Low Marnham
St Wilfrid


A small settlement is recorded at Low Marnham in Domesday without mention of a church or priest.

A church appears to have been present by the late-twelfth century, when John de Lacy, constable of Chester, granted the church to the Knights Templar – de Lacy died in 1190/1 whilst crusading with Richard I in the Holy Land. Hitherto de Lacy’s grant, the church of Marnham was a rectory belonging to the patronage of the Fitzwilliams. De Lacy also created the foundation charter of Stanlaw Abbey in Cheshire in 1172 when one Nicholas of Marnham ('Marisham') appears as a witness.

In 1230 archbishop Walter Gray confirmed the Templar's rights in the church of Marnham and of their annual pension of 2s from the church. Interestingly Gray also mentions Sibthorpe church in the same context, and this may be a lost church at Sibthorpe only six miles distant near East Markham (as opposed to the village of Sibthorpe in south Nottinghamshire), which paid 2 marks pension.

A charter during the reign of King John refers to the demesne land and half the tithes of Marnham, along with appurtenances, granted to the cathedral church of Rouen in Normandy.

In the early 13th century the rector of Marnham, Elyas, along with the consent of Thomas, son of William, the patron, entered into an arrangement by which Robert de Laxinton was to have the corn and hay tithes of the vills of South-Marnham, Skegby [by Marnham], Grassthorpe, and of the whole demesne of Marnham, with all the demesne meadow, and the services due from the tenants in cutting and leading the corn, and mowing and winning the hay. This arrangement was confirmed by archbishop Gray in October 1227.

Robert de Lexington was granted, in about the year 1235, a licence for a private chapel or oratory in his manor house at Marnham.

In 1278 archbishop William Wickwane instructed the rector of Marnham to punish malefactors and hinderers of freedom (malefactores et inpeditores libertatis) who were the parishioners of the prebendal church of Dunham-on-Trent.

In 1291 Marnham church was valued at £30 for the purposes of ecclesiastical taxation under Pope Nicholas IV, and a vicarage there valued at £8. Apparently the vicar of Marnham sought to evade this tax, and the Prior of Thurgaton was ordered by John le Romeyn, archbishop of York in 1293 not to compel the vicar to contribute. This had not been the first controversial incident as in the same year as the tax was imposed, 1291, the archbishop requested that the rector, Master William de la Marche, desist from oppressing his vicar by bringing an action against him. The reason for this was that the military orders were exempt from such payments.

Marnham vicarage is listed in a schedule of arrears which lists the monastic houses or benefices in each diocese whose residents/incumbents had not paid their taxes, specifically the moiety of clerical income granted to him by the clergy in 1294 and the tenth of clerical income granted to Edward I by the clergy in 1295. These arrears were due for collection in 1297.

In 1300 pope Boniface VIII gave a grant to the master and brethren of the Knights Templar to appropriate the church of Marnham in order to recoup themselves for the losses suffered from the Saracens (onerosa nimis et perniciosa dispendia, que in partibus transmarinis vos in personis et bonis a Saracenis). Their patronage was to take effect on the death or resignation of the rector; perpetual vicars were to be appointed. As the church had been in the hands of Templars for over 100 years this must be assumed to be a confirmatory grant or a renewal.

Archbishop Greenfield, in August 1308, ordained that the vicar of Marnham was not bound to pay the fifteenth tax that the abbot and convent of Welbeck had been attempting to collect, and a sequestration that had been imposed was therefore relaxed. Subsequently, in October the same year, the king issued a writ to the archdeacon not to make any demand on the church, held by the master and brethren of the Templars, and which had been seized into the king's hands and custody on account of the fifteenth.

William de Bevercote, the king's clerk, was appointed in April 1312 to: 'collect all fruits and obventions [periodic income] of the Templars' church of Marnham... and... of all houses and lands pertaining thereto, from Michaelmas last, so that he render therefore £43 yearly and cause the church to be decently served'; the income was for the king's use.

The vicarage was valued at 12 marks (£8) in 1320 when it was vacant following the resignation of master William the previous year.

In 1327, archbishop William Melton reported to the King Edward III that Marnham had been appropriated to the Templars and after their dissolution the church was occupied by many temporal lords until the Hospitallers entered by papal grant and licence of Edward II about 8 years previously. The demand for a biennial tenth on the clergy, imposed by Pope John XXII, was suspended by the king and the archbishop subsequently released the sequestration (the Hospitallers were exempt from payment as had been the Templars).

At an enquiry by the king in 1334 archbishop Melton reported that the prior and convent of Blyth held a portion of the tithes of Marnham worth 20s.

Prior Philip de Larking, writing in 1338, described the church of Marnham as being appropriated (in proprios usus) to the Knights Hospitaller and valued at 30 marks in the time of Brother Leonard de Tibertis (the prior of Venice, sent to England by the Grand Master in 1327 where he became prior of England). It was let for a term of years to Sir Robert de Silkeston, knight. Clearly the church had passed from the Templars to the Hospitallers as indicated by archbishop Melton eleven years previously.

In 1341, for the purposes of taxation under Edward III, it was recorded that the value of the church was derived from a ninth of sheaves, lambs and wool at 34 marks yearly, a tithe of hay and altar dues worth 18 marks, and lands and meadow valued at 5 marks yearly.

Although there was a restoration in 1846, much of the church fabric dates to the middle ages. The nave arcades, as well as a double chamfered chancel arch supported on keeled columns with moulded capitals, and the chancel’s north chapel arcade all date to the 13th century. 14th-century fabric includes a window in the west wall of the north aisle, another window located in the south chancel wall, and a further window in the east wall of the south aisle.

The inner ogee arched doorway to the south aisle with heavily moulded surround also dates from the 14th century, although the hood mould and head label stops date from the 19th-century restoration. Dating to the 15th century are four windows in the north aisle, each under flat arches and with moulded surrounds. In the south aisle there is a single 15th-century window, in addition to another 15th-century window to the left of the porch. The clerestory also dates to the 15th century, as does an arched doorway with moulded surround in the north aisle. In the opinion of Nikolaus Pevsner the 13th century south arcades appear to have been executed by Lincoln masons. The church and vicarage were assessed again at the same value as previously in 1428 under Henry VI.

In 1528 the fifth and final payment for subsidy to King Henry VIII was made by the clergy of the northern province. In this subsidy Marnham rectory and Marnham vicarage were taxed separately.

At the time of the Reformation Roger Hanson was the vicar and the rectory was valued at £8 19s 2d. Accounts also reveal at the same time that Laund priory in Leicestershire held diverse farms in Marnham, along with Sutton and Skegby to the clear annual value of £4 4s 8d.

Marnham church contributed to the benevolence known as 'the devotion money', imposed by Henry VIII in 1543 for a crusade against the Turks.

In 1573 Marnham was listed amongst the vicarages in the diocese whose incumbents derived an annual income from their benefice of more than £6 13s. 4d. and up to £10 who paid tax at the reduced rate of 6s.8d. This formed part of the assessment of the clergy for the third payment of a subsidy granted to Elizabeth I.

In 1587 the churchwardens reported that: 'our vicar has a little cowhouse belonging to the vicarage, which is in decay'. In 1629 they presented: 'the chancel is out of repair and they [churchwardens] desire time to learn who is to repair it and then they will present it'.

A visitation return in 1638 reported that the pews in the church were not boarded underfoot, and the establishment also suffered from the lack of a communion cup, a flagon, a pulpit cloth and cushion, cloths for the communion table, in addition to the absence of a surplice and hood for the minister.

A churchwardens' presentment in 1641 stated that 'one of our bells is lately broken, and we desire time for the repair'.

A full account of the church and parish was provided in 1743 when the vicar, Farendon Reid, completed a visitation return. The parish contained 46 families, including a Roman Catholic. There was no meeting house in the parish, licensed or otherwise, and neither was there an almshouse, hospital or any other charitable endowment aside from land which had been left by one Edmund Nicholson Esq. from which £12 was distributed annually amongst the poor. There were two schools in the parish, both without endowment, where ‘some few children’ were taught to read and were also taught church catechism at ‘certain times’. The vicar did not reside in the parish because he also held the position of master of a free school in Stamford, Lincolnshire, and had been granted an indulgence from the previous archbishop of York excusing him from having to take up residence.

In his visitation return, Farendon Reid included a plea to Archbishop Herring, noting that that he hoped ‘for the like favour from your grace’. Within the parish itself a curate by the name of John Leyland lived in the vicarage, was paid £25 yearly, and was considered by the vicar to be ‘very well qualified for his office’. None of the church attendees, to the vicar’s knowledge, had not been baptised, and all those of sufficient age had been confirmed. The public service was read every Lord’s day, either in the morning or in afternoon, in addition to on litany days and holidays. Since the curate also carried out services in the adjoining parish, Sunday services alternated between the two parishes. The sacrament was administered six times a year, and there were around 100 communicants, of whom, around 30 or 40 usually received the sacrament. There had been no occasion to refuse the sacrament to anyone. There were two churchwardens at the time of the visitation return by the names of John Campion and Thomas Archer.

Farendon Reid was still the vicar at the time of Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation in 1764, but the return was made by the curate John Leyland. He reported that there were 56 houses in the village, all occupied. There were no dissenters or meeting houses, or schools. He added that ‘Mr Reid resides at Stamford and is the headmaster of the public school. I have already write to let him know that your Grace purposes to hold a visitation at Newark on the 2nd of May, so that if he does not attend the fault will be his own.’ Leyland had been curate since 1738 and lived at Normanton. Reid allowed him £22 annually. He took the services at Normanton and Marnham, and administered Communion twice at Christmas, twice at Easter, and once at Whitsuntide and Michaelmas.

In 1846 a church restoration under the direction of the Stamford architect, Edward Browning, took place. A heavy roof was built over the chancel and most of the church furniture was replaced. A doorway in the south wall of the chancel was also constructed, in addition to a porch with a single ridge cross featuring an entrance with slim columns and moulded capitals supporting a moulded arch with a hood mould. It was remarked with regret in a report for the Associated Architectural and Archaeological Societies in 1896 that the unnecessarily large corbels constructed during the restoration were arranged to cut into the mouldings of the ‘very beautiful arches’ on the north side of the church. The church also contains several monuments dating to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the oldest being a monument to Edmund Nicholson (mentioned above for having left £12 for annual distribution amongst the poor of the parish) located in the south aisle wall and dating to 1693.

In 1851, the religious census recorded that Marnham parish covered an area of 2,380 acres and the total population of the parish was 240. The church was endowed with tithes valued at £261 and glebe valued at £129. The capacity of the church was 171, with 48 parishioners attending general congregation in the morning, and 85 attending in the afternoon, in addition 25 Sunday scholars in the morning, and 24 in the afternoon.

Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church on 23 April 1874, and recorded that it was ‘a nice village church in good order, comprising a clerestoried nave with aisles, chancel with north aisle, western tower and south porch. The latter is new and the church has generally been fairly restored.’ 

In the Southwell Diocesan Magazine, it was reported in 1896 that on 30 January a ‘most interesting service’ was held for the dedication of the new church clock which had been provided as a gift from Miss F. Curst. During the service, which has held before an ‘attentive and interested congregation’ the bishop of Derby led a procession to the tower where the bishop cut the cord attached to the pendulum, thereby starting the clock. A silence was kept for a minute until the clock struck three and thereafter, it was reported, the bishop gave an ‘earnest, practical address eminently suitable to the event’ taking for his text Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Low Marnham St Wilfrid was visited by Bishop Edwyn Hoskyns on 13 May 1911. The vicar at this time was the Rev. J. A. Williams, and the population of the parish amounted to 223 with the capacity of the church being 230. There were 23 children enrolled in the church day school, and 18 enrolled in Sunday School. In the previous year there had been 13 confirmations, and no baptisms in the church.

In 1981 the church was closed, having fallen into a serious state of disrepair.

It was reported in the Newark Advertiser on 3 April that more than £50,000 was needed to restore the building, and the Ven. David Leaning, archdeacon of Newark, commented that ‘Marnham is only a tiny place so it is obviously out of the question to ask villagers to foot the bill,’ adding ‘It will be up to the diocese to decide what to do.’

The church has remained redundant and is maintained by The Churches Conservation Trust.