St Mary


There is no mention of a church in Domesday Book.

Little is known about the chapel-of-ease which served the inhabitants of Carlton-on-Trent until it was replaced by the present church in the mid-19th century. Thoroton makes no mention of a church in the village; and the compilers of Magna Britannia (1738), while repeating Thoroton’s description of the pattern of ownership within the parish, add ‘The several parts of this township follow the several lordships to which they belong, and so hath no church or chapel.’ However, the surviving Norman doorway incorporated into the present church would suggest that the chapel had existed for several centuries before it was first described by John Throsby, in the 1790s, as ‘a small chapel, with a tower, served by the vicar of Norwell, to which place this is an appendage.’

In 1304, Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge granted Letters dimissory (formal permission for a person from one diocese to be ordained in another, or for an ordained person to leave one diocese for another) to Ralph of Cromwell, deacon, on the title of four marks yearly rent in Cromwell and Carlton-on-Trent, however the source of the rent is not stated, nor is there mention of a church at Carlton.

In 1310 the village is again mentioned in the Archbishops' Registers, this time in William Greenfield's register for 1310 when Thomas Chaumpeneys was adjudged to pay 1d. an acre  towards the repair of Norwell church for land in Carlton-on-Trent.

In 1302-3 it is recorded that the Prior of the Augustinian House at North Ferriby in East Yorkshire held one sixth of a fief in North Carlton [Carlton-on-Trent]. The same situation pertained in 1428.

The earliest mention of the church which has so far been found dates to 1550 when John Fulwood of Newark, yeoman, left 2 shillings in his will for repairs to Carlton chapel. Did these include installation of the bell frame dated by dendrochronology to 1547?

Painting of the old chapel

In 1810 F C  Laird merely states ‘the small chapel is curious’, but Francis White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire (1832) records that the chapel tower was made of  brick, and this description of an ancient chapel with a brick tower was repeated in successive directories until 1849. However, an undated painting purporting to depict the Carlton chapel-of-ease shows a single bay building surmounted at one end by what appears to be a belfry with a stubby spire. 

Carlton-on-Trent remained in the ecclesiastical parish of Norwell until 1874. In 1650, Nicholas Sykes, vicar of Norwell, claimed that he preached regularly at ‘the Chappell belonginge to the said Church’, but it is likely that the chapel-of-ease may have suffered a certain amount of neglect from some later Norwell vicars responsible for serving it. There was also the probability of some competition with the Quakers who were already holding meetings in Carlton by 1670 and in 1727 had a new meeting place licensed. In answer to the questions at Archbishop Thomas Herring’s visitation in 1743 John Townsend, the vicar, replied  ‘The publick Service in my Church is read every Sunday in ye Morning, except when a Sacrament administer’d at Carlton, which is a Chappel of Ease, & at ye said Chappel in ye after Noon. The Sacrament of the Lords Supper is administered six times in a year at the Mother Church & three times at ye Chappel of ease; ye Number of Communicants at Norwell about seventy & at Carlton about twenty last Easter.’ For all important services – baptisms, marriages and burials – the inhabitants of Carlton had to go to the parish church of St Laurence at Norwell, and most were buried in its churchyard. Children from Carlton would also walk the two miles to school in Norwell because the village lacked a charity school before 1848.

By 1764, however, it is clear from answers provided to the visitation questions of Archbishop Drummond that the chapel did not feature very prominently on the list of commitments of John Gregory (d. 1783), who had succeeded Townsend as vicar of Norwell in 1746. In answer to a question regarding the frequency of services he replied ‘I perform divine service generally in the chapel of Carlton … at half an hour after two in the afternoon, on Sundays, when I have no peculiar avocations, and my health permits’, since he did not have a curate. But the threat from non-conformity had apparently diminished since Gregory stated that among the twenty three families in the chapelry there were no dissenters and whilst the Quaker meeting house still stood, there were no resident Quakers.

In 1828 a Sale Catalogue offered for purchase ‘the manor, mansion, fishery and nearly the entire lordship of Carlton-on-Trent’, and, in 1833, this all became the property of John Vere, banker, of London.

It might seem strange that a London banker should interest himself in a small, rather obscure, Nottinghamshire village, but John Vere and his brother, James, had both recently received specific turnpike shares and tolls as part of their inheritance from their late father’s banking interests, and John’s shares all concerned roads which centred upon Nottingham. Indeed, the arrival of the wealthy John Vere, and later James Vere was to be of significant benefit to the inhabitants of Carlton-on- Trent, although John seems not to have taken up residence until the early 1840s. He is described as ‘of Grovenor Place, Middlesex’ in 1840 but was recorded at Carlton Hall by 1844, and a few years later he began to make his mark on the village.

In 1847-48 John Vere served his year as Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and shortly afterwards was instrumental in the building of a school at Carlton which was endowed with £30 annually by his brother, James, and one of his sisters. Also, no doubt, John and James Vere would have been numbered amongst the ‘principal inhabitants’ cited in a letter dated 29 September 1849 from James Garvey, Vicar of Norwell, to George Gordon Place, the Nottingham architect, which stated: ‘The principal inhabitants of Carlton-on-Trent having it in contemplation to rebuild their chapel, are desirous of consulting with some practical architect before they adopt final measures’.

G. G. Place was invited to visit Carlton the following week to view the site, to advise on the character of the new building, to produce a design which might be suitable and to give an estimate of the cost. The architect produced a plan for the new church which the Carlton Committee submitted to George Wilkins, Archdeacon of Nottingham, who rejected it as being ‘totally unsuited to their place and circumstances’. The Archdeacon then set out his own ideas for a suitable building and privately asked Place to draw up a new plan incorporating these. This request was refused by the architect on the grounds that a better plan was now before the Carlton Committee and that he would not interfere in the matter. Archdeacon Wilkins replied ‘I shall now apply elsewhere for attaining the object I have in view’, but, presumably, either this plan was never produced or the Archdeacon’s proposals failed to convince the Committee. In the event, Place’s plan for the new church was adopted, and it may or may not be significant that an application for a grant towards the cost of building this church was rejected.

Nevertheless, the money for the project (c£1,600) was raised by subscription, with the Vere brothers as substantial contributors. John Vere’s memorial in the church records that he was for many years 'a resident in [the] parish and to whom the parishioners are largely indebted both for their church and for their schools.'

Work on the new church began in 1850, and the building was consecrated in June 1851 by John Kaye,  bishop of Lincoln who also consecrated the burial ground, thus obviating the need for Carlton residents to be buried at Norwell. Further independence from Norwell was provided in September 1859 when Kaye’s successor as bishop of Lincoln, John Jackson granted a licence authorizing the publication of banns of marriage and the solemnization of marriages in Carlton church. As the new chapel was not consecrated until June 1851, there was no return for Carlton-on-Trent in the religious census of 30 March that year.

White's Directory of Nottinghamshire (1853) records: ‘The chapel, a small ancient building with a brick tower, and annexed to the vicarage of Norwell, was pulled down in 1850, and a new church, dedicated to St Mary, erected on the site thereof, which was consecrated on the 11th of June 1851. It is a neat stone building in the early middle pointed style, and consists of a chancel 32 by 15 feet, a nave 18 by 40 feet, aisles 40 by 5 feet, and a tower 18 feet square and 66 feet high, surmounted by 5 pinnacles, given by James Vere Esq. as also was the organ. There are 250 sittings, 100 of which are free. The font is of carved stone and was the gift of the late Mrs Hutton Riddell, and the communion service was presented by Mrs Hole …. It is expected, on the death of the present incumbent, it will be formed into a separate district.’

In fact a further twenty years were to elapse before Carlton-on-Trent became ecclesiastically independent, but it is possible that the inhabitants may have been better served after the erection of the new church. However, the vicar of Norwell, the Rev. James Morris Maxfield, was adjudicated bankrupt in February 1864 and the living was sequestrated a month later. What effect this had on the provision of services at Carlton is not known, but in 1870, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners decided to make a grant to the vicar of Norwell to enable him to employ an Assistant Curate at a salary of not less than £120 per annum. Some four years later the Commissioners petitioned Queen Victoria, pointing out ‘whereas the Lord Bishop of Lincoln hath represented to his Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury that a certain ancient parochial chapelry or township known by the name of Carlton-on-Trent, and situate within the parish of Norwell, in the county of Nottingham, and in the diocese of the said Bishop, may be advantageously separated from the said parish of Norwell, and constituted a separate benefice by itself for ecclesiastical purposes, by  the style of the perpetual curacy of Carlton-on-Trent.’  

Bishop Christopher Wordsworth of Lincoln’s reasons for the proposed separation of Carlton and Norwell are then recited at great length, concluding  ‘the said Chapelry or township of Carlton-on-Trent has its own churchwardens, overseers, and other parish officers, and is in no way connected to the said parish of Norwell in respect to rates of  any kind.’ The Ecclesiastical Commissioners added that, if the scheme is were accepted, then they will would make a grant to such for the perpetual curacy of a sum per annum as that would, with the income to be derived from the glebe land, give to the incumbent an income of £200 per annum. Moreover, ‘the said Commissioners have also decided to make to the said proposed benefice of Carlton-on-Trent a grant of a capital sum of £1,500 towards providing a parsonage house for the said proposed benefice.'

The inhabitants of Carlton-on-Trent thus finally acquired their own parish church with an incumbent no longer attached to the vicar of Norwell, and with a new vicarage erected in Sutton on Trent, just over the parish boundary. In the meantime, James Vere had presented eight stained glass windows to the church at various times, including the large chancel window, and c.1871 he financed the addition of the spire on the tower at a cost of about £1,000. By this date James Vere, formerly of Leamington, Warwickshire, appears to have been living with his brother, John, at Carlton Hall for a considerable time. Neither appears in the 1851 census (although both were active in Carlton at that period) but they are recorded in 1861, both unmarried: John as ‘landed proprietor and magistrate’ aged 62 and James as ‘landed proprietor’ aged 61. John died in March 1881 and James died at Torquay in 1883.

The architect of the present church, George Gordon Place, was involved with the restoration of several Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire churches, including Daybrook, but he probably considered his design for Carlton-on-Trent as one of his most notable achievements as he chose to be buried in the churchyard along with his wife. However, notwithstanding that this church dates only from 1851, the tower and the spire have both required repair. In 1930 a survey revealed that fabric repairs were necessary to the belfry floor, the pinnacles were unsafe and the tower needed attention. The following year the pinnacles were replaced with new stonework, the tower was repointed and there was hope for repointing the spire, but some 70 years later the spire again needed attention.

When Bishop Hoskyns visited the church on 10 May 1911, he noted that the church would seat 250 people although the population of the village was only 150. 31 children were enrolled in the church school, and 29 in the Sunday School. Over the past twelve months there had been 7 baptisms and 10 confirmations.

In 1929 a new prayer desk and a carved oak chair were installed in the chancel and the church footpath was completed.

Carlton’s ecclesiastical independence was relatively short-lived, as may be seen from notices issued by the Church Commissioners:

Pursuant to the Pastoral Reorganisation Measure, 1949, the Church Commissioners hereby give notice that the Right Reverend Russell, Bishop of Southwell, has made, and deposited with them, an Order dated the 13th day of September, 1954, authorising the Reverend Robben Thomas Keal to hold in plurality the benefices of Carlton-on-Trent, Sutton-on-Trent and Weston all situate in the diocese of Southwell subject to the conditions specified in the said Order.

The Church Commissioners hereby give notice that the Right Reverend Denis, Bishop of Southwell, has made an Order dated the 9th day of December 1971, providing for the benefice of Carlton-on-Trent and the benefice of Sutton-on-Trent in the diocese of Southwell, to be held in plurality.

Notice is hereby given that Her Majesty was pleased on the 28th October 1981 by Order in Council to confirm the following Schemes made by the Church Commissioners for Uniting the benefices of Sutton-upon-Trent; Carlton on-Trent; Normanton-upon-Trent; and Marnham, in the diocese of Southwell.

In 2005, Sheila Dixon, who had been the first woman appointed to the joint-benefice in 1995, also became priest in charge of the neighbouring joint-benefice of Norwell, Caunton, Cromwell, and Ossington, thus holding eight separate parishes, an enormous pastoral and administrative burden for any incumbent. Some moderation of this came in 2015 with the creation of a new joint-benefice consisting of the six parishes of Carlton, Caunton, Cromwell, Norwell, Ossington, and Sutton on Trent, whilst Normanton and Marnham have been joined with Tuxford.