, oblations, and other small tithes had a an annual valuation of 6 and half marks (£4 6s. 8d.).
At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI, North Leverton is listed as a prebend of Southwell Minster and was taxed at 26s. 8d.
John Wyvell, vicar of North Leverton, in his will of 1523 requested to be buried in the middle of the chancel and left 40s. to buy a cross for the church, two cows for lights and another 40s. for a graduale and processionary for the church – one of the last priests of the old faith to gift the church in the traditional way. He also gave 'a silver spoon, or else 3s. 4d.' to every priest present at his burial, and at the eighth day to say David psalter for his soul; in addition he instituted a chantry priest for himself.
By 1549 Sir Michael Stanhope and John Bellowe had the grant of many small properties of suppressed chantries, including in North Leverton a half acre of land, in the tenure of the church warden given to a light in the church. Thomas Marcer surrendered his prebend of North Leverton in August 1541. By 1547 William Rede was probably the prebendary at the time the college was restored. The college and its prebends were restored in the reign of Mary, in the old form, in 1557. The prebendary, George Lamb, did not respond to the summons to attend at the royal visitation in 1559 in connection with the observance of the Act of Uniformity and was deprived of his stall by 1562.
By a report of 1587 the priest had no surplice (often a sign of a puritan inclination in a priest, not surprising in an area noted for dissent), neither was there a ‘fair linen cloth’ on the altar, nor a Book of Common Prayer. The church and churchyard were found to be out of order.
Little else is known of the church and parish throughout the turbulent years leading to the Civil War, although the village lies in the area usually associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, one of whom preached in the neighbouring village of Sturton-le-Steeple. Reference is made, however, in 1670 to Thomas Sampson who was fined for attending a meeting of the Quakers. In 1676 the population of the village was recorded as 152, of whom 17 were Dissenters.
Archbishop Herring’s visitation return in 1743 records 58 families with only one man a Presbyterian and no others being dissenters. There was no meeting house in the parish, no charity school or almshouse. No lands had been left for the repair of the church. Thomas Edwards, the vicar, was also responsible for Habblesthorpe, South Leverton and Littleborough with no curate to assist.
Thomas Hurst, the vicar, told Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation in 1764 that there were 52 families in the parish, none of them dissenters. He lived at South Leverton and conducted a service once on a Sunday except for once a month when he was at Littleborough and Cottam. He administered the sacraments three times a year.
In 1795 by Act of Parliament the fields were enclosed with some 150 acres being given in compensation to the prebendary and 79 acres to the parson as compensation for the loss of tithes.
The living continued to be poor and in 1816, renewed in 1821, a certificate of non-residence was issued. The incumbent acted as stipendiary curate in Daventry.
By the generosity of the incumbent Henry Ives Bailey and friends, the condition of the church was improved in 1847 when the church was partly restored and re-pewed at a cost of £400. An organ was also installed at the Rev H. I. Bailey’s expense. For a population of 336 adults there were 160 free pews and 40 in other pews. At morning service 37 attended and in the afternoon 95. The vicar commented:
‘The whole of the entire sittings both in nave and chapel were erected at the expense of the present vicar and his friends within the last four years. It is almost impossible to state with any degree of accuracy what may be truly the average of congregation for the duty required was only single each Sunday. The present vicar began about three years ago to have regular services both morning and afternoon. Besides it being lambing time several persons are not able to go to a place of worship.’
A local newspaper reported in 1876 the poor state of St Martin’s church:
‘The north wall leans so dangerously as to necessitate the use of iron bars. The chancel belonging to G W Mason of Morton Hall near Retford, exhibits total desolation.’
(The chancel) walls are not only discoloured, but partly covered with a rancid white mould emitting an unhealthy odour……In rainy weather the officiating minister stands in pools of water.’
The chancel was repaired at the charge of Mr G W Mason and the major part of the remaining cost was borne by the Rev T. Tickell, the total cost being £1,200. The newspaper reported confidently in October 1878 the ‘galleries and other unsightly “ornaments of the Dark Ages” swept away.’ New open choir stalls were installed in the chancel, a new altar of oak and a new font in the nave. The chancel arch was heightened and the roof, which had become flattened as the timbers perished over time, was wholly redone.
Sir Stephen Glynne, visiting in 1859 before restoration, recorded a ‘West Gallery’ but passes no comment on the dire condition which the local newspaper later featured.
Bishop Hoskyn’s visitation on 29 June 1914 ‘a moment of deep anxiety and sorrow’ found a population, very little increased in 60 years, of 359 with 51 day school pupils on roll and 22 Sunday school pupils. Church sittings were 150. The net value of the benefice was £175.
Shortly before the Second World War, in 1937, a Retford benefactor, Mrs Oxley of Welham Park financed the installation of electric light in the church, and in 1948 new heating was installed and further improved in 1981.
In 1952 the parishes of North Leverton with Habblesthorpe and South Leverton were united officially.
An extension to the churchyard was built in 1957 with a further extension in 1980, while in 1987 an area for cremated remains was created beside the south-west end of the church. Between the 1960s and 2000 the church itself received only minor repairs.