East Markham
St John the Baptist


A church and a priest in East Markham is mentioned in Domesday Book. East Markham is listed under the 'Land of the King' and the 'Land of Roger of Builli'. The King held 3½ carucates of taxable land, land for 10 ploughs and 25 freemen. Also 15 villagers had 10 ploughs. Roger of Builli held land for 4 ploughs in East Markham. There were also 9 villagers and 5 smallholders with 3 ploughs. Roger’s man Thurold had 1 plough, 1 villager and two oxen in a plough. Also Ulfkell, 4 freemen, and 2 smallholders had 1½ ploughs. A church is mentioned in both the records of the King's holdings and Roger’s holdings.

The church was listed in the 1291 taxatio returns. This was an assessment for tax ordered by Pope Nicholas IV. The value of the church was given as £20 and the value of the vicarage was £13 6s 8d. In 1334, Archbishop Melton wrote to the king with values of alienated churches, confirming that East Markham was held by Master Paulinus de Monte Florum as an annexation to the chapel of Tickhill, and was valued at 30 marks (£20). The 1428 subsidy tax records of Henry VI show that the value of the church had remained the same. The subsidy for East Markham was 40 shillings, which was 10% of the overall value, 30 marks or £20.

There was also a subsidy for the vicarage. This subsidy shows that the value of the vicarage had fallen by 1428. The subsidy was 16s, 10% of the overall value of 12 marks or £8.

Thoroton describes a number of grants of land in East Markham to the church of St Mary at Blyth and the monks living there. This seems to have been Blyth Priory, a Benedictine Priory founded in 1088 by the Norman Lord Roger de Builli.

It is possible that the church at East Markham became a member of the chapelry of Blyth. The granting of the patronage of East Markham church to the church of Rouen suggests this. In 1174 Henry II had granted to his clerk Walter of Countances the gift of the chapelry of Blyth. In 1191 the future King John, Count of Mortain, confirmed this gift to Walter of Courtances, then Archbishop of Rouen. In 1267 there was an inquisition held by the chapter of Retford by order of Archbishop Giffard, which sought to establish compliance with custom for a number of churches including East Markham and implies that they belonged to Blyth at that period.

Thoroton also noted that the churches of East and West Markham, among others, seem to have been annexed to the king’s chapel of Tickhill. Train (1961) explains that East Markham, like other churches granted to Rouen, was in the hands of the warden of Tickhill chapel (and see Archbishop Melton’s return to the King above).

In April 1301 there was a petition in Parliament regarding the jurisdiction of Lowdham and East Markham churches ‘and others in our diocese in the same petition…’. This seems to refer to the annexation by the free chapel of Tickhill which removed jurisdiction from the archbishop. In 1315 there is another inquisition, this time held by Archbishop Greenfield, along much the same lines (two years earlier the king appears to have acknowledged that several churches, probably including East Markham, were annexed to Tickhill).

Most of the church dates from the 15th century and is a fine example of the Perpendicular style of architecture. Judge Markham is often named as the founder of East Markham church because he and his son rebuilt the church in the 15th century. However, the oldest visible part of the church is the chancel arch, which dates from the 14th century, as do the north and south chancel windows. A S Briggs (1907) suggests that Judge Markham rebuilt the nave, aisles, and most of the tower, and then his son erected a new chancel, leaving the old chancel arch in place.

A few of the contents of the church pre-date this major rebuilding. There is a semi-effigial slab in the churchyard, most of which appears to be of 14th century date; also the present font is supported by what is probably an inverted 14th century font.

The church contains the tomb chest of Judge Markham (d1409). It is made of alabaster with an inscription and no effigy. He was a prominent figure in contemporary politics. He drew up the document for the deposition of Richard II in favour of his cousin Henry Bolingbroke. There is also a tradition associated with Judge Markham that he rebuked the young Prince Henry for his riotous behaviour, however this tradition is also associated with a judge named Gasciogne.

Nearby there is a stone slab to a lady, level with the pavement. From the carving Cornelius Brown (1896) suggests that this is the grave stone of Judge Markham’s first wife Elizabeth. His second wife Dame Millicent Meryng (d1419), who married Sir William Meryng after Markham’s death, is commemorated with a stone inlaid with brass. It depicts her lying down, ornately dressed and hands closed in prayer. She is wearing a crespine head dress, then in fashion, and has a pet dog at her feet. In 'Nottinghamshire Monumental Brasses' J Bramley wrote of this brass ‘the engraving and design are not excelled in this county’.

The earliest parish register dates from 1561.

In the 16th century the patronage of East Markham church changed hands several times. In 1552 patronage was given to the Earls of Shrewsbury. Then Queen Mary first gave the patronage to Edward, Bishop of London in 1553/4, then to the re-founded monastery of St Peter’s Westminster in 1556. At the beginning of Elizabeth I’s reign in 1559 the Bishop of London presented a candidate for vicar at St John the Baptist’s. However, later the patronage reverted back to the Earls of Shrewsbury and their successors.

The plague devastated the village of East Markham in the early 17th century. In 1609 the vicar of East Markham recorded 115 deaths in the parish register; these names were then followed by the vicar’s own name in another hand. Pevsner (1979) mentions a disturbed meadow south of the church, which shows the site of the old medieval village. After losing more than a quarter of its population to the plague the old village site was abandoned and the villagers regrouped nearer to Lincoln road, then an important route. Also after the plague Tuxford replaced East Markham as a market town.

A churchwarden’s presentment of 1601 provides details about the vicar and congregation. It reported that the vicar of the town was a preacher and the value of the vicarage was £11. There were 290 communicants in the parish and no recusants.

In the 17th century East Markham also seems to have had serious difficulty in keeping the church in good repair. A churchwarden’s presentment of 1601 reported ‘our chancel is in decay in the default of the Righte Honorable the Earle of Shrewesburie’. Churchwarden’s presentments continued to report the disrepair of the chancel. In 1623 churchwardens presented ‘the Earl of Pembroke, for the decay of the chancel, it lying so open to the wind and weather that we can not receive the holy communion there, but are forced to remove the communion table into the body of the church.’ The decay of the chancel seems to have continued until at least 1636 as the churchwardens then presented the ‘Earle of Clare for not repairing the chancel, the lead windows and stalls being altogether decayed and the floor unpaved.’

Instructions to the churchwardens from the Archeacon’s court in 1635 and 1638 also give some information about the condition of the church. These instructions were part of a wider drive throughout the Church of England to make sure that church buildings were in good order and repair. In 1636 there was no communion rail at East Markham and in 1638 the seats were ‘not uniform or seemly’.

The Parish Book dates from 1660. This book was used to record parish officers and vestry approval of accounts. It also contains memoranda of village affairs and continued to be used into the 20th century.

In 1677, Thoroton’s 'Antiquities of Nottinghamshire' recorded that the value of the church was £11 18s 6d in the King's Book, and that the Earl of Clare was Patron.

The font bowl that tops the 14th century font dates from 1686. The altar rails and pulpit also date from the seventeenth century and are in a similar style. The Rev A E Briggs has argued that it is likely the church underwent extensive restoration around this time.

It is recorded in the parish register that King William III passed through East Markham in 1695.

In the chancel there are a number of 18th century floor stones that commemorate members of the Kirke family. The Kirkes had settled in East Markham in 1681.

Thomas Herring, Archbishop of York, toured the diocese in 1743. The Visitation report included details of East Markham church. There were 142 families in the parish and 220 communicants. There was one recorded dissident, a Quaker. The parish had a charity school, endowed with £10 for 20 children. There was a public service held once at East Markham every Sunday and also at West Drayton as it was linked to the parish. The vicar was the Rev Thomas Gylby and the acting curate was William Richardson.

There are also details of the East Markham church in the 1764 records from the Visitation of Archbishop Drummond. This described a population of about 591 and 148 families in the parish. One family had two Quaker members. The vicar, the Rev Septimus Plumtree, resided in Mansfield. William Richardson, the curate, served East Markham and West Drayton, performing a service at both every Sunday.

The church in the
early-mid 19th century

In the 19th century St John the Baptist’s was described in detail in Sir Stephen Glynne’s notes. Glynne visited East Markham church in 1834 and again on 13 February 1868. He described ‘An elegant and uniform Church, wholly Perfect … well preserved. It comprises Clerestoried nave with N and S aisles- chancel, S porch and Western Tower.’ He then described the whole church interior and exterior in further detail.

There was restoration work done on the 15th century rood screen in 1839.

In 1842 a Sunday School was erected by the then vicar of East Markham church. A day school also used the building, rent free.

Details of St John the Baptist’s church can be found in the religious census of 1851. The population of East Markham was 956. The church’s endowment was worth £267 19s 11d with fees of £2 0s. 2d. The church could accommodate 270 people. The average congregation numbers were 50 in the morning and 120 in the afternoon. The average numbers of Sunday scholars were 45 in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. The vicar was the Rev Sherard Becher and the Rectory of West Drayton was annexed to East Markham.

The church underwent major restoration work over the period 1883-7, supervised by the architect Oldrid Scott. The work comprised the rebuilding of the north and south aisles and the restoration of the chancel, nave, clerestory and tower. New seats replaced 17th century pews and two new bells were hung in the tower. The church was reopened by the Bishop of Southwell on 4 July 1887. Overall, the work cost around £2,600, of which £1,000 was donated by the Duke of Newcastle. Mr Clements R Markham, secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, wrote a history of the parish, which he sold in aid of the restoration work. Also thanks to a donation from Dr and Mrs Wrench of Baslow the church porch was rebuilt in 1883.

In 1889 the rood screen was restored at the cost of £50. The screen was then moved in 1897 to make space for a new screen and organ loft designed by Ninian Comper. However, these were never built because of a dispute between the Duke of Newcastle, the vicar and churchwardens, which resulted in the funds for the project being allocated elsewhere. The old rood screen is now placed in the east bay of the south arcade and screens the Lady Chapel.

In 1894 the floor slabs in the chancel to the Williamsons were restored by members of this family.

Further restoration work was undertaken on the chancel during 1896-7. The Brameld memorial window and a new High Altar made of Cosham stone were installed and the church was reopened on 23 June 1897. The architects were William Bucknall and Ninian Comper of London.

During the incumbency of the Rev A E Briggs, who was appointed as rector in 1896, a pre-Reformation altar slab was discovered in the church. It had formed a part of the church’s flooring. The 1986-97 Record of Church Furnishings, described Briggs as having had the location of the slab revealed to him in a dream. The slab now forms part of the Trinity chapel altar. The altar stand and ironwork date to c1906.

In 1913 the Duke of Newcastle transferred patronage of East Markham church to the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith.

In c1912 Sir Edward Hoskyns, Bishop of Southwell, toured the diocese. The visitation records listed the value of the benefice as £210. The population of East Markham in 1911 was 876. The church could accommodate 320 people and there were 65 children on the Sunday school roll. The vicar was the Rev A E Briggs.

J B Firth described East Markham in 'Highways and Byways in Nottinghamshire' in 1916, writing 'East Markham Church is one of the noblest in the district'.

New choir stalls were erected in 1928 in memory of the late vicar, the Rev J Ormandy. They cost £100. In the following year the church’s interior was cleaned and renovated at the cost of £115.

In 1930 renovation work on the church tower was completed and in 1936 an oak screen was installed at the base of the tower.

Between 1986 and 1997 a record of the furnishings of St John the Baptist’s was compiled by the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). This described details of stonework, woodwork, silver, textiles, paintings, glass, and miscellaneous items in the church.  A copy of this record can be found in the Nottinghamshire Archives although the record of the church’s silver is closed to the public.

After a local appeal the church tower was restored in 1981.

In 1993 a new vestry was built, with an oak vestment chest made to a Comper design. The old vestry at the base of the tower was converted into a sound-proof room, with toilets and kitchen facilities.

A service was held in 2002 to mark the reception of a wooden cross that hung in the recently closed Methodist Chapel. Also a pledge was signed to make the church available to other Christian denominations as it was the only Christian place of worship in the village.