East Stoke
St Oswald


Despite East Stoke appearing in Domesday there is no mention of the Church of St Oswald. The name probably derives from the Old English ēast stoc meaning ‘outlying farm/settlement’. The east was possibly added to distinguish it from Stoke Bardolph. St Oswald was a 7th century Northumbrian king and a martyr and was influential in spreading the Christian faith around Britain.

The earliest recorded incumbent at St Oswald’s was Sir James Odonis de Urbe who was appointed on the 19th January 1288 (mandate issued for induction of Sir James son of Oddo Colonna – 20th January 1289) and so it can be presumed that the church was in existence by this date. This date corresponds to the lower parts of the church tower and also the internal chamfered tower arch supported on nailhead decorated capitals. Sir James was appointed rector as opposed to all of his successors who were appointed vicars of the parish.

In the 1291 Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV, the annual value of East Stoke is given as £86 13s 4d and the church belonged to Lincoln Cathedral as a prebend; also listed in the taxation roll is Coddington church as a prebend or part prebend of Lincoln (valued together with East Stoke at this time). Fifty years later, in 1341, the value in the Nonae Rolls of the ‘prebend of Stoke’ is given as 130 marks, ie £86 13s 4d – the same value as in 1291, but only £40 of this was from East Stoke itself, the remainder being made up from revenue that included the churches of Screveton, Elston, Coddington, Balderton, Northgate [Newark], Farndon, and Rauceby in Lincolnshire.

Torre records that in July 1318 “At the petition of Roger de Northburgh, Prebendary of Stoke, William Archbishop of York ordained that a perpetual vicarage should be in this church …” It may therefore be assumed that the church was originally attached to a manor, and after 1318 to a monastic or collegiate house – though there is no documentary evidence for such. In the case of St Oswald’s, perhaps Thurgaton Priory (which was founded by Ralph de Aincurt who was a benefactor of St Leonard’s hospital at East Stoke) may have had some minor interests.

In the subsidy of 1428, East Stoke is grouped with Coddington as a prebend of Lincoln Cathedral (as it had been in 1291), and the subsidy was valued at £8 14s. 4d.

John Colyngham’s will, dated 29th May 1480, records that he desired to be buried in the choir of the church and bequeathed 40s to the fabric of the church, in probability to the nave and choir end, in the hope that others might act in the same way.

In 1487 the battle which is probably the village’s greatest claim to fame took place. In 1485 Henry Tudor had taken the throne of England as King Henry VII following the deafeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. In 1487 several supporters of Richard III, claiming that a boy named Lambert Simnel was in fact Richard’s true successor, raised an army to march on London. They were met by King Henry’s army at East Stoke. The following battle, known as the Battle of Stoke Field, is often seen as the final conflict of the Wars of the Roses. It was very bloody battle, resulting in around 7000 deaths. Many of those killed may have been buried in St Oswald’s churchyard, and it has been suggested that this large number of bodies may account for the significant elevation of the ground level of the churchyard above the surrounding ground, and indeed above the level of the church itself.

Very little of the medieval church remains except for the tower and parts of the chancel, but the church would have probably consisted of the tower, nave and chancel with possibly a south porch. A south aisle was added and in existence by 1513 as “John Weynslowe of Estonne” requested his burial there in his will of 11th July 1513.

The Valor Ecclesiaticus of 1534 records that that the total value of income for the church of East Stoke, after deduction of payments for hereditary tenements in Thorpe, was £1 14s 3d. The value of the vicarage, pertaining to Richard Golding, then minister, after certain deductions of £1 6s to the archdeacon of Nottingham and to the Archbishop, was £8.

In 1559 Antonius Mosforth resigned from the vicarage after the Office of Judges found that “He haithe not preached nor caused to be preached his quarterly sermons and he sufferethe the vicarage house to be in great decaye.” Absenteeism from the parish was common in the 16th century as records show that both Antonius Mosforth and Richard Gymneye were not regular visitors to the church nor regular givers of services. At this time the vicarage was also “farr in decaye”.

By 1606 the church was also suffering as Robert Orme of Elston admitted, on the 5th July, that “the Ile of the Churche of Stoke to be reparyed by the parishioners of Elston is out of repayre” and that it was hoped that it would be repaired by the next Easter.

The Nottinghamshire Guardian (4 Jan 1958) mentions that the church suffered from a fire in 1646 which left most of the walls standing. The fire actually destroyed much of the village around the church. Also in this year the community was struck by plague which resulted in the deaths of 159 individuals. Following these disasters, most of the villagers moved away from the church to near the old Roman Fosse Way, so the church is now some distance from the heart of the current village. 30 years later the population of the village was only still 175.

Major works and repairs were completed by 1674/5 as Richard Cumin, carpenter, was paid £304 5s 8d, Edward Wilson (mason) £340 and William Shaw (glazier) £203 8s 6d.

On the 5th June 1718 it was agreed to make repairs to the tower and to maintain the walls of the church as they were in disrepair. It was also agreed at this time that the church was insufficiently large to hold the congregation.

The nave was either restored or rebuilt in 1738, and then further altered in 1797.

The vicar, Francis Bainbridge (since 1718), reported to Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743 that the endowed school in the village had a ‘precarious’ existence because the schoolmaster’s salary had ‘been employed for the last four years towards the rebuilding of our church’. This probably explains the agreement in 1744 between the “Chapel wardens in Elstone … and the Church wardens of East Stoake” to repair the south aisle and the south porch. Although Bainbridge claimed to fulfil his duties regularly and conscientiously, he was presented before the church courts for neglecting his duty of burying the dead, churching women, baptising children and catechising, at Syerston, where the chapel was in his care.

In the late 18th century Throsby described the chancel as being “anciently built but sadly neglected …” and “… to be the abode of pigeons and sparrows.”

By 1812 we learn that Throsby’s comments were no longer valid as it was now a “respectable edifice”.

In 1851, attendance at the afternoon service, the only one held, was 110 general congregation and 44 Sunday scholars. The census return as made by the churchwarden, a farmer, with the added remark ‘The Vicar lies dangerously ill at Nottingham’.

The chancel was heavily restored in 1873, to the cost of Sir Henry Bromley Bart with restorations being completed in 1874 and 1876 (at a cost of £300).

The position of the church away from the current village led to a Licence for Divine Service to be granted in 1852 for services to be performed in the house of William Bonsor in Moor Lane. This made it easier for the old and infirm to attend services.

In 1912 there were 34 children on the roll of the church school, and 35 on the Sunday School roll. Over the previous year there had been 6 baptisms and 7 confirmations.

The minutes of the PCC record that by July 16th, 1923 all expenses for the new organ had been paid.

1925 the roof was repaired by Harveys of Newark. Further repairs were completed in 1945 by a Mr Winter “in view of the shortage of umbrellas for the congregation.”

In 1930 painting was to be carried out and completed for a sum no greater than £51 by Mr Lloyd of Farndon Road. The PCC agreed “that the works had been carried out in a very satisfactory and artistic manner.”

New chimney and heating apparatus were installed in 1950 (faculty granted 17th August, 1948) by Mr Smith of Newark for a sum of £117 10s 3d. In April/May 1950 lead was stolen from the church roof. The lead from the south aisle was also stolen in 2011.