For this church:
There is no mention of either church or priest in Bramcote in Domesday Book.
There is an indirect reference to a chapel in Bramcote in 1246. (The word ‘chapel’ is used here to mean ‘a small church’). At that time the monks at Lenton Priory were engaged in a dispute with Lord de Grey at Codnor “… concerning the right of patronage of the church at Adinboro”. This dispute went on for some time, and at length the Archbishop of York was called in to settle it. The monks must have been a troublesome lot for the Archbishop’s arbitration read: 'To make peace and to avoid the effusion of blood', the monks were induced to accept 40/- (£2) yearly from the chapel at Bramcote.
The monks of Felley Priory also had interests here, though there is no specific mention of what, if any, influence they held on the church. Nevertheless, in the Valor Ecclesiasticus at the time of the Reformation there was a clear annual income of 6s. from Bramcote.
There is no record in the Taxatio of 1291 for Bramcote, probably as its value was too low to be taxed. Likewise, the 1341 and 1428 subsidies have no mention of the church.
In 1301 Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge established a commission to try and decide on the issue of who was responsible for the repair of the chancel of the chapel of Bramcote: the rector of Attenborough or the parishioners of Bramcote, the chapel being dependent on Attenborough. Five years later, in 1306, Archbishop Greenfield was still troubled by the issue, and ordered the archdeacon of Nottingham to act 'in causa appellaciones super refeccione cancelli capelle de Bramcote, ab ecclesia parochiali de Adyngburg...'
In 1344 the vicarage at Attenbrough was endowed and the incumbency changed from rectorial to vicarial. The deed of endowment mentions the chapelry of Bramcote as a dependency.
Archbishop Richard Scrope, in 1398, confirmed the rights of Lenton Priory to two parts of the demesne tithe of Bramcote lordship, along with several others.
By 1587 the parish were clearly still having trouble with the condition of the chancel as the churchwardens in that year presented that 'the chancel is not in good repair in the default of Mr Souch.' In 1596 they reported the same but said 'but we know not in whose default'. Six years later both vicar and churchwardens stated 'our chancel is very ruinous and in great decay, but who ought to repair it we do not know for certain'. Much the same as perplexed the archbishops of the early 14th century! Finally, 1634, they report that 'our chancel is in decay, but we are repairing it as fast as we can', and in 1638 stated 'the church windows are now sufficiently repaired according to the order of the court.'
The stone church (of which only the tower survives) was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was a small building, not more than 40 feet long and 14 feet broad – the surviving tower is only 10 feet square inside. The church would have seated about 30 people.
The tower houses a late medieval oak bell frame which has been dated using dendrochronology to 1586. The tower is Grade II listed.
In 1607 37 burials were recorded as a result of pestilence.
At Archbishop Herring’s Visitation in 1743 the Rev Bernard Cockayne returned for both Attenborough and Bramcote, and recorded that he lived in Bramcote. However, the Bramcote return is not included in the published edition of the Visitation, suggesting that it was either not received, or subsequently lost.
In a terrier of 1777 the chapel was described as being ‘in tolerable condition’, having three bells and an elegant new singing gallery (a West Gallery). The Bible and two Prayer Books in folio in good order, the desk cloth, pulpit cloth and cushion in new scarlet plush, all very good.’ It was also noted that ‘the body of the chapel to be repaired by the parishioners by levy or otherwise, but the chancel to be repaired by its trustees at Chesterfield’. The latter was a reference to the Foljambe Trustees of Chesterfield, who held the advowson.
It was also recorded that there was a vicarage, part-tiled, part-thatched with three lower rooms, three chambers, two cellars, and a garden. This house was replaced in 1841 by a house which still stands. Certain refinements were added in 1867 including the bays.
In the early 19th century census figures were entered into the parish registers, 343 in 1801, 373 in 1811, 441 in 1821 and 562 in 1831.
In 1851 the parish of Bramcote was given as 1,076 acres with 343 males and 379 females, a total of 722. The general congregation in the church was returned by the Rev Alexander T.G. Manson, curate, as 130 in the morning and 110 in the afternoon. However, he noted that the parish of Bramcote was united with Attenborough and it is not clear if these figures were purely for Bramcote. There was also a Wesleyan Methodist chapel (erected 1834) in the village, which recorded 58 worshippers in the afternoon and 140 in the evening.
In 1856 it was described by Fyfe as follows:
The singular looking old village church and tower occupies the crest of the eminence, standing amidst trees in a small and crowded graveyard containing many new and ancient tombstones and many altogether nameless graves, raised apparently to an artificial height by the roads which environ its limited space being cut down to a deep level all around excepting on the south where the parsonage adjoins it. The square bell tower (said to contain three bells) and the body of the church are of the same date; the chancel is palpably a modern and temporary extension. The old portions of the building are singularly plain and unpretending, yet massive and minster-like although the whole edifice is a mere toy. On the south projects a quaint old porch, with stone seats, or benches; on the north there is a closed up oaken door, with pointed arch, and a massive moulding terminating in carved knots, only one of which, however, is extant. The little church has consisted simply of a nave and northern aisle and two Vesica piscis of an oval form, now plugged up, appear to have perforated the eastern and western walls of the latter. The church windows are square-headed, with perpendicular shafts, or mullions. The roof is flat, but there appears to be a small gallery in connection with the tower at the west end. The chief burying ground without the church (west of the tower) is the Aislabies. In the church, near the altar, are tablets, one commemorating the death of John Little, gent, at the age of 98; the other one of the vicars of Attenborough-cum-Bramcote.
The church closed in 1861, and the nave and aisle were demolished the following year. By repute it was abandoned because the foundations sank and the building became unsafe, but there is no evidence to suggest that this was in fact the reason, especially as the vicar had reported the building to be in ‘tolerable’ condition in 1858. The real reason it was abandoned was that it was now too small for the size of the parish.
But there is still an anomaly. The original intention seems to have been to demolish the whole building, but on 17 September 1862 the Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Venerable George Wilkins, issued a faculty granting permission to demolish the old church, to use part of the stone in building the boundary wall of the new church, and to dispose of the remainder. The faculty exempted the tower ‘which shall be retained to house the monuments’.
The upkeep of the tower was taken on by the Pearsons, who subsequently had it floodlit according to the terms of a faculty granted 21 August 1929.
A gap was left in the east side of the tower by the removal of the nave. This was filled in by a wall containing one of the square headed windows from the nave and the south door. An alabaster memorial stone remains.
Plans were drawn up by the architect Cecil Howitt for rebuilding the church. The work was commissioned by Colonel N.G. Pearson, but he was refused a faculty in 1947 to rebuild the nave in 1947, and the proposed work did not go ahead.
The tower stood as a ruin for many years but since 2004 has been extensively restored. A modern stained-glass window designed by Escape, a group of women artists, has been installed.
A medieval-style community garden has been created in the churchyard with information panels, seats and stone sculptures by Andy Smith. A grant from East Midlands Airport Community Fund, together with support from Nottinghamshire County Council, has led to the provision of an interpretation panel which has been erected on site for visitors to learn more about the Old Church.
In 2011 responsibility for the Old Church Tower passed to a specially formed charitable trust ‘Bramcote Old Church Tower Trust’. In August 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) gave initial support of £50,800 for the further development of the project to continue restoring the Old Church Tower and to provide new amenities.