For this church:
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.
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.
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 This order was rescinded at Mary’s accession in 1553 but c1571 the altar stone was buried and replaced by the honest table now used as a Communion table situated at the forefront of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.
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 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 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.