St John the Baptist


A law passed in 928, during the reign of King Athelstan decreed that ‘no man should rank as a thane or gentleman, however great his possessions, unless he had upon his several manors a church and a belfry.’ The manors of North Collingham and South Collingham would, therefore, each have had its own church, and Domesday records two separate churches at Collingham. The parish church of South Collingham is dedicated to St John the Baptist.

The oldest part of the church, mid 12th century, is the north aisle with its arcades displaying fine Norman zigzag decoration similar to that found at South Scarle. This part of the church probably incorporates fragments of an earlier building.

The south aisle is a good example of Early English architecture c1250. The square-headed windows date from the late Perpendicular period and are typical of the county. In the 15th century the clerestory was added but the corbels which would have supported the old nave roof are still in evidence.

The chancel dates from the 14th century. On the north side by the altar is an ogee-headed recess. This has been thought to be an Easter Sepulchre though it is in fact a blocked up doorway which once led to a vestry. On the south side of the sanctuary is a low transom window also dating from the 14th century and which, at one time, had a shutter affixed. It is of the 'low side' form and it is believed that the purpose of this window, perhaps, was to allow people with infectious diseases to receive Communion or to make their Confession without needing to enter the church and thereby place the priest or their fellow parishioners at unnecessary risk of infection.

The two lower stages of the tower are Early English; the top stage is Perpendicular with 15th century pinnacles.

The Pipe Rolls in 1186/7 record that one Walter was a cleric of Collingham. Whether this was North or South Collingham is not stated, but it is the earliest named priest in either church.

In 1268 Richard de Rowell was presented by the Abbot and convent of Peterborough to the church of St John the Baptist of 'Suthby in Collingham' (as it was then known). An inquisition by the archdeacon found that the Abbot and convent were patrons, to whom a pension of half a mark was payable from the church. It was worth twenty marks (£13 6s 8d) a year.

On 23 January 1279 Peter de Venell’ of Muskham witnessed an agreement between the priory of Thurgarton and abbey of Peterborough over services due in the manor of South Collingham.

At the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291 the church, without pension, was valued at 24 marks (£16), the pension due to the Abbot of Peterborough (Pensio dicti Abbatis de Burgo Sancti Petri in eadem ecclesia) was half a mark (£6s. 8d.).

The rector in 1334, William de London, was granted two years absence by Archbishop Melton, and again in 1336 for another year.

In 1341, the Nonae rolls record that South Collingham was taxed at £9 13s. 4d. and that the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth 16 marks and 5s.(£10 18s. 4d) a year at true value and no more, altar dues were worth 6 marks (£4), the tithe of hay was worth 8 marks (£5 6s. 8d.), and there were three bovates of land yielding 2 marks (£1 6s. 8d.).

In the 1428 subsidy of Henry IV South Collingham was taxed at 32s., that is to say it had exactly the same value as in 1291, £16 without the Peterborough Abbey pension.

In 1498 a priest called Thomas Magnus was appointed rector of South Collingham and he is believed to have been the person who later founded a school in Newark which bears the Magnus name. His bequest provided for two schools – a Grammar School for the teaching of Latin and classical subjects and a Song School for training boys to sing in the Parish Church choir. The Song School ceased to exist in 1905 but the organist of Newark Parish Church is still styled ‘Master of the Song School.’ The Grammar School survived until 1977 when it was incorporated into the comprehensive secondary system which now serves Newark and district.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the returns show that South Collingham rectory paid a pension to Peterborough Abbey of 6s. 8d. per year and that the value of its annual income was £14 1s. 10d.

In 1603 the clerk and churchwardens presented that: '1. we have a preacher and he is a M'r of Art of twenty years standing; 2. he has only one benefice, which is £12 in the King's Books; 3. nothing to answer; 4. there are no recusants in the parish; 5. there are 271 communicants, and no non-communicants except those who are under age, 140.' Five years later, in 1608, the wardens were admonishing their parson, Bryan Barton, for not wearing the surplice and for not signing children with the sign of the cross in baptism. In 1624 they presented one William Patman for 'winnowing corn in the churchyard'.

In 1636 the churchwardens reported that part of the walls of the church were in decay but were being repaired.

In 1743 Matthew Bradford, the vicar, made a return for South Collingham at Archbishop Herring’s Visitation. He noted that there were 80 families in the parish, six of which were Anabaptist and one Quaker. There was no meeting house or charity school. He lived in the parsonage house at Elton ‘which is ye Reason of my non-Residence upon this living’. He paid a curate £20 per annum to live in the parsonage and take all the services. He was also curate of North Collingham, and took one service in each church on a Sunday. The sacrament was administered four times a year, and on the last occasion on which he officiated in person ‘about fifty’ communicated. He added that he had ‘observed and discovered many great abuses or corruptions in our Surrogates concern’d in proving Wills, particularly Wm: Malton my Predecessor who left great Numbers of them in his Study never transmitted to ye Court of York’.

At Archbishop Drummond’s visitation in 1764 Robert Burne, rector, made the return from his home at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire. His curate, Hugh Wade, also appeared. There were then 60 families in the parish, of which five were Anabaptists. At Brough, a settlement in the parish, were a further 8 families of which one was a Quaker, and at Danethorpe, another settlement, six families. He also held the rectory of Boothby Graffoe, where he lived. Hugh Wade, his curate, had been at South Collingham for four years. He was Master of the Free School at Newark, where he lived. He also served Hawton. The Sacrament was administered four times a year.

In 1851 Joseph Mayor, the rector, made the return to the religious census. He returned general congregations of 199 in the morning and 197 in the evening, and Sunday Scholars (117 in the morning and 79 in the evening). He added that ‘a thunderstorm with rain came on a short time before the evening service commenced.’

At that time the parish also had a Wesleyan Methodist chapel (1826) with another (also 1826) in Brough.

The church tower was restored in 1886 and the nave in 1890.

In 1912, the Rev A.J. Maxwell, rector, returned the parish population as 670 (1911 census), and 300 places in the parish church and 130 in St Stephen’s Mission of 1885. No church school, number on Sunday School roll 50 in the parish church and 25 in the mission. Seven baptisms and 13 confirmations in year to Sept 1912.

In 1981 the parishes of North and South Collingham were united to form a single parish. This resulted in the parish having two churches.

The parish registers, as with those of North Collingham, date from 1558 and are kept in Nottinghamshire Archives.