St John the Baptist


There is no mention of a church or chapel at Gunthorpe in Domesday Book, though the parish registers of Lowdham the mother church, that began in 1559, do record that there was a “Chappell” at Gunthorpe at least four hundred years ago. Gunthorpe was a Chapel of Ease of the Parish of St Mary the Virgin at Lowdham. In an indenture in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, it was called the Chapel of St James and was in the centre of the village. Parishioners were allowed to get married and have their children baptised there but burials were always conducted in the parish church. Two marriages are specifically mentioned which occurred in 1583 and 1590, and 58 baptisms were recorded as having taken place in the chapel between 1598 and 1590. After this date the records put the Parish Church and the two chapelries of Gunthorpe and Caythorpe together.

The chapel does not seem to have been well supported. It suffered from vandalism and theft and in 1512 it is recorded that it lost ‘a gilded paten, a cross, two candlesticks, two large bells and a sacring bell’. In 1613 the church wardens were charged with not looking after the church. It was said that ‘the leads of the chappell are all blowen up, the windows are broken and the wales wante beutifying and pointinge.’ This was the fate of many churches during the post-Reformation period. Very few marriages took place in the chapel at this time according to the Parish Registers.

In May 1616 it was recorded that ‘Jane East the wife of Thomas East of Gunthorpe within the parishe of Lowdham hatte for the space of two yeares laste paste or theare abouts sitten stood and kneeled to heare divine service in the Chappell of Gunthorpe in the highest place or roome of a forme seate or pewe which is the next forme to the Chappell dore Westward on the South side of the said Chappel. Alice Kempe wife of Henrie of Kempe of Gunthorpe since Easter laste hath seated herself in the same place and not suffered the said Jane to sitte in the same seate.’ This matter was taken to court and the finding of the judge was that as Thomas East had paid more towards the upkeep of the "Chappel" Alice should do nothing to prejudice the said Jane East.

The state of the chapel became worse. It was presented in the archdeacon’s court as being out of repair in both 1661 and 1680.

By the end of the seventeenth century services were only held once a fortnight and communion three times a year. Gradually these services were discontinued.

In 1728 Thomas Fisher and Thomas Wroth the church wardens made complaints to the archdeacon about the vicar, the Rev Samson Gilbert. It was stated that although the parish church at Lowdham was only a mile and a half away, Gunthorpe people could not claim seats there. He was not conducting the services he had promised and had been paid for. Eighteen months later, on 22 June 1730, John Bruen was instituted as vicar. He soon complained to the Archbishop that he could not eke out his living due to the smallness of his stipend and had to take on other outside work as curate at Screveton. By the end of the eighteenth century the chapel had closed altogether and John Throsby records it as becoming a blacksmith’s shop at a later date. To-day there is a building on the site called Farriers Cottage

Gradually the abandoned church fell into disrepair and the villagers helped themselves to the stone. (In 1936 an appeal was made for the return of these stones which were in neighbouring gardens. The plan was to reassemble them in the churchyard of the present church as a memorial to the old chapel. There are a few stones in the churchyard which may have come from this earlier chapel. The stone is said to have come from Yorkshire. A cottage built opposite the site of the old chapel has foundations which are thought to have come from the derelict building. The Thoroton Society Transactions of 1931 record that the great bell of the old Nottingham Exchange (demolished 1926) “seems to have come from a disused chapel at Gunthorpe”.)

In 1842 John Henry Browne, a young and dynamic priest became vicar. He came to a parish which was very run down. The main church of St Mary was in poor repair and services were held in the National School. His first task was to oversee the repair of the parish church. With regard to Gunthorpe he realised that the journey to Lowdham was difficult especially in the winter and he began to raise money for a Chapel of Ease to be built in the village. He appealed for help by public subscription. The Lord of the Manor, Peter Broughton gave a piece of vacant land which was further up the main street and Earl Manvers, the lay Rector, gave £200 towards the cost of building. It is recorded that the total cost of rebuilding was £518.

T C Hine, one of Nottingham’s best known 19th century architects, designed the building. It was one of his earliest commissions.

Building started in 1849 and was finished in 1850. It was described as a neat little church of Bulwell stone, corniced with stone from Little Eaton. It was of simple design with a chancel, a nave and a belfry with a single bell. Mr J Francklin of Gonalston Hall gave the stained glass window and Lady Manvers of Thoresby Hall donated a silver communion service.

There were open pews intended to seat 120 people and music was played on a harmonium. The Church was opened in 1850 by a service taken by Archdeacon Wilkins. The church was crowded and the collection taken was £11.

Drawing of the
church before the
modern additions

By the 1930s changes were being made. The church was getting increasingly draughty and a fabric fund was instituted to pay for repairs. Gaps were stopped up between the walls and the roof and the leaded windows were repaired. The curate the Rev T Martin built a lobby.

On 19 July 1936 a children’s corner was created. It was to the right of the main door and included the font. The congregation provided a beautiful oak table and chairs, put up partitions and pictures, and made a rug. Two brass candlesticks were given and a book donated by Dr Billington who was a missionary in China and had lived at Gunthorpe at one time.

The boiler was still a problem due to the fact that it got flooded in winter. On 14 March 1937 services were cancelled because there was water in the stoke hole and the fire could not be lit. In 1960 overhead heaters were installed and the boiler at last made redundant.

In the 1970s the harmonium was replaced by a pipe organ, and the church was finally licensed for marriages.

In the 1990s a special appeal was launched to raise funds to extend the building. A meeting area, vestry corner and toilet were installed. The new addition was dedicated to the memory of Michele Hough who had been a long-standing member of the congregation and had recently died. February 2000 was the 150th anniversary of the foundation of St John’s and church members stitched a special commemorative banner to mark the occasion.

In 2001 more building activity took place. The Bishop of Southwell opened the new church room, kitchen extension and storeroom. This has given additional space for social functions and a robing room for the choir.

In 1993 Gunthorpe became a parish in its own right and became independent of the Mother Church of Lowdham although it exercised a joint ministry.