For this church:
No mention is made of a church at Beckingham prior to the Norman Conquest. Domesday Book mentions Beckingham as a berewick (outlying estate) of Laneham further up the River Trent. No mention is made of either a church or a priest at Beckingham.
Architecturally Beckingham is a mix of styles – the historian John Charles Cox described them as ‘somewhat confused’ – but the earliest styles can be found in the interior and are likely to date to the early 13th century, during the Early English period of gothic architecture. However, a church was on the site earlier than this because it is mentioned in documents from the early 12th century.
Documentary sources indicate Beckingham’s status in relation to Southwell Minster. Thurstan of Bayeux, elected archbishop of York in 1114, created three prebends for Southwell Minster, two at Dunham and Halloughton, the final one was at Beckingham and North Leverton. A letter from King Henry I, dated 1123, confirmed this creation and its grant to the Minster.
The office of prebendary was associated with many medieval cathedrals or collegiate churches and its duties involved the administration of the collegiate church to which it was attached. As such they were senior figures at the church with influence over policy. Prebends were specific church benefices and estates that provided a source of income and prestige for the prebendaries themselves, who were appointed to them and responsible for them, although their other duties meant a vicar was often appointed to the parish to serve as resident priest.
In 1291, William Rotherford was the prebendary of Beckingham and North Leverton. In this year however, North Leverton was split off to form a separate prebend, bringing Southwell to its final total of sixteen prebends. William Rotherford continued as prebendary of Beckingham alone. An ecclesiastical tax of the same year valued Beckingham after its split at £23 6s 8d annually. This was about average for the Southwell prebends, which varied in value from around £6 to around £36.
Fifty years later another tax survey, called the Nonarum Inquisitiones, offers a more detailed picture of church wealth from this period. Beckingham prebend was valued at 35 marks (£23 6s 8d). It had 23 acres of glebe (church) land worth 14s 8d per annum and another 11 acres worth 5 marks per annum. It received the ninths of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces for another 23 marks per annum as well as other small tithes and mortuary offerings for 4 marks 12d (£2 14s 4d) per annum. Beckingham’s income was diverse but relatively typical of a church of this period.
The church was still valued at 35 marks in 1428, when Henry VI ordered another tax on the English churches.
In 1318 a vicarage had been created by ordination of William de Melton, the Archbishop of York. It was given tithes totalling 8 marks, as well as receiving 40s per annum from the Canon of Beckingham at the feasts of Pentecost and St Martin. In return the same canon was paid 6d per annum for a mansion called the priest’s house. This vicarage would have further supplemented the wealth of Beckingham’s resident priest.
A plea before King Edward III in 1331-2 shows that William de Barneby, then prebendary of Beckingham, had view of the frank-pledge of his tenants, which happened twice a year at Southwell and Edingley. The frank-pledge was an old Saxon custom, much diminished in use by the 14th century, in which communities were divided into groups of men or households, each of which was responsible for the others in their group, such as ensuring they appeared at court when required. Essentially it was a sharing of legal responsibility.
In 1372-3 a mandate was given to Adam de Everyngham and other justices for the preservation of the assize of bread and beer and the privilege of surveying weights and measures in all sixteen prebends of Southwell, including Beckingham.
At some point the church acquired a chantry and associated priest.
A chantry certificate of 1545, shortly before its closure, lists a John Beckingham as the founder but gives no date. Other records tell us that in 1394 or 1395 a jury instructed the king, Richard II, to grant one John Beckingham, esquire, the right to give 2 messuages, 2 tofts (both old names for houses or similar), 50 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 6 acres of wood, 6s 8d rent, with all the appurtenances (that is, any buildings and land attached to these), to the chantry priest at Beckingham.
He also gave another messuage with 24 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow and appurtenances to Richard, vicar of Beckingham.
However the chantry is mentioned in letters patent dated 1341 granting lands to a chantry priest at Beckingham in return for celebrating and praying for the king, his children, the founders and others. Possibly it was an earlier John Beckingham that founded the chantry therefore, or possibly the later donation was presumed by the 1545 commissioners to mark its founding. Besides prayers for the chantry’s benefactors, the priest was also expected to furnish a bushel of wheat annually on Good Friday, which would be distributed amongst the poor of the village.
The 16th century brought the turmoil of the Reformation as Henry VIII broke from Rome, declaring himself head of the Church of England, and taking advantage of the opportunity to seize much of the Church’s wealth. To aid in this, surveys were undertaken which tell us something of the state of England’s churches at the time. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 lists Beckingham’s chantry, valuing its gross income as £4 14s 4d of which 2s 10d was spent on rent and other payments, and 1s 8d was given in alms, leaving the majority for use by the priest. There was also a mansion worth 6s 8d for his residence.
The 1545 chantry certificate mentions that the chantry itself had no good plate, so its priest borrowed the good chalice from the main church, an indication that the chantry was underfunded or its priests negligent. Meanwhile the prebendary paid £4 per annum to the vicars choral at Southwell (the six vicars choral, as their name implies, had additional duties within the Minster’s choir but were also senior administrative figures similar to the prebendaries themselves). £2 2s 5d were also paid by Beckingham to the Chapter of Southwell, for visitation fees.
The collegiate churches such as Southwell were one of the king’s main targets. In 1540 Southwell surrendered its rights and possessions to the king and the prebendaries, presumably including Beckingham, followed suit. However, unlike many other colleges, Southwell was returned to its status by an Act of Parliament in 1543, possibly because of plans by Henry to make it the seat of a new bishopric.
After Henry’s death the heavily Protestant regency council of his son Edward VI made another push against the old church institutions, sending commissioners out to catalogue the possessions of the churches and chantries in 1547-8. Like almost everywhere else, the chantry at Beckingham was suppressed and its priest, William Saxey, was pensioned off. In 1555 he was still being paid a pension of £6 13s 4d per annum. The chantry itself was valued at £19 10s at its suppression.
In 1553 the chantry, then in tenure of William Merring, was granted to Thomas Reeve and George Cotton who had licence to alienate (sell) it to Robert Haryson and his heirs. At the same time the chantry was suppressed Southwell college was also suppressed, turning it into a normal parish church and separating the prebendaries from it. Once again however the chapter was saved by an Act of Parliament, this time issued by Philip and Mary in 1557 which restored the previous status including prebendaries such as Beckingham.
In 1559 the vicar of Beckingham was one of around fifty priests who did not respond to a visitation to report his acquiescence to the Act of Uniformity passed by Elizabeth I shortly after her accession to the throne. The priests were all declared contumacious (a legal term for refusal to obey authority). However no mention of further punishments has survived and it is likely the priests in question eventually complied with the Act.
A century later, by 1677, the church was worth £16 15s 10d, a good deal less than in the 13th and 14th centuries. The attacks on its institutions and the suppression of the chantry likely share some of the blame for this. The Church of England also suffered a great deal during the interregnum from 1645 to 1660, and even before this Beckingham may have been increasingly neglected.
County records from 1615 list a Richard Hoggard of Beckingham, who was presented ‘for not paying levy for the repairing of the Church of Beckingham’. What these repairs were or whether they were ever carried out is not stated.
During this same period Beckingham was unusual within the Southwell jurisdiction as it had no Roman Catholics or other dissenters according to a census of 1676.
In 1689 the vicar, John Cook, took the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, required of all church and civil office holders in the wake of the Glorious Revolution that brought William III and Mary II to the throne. Five years later the prebendary, Clement Ellis of Kirkby, also took the Oaths. Many clergy refused to take the oaths and were deprived of office - Clement Ellis may have initially refused but later recanted.
In 1743 the Archbishop Herring, on a visitation to Southwell, requested reports from the churches in the diocese. At the time Beckingham’s vicar was Thomas Richardson (installed in 1727), who was also the curate at Misterton and the rector at South Wheatley, although he resided at Beckingham. His multiple offices apparently did not hinder his duties to Beckingham as he reported that services were held in All Saints’ Church every Sunday, alternating two weeks in the morning to one week in the afternoon. Beckingham had no alms house or hospital but did have several charitable funds for various widows in the parish as well as a fund of £3 a year for the poor of the village. There was also money for the clothing and education of five children at the local parish school, which had been founded in 1731.
Twenty-one years later another Archbishop, Robert Hay Drummond, made a similar visitation and this second report gives further details on some aspects of the church. By this time only three children were being taught, by Jonathan Thompson, using money left by a Mr Wharton of Mansfield. Money was still being given to the poor each year. This money came from a charity holding 2 acres of land and was given out on St Stephen’s Day. Soon after, in 1772, one William Jackson left £50 to the church, the interest of which was to be given annually to the poor of the parish. A tablet can still be found in the church recording this donation.
These reports also tell us about the enthusiasm for religious worship in the village. Besides giving service every Sunday there were other, less regular services. The Sacraments were given five times a year, one more than the standard four at this time. There were between 160 and 200 communicants, about a quarter of whom attended to receive the sacraments. As in 1676 there appear to have been very few dissenters in the village, although one Presbyterian is mentioned in 1764.
The village was enclosed in 1779 - a change whereby the old common lands were replaced with the private enclosed fields that remain in the 21st century. The lands previously held in common were given to local landowners and institutions or divided amongst the farmers. As part of this the Chapter of Southwell itself received 198 acres 1 rood 21 perch for its manorial rights while the prebendary of Beckingham was allotted another 194 acres 3 rood 7 perch. The vicar at Beckingham was also allotted land – 53 acres 3 rood 38 perch – and in return gave up the parish tithes, relying now on the income from this land instead.
The clergy themselves were not the only ones directly to benefit. Two acres of meadow were also devoted to charitable work, with £1 12s being paid each year to support two further pupils at the school and the remainder (over £3 per annum) being given to the poor at Easter.
In the 19th century the land given to the vicar and church kept it well-off. Its value rose from £111 in 1844 to £250 fifty years later. This rise in wealth was assisted during the tenure of Rev W T Hobson in the 1860s, when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners granted it the rectorial tithes to supplement its income from the church lands, which in an 1851 census, are listed as providing £40 10s per annum. This was supplemented by other endowments and fees.
By the end of the century the church had also received additional land, giving it 74 acres in total. The Rev James Stovin, who served as the parish vicar during the 1850s was well enough off that on his death he was able to leave £200 and its interest to the National School that had been founded in the village in 1854.
In 1850 Sir Stephen Glynne reported on Beckingham in the following terms:
A good village church, but much neglected. It has a nave with aisles and chancel with north aisle, south porch and western tower. The nave has a clerestory and moulded parapets on the south, but on the north aisle a lead roof without eaves. The tower and the nave and south aisle are of good stone masonry. The tower, and much of the exterior are 3rd period, the former of three stages embattled with common buttresses and 8 pinnacles. On the west side a 3 light window and door, belfry windows of 2 lights. The tower arch is pointed on octagonal shafts. The nave has first period arcades, the arches chamfered piers octagonal, the capitals containing nail head orn [ornament]. The west responds are 1st P shafts with abacus? The clerestory windows are square headed of 2 lights, and together with nearly all the windows of the nave of 3 Period character, except those west of the aisles which are Middle Period of 2 lights. The roofs are very plain. The chancel arch dies with the wall on each side. In it is part of the roodscreen.
The chancel is large and long, in very bad order, with walls leaning outwards. There are 2 pointed arches, springing from a light octagonal column between the chancel and the north chapel, and between the north aisle of the nave and that of the chancel is a segmental arch. The east window is one of five lights with flat head. There are 3 good equal 1st period sedilia, having elegant mouldings and detached marble shafts with good capitals of foliage. Eastward of which is a piscina, having a round basin, under a small pointed fenestella.
There is some part of what appears to have been the roodscreen, set up in the Chancel arcade. It presents ogee arched impediments, with open panelling in the spandrels.
The font has a plain, cylindrical bowl.
Against the south wall of the nave is a bracket and a sculptured head.
The chancel has 3 Pointed windows on the south and in the north chapel a 2 light middle period window. There are some gargoyles attached to the aisles. The chancel is stuccoed.
Services continued in the church but attendance appears to have declined. In 1851, of the 456 people in the village, only 50 regularly attended the services, including 15 who were Sunday scholars.
The 19th century also saw the end of Beckingham’s time as a prebend of Southwell. In 1841 the Ecclesiastical Commission set provisions for the gradual abolition of the Chapter of Southwell. As part of this, each existing prebend would cease to exist on the death of its current incumbent prebendary. The Rev Thomas Henry Shepherd, the rector of Clayworth and prebendary of Beckingham at that time was the last prebendary to die, passing away only in February 1873. As such his death marked not only the end of Beckingham All Saints as a prebend, but also the end of the Chapter of Southwell as a whole. From that point on the church at Beckingham became a parish church. Its patronage passed from Southwell Minster to the office of the Lord Chancellor.
The church seems to have been in a fairly good condition during the 19th century, probably due to its wealth and status. Nonetheless, according to a report in the Nottingham Evening Post of 1892, the chancel was restored by the Ecclesiastical Commisioners in 1876. The restoration may well have been by Ewan Christian who was the official architect of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and had also spent 37 years restoring Southwell Minster.
The church underwent 'a very comprehensive restoration' during 1891-92 that involved the replacement of roofs, the removal of the west gallery and the stove and chimney in the chancel, the lowering of the nave floor, the moving of a 15th century oak screen from the side chapel to the tower arch, and the installation of new font, lectern, pulpit, pews and stalls. The work was supervised by the Sheffield architect, John Dodsley Webster.
In 1898 the Rev C R Round became vicar and he remained in post until he retired in 1932. As such he was in office in 1912 when in response to a visitation he gave the church’s value at £250. Of more interest he gave 11 baptisms and 15 confirmations in the previous year (in a village with 532 people), so it is clear that the church remained an important part of the local community.
In 1903 a clock was placed in the tower to the memory of Mrs Tong, a resident of the village.
Sadly this attention did not continue and over the 20th century the church became increasingly neglected. In 1980 the south aisle was re-clad, the lead replaced with aluminium but weather damage continued to afflict the church, with trapped damp crumbling the plaster, floors rotting away in the pews and interior decorations suffering from rain damage. In 1998 the church was finally closed.
Since then there have been significant efforts by the local community, supported by charities and English Heritage, to restore the church and make it both usable and useful to the village. Funding was raised initially to repair the roof in order to prevent further damage. Later in 1998 the nave and north aisle were re-roofed in lead and the latter was also slated. A new lightning conductor was added to the church tower at this time. The next year the tower roof was recast and re-laid. A few years later the chancel was heavily repaired at a cost of £60,000. However further work continued to be required to make the roof fully waterproof.
A variety of fund-raising events have taken place in the early 21st century. These have included a freefall skydive by churchwarden Jayne Hanson and her neighbour Neil Thornhill, which raised £1000, and a variety of social gatherings including Summer and Christmas Fayres and an arts and crafts exhibition.
Thanks to these efforts money was raised for an extension, constructed from 2007 to 2009 on the north side of the church. The new building contains a small meeting area with catering and toilets and it is hoped that such facilities will help make the church a centre for further community activities.
During the construction of the extension, which ultimately cost £100,000, several marked graves had to be disturbed and several other unmarked graves were discovered, including one under the old blocked up arched doorway (which was itself unblocked for the first time in over a century during the work). The construction work also turned up several interesting architectural anomalies. The buttresses on the outer wall were found to have no foundations whatsoever yet had not subsided. A new foundation of cement was added during the work. The old cement rendering on the west wall, which dated back to the Victorian era, was also replaced due to its poor condition. The new building was finally opened on 1 November 2009, at a service led by the Rt Rev Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood and Rev David Perry, Chairman of Lincoln and Grimsby Methodist District.
In 2013 plans were in hand for the restoration and improvement of the church include setting up solar-powered heating in inside the building and finding ways for the church to become self-funding.