St Nicholas


It is difficult to pin-point the exact date that St Nicholas church was first built. In Domesday Askham was mentioned as an ‘outlier’ of Laneham, but there was no specific mention of a church. However, Edwin Charles Simmonds noted that ‘there is some Norman walling in the nave’ of the church, and that it was likely York Minster was involved in the founding of the original building. A Henry II Pipe Roll extract for 1166-7 mentioned Askham’s archiepiscopal status, and this may have influenced issues of taxation. Charles Cox dated the ‘Priest’s door on the south, and the tall double lancet from c.1250’ and suggested that the chancel dates from the 13th century. C. Hodgson Fowler’s 1907 report also described the chancel as ‘a very simple work of the 13th century of Early English’.

Adam de Horton a rector of Askham, was recorded as instituted to the church of Ascham in November 1251, and attached to the Dominicans at York in 1268. In Walter Giffard’s register for 1275 it was mentioned that the Archbishop had a manor in Askham, and Askham was listed as a peculiar in the Valor Ecclesiasticus probably due to the Archbishop’s ownership of the estate, which seems to have been the case from an early date. 

St. Nicholas did not appear in the 1291 Taxatio, the ecclesiastical taxation assessment. It can be excluded from the estate of the Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaller as Larking made no reference to Askham; it was probably excluded due to being valued below 10 marks. Similarly, the church did not appear in the Nonarum Inquisitiones, probably because its valuation was too low.

Simmonds noted that the east window, with its fine tracery, was 14th century in the Decorated style, with three quatrefoils in the head, but it did not exist in 1304, so it must have been installed after that time. The church unusually did not appear in the 1428 Henry VI subsidy (not even in a footnote, or commentary) – once again this was probably because its valuation was too low.

The Fabric Rolls of York Minster showed that the chancel of the church was reported to be defective in 1472 and in 1481 this was still the case because there was the comment: ‘it raines in to yeqwher over ye hee altar’.

The tower dates from the 15th Century.

Simmonds noted that: ‘the first recorded burial in the village was that of Elizabeth Fox…this was five years before the first order to compel the keeping of Parish Registers.’ (1533 ELIZABETH FOX SEPULTUS FUIT XIIIJ DIE MAY.)

Baptisms were known at Askham from 1538, the first recorded burial took place in 1533, and the church register dates from 1539. The first recorded marriage was between Richard Reaton and Margery Byrkbie on 12 November 1543. William Helwys died in 1557 and left 5s to the church, where he wanted to be buried, and 3s 4d to the priest to pray for him. Kelly’s Directory of Nottinghamshire noted that the church had a ‘silver chalice, dated 1571.’ Simmonds described the pulpit as ‘constructed from 16th century panels’.

Shaw’s English Church during the Civil Wars showed how in 1646 the puritan minister at Askham received £40 a year as part of a fine paid by Robert Mellish for being a royalist.

There used to be six almshouses situated at the west end of the churchyard, these had one room each and six widows or single men from the village lived there; in 1659 a decree in Chancery ensured that the widows living there would receive £3 per year, and £3 worth of coals between them. A report from the Eaton Hall College of Education in 1956 stated: ‘We are happy to say that these Charities do not share the fate of many others of similar character but are honestly devoted to the purpose to which the donors intended’. The Retford and Bassetlaw Gazette, however painted a different picture, stating that one of the churchwardens had refused to have the amount distributed.

In 1677 Thoroton described Askham as: ‘a Berue of Lanum, and involved with it…These with Lanum belonged to the arch-bishops of York, who had the tythes also appropriated, yet 9 E. 2. (fn. 2) East Drayton answered for an intire villa, and the king, and Adomar of Valence were then lords. The king was also by the death of the archbishop of York, then lord of Lanum and Askham, wherein Adam de Everingham, and Stephen de Bro— were likewise lords.’ The church at East Drayton was briefly mentioned, but there was no mention of the church at Askham. There was no mention of Askham in the 1796 additions by Throsby either.

Simmonds reported that under the 1689 Toleration Act, ‘a James Turner applied for, and was granted a Meeting House at Askham; but when the Rev. Walter Palliser, the Curate (who was instituted 1 April 1741), replied to Archbishop Herring’s visitation questions in 1743, he reported that ‘there was no such meeting then in the parish’. Archbishop Herring’s 1743 Visitation Returns recorded 40 families in the parish, one of which was Roman Catholic. There was no school. There was an almshouse, no lands for the repair of the church. The overseers of the poor gathered the rents, and there were no reported abuses. Walter Palliser, resided on the property, and did not know of anyone coming to the parish that was not baptised. The public service was read twice in three Sundays, once in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered three or four times in a year; there were about 70 Communicants in the parish, and about thirty or forty of them usually received. In particular, about forty of them communicated at the previous Easter. Palliser confirmed that he gave open and timely warning of the sacrament before it was administered, and that the parishioners did not send in their names. Palliser had not refused the Sacrament to anyone. 

The churchwardens in 1743 were Samual Bullivant and John West.

In 1743 there was also a Terrier, a register of lands, which showed: ‘The Church Lands containing by estimation three Roods of arable Land lying dispersed in the Open Fields that is to say – ARP 0 3 0. …And all other small Vicarial Tithes whatsoever – except the Demense Lands belonging to the Archbishop of York.’

In 1764 Archbishop Drummond’s Parish Visitation Returns were made at Laneham, and there were 30 families in the parish with no dissenters, no licenced meeting house, no public or charity school. There was a hospital ‘with an endowment of twenty one pounds’ but the Minister did not manage this. 10 shillings a year were paid to the poor from an Acre of land in Beastwood by the Reverend Mr. Clark and George Cosens. It was reported that ‘there hath been no augment portion to the church by Queen Ann’s Bounty or otherwise.’ There was no vicarage in Askham, so the Vicar resided in Laneham. The Vicar reported that there were ‘3 churches belonging to my living in two of which there is constant duty every Lords Day done morning or afternoon as falls their turn’. Everyone attending the church had been baptized and the vicar had not baptized any adults. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered four times a year. ‘There are about 50 communicants of which about 9 or 10 usually communicate particularly at last Easter. I have never refused the sacrament to any.’ There were no chapels, and no public penances had been performed at the church.

In 1833 John Gorton described Askham as: ‘a chapelry in the liberty of Southby and Scrooby and Wapentake of Bassetlaw; living annexed to the vicarage of East Drayton; not in charge; patronage with that of East Drayton.’

In the 1844 White’s History, Directory and Gazetteer of Notts, Askham church was described as: ‘a small Gothic edifice with a tower and three bells, and the living a perpetual curacy, is a member of the vicarage of East Drayton, being in the patronage and enjoyment of the incumbent of East Drayton. The great tithes are in the appropriation of the Dean and Chapter of York’

In the 1851 religious census, the area of Askham parish, was given as 1,302 acres. The average morning church attendance was 40, with an average of 65 people attending in the afternoon. There were 114 seats of which 24 were rent free, and Curate E. Younghusband who made the return remarked: ‘I cannot discover to whom the church was dedicated’.  A 1956 report from the Eaton Hall College of Education also mentioned the Rev. Edward Younghusband (Vicar of Egmanton) and stated that he was appointed by the late Bishop of Lincoln to help the Rev. W. Goodacre who could not perform three services in a Sunday.

By 1856 the church was in a bad state, the lead was removed from the roof of the church, the tower was cracked and unsafe and most of the eight pinnacles had crashed to the ground. There was no reference made to Askham, in Sir Stephen Glynne’s 1860s notebooks.

In the record of the faculties relating to Nottinghamshire churches filed at Lincoln, on 2 March 1861 there was a sequestration, by Queen’s writ. East Drayton with Askham and Stokeham. White’s Directory states that the church was restored and reroofed in 1863. The almshouses were adapted and rebuilt in 1865 to accommodate three people (rather than the original six).

The church was formerly a curacy, attached to the vicarage of East Drayton, but an Order in Council in 1866, made this separated and constituted a rectory. In 1867 the Reverend Robert Sweeting was inducted; there is a remembrance tablet to him in the chancel of the church. A rectory house was built for Sweeting in 1867 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and cost £1440. In approximately 1872 the church services were recorded as being at 11am and 2:30pm, with a sacrament on the first Sunday in the month. The Churchwarden was Mr. Tividale and the Parish Clerk David Revell. Interestingly, in 1874, it was reported in the Retford Times that a relic was found under the chancel floor; a cover of a Crusader’s tomb with Sword and Cross in a good state of preservation.

In October 1905 Rev John Philip Wills arrived to take over from Rev. Robert Sweeting who had died in 1905 leaving £892-14-11 to the parish.  The church at this time was in a bad state with the tower cracked, most pinnacles broken, pantiles in the place of lead on the roof, and damaged stonework. Rev. Wills placed a great emphasis on restoring the church and used Sweeting’s legacy towards this as well as other donations and fund-raising from the parish.

In May 1906 there was a faculty for church restoration with a schedule of work approved, each aspect of restoration was described in great detail and included instructions such as: ‘take up and repave the nave with rubbed white Mansfield paving…Chancel floor to be entirely new of red and white Mansfield paving…relay the porch floor with the best old paving of the Nave and Aisles…Outside (Tower) take off all parapets and pinnacles and renew and repair where needed.’

By 1907 Askham church had been extensively restored by the contractors Messrs. Bowman & Sons of Stamford with Mr C. Hodgson Fowler of Durham as the architect. The total cost of the work was approximately £1,642.  On 7 October 1907 the Bishop of Southwell, Dr. Hoskyns, performed a dedication ceremony at the opening of the restored church.  Everard L. Guilford noted in 1910 that ‘some curious niches in the north and south walls were then discovered’ during the restoration; these included three trefoil headed niches that were opened out in the nave walls. In 1907 as mentioned The Reverend J P Wills was the rector at Askham, and Mr Joseph Park and Mr William Tindall were church wardens.

In the Parochial Visitation of Edwyn Hoskyns Bishop of Southwell, there is an itinerary that was derived from the bishop’s engagements diary and a note in the Tuxford deanery chapter minute book (published in the Southwell Diocesan Magazine in March 1914), and this indicates that the bishop had been due to visit Askham on the 27th January 1914 at 3:00pm. Askham was recorded as being in the Deanery of Tuxford: R. D.: H. Chadwick, vicar of Rampton, 1911. The Church St. Nicholas was described as 12th century. With the Reverend J. P. Wills, BA 1905.The net annual value of the benefice was given as £162. The population in 1911 was 250, in 1901 it was 240. The church accommodation was for 120 people. There were no figures given for school or Sunday school. There were 3 recorded baptisms in the year ending 30 September 1912. There were no confirmations recorded in that same year.

Rev. John Philip Wills died at the rectory on 22 November 1922. Rev. Harry Bull, curate of Forest Town, Mansfield, was then appointed Rector of Askham, he served until 11 January 1926. In 1926, there was a sequestration order; it showed that the churchwardens were George Henry Bradley and Edwin Matthew Clark. On 1 November 1937 the church received a Queen Anne’s Bounty Mortgage for £311 for parsonage improvements. On 19 April 1940, the London Gazette had a story about the uniting of benefice of Askham to East Drayton and Stokeham. On 15 August 1956 by an order in council the benefice was united with that of East Markham.

A 2013 Nottinghamshire County Council website described St. Nicholas at Askham, as ‘A real village church. Dedicated to St Nicholas. A beautiful church that has been restored to its earlier light and bright condition. Always open and never locked. All welcome, no entry fee. Parish Communion 2nd and 4th Sunday every month.’