For this church:
At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), Colwick was owned by William de Peveril, illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. Colwick consisted of two parts – “Over Colwick” comprising the church and the hall and “Nether Colwick” being the village. Over Colwick was held by Waleran, as tenant of William de Peverill. There was a church, a water-mill, 30 acres of meadow and 15 acres of small wood. Attached to the manor were rights to a free fishery. Seven villeins and six bordars lived here as well as a priest and two serfs or servants. Altogether about 80 people were living there at this time.
It appears that when the de Colwick family came into being, the village of Over Colwick disappeared and a family estate was created, with the church belonging to the big house possibly standing inside the moat. It is possible that the villagers were forced to move when the de Colwicks enclosed the park with hedge and ditch in the 13th Century.
Owners of this estate were patrons of the church. The de Colwick family owned the estate from the 12th to the late 14th Century when the last of this de Colwick line, Joan, married Sir Richard Byron in 1380 as his second wife. On this marriage the Over Colwick estate passed to the Byron family.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII granted Newstead Abbey to Sir John Byron in 1540. Although they moved to Newstead just before the Civil War, the Byrons retained Colwick Hall for another century and were buried in the Church during this period.
Sir John Byron rebuilt Colwick Church during the troubled period that followed the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. The walls of the nave part of this rebuilding are still standing.
Nether Colwick belonged to the de Nouers family at one time. It passed to Robert Slory who in turn passed it to his daughter Mrs Wood.
The two parts of Colwick were united under one ownership when Sir James Stonehouse acquired both parts of Colwick estate in the 17th Century. He bought Over Colwick from a Sir John Byron and his brother, Richard, in 1641 and Nether Colwick from the Wood family. A later Sir James Stonehouse sold Colwick to Sir John Musters in 1675
Sir John Musters (1623-89), a wealthy merchant from London, began to restore the Church in 1684. The western tower and chancel were rebuilt and battlements added to the top of the nave. This brought the church to its present outward appearance. Although the roof has fallen in, the walls still show the same shape.
The estate remained in the hands of the Musters family for several generations. When a later John Musters (1777-1849) married Mary Ann Chaworth in 1805, he added Chaworth to the family name and made Annesley their chief seat although they also continued to live at Colwick. Mary Ann was the “Mary” with whom Lord Byron, the poet, fell in love when he was only 15 and was celebrated in his poetry.
Their grandson, John Patrious Chaworth Musters (1860-1921), succeeded to the Colwick estate in 1888 on the death of his father, but only held it for about a year before he sold it to Colonel Horatio Davies so ending the family’s 238 years of ownership of the estate.
Colonel Davies held Colwick Hall and the lower part of the Park area for a short time before selling it to a leisure and sporting syndicate which laid out a course for horse racing, opening it to the public in 1892. The racecourse was later purchased by Nottingham City Council.
The village of Colwick was never populous until the last decade of the nineteenth century. In 1676 it had 25 inhabitants over the age of 16. In 1743 there were only 10 families. At the first national census in 1801 the population was 116 and by 1881 it was much the same size at 113 persons. Although the parish grew rapidly in the next decade reaching 480 in 1891 and 899 by 1901 most of this population growth took place at some distance from the church. In 1848 a newly built railway dissected the parish cutting off the part of the parish on the hill from the part in the vale. Later development of housing took place to the north of the railway and further housing and commercial development, associated with railway expansion, took place to the east in the Netherfield area. The parishioners were also further cut off from the church by the racecourse next to the church which created some problems of access.
The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist. It is an ancient rectory in the patronage of the owners of the Colwick estate.
The Domesday Book records a church and priest at Colwick in 1086. The church that now stands in ruins was largely built by Sir John Byron in the 16th Century but incorporates 14th and 15th Century sections from an earlier church. The building at that time probably had a spire not a plain tower. This spire figured in Mary Eyre’s tapestry map in 1632. There were no aisles and the north and south walls were alike except for a doorway on the north side which was later blocked up in 1684. The tall three-light transom windows and the doorways have straight-sided arches with a small curve at the springing, such as met in the domestic buildings of the Tudors. The building of this church is unique in that it was built at a period following the Dissolution of the Monasteries when all church building was quiescent during the latter part of the reign of Henry Vlll. An interesting feature of the church is that a chantry altar was set up and consecrated in this period, some years after they had been suppressed.
In 1635 a report on the state of the church recorded that there was no suitable communion table and no rail. The church was ordered to remedy these defects and churchwardens certified that this had been done by the following year. Returns of the amount of money spent on repairs to the church show that in 1636 £8 was spent; in 1637 £3 and 1639 one shilling.
In 1648 Sir John Musters began to repair the church, building a chancel and steeple. In 1684, he rebuilt the tower without a spire that had formerly existed and chancel, and added battlements to the nave to make it match up with the rest of the building. Across the west end of the church stood a deep gallery and underneath stood a Carolean font.
In 1864 the church was described by Sir Stephen Glynne as:
a small church of not much interest and mostly of debased style; having chancel without aisles and a western tower of a quasi-Italianate character.The outer walls are embattled.The windows of the nave are pointed, of three lights, poor without tracing but of a kind of Perpendicular. The roof is of wood and flat. The chancel arch pointed on octagonal pillars. The chancel is stalled and bears marks of a high ritual – with candlesticks and flowers on an altar and there is no organ. The font is modern.
In 1879 an application was made to the Incorporated Church Building Society for funding to enable enlargement of the church involving a vestry, porch, reseating and general restoration but this application was rejected.
In 1885, a vestry and an organ chamber were added on the north wall of the church.
In 1913 mason’s marks incised on the tower were noted as still visible.
By 1912 the roof of the church was in a poor state. Although repairs made the building serviceable again for a few years, the condition of the church continued to deteriorate and by 1920 some of the services were being held in the Schoolrooms in wintertime and later in a newly built Parish Hall. From 1923 some marriages were conducted in the Parish Hall.
In March 1924, the down-pipes were repaired and the walls pointed. The roof was again repaired to keep the rain out in December 1929 but its condition continued to give concern and in 1933 the church was abandoned as dangerous. It was finally closed as being unsafe in March 1936, and in November 1936, the principal beam of the roof gave way, bringing down most of the nave roof.
In 1937 the dilapidated state of the church was reported in Local Notes and Queries:
The roof of the nave has fallen in, the pews and gallery have disappeared, the walls are as bare as if they had been swept by fire, and the floor is covered with rubbish, pieces of splintered wood and the like, and looks like collapsing in places. The chancel is open to the desecrated nave and is without protection on the west from the element.
In 1949 the Planning Department of Nottingham City Council’s suggestion that the church ruins be demolished met with resistance from the Rector and churchwardens who pointed out that the church was not officially closed and they hoped to restore the church at some time in the future. But this was never to be. The new Church of St John the Baptist was built in 1950. In 1976 the graveyard was closed, the old church was made officially redundant in 1979 and taken over by Nottingham City Council.
A scheme for the repair of the church at a cost of £150,000 had been approved by Nottingham City Council’s Finance Committee in 1978 with a view to making the ruins safe, clearing the headstones, relocating them along the inner wall and laying out the grounds as a quiet sitting area.
Today, the ruins are listed Grade II. Inside the ruin, shrubbery and trees have established themselves.