West Burton
St Helen


No church is mentioned in Domesday where West Burton is recorded as waste with land enough for four ploughs.

There was certainly a church by the end of the twelfth century when Gaufrid de Malquinci granted the church to the Austin canons of Worksop Priory.

In 1234 the canons obtained sanction from Walter Gray, archbishop of York, to appropriate the church of West Burton – for which they already held the advowson owing to Malquinci’s grant – in order to increase the hospitality offered by the priory. In the same year Richard de Ruttington, a descendant of Gaufird de Malquinci, confirmed his ancestor’s grant and remitted his claim to the lands and rights that had been granted to Worksop Priory.

Shortly afterwards, however, on 5 June 1235, the archbishop of York apparently changed his mind and appropriated the church instead to the priory of Newstead in Sherwood. This decision was subsequently overturned and by 1291, for the purposes of the ecclesiastical subsidy imposed by Pope Nicholas IV it was recorded that Worksop Priory was receiving £8 yearly from its appropriated church of West Burton.

In 1341, the church of West Burton remained appropriated to Worksop Priory and was valued at 12 marks, with a ninth of sheaves, fleeces and lambs amounted to 9 marks yearly in addition to a tithe of hay worth 20s., and altar, oblate, mortuary and other dues amounting to 20s. per annum. In 1428, for the purposes of taxation under Henry VI, the church was also valued at 12 marks, and assessed for a subsidy of 16s.

In February 1403, Archbishop Scrope confirmed, following the examination of title, the appropriation of West Burton to Worksop Priory.

By a will dated 2 January 1475, Thomas Tanfield, who had been rector of neighbouring Sturton and Laxton, bequeathed 40s. to the church of West Burton, and in the following year, Richard Goldthorpe, vicar of North Muskham, bequeathed a psalter, surplice, book, ‘part of the eye’, and 8d. to the high altar and an additional 8d. to St Nicholas’ light there.

Following the reformation, on 3 March 1546, the rectory of West Burton was granted to William Neville, gentleman, and his heirs. Around this time there were 17 taxable householders resident in the village.

Later in the sixteenth century there survives a record of superstition and magic in the parish, for in January 1583, Richard Batte, a surgeon from Burton-by-Sturton (West Burton), was accused of making waxen images of his mother-in-law and her children, whom he threatened to destroy.

In 1603, the parson of West Burton provided a visitation return recording that the parish had 65 adult inhabitants, and no recusants. The parson at this time was William May, B.A., of Emmanuel College Cambridge. It has been suggested that since Emmanuel College was largely puritanical, it is possible that May also held puritanical sympathies. However, almost seventy years later, in 1676, the vicar of West Burton, Stephen Masters, provided a visitation return similar to that of William May.

The adult population of the parish remained unchanged in 1676 aside from the addition to three persons, and the parish remained devoid of Roman Catholics, puritans and Quakers who refused to take communion and stayed away from church on those occasions when it was required by law to communicate.

If William May had any puritan sympathies, such sympathies apparently failed to make a lasting impact on the beliefs of the parishioners. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, in 1601, Reuben Wright, a farmer of West Burton arrested on suspicion of burglary at Drayton, was described as being ‘of the parsonage house in Burton’, suggesting multiple-occupancy at this time.

On 22 April 1639 the churchwardens presented the following: 'Robert Johnson for his swine abusing the churchyard by going there, after warning given to him; their chancel wants decent beautifying.'

A parochial visitation order and certificate and account for West Burton, dated 13 June 1718, ordered that

'The following work to be carried out: walls to be repaired; roof to be repaired; windows to be repaired; pavement to be repaired; chancel and two aisles to be repaired. Impropriators and farmers to repair chancel and a large crack in the North wall must be repaired.'

No visitation return was made in 1743. Robert Adye is recorded as being the curate in charge at this time but, the Call Book at York records the curate as Abraham Sampson. The churchwarden was one William Storey.

A map of the village drawn in 1750 shows buildings, earthworks and field boundaries together with the names of the occupiers and tenants. The main street ran perpendicular to the river, with single and double story buildings on either side. The map showed a number of yard and field boundaries, an orchard, gardens, and possibly the village pinfold. The church stood south of the main street which was depicted as having one range of windows along the nave, and a small bell tower.

Thomas Mottershaw, the curate in 1764, recorded just thirteen families in the parish, no dissenters, no meeting house, and just a small school, founded in 1721. The mistress, Hannah Staniland, ‘has not at present one scholar belonging to the parish’. He lived in Retford because there was no vicarage, and also conducted services at North Wheatley, Bole and Babworth. There was a service at West Burton once a fortnight in the afternoon ‘according to long and immemorial custom’. He celebrated Holy Communion four times a year.

In the 1790s John Throsby stated that

'The village consists of about seven or eight houses. The chapel is dedicated to St. Helen. The impropriators of the abbey of Newsted patron. Incumbent, Rev. John Shaw, cur. Certified value 12l. 13s. 4d.'

In 1797 the River Trent changed its course, and West Burton was left by the old bank of the river. The village, already small, entered into decline. In 1801 the parish of West Burton had just 33 inhabitants.

In 1832, White’s Directory reported that the church, which was generally known as ‘the chapel’, was a small edifice with a turret in which a bell was hung. The living was a perpetual curacy of the certified value of £12 13s. 4d. and was in the gift of David Walters, Esq. of Gloucester House, who was also the lay impropriator and owner of all land in the parish with the exception of the Mill estate.

Sir Stephen Glynne visited West Burton c.1840:

this diminutive and lonely church or chapel presents little that is attractive. It consists only of one space without distinction of chancel and has been in a great measure rebuilt in a wretched style. It however has one lancet window, in which is a remnant of stained glass representing the head of a Queen, and there is also a late square headed window on the South side. A south door has a pointed arch. There are 2 or 3 old wood seats. The pulpit is of wood and really good, having rather elegant carving, panelling, and a small embattled parapet. The font is circular but inserted in the wall. There is one bell, but no steeple.

By 1851 the parish had a total population of just 28 people. The church, which was endowed with land worth £38 and held an additional income of £20 from other sources, was attended by a general congregation of just 4 parishioners in the morning, and 6 in the evening. At this time, there were only three houses standing near to the church, one of which was uninhabited.

The village was abandoned in the 1860s, and by 1865 only the church remained, together with a number of isolated farms.

West Burton church
just prior to
demolition in 1886

In 1884 West Burton parish was united with North and South Wheatley, and a vestry meeting in 1885 decided to apply for a faculty to demolish the disused and ruinous church. The faculty was granted on 7 January 1886. The citation stated that ‘the Church of west Burton has not been used for divine Service for many years and has fallen into a very dilapidated state…. The church of West Burton being no longer required for the purposes of religion and with a view to prevent accident and to avoid scandal it is very desirable that the Church should be pulled down.’ A local builder had agreed to demolish the church, and cart away the materials ‘in consideration of his being allowed to appropriate the same to his own use’.

The church was demolished in 1886, when the vicarage was annexed to North Wheatley. Note that South Wheatley had been demolished in 1883, although the tower remains as a ruin.

In 1942 it was noted that West Burton comprised a single farm, and even this was located at some distance from the site of the church.

West Burton is now known for the pair of power stations on the River Trent which take their name from the village. Both are owned and operated by EDF Energy. The site is a Scheduled Monument (29915).

The church register for West Burton dates from 1602, with a gap between 1645 and 1698.