St Peter and St Paul


Early times

There is no information about the structure and contents of the church recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086. In a taxation roll of 1291 its annual value was given as £16, and by 1310-11 it was under the control of the Augustinian priory at Shelford, founded in the 12th century. Even before this occurred, the prior and brethren seem to have made use of the village church. For example, in 1293, after it had been ‘polluted by the shedding of blood’, they were forbidden to administer divine offices there until it had been ‘reconciled’.

The church tower

Architectural historians have identified early structural aspects of today’s building: the nave arcade from the Early English period (late twelfth and thirteenth centuries), the aisles and some window tracery from the fourteenth century and the clerestory from the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. The tower, formerly with eight pinnacles, is from the late fifteenth century. At least one bell which survives today is earlier than the present tower, as it was probably cast in the fourteenth century. A tenor bell, cast by the Mellors family of Nottingham about 1510, is also still in the tower. Other early features - an aumbry, three sedilia and a piscina in the chancel - survived until 1877.

After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, patronage of the church came into the hands of the Stanhope family, subsequently Earls of Chesterfield, when they acquired the priory and its properties in 1537. In 1552, during the extreme Protestantism of Edward VI’s reign, the churchwardens were required to draw up an inventory of the goods and ornaments belonging to St Peter and St Paul - with confiscation a possibility. The main items were a chalice and paten of silver and gilt, and a latten pyx (a vessel of bronze-like metal in which consecrated bread was preserved). The wardens were at pains to point out that this last item was not ‘gilt’. Other goods included a pair of censers, two latten candlesticks, a holy water stock, and three crosses (one of copper gilt and two of wood covered in latten). A number of vestments were listed: two copes, one of green satin and the other red and black: four vestments - two red, one white and one of damask velvet. By now there were four bells in the tower, as well as two hand bells and a sanctus bell. The remaining items were altar cloths and towels (three of each), two ‘corporasses’ (communion cloths) and a surplice.

It is from the Elizabethan era that information about Shelford church becomes more plentiful. Parish registers (copied up in 1600) survive from 1563. Archdeaconry court records of 1565 show that the churchwardens had failed to repair ‘the glass windows of their church’. In the following year Thomas Stanhope used the court’s authority to suppress a chapel at Newton, forcing worshippers to attend Shelford church and contribute to its repairs. Morality was a major concern. In May 1596 one couple was before the court for fornication, as was a husband ‘for not living together with his married wife’.

The old porch,
replaced in 1877

It was in Elizabethan times, too, that a new south-west gabled porch was built. The date, variously given as 1578 or 1587, was recorded on the gable on a lozenge-shaped tablet beneath an angel supporting a plain shield and corbel. (This porch was replaced about 1877, after which the angel and shield were built high into the north arcade wall of the nave at its west end.) With the death of Lady Anne Stanhope early in 1588, the church acquired her tomb and effigy, the work of Gabriel Royle, and an ‘epitaph’ to her husband and family, still in the church today. A barely legible memorial stone to her mother, Beatrice Rawson who died in 1555, has also survived. All are noted by Thoroton in the seventeenth century. Another addition was a new bell, cast by Henry II Oldfield in 1592. (In the twentieth century this bell was exchanged for one in Widmerpool church.)

The archdeaconry court retained its authority in the seventeenth century up to the time of the Civil War, and from this period the names of many of the clergy are recorded. Although the living was ‘a perpetual curacy’, they were often referred to as vicars. In 1611, the recently-appointed curate, William Dracot, was let off with a warning from the church court for solemnising a marriage after banns had been called only twice. Mr Lawe, his successor in 1612, also conducted an irregular marriage, this time between a groom who had failed to obtain a dispensation and a bride not from Shelford. The couple were consequently excommunicated. In 1614 the churchwardens presented William Revill for committing fornication with a woman from Whatton. Shelford at this time was nevertheless a conforming community. In the same year, the officials reported that there were neither recusants nor non-communicants amongst the 254 communicants in the whole parish. When the churchyard wall needed repairing in April 1620, the churchwardens asked the court to give them until Whitsuntide to get the work done. Between 1621 and 1625 four more cases of fornication are recorded, probably the most common matter to come before the court in this period.

In the 1630s the religious policy of Charles I and Archbishop Laud, with its emphasis on ceremony and order in churches, aroused unjustified suspicion of their Catholic sympathies. Shelford escaped comparatively lightly from the rigours of Laudianism, despite lacking a communion rail in 1637. In the following year William Evatt, the curate, reported his churchwardens to the authorities ‘for omitting to present the want of good seats in the church and the want of a flagon for the communion’. The wardens were excommunicated until they had acknowledged their fault and paid 8s 10d in fees. The seats were still not boarded by Michaelmas 1638, but the churchwardens failed to carry out the court’s orders or put in an appearance before the authorities. The churchwardens may not have paid for any repairs in that year, but sums were spent on the church at other times in the 1630s: £8 in 1636, £13 13s 4d in 1637 and £3 in 1639.

As opposition to Laudian policies grew, Ralph Browne, the incumbent from 1640, had to cope with the breakdown of religious authority. The archdeaconry courts could no longer function. Parliament abolished bishops, eventually executing Archbishop Laud, and in 1642 all men over the age of 18 were required to sign the ‘Protestation’, affirming their support for the Protestant religion and the King in Parliament. Ralph Browne, along with the parish officers, presided over the administration of the oath and the signing of names or making of marks, probably in the church. Ninety-five adult males are recorded on the list, some of whom could have come from Saxondale and Newton. It was noted: ‘We have not any in our parish that doth refuse to take it.’

From Civil War to Restoration

When civil war broke out in 1642 the Stanhopes sided with the king, and this inevitably affected Shelford parishioners. On 3 November 1645 the Parliamentarian forces, commanded by General Sydenham Poyntz, took the garrison at Shelford House held by Philip Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield’s son. Prior to the assault on the house a Royalist detachment (led by a woman), positioned in the church tower, fired on Roundhead troops. They refused to come down despite warnings that no quarter would be given if they did not. One of the Parliamentarian officers, Colonel John Hutchinson, sent for straw, set light to it and smoked out the defenders. Smoke damage could still be seen in Victorian times, and today the wall at the base of the tower staircase is darker than higher up - possibly the legacy of this event. Within the body of the church there was damage to Lady Anne Stanhope’s monument and the font, which had to be replaced in 1662 after the Restoration. Philip Stanhope died from wounds received in the seige and much of the Stanhopes’ house was destroyed in a fire.*

Without bishops to require copies of parish registers or archdeaconry courts to impose religious discipline, Shelford’s record-keeping lapsed until the main fighting was over. After the execution of the king, Parliamentary commissioners recorded the value of each living. Robert Heath was the incumbent when they reported on Shelford In 1650. The living, sequestered from Philip, Earl of Chesterfield, was worth £130 a year, out of which Robert Heath, ‘an able preacher’, was to have about £80 a year. The remainder supplemented the income of the minister at Arnold. Magistrates took over the role of the archdeaconry courts in the 1650s, ordering Shelford parishioners to pay £3 2s for repairs to the church. When the Barebones Parliament of 1653 allowed magistrates to solemnise marriages, officials known as ‘Parish Registers’ - elected by all ratepayers and sworn in by a magistrate - were put in charge of the church records. John Alred took up this post for Shelford on 4 March 1654.

After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, bishops were reinstated and the local church courts resumed their disciplinary sittings. A legacy of the upheavals of the previous two decades led to four couples, one wife and one daughter being presented to the court in October 1663 for not coming to church, and three fathers for not bringing their children to be baptised. Robert Heath - doubtless with his income reduced to the modest amount paid by the patron - stayed on as curate at Shelford until 1667, occasionally helping out at nearby Radcliffe-on-Trent. It was probably in this period that the memorial tablet to Katherine Hastings, first wife of the first Earl of Chesterfield, was placed in the church by Arthur, the youngest of her eleven sons.

Joseph Hawkins 1668-1711

After a brief interim under Mr Ouslay, the Shelford living was held for over forty-two years by Joseph Hawkins from 1668. His incumbency was not without incident. In 1673 he was obliged to bring a defamation case against George Miller’s wife for calling him ‘the arrantast whoremaster in a Country or County’. Like many impoverished clergy of the period, Hawkins improved his financial position by pluralism, being vicar of Radcliffe from 1667 to 1671 and again from 1699 to 1710. He was also curate of Kneeton for at least twenty-two years from 1672, before exchanging it for Burton Joyce. In 1676, during a period of fierce Anglicanism, the authorities ordered a religious census. This revealed that in Shelford there were now 171 communicants. There were no Catholics, but fourteen dissenters. Later in Charles II’s reign and in James II’s time the names of seven parishioners from Shelford, Newton and Saxondale appear in the magistrates’ records for being absent from church for a month. Three were probably Quakers, for in 1689 under the new Toleration Act they were allowed to affirm rather than take the oath of Supremacy and Abjuration on the accession of William and Mary. Hawkins’ own conformity had been mildly challenged in 1684 when both Shelford and Kneeton reported him to the archdeaconry court for failing to read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays.

In 1677, Shelford acquired (or probably refurbished) its church crypt through the influence of Sir William Stanhope who served as agent to the absentee Earl of Chesterfield. It ran under the south aisle, with an entrance from the churchyard which was blocked up two hundred years later. A one-fingered clock, made by Robert Roe of Epperstone, was bought in 1680. After the opening of Sir William Stanhope’s almshouses in 1694, there were additional duties for the curate who had to say prayers in the almsmen’s chapel. A new bell, in the key of C sharp, was also provided by Sir William in 1702. Around this time, too, a new timber bell frame was installed which would last for more than two hundred years.

During Joseph Hawkins’ ministry some thirty families supplied members who served as churchwardens, suggesting an open rather than an elitist community. After his death in 1711 he was followed as curate by Edward Hawkins, perhaps a relative, from about 1712 to 1716. The latter had his own curate, William Vardin, to assist him. In February 1715 the minister’s main income was £40 a year from the Earl of Chesterfield. There was also £5 a year from Sir William Stanhope’s will and another £2 left by Sir William to be paid out of William Chaworth’s property in Annesley. For a burial he was paid 6d and for a churching 7d. The Easter dues were 2d a head in Shelford and three halfpence ‘for a chimney of the buildings’.

From 1717 to 1725 Thomas Price was in charge. During his first year the royal arms, ‘flamingly painted’, were added to a screen dividing the body of the church from the chancel. The artist was Charles Blunt and his work was still there when Matthew Barker visited the church in 1835. In 1718, the church was in need of considerable attention. The windows of both the main part and chancel needed mending. The main ‘out walls’ had to be repaired by ‘drawing them over with lime and hair and fastening ye stones that are loose and stopping ye holes where wanting’. Similar treatment was needed in the chancel which was also to be whitewashed all over. The Bible was ‘bad’. Four years later there were still problems. The church and chancel walls needed repointing, the churchyard fence had to be repaired, as did the roof and leads. The north door had to be replaced and a new folio Book of Common Prayer was required.

Gabriel Wayne 1726 to 1771

The dominant incumbent of the eighteenth century was Gabriel Wayne. Educated at Repton and Oxford, he became curate of Shelford and Hawton in 1726, curate of Radcliffe-on-Trent in 1735 and vicar there in 1740. In December 1729 he drew up a ‘schedule’ of the books, vestments and vessels in Shelford church. The defective Bible of Thomas Price’s time had been replaced by ‘a large folio bible of the newest translation’. In addition there were two common prayer books, a parchment register and a Book of Homilies. The vestments consisted of a surplice, a carpet for the communion table, a linen cloth to cover the elements, a cushion for the pulpit and a hearse cloth. There were four vessels: a flagon, a chalice, a paten and a basin for the offertory.

Gabriel Wayne chose to live in Shelford where there was ‘a much better house than in Radcliffe’. In February 1743 three of his children died in one week. When, later that year, he was required to respond to a set of questions from Archbishop Herring, he begged to be excused from catechising children as the duty ‘put me too much in mind of my loss’. Shelford’s religious profile was outlined in the rest of the replies. There were 57 families in the parish and only one man was nonconformist - a significant reduction from Joseph Hawkins’ time. He knew of no church attender who was not baptised or confirmed. He held services once each Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Holy Days (taking services in Radcliffe the other part of these days). Communion services were held seven times a year, about 80 people taking the sacrament at Easter.

In 1764, Archbishop Drummond required answers to a similar set of questions. By then there were 66 families in the parish, and again only one nonconformist - a woman who nevertheless came ‘frequently to church’. Gabriel Wayne still preached at both Shelford and Radcliffe each Sunday and said prayers on other days as required. All were baptised or confirmed and he now catechised during Lent, and sometimes between Easter and Whitsuntide - frequently explaining the catechism from the pulpit for the benefit of young and old alike. Unless he was ill he still administered the sacrament seven times a year. Overall there were some 140 communicants, about half receiving several times a year and about that number at Easter. He also read prayers to the almsmen twice a week, preferring to do this in church so that others could attend, rather than in the chapel of Sir William Stanhope’s almshouses.

Gabriel Wayne’s main income in 1764 remained much as it had been in Edward Hawkins’ time: £40 from the Earl of Chesterfield and £2 out of Annesley both paid in two halves on Lady Day and Michaelmas. Sir William Stanhope’s annual legacy, however, had been reduced by £1 to £4 a year, paid by the governors of the almshouses, for Wayne’s reading of prayers to the almsmen. The vicar’s Easter dues were more precisely given as two pence for every communicant and three halfpence for every house in Shelford. His fees, not specified in 1715, were 2s 6d for a wedding, 5s by licence and 1s for publishing banns. The burial and churching fees remained at 6d and 7d respectively. By this time the parish clerk was also receiving payments: £2 a year from the parish officials, 13s 4d out of Annesley, 2s for a licensed wedding, 1s 2d for a burial, 4d for a christening. From each Saxondale household he could collect a groat (4d), and from Newton he received about 10s a year.

In Gabriel Wayne’s time routine care was taken of the church windows and leads when in 1731 a twelve-year contract for their regular maintenance was made with Thomas Skinner, a Nottingham plumber, at 40 shillings a year. A further bell, in the key of G sharp, was cast in 1754 by Thomas Hedderly of Nottingham. As well as the maker’s name, it bore the names of the churchwardens. The number of families holding the office of churchwarden had fallen to little more than half the number who participated in Joseph Hawkins’ time, despite an increase in the number of families and Gabriel Wayne’s slightly longer incumbency, suggesting that a narrower parish élite was now involved in church administration.

Gabriel Wayne died in August 1771 aged 73. He is commemorated in Shelford church, along with his wife who died in 1785 and three children who lived to maturity, on a tablet in the south aisle, and by a memorial floor stone marking the place of his burial.

The Methodist challenge

On the face of it, parish matters continued much as usual over the next decades. According to William Walker’s nineteenth century jottings, the church acquired a new ‘singing loft’ in 1774. The 1809 terrier, drawn up towards the end of Thomas Bigsby’s twenty-eight years as minister, confirms that he lived in the same ‘parsonage house’, with the same glebe land, income and fees as in Gabriel Wayne’s time. Even his inventory of church goods, while including the clock and five bells, showed few additions from those listed by Wayne in 1729. It was from Thomas Bigsby’s time, however, that the modest nonconformity of Joseph Hawkins and Gabriel Wayne’s incumbencies began its rapid acceleration.

In April 1793 nine members of a dissenting group are recorded. By this time John and Charles Wesley had established their own kind of Protestantism which spoke directly to the people. An early Wesleyan society at Shelford is referred to in contemporary writings and the village appears on a circuit plan for 1826. When large outdoor meetings were abandoned by Wesleyan leaders, small groups of ‘Primitive Methodists’ were formed who wished to return to the spirit of John Wesley’s evangelism. A group was established in Shelford by the beginning of 1817. The Earl of Chesterfield’s agent opposed the movement, demolishing cottages where the Primitive meetings were held. The Wesleyans were threatened with similar treatment but were still in existence in 1851 when a religious census was taken. By then, in the time of a more tolerant agent, they were meeting in the church Sunday School room with an evening attendance of 51 and 93 Sunday scholars.

In the meantime, unable to buy land for a chapel, the Primitive Methodists initially purchased a ‘floating chapel’, brought it down the Trent and drew it into a garden. In 1840, however, some land became available and a permanent chapel was built capable of seating 122. Attendance at the time of the 1851 census was recorded as 45 in the afternoon and 100 in the evening. Another Primitive Methodist chapel was opened at Newton in 1844. Its attendance figures do not appear in the census, but Saxondale’s are recorded as 25. The reaction of the various Anglican clergy to the Methodists during this period is not known but it is clear that the established church was facing considerable competition. The Anglican census return in 1851 showed that 65 of the general congregation and 80 Sunday scholars attended in the morning, the only service of the day. As the total population of Shelford township was recorded as 645 at this time, 314 females and 331 males, this congregation did not reflect the size of the community. Collectively, Methodist attenders approximately matched those of the established church. As Shelford’s population declined over the next twenty years - down to 510 by 1871 - it was estimated that by 1879 the 281 and 265 sittings in the established church and the Methodist chapels respectively would be 41 more than was required.

Church and clergy c1810-1877

From Thomas Bigsby’s time it had become almost routine for assistant curates to be employed. James Hewes, Bigsby’s original curate, was followed by John Davenport, vicar of Radcliffe, from 1810 to 1811. In the following year Davenport took complete control until his death in 1827, assisted by Edward Palling and John Rolleston in his final two years. It was during Davenport’s curacy that the value of the Shelford living at last improved. In his terrier of 1825 he recorded that in addition to the standard payments from the Earl of Chesterfield and Annesley there was £10 a year interest from sums of £200 and £300 administered by by the governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty. By 1840 these sums had been invested in 5 acres of grass land at Woodborough, bringing in £16 annually, although the incumbent still seems to have received only £10 interest.

For twenty-five years after Davenport’s death, John Rolleston was in charge of Shelford. From a distinguished Nottinghamshire family, he was married to a niece of the Earl of Chesterfield. In 1831, the Rev Robert Simpson assessed the Shelford living of Rolleston’s early years. He noted that the church could accommodate 500 (surely an exaggeration) and served a population of 704 (including Saxondale). The vicarage, however, was ‘unfit for residence’. Averaged over three years, the gross value of the living was assessed at its improved rate of £60. Rolleston was particularly fortunate as he was also vicar of Burton Joyce which, according to Simpson, was worth £145. As the glebehouse there was also unfit for residence, he was provided with a rent-free house by the Earl of Chesterfield. It was Rolleston who signed the religious census return of 1851.

In 1854 Thomas Hassall, a son of the Stanhopes’ agent, was appointed to the living, followed, in 1857, by Henry Alexander. The latter was often away as he was also a naval chaplain, so a series of assistant curates were, in effect, often in complete charge of the parish, only to be followed by three short-stay incumbents up to 1882.

Between the incumbency of Thomas Bigsby and the arrival of Edward Morse in 1882, some further information can be gleaned about the nineteenth century living. The trend towards a narrow élite of families who became churchwardens continued between 1810 and 1849, after which records are less accessible. Ten families served, but three dominated, serving fourteen, nineteen and twenty-seven times each. John Fisher was parish clerk from 1826 until his death in 1867. By 1858 his salary was raised to £7 a year. The value of the living had risen dramatically to £157 by 1880.

Drawing of the church
in the early 19th Century

An impression of the church in 1818 is provided by the critical architect William Stretton. He referred to the faced stone of the building, its nave and two side aisles (leaded but originally shingled) open to the wood framing of the roof, with shields on the intersections. He recognised the ‘great beauty and variety as well as antiquity’ of the windows of the side aisles, which were all different. Octagon pillars, two feet in diameter, supported three chamfered pointed arches on each side, over which were the seven clerestory windows. He acknowledged that the leaded tower tower of Henry VII’s time was ‘very good and noble’. In describing the Elizabethan south porch he claimed there was evidence of an even earlier porch with a shingled roof. Near the porch he saw the floorstone recording the death of Gabriel Wayne, and noted the Gothic arch of the small north door. Although many of the old stalls remained, Stretton regretted that a large part of the church had been recently and very irregularly pewed by people who held seats at their own expense. There was an old oak pulpit and desk, and the painted arms from George I’s time remained. In the south-east angle or end of the south aisle there had been an oratory with a large east window ‘now modernised with a bad oak transom window frame’. The floor was principally of brick. The chancel, leaded but once shingled, was open to the timbers and still contained the tombs and monuments mentioned by Thoroton as well as three memorials to members of the Stanhope family who died between 1712 and 1800. A plain oak table was also in the chancel. The aumbry and the piscina still survived, but the latter had been bricked up. The north and south sides of the chancel had six lancet windows which gave light, another lancet which was walled up, and an eighth window of three lights at the south end of the altar. The east window itself had been ‘gutted and modernised’ and was ‘plain, unmeaning and disgraceful’. The Stanhope vault with its 1677 date contained nineteen coffins. Stretton also noted the five bells in the tower, adding: ‘to which is one of the worst staircases in the county, quite dangerous to ascend’.

Despite Stretton’s criticisms, an impression emerges from other sources of an active church and concerned community. The feats of an enthusiastic bell-ringing team of five, one for each bell, are recorded in the notebook of local ringer John Wakefield in the earlier part of the century. Matthew Barker, who visited the church in 1835, noted the small organ and a gallery for singers, but also saw the dilapidated state of the back seats. In the chancel were five hatchments: West impaling Stanhope; Stanhope impaling Thistlethwaite; Stanhope, a bachelor’s coat; and two of Stanhope impaling Thynne with supporters. Barker saw that there had been others, but only the iron supporters then survived. All had disappeared by the time Godfrey visited the church in 1885. The old clock of 1680 was newly faced in 1837. The church stove was attended to in December 1839. References to painting a sundial appear in 1841 and 1842. A communion table was delivered in 1857 and an altarpiece in the following year. The arrival of a new organ in 1860 was recorded by parishioner William Walker. Extensive unspecified repairs in 1864 cost £22 2s, and in the following year just over £5 10s was spent on cleaning and colouring the inside of the church. The clock was repaired by William Walker in Easter week 1861, and further colouring of the church in 1871 came to £9 15s.

The end of the old ‘vicarage’

The earliest known reference to the ‘vicarage’ situated behind the church dates from February 1715 when it was simply described as a ‘house and outhouses containing four bays’. In 1743 Gabriel Wayne, minister of both Shelford and Radcliffe, reported that he had chosen to live in Shelford because the house there was much the better. It consisted of a hall, kitchen, pantry, drawing room, parlour, six little chambers (presumably upstairs) and a cellar. Outside were a brew house, stable and garden house, ‘all in good repair’. A garden, a house yard and over an acre of land known as Pear Tree Close, as well as the churchyard made up his glebe. In 1748 and 1759 Wayne again depicted a comfortable residence. He gave more details in 1764 when he described the house as having walls of brick and plaster, and a roof of part thatch and part tiles. Of the four ground floor rooms, two were floored with boards, one with plaster and the other with brick. The six little chambers he now described as ‘garrets’. In 1770 they had become four rooms and a chamber. His half-acre garden had well-fenced walls, palisades and good hedges.

In his 1809 terrier Thomas Bigsby largely confirmed the earlier descriptions, while recording that the upper floor now had one large chamber with a boarded floor and five small ones with plaster floors. He also gave the dimensions of the outhouses: the stable 18 feet 6 inches long, 9 feet wide, 5 feet 6 inches to the height of the walls, partly used for brewing and baking; a coal house 6 feet long, 8 feet 10 inches wide, 5 feet 6 inches high. John Davenport, vicar of Radcliffe, and John Rolleston, vicar of Burton Joyce, were the next two Shelford incumbents. Neither added any new information in the terriers of 1817, 1825 and 1840, but as pluralists they had no need to use the Shelford house, leaving it empty and neglected. This explains why in 1831 the Rev Robert Simpson described it as ‘unfit for residence’.

From correspondence in 1875 about ‘dilapidations’ (sums charged by the church authorities against incumbents for wear and tear during tenancies), the general fate of this building is revealed. According to Thomas Hassall, incumbent from about 1853 to 1856, “there was an old thatched house standing behind the church, occupied by two or three different families before my incumbency which for years had been unfit for the habitation of human beings...”

Hassall denied that he had ever occupied this ‘very old building in a ruinous state’ with a small kitchen garden and a garden of 3 roods and 9 perches. It had been given to Lord Chesterfield in exchange for a house, outbuildings and garden on the opposite side of the road to the church with a small field adjoining of 1 acre, 1 rood and 30 perches. This building Hassall regarded as the Glebe House. According to Miss Mee’s village notes, Hassall’s residence was in fact Beech Farm, opposite the church as he said, which had been greatly extended by his father, the Earl of Chesterfield’s agent. Whatever the name of his more comfortable accommodation, Hassall felt the transaction had been legally carried out and that no question of dilapidations could possibly arise ‘for the almost roofless tumbledown house’ which he inaccurately thought had not been occupied by any incumbent for the best part of a century. The old house was probably demolished about 1857, just after the end of Hassall’s incumbency.

The controversy, bedevilled by denials and confusion over incumbency dates, affected Hassall’s successor, the frequently absent Henry Alexander. He had occupied the same comfortable house as Hassall but disputed his liability for dilapidations claimed by the church authorities on the grounds that it was not really a vicarage. Eventually Alexander lost the argument and £45 was extracted from him for refitting the spindle of the clock, repairs to a window, floor and steps, rehanging a door, restoring of a handle and latch to a cellar door, rebuilding and plastering the corner of a brick gable, repairing the trap door in a ceiling and putting a bolt on another door. Externally there were repairs to broken tiles, slates and decayed bricks. This house eventually returned to being Beech Farm, now in private hands, and the substantial house close to the church on Stoke Ferry Lane became the vicarage.

Lord Carnarvon’s alterations

It was between 1877 and 1878 that major changes to the church took place. When the bachelor seventh Earl of Chesterfield died of typhoid fever in 1871, his property passed to his sister Evelyn who was married to the fourth Earl of Carnarvon of Highclere Castle. After her death in 1875, Lord Carnarvon acted as patron of the Shelford living. Apart from alterations to the porch and restoration of windows in the south aisle, the main work took place in the chancel. Because the earl paid the £3,000 for the work himself, details do not appear in the churchwardens’ accounts.

Ewan Christian, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ architect, was chosen to do the work in an era of enthusiasm for church renovation. Described by Pevsner as an ‘often ruthless restorer’, Christian’s policy at Shelford was criticised in 1903 by the Revd Standish: “There was no clergyman in residence, no clerk of the works; and the builder seems to have been left largely to his own discretion, in the rejection and retention of details of the older work.”

The chancel before 1877

It was consequently at this time that the medieval aumbry, three sedilia and remains of the piscina disappeared. The changes made by Christian to the chancel included replacing the existing north and south windows with four symmetrically positioned lancet windows. If an internal photograph of the east end accompanying Standish’s report is correctly dated as ‘prior to 1877', it would appear that the debased east window, complained of by Stretton, had already been replaced by a triple lancet mullioned window of small rectangular clear glass, enclosed under a chamfered arch. As there were further changes to this window some twenty years later, it is not clear whether there was an intermediate version from the Carnarvon era. The same photograph still shows the chancel ceiling as flat with beams. The Carnarvon rebuilding replaced this flat, leaded roof with a high pitched roof covered with tiles, which added internal height.

Fragment of a
saxon cross

It was at this time, too, that the crypt was blocked up. Previously a stone portico came out about six feet from the chancel wall. Underneath were two doors leading down to the vault. In 1818 Stretton had reported that there were nineteen coffins in the vault. In the Rev Standish’s report of 1903 he refers to the theft in Victorian times of tinsel coronets on the coffins of the ‘great Earl and his two wives’. If this report is accurate it can only refer to the first Earl of Chesterfield who died over twenty years before the date on the stone. This vandalism and the redundancy of the crypt for Stanhope burials - Carnarvon interments taking place at Highclere - presumably caused the closure. Although the 1677 date stone from Sir William Stanhope’s alterations remains under the east window of the south aisle, the entrance to the vault is no longer discernible. At the same time, the Stanhope monuments inside the church were removed from the chancel to the east end of the south aisle, one bay of which was enclosed by a screen made from old roof timbers. A bonus of the rebuilding was the discovery of the fragment of a Saxon cross built into a buttress on the south side of the church.

In 1880 the churchwardens replaced the one-fingered clock of 1680. Part of the works with a rose cut on the frame was kept at the west end of the north aisle but disappeared between Godfrey’s visits of 1885 and 1907. The new clock, made by G & F Cope of Nottingham, cost £120, with masonry, joinery and other expenses coming to another £37 7s 6d. Fund raising produced £165 7s 6d - more than required - so the surplus was put to the repair of the bells and other church purposes. The whole enterprise was completed by 29 September 1881.

The Rev Edward Morse 1882 to 1940

Records from the early part of Edward Morse’s long incumbency reveal routine payments for officials and for church maintenance. There was some financial retrenchment in 1897 when the clerk’s salary was reduced to £5 a year on the grounds that he had been overpaid. By 1911, however, he was receiving £10 a year in quarterly payments. Some more significant outgoings included repairs to the bells for £5 in 1898, and 2s 6d spent on the bell frame in 1911. Rebuilding part of the cemetery wall, and repairing the furnace, came to £6 14s 2d in 1908. An insurance policy with the County Fire Office from 1883 proved a sound investment when the north-east corner of the church tower was struck by lightning on 12 July 1912, splitting the pinnacle and damaging the walls. The bill for repairs, including a new iron girder under the roof, cost the County Fire Office £79 16s 11d. A clock fund was started and a maintenance contract taken out in 1913 with G & F Cope for 30s a year.

In 1897 the east-end window was replaced when Edward Morse dedicated a new stained glass window to the memory of his first wife who died in 1893. A large brass altar cross had also been dedicated to her memory in 1895. It was designed by Charles Kempe in the Decorated style. The central light represents the crucifixion and the others St Peter and St Paul. The windows in the south side of the chancel were also gradually filled with stained glass by Kempe, including three dedicated to the memory of John and Catherine Beet (1897), Henry and Jane Ellis (1899) and Queen Victoria (1901). The fourth was added in 1905. In 1914 a stained glass window by Alexander Gascoyne to John and Mary Jalland was added to the east end of the north aisle.

The comfort of the congregation was improved in 1906 by the installation of a heating system by the firm of Thomas Danks for £89. A wooden cross with silver crucifix, made from walnut wood from the garden of Walnut Cottage and carved by Walter Stiles of London for Henry Ellis, was a further addition in 1910 for use in the Lady Chapel.

The terriers and inventories of 1887 and 1908

Much of this church plate is listed in the two terriers and inventories of Edward Morse’s time. The first main item, however, is the ‘parsonage house’. This building, which survives as the Old Vicarage on Stoke Ferry Lane, was very different from the crumbling one demolished in the 1850s. It had three sitting-rooms, four bedrooms, one dressing room and two attics. The service areas comprised kitchen, scullery, store room, pantry and cellar. By 1908 a WC had been added on the ground floor. Outside was a stable (for three horses in 1908) with coach house and harness room. There was also a ‘North Room’, perhaps for cold storage, described as ‘large’ in 1908. By then there was also a small apple room. The land belonging to this vicarage consisted of some four acres of grass land in the parish of Woodborough and two acres of garden around the house.

The value of the living had again improved by 1908. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners handled funds for the benefit of the incumbent worth £50 a year, together with £19 5s 6d from the proceeds of the Woodborough land around that time. A portion of the income of Bingham Rectory had also been allocated to Shelford, bringing in a further £100 a year. In addition, the minister still received £40 a year from Lord Carnarvon, the same amount Thomas Bigsby had been paid by the Earl of Chesterfield in 1809. The old Annesley tithe money was still worth £2 a year.

Household dues recorded in 1809 had gone and some fees had changed. By 1887 marriage by licence had doubled to 10s for the curate and 5s for the parish clerk. The curate’s fee for marriage by banns remained at 2s 6d and he still received only 6d for a funeral. The clerk’s fee for a parishioner’s burial had risen from 2s to 4s 6d. Because the churchyard was getting close to capacity, the burial of outsiders was discouraged by raising the fees to 21s for the curate and 9s for the clerk. Similarly, headstones or tablets for outsiders were double the fees for parishioners. In 1889 through an Order of Council all burials, with certain exceptions, were to be discontinued, but further ground subsequently came into use behind the church. Nevertheless, the same rules concerning outsiders continued to apply in 1908. The remaining items in the inventories concerned the standard features of the church such as bells, font, communion table, linen and plate.

Insurance payments in 1916 against aircraft during the First World War added to church outgoings: £5 16s for the main part of the church and 15s for the chancel (the latter paid by Lord Carnarvon). An additional £1 was paid as anti-air-raid cover in the same year. After the war the silenced bells were put in order. At the same time the old timber frame from about 1702 was replaced by a new realigned metal frame. This in turn necessitated a new set of chiming hammer work on the clock which the maintenance contract of 1912 would not cover. A tablet to those who fell in the war was also erected inside the church. Well over £500 had to be raised to cover the three projects. In 1925 the clock was cleaned and re-gilded for another £8. In the first forty years of the twentieth century eleven family names appear in the list of churchwardens.

The long-serving and well-respected Edward Morse, twice a widower and ‘stern, tall and straight’ in his later years, died early in 1941, five months after retiring. A keen cricketer and follower of the South Notts Hunt, he had been responsible, with village help, for the building of a parish room in the vicarage grounds. Reminiscing in 1930 he recalled how he had once broken up a choir strike. His main regret was the way the village population was gradually moving to the cities and towns.

The modern era

After the incumbency of Edward Morse, the local Church Council requested that Shelford should be joined to a neighbouring parish, preferably Radcliffe-on-Trent. This was granted, but reservations about how much time was allocated to Radcliffe and East Bridgford rather than Shelford led to a request for Shelford to be independent. This proved impracticable and in May 1946 the Church Council unanimously voted for plurality with Radcliffe. There were gaps between appointments during this period, but in general, until 1957, Radcliffe vicars who were also Archdeacons of Nottingham, supervised Shelford with a series of curates or priests in charge who lived in the Shelford vicarage. Shelford subsequently remained linked with Radcliffe and, from 1985, Holme Pierrepont and Adbolton were joined with them to form the Malkin group of churches. (Holme Pierrepont was removed from the group and joined to Lady Bay in 2006.)

It was in this period that the gradual reconciliation between the Methodists and Anglicans in Shelford was completed. When the centenary of the chapel had been celebrated in 1940 it was supported by the elderly Edward Morse giving his last public service. In 1954 during Dr Noel King’s time as curate, the Methodists and Anglicans joined each other’s harvest festivals on different Sundays. In the following February an ‘exchange of pulpits’ took place when Dr King preached to the Methodists and the Revd Lawton, the Methodist minister, to the congregation at St Peter and St Paul. In July 1969 the first ‘United Service’ was held in the parish church. By this time, however, Methodist numbers had dwindled. The Newton chapel had already closed about 1953. The Shelford chapel was forced to close in the 1970s and the remaining Methodists attended services in the parish church. About 1975 the building was sold to the Chesterfield Arms, from whose land the chapel site had originally come. The chapel date stone was saved and is now preserved in the church - a symbol of ultimate religious harmony in the village.

Despite the work of previous generations, the church and its contents still needed attention. The organ bellows, causing problems from 1940, were patched up until in 1961 the organ was rebuilt for £426 5s and repositioned early in the following year. There was a new boiler in 1942, followed by an electric replacement in 1967 which proved unsatisfactory as it took so long to heat up. Negotiations with the engineer led to a return to water-filled radiators heated by oil and the waiving of an outstanding balance. The clock, its chimes again silent during the Second World War, was cleaned and repaired in 1947 but the chiming apparatus was still giving trouble in 1956. The expense of maintaining the churchyard walls was always a worry, but the difficulty of mowing the churchyard was eased in 1953 when the gravestones were moved to the boundaries.

The main problem, however, was the building itself. Between December 1948 and October 1959 £300 had to be spent on making the tower and battlements secure. Three years later fungus on the roof and upper walls had to be treated and a beam over the Stanhope chapel removed. By March 1954 it was obvious that, despite the work of 1948-9, the church tower was in urgent need of restoration. The bell ringers felt that it was dangerous for ringing to continue. The whole exterior needed repointing and much stonework replacing - some had apparently been seen rocking in the wind. Dr King organised the formidable fund-raising. The original estimate of £500 escalated to well over £2,000. Proceeds from numerous village functions, a grant from the Crown Estate which now owned most of the village, and a loan of £700 from the church authorities meant that the target was eventually reached and the work completed.

After the departure of Dr King the next problem to be faced was the fate of the large vicarage which tenants found costly to heat and the grounds difficult to maintain. Various schemes were suggested so that a small vicarage could be built, but these could not be carried out and the premises came into private hands in 1963. The Church Commissioners allowed Shelford £500 in compensation for the loss of the parish room.

Even the efforts of the 1950s were not enough to secure the church fabric for the second half of the twentieth century. In 1968 the quinquennial survey indicated that work costing £1,500 should be carried out just as problems with the heating were having to be remedied. This was put in hand before prices escalated, but by the end of 1970 bills amounted to nearly £2,100. Payments were made possible by drawing on a Trust Fund instigated by the Driver family. By 1975, there was further trouble with the roof costing over £3,500 as well as smaller ancillary bills, and another bill for over £500 in 1976 for yet more roof repairs. Despite all this work, both the tower roof and the heating system again needed renewal in the 1990s.

Ever since the repairs of the 1950s, the bell ringers had been hoping for a sixth bell. In 1981 the exchange of the 1592 bell of Sir Thomas Stanhope’s time with a bell of 1658 from Widmerpool meant that the Shelford ring was changed from a minor to a major key. The faculty for the exchange was granted in 1978. At last in 1990 the cast-iron bell frame was extended and a sixth bell, cast by Taylors of Loughborough, was acquired to improve the welcoming of worshippers to services.

The church has kept up with modern requirements, including a public address system - comprising amplifiers, microphones and loudspeakers - in 2001, a lightning conductor in 2002 and a new organ in 2004. With its massive tower, St Peter and St Paul nevertheless still symbolises tradition and security in the Trent valley.


* Additional information on the attack on Shelford House in 1645 courtesy of Dr David J. Appleby, from his forthcoming article.