Kinoulton St Luke


Plan and elevation
of the 'intended
church', c1790

The Church of St Luke in Kinoulton was built in 1793 by Henry, Earl of Gainsborough, to replace the derelict and largely abandoned, medieval church of St Wilfrid. St Wilfrid's was situated in the west of the parish, on higher ground above the present village. At some point a chapel of ease was erected in the village on a site subsequently occupied by Field Farm, approximately 0.25 km west of the site of where St Luke's church was later built. The vicarage for St Wilfrid's was built adjacent to the chapel in the 1720s.

A petition, dated 29th December 1790, was sent to the Archbishop of York by Henry, Earl of Gainsborough:

‘Impropriator of the Rectory (by virtue of a lease under your Grace) of Kinoulton ….. and the Vicar, Churchwardens and principal parishioners of the said parish of Kinoulton.


That there is at present within the said parish both a church and a chapel, that the church is distant from the town of Kinoulton about half a mile and is not only ancient but in so ruinous condition that no duty has been performed therein (except funeral service) for upwards of twenty years last past. That the said chapel stands in the town of Kinoulton aforesaid in a very commodious and convenient situation for the whole parish but it is likewise in a state of decay and very unsafe and dangerous for the congregation to assemble therein and it is also too small to contain the number of inhabitants within the said parish who duly frequent divine worship in the said chapel. That your petitioner, Henry Earl of Gainsborough with the consent of the vicar churchwardens and the parishioners and inhabitants of the said parish intends with the approbation of your Grace and at his own sole charge and expense (having the materials of both the old church and chapel, wholly to take down and remove the said present old church and also to pull down the said present old chapel and instead thereof and upon the site of the said chapel to erect and build one new church agreeable to the plan hereunto annexed. Wherefore your petitioners humbly pray that your Grace would be pleased to grant to the said Henry Earl of Gainsborough your licence or faculty entirely to take down and remove the said old church and also to pull down the said present chapel and instead thereof and upon the site of the said chapel to erect and build one new church agreeable to the plan aforesaid. And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray and so forth –
John Wright – Vicar

A reply was sent which set up a commission ‘to take a view and enquire into the truth of the petition’. This comprised four local clergy and four local gentry. There is a marginal note dated 8 March 1791 ‘Let a faculty be granted as prayed’ and signed by the Archbishop. The reply of the commissioners is undated, but there is a pencilled date of 1792 on the document. Their reply was that

‘… we find the contents of  … the petition exactly true except in one trifling error – viz; some marriages have been solemnised in the old church within the last twenty years.
We also declare that we have viewed the piece of land called The Pinfold Close, and think it equally convenient for the parishioners and a much properer place for a burial ground and to erect the new church upon, than the present chapelyard, which is too much confined by the vicarage house, barn etc to be made use of for that purpose.’

A certificate was issued by the Consistory Court on 10 April 1792 and on 21 May 1792 the Archbishop countersigned it, noting ‘Let a faculty be granted.’ The certificate states that the materials from the old church and chapel may be taken by the Earl of Gainsborough for his own use. In return, the Earl of Gainsborough gave two roods and thirty perches of land in Pinfold Close for the construction of the church.

The Earl contracted the building work to William Maclellan and William New for the sum of £1,432 10s. William Legg, surveyor, was paid for work on the design and construction of the church.

St Luke’s was consecrated by Dr William Markham, Archbishop of York, on Monday, 15 July 1793 and was later described as a ‘mean and depressing red-brick church’ whose ‘ugliness is partly relieved by a luxurious growth of ivy’.

It consisted of nave, quasi-chancel with a small vestry, a west porch and a three-stage 63 foot tower containing five bells and a clock. The lower stage of the tower has a western entrance that forms a porch. Over the entrance to the nave is an inscription which reads ‘This Church was built by Henry Earl of Gainsborough A.D. 1793’. This was Henry Noel, 6th Earl of Gainsborough who was the then lord of the manor. He died in either 1796 or 1798 without issue; his death caused the extinction of the peerage until 1841 when the title was returned to his family.

In 1907 there were Royal Arms from the early 19th century (1810-1837) above the entrance to the nave. On the north wall, above the stairs to the ringing chamber was a board bearing a barely legible inscription stating that Elizabeth, Viscountess of Irwin, had given one rood, three perches of land to provide bread and wine for the Sacrament.

The nave has a slated rood and flat panelled ceiling. The middle of the north wall is plastered up internally, the centre of the wall having the Creed, Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer painted on it. The east end of the chancel is semi-octagonal, the only window being made of stained glass. Pevsner described the chancel as ‘nicely, domestically panelled’. The pulpit is of mahogany.

On each side of the nave are three round-arched window openings with raised cills, key stones and plain leaded lights. The middle window on the north side of the nave is blind. There are three similar windows in the chancel, one at the east end with more decorative glass, and a blind window on each side. Part way up the tower is a similar west window. There is an impost band to this which continues around the tower and becomes an eaves band to the nave.

In parish registers marriages held up to September 1792 often use “in this chappel” to indicate the marriage was held either at St Wilfrid’s or a near-by chapel. Marriages held after 1794 refer to ‘new church of Kinoulton’, St Luke’s. The first marriage solemnized in the new church was between William Woodward and Elizabeth Taylor on 27 November 1794.

In 1796 the parish had 25 houses, although it is not known how many inhabitants or how many of them worshipped at the church.

John Wright was vicar at Kinoulton from 17 October 1775 until his death on 8 September 1800. He would have overseen the abandonment of St Wilfrid’s, and the consecration of St Luke’s. On the vicarage land was a building that was thought to have been used as a chapel, John Wright gave permission for it to be used as a School House. It was fitted with a new gable end and a chimney at the parishes’ expense.  

John Wright was succeeded by his curate, Thomas Hoe on 20 September 1800. Thomas Hoe styled himself “Vicar of Kinoulton of Peculiar and exempt from Jurisdiction”.

The parish was a Peculiar, which allowed the vicar powers to hold a civil court, punish any offence committed against his church, grant marriage licenses and hold probate for his parishioners. The status of Peculiar may have arisen because the Archbishop of York once possessed a residence in the village, but it is not clear whether the privileges were given through a formal grant. There is some doubt over the accuracy of these claims; 19th century directories indicate that the vicar no longer held these powers or at least did not exercise them. Certainly, the vicar’s ability to hold probate would have been nullified when the probate of wills were transferred from ecclesiastical authority to the new Court of Probate in 1858.

In 1814 the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte was greeted with much celebration in Kinoulton; the vicar at the time, Thomas Hoe, wrote an account of how on a hot July day they feasted from dawn to dusk, and had bell ringing, dancing, and bands playing on the green before they burnt an effigy of Napoleon. Thomas Hoe was vicar until his death in 1848.

In 1850 the vicarage was re-built on a new site. The Reverend William Parsons, Architectural Commissioner to the Diocese of Lincoln, commissioned the Nottingham architect Thomas Chambers Hine to design a vicarage on a five acre plot in the middle of the village. This was one of Hine’s earlier commissions. The vicarage remained in the possession of the parish until the 1950s when the incumbent moved to Hickling after the parishes of Kinoulton and Hickling were combined.

The Rev. Thomas Charlewood was the vicar at St Luke’s from 1848 until his death in 1877. His death is referenced in an 1885 directory which mentions a stained glass window presented to the church by the late vicar. He was succeeded by the Rev. Stewart Byrth.

In 1851 there was a morning and afternoon service, the afternoon service more attended than the morning; the general congregation in the morning was 32 and 115 in the afternoon. There were 31 pupils attending Sunday school.

In 1856 the church was restored and refitted with open seats replacing the original closed pews. The box pews shown in the original plan of the church were removed. Apparently, this was in order to increase the capacity of the church. The original design, with the triple-decker pulpit half-way along the north wall of the nave, contained 16 box pews seating ten persons each 'able to sit and kneel’ as well as two seating eight persons each. The 30 new pews (substantial open benches, according to Godfrey) seated six persons each as well as some smaller pews, providing seating for a total of 210 people. Two seats for two persons each had been put in the chancel. This is reported to have cost £90 and have been done by the village joiner.

The octagonal pulpit stands on the north side of the chancel arch, and may date from the refitting of 1856. A substantial lectern formerly stood on the south side of the chancel arch, but now is situated adjacent to the pulpit.  The baptistry was originally to the north of the main door and under the gallery. This was moved to under the chancel arch, possibly quite recently.

By 1864 the church was described as having a handsome gallery at the west end which would hold 200 sitting. The gallery was used by village musicians to provide accompaniment for the hymns until a harmonium was bought in 1860. There is a record of the gallery being altered in 1860 at a cost of £1/19/-.

In 1877 the church was gifted 14 acres of glebe by the Crown. This was held by the vicar, the Rev. Stewart Byrth. In 1919 it was increased to 15 acres of glebe and held by the Rev John Philip Ivens, the vicar at the time. The land still belonged to the church in 1922.

In 1901 the population of Kinoulton was 263, rising to 267 by 1911. At this time the church was able to accommodate 200 worshipers. There were 52 students enrolled at the Church School, and 28 for Sunday school.

The church was 'in very bad repair' by the mid-1920s. The church was repaired and restored during the period 1925-6 and reopened on 11 March 1926. The Grantham Journal of 13 March provides a detailed description of the work undertaken:

The edifice has been thoroughly renovated and restored, the work being carried out by Mr. Robt. Wade, of Doddington, Cambs. The outer walls were covered with ivy, and this this been removed, the roots dug out, and the walls cleaned, effecting a great improvement in appearance. The chancel having separated from the nave, the walls have been underpinned with concrete to the depth of eight feet, and reinforced between the chancel and nave with concrete stitches; an additional step has been put in the chancel, the nave has been receded and ribbed and re-seated with pitch pine seats taken from St Paul’s Church, Nottingham; the seats are stained walnut. The aisle has been widened, and the pulpit lowered and placed on a new stone base. The pulpit is the one put in the Church in 1780 [sic]. The Church has a seating capacity of about two hundred. The tower, which had separated from the nave, has been secured to the nave with reinforced concrete stitches in several places. It has also been re-roofed and slated, and new main beams have been put in to replace decayed timbers. The weather vane has been re-gilded and the inside walls done in cream durcsea. the whole having a very pleasing appearance. The cost of the restoration is £1,000, of which £850, or thereabouts, has been spent on the fabric; £200 is still required.

In 1949 the vestry was re-built, the foundation reinforced and drains re-laid. Previously that year the vestry had been damaged, probably due to a faulty drain and the foundations had been found to be in need of repair. 

In 1986 the ‘Domesday Reloaded’ project recorded an anecdote that a local historian discovered – a village baker was using gravestones to line his ovens. This was exposed when a customer noticed the loaf of bread had “IN LOVING MEMORY” imprinted on it!

Major repairs were made to the roof in 1995 and gas-fired central heating was installed in 1997. More recently a toilet and kitchen have been added to the north side of the tower and nave, with an entrance from beneath the gallery. The space under the south side of the gallery has become the village post office for a few hours each week. Three pews have been taken out at the rear of the north side of the nave to provide more flexibility in the use of the space.