Ratcliffe on Soar
Holy Trinity

History

The present day stone church was probably started late in the 12th Century replacing a previous wooden church dedicated to St Mary. A survey conducted in 1994 indicates that the Chancel dates from around 1160.

The round arches of
the north aisle
One of the 14th
Century pillars
Broken north aisle
arch, showing that
the aisle width
has been reduced

About 1220 the tower and nave were added. The nave aisles were constructed and a spire raised around 1290.

The chancel east window of four lights with geometrical tracery is described by Pevsner as quite spectacular and dating from 1300. The nave arcades are 14th century with octagonal piers and round headed arches on the north aisle. Around 1320 the south aisle was rebuilt when the porch was added together with south aisle windows, and a font was provided. Later in the 14th century there was work to reduce the width of the north aisle and at this time clerestory windows were added.

Showing the porch, and
also showing the former
roof-line on the east
face of the tower
Corbels for former roof
on the chancel wall

During the 15th century the walls over the aisle arcades were raised and the original steep pitched roof was replaced by the current shallow pitched roof. The roofline shown on the outside of the eastern face of the tower indicates this as does three remaining corbels in the walls of the chancel.

In the mid 16th century the Archbishop of York ordered that all altar stones should be “broken, defaced and bestowed to common use”. Such altar stones were to be replaced by an ‘honest table’. Ratcliffe was lucky in that the altar stone was too massive to be broken and it was dropped into the church floor. This order was rescinded at Mary’s accession in 1553 but c1571 the altar stone was buried and replaced by the honest table now used as a Communion table situated at the forefront of the chancel above the steps to the nave. Also at the time of Mary’s accession, two bells were given to the church by the Commissioner of Church Goods. These were replaced c1600 by two bells by Henry Oldfield.

During the first half of the 17th century a wooden altar, sanctuary rails and font cover were installed.

By the eighteenth century the church was in a very poor state of repair and in the latter half of the century the north aisle including the clerestory was completely re-built and the arches rounded. At this time the treble bell by Hedderley was installed.

Between 1832 and 1840 the church, originally dedicated to St Mary, was re-dedicated to The Holy Trinity. However, in 1868 the church was reported to be ‘fast falling into decay” and .by 1886 major restoration work costing £830 and paid for by Earl Howe, was undertaken. In 1891 the altar stone was restored and re-consecrated.

In 1924 a high wooden screen was installed to box in two bays of the nave and the services were held within. The side pillars show the slots (now filled) which were cut to support this structure. The boarding was removed after a short while. In 1936 a modern font, a gift from Kingston-on-Soar, was installed near the door.

The gates and pillars

In 1973 restoration of the Sacheverall tombs was made possible through a generous donation from the Pilgrim Trust. The restoration involved dismantling, cleaning and re-assembly incorporating a waterproof membrane in the tomb chest. In 1979 the chairs were replaced by pew from a redundant Roman Catholic church in Leicester, whilst in 1982 the old wooden church gates were replaced by cast iron gates purchased from a church at Cotgrave. At the same time, the gate pillars were re-built.

The restored
weather cock

In 1990 there was extensive pointing and repairs to the church spire at which time the weathercock was repaired and renovated and the roof timbers were treated for beetle and rot.

The church was built when Ratcliffe was an important community and the neighbouring villages were dependencies. As the importance of the village declined so the church fell into disrepair. It was substantially repaired in the late 19th Century and now in the 21st Century, with the general rise of prosperity and activity in the village, the church is once more clean and decent.

In the Millennium year the villagers created the wall hanging and this now hangs on the wall of the North aisle. Although the population is smaller than in the Middle Ages, worship is still carried on much as it has been over the nine hundred or more years that this church has stood.

The Patronage

The importance of Ratcliffe probably stems from the control over the east to west traffic crossing the Soar. It is possible that a refuge was located at Ratcliffe for the support of travellers but this is subject to further study.

The first record of patronage was when Roger de Laci, Constable of Nottingham, confirmed the gift of the advowson to the Abbot and Augustine Convent of the Blessed Mary in Norton (near Chester) in 1211. Reference was made to his father indicating that patronage had been in the Laci family for some time.

In the mid 14th Century attempts were made to acquire the advowson by the Lord of the Manor, Peter Picot; which involved the Priory at Lenton and was subject to correspondence between the King and the Pope in Rome. This wrangle lasted some two years and resulted in the abandonment of the local claims. However, in 1381 the advowson was transferred to the Priory at Burscough in Lancashire, the prior appointing his first vicar in 1385.

It is believed that the major extensions of 1220 were conducted under the patronage of Norton, and that Burscough was responsible for remodelling the nave and aisle. In 1536 Burscough was dissolved by King Henry VIII and patronage passed to the crown. Any ecclesiastical refuge or respite would have been closed and staff dispensed with. It has been suggested the adjacent house to the church, being date marked 1547, would have been built with the used materials from such a structure. Eventually the patronage came to the local landowners, particularly the Lords Howe of Gopsall Manor and Belper of Kingston Hall. The patronage currently resides with the Belpers.

Summary Timeline

c1100   Chancel built
c1215   Main building and tower commenced, replacing a previous wooden church dedicated to St Mary
c1315   Porch doorway added; windows of south aisle and chancel east window built; some remodeling of the north aisle and arcades; font provided
c1460   Walls over the aisle arcades raised to give the nave a higher look; possibly at the same time, high pitch roof replaced with a flatter roof
1550   The stone altar was ordered to be replaced by an “honest table” (This order was rescinded at Mary’s accession in 1553. Archbishop Grindal ordered the stone altars to be destroyed in 1571.)
1553   Two bells given to church by commissioner of church goods
1571   The altar stone was buried and replaced by the honest table which is now in use as a communion table
c1600   Original bells replaced by two Henry Oldfield bells
1638   Wooden altar, sanctuary rails and font cover installed.
1633   Communion chalice and paten presented
1760   North aisle, including the clerestory, rebuilt
1783   Treble bell installed, made by Hedderly of Nottingham
c1835   Church rededicated to the Holy Trinity
1886   Major restoration of the church, paid for by Earl Howe at a cost of £830
1891   Altar stone restored and reconsecrated
1924   Church boarded off inside to reduce its size for services. (Boarding removed after a short while)
1936   Modern font, a gift from Kingston, installed near the door
1973   Tombs restored & renovated
1979   Chairs in church replaced by pews from a redundant Roman Catholic church in Leicester
1982   Old wooden church gates replaced by cast iron gates purchased from church at Cotgrave; gate pillars rebuilt
1990   Extensive pointing and repairs to church spire; weather cock repaired and renovated; roof and other timbers treated for beetle and rot