For this church:
No mention is made of a church in Domesday Book. The base of the tower dates from the 12th or 13th century and 1269 is the date of the first recorded priest, John de Escuris. Robert de Strelley is recorded as ‘holding the advowson of the church of Strelleye’ in 1284 and his son in 1321.
The earliest name for the village was Straleia (field on the road or street) and transformed through, amongst others, Stratlega, Stradleigh, Stradlegha to Strelley in 1284. The parish came into the hands of a Norman, Walter, who took the de Stradleigh surname, at the beginning of the 13th century. He started a dynasty of 12 generations ‘honoured with knighthood’. His son, Samson, took up arms for Earl John, suffered on the return of Richard I, but was amply rewarded by John when he came to the throne. Sir Sampson de Strelley remodelled the earlier church in 1356, it is believed in gratitude for his survival of the Great Plague of 1348, and it was probably completed around 1400.
In the 1291 Pope Nicholas IV taxation the Ecclesia de Stredley was valued at £6 13s 4d. In the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI this value was confirmed, and the amount of tax imposed on the church was 13s 4d.
The Strelley family owned the parish until 1678 when bankruptcy forced a sale to the wealthy Edge family. This family continued as squires until the immediate line died out in 1978, and the wider family sold off their interests. These two powerful families exerted a great influence on the church and parish. The church is built right next to Strelley Hall and to some extent could be said to have been used by these families as their private chapel.
The church is cruciform in shape and is generally Perpendicular in style. The tower belongs ‘to all three medieval centuries’ and reflects three styles of architecture: the base from the earlier church is Early English, the mid-section Decorated, and the upper stage Perpendicular.
The clerestory, with three light windows, and the battlements were added c.1500 and are in the later Perpendicular style. Simon Jenkins describes the church as more like a French private chapel than an English parish church, reflecting the influence of the Strelley family and to some extent the rich adornment introduced by the later Edge family.
The approach to the church incorporates the Pilgrim’s Way which is an ancient route, made up of stones contained in a pathway, that it is believed linked monasteries and provided access to Nottingham and the Trent. In the 16th century a number of bells were installed in the church, of which only one survives.
In 1597 the churchwardens presented that 'the fast commanded is diligently and dutifully observed by all the parishioners on the appointed days; no man absents himself from his own house in this time of dearth; our minister reads public prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays and the people orderly frequent the same; the collection for the poor is orderly made; our minister persuades the rich to bestow that which they spare in forbearing suppers; the minister persuades the poor to bear this dearth patiently.'
In 1603 the first Wagonway (railway) in Britain was built by Huntingdon Beaumont to carry coal from the pits at Strelley to Wollaton. Coal mining was a significant occupation for villagers over the next 350 years and was to affect the church in the 20th century with local mining causing subsidence: the cost of the repairs was borne by the National Coal Board.
In 1603 Strelley had about 137 inhabitants, and in May the same year the churchwardens stated that 'we had our church sacreligously broken into of late, and our surplice was taken and stolen away'.
The church records first record marriages in 1626 and the first christenings and burials in 1654.
In the middle of the 17th century several interesting events, trivial and important, were recorded. In 1630, John Anderson, William James, Hugh Leadbeater and Lancelot Higden, late and then current churchwardens, were charged with ‘withholding an annual offering or other ecclesiastical dues'. In the same year Richard Stone was suspended from entering the church, 'for putting out of her seate Elizabeth Wagge widowe in tyme of divine service'. He did penance, several weeks later, before the congregation at a Sunday service and was absolved.
A visit from an inspector of the Archdeacon’s court, in 1638, found the church to be in a state of disrepair citing the roof, walls, glass and floor and to a lesser extent the lead, timber, lime, stone and workmanship! A formal prosecution of the churchwardens began in April 1638. Edward England, a churchwarden refused to give a presentment to the court. He claimed only one roof timber was decayed and some lead perished. There was no judgement on him but expenditure on repairs in the following year was much greater than in previous years.
In the Protestation returns of 1641 only the minister, the two churchwardens, the two overseers and the constable are recorded under Strelley.
At the fall of Newark at the end of the civil war, the rector, Abraham Fforbes, was sequestered due to '… delinquencies to Parliament.' On his death, in 1656, the parish was combined with that of St Martin le Tour in Bilborough and his widow, Alice Fforbes, evicted from the rectory. Bilborough’s rector, William Fox, was believed to be complicit in the sequestration of Fforbes and became his successor in 1658. On the restoration, in 1658, the parish was ordered to pay Alice Fforbes a 'competent weekly maintenance'.
The reply to the Enquiries of 1676 showed that 86 people were of an age to receive communion with no recusants and two dissenters.
The decline of the Strelley family was complete in 1678 when Ralph Edge, a rich and landed lawyer and three times a mayor of Nottingham, bought the estates. The Edges were a devout family and the church benefited from their patronage over the years. Several of them became rectors of Bilborough with Strelley. Some of the stained glass was brought by them from their estate at Shirburn, in Warwickshire, 1793, and placed in All Saints.
At the end of the 18th century, Thomas Webb Edge knocked down the houses around the hall and church. He rebuilt them half a mile away, out of sight, on the boundary of Bilborough and Strelley parishes, which allowed him to create an open parkland setting for the hall. This left the village divided into two parts with the church, hall, larger houses and surrounding farm houses in the north west and the lower village consisting mostly of the workers’ cottages but including a large farmhouse which is now the village pub. Some of the original cottages remain but most of the others date from the early 20th century.
The Rev William Goodday replied to Archbishop Drummond’s visitation, in 1764, that there were 50 families in the village with three dissenting Presbyterians. There were 130 communicants of whom 30 usually received. Among the parishioners were many colliers, coal carriers and frame work knitters who, it seems, were very remiss when it came to sending their children to learn the Catechism. He revealed that he had built the parsonage in 1728 (the faculty refers to it as a re-building). There was a charity school founded c.1750 by the coal master who endowed it with £5 pa which was chargeable to an estate in Staffordshire. It taught the teaching of English and the Catechism to 20 sons of colliers till they were capable of working in the pits.
Large sums were spent on refurbishment of the church in 1771, 1810 and 1830. However, a major renovation took place in 1855 when the roof and nave seating were replaced and choir stalls installed in the chancel with screens being erected between the chancel and the transepts. The architect was G. G. Place and the contracter was John Fisher, both of Nottingham. This was funded, in part, by the parishioners who signed up to a £600 bond supplied by the squire and repaid at an interest rate of 5% pa: it was completely repaid by 1869. In 1844 a new rectory was built near St Martin le Tour in Bilborough and the one in Strelley demolished.
In 1848 the value of the living was assessed as £90.
The religious census of 1851 records Strelley as a parish of 1,050 acres with a population of 279: 129 male and 150 female. At the morning service, the only service, 71 people attended and 60 ‘Sunday Scholars’. The average attendance was listed as 50 at morning service with 70 scholars and 170 at afternoon service with 70 scholars.
In the 19th century the altar area was remodelled. A reredos was installed in 1882 and subsequently replaced in 1925. The old reredos was used in the conversion of the south transept to a memorial chapel. It was probably at this time that the transepts were screened from the nave. The chancel ceiling was richly painted in green and gilt and stained glass installed in the east and south windows, in 1914, as memorials to members of the Edge family.
As the chancel is a mausoleum to the Strelleys so the south transept is to the Edges. Four inscribed slabs testify to the early Edges including Ralph Edge, the purchaser of the estate, who died in 1684, aged 63. These incised slabs occupy the bulk of the floor space and later Edges are buried in tombs in the churchyard, immediately north of the chancel, or remembered by wall plaques.
A church school was built in 1872. An agreement over its lease was reached between the church and the squire, T L K Edge, in 1903. The school was finally closed in 1934 after which it was used for recreational purposes, including as a boxing club, until sold and converted into a private dwelling.
In 1927 the south transept was made into a chapel to the memory of Frances Etheldreda, wife of the squire T L K Edge. The reredos from the chancel was modified and used in the transept. The centre panel depicts St. George and the dragon (the chapel is sometimes referred to as St George’s) and the south wall panelled and ornamented with six roundels showing musical instruments. The chapel was dedicated to St Etheldreda and St Francis. A wooden board records this dedication to Mrs Edge and also to the fallen of the Great War. The east window contains some of the oldest stained glass in the church and the south is a fine stained glass window to the memory of James Thomas Edge (1894).
In 1902 the Rev’d Benjamin Williams was sequestered for bankruptcy. The census of 1901 showed him living in the local pub and his wife in lodgings in Radford. The rectory was rented to Mr J H Hardy in 1908 who was part owner of the local Hardy and Hanson’s brewery. The sequestration was lifted in 1906 but the rector did not take up his duties again until 1914. He continued his ministry until 1927 when he retired having served the parish for 56 years: its longest serving rector.
On the Parochial visitation of Bishop Edwyn Hoskyns the population of the village in 1911 was 394. The capacity of the church was placed at 250 with 35 on the Sunday school roll. The value of the benefice was put at £195.
Central heating was introduced into the church in 1895. Prior to that heating was provided by a fireplace (still there) in the north east wall of the nave adjacent to the squire’s pew. Electric lighting was provided in 1935 by connecting in to the main cable providing electricity to the adjacent Strelley Hall. A water tap was introduced internally in 1965 at the base of the tower.
In 1962 extensive ‘dilapidations’ were repaired with part of the cost being defrayed by the sale of ‘war bonds’.
At the Quinquennial Survey of 1963 the parish reported that the cost of the work required was 'beyond our capacity'. A broadcast appeal on BBC Midland radio was suggested and it was hoped that John Betjeman, the poet, would be the appellant. The broadcast took place on the 16th November, 1967 although the appellant was not named: £398 15s 6d was raised.
Local knowledge has it that the M1 was to pass between the church and the moated manor to the south. The squire, Miss E M Edge, by all accounts a formidable woman, it is believed intervened and it now passes well to the west of the church. She died in 1978 and with her passing the parish lost its major benefactor.
With dwindling congregations the church closed its doors in 1980. Fortunately the church was part of a united benefice with Bilborough and so had not completely lost its vicar. He and a small group of dedicated parishioners, managed to re-open the church, over the next few years, albeit with a limited number of services. Gradually the size of the congregation increased and in 2013 the church offered services several times each week.
Over the 650 years of its existence the external fabric of the church has weathered heavily in places. The congregations over the years have made repairs as and when the availability of money allowed. This has given the church the character that comes from age and prompted the author Simon Jenkins to name it as one of England’s 1,000 best churches. He described it thus '… the battlemented walls rise like castle ramparts and are a museum of local geology, with stone, brick and mortar slapped into place as and when required.’ Its internal antiquities are in good condition and continue to excite visitors from all over the country, and occasionally the world.