St Helen


The name Kneeton probably derives from the Old English form ‘cnihta tūn’, meaning ‘the farmstead, or settlement of the servants.’

Domesday Book records that Cheniveton possessed a priest and half a church.

The church is partly 13th to 15th century but the present building  was subject to a major restoration in 1879 when much of it was rebuilt to designs by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ architect, Ewan Christian. It re-opened for public worship on 4 November 1879. There is evidence that it was reduced in size, perhaps at that time: a probable former south aisle, of three bays, evidence for which is visible in the south wall, was not re-erected. Although listed grade II, Pevsner was scathing: ‘the best thing about the church is the view down into the Trent valley’ – the church occupies a commanding situation on a cliff on the south side of the River Trent, and is surrounded by picturesque scenery including prospects of the Vale of Belvoir and the valley of the River Trent.

The Taxation Roll of Pope Nicholas IV, 1291, gave the clear annual value of the church at Kenyveton at £10. The subsidy of Henry VI in 1428 confirmed this value and gave a taxation of 20s at that time, showing that nothing had changed in monetary worth in the intervening years.

On 25 June 1293 action was taken against William de Hotot, then rector of Kneeton, for usuary (money-lending) and non-residence. However, the following year he was given leave of study for two years and so was evidently let off.

In 1302/3 the Abbot of Newbo (Lincolnshire) and the Abbot of Welbeck each held a quarter part of the estate in Kneeton, by fief.

In 1327 Kneeton parish is listed in the Bingham wapentake as being taxed by parliament at twentieths as part of a nationwide levy to raise money for war against Scotland by Edward III, and in 1337 as being included in the third and final collection of the grant of three fifteenths and tenths made in September 1337. The collectors for the latter taxation were John de Mounteney and Peter de Wykes.

In 1234/5 the canons of Newbo Abbey in Lincolnshire had a confirmation of a third part of Kneeton church, said to have been the gift of Richard Malbisse. The church, known at that time as St Peter, was then given by William de Malebysse to the Abbey of Newbo on 10 December 1251 along with all rights to the manor.

On 3 February 1345 it was appropriated by William, Archbishop of York, to the Abbey of Newbo who, in recompense of the damage done to his cathedral church, reserved the annual pension of 13s 4d and to his Dean and Chapter 6s 8d payable by the Abbey and Convent out of the fruits of the church at Pentecost and Martinmas, and also reserved out of the profits a competent portion for a perpetual vicar, viz., certain convenient houses for him to live in out of the mansion of the rectory, and 100s per annum payable by the Abbey and Convent at Pentecost and Martinmas by equal portions, and binding the Abbey and Convent to bear all burdens ordinary and extraordinary incumbent on the church totally, all which was confirmed by the Chapter of York on 4 February 1345.

In the following year, 1346, the sheriff attempted to extract the sum of 37s 9d from the Abbot of Newbo for his holdings in Kneeton and Flintham. A subsequent enquiry found that in 1341 the sum amounted to 27s 9d for Kneeton and 9s for Flintham; it was also established that in 1291 all the Abbot’s holdings in Newark and Kneeton were taxed at 69s, on which he had subsequently paid tenths with the clergy. The judgement given was that the Abbot should be discharged of the 37s 9d that the sheriff was claiming.

In 1406 an assessment of the unbeneficed clergy of the archdeaconry of Nottingham and the college of Southwell was made, for the subsidy of 6s.8d. from each unbeneficed member of the clergy granted to Henry IV. Kneeton is listed as both a vicarage and a chaplaincy in this assessment.

According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the vicarage of Kneeton was valued at the clear yearly sum of £4 9s 4d. John Hollonde was the vicar. At the Reformation both Welbeck and Newbo abbeys are recorded as receiving income from Kneeton. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Abbey of Newbo was granted by Henry VIII to the Molineux family.

The inventory of church goods, drawn up in the reign of Edward VI, listed a silver chalice, vestments, surplices and candlesticks.

In 1596 the churchwardens presented the vicar at the Archdeaconry Court as a favourer of true religion; the chancel was not in repair through the default of the Masters of the Collegiate Church of Southwell. William Ward was presented for not contributing to an assessment (tax).

Also in 1596 they noted that the vicar was not a preacher – ‘we have had two sermons this last year’. They noted as well that ‘Edwarde Warde has left his wife in our town, about 'plowedaye', and since then he has not come to her, but we are not able to charge him with any other notorious crime’.

In 1603 the parish had 94 communicants and non-communicants. There were no dissenters. The population was about 150. By 1608 two recusants lived in the village.

In 1609 the churchwardens commented that the graveyard was ‘not well fenced’, and in 1610 that the church windows were in need of repair.

In 1633 the churchwardens reported that ‘our church is now in repairing with all speed’. However, two years later they reported that ‘our church is out of repair and the town [i.e. village] is to repair it’, presumably through some sort of church rate. In 1635 the churchwardens were presented at the Archdeacons Court for failing to repair the churchyard fence and allowing pigs to roam freely and take shelter in the church porch.

In 1637 the church was reported to be ‘not in good repaire … especially in the stalls which are unboarded’. By February 1638 repairs had been undertaken and it was reported ‘that the said Church is in good repaire and the seats and alleys newly paved, the Chancell very well paved and sufficiently railed’.

The Parliamentary Commissioners of 1650 reported that Kneeton was worth £50 p.a. and was sequestered to the use of the government from Lady Dormer (a Roman Catholic, the widow of Baron Dormer) late deceased, John Morton, Clerke, the incumbent receiving £10 a year ‘for his salary, who preaches once every lords day but verie weekely and insufficiently’.

Even so, this may only have been a temporary fix. In 1663 the churchwardens reported that ‘our church is not in repair’, although they were doing their best to carry out repairs. Perhaps the task defeated them because a faculty was obtained in 1666 to rebuild the premises.

In 1676 Joseph Horton was the curate, 36 people of age to receive HC, and one person ‘obstinately refuses to receive Holy Communion at such times as required by law to communicate’.

The parish was enclosed in the seventeenth century by George Lassells, Esq. Thoroton, in 1677, noted this partly because his brother-in-law John Story was a landowner and a resident of Kneeton, where his grandfather and father had purchased property. John Storey married Barbara, daughter of Gilbert Boun, so that she was the sister-in-law of Dr Thoroton.

In 1684 the churchwardens noted that ‘the church is out of repair in the walls and pavement; the font stands in the wrong place; there is no Book of Homilies; the minister does not read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, nor read the statute [against profane swearing]; there is no hearse cloth.’

At a parochial visitation in 1718 the churchwardens were ordered to repair the walls and whitewash them inside, to repair the church windows and the pulpit sounding board, to supply a copy of the table of the prohibited degrees of marriage, a napkin to cover the bread and wine, a lock for the poor box, and a basin for alms. By 1722 they had still failed to carry out all the orders.

An inventory of 1735 listed the church plate as a pewter flagon, a silver chalice, a silver paten, and a pewter offering plate.

At the time of Archbishop Herring’s Visitation in 1743 Henry Bugg, the curate, reported that there were only ten families in the parish, no almshouses and no money for the repair of the church. No minister had resided there ‘in the memory of Man’, because there was no parsonage. Bugg was vicar of Bleasby, and performed the services at Kneeton. He conducted one service each Sunday, and administered Holy Communion three times a year.

George Wakefield, the curate, made the return in 1764 on the occasion of Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation. The village had only twelve families, none of whom were dissenters. He lived in the vicarage house at Flintham, where he was the rector, and conducted services at Kneeton and Flintham every Sunday, alternating between morning and afternoon. He administered the sacraments three times annually.

The arrangement continued for many years. In the 1790s, Throsby noted that ‘this is a perpetual curacy of small value: the duty is done by Mr. Popplewell, of Flintham’

In 1809 the same curate, the Rev. J. Popplewell – described on his monument as ‘Minister of this Parish 45 years’ – wrote in the parish register that Sir Francis Molyneux of Wellow, Baronet, Impropriator, paid an annual stipend of £15 to the curate. He also recorded several land holdings, acquired with funding from Queen Anne’s Bounty: Howbeck Close of 4 acres and Cow Croft Close of 8 acres, and a close at Coddington of 4a 3r 15p. There was no house or land at Kneeton belonging to curacy ‘except the Church Yard’. Subsequently the curacy was augmented by a Parliamentary Grant and Queen Anne’s Bounty of £200 each, laid out in land, and recorded at a Visitation on 24 June 1825. The benefice was held as a perpetual curacy held by clergy from neighbouring parishes.

In 1848 Kneeton had 109 inhabitants. ‘This parish, which is bounded on the west by the river Trent, and on the east by the Roman Fosse-road, comprises 926 acres by measurement. The Trent affords every facility for the conveyance of commodities; there is a ferry to Hoveringham. The living is a perpetual curacy, valued in the king's books at £4. 9. 4½.; net income, £58; patron and impropriator, the Earl of Carnarvon. The church is a neat plain edifice.’

In 1851 Richard Randall Rawlins, Perpetual Curate, noted that the church was called St Peter, and that it had only 25 seats. Slightly bizarrely, he also recorded that at the afternoon service there was a general congregation of 33 and 16 Sunday Scholars. By then the parish also had a Wesleyan and a Temperance Wesleyan chapel.

Rawlins served at Kneeton for 31 years but was perhaps better known as an antiquary, and he inserted a number of notes in the parish registers. In August 1866 Rawlins recorded in the baptismal register that he had baptized Coralina, daughter of John and Maria Smith, from Old Dalby in Leicestershire, adding that the parent were travelers passing from Newark to Old Dalby ‘when they stopped for the night in their van in the field on the side of the Foss road, in this parish…. It was about 4 o’clock, in the afternoon when the birth occurred, and on this day being Sunday, the child was brought to the church by its sponsors for full baptism’.

Rawlins retired in 1867 and spent his final years living in Mansfield. He prepared extensive antiquarian notes on Derbyshire churches, now in the Derbyshire Record Office.

Rawlins’ successor, the Rev. Arthur Alcock Barker, was rector of East Bridgford, and held Kneeton as a perpetual curate.

Morris’s 1869 Directory described Kneeton as having 116 inhabitants in 1861 sharing 924 acres. The living was a Vicarage valued at £58 p.a., the Rev. J. Barker MA, was the vicar, and the Dowager Countess of Carnarvon was both the patron and lord of the manor. The account continued: ‘The church is an ancient edifice, dedicated to St Peter, consisting of nave, chancel, and tower with three bells.’

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Kneeton thus:

KNEETON, or KNEVETON, a parish in Bingham district, Notts; on the river Trent, adjacent to the Fosse way, 2¼ miles SSE of Thurgarton r. station, and 5 N of Bingham. Post town, Hoveringham, under Nottingham. Acres, 924.Real property, £1, 915.Pop., 116.Houses, 26. The property is divided between two. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of Lincoln. Value, £58. Patron, the Dowager Countess of Carnarvon. The church is ancient but good, and has a tower.

Kelly’s 1881 Nottinghamshire described the church as ‘a small edifice with tower in which there is three bells. It contains several memorials to the Storeys. The living is a perpetual curacy … worth £58 a year’.

At Bishop Ridding’s Visitation in 1892, Kneeton was described as one of 16 Nottinghamshire livings valued at below £100, though it was not held alone. The Rev. J. Barker died in 1897, and an effort was made to restore the benefice to its proper status as a vicarage. A new house was built for the purpose by the Countess of Carnarvon.

William Lush was instituted as vicar in 1900 and Arthur Rowley in 1903.

In 1912, the vicar was the Rev. Arthur Rowley, and the parish population was 113. The church had 160 seats, there were 19 on the church school roll and 30 on the Sunday School roll. Over the previous 12 months there had been two baptisms and seven Confirmations.

Rowley was the last vicar of Kneeton, and he died on 25 December 1921. From that point it was informally united with Flintham, returning to what was in effect an earlier arrangement whereby Kneeton was a curacy held by a rector or vicar with a parish elsewhere.

The Rev. P.W. Rouse, vicar of Flintham, signed the baptism register on 19 February 1922, and the service register almost exclusively from 23 December 1921. The legal unification took place in 1926.

In 1925 the church was described as follows:

The church of St Helen is a stone building of the Perpendicular period consisting of chancel, nave, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 3 bells: the church was restored in 1879 and 1880, at a cost of about £1000, chiefly at the expense of the Earl of Carnavon, and in 1892 the bells were rehung and recast, at a further cost of about £120 raised by subscription: there are some monuments of the latter half of the 18th century to the family of Story: in 1900 a stained glass window was placed in  the south nave by Charles Neale Esq.

Finally, it is perhaps worth pointing out the controversy over the timing of Ewan Christian’s renovations. The normally reliable J.C. Cox gave covering dates of 1889-90. This is clearly too late, but in the absence of a faculty or of any plans deposited with the Incorporated Church Building Society, establishing the true date is not straightforward. Pevsner gives 1879-90, but this probably conflates two sets of work (including later work on the bells). A brass plate in the church notes that the church was restored by the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, and is dated 1880. This seems conclusive.