For this church:
No church is mentioned in Domesday Book, though it is possible that St Edmund’s church was erected by the 12th century due to the presence of a tub font which may be Norman (though the base appears 14th century). Also, in 1171, Richard is referred to as its parson. The main reason for the building of this church was to ease the number of attendants for West Markham church. When Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II, founded the free chapel in Tickhill Castle, this church, with its sister-chapels and their mother church, became part of Walesby’s parish church endowment. In 1191, it went as part of the great Chapelry of Blyth to the cathedral church of Rouen, by gift of the Earl of Mortain (the later King John) whose benefaction was very likely influenced by the fact that Blyth Priory was one of its houses. It was later given by John to Walter, Archbishop of Rouen, and his successors, and the canons of that church.
The church conditions must have been poor as, in 1257, the Archbishop of York made some alterations. He ordained that:
the chapter of Roan do for ever receive the tythes garbs belonging to the chapel or church of Walesby, and that there be thenceforth in the same church one perpetual vicar residing, who shall understand English and be presentable by the said Chapter of Roan, and have in the name of his vicarage the whole alterage, with the land and meadow of the church, and the mediety of the mansion towards the mouth with all things to the church appertaining, excepting the tythecorn of the same place. Likewise the vicar shall have entirely the chappell of Hockton with the garbs and other appurtenances to it, he causing the same chappell to be honestly served. In which respect the vicar shall be responsible for repairs and rebuilding of the chancel therein, and the findings of the books and vestments and other alterages, and also their share of all extraordinary exactions and provisions, all which were confirmed by the chapter of Roan in May, 1258.
In other words, it was agreed that the village should have a permanent vicar and that he should speak and understand English.
On 13 June 1286, a mandate by Pope Honorius IV, was issued to Master John Clarel, rector of various churches and ‘chapels which the dean and chapter of Rouen held to their uses’ (which included Walesby) to appear in person, or by proctor, before the pope in order to pay a sum of money ‘in satisfaction of fruits received’. Three years later, in 1289, Archbishop John le Romeyn rebuked the same Master, John Clarell, who clearly held the benefice as rector, instructing him to appoint a vicar as was the custom: this rebuke seems to have been ignored.
In 1315, Archbishop Greenfield held an inquisition into the jurisdiction of seven churches, of which Walesby was one. It was noted that, two years previously, the king acknowledged that certain churches were annexed to the free chapel of Tickhill and were outwith the archbishop’s jurisdiction; it seems probable that Walesby was included in this list. The inquisition concluded with a commission to Masters Alun de Neusum, rector of Bingham, and Thomas de sancto Leonardo, sequestrator in the archdeaconry of Nottingham, to visit all seven churches. The outcome of this visit is unrecorded.
A further inquisition in 1342 found that, although the church was held by the free chapel of Tickhill, a portion of the rectory was not.
At the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291 Walesby church is valued at £8, and the vicarage at £6 13s 4d. In 1334, the register of Archbishop Melton details the churches held by Master Paulinus (sic) Monte Florum annexed to the chapel of Tickhill and records that Walesby was valued at 12 marks (£8). In 1341 the taxation recorded in the Nonae Rolls gives the joint value for the church and vicarage as £14 13s 4d. At the subsidy of Henry VI in 1428, the value of the church still had not changed, being taxed at 16s (10% of £8).
At this time, the church was also enlarged, or possibly rebuilt. The south aisle, which still exists, was likely built in the 13th century, along with the north aisle which no longer exists. Fragments of the arcading, which are supposed to have replaced some that had previously replaced the originals, are also of Early English style. The south arcade of 4 arches is late 13th century. Except for changes in property ownership in the time of Edward IV’s reign, little is known of 15th century Walesby, although the tower and clerestory were added at this time as well as 8 stout oak benches that are still surviving.
Two sheets of parchment have been found that are part of the plainsong manuscript dating to 1425, from a Latin service book found in the church vestry, used for the cantors (singers) leading the singing for the psalm whilst priests and servers entered on Christmas morning and Ash Wednesday. It was handwritten and likely from one of the nearby monasteries, Newstead, Rufford, or Welbeck Abbey.
There is little else that is mentioned about the church until the establishment of the Tudor Dynasty in 1485, when the modern history of the parish may be said to begin and records are less scarce.
Among the local proprietors of the late Plantagenet/early Tudor period was Sir Edward Stanhope, who died in 1511. Of him it is recorded that ‘the king being seized of Walesby and Willoughby and certain other manors in Notts’ owed the crown £600 for which he was paying a rental progressively advancing from £40 to £70 until the debt was cleared, though it is not indicated how the debt arose. In 1514, King Henry VIII pardoned the outstanding balance to the relief of Edward’s widow. Their daughter, Anne, became wife of the Protector Duke of Somerset in the reign of Edward VI and her brother was the famous Sir Michael Stanhope, who acquired a large amount of monastic property in Nottinghamshire. Amid his minor acquisitions was half an acre of land that had been left for the maintenance of a light in Walesby church, and when he fell with Somerset, and both were beheaded in 1552, there were not wanting people who saw in his fate the punishment of God for sacrilege.
At the time of the Reformation, Rufford Abbey held lands in Walesby, which returned a rent of £2 13s 8d annually, though they held no interests in the church itself.
The church remained a member of the free Chapel Royal of Tickhill, being in the hands of its Warden and the abbot of Westminster until the abbey’s dissolution in 1540. At Archbishop Bowet’s visitation on 1 July 1409 the church is recorded as ‘appertaining to Westminster Abbey’.
It supposedly went to the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1552 yet, in 1556, Sir William Holles, ex-Lord Mayor of London, bequeathed Haughton and his rents here and at Gamston-on-Idle to his son the ‘Good Sir William’, and an entry in the Patent Rolls discloses that in 1550 the churches of Harworth and Walesby were granted ‘in augmentation of the bishopric of Norwich which was in various ways diminished.’ It is uncertain to whom the owners where during this time, though it appears Holles’ grant did not take effect as a few years later the Earl of Shrewsbury obtained the living. After some time, the property went to the Lords Halifax.
In 1593, the churchwardens are recorded to have been fined 5s to be paid into the poor-box and they were ordered to buy a bible and communion book at Lenton Fayre. It is assumed that they had been lax in the performance of their duties, though it is unclear whether it was from sympathy with the old ritual or for other reasons.
The marriage register of St Edmund’s dates from the year 1579 and were printed in full by G.W. Marshall. The baptism and burial records, however, date much later in 1791 and March 1753 respectively.
Some kind of restoration or additions may have taken place between 1635 and 1639 as there are a few payments recorded. In 1635, £10 was spent, with the same amount used in 1636. In 1637, a further £38 was spent with only £1 used in 1639.
On 8 August 1743, the vicar Richard Jackson made a return to Archbishop Herring’s visitation. He reported that there were 35 families in the village, of which two were Quakers. They met monthly in a house in the village which had been licensed as a meeting house since the reign of King William III, i.e. under the Toleration Act of 1689. Jackson lived in the vicarage at Walesby. He conducted services every Sunday, and administered Holy Communion five times a year. There were 80 communicants but only about 20 regularly attended, although 40 had attended the previous Easter.
When Archbishop Drummond visited the area on 14 October 1760, the Vicar was Richard Lloyd, the curate – Francis Holliday, the old churchwardens – John Woombwell and Thomas Leary, and the new churchwardens William Highfield and Jonathan Camm. On the visit, there were 41 families present, of which 2 people (from the same family) were Quakers. There was no licensed meeting house nor an alms house, hospital or other charitable endowment. However, the late vicar, Reverend Richard Jackson, had left £2 per annum, payable out of the rents of a close at Laneham, to teach 6 children to read. The children were instructed in the Christian religion and brought to church as required by canons. This devise was voided by the Mortmain Act; however, the donor’s niece, Elizabeth Hall, gave instead two acres of land in Normanton to provide the funds. In 1800, this land was exchanged for 1 acre 19 perches. This was let for £3 12s a year in 1853.
John Throsby commented that ‘the church is set off with a tower; in it nothing of high antiquity, or of family importance. It is dedicated to St. Edmund.’
When the church made a return for the religious census of 1851, there were 150 present in the afternoon general congregation (with seating available for 220 – 80 of which were free). There were also 30 Sunday scholars. On average for 12 months, there were 95 present in the morning congregation and 40 morning Sunday scholars (total being 135) and 130 in the afternoon general congregation with 40 scholars (total being 170). A school was erected in 1878 by the Duke of Newcastle, who also erected a teacher’s house in 1880 (supported by an endowment previously). By 1881, there was a village library which was supported by the vicar.
The church was thoroughly restored in 1886 at a cost of £1,400, though restorations were made throughout the years 1884-7. The nave was restored in 1884, the south aisle and porch in 1886 and the chancel by Lord Savile in 1887. A stone figure of the patron, in a good state of preservation, was exhumed during the restoration. There was also an increase in sittings available as there was now room for 240 at this time.
During the visitation by Edwyn Hoskyns on 3 February 1914 C. R Gorton was still the vicar (having been so since 1880), and the curate was W Pullen (since 1911). The population of the village appears to have declined between 1901 and 1911, being 312 and 283 respectively. There were 5 enrolled at the Sunday School at this time. The church accommodation had decreased to 140 sittings, which increased to 144 some time before 1932.
Modernisation was beginning with the Second World War, and electricity was installed by 1941.
In 1974, the pinnacles of the church (and two others) were replaced with fibre glass – first moulded in clay by hand then cast in glass fibre – as they were badly worn away. The result was a cheap, lightweight version of the real thing that looks like centuries-old stone.
The vicarage, which stands a little north of the church, was enlarged in 1835. The living was a rectory, which was valued in the King’s Books at £6 1s 2d, worth £158 in 1836, in the patronage of Henry Savile, and in the incumbency of Reverend Roger Pocklington. By 1881, the living had a yearly value of £144, with 157 acres of glebe and residence, and was held by the Reverend Charles Reynolds Gorton BA of Jesus College, Cambridge. The value increased to £150 in 1908, still in the hands of Mr Gorton, and increased to £160 in 1922, when it was held by the Rev Alfred Campion MA of St Alban Hall and Rural Dean of Tuxford, who is also rector of Kirton where he resides. Mrs Gorton still lived at the vicarage at this time. By 1932, the net yearly value of the living was £374, and residence, in the gift of the trustees, and held by the Rev John Lowndes, rural dean of Tuxford. In 1941, it was held by the Rev Charles Gilbert Everitt MA of Christ Church, Oxford.