For this church:
The name Screveton means ‘farm of or belonging to the Sheriff’; it is of Scandinavian origin, strongly suggesting a pre-Norman origin for the village, as is the case for its neighbour Car Colston. Historically the name Screveton is linked with the name Kirketon, which for several centuries appeared to be used interchangeably with that of Screveton. (It may be that because the church is somewhat separate from the village, situated halfway between Screveton and Car Colston, that the name Screveton was used for the village and the name Kirketon for the small settlement behind the church, and also encompassing Kirketon Hall.) The name ‘Kirton’ was also sometimes used.
A fragment of an incised, pre-Norman cross here has a pattern similar to that at other villages south of the Trent, from which one local historian infers a revival of Christianity in the 10th century in the area under Canute and St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose influence extended to this region. The site may therefore have been a pre-Norman preaching station. However, Domesday Book mentions no priest or church here, noting only land and tithes accruing to three distinct beneficiaries.
The earliest surviving features of the church may be 12th century, and there was certainly a church present during the reign of Henry II. In the 13th century, there was a dispute between the lords of the village and the Abbot of Welbeck as to the rights of patronage of the church. The dispute was eventually settled by an agreement of 1241 that presentations to the rectory (i.e. the choice of the next rector) should be by turns, alternating between the abbey and the village lords.
From 1171 until the late 18th century, the parish – 1150 acres in size – made an annual Pentecostal offering to Southwell of 14d, this being the average amount from parishes in the Bingham deanery.
The most prominent Norman feature of the church is the font, with interlaced arcading, which is dated to the 1170s, and there is also a traceried panel with figures of 12th century date. The chancel is believed to be early 13th century, with 14th century additions and reworkings, but there are fragments of Norman work built into the north-east buttress, suggesting that this was a rebuilding of an earlier Norman church.
The nave was built by 1300, and early in the 14th century the arcades were rebuilt. The two side aisles were added in the 14th century. Of the same period is the lancet window remaining in the south wall of the chancel, and the arch on the north side. This was built up until the restoration in the late 19th century, when it was opened out and the vestry built on the old foundations. There was a corresponding chapel on the south side of the chancel, some traces of which were found during the restoration. The porch is on the south side and was also built on the site of a chapel. There is a surviving medieval misericord, representing ‘winter.’ (A second misericord representing St. Wilfrid was added in 1908.)
In 1291, taxation rolls gave the annual value of the church as £8. At the 1428 Henry VI subsidy, the annual value was identical at 12 marks (£8), and the subsidy was levied at 16s. In both instances the church is named ‘Kirketon’.
The tower was added in around 1475, with some later alterations, probably involving the rebuilding of the belfry stage, dated by churchwardens’ presentations to 1602-26.
In 1505, the dispute between Welbeck Abbey and the Screveton notables over the advowson of the church resurfaced, when each presented a different candidate. A compromise was eventually found, in which it was agreed that it was the Abbey’s turn, but the abbey agreed to present the village’s candidate.
The right to the moiety of the advowson was successively sold between different wealthy families in the village. By the 15th century, the most prominent family was the Leek/Leake family, which resided in Kirketon Hall from 1438. (William Leek, who had married the heiress to the Screveton estate in around 1385, had been a Nottinghamshire MP and tax collector in the time of Henry IV). However, by 1475 the head of the family, Thomas, had fallen into debt, and in or around 1478, a Richard Whalley of Darlaston, Staffs, acquired Kirketon Hall and land in Screveton by marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas Leake. The Whalleys were to dominate the village for the next century and more, with the key figure during Tudor times being Whalley’s grandson, also called Richard.
Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, the younger Richard Whalley became attached to the Court of Henry VIII, where he gained a reputation for ‘the grace and skill which he displayed in the martial exercises of that age.’
In 1535 he was employed in surveying the religious houses in Leicestershire, and he profited greatly from the dissolution of the monasteries, to the point that he was able to acquire Welbeck Abbey following its dissolution, as well as property in Osberton, Hardwick, Sibthorpe, and Worksop.
In the reign of Edward VI, Whalley became a steward of the Lord Protector Somerset, to whom he may have been related, and had hopes of being made Earl of Nottingham. However, after Somerset’s fall, Whalley was twice sent to the Tower, ultimately escaping with a heavy fine.
In 1554, Whalley represented East Grinstead in Parliament, and in subsequent Parliaments he was one of the Knights of the shire for Nottinghamshire. Having become indebted, through the fine imposed and from other causes, to the tune of over £48,000, in 1558 he sold Welbeck and returned to Screveton.
Whalley was granted several valuable estates by Elizabeth I and died in 1583 leaving a considerable fortune for his large family, whom he had lived to see become connected by marriage with some of the leading families in the region. One descendant became Sheriff of Nottingham; another was the roundhead and regicide Major Gen. Edward Whalley, whose mother was an aunt of Oliver Cromwell. It was he who carried away the Bauble when Cousin Oliver dissolved the Long Parliament, and he had charge of the King after his capture by Cornet Joyce at Holdenby house. After the Restoration he was stripped of his estates, fled to America and died in exile.
Richard Whalley’s third wife, Barbara, survived him and in 1584 installed a remarkable alabaster monument to him, his three wives and 25 children, in the church chancel (it was moved to the base of the tower in 1881.) It shows the effigy of Richard Whalley with his feet on a whale and his head on whale's head, the family's crest. Above the tomb are shown his three wives; each wife is shown with her children in the panels behind her.
In c.1553, an inventory of the church was made under the auspices of Edward VI. The items listed include: 'a peyts of bras with the sacrament of the awlter in ytt', a 'challes a patten of stluer and gylt', 'a cross of bras gylted', 'two belles in the stple', 'a sacryeng bell' ,'a vestment of red sarcenyt' and 'an ark wyth two lockes.' The latter entry may refer to the seven-foot long 15th century chest which is still kept in the church. In 1554, following the accession of Mary I, the rector, Thomas Curwen, was deprived of his post for refusing to abandon his wife.
Curiously, in 1589 the churchwardens presented that ‘We have a surplice but our parson does not wear it’. By May 1596 they presented that ‘our church steeple is in decay and also the churchyard is not sufficiently fenced’, and in 1602 they reported that ‘our church is in decay, but it is in mending’. The next year, 1603, we have the date that the rebuilding of the belfry stage took place as the churchwardens presented that: ‘we are busy about the repair of our church and steeple, and have been both this year and last year, and trust to finish in the next year’. However, by 1610 they returned ‘our churchyard wall is out of repair, because the steeple is in building’; the work was clearly taking longer than anticipated. Four years later, in 1614, we have the following record: ‘we have two bells, well hanged up, and at no time did we have any more; the church, chancel, parsonage house and other house belonging thereto are sufficiently repaired, except the steeple which has cost us above £100 and is not brought to that perfection which we desire; it is our purpose to perfect it as soon as we are able’. By 1620 things had not gone too well as the churchwardens reported that ‘our steeple is at this time under the hands of the workmen; we trust, if God permits, to finish it before Lammas; the churchyard cannot be fenced until the steeple is finished; our bells cannot be in good repair before the steeple is finished’, but the following year their return stated: ‘our steeple is not yet sufficiently repaired although we have been at great charges for it; it would have been performed this last year if Christopher Gascoine of Nott[ingham], mason, had performed his promise which he was tied to by bond; our churchyard fence cannot be repaired until the steeple is finished.’ The following year we have more of the same, and in 1624: ‘we and the whole town desire some time for the repairing of our steeple and other things about our church, which we are doing as fast as we can.’ Finally, in April 1626 they reported that ‘our bells are not as well hung up as we intend they shall be, but we are carefully about it to have them done before August’; there is no more mention of the steeple after this date.
In 1603, the congregation of the parish was given as 77 adults. In 1607, the rectory house was built.
In the 17th century, the most prominent families in Screveton were the Whalleys and the Thorotons. During the Civil War the village had generally royalist sympathies, and as a prominent royalist, Peniston Whalley’s position was imperilled in the 1650s, when he was informed against as having been in arms for the King, and suspected of complicity in the royalist plot of 1655.
By 1657, a Presbyterian rector, Thomas Bosworth, was installed, but was rapidly ejected following the Restoration. In 1662, Dr Samuel Brunsell was formally instituted as rector, having in effect been fulfilling the post since 1648, and built himself a brick house near the church. (During the Civil War Brunsell had spent time in the Netherlands, and was closely involved with members of the exiled royal family.) By 1676, there were 66 adults of age to take the sacrament in the parish, with no Catholics, puritans or other dissenters recorded.
In 1675, Peniston Whalley erected a monument in Latin to his wife Margaret, still to be found in the tower. In 1684, a set of carved wooden arms of Charles II were fixed over the chancel arch of the church (they are now positioned over the tower arch).
Meanwhile Kirketon manor seems to have passed at some point in the 17th century from the Whalleys to the Thoroton family - the hall is said to have been the birthplace and residence of the local historian Dr Robert Thoroton. In 1690, Thoroton noted that 'the tithes of the three fees mentioned in Domesday are yet kept distinct,' with one going to Lincoln Cathedral (as it had in Domesday), one to Dr Thoroton himself, and the third (formerly the one that went to Worksop Priory) now part of the Penistone Whalley inheritance. However ‘the custom is to divide the tithes into 18 parts, of which the rector of Screveton has 8, I, for the church of Lincoln, have six, and Mr Whalley four.'
Thoroton described coats-of-arms in the church windows, but these are no longer present.
Although Thoroton installed himself in neighbouring Car Colston, the family remained heavily present in the area, and two brothers of the Thoroton family were rectors in the late 18th/early 19th centuries.
At Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743 there were 28 families living in the parish (excluding the poorhouse) with no dissenters of any sort. The value of the living was ‘but £48 a year, and highly taxed’. The rector was living three miles away at Thurgarton, and a curate was employed on £18 per year. There was a service only once each Sunday, as there would be alternate morning and afternoon services at Screveton and Car Colston, with most parishioners attending both.
From 1745, the incumbent of the church was Abraham Blackborne, the younger son of the London merchant Abraham Blackborne who, with his brother Levett, left the memorial still to be found in the tower, to their mother, Mary. Levett and Abraham were children of Mary by her first marriage – she subsequently married Col. Thomas Thoroton, and lived at Kirketon Hall.
Blackborne was succeeded as incumbent by Charles Manners-Sutton, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury (1805-1828). Manners-Sutton had married at age 23, and probably eloped with, his cousin Mary Thoroton, daughter of the aforementioned Mary (Levett) Thoroton and Col. Thomas Thoroton, in 1778. He was the incumbent at Screveton only for a short time, before becoming Dean of Peterborough in 1791 and Bishop of Norwich in 1792.
In 1789 the Thorotons bought Flintham House and built a mansion there, although Throsby still had them living at Screveton Hall in 1795. However, by 1823 the Hall had been emptied and it was pulled down in about 1826. It is said to have contained portraits of Dr Thoroton and relics of the regicide Edward Whalley.
In 1776, the common land in the village was enclosed, and 120 acres were allocated to the rector of the Church in lieu of tithes. This land was subsequently exchanged for a 90 acre plot close to the church. The enclosure would seem to have significantly increased the rector’s income, since by 1824, when John Chancourt Girardot became vicar, he had a gross benefice income of £264, and employed a curate at £60 a year. Girardot was able to build a large new house at Car Colston and moved in refined social circles – he was a steward at the Southwell Ball in 1829. He married Sophia Georgina, wealthy daughter of a family connected to the Manners-Suttons, in a marriage said by historian Michael Austin to provide an example 'of the cementing of family ties and family fortunes by marriage and patronage within a narrow circle of privileged gentry families in the country.' Girardot also later became a magistrate at the Newark and Southwell Quarter sessions.
By the time of the 1831 census, the population of the village had reached a peak of 312 people, with over 50% of the adult males employed as agricultural labourers. At the time of the 1851 religious census this had dropped slightly to 307, with the value of the church endowment was given at £180. There was space for 223 worshippers in the church, but a typical congregation size was around 50, with 40-50 Sunday School scholars.
The population of the village fell steadily thereafter, to 240 by 1871, by which time there was a school for both sexes and chapels for both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists in the village.
From 1881-4, the church underwent major restoration, at a cost of £1300. The chancel was restored in 1881, and the nave and aisles by 1884. During the restoration the Whalley monument was moved from the chancel to the tower, and several other floor monuments were also moved. The restoration of the south aisle uncovered a 14th century piscina at the eastern end of the aisle, which had been carefully filled up and preserved.
Bishop Hoskyns visited the Church in May 1914 as part of his visitation of the diocese, but did not make any comments specific to Screveton as part of his address to Bingham Deanery. He recorded the annual value of the benefice at £152, and gave the population of the village at 163 (up from 159 in 1901). There was church accommodation for 140 worshippers, and the numbers enrolled in day school and Sunday school were 30 and 40 respectively. There had been two baptisms and three confirmations in the year ending 30 September 1912.
By 1931, the population of the village had fallen to just over 100. The rector at this time was T.E.S. Ferris, who also held the incumbency at Car Colston, and it was suggested that the parishes be combined. This however was resisted by parishioners in both villages.