Car Colston
St Mary


The church of St Mary, Car Colston, is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, although the village, known as Colestone, is. The word ‘Colston’ derived from Old Scandinavian, to which had been added the Old English ‘tun’. By 1242 it had also acquired the affix ‘kirkja’. This was also Old Scandinavian, for church, and the village was then known as Kyrcolniston.

The early history appears confused, with differing accounts. Robert Thoroton, the seventeenth-century Nottinghamshire antiquarian, writes that in the reign of Henry I, William de Luvelot, who succeeded to the see of Roger de Busli, gave the church to the Priory of Radford, and that this gift was confirmed by his son Richard.

The Torre manuscript suggests that William de Luvelot gave the church to the Priory of Woodstock which was patron of the rectory, from which it drew a long standing pension. However, both are in agreement that in March 1349 the rectory and church were appropriated to Worksop Priory by William, Archbishop of York.

At this point, Worksop Priory had been patron of four rectors between 1228 and 1344, although not of the first known, one William de Weston, circa 1204. Torre also notes that the Archbishop reserved ‘out of the fruits of the church’ an annual pension of 13s. 4d. for himself, and one of 6s. 8d. for the dean and chapter, both being recompense for damage to his cathedral church. Later, in September of the same year, the archbishop ordained that there should be one perpetual vicar secular, presented by Worksop Priory, at the church of Kercolston.

The first vicar presented by Worksop Priory was William de Lovetot in 1353, and during his term and that of his successor, Hugh de Hokenall (1369), the chancel was replaced by the present structure, which is similar to those found at Sibthorpe and Hawton. It is also possible that the north aisle windows and north and south arcades are contemporaneous with this.

The next major structural change to the fabric was the rebuilding of the tower structure above the ground floor in the late Gothic style somewhere between 1375 and 1500.

Whilst the vicarage was with Worksop priory, to the year 1545, it was worth some 10 marks, and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful existence. However, that year brought change, following the Henricean reforms of the established church and the formation of the Church of England.

In December 1545, John Bellows/Beshowe and Robert Bigott/Bygot, both possibly Government commissioners, were given licence to alienate the rectory and advowson of the vicarage. This they did, to a Richard Whalley and his heirs. At the same time the tithes, lately belonging to Worksop, were transferred to the Duke of Newcastle, the principal landowner. Thoroton wryly noted that, charged with £20 p.a. paid to the King, and £4 paid to the church of Lincoln, they were, for the most part, of ‘no great value’. The vicarage was now valued at £6 1s. 10d. in the King’s Books.

Twenty-five years later the first register, dated 1570, was started. Written on 52 parchment leaves, it records in Latin all ceremonies between 1570 and 1729. A second volume of 21 leaves records baptisms and burials from 1729 to 1812, and a third volume records marriages between 1754 and 1812. Subsequent registers conform with the Acts of 1812 and 1836.

In the late sixteenth century the Records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Nottingham show that the churchwardens were often in trouble and ‘presentments’ made against them. For example, in 1570-71 against Robert Thoroughton and John Arnall ‘for not repairing the graveyard’, and in 1576 because the churchwardens wanted their own copy of ‘the paraphrase of E....’ which was two tomes of homilies.

Although, in the seventeenth century, the upheavals of the Civil War and the Rebellion of the 1680s left the church and the village relatively unscathed, the register mentions another event which did not. This was an outbreak of the plague.

‘The plague began with George Caunt and
... Brierley in the year 1604.
... died and were buried 15 August 1604 and 49 others.’

This followed a visitation of 1603 which recorded a population of 255, so this would have meant the population being reduced by one-fifth.

In 1616 Gregory Henson bequeathed in his will the rent of £1 2s. 6d. p.a. from a field called Sharpe Close, to be used for the repairs of the leads and windows, and the rent of 2s. a week from Brushmore Close to be given to six poor widows at 4d. each. He also bequeathed £12 to the parish to buy a bell, and donated a small bell of his own. The Charity Commissioners Report of 1829 stated that in 1828, Sharpes Close and Brushmore produced as full value, a total of £16 10s. 0d.

At the end of Charles II’s reign the religious question of Catholic and Protestant was still acute and three enquiries were sent to clergy in 1676. They were:

1.    What number of persons receive communion?
2.   What number of such persons are Popish Recusants or suspected for such? 
3.   What number of other dissenters (of what sort so ever) which either distinctly refuse, or, wholly absent themselves from the Communion?

Thomas Hall, the vicar, returned the following answers:-

Question 1: 102 persons
Question 2: None
Question 3: None

And one cannot help feeling that Thomas Hall had decided to keep a low profile!

One of Thomas Hall’s 102 parishioners was Robert Thoroton (1623-78), the Nottinghamshire antiquarian who lived in the village. His family donated what is called ‘The Restoration Plate’ to the Church in commemoration of the restoration of the monarchy and church in 1660.

The Thoroton Tablet
in the south-east buttress

In 1664 Thoroton placed in the south-east buttress of the south aisle a stone slab to mark the burial place of some of his family. It bears a shield of four quarterings:

  1 and 4    Argent, a ... between three hunting horns sable [Thoroton]
  2   Argent a lion rampant per fesse ... and sable [Lovetot]
  3   Quarterly 1 and 4 per pale indented argent and azure, 2 and 3 argent a fleur de lys azure [Norin].

And the following inscription which is still reasonably legible:-

Dec 12 1646 Regi & Ecclesiae fidus ROBERTUS
Thoroton totius paterni coguominis
penetusti jam superstitis parens &
decus, ab antiquis hujus villae Dominis
LOVETOTIS, scilicet, per MORINOS,
Haereditarie genus & temim ducens,
juxta ROBERTUM THOROTON patrem A 1604
peste mortuum MARIAM OUTRAM matrem &
DOROTHEAM OLDNEY uxorum ejus hic
infra sepultus fuit Anno aetatis suat 77.
Cujus octo liberi, viz. I. ROBERTUS
qui ex ANNA CHAMBERS conjuge providissima hic
etiam A 1660 inhumata genuit ROBERTUM
filiolam A 1655 Submessum & hic Conditam,
huc usque lugentis, Elizam, Rictum, Gervasium,
Mariam & Thomam 2. Alicia 3. Richtus 4. Jolies, pater,
Johannis, Robert, Rogeri, Francisca, Henrici, Mariae,
Thomae, Willmi, Dorotheae, Annae 5 MARIA
7 DOROTHEA ET 8 FRANCA adhuc supersunt 1664.

After the turbulence of the seventeenth century, the eighteenth was quiet and, as with many other churches during this period, the fabric of St Mary’s seems to have been neglected. The Archdeacon of Nottingham’s Court records show ‘presentments’ against the churchwardens on a number of occasions. In 1718, that ‘the Roofe of ye Chancell to be repaird by tiling and drawing ye walls within-side where it wants & whitewashing it all over within’.

Then four years later, in 1722, that ‘The out walls of church & chancel to be cleaned of weeds and trees, buttresses to be repointed, 3 locks on poor box and chancel roof repaired’. Again in 1729, that the Church to ‘provide a Table of Marriage, seats repaired where necessary especially by font, floor to be made even’, and then in 1735 that ‘the Lord’s Prayer and Creed to be set up in the Church and the pulpit repaired or a new one made’.

From the return of the Archbishop Herring Visitation of 1743 it appears the village was declining in size, as it records only 20 families, no dissenters and no meeting house.

Seven years later in 1750 the advowson was sold for £240 by Richard Porter of Arnold to the Reverend Henry Martin of Newark. He in turn, after 38 years, sold it to John Key of Upton in 1788 for £600.

As well as the advowson being sold twice, in the reign of George III the church was also transferred from the Hundred of Thurgarton to the Hundred of Bingham. Robert Lowe noted in 1794 that Car Colston was one of the parishes where enclosures had been made shortly before 1793 without the authority of Parliament.

Evidence that the decline of church and parish was still apparent in 1807, is shown when the vicar, William Kay, was given licence to reside away for two years because of his infirmity of body and his age, but also because the value of the living was small and the vicarage was unfit for his residence.

It would seem likely that with the advent of the nineteenth century St Mary’s was not in the best condition, although Stretton, writing in 1824, stated that the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Commandments, and King’s Arms were modern. However, he also mentions that ‘a rich screen’ that separated the chancel from the nave had lately been taken down.

In 1838 the Old Vicarage was pulled down by the Reverend Girardon who built a larger one in ‘the Elizabethan style’. The population of the parish was also growing again in this period, and in 1841 there were 276 inhabitants.

By the 1851 Religious Census this had grown to 319 inhabitants; the census noting that the population consisted of 156 males and 163 females. The endowments of the church were part by land, part by tithe, amounting to about £150 p.a., and the spaces in the church were distributed as follows:

Free 150, other 134, total 284, with attendance as follows:

  General congregation      a.m. 60      p.m. 70      Even. 0
  Sunday scholars a.m. 50 p.m. 50 Even. 0

John Girardot - the vicar - added the following remark that the service alternated mornings and afternoons, and the average number attending was 60-70 besides the Sunday scholars.

Also recorded in the census are details of non-conformist growth in Car Colston. The Wesleyan Chapel was erected in 1835 and had fifty free spaces, 66 others and a general congregation of 70 in the evening. Later in 1848 the Independent Primitive Methodist Chapel was founded and this had 80 free spaces and 20 standing spaces. However, its general congregation was an average of 30 in the evening over a period of twelve months.

The first restoration programme of the nineteenth century was the renewal of the chancel roof in 1844. Two years later in 1846 the middle of the nave was cemented, but of the screen that Stretton mentioned in 1824, there was no recollection, although some broken tracery of a screen was found under a floor slab. One other event of this year was the erection of a school that was supported by voluntary contribution.

From 1844 a succession of restoration projects took place. In 1845 repair work was carried out to the chancel, and in the course of this Thoroton’s coffin came to light and became the cause of some ‘outrageous behaviour’. Of red Mansfield stone and measuring 7'3" long and 2'7" at its widest, it was found close to the surface and opened. The skeleton was thrown out and the skull put in the village shop as a curiosity! The following day the Reverend Girardot, having heard about this, ordered the remains be collected and replaced in the coffin which was then re-interred. Unfortunately, in 1863 this ‘outrage’ was repeated when work in the churchyard was being undertaken, but this time the empty coffin was placed in the church.

The top of the tower Showing the weather vane

In 1857 further work was undertaken when it was decided to raise the height of the tower. At the same time a low octagonal roof of Ancaster stone was added, in an unusual form which is unlike any other found in the county. The weather vane is also quite unusual, being one of only three in Nottinghamshire that is not in a chanticleer form.

A major restoration was carried out in 1882 at a cost of £900. Part of this was the raising of the nave roof to its original pitch. Prior to this it was flat and covered with lead, but now it was tiled as well as raised. Extensive rebuilding of the aisles took place, and again, tiles replaced lead roofs.

The clerestory which previously had four windows - three square-headed with one light each, and a fourth easternmost window of three lights with semi-circular heads - was now rebuilt with three windows of two lights in the south wall.

The north doorway,
now blocked

The south porch walls were lowered and then partly rebuilt, and a high pitched tiled roof replaced the flat leaded one. Lastly, the small north doorway was walled up.

Internally, by this time, the Creed, Lord’s Prayer and orders that Stretton had mentioned, no longer existed.

In 1897 a county Antiquarian Association was started under the name of the Thoroton Society, and the first excursion of this Society was to Car Colston in July, when they inspected Thoroton’s coffin which was now inside the church.

It was decided in 1911 that further restoration work was needed on the tower and this was carried out at a cost of £250. The census of 1911 showed a population of 223 in the parish, made up of 52 households which had declined to 197 inhabitants in the 1931 census. This census fell within the incumbency of T E S Ferris who also held the living of Screveton. A motion that fusion with Screveton for church purposes should take place was petitioned against by 96 residents of Car Colston.

At the end of the south aisle can be found the Chapel of St John the Baptist. This was restored in 1984 in memory of Thomas Colston Blagg, of one of the notable families in the parish.

In 2008 the parish of Car Colston, along with Screveton and Flintham, were joined with East Bridgford and Kneeton under a single incumbent to make the Fosse Group of Parishes.

Relevant Dates

C12 (?)     Building of church
1349   Appropriated to Worksop Priory  
1360   Chancel rebuilt
C15   Upper part of tower rebuilt
1545   Bellowe and Biggott given licence to alienate
1570   First register
1616   Gregory Henson bequeaths Sharpe Close to let for repair of leads and windows
1623/78   Robert Thoroton lived in village
1842   Thorotonís grave discovered
1844   Chancel roof renewed
1863   Churchyard lowered
1882   Restoration of nave, aisles and south porch roof. Thoroton coffin placed in vestry.
1901   Altar of St John Baptistís chapel found
1911   Tower restored