St Mary


The Parish of Staunton, sometimes called Staunton-in-the-Vale, contained portions of the chapelry of Flawborough, and the hamlet of Alverton. Domesday Book mentions Staunton as having ‘a priest and a church and a mill.’

At this time the manor in Staunton was held of William the Conqueror by Walter D’Aincourt. In 1086 the estate was held of Walter D’Aincourt by Mauger. It is entirely possible that the Staunton family descend from Mauger but it is unclear. The 50 years after the Conquest are historically obscure due to a lack of evidence and in the case of the Staunton family and estate there is no documentation that deals with the ownership of the estate or the family.

One theory is that Mauger held lands in Staunton before the Conquest and also helped defend Belvoir Castle against William the Conqueror. If this is the case then Mauger managed to do quite well under William as he retained his estate. Evidence for this comes from the rhyming pedigree of the Staunton family. In their article G. W. Staunton and F.M. Stenton suggest that this was an Elizabethan innovation and not historically accurate.

The church comprises a wide nave with north aisle, a south porch, chancel with north vestry, and tower positioned at the north-east angle between nave and chancel. The church is dedicated to St Mary, The Blessed Virgin. The date of its construction is not known; it is likely that if a pre-Conquest church existed it gained attention during the Norman period and was restored or, more likely, rebuilt.

It is mentioned by name in a manumission charter from 1190. During the Third Crusade William de Staunton offered a criminal, Hugh Travers, freedom for taking up the cross in William’s stead. Hugh Travers resided on the Alverton portion of the Staunton estate and in 1190 he and his brother, John, were emancipated by William. A manumission charter describes how, upon his return, he was given land within the village of Staunton. He was placed under the protection of the church – ‘I have granted him with all his family to God and the church of St. Mary of Staunton’ and paid a yearly rent to the rector in the form of a pound of incense and a pound of cumin;

‘To all men who shall see or hear this writing, Richard parson of the church of Staunton sends greeting in the Lord. Know ye that at the request of William de Staunton, patron of the church of Staunton, I have granted to Hugh Travers two bovates of land in Alverton with their appurtenances which the said William has given to God and the church of Staunton, to be holden by him and his heirs freely, quit, and hereditarily. Also the same Hugh and his heirs shall render each year to me and my successors one pound of incense and one pound of cummin, in lieu of all service except service to the King (forinsecum servitium), and I and my successors will render for the same land to Wiiliam de Staunton and his heirs, each year at Christmas, one pound of cummin, doing (also) the service to the King which belongs to the said two bovates of land.’

The font is a circular bowl with an interlacing arcade of shafts and semi-circular arches, very similar to the font found in the nearby village of Screveton. The pattern was common throughout the 12th century. The font dates to the reign of Henry II (1133 - 1189). Sometime before the 20th century the font was repaired; the stem was restored using the grave cover of Thomas Staunton, son of Radulphus, who died in 1446, some of the lettering is still visible. The font and the south doorway would indicate that the church received attention during the Norman period, possibly a rebuilding or renovation sometime in the 12th century.

At the 1291 taxation of Pope Nicholas IV the church was valued at £16 13s 4d annually. Fifty years later, at the taxation of 1341 the returns from Staunton stated that the church was taxed at 25 marks (£16 13s 4d) and the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth 16 marks 10s (£11 3s 4d), with land worth 3 marks (£2), altar dues worth 6 marks (£4), and tithes of hay worth 7 marks (£4 13s 4d). At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI the amount payable was 33s 4d, showing that the overall annual valuation remained the same as in 1291.

Another William de Staunton in his will, dated 9th November 1312, gave his body to be buried in St Mary’s churchyard. He also bequeathed his palfrey with its furniture to the church. His will stated ‘he gave liberally to the church and poor in his town’, it is possible that the north aisle piers which date to the 14th century were built after Sir William's death and funded by his bequest.

During the church’s restoration in 1854 a breast-plate was uncovered; it is thought to have belonged to William de Staunton.

The rectory was built by Simon, brother of Sir Geoffrey de Staunton in the 14th century. The rectory had a large stone dovecote and a gate-house.

During the 14th century there was further rebuilding of the church, not all of which has survived. Testamentary burials suggest several additions to the church. In 1329 Robert ‘sometime Rector’ was buried in the new chancel. In 1344 Cecilia de Lowdham was buried in St Catherine choir.

In 1325 Symon de Sibthorpe (Staunton) obtained permission from Sir William de Ros of Belvoir to give lands in Staunton and Orston to found a chantry at Staunton. Symon bequeathed £10 towards building the chapel in his will. He died in 1346 and it is presumed that this was when the chapel was built. Symon’s elder brother, Geoffrey de Staunton built the chapel to cater for the portion of Staunton which belonged to the Hundred of Bingham. Staunton’s position is unusual as it is situated in the Hundred of Newark but also in the Hundred of Bingham.

Despite being only about 80 yards away from the church, the chapel belonged to a different parish, Orston parish, held separate services and had separate registers from the church and elected its own churchwardens. The chapel is mentioned in the 1650 Parliamentary Commissioners report: ‘a Chappell within Staunton aforesaid fit to bee annxed by the parish Church of Staunton’.  In 1589, a churchwardens’ presentment stated that there was 'no curat' and that ‘our service is not said at all times, nor in due times.’

By Throsby’s time it was in disuse and the curate of Orston, Mr Fell, was responsible for the chapel. There was £10 per annum paid by the Charlton family. The chapel was removed by the Rev. Dr. Staunton in either 1827 or 1857.

Symon de Sibthorpe (Staunton) was an acolyte rector of Staunton in 1329. He built a rectory house that was later demolished in the 19th century. When he died in 1346 he was buried in the church; at the time there was an inscription:

Hic jacet Magister Simon Rector ecclesiae Rectoriam de Staunton.
Obiit idus Septembris anno dominie 1346. Cujus animae propitetur Deus. Amen

Before 1366 the nave arcade and north aisle were built and dedicated to St Lawrence: ‘Joan, Lady Staunton to be buried in St. Lawrence’s choir on the north side’ in 1366 so the aisle must have been built prior to this. It is likely that it was built after the Black Death came to England in 1348.

One of the 14th century aspects of St Mary's appears to be the ornately crafted doorway in the north wall. The doorway has a moulded ogee head, ending in a carved bucket, and it has a small niche which may have housed an image. The image may have been of St Lawrence the Martyr as the aisle was built in his honour, or of the Virgin Mary to whom the church is dedicated. The image has long since disappeared so it cannot be conclusively proved either way.

To the left of the doorway is a slate plaque built into the exterior wall which commemorates the Rev. John Mounsey, who was curate of the parish for 50 years, and died the 3rd May, 1827, aged 77 years.

In 1371 Thomas de Staunton left £20 in his will to St Mary’s to build an aisle in the church. This would have been dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury and would have been built after the completion of the north aisle. The executors of the will changed the legacy and used the money to repair the nave roof instead. The south aisle was never built.

It is not entirely clear when the church’s tower was built. The architecture would suggest that it was built during the late 14th or early 15th century. The tower stands at 80 feet and it is independent of the nave which is rather unusual. If built during the 14th century it may have been commissioned by Sir William, son of Galfrid. During the church restoration the tower was left untouched beyond the opening leading into the nave being built up and a new external entrance to the belfry being added. In 1923 the tower was described as ‘unfinished appearance, being crowned with a low pyramidal roof, covered with stone slabs.’

In 1923 Harry Gill describes how in the belfry the ‘squinches’ have been set in readiness to receive a spire. He suggests that the tower’s unusual placement, unattached to the nave, was because a steeple was planned when the tower was constructed. There could be numerous reasons why the steeple was not constructed if that were intended: the patron died, the builders did not trust the foundation to hold the weight, the building work was interrupted by upheaval, and many other reasons.

In 1519 a rood-loft was introduced into the church by the former rector, Symon Yates. Part of it now forms a chancel screen; during the Reformation a portion of the loft was saved and crafted into the screen. The screen included the original inscription included in the rood-loft, parts of it had become unreadable by the 20th century but Robert Staunton transcribed it sometime during his lifetime.

In 1567 Robert Staunton was ringing the tenor bell for evensong when it fell between him and the other two bell ringers. No harm was done to them or the bell.

In 1582 Robert Staunton died and was buried at the upper end of the church. The incised tomb slab includes a prayer for his soul which was forbidden in the Elizabethan period. When Anthony Staunton died in 1560, a tablet was placed in the nave in his honour. It contained a similar prayer to the one on his son’s slab. Since then his tombstone has been removed to St Lawrence’s choir. In his will he left bequests to St Mary and the chapel at Staunton, the churches in Kilvington, Flawborough, and Long Bennington.

During the English Civil War William Staunton sided with the Royalists. Sometime during the war Staunton Hall was targeted by Parliamentarians who attacked the house. Colonel William Staunton was away at this time but his wife and her twenty servants put the house in order to withstand an attack. A man was stationed in the church tower to signal the approach of the Parliamentarians. When the Parliamentarians breeched the house they also ransacked St Mary's. Many of the monuments were damaged or defaced and the building had been damaged by fire.

Sometime in the 17th century the Puritan rector, Simon Jucks, destroyed two of the earlier Staunton tombs and partially damaged the effigies of cross-legged knights and their wives. The rector wished to create extra space for his congregation. The Staunton at the time wrote ‘having no regard for gentility and venerable antiquitie paved ye streets with them. They were well cut in stone, lay in armour and cross-legged, but their inscriptions were worn out.’

Inscribed on the wall of the staircase to the church tower is ‘EDW STAUNTON 1606’. This Edward Staunton may have been an illegitimate child of Robert Staunton by Barbara Fotherbye. In 1582 Robert Staunton, before his death, bestowed an annuity of £6 13s. 4d. on Edward Staunton.

On 2nd January 1675 Mrs Anne Staunton gave the Staunton chapel use of a large pewter flagon.

At the east end of the north aisle is a tablet that remembers Gilbert Charlton and his wife, Ann. He died in 1706.

In 1707 Richard Roe created a clock which he inscribed with ‘Rich Roe Fecit in Eperston 1707’. Dr Staunton purchased the clock from St Mary, Nottingham for £10 when the church had a new clock created by Thomas Hardy in 1807. The clock is covered in pencil graffiti from the 19th and 20th centuries made by stable boys who wound the clock.

In 1728 Mrs Sherwin left a small fund of £25 for any charitable use by the church.

In 1743 the visitation returns for Archbishop Herring’s visit report the parish had 26 families with no dissenters. There were 20 or 25 children taught to read and write at the church by a sober schoolmaster.

The rector was Stanton Degge and he expresses that he is having a difficult time at that time. He has to take long and expensive trips which take him away from his parish and his duties. This is partly due to an elder brother being declared a lunatic by Court of Chancery.

In 1764 the returns for Archbishop Drummond’s visitation, when the rector was George Staunton Brough, mentions Staunton Chapel as being ‘although situated in my church yard is quite distinct from my parish, even in a different deanery, and, as I apprehend, is in some form an appendage to the vicarage of Orston’. Interestingly, Staunton Brough may have found the winter months in the country not to his liking as stated that he resided in his parsonage house only from May to November usually, the other months being spent at Wollaton.

Dr. Staunton was an incumbent at Staunton and at Elton-on-the-Hill; the last volume of the Registers belonging to Staunton Chapel include a loose leaf belonging to the register of Elton-on-the-Hill which contains two burials in the parish from 1842.

In 1854 the church was much rebuilt in stone by E.J. Wilson of Lincoln, commissioned by Guilm Malger Staunton. The chancel, south and west walls of the nave, and south porch were all heavily rebuilt and new roofing was added. The new aspects were built in the same way as the earlier architecture; modern reproductions of works from an earlier date. During the rebuilding the old chancel disappeared, as did any clues to the location of St Catherine’s choir and some of the other aspects thought to have been built during the 14th century.

Around this time the rectory was demolished and a new one constructed.

Before 1886 a stained glass window was added to the east side of the church in the memory of the late Henry Charlton Staunton. It was erected by the Rev. Francis Staunton and his family. As the rector was also Lord of the Manor, he lived in the hall and the rectory was occupied by Mr. George Gordon.

In 1888 the Rev. Frederick John Toss gifted H.C. Staunton with a residence with 138 acres of glebe.

In 1901 the parish population was 182, rising to 190 in 1911. The church could accommodate 129 people seating. There were 37 students enrolled in the church school and 18 for Sunday school.

In 1912 a new oak pulpit and brass eagle lectern was added.

In 1926 the church was gifted with a residence and 87 acres of glebe by H.C. Staunton. It was held by the Rev. George William Staunton.

In 1927 the church was lighted by electricity.

In 1929 a new organ was dedicated by the Bishop of Southwell

In 1936 the church was further restored. The north wall of the tower has a small doorway with a rectangular opening above it. There are three small rectangular lights. The rendering dates them to 1936.

In 1937 the churchyard was repaired and a wrought iron gate added at the churchyard entrance.