St Swithin


There does not seem to have been a church at Kirklington until after the Norman conquest – certainly there is no mention of one in the Domesday Book or other sources. However there was a manor belonging to the Archbishop of York who held sizeable properties in the area including nearby Hexgrave Park. The village of Kirklington is mentioned in a charter of 958 which was a grant by King Eadwig to Oscytel, (arch)bishop of York, of land at Southwell. The current church seems to have first been built in the 12th century although repairs and restorations have meant little of the original building remains. The south doorway and porch, for example, date to the late 13th century (with 17th century panels) while the chancel and tower are much more recent constructions.

Kirklington was tied to nearby Southwell from Saxon times. The Southwell Charter of 958AD lists Kirklington as belonging to Southwell ‘with sake and soke’. It is unsurprising then that when the church of St Swithin was built in Kirklington it fell under the patronage of the Chapter of Southwell, which administered Southwell Minster as well as many other churches like Kirklington. It also paid a regular annual donation of 1s 6d to the Southwell Pentecostal Procession.

There are numerous early references to Kirklington in the Liber Albus (White Book of Southwell), for example detailing the presentation of priests to the church during the 13th century.

In 1291 Pope Nicholas IV initiated a tax assessment of all churches in England and Wales. Kirklington, listed as a spirituality of Southwell Minster, had a value of £5 at this time. Fifty years later King Edward III also ordered a valuation of property which gives us a more detailed breakdown of the Church’s income. The church was taxed at a value of 100s (i.e. £5, just as in 1291) and had income from a number of sources. It had arable land worth 20s per annum, earned 5 marks per annum from the ninths of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces and finally had a tithe of hay and altar dues which amounted to 13s 4d. Almost a century after that, in 1428, a tax ordered by Henry VI assessed the church at 6s 8d in tax, implying a fall in income from £5 in 1291 to £3 6s 8d.

In a codicil to the interesting will of Margaret la Zouch, the wife of Sir John de la Zouch, proved in 1451, she states ‘… I bequeth a box of silver the which hynges in my chapell to ye chirch of Kyrklyngton yt God Almyghty in ye forme of bred may lie in over ye high auter in the same chirche …’

In the 16th century the Reformation caused turmoil in the English Church. Southwell Minster was for a time stripped of its College and Chapter, although these were restored by Queen Mary. Little record is left of whether Kirklington suffered because of its patrons’ troubles – likely the church was too small to be directly targeted although we do know that the advowson of the vicarage passed to Thomas Reve, and George Cotton of London. Certainly the church remained in the patronage of the Chapter of Southwell into the 17th century, however, so whatever reorganisation occurred it was soon reversed.

It was in the 17th century that the current brick tower was added on to the church – unusually so as this period saw relatively little ecclesiastical building in England. One of the bells in the church dates to 1664, which may be when the tower was completed and would accord with the dendrochronology date for the bellframe. There used to be a list of benefactors in the tower, a list which included “King’s Majestie £100”. If, as is likely, this refers to those who sponsored the tower’s construction that would date it to outside the Commonwealth period, which began in 1649 and ended in 1660. The other benefactors listed are Henry, Lord Marquis of Dorchester, and John More, esquire who each gave £20. Finally £5 was raised by the Residentiaries of Southwell. Both Henry and John were major landowners in the area for a long time. The Mores are particularly closely associated with Kirklington Church, which has several floor stones in the Chancel dedicated to More family members, and a mural monument to John More’s wife, Catharine, who died in 1702.

Information on the church greatly increases for the 18th century, in part thanks to the detailed records we have from the visitations of the Archbishop’s Herring and Drummond in 1743 and 1764 respectively. In 1743 its curate, James Gibson, was also the rector at Hockerton, a couple of miles away. It had two churchwardens, William Charworth and John Stacey. Its curate received £16 per annum in taxes from Kirklington, putting it amongst some of the poorest parishes in the county, and it had no schoolhouse, alms house or hospital to support. Because of his dual duties with Hockerton James Gibson alternated his services between the two parishes each Sunday.

At some point Kirklington’s association with Southwell Minster led to its priests regularly being appointed from the ranks of the five or six Vicars Choral in Southwell. These men were responsible for holding daily services in the Minster and singing in the Choir. As such Kirklington’s proximity to Southwell likely helped make it a preferred choice despite its lack of wealth. In turn this lack of wealth seems to have encouraged pluralism – holding more than one parish, just as James Gibson did in 1743.

In 1755 Charles Fowler MA became curate of Kirklington. He was already a Vicar Choral at Southwell, as was his successor William Leybourne MA, who served for just one month in 1760. In turn his successor, John Holmes, was also a Vicar Choral and the man who responded to the 1764 visitation. This visitation gives much the same impression as the earlier one. The poverty of Kirklington is highlighted by John Holmes who was apparently forced to live at Southwell because of the small and poor nature of Kirklington itself. Interestingly though he was able to give a service at the church every week, unlike Gibson in 1743. Also of interest is his claim that his three Sacraments a year was ‘according to the ancient usage of [the] parish’, a statement seemingly contradicted by Gibson’s claim in 1743 to have administered it four times a year.

The association with Southwell Vicars Choral and the nepotism that surrounded those positions continued into the 19th century. In 1831 records show that Kirklington’s curate at the time was Robert Hodgson Fowler, a grandson of Charles Fowler who had followed in his grandfather’s footsteps (as had Robert’s father who at the time was a curate elsewhere). Robert Fowler was also curate of Edingley and a rector at Brigsley in Lincolnshire. Later he would also become Vicar at Rolleston. Kirklington was clearly caught up in a wave of pluralism from this period. The records of 1831 also state Kirklington was worth £49 per annum and continued like this for most of the century, still one of the poorest parishes in the county.

William Stretton visited the church in 1820 and provides a description of the building and its fittings before the major Victorian restorations that were to follow:

A neat brick church with a tiled roof, and brick tower with 3 bells. It consists of a single nave, the windows square of the time of Elizabeth, but there are remains of a more ancient one. The floor is of dressed brick and faced stone, and is in good order. The pews (or rather stalls) [are of] old oak, with doors of the same. A cancelli of modern Gothic work. A gallery across the west end for the singers. The King’s Arms of George III,, and painted in tolerable style, but instead of the rose and thistle, there are two roses. The only modern pew is for Admiral Franks. The Lord’s prayer, creed and commandments, are hung up as usual. A north door with pointed arch. A south porch of brick, and tiled, but adorned with an ancient Saxon label, supported by two crowned heads, male and female, like those of the Bone House of St. Mary’s, Nottingham ; the porch has calvary crosses like that at Eakring, mostly worn out. The church is dedicated to St. Swithin. [A] Saxon font lined with lead 20 ins. diameter, for immersing. The chancel is large, and has a rich window with a pointed arch at the east end, with many remains of painted glass, a square two-light north window, and an O.G.-headed three-light south one. The altar [space is] spacious, well paved, railed and neat, the table an old oak one. No piscina or aumbrey. An ancient mural monument to the memory of Lady Catharine More, consort of John More, of Kirklington, Esq., who died in May, 1702. There are two hatchments for the Whetham family, and many floor stones. There are also many floor stones for the families of More, formerly owners of this lordship, and some early ones with broken crosses, etc.

From 1836 to 1887 Thomas Coates Cane, the son of another Vicar Choral, was the vicar of Kirklington. During his time the church received several restorations. The first of these was in 1847 at a cost of £800, raised by subscription. A further restoration was undertaken over the period 1873-74 supervised by the architect, Ewan Christian; the builder was Henry Clipsham of Norwell. This time the repairs cost £1,700. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, reporting on the reopening of the church on 21 April 1874, summarised the restoration work:

'The tower has undergone little or no change, but the north and south walls and the chancel have been re-erected and a new roof put up. The interior fittings are all new, as are also the pulpit, reading desk, &c. Free seats of oak of the most modern style have been made, and suitable accommodation provided in the chancel for the choir. The pulpit is a very good one of stone, and there is a neat and suitable lectern made of oak, the gift of the vicar. The pavement leading to the altar is of encaustic glazed tiles, and the altar cloth, which is very prettily worked with the monogram “I.H.S.” in the centre, is the gift of Mr. Jacques.'

In 1855 Cane reported he gave services in the church every Sunday and described the various pieces of church equipment, including the font and pulpit, as being in good condition. There was also a School House built and supported by a Mrs Whetham, who was also a lessee of the churchyard and sponsoring the repairing of its fences, and a lessee of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners collecting the Great Tithes on Corn and Grain. The Whetham family had been important landowners in the area for more than a century; the church has a mural monument to a Catherine Whetham dated to 1725. However, there was still no glebe house at Kirklington leaving Cane with no choice but to live in Southwell.

In 1851 a religious census was performed in England. Kirklington at that time had a congregation of 108, including 48 Sunday scholars, out of a total parish population of 276 – less than a 50% attendance rate. The curate serving under Cane at the time was J L Lane.

In 1897 the church received a new organ as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Going into the 20th century the church seems to have received new land or income as despite the village population remaining around 200-250 the returns of 1912 give the benefice a value of £140 per annum. By this time the Church School had 40 pupils enrolled in it, showing its continued existence after its sponsor’s death. The vicar in 1912 was T W Adams MA.

By 1922 the vicarage of Kirklington was now worth £227 per annum and its vicar since 1920 was the Reverend Arundel John Edward Mcswiney. It had two acres of glebe land and a residence, given to it by A J Bennett esquire, no doubt the cause of the church’s increased wealth, although still small in comparison to other churches.

In 1953 an organ chamber was built onto the south side of the chancel paid for by John Eastwood to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1954 the Church received a new ironwork gate for the churchyard fence.