For this church:
Domesday Book has a reference to Thorpe where Wulfric had 6½ bovates of land taxable. there were nine villagers and five smallholders, and meadow of 72 acres, but there is no mention of either a church or priest.
It seems likely that a church was founded sometime during the 12th century as, during the reign of King John, Walter de Thorpe made over the advowson of the church to the priory of Haverholme in the county of Lincoln. Haverholme had been founded in 1139 as a Gilbertine double house.
From 1171, the village sent 5d. yearly at Whitsuntide as its Pentecostal offering to Southwell Minster, the smallest payment recorded in the county.
A very strange state of affairs appears in 1268. In or before early August that year the rector, Sir Richard de Sutton, died and on 9 August Robert de Erium was presented as rector by the prior and convent of Haverholme in his place. However, Archbishop Walter Giffard's register records that on 7 August Sir John de Kirkby was presented as rector - clearly the presentation of de Erium was not accepted. Strangely on 18 October de Kirkby renounced all claim to the position and Richard de Soushill was presented in his place. In 1269 we find that Richard de Gousle is the rector but no explanation is given as to the fate of his predecessor, if indeed de Soushill was ever formally installed.
In June 1269 the rector, Richard de Gousle, was granted leave to study for two years by Archbishop Walter Giffard.
At the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291 the church was valued at £6 13s. 4d. excluding the pension to the prior of Haverholme which was a further £1 10s. Thus yielding a clear annual valuation for tax of £8 3s. 4d.
c.1303 Thorpe is cited as being in arrears for the tax of three tenths imposed by Pope Boniface from 1301 on the pension due to Haverholme priory.
At Rungeton chapel near Northallerton in July 1308 the prior and convent of Haverholme petitioned for a pension of 30s. from Thorpe; there was an adjournment until November. It is unclear if this was upheld as later documents show the pension fell to the value of 20s.
At Ripon on 5 September 1313 Master John de Nassington, a senior canon of York, acted for a case brought by Archbishop Greenfield against the rector of Thorpe, William de Gamelthorpe, who was suspended and excommunicated for perjury and 'aliis gravibus excessibus et criminibus...'
Gamelthorpe was replaced the same year by Master Roger de Heselarton who, in February 1316, was granted safe conduct by King Edward II for one year to carry his corn from his church at Thorpe-by-Newark to York for the sustenance of himself and his household.
In 1336 Adam, prior of Kirkham, Yorkshire, acknowledged that he owed to 'Master Roger de Heslarton, parson of the church of Thorpe near Newark, and to Robert de Ulram, chaplain, who were executors of the will of Master Roger de Heslarton, late parson of Quixlay [Whixley] church, the sum of 80 marks' (£53 6s. 8d.). The king ordered it to be levied, in default of payment, from his lands and chattels and ecclesiastical goods in the county of York.
In 1347, Margaret, the wife of William de Thorpe, knight, made her will, which was proved following her death the following year. She directed her body to be buried in the church of 'Thorp juxta Neuwerk'. Margaret gave half a mark (6s. 8d.) for a picture in the likeness of St Laurence, a silver cask to make a cup for service at the altar of the Holy Trinity in the chapel of Thorpe, and she also left her Psalter for use in the chapel. The effigial monument in the chancel is most probably to this Margaret de Thorpe as it bears the words 'Margareta uxor...' and is in the 14th century style.
In 1350, King Edward III granted a licence for the alienation in mortmain by 'William de Thorp juxta Newerk, knight', of a messuage and 8 acres of land in Thorpe, and 84 acres of meadow in Marfleet, within the liberty of Holderness, to a chaplain to celebrate divine service daily at the altar of the Holy Trinity, in the church of St. Laurence, Thorpe, for the good estate of William, for his soul when he is dead, and for the soul of his late wife Margaret.
On 2 April 1348 King Edward III issued a writ, following an inquisition two days earlier in Nottingham, confirming an oath sworn by several witnesses to the effect that: 'It is not to the loss or prejudice of the King or of others, if the King grants to the Prior and Convent of Haverholm, that they be able to appropriate and hold, to them and their successors, the church of Thorp by Newerk, which is of its own advowson, as is said. And they say that the church is of its own advowson, and is worth in all issues 10 marks a year.' This is a strange statement 'of its own advowson' when the church had already been granted to Haverholme in the early 13th century; perhaps there had been a lapse and this was the result of an inspeximus by the king's escheator, John de Vaux.
On 21 August 1350 the church was appropriated by William Archbishop of York. On 24 November 1351, the vicarage was ordained by the Archbishop. It was agreed that a perpetual vicar should be presented by the canons and nuns of Haverholme. The vicar was to have a vicarage provided for habitation and was to be annually paid ‘5 marks sterling and 2 quarters of wheat’ on the day of Our Lady’s Purification and Michaelmas. The canons and nuns were expected to repair the chancel of the church as often as needed and pay procurations, synodals and desmes (tithes) when they occurred.
The Nonae Rolls of 1341 record that Thorpe was taxed at 12 marks 3s. 4d. (£8 3s. 4d.), and that the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth 8 marks 3s. (£5 18s. 4d.) a year at true value and no more, altar fees were 64s., and the tithe of hay was worth 6 marks (£4).
In a will dated 1401 Elizabeth, wife of Hugo de Thorpe, directed that her body should be buried in the church of St Laurence, Thorpe, along with a mortuary payment of her best livestock: 'cum meliori averio me, nomine principalis'. Elizabeth also left 7 marks (£4 13s. 4d.) for one chaplain to say Mass for her soul, the sum of 6s. 8d. to the vicar, and her best gown for the fabric of the church.
In 1406 the chantry chapel chaplaincy is cited in an assessment of the unbeneficed clergy of the archdeaconry of Nottingham for the subsidy of 6s.8d. from each unbeneficed member. The chantry was therefore still in existence at this time as indeed it was in 1540 when two chantry priests are named.
At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI the church was charged a tax of 13s. 4d. which equates to an annual valuation of £6 13s. 4d. without the pension to Haverholme, thus there was no change in value since 1291.
On 16 October 1455, William Archbishop of York consolidated the vicarage into the rectory and ordained that the rector bear all the burdens ordinary and extraordinary at his own cost, in addition to paying an annual pension of 20 shillings to the prioress and nuns of Haverholme.
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 gives a clear annual valuation for Thorpe as 3s. 4d. owing to Thurgarton Priory; as the church was appropriated by Haverholme this figure must relate to other lands. The value of Thorpe attributed to Haverholme in the Valor is 6s. 8d. The rectory is valued at £7 19s. 10d. with a pension to the priory of Haverholme of 20s. John Clerke is named as the parson.
Following the Reformation, commissioners were appointed to report on chantries in parish churches, and at Thorpe they recorded that there were bequests for 'divers lights'.
During the reign of Edward VI, the patronage passed to Sir Edmund Molineaux. It was later sold by Molineaux’s great grandson to John Halsay before coming into the ownership of one Robert Butler who ‘re-edified the ruined Church’. At this point, it appears that the church had fallen into disrepair and was left in an unsafe and dilapidated condition rendering it unfit for Divine Service.
In 1603 the parson and churchwardens presented the following: 'the parson is a preacher and Maister of Artes in the schools; he has only one benefice which is valued at £7 19s. 10d.; there are three men and three women recusants; there are 46 communicants and 22 non-communicants who are under age, and no other non-communicants except the recusants'.
The church was facing serious problems again by the early years of the 17th century. In 1624, churchwardens noted that it was ‘even ready to fall downe without present helpe’. The leads were so decayed that water poured in when it rained, the windows were not properly glazed and cloths were needed for the communion table.
In February 1635, work was done to ensure that the seats of the church were made uniform. A report made to the Archdeaconry Court in 1638 noted that the font was also in want of a cover and the belfry [tower] needed paving. There was no poor man’s box and the chest needed a lock and keys. A book of homilies, a book of canons, a register book, and a book for the names of strange preachers were also needed.
In 1639 churchwardens presented their minister Mr Scarlett ‘for not reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays out of Lent’.
During the siege of Newark, the old communion cup was stolen from the church by ransacking soldiers. Its replacement was inscribed with a commemorative inscription to ‘let those by this cupp sacrilegiously dare take. Beware lest God’s vengeance them an example make’.
In 1662, the puritan vicar of Thorpe, Henry Featley, was ejected for non-conformity. He was presented at the Newark quarter sessions on 3 October 1660 for refusing to administer the sacrament and on 9 January 1660-1 for declining to read from the Book of Common Prayer.
Concerns over the church fabric and spiritual provision of its congregation continued throughout the 17th century. In 1684 churchwardens noted that there was no hearse cloth, that the church porch was out of repair, the pavement in bad condition, no poor man’s box and no book of homilies. The minister was also presented for not reading the statue against profane swearing and cursing and refraining from reading prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was also reported that the parishioners did not specify their names to the minister when receiving the sacrament.
By 1718 churchwardens were still presenting the church as being out of repair and without a Bible or Book of Common Prayer. There was no lock and key for the neither church door nor reading desk for the pulpit.
At Archbishop Herring's Visitation in 1743 Edward Chappell was the rector (he was also rector of Nottingham St Peter) and he reported that there were six families none of whom were dissenters, public service was performed every Sunday and that George Chappell was curate (he was also rector of Elston All Saints). The parish had 15 Communicants, 10 of whom normally received.
In 1764 Archbishop Drummond held a Visitation when the rector was William Cheales. There were nine families and no dissenters, and the sacrament was administered three times a year; 27 Communicants were reported.
The abolitionist Lucy Townsend lived in the rectory at Thorpe from 1836. She was the wife of the vicar, the Revd Charles Townsend. She died on 20 April 1847 and is buried in a large fenced grave to the left of the entrance. There is a brass memorial to Lucy and her husband in the church.
When the Reverend William Wood came to the living in the late 1860s he found a sum of money (between £40 and £50) which the rectors had put aside for the purpose of restoration. In order to boost these funds, Wood called upon the assistance of his parishioners and, alongside donations from the Lord of the Manor, Sir Henry Bromley and local landowner Mr Tomlin, a new building was erected on the old site during 1869-70. The restoration cost a total of £600.
Wood later recalled how, when he first came to the living, ‘he did not feel at home in a church so dilapidated’ and set out upon the task of restoring it to a standard befitting for worship.
The new church building consisted of a nave only with the chancel divided by a screen, probably mirroring the previous arrangement. The old tower remained in situ with the addition of a modern pyramidal roof. The architect was Charles Baily and the building work was completed by Mr Fretwell and Mr Henderson of Newark. A church restoration festival was held on 28 April 1870 to celebrate the reopening of the church.
Various gifts were made from notable figures in the local region to mark the reopening. Lady Bromley of Stoke Hall presented a fine altar cloth, the rural dean, the Rev. Prebendary Bussell, presented a set of highly decorative books including Bible, Prayer Book, and Service book. Two altar chairs were given by Mrs Tomlin of Stoke Field. The wife of the rector, Mrs Wood, gave a kneeling carpet for the communion steps and the hassocks used throughout the church. A fine oak lectern was presented by the rector.
The festival to mark the opening saw the small building ‘crowded by the parishioners and their friends’. After service a celebratory luncheon was had in a marquee erected on the vicarage lawn. The tables were ‘beautifully ornamented with flowers, and greenhouse plants were arranged in front of the marquee’.
In 1911, the net annual value of the benefice was £153. The church could accommodate 65 worshippers. There were 18 children on the Sunday School roll with 3 baptisms noted in the year ending 30 September 1912.
In 1928 the net yearly value of the rectory was £156, with residence including 40 acres of glebe, and was in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.
The tower was restored in 1934.
During the 1980s the fabric was once more in a poor state and part of the north wall collapsed. The north wall was repaired and the east end was shored up. In 1989, thanks to the generosity of Miss Florence Johnson, the east wall was stabilized and further repairs carried out to the tower.