Nottingham St Mary

Chantry and Guild Chapels

Chantry Chapels

Rich merchants endowed Chantry Chapels and priests to administer them for redeeming prayers to be said for them and their families in perpetuity after death. They believed it would lessen their time in purgatory. After the Reformation the notion of purgatory was discarded and the chapels lost. St Mary’s Church Chantries are now long gone but were described by earlier writers.

Thoroton mentions a Guild or Fraternity of six priests dedicated to the Holy Trinity and ‘the Chantry of St. Mary, the Chantry of St. James and Amyas Chantry who was a man of value in this Town about Edward III’s time.’ To these must be added the Samon chantry at the altar of St. Laurence, the chapel of St. John the Baptist, the guild altar of St. Katherine and the chapel of St. Luke. There was also at one time a guild and chapel of All Saints. The defaced remains of a carving of an angel in the south transept may indicate the place where one of the altars once stood.

The Chapel or Altar of St Lawrence, and the Amyas Chantry

This was which was founded by William Amyas for the souls of himself, his wife Margery and son John in 1324, stood against the south wall of the south transept. It was granted a further licence in 1341 and the founder’s charter was dated 1339. It named Gervase and William Holbeck as chaplains, and detailed various properties from which income would be derived. Although the Amyas Chantry was founded during the existence of the Norman church, it survived in the present church down to the general chantry dissolution about 1548.

The Samon Chantry

The Samon Chantry was founded by John Samon in 1416 and was in the Chapel of St. Lawrence. John Samon whose tomb is still in the South Transept, and his son Richard left funds to sustain the fees of two chaplains to celebrate mass for their souls and those of their family. It was last mentioned in a document for taxation purposes dated 1503-4.

The Chantry Chapel of Our Lady, or St Mary

This chapel was founded in 1325-6 for prayers for the souls of himself and his wife by Robert Ingram, four times Mayor of Nottingham, stood at the north of the east wall of the south transept. Citizens who asked to be buried near this alter include: Thomas Willoughby founder of almshouses on Malin Hill and Fisher Gate (1525), Hugh Cooke (1481), Brian Clapham (1504), Robert Tolle (1512). Stapleton records a mention of this Chantry in an old and unintelligible folio ‘Calendar of Patent Rolls dated 1321-2 with a further five references until 1344-5 and that the chapel continues to be mentioned until 1535 and that the possessions of the Chantry were granted to the town for the maintenance of Trent Bridge in 1550-1’.

The Chapel of St John the Baptist

This chapel was in the north transept. It is mentioned in the will of John Tannesley and his wife Alice. The will of John Alestre in 1422 referred to ‘the Chapel of Saints, John Baptist, John the Evangelist and Anne’. In the 1466 will of Thomas Whissenden it is known as ‘St John Evangelist.’

The Chantry of St James

In 1677 Thoroton mentioned this chantry but little is known of it. It is believed that the altar was in the building outside the north door of the church. Thoroton has an engraving of the church dated 1677 showing the chapel with windows on the north and west sides. In the early 19th Century Stretton described it as a bone house. He correctly suggested that it was not as old as the church, that as there had been a window on the outside wall it could only have been accessed from the church and that it was probably a private chapel or oratory. It is still part of the church but now much altered.

The Chapel of St Luke

It is suggested that this, where William Shirley Corvyser wished to be buried in 1493, may have been near the north west pier supporting the tower.

Guild Chapels

Medieval citizens were businessmen and craftsmen and the municipal guilds were formed in part to protect the rights and business of their members. There were merchants’ guilds, some dating from the 11th Century, and trade or craftsmen’s guilds. Merchant guilds originally protected the horses, wagons and goods when travelling but grew in ambition and grandeur, with guildhalls, livery and power in the community. Craft guilds were formed by groups of artisans uniting for protection and mutual aid. Skills and standards were protected as members had to serve an apprenticeship. They regulated supply and kept out competition, were a form of mutual insurance and were even known to provide dowries for girls in poor circumstances. Members of the guilds made bequests to them, they became wealthy and powerful, invested in property, built handsome guild halls and had colourful and prestigious uniforms in which they processed through the town. One of the privileges of belonging to a guild was that they had altars with priests to pray for the souls of members.

Nottingham had a wide range of craftsmen in the Middle Ages. There were bakers, potters, tillers, wheelwrights, fullers, dyers, weavers, tanners, alabaster carvers, ironworkers or metal smiths, goldsmiths. Wealthy merchants traded in wool and leather.

The St Mary’s guild chapels were:

The Trinity Guild Chapel

The Guild Chapel of the Holy Trinity was endowed by 15th Century Thomas Thurland “to maintain 2 priests to sing masses for ever”. Thurland was a wealthy wool merchant who built Thurland Hall in 1438, was nine times Mayor of Nottingham and four times elected to Parliament. His tomb dates to 1475. Deering wrote in 1751 that Thurland had founded this guild. However this guild was in existence as early as 1394-5 when it is mentioned in the Borough Records at a time when St Mary’s was in the process of being rebuilt. It was also mentioned in 1423 and 1443 in the wills of Robert Glade and his widow Joan. The earliest bequest to the guild is that of William Bradholme in 1440 and the latest Elizabeth Gellesthrope in 1543. A Guild or Fraternity of six priests, called the Guild of the Holy Trinity, lived in a house, Trinity House on High Pavement facing the south end of St Mary’s Gate. The Fraternity served the Chantries and Guild chapels.

St Katherine’s Guild Chapel

The Guild Chapel of St Katherine was associated with the Tanners Guild and located ‘near the steeple door’ against the south west pier supporting the tower. The Tanners Guild was in Narrow Marsh and the medieval tanneries can still be seen in the Caves of Nottingham under the Broad Marsh Centre. The earliest reference to this guild is in the will of Thomas Thurland (1273-4) who was one of the founders. In 1482 John Herdy bequeathed a pall of gold cloth to the chapel, and other bequests supported chaplains to pray before the altar and for a light to burn before the image of St Katherine; there were little organs and a choir which sang above in the loft. On St Catherine’s Day the Corporation of the Tanners assembled at nine o’clock to make their offering.

The All Saints’ Guild Chapel

The Guild chapel of St John the Baptist, St John the Evangelist and St Anne was in the north transept where there is now the Jacobean altar, and in 1431 Nottingham Merchant John Allestre willed to be buried there. This area was also home to the Chapel of All Saints. In 1375-6 John Croshaw and Robert Baxter were collectors for the Guild. In 1403 Alice, wife of John Plumptre, willed to be buried in this chapel. Deering states that Henry Plumptre purchased property and land on the north side of St Mary’s churchyard in 1507-8 during the reign of Henry VII. Belonging to this property, which became the home of the Plumptre family was the grant of a ‘chapel or oratory’ for the family to ‘hear divine service, pray and bury in’, and that this was confirmed to the Plumptre family in 1632 by Richard, Archbishop of York. The family continued to use this chapel until they left Nottingham in the 19th Century.

The Rood Loft and Screen

Completing the division of the nave from the area containing the above chapels was a large rood loft and screen across the nave at the point of the two west piers which support the tower.

The earliest reference to the rood loft is in 1467. In that year Henry Bewfray, by his will left ‘1 lb. of wax for the common light before the crucifix on the rood-screen,’ and ten years later John Hurte, vicar of St Mary’s, desired ‘to be buried within the chancel under the rood-loft at the quire step.’ There are two bequests in 1504 for gilding the ‘rode loft,’ and in 1512 Robert Tolle gave 5s. to pay for the “newly bought cross” which presumably refers to the rood; and the same testator also directed his executors, out of his goods to make two images - no doubt St Mary and St John - about the crucifix in the rood-loft. From these last bequests it would seem as if a new screen was erected at the beginning of the 16th Century, and was completed in 1512 by the great rood and attendant figures. The rood was still in existence in the last year of the reign of Queen Mary (1555-58).