All Hallows


In Saxon times Ordsall contained four small manors, held by Oswaed, Turstaun, O’deric, and Thurstan making up about 80 acres. At the Norman Conquest Ordsall was granted to Roger de Busli who built and lived at Tickhill castle until his death in 1108. He came from the area around Rouen and came to England from Normandy with William the Conquerer. At this time Ordshale, had developed into a progressive parish. It partly belonged to the Royal manor of Bothamsall and part to the Royal manor of Dunham. It consisted of meadows and woodlands and was marshy due to the recurrent overflowing of the Idell (River Idle). The parish boundary stretched for eight miles. In 1085 the land was worth 24s. to the Lord of the Manor. There is no mention of a church in Ordshale in Domesday Book and there is no evidence of Norman building visible in the church today.

The first recorded rector is William de Bliburg in 1277. John Helwys who acquired the living of Ordsall in 1506 was a member of the family (sometimes called Elwes) which became prominent in the Pilgrim Father movement a century later.

In 1291 the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV valued the the church annually at 30 marks (£20). Ten years later, in 1301, the patronage was recorded as being secular, in the hands of Sir Hugh de Hercy. In April the following year, Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge instructed the dean of Retford to relax the sequestration of the fruits of the church as Eustace, vicar of Rotherham, had paid security for 10 marks to William de Naulton, the archbishop's chamberlain (camerario domini). At the same time, the parish chaplain is named as 'William' (capellanus parochialis de Ordesale).

In December 1318 Archbishop William Melton granted then rector, Acard de Longo Prato, leave of absence for one year and the church to be demised to an 'ecclesiastic of the diocese', though to whom this was leased we have no record.

In March 1333 letters were written by the official of the court of York about a dispute between Gerard de Ceyzériat, former canon and prebendary of Eaton and Thomas of Burton, then rector of Ordsall, continued before the court by John of Barnby, now prebendary of Eaton and Laurence de Hercy, now rector of Ordsall. The letters recite the reasons for the original dispute, which arose from competing claims to tithes raised on various lands, and for the resumption of the case between Barnby and Hercy, now issuing a definitive sentence condemning Hercy to restore to Barnby half the tithes which had been unjustly raised.

Strangely, Ordsall does not appear in the Nonae Rolls, a taxation of the ninths in 1341, however it is recorded in the 1428 subsidy under Henry IV, where it is taxed at 40s. (i.e. 10% of £20, so the same value as in 1291).

On 2 July 1409, Archbishop Henry Bowet made a visitation to Ordsall church, along with the churches in the surrounding villages, and on 12 May 1441 Cardinal John Kemp's commissaries did the same.

During the early stages of the Reformation in 1535 trouble arose when the rector, Robert Neville, refused the Easter sacrament to Thomas and Richard Denman unless they 'paid Peter’s pence to the Bysshope of Roma'. These payments had been unlawful since 1333, so the Denmans appealed, and this was heard in the Star Chamber although no decision appears to have been recorded. There was further trouble for the parishioners in 1605 when a group of them had to answer to the ecclesiastical court for listening to John Robinson of Sturton, the future pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, instead of attending the parish church. Stephen Coe, vicar from 1589 had to answer several charges, the most serious of which was that of simony. He denied that he had paid money to procure the living and after the hearing the charge was dismissed.

In 1598 the churchwardens and swornmen presented that their Psalter was stolen 'and they crave time to buy another until Whitsunday; the church window was broken and they have a workman about to mend it'. At the same time they also presented one Francis Denman for refusing to pay the parish clerk his wages. In July 1604 the churchwardens accused several parishioners of not paying their dues towards the casting of a bell; this pre-dates any bells that are currently in the tower.

The population steadily increased. It was recorded that in 1676, 150 adults were living in the village which included the hamlet of Thrumpton.

In the Visitation returns of Archbishop Drummond in 1764 the rector was Thomas Cockshutt who reported that there were 47 familes in the parish, only one of which were dissenters: Quakers; there were about 80 communicants. There was a school but not endowed and teaching was performed by the parish clerk; Cockshutt stated that 'they are instructed in the principles of the Christian relgion and come well to church'.

By 1831 there were 809 inhabitants, in old and irregular houses. The roads were hollow and in some places dangerous. The growth of the population was boosted by the coming of the railways – the Great Northern and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln lines both came through Retford and two stations were built within the parish. By 1921 the census population stood at 5,960 with more than 1,500 houses.

In 1935 Ordsall was described as “an ancient parish which includes the hamlets of Thrumpton and Whitehouses. It also contains Westfield, South Retford, and Newtown and became part of the borough of East Retford in 1878.”

Parish Church

Bowl of an old font

The bowl of an old font can be seen in the churchyard close to the south porch. During the restoration of the church in 1877 an historian is stated to have seen mural paintings from the Norman period and when the Mayor of Retford opened a fundraising bazaar in March 1877 said “The present church at Ordsall was the third which they were able to trace. The first church was founded by the Norman owners of Grove about the early part of the 11th century, and fragments of the font of this Norman church were found in pulling down a wall a few weeks ago. The church was probably destroyed by fire, as many of the old stones were calcined. The Church is spoken of in the “Black Book” of York Cathedral as dedicated to “All Hallows”. The second church of which three columns remains, is the date of King John. The third – and present – is the date of Henry the Seventh only, but is in a lamentable state of decay. It was badly built from the first. This report appeared in the Retford Times of 7th April 1877. Indeed, the plaque on the south west pillar refers to the re-opening of the Church on 31st October 1877 and its narrative states “Founded in Norman Times”.

What remains of the rood screen, which dates from the 15th century, has been moved several times and currently stands between the nave and the chancel. It had been moved and placed in front of the gallery at the west end of the church in 1831 at a time when the church was refitted. In 1877 at the restoration of the church, it was returned to the chancel step. However, in 1881 Mr Newbold, who gave the east window in memory of his blind uncle, felt that the screen obscured the new window and collected money for its removal. So for the second time the screen was moved to the west end in front of the singer’s loft. In 1937 it was moved back to the chancel step as a temporary measure pending it being mounted on a step and fitted between the pillars, the south pillar was leaning at the time. The screen was fully restored in 1939. It was stained black through paint stain, whitewash, dust and damp mould and took one man three weeks to clean. It was also repaired – missing pieces being replaced. There had been some restoration in 1877, but deal had been used instead of oak. The restoration involved making one pillar and three new panels. Three of the old panels were found in St Alban’s Hall – they had been used to make a pulpit some years previously. The new panels were affected by woodworm in 1954, this followed the renovations to the tower woodwork which had been necessary two years earlier.

The tower was badly damaged by lightening in 1823 and despite some repair by 1831 it was reported that the church was in a dilapidated state. It was closed for ten Sundays and re-opened on Sunday, 21 August. At this time it was re-pewed and thoroughly repaired, a new pulpit was made out of the carved oak of the old pews. The work was carried out by Mr Thomas Hooson of Retford. However, less than 40 years later this refurbishment was found to fall short of requirements. In 1877 the church was further restored and enlarged. The population had increased largely due to the coming of the railway, many of the railwaymen living within the parish. The 1877 restoration included re-seating - the doors of the 1831 pews were used to panel the roof of the nave. Parts of north and south aisle walls including the south porch were knocked down and re-built, making the church 12ft. wider. Other work included new roofs to north and south aisles and porch, restoring the nave roof, restoring defective piers and the arch on the south side of the nave, surrounds of various windows, generally restoring defective masonry, iron and woodwork, the provision of choir stalls and organ, rebuilding and repair of the first storey of the tower including fresh pinnacles and gargoyles. The top of the tower was taken down and each stone marked so that it could go back in the same place. It was accepted that certain monuments, tablets and tombstones and coffins would have to be moved, the intention being to replace them as near as possible to their original position. As the architect wanted to put a big window in the east end, the roof of the chancel had to be raised, so it is higher and of a different pitch to the Nave. Permission was given to sell any surplus materials to defray against the cost. The architect for this work was Messrs T. C. Hine of Nottingham, the work was carried out by Mr John Wilson of Retford, the painting by Mr George Hopkinson and the glaziers were Messrs Tallents, Retford. Total cost which was raised by subscription and other fund-raising events was about £3,000. The cost of repairs in the chancel of £400 was defrayed by the Rector, Samuel Kelson Stothert. The church was closed for a year and services were held in Thrumpton School.

No provision for heating had been made at the 1877 restoration. Two small coal stoves and two gas stoves were fixed at a later date. By 1900 neither of these options were effective. This issue was still not resolved by 1906. In August that year a faculty to construct an underground chamber under the vestry, approached by a flight of steps outside, was applied for. The new system was then updated in 1937 at the time of the new vestry being built and a new high pressure boiler installed. A ventilation shaft prevented the chamber overheating.

Work began in September 1936 to build a Clergy and Choir vestry with cloakroom as an extension to the existing building. A new doorway was made into the vestry. The money for the clergy vestry was given by Mrs Haigh in memory of her husband. The area that had been used for this purpose became a small side chapel. The new vestry was dedicated on Friday 9th July 1937 by the Archdeacon of Newark, and the side chapel was dedicated at the evening service on 1st November.

The first bell to be installed in the tower dates from 1661, a second was added in 1743. The third was re-cast in 1892 when a further three were added bringing the peel to six bells.

The first electric lighting was provided in the church in August 1932. This consisted of simple pendants, with hidden lights in the chancel similar to those in York and Lincoln.

The four dial clock was added to the tower in 1908 and was electrified in 1976.

Buildings associated with the parish

A parochial hall was built in 1922 at a cost of £1,500 and is still in use today.

As the parish covers such a large geographical area the requirement to serve the needs of those living some distance from the parish church has been resolved by various means across the years. In the late 1870s a mission hall on Albert Road was being used for worship by the congregation of Ordsall parish. An extract from the diary of the late Canon Ebsworth, Vicar of East Retford, 1875 -1907 shows the timeline involved:

June 2nd 1898. The South Retford Mission Room was built by a man named Denman about 35 years ago for the use of Non-Conformists who were not satisfied with the existing chapels. Then the Romanists, who, in their turn got into low water. Next a Syndicate let it to the Rector of Ordsall. It has never done valuable work. Some of the Syndicate have died and the building has to be sold. June 3rd 1898. £200 was offered and the Mission Room now passes into the hands of the Wesleyans. The building was opened as a Catholic Chapel in 1876, but only a few years later it was being used by Ordsall parishioners. In May 1893 the parish magazine reported the need to improve the fittings in the building to make it more like a church and later that year it was reported that baptisms were to be allowed at the mission room. By 1895 it had been acquired by the Weslyan body as a chapel of ease to the Mother Church in Grove Street. Permission was granted for its continued use by the parish to 29th October 1898. The last service held there within the parish was held on 23rd October 1898. It remained in use as a Methodist chapel for many years. The building known as 'The Albert Hall' remains, but having been used by three denominations is now no longer in use.

The intention was then to rent a house being built opposite the cottage hospital so meetings could be held, e.g. Sunday School and Mother’s Union. The need to serve this side of the parish was then addressed by the building of a church of easement on London Road. Built in stages St Alban’s church was finally consecrated in 1913. This church remained part of Ordsall parish having survived a vote to split the parish in 1925. It is the subject of individual research for this project where further details will appear.

Wooden plaque from
the church hall

A further place of worship was built in the Whitehouses area opposite to the entrance of the Allison Estate on Grove Road. The land was given by Mr Clarence Barker in memory of his late wife Charlotte. She had been the leader of the ladies working party from 1944 to 1948. She saw the building completed, but died before the official opening. The hall was to be used for Church services, Sunday school as well as meetings and social activities. The overall cost was in the region of £1,110 although this was reduced following the donation of the land, which was announced at the official opening. Although the hall was in use from April 1948, for the Working Party and Whist Drives, the official opening was delayed until 11th October. It was decided to give the name of St. Mary to the new church hall which had been called the Allison Estate Church Hall during its planning and building stages. The first service held in the hall was the Harvest Festival on 17th October 1948.  It was well attended for many years but due to a fall in numbers worship was reduced to Holy Communion once a month and the last service was held there on 30th January 1977. The hall which had concrete block walls and an asbestos roof was sold in October 1978. The sale notice described the building as having an entrance porch, gents and ladies toilets, church Hall 49’ 6” by 8’ 8” with side windows, altar alcove, concrete floor, two ceiling gas heaters, seven fluorescent light fittings, built in kitchen with glazed sink draining board, electricity meters and serving hatch to hall. The building no longer exists.

The church also had responsibility for the village school. The building stands at the bottom of Church Lane and was built about 1830 by the Hon. J.B. Simpson of Babworth Hall. He also owned a large part of the village. It stands on what may have been part of the village green. It was a low building containing two classrooms and a cloakroom and could accommodate 70 children. The property belonged to the Trustees of the Dennison Estate until 1934 when it was bought for the church and village for £200, the money being raised by villagers and past and present pupils. Twelve poor children were educated free, the rest paying 2d a week. In 1939 foundations were laid for a new school which would no longer be a Church school – by now there were too many children for the old school. The new village school opened on 1st December 1939 when 144 pupils transferred. The old school building was used as a Sunday school. It was renovated in 1970 and continued to be used for this purpose and by various youth groups for many years. It is now a private dwelling.

A school was also built in Thrumpton in 1874 with some financial input from Ordsall charities. The total cost of the build was £2,315. It was in Gothic style, built of brick with stone dressing. Although not a Church School, the building was used by the parishioners and was the location for church services during the year long closure of All Hallows during the 1877 restoration. The building was demolished several years ago and houses built on the site. The Local Authority has provided a new building for the school adjacent to the original site.

Another building controlled by the church was Whitehall Youth Centre. The site covered an area of about one acre, two roods and 6 perches. The deed dated 1st January 1946 showed that the Board of Finance was to hold the property for a period of not less than 20 years to permit the Committee Management 'to use the same for promotion of Social and Moral and Physical Wellbeing of boys and girls primarily between the ages of 14 and 20 of the Parish and District of Ordsall'. The property was conveyed to the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Parochial Council on 23rd February 1945. The money to purchase the property was raised by members of the Parochial Church Council for the purpose of the Youth Fellowship at Ordsall. It was acquired at a cost of £2,000, having been a cottage hospital with a dispensary, a warehouse and offices and latterly a Military Barracks and store. The centre had a chapel dedicated to St George which was opened on 28th November 1947. The chapel had been made by volunteer members from a derelict, disused room, which had formally served as a connecting corridor between the Nurses apartments when Whitehall was a hospital. A 'call to prayers' bell was rung at 9pm each evening on club nights. Attendance was on a voluntary basis and in the twelve months from its opening well over four thousand voluntary attendances at Club Prayers was recorded. The Club Prayer is recorded in a pamphlet called “What is this Whitehall” which was produced for the visit of H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent – 'Our God and Father, we thank you for your promise, that as we gather here, you are in the midst of us, waiting to accept this our offering of worship, and of love. Forgive us O Father, for all our sins, help us to overcome all our faults, make us to love you more, and to serve you more faithfully all our days. Bless all those we love, and keep them safe this night, send peace to this troubled world, and to the hearts of all men everywhere. When the evening comes, and all our work is well done, then Lord in your mercy grant to us that peace, which passes all understanding. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, AMEN'.

The centre remained open until it became financially impossible to continue. It was estimated that in 1974 the building needed £10,000 spent on it to bring into good repair and when the Local Authority grant was withdrawn closure became inevitable. Approval for the disposal was given in December 1977. Outline planning permission had been given for residential development and unconditional listed building consent granted for the demolition of the building. It was sold at auction on 20th January 1978 and the proceeds of £17,325.45 invested for the future maintenance of the two Church Halls, both extensively used for community activities.