For this church:
Domesday Book makes reference to a “quarter of a church” and a mill valued at 16s in ‘Bolum’, which is believed to refer to Bole. (Bole and Bolham are not differentiated in Domesday, and therefore it is possible that the ‘4th part of a church’ referred to was in fact in Bolham and not Bole.)
Norman baron Roger de Busli owned land in the area following the Conquest. In the time of Henry I, the mill of Bole was part of a gift to Worksop Priory from William de Lovetot.
From an early date, Bole was a manor belonging to York Minster as a prebend. It is thought that the earliest lessees of the estate were a community of monks, living at a house close to the church. One piece of evidence for this is the existence of fragments of what may have been a cloister in what is now Manor Farm, just to the east of the church.
We have a record that in 1212 William de Laneham held the church of ‘Bolun’ with its appurtenances, as a gift of the Archbishop of York, with a value of ten marks.
The oldest surviving parts of the church are 13th century. The 13th century portions are the tower arch, parts of the nave, and the south doorway. The porch is 13th century in style but was rebuilt in the 19th century. The impressive Norman font may be 12th century, as it bears notable similarities to fonts in other churches dated to this time.
The Taxatio database of Pope Nicholas’ taxation records of 1291 gives the value of the church at £16 for the prebend, with £4 13s 4d going to the vicar.
In the 14th century, the vicars of Bole struggled to make a living, with the majority of the income going to the lord of the manor and to York Minster rather than to the vicar (a common issue in medieval times). On 28 July 1335, owing to a complaint of the vicar as to the smallness of his income, an inquisition was held and a new ordination of the vicarage was made increasing this income. Similarly in 1394, the king granted leave for Richard Rothwell to assign for the support of the vicar and his successors 8 acres of land and 6 acres of pasture. This land was granted by John Danby, prebendary of Bole (at York), in gratitude for which a memorial was installed in the church, dated 1400.
In 1341 the Nonae Rolls record that Bole upon Trent was not taxed as it was prebend, but that the true value of the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth 10 marks a year. Similarly, in the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI, Bole is listed amongst churches that were not taxed. However, in 1334 Archbishop Melton was asked by the king for a list of benefices held by aliens and, being a prebend of York, Bole was included and is recorded as being valued at 24 marks (£16) annually.
In 1415, lands at Bole were granted to the chapter and canons of Southwell, by Thomas Haxey, canon of Southwell, for the support of certain charges and works of piety at Southwell Minster. Haxey founded a chantry at Southwell Minster and endowed it with extensive lands including some at Bole. The continuing poverty of the church itself, however, is attested by the fact that a visitation of 1416 recorded that the roofing of the chancel was defective, and that the censer (vessel for burning incense) was old and feeble.
After the completion of York Minster in 1472, the manorial tithes from Bole were assigned for the maintenance of a prebendary there. The vicarage was in the Peculiar jurisdiction of the dean and chapter of York, and did not become part of the archdeaconry of Nottingham until 1841.
There are few records of the 16th century Reformation in Bole, but we know that in 1544 there were 26 taxable householders in the village and that in July 1549 three acres of land and meadow, called Thurston’s Medowe, formed part of a large sale of suppressed Church property sold by the Crown to William Nevell. In the same year, the annual value of obits was returned at 3s. 4d., half of which was devoted to the poor, the remaining half going to the chantry priest. The clear annual value of the prebend of Bole, in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534-5, was £16 16s 1d.
We also know that the parson of Bole was one of those who failed to make an appearance at the royal visitation of 1559 to enquire as to the observance of the Act of Uniformity. There were some fifty such absentees from that enquiry, and they were labelled recalcitrants, but there is no evidence of subsequent nonconformity from Bole incumbents. Churchwardens' presentments show only that in 1607 one Hugo Bromehead and his wife were presented as ‘Popish recusants’, as were eight residents of the parish in the 1630s.
That there may have been some turmoil and change in the village, however, may be evidenced by the fact that there were fewer taxable householders (23) in 1641 than in 1544, and that only in three instances did surnames of 1544 recur in 1641.
From 1639 the incumbent was Nicholas Browne, who obtained an increase to the living in 1646. However this increase may have lapsed during the Commonwealth when Browne was ejected, to be reinstated in 1662 following the Restoration. In that year, the Presbyterian minister Josiah Rock (or Rook), having been ejected from the rectory of Saundby, was allowed to settle in Bole, where he taught privately and in 1672 was granted a licence to preach (in his own house) under the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672.
Thoroton recorded that the value of the vicarage in 1674 was £4 13s. 4d., with the prebendary continuing as patron. In c.1675, building began on Manor Farm, which is next to the Church and is now a listed building.
Archbishop Herring visited Bole in 1743. His visitation recorded 35 families in the village and 88 communicants, of whom only just over 30 had taken communion the previous Easter. There were 15 unconfirmed residents above the age of 9, and one family of (Presbyterian) dissenters in the village. The vicar at this time, Charles Henchman, had a licence for non-residence in the parish, owing to being a minor canon in Chester cathedral. The curate held a joint cure with North Wheatley, and services were performed alternately between the two churches. The curate was paid £18 and catechised on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout Lent. The situation had barely changed when Archbishop Drummond visited in 1764. Henchman was still the vicar, and still lived in Chester. He reported that there were 32 families in the village, ‘one of which is a Presbyterian dissenter’, but no meeting house, school or almshouse. Thomas Mottershaw was still the curate and still lived in Retford. He had been curate for 24 years. He was paid £18 a year by the vicar, and read the service every Sunday.
In the 1790s, flooding changed the course of the Trent in the area around Bole and with it the shape of the parish. The Trent formerly flowed round two loops with narrow mouths, forming an Oxbow Lake known as Bole Round. The 1790s floods breached this lake and as a result, 110 acres that were part of Bole parish ended up in Lincolnshire. In 1796, Throsby noted that the 1795 flooding ‘had done incredible damage to bridges and water works.’ Throsby described the village only as ‘small’ and noted that ‘the tower of the church is pinnacled and handsome, [with] three bells.’ He also noted ‘an indecent practice, boys and booby young men playing at marbles, &c. in the Church yard on Sundays. Surely some method might be devised by the principal villagers to prevent such unbecoming practices.’
The parish registers date only from 1813 - earlier records were stolen.
In 1841, Bole and the other Nottinghamshire Peculiars of York were transferred to the diocese of Lincoln, and thus the Bishop of Lincoln became the patron of the church. White’s 1844 directory valued the living at this time at £100 (to put this in context, the typical clergyman’s annual income at this time was £275.)
The 1851 religious census recorded that the church had space for a total of 125 worshippers including 65 free spaces. A typical congregation size for a morning service was 40; however the vicar remarked that ‘in country villages consisting chiefly of agricultural labourers the attendance at morning service is much smaller than in the afternoon. The average no. of persons attending afternoon service at Bole Church may be fairly estimated at 80 besides the Sunday scholars.’
By this time the village also had a Wesleyan chapel, erected in 1835, with 40 free and 32 other spaces. The average congregation size was 49 plus 19 Sunday Scholars. The minister was Thomas Short.
White’s 1853 directory recorded Lord Wenlock, as lord of the manor, as lessee of the prebendal lands and rectoral tithes. The vicarial tithe was valued at £120 per annum.
In 1858, Bole parish was united with South Wheatley by an Order in Council of 31 July, but this did not take effect until 1873. The two parishes were then once again disunited by a similar order of 15 January 1878. A Parochial School was built in 1858-9, but closed during the early 1950s. It now serves as the village hall. The small Wesleyan chapel was also closed during the early 1960s, being sold and converted for residential use.
The 1860s saw the village reach the peak of its population, at 238 people and 44 houses, and by 1865 the church stood in need of extensive restoration work (Sir Stephen Glynne noted on a visit in February 1865 that it was ‘much dilapidated and out of condition.’) This work was carried out under the supervision of Ewan Christian. The roofs were replaced, the porch rebuilt, the pews were replaced and an oak pulpit, donated by Sir C H J Anderson and with notable Flemish carvings, installed. One 1865 estimate gave the cost of the restoration at £1,000, and records that this sum was ‘chiefly defrayed by Lord Middleton.’The official Diocese of Lincoln Faculty of 1865 stated that Ewan Christian was to be paid £865 and ten shillings, ‘which sum has been raised by voluntary contributions.’
Bole parish was united with Saundby on 19 December 1881, and the two parishes remain united to this day. At the time of the unification, the patronage of the united benefice alternated between the bishops of Lincoln and Manchester. In 1923 the patronage was transferred entirely to the Bishop of Southwell.
According to White’s Directory, by 1885 the value of the living at Bole had reached £188, and after 1883 this was consolidated with the living of Saundby, giving a total value of £340.
Bishop Hoskyns of Southwell visited the parish of Bole with Saundby in July 1914. He made no specific comments on the parish in his report on Retford deanery, but his visitation recorded the net annual value of the benefice at £296, with a total population for the combined parish at 245. There was accommodation for 120 in Bole church and 130 in Saundby. There were 32 on the church day school roll and 35 Sunday Scholars. In the year to 30 September 1912, there had been just one baptism in Bole (plus two in Saundby) and six confirmations.
In 1926 the lord of the manor, Lord Middleton, paid £350 to the church in exchange for ‘relieving himself of his liability to keep the chancel in repair’. This money was invested in loans and the Diocesan Finance Association in Nottingham. Also at around this time, the schools just opposite the church were bought from Lord Middleton and vested in the Diocesan Finance Association. The church remains associated with the school to this day.
In 1926 Donald Thomas Glassford became the vicar, and his energy and oversight of the restoration works of the 1930s had a considerable impact on the church. The Calvary Group, erected on the Rood beam, was put up in memory of his late wife and dedicated by the Bishop of Southwell on a visit in 1932. Enlargement and improvement works were then carried out to the chancel. The following account of this work was given in the Southwell Diocesan Magazine in September 1936:
‘The Chancel of St Martin’s Church, Bole, has been enlarged and beautified. To do this work, the choir stalls have been cut down, and the whole of the Sanctuary has been widened. The Sanctuary was paved with ugly glazed tiles, badly cracked, and the Altar base was very narrow and dangerous for the Celebration of the Eucharist. The whole of the Sanctuary has been carried out with York stone, and the iron Victorian altar rails have been replaced by a set of Georgian altar rails of oak, which are in keeping with other furniture of the Church. These were at one time in use in Newstead Abbey, and are the gift of Mr Nevil Truman, of Nottingham. To add to the beauty of the Sanctuary, two oak standard lights have been given, and these were delicately carved by Mr Swaby, of Gainsborough. Meesrs R. Pumfrey, of Gainsborough carried out the alterations. The new works were dedicated by the vicar of the Parish, the Rev, D.T. Glassford, at the Sung Eucharist on May 10th.’
According to an article written by Rev. D.T. Glassford himself, published in the Gainsborough News and dated 4 October 1935,
‘Up to a few years ago the inside of the Church was boarded up to the window levels with deal, stained a dark brown. The woodwork which had mostly perished with the damp, was removed, the walls which were in a parlous condition were cemented and plastered and all outside waterpipes renewed and stopped away from the walls. In stripping the walls two aumbries were discovered filled with broken brick and glass, these were restored to their former state […] Nothing remains of the ancient Screen, but of late a beautiful Calvary Group has been erected on the Rood beam which harmonizes with the Altar and fittings which were put in a few years ago.’
At this time also, the flat panels between the roof rafters were whitened, in order to bring out the design and add to the effective lighting of the church.
According to an article by Nevil Truman published in the Retford, Worksop and Gainsborough Times, c.1935, ‘with the coming of the present vicar, the Rev. D.T. Glassford, the whole Church has been transformed, and what was a commonplace building, is now a devotional and artistic object lesson to the whole diocese.’
In 1947, further renovation work was carried out to the chancel and nave which were to be ‘thoroughly overhauled and repaired’ according to an article in the local press. Alterations were also made to the arrangement of the church furniture. Services were held in the school while the repair work took place, and the church reopened on 27th July.
Electrical lighting was installed in the church in 1949 by Messrs Gilbert and Son of Gainsborough. In the 1950s, an oil pipeline was laid across the glebe land and the vicarage was repaired and modernised.
In 1961, the churchyard was extended to the west in order to provide a further burial ground for which the PCC and planning application stated there was ‘urgent need’.
In 1968, the construction of West Burton coal-fired power station between Bole and Sturton-le-Steeple led to the installation of electrical power lines across nearby land. Crockford’s Clerical Dictionary gives the value of the living at this time at £520, and the population at 198.
In 2009-10, the church underwent considerable refurbishment, following a fundraising campaign over a number of years. The plasterwork installed in the 1930s restoration, which had become damp, was removed from the walls, in order to expose the stonework. The electrics were renewed and new carpets installed, and the pews were replaced with different ones taken from Saundby church. In a further phase of this restoration in 2013, the stonework was pointed up and sealed. Much of the cost of this restoration was met by EDF Energy, owners of the West Burton power plant.
Bole with Saundby is currently part of Newark Archdeaconry, the Deanery of Bassetlaw and Bawtry and the benefice is the Retford Area Team Ministry.