St Mary


Kilvington St Mary is a small church situated just half a mile away from the larger church at Staunton, also dedicated to St Mary, which has historically been something of a ‘mother church’ to Kilvington and exerted considerable influence over it, especially via the Staunton family which controlled both churches for long periods of their history.

Possibly because of this eclipse by Staunton, for much of Kilvington’s history we know little about it, with few records or descriptions of the church, its construction, extension, or renovation.

Domesday to the Reformation

Domesday Book refers to land holdings at Kilvington (‘Chelvintone’) including some held by the Bishop of Lincoln, but no mention is made of a church. From an early date, Kilvington was linked with the nearby hamlet of Alverton in terms of land holding, the patterns of which may pre-date the Conquest. The common fields in Kilvington and Alverton were adjacent with, at most, a headland between them.

The church was probably constructed in the 12th century, but we have no direct record of this. It must have existed by 1171, as from that year onwards it sent 8d. yearly at Whitsuntide as its Pentecostal offering to Southwell Minster. The earliest record we have of an incumbent is from 1190, when ‘William, parson of Kilvington’, witnessed a deed freeing one Hugh Travers, a serf from Alverton, in order that he might take the place of the landholder, William de Staunton, on Richard I’s crusade to Jerusalem (Travers returned safely and was granted land upon his return).

On 29 July 1272 archbishop Giffard made a commendation of the church of Kilvington to one Master Bartholomew Buzun, suo perpetuo [his forever]. A few days earlier he had been presented to the church by Sir Alexander de Kirketon.

In the time of Edward I, the patronage of Kilvington church came definitively under the hand of the Staunton family, when Sir William de Staunton (d.1326) married Isabel, sister of Sir Radulphus de Kirketon, gaining the patronage of Kilvington as part of the dowry.

The 1291 Taxatio database records the value of the church at £10. 0. 0 The 1341 Nonarum Inquisitiones stated that the church was taxed at 15 marks (£10).

That the Black Death was present in Kilvington may be attested by the fact that John de Sibthorpe, who had been appointed rector in 1344, was dead by September 1349, when he was succeeded by Hugo de Thurverton. The village was also affected by serious floods of the River Devon in c.1351.

The Staunton family gained the ownership of the manor of Kilvington in 1347, but lost it again in 1370, when Geoffrey de Staunton died leaving only a 9-year old female heir, and the manor was taken into the hands of the King. In 1404 John de Leek settled the manor.

In 1379, 30 persons of Kilvington aged 14 or over were charged to the poll tax, giving an indication of the parish’s population at this time. It was not a wealthy parish, as indicated by the fact that it was allowed a reduction of 2s. 8d. on a war levy in 1436 on account of its impoverishment.

Despite its apparent subservient status to neighbouring Staunton, Kilvington had the status of a rectory by 1401 when one Robert Eddynglay was instituted by archbishop Scrope, following the death of the previous incumbent William Maundevyle; the patron at this time was John del Ker of Stoke. This echoes the apparent rectorial status implied in 1272.

At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI it was reported that Kilvington had been taxed at 15 marks in antiquity but they had not responded now because there were less than ten inhabitants resident, which they stated upon their oath.

In 1439, the manor was settled on Richard Willoughby and his wife Anne, a descendant of John de Leek. The couple owned 11 bovates of land in the village. However, the Staunton family remained prominent in the area. One historian has said of this family that ‘the Stauntons appear to have kept a singularly even course, rarely rising to any great distinction, but contriving to maintain their station.’ They next appear in the history of Kilvington in 1516, when Thomas Staunton bequeathed 6s. 8d each to Kilvington and other local churches, for the purchase of a cross cloth.

Reformation and 17th Century

The first parish register dates from 1538. It is bound in an early 15th century Anglo-French treatise on law.

The only indication we have of discontent at the 16th Century Reformation is that following the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, the rector, John Atkinson, resigned. He had been rector since 1523, when he was presented by the abbot and monastery of Vaudey (Lincolnshire), and it seems likely that his resignation was occasioned by unhappiness at the likely future direction of the Church of England. His presentation by Vaudey implies that the abbey held the advowson at that time, but there is no record of any income being derived from Kilvington indicating that the church was probably not fully appropriated in proprios usus. There is no record of the major changes that will have taken place to the church interior in the 16th Century, but there is a note from 1592 relating to the sequestration of the rectory.

During Elizabeth’s reign Robert Staunton consolidated his family’s land holdings in the area, owning eight acres in Kilvington by the time of his death. He was buried in Staunton church, leaving a bequest to Kilvington and other local churches in his will. However in 1602 his heir William Staunton, in financial difficulties owing to having an ‘extravagant wife’, mortgaged Kilvington for £600 to William Cecil, grandson of the first Lord Burleigh (chief advisor to Elizabeth). The estate remained mortgaged when William Staunton died in 1602, but was redeemed by 1613 by his son Anthony, thus keeping the estate in the family.

From 1600 onwards our records of the church improve thanks to the evidence of churchwardens’ Presentments. During Elizabeth’s reign, church building had largely ceased and many churches had fallen into disrepair. In Kilvington’s case, the chancel roof required replacing, and the churchwardens reported that this was underway in 1603.

In 1610, the churchwardens presented that: ‘our Bible is in default and we desire a time to buy a new one; we want the table for degrees of marriages, and we desire a time for the having of it.’ In 1614, they noted that ‘we want the books of homilies, which were conveyed out of our church we know not how; we crave time for the providing of them.’ In that year they recorded that the parish had a population of 93: 63 communicants and 30 non-communicants.

As the 17th century progressed, there were signs of increased religious tensions in the parish. In 1623 the wardens presented ‘Mr Houlder the parson, for not having prayers in due time.’ More seriously, in 1630 one churchwarden presented his fellow warden, Francis Good, for not receiving Holy Communion - he was still refusing in 1633, by which time he had (unsurprisingly) been replaced as churchwarden.

During the later 1630s, we have records of considerable sums being spent on the church: 40s in 1636, £5 in 1637, 26s 8d in 1639. From this we may surmise that the church was coming increasingly into line with the prescriptions of William Laud for the liturgical ‘beautifying’ of churches, to which the likes of Francis Good perhaps objected. In 1637, Robert Hill, who demonstrated pro-Royalist sympathies in the Civil War, took the incumbency. In 1638, the wardens lamented ‘the want of a hood for the minister’ – not something a Puritan would have desired.

That the ‘beautifying’ process remained incomplete by 1639 is attested by the following (anonymous) presentment, seemingly made by a clergyman or some other educated man, as follows: 

‘there is not a flaggon for the Lord's table at the administration of the sacrament; there wants a handsome desk or cushion to lay the common prayer book on when the minister officiates at the Lord's table and a hassock for him to kneel on; the chest in which to lay the church book and the surplice is very indecent and not fit for that use; there wants a common prayer book; the reading seat and pulpit stand so close and inconveniently together that there is not room to lay the books upon the desk of the reading seat whilst service is being read; the pavement in the aisles of the church is uneven; the rubbish which has for a long time been thrown down at the slating of the church has raised the earth so high that it reaches up to the windows, which is very indecent; some windows, instead of glass, are stopped up with lime and hair; the bells are very much out of order in their hanging; the churchyard fence on the north side is very ruinous and is to be newly made.’

The Stauntons, still the leading family in the area, took the Royalist side in the Civil War. William Staunton was with Charles I when he raised his standard at Nottingham in 1642 and was promoted to Colonel for his part in the Battle of Edgehill, following which he helped raise a local regiment of 1200 men and a troop of horse based around Newark.

Consequently the Parliamentarians, when they were besieging Newark in January 1645, took the opportunity to sack and loot Staunton Hall, causing £2,000 worth of damage, and fining Staunton a further £1,250. During the sack of the Hall, the incumbent of Kilvington, Robert Hill, purchased some of its contents from the Puritan soldiers for 29s, in order to preserve them until Colonel William Staunton’s return.

After William Staunton’s death in 1656, the manor and advowson of Kilvington were sold, owing to the diminished financial position of the Stauntons, to William Cartwright, whose son remained owner in 1675. The Cartwright family went on to supply several incumbents to Kilvington over the next century and a half.

In 1676, the rector, Samuel Leeke, reported that there were in the parish 31 inhabitants of age to partake of the Sacrament, that there were no ‘Popish recusants’, but two other dissenters (defined as those ‘who either distinctly refuse, or wholly absent themselves’ on those days when required by law to communicate.)

At this time, Thoroton gave the value of the rectory at £6. 12s. 1d. He did not describe Kilvington church in any detail, but did intervene in the parish in another way. The dissenters in the village noted by Leeke were Edward Richardson, a blacksmith, and his wife Sarah. Thoroton, in his capacity as a Justice, fined Richardson £10 for having attended a Quaker meeting at Rowland Dabey’s house. According to Cropper’s Sufferings of the Quakers in Notts, ’he was distrained upon, and they took away his working tools, his coals, hay and corn, beds and bedding, and other household goods, and his children’s clothes, to the value of £16.’ The Richardsons did not repent - the churchwardens were still presenting them for not receiving the Holy Communion in 1686.

In the 1680s, the churchwardens expressed dissatisfaction with the minister, Henry Moore, who did not reside in the parish and employed a curate. In 1684 they noted that ’we have no hearse cloth; our minister does not read the statute against profane swearing and cursing as is by law required; our minister does not read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays every week; we have no terrier of our glebe land; our goods of the church are not conveyed [to the new churchwardens] by bill indented […] we want a pulpit cushion and cloth; we have no table of degrees of marriage; we have no poor man's box; our minister keeps a curate; our chancel, out of repair.’ In 1685 they reported that ’our Church wants drawing with lime and hair within, and also whiting.’

In 1704, the church porch was reported as being in need of repair. In 1722, they reported that orders from the Archdeacon to repair defects in the church had not yet been fulfilled.

18th and 19th centuries – neglect and reconstruction

Archbishop Herring of York visited the parish in 1743, finding that it contained only seven families, and no Dissenters. The incumbent, Samuel Leeke, shared his cure with the chapel at Staunton, and accordingly services were held only every other Sunday. There were just 12 regular communicants and 14 the previous Easter.

George Cooper, the rector in 1764, reported to Archbishop Drummond’s visitation that there were just six families in the village, including his own, no dissenters, no chapels, almshouses, charities or schools. The living was valued at £47. He lived in the village, and preached every other Sunday. He administered the Sacrament four times a year, and fifteen people attended the previous Easter.

In 1750, the village was enclosed (one-third of it had already been enclosed in 1590.) 142 acres were allotted for tithes, out of a total for the village of 491 acres. The living was valued at £75 a year by Throsby in 1790. Throsby described the church only as having ‘a low tower, with only two bells’, but did detail a monument to the late Rev. George Cooper in the churchyard. The continuing small population of the village at this time is attested by the fact that between the beginning of 1789 and the end of 1793 only one baptism and four burials took place in the parish.

In 1804, rector Benjamin Fleming had licence to reside out of the parish for two years ‘on account of the bad state of the parsonage house.’ In 1809, his successor David Holt was licensed for the same reason, and the licence was renewed at intervals up to 1817. In 1809, Holt was said to be ‘in the act of rebuilding’ the parsonage, and the extension of his licence in 1813 stipulated that it was to be completed by the end of that year, but in 1813 the reasons assigned for a further extension were that the house was ‘too small for his residence, he being resident within half a mile of Kilvington and performing his own duty.’

At some point in the 18th century, the patronage of the church came back into the hands of the Staunton family, who remained lords of the manor at Staunton and controlled Staunton church. However, the last male Staunton died in 1777, and the estate eventually passed via a daughter to Elizabeth Brough, wife of the clergyman the Rev. John Aspinshawe. A condition of the transfer was that Aspinshawe should change his name to Staunton, which he did, and from then on he was generally known as Dr Staunton.

Dr Staunton was a noted pluralist (meaning that he held several incumbencies at once) apparently for the purpose of self-enrichment. He was rector of St. Peter's, Nottingham, from 1797 to 1814 and in 1804 was appointed vicar of Hinckley and Stoke, Leicestershire. After holding Hinckley for eight years he resigned the living to become rector of Elton-super-Montem, Notts. While continuing to hold Elton, he successively presented himself to the livings of Kilvington in 1813 and Staunton-cum-Flawborough in 1828. (His account book shows that he never resided at Hinckley, but provided a curate for that parish at a stipend of £50 per annum and another for Stoke at £60 per annum. The Hinckley expenses also include the sum of £1.3.0 for twelve pairs of Black Stockings, but it is not stated for whom they were purchased!)

For a time after becoming Rector of Kilvington Staunton conducted services in the church, but these finally ceased and by the 1820s there were complaints that he ‘only came once a year, when his tithes due.’ The church was allowed to fall into disrepair, and the inhabitants of Kilvington (43 of them in 1821) had to attend Staunton church instead; the rectory was officially consolidated with that of Staunton in 1826, by which point the chancel had no roof. The combined value of the livings of Staunton and Kilvington in 1826 was £350. The church by the 1840s had become a ruin and was used as a sheep-fold; the bells were re-cast with those of Staunton; the church fabric was put on sale as building material.

The following figures show the income Dr. Staunton derived from his various livings—

Rectory of St. Peter's, Nottingham, 1797 to 1814.    
Income probably about   £400 gross.
Vicarage of Hinckley with Stoke, 1804 to 1813.
Gross Income   £603
Expenditure, including two curates   £200
  £403 net.
Rectory of Elton-super-Montem, 1813 to 1851   £340 gross.
Rectory of Kilvington, 1813 to 1851   £106 gross.
Rectory of Staunton-cum-Flawborough, 1828 to 1851   £500 gross.

The Staunton family history records him as ‘an able man of business’ who ‘much improved the Staunton Estate by judicious planting of timber. He was chairman of Quarter Sessions, and in 1844 his friends and neighbours presented him with his full-length portrait, in oils, which now hangs in Staunton Hall.’ 

The church was demolished between 1848-1851, and when the Religious Census was conducted in 1851, it could therefore record only the population of Kilvington at 27 plus a further 25 in Alverton, with no further details on worship. 

However, in 1851 Dr Staunton died and it was discovered that he had not, in fact, complied with the letter of the law in allowing Kilvington church to be demolished. Accordingly, his heirs were obliged to put the church once more in proper repair. It was Staunton’s grandson, the Rev. John Gordon, who oversaw the church’s reconstruction (and became rector upon its completion), paid for out of the late Dr. Staunton’s estate. In 1852 the manor of Kilvington was sold to the Duke of Portland, by this time a major landowner in the area, owning around half of the village.

Staunton church was also heavily restored in 1853, with two of the bells in the restored Staunton church coming from the old church at Kilvington. This restoration of Staunton church was carried out by Edward Willson of Lincoln, and therefore it is possible that the same architect was used for Kilvington, but we have no record of this. However, it is more likely that the architect at Kilvington was Charles Baily of Newark as he placed an advertisement in the Nottinghamshire Guardian in August 1851 inviting contractors to tender for 'the taking down and rebuilding' of the church, adding that 'drawings and specifications' were available for inspection at his office.

Two new bells were installed, both dated 1854. An (undated) parish record shows that efforts were made to collect subscriptions for the erection of the new bells, raising £32.

Some sources indicate that a further restoration took place in 1862, but given the recent date of construction this is unlikely to have been a major undertaking.

Late 19th century - present

In 1866, Alverton became its own civil parish. Children from Kilvington attended the school build in Alverton by 1881.

In 1881, the incumbent Robert Knight borrowed £810 from Queen Anne’s Bounty, mortgaged against tithes, for the purpose of ‘erecting Farm House and buildings necessary for the occupation of the Farm appertaining to the Rectory upon the Glebe belonging to the said Church’. The value of the living was estimated at £240 at this time.

In 1891, repairs were carried out to the roof plastering, windows and fittings of the church, and new seats installed. The cost of these repairs was £87, of which £67 was spent on the seats. Further restoration and rebuilding work was carried out in 1892.

In 1892, Bishop Ridding’s visitation gave the value of the living at less than £100, and indeed Ridding highlighted Kilvington as an example of a living that had fallen dramatically in recent years. The poverty of the parish may have been a reason for the sale of the glebe lands, in 1908, to the Duke of Portland for £3,000. This amount was invested in the purchase of securities, £1,000 each in Midland Railway, India stock, and Cape of Good Hope Stock. The following year, the incumbent W. Vincent Jackson applied for Queen Anne’s Bounty for the maintenance of poor clergy, stating his income at £137 1s 10d.

Bishop Hoskyns of Southwell visited the parish in March 1912, giving its population at 44 at the time of the visit. There had only been one baptism and no confirmations in the year ending 30 September 1912. Despite these small numbers, the parish was served by both an incumbent and a curate – an example of inefficient distribution of clergy in the area at this time. Hoskyns gave the net annual value of the benefice at £105, and recorded the church as having accommodation for 80. There was no day school or Sunday school at the time.

Kelly’s Directory of 1922 gave the rateable value of the parish as £750, and valued the living at £120 per year net with a residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Southwell. The Duke of Portland was at this time lord of the manor and sole landowner.

In 1967, the value of the living was estimated at £377. The population of the village at this time was 40.

Alverton and Kilvington now form one ecclesiastical district. They are two separate parishes, but have a joint Parish Meeting, as they are too small to have their own parish councils.

At the time of writing in 2013, the church is currently undergoing restoration work. The interior walls are being repainted and further work is due to be carried out to ameliorate the problem with damp and to the porch as a gap is opening up between the porch and the rest of the church. There is also repointing work due to take place.