For this church:
The place name Worksop derives from the personal name We(o)rc, hence Wwerc or Wyrc’s hop or valley. Although the earliest documentary reference to Worksop comes from Domesday Book of 1086, in which it is noted as Warcheshoppe and Werchesope, the personal name We(o)rc is unlikely to have been current much after the end of the seventh century, and as such is evidence of early settlement within – or at least on the edge of – the generally rather inhospitable landscape of Sherwood Forest (Gover, Mawer and Stenton, 1940, xv, 105-6).
Prior to the Norman Conquest, Worksop had been a possession of the Saxon thane Alfsi, a considerable landowner who was entitled to market rights and had the power to administer justice (Holland, 1826, 11-12). By 1086 he had been killed or dispossessed and Worksop had become a part of the extensive estate of Roger de Busli, who had fought with William the Conqueror at Hastings. It comprised arable land, meadow and wood pasture, and supported 22 freemen, 24 villagers and 8 smallholders, indicating a sizeable settlement by the standards of the day with a population of about 225-250 (Morris, 1977, 9:43). Although there is no real evidence that either Alfsi or his successor had a residence in Worksop, or that there was a church, Stacye speculated that there might have been an early hall near the head of the Market Place, and pointed out that of all Roger de Busli’s extensive landholdings, Worksop possesses the only place-name evidence that relates directly to him – namely ‘The Buslings’, which were meadows described as Buslini Plata in the Priory charters (Stacye, 1874, 157-8). The Buslings were located to the north of Memorial Avenue. de Busli lived until c. 1099 and his estates were inherited by his son, who died very soon after. By about 1100 his Nottinghamshire and Hallamshire holdings had passed to William de Lovetot, who had also inherited substantial landholdings in Huntingdonshire from Eustace de Lovetot, probably his father.
William established Worksop as the headquarters of his Nottinghamshire estates, and Worksop Castle, which dates from the very end of the eleventh or the early twelfth century, is likely to have been built by him, situated on a sandstone promontory to command the surrounding land and the marshy valley of the River Ryton. The earthwork remains of the castle, located in the park off Castle Street, are a Scheduled Monument (SAM 1009295; Speight, 1995, 66).
Shortly after beginning the construction of the castle, de Lovetot founded Worksop Priory, dedicated originally to St Cuthbert. The foundation date is given as AD 1103, but the charter itself would have been later, possibly as late as 1123-1139, which is when the two likely witnesses, Thurston, Archbishop of York and Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, presided over their sees simultaneously (Stacye, 1874, 159-60). The Hodnet copy of the charter has been translated as follows (Brown, 1905, 86-7):
‘…William Lovetot, with the consent and concurrence of his wife Emma, and of his sons, grants and confirms by this his deed the gift which he has made to God and the Holy Church, and Canons of Saint Cuthbert of Worksop, in perpetual alms. In the first place, all the chapel furniture of his whole house, with the tithes and oblations. Next, the church of Worksop, in which the Canons are, with its lands and tithes, and everything that belongs to the same Church, and the fishpond (‘vivarium’) and mill which is nigh to the Church of Worksop, and the meadow which is by the mill and fishpond. And, further, the whole tithe of money of his customary rents, both in Normandy and in England. In Worksop field one carucate of land at Inwara [Brown gives ‘inwara’ as meaning inside the town], and his meadow at Cathale. And all his Churches, which are of his lordship and of the Honour of Blyth; to whit, the Church of Gringley, and the Church of Misterton, and the Church of Walkeringham. And the Church of Normanton, and the Church of Colston, and the Church of Willoughby; the Church of Wysall, and his portion of the Church of Truswell, with all the lands, tithes, and possessions belonging to the aforesaid Churches. In like manner also the tithe of his pannage, and of honey, and of venison, and of fish, and of fowl; of malt, and of his mills, and of all his possessions from which tithe is wont or ought to be given. And he wills and firmly grants that the said Canons shall possess all these things well and peaceably, freely and honourably, with all the liberties and free customs with which he himself now holds them with unquestioned right and entire freedom.’
Henry I encouraged the foundation and proliferation of Augustinian houses by founding and patronising a number himself, and several were founded by his relations and members of his court during the early twelfth century. Unlike monastic houses, they were not established in the remote, inhospitable locations associated with for example, the Cistercians or Cluniacs. In contrast, most occupied positions at major stopping places on the road network, near castles, near the coast, at river crossings, and often on what had been Roman roads. Their raison d’être was not only a quest for personal sanctity, but also apostolic work, the provision of priests, and the care of travellers and the sick, and it was this that informed the location of their houses (Butterhill, 1999, 17). Worksop Priory was located near a castle, on the edge of what was by the standards of the time a fairly sizeable settlement, and on a river crossing.
Radford is not noted as a separate settlement in Domesday Book and neither the Priory’s foundation charter nor that of Richard de Lovetot mention the place-name. However in all subsequent grants the church and priory are designated ‘of Radford’. A settlement may have existed before the Priory was founded – particularly if it was based on an earlier church. Alternatively the place-name may have developed subsequent to the Priory’s foundation. Holland suggests that the canons made a superior ford over the river, and enclosing it within their precinct by means of the priory gateway, created for themselves a source of revenue. In support of his argument he points out that the Saxon ræde means convenient or profitable (Holland, 1826, 143). The weakness of the suggestion is that to make a new ford profitable, the route would have had to have become heavily trafficked, and there is no evidence that it ever became more than a minor route to the Blyth road, less important than that which branched off the Tickhill road which ran from the centre of Worksop.
Eustace de Lovetot, who was probably William de Lovetot’s father, had founded Huntingdon Priory at the beginning of the twelfth century: it was one of the first phase of Augustinian houses to be established in England. Eustace was Sherriff of Huntingdon after the Conquest, and he appears to have been rapacious in his land dealings – the Huntingdonshire Domesday is thick with references to his disputed claims, and there are several references to his unfair dealings, not only with Saxons such as Tovi and Alfwold, who stated that land had been unjustly taken from them (Morris, 1975, 19:13, 19:15); but also with high status individuals such as Countess Judith, a niece of William the Conqueror (ibid 20:3), and institutions such as Ramsey Abbey, who claimed that Eustace had taken dues from them by force (ibid B1). It has been speculated that ‘it may be that he hoped, like others of his time, to atone for some of his misdeeds, or to lessen the difficulties of his heirs, by devoting a portion of his ill-gotten gains to the Church’ (Page et al, 1926, 393).
When William de Lovetot came to found Worksop Priory a few years’ later, it was from Huntingdon that canons were sent to establish Augustinian practices, allowing a smooth transition to the way of life (Butterhill, 1999, 67). There might already have been a clerical presence before the Priory was founded, in the form of a priest who would have celebrated religious services in the chapel of the castle (Holland, 1826, 14). It is possible, in the light of Worksop’s considerable population, that there may already have been a church, established during the late Saxon period (Speight, 1995, 68). None is noted in Domesday Book, but such omission is not conclusive proof of absence. If a church existed, the new Priory would have used it until new buildings could be constructed. The pre-existence of a church would explain one of the Priory’s more puzzling features, namely that its cloisters were located to the north of the church buildings, whereas they are usually to the south. If the position of the church were fixed, and if it also had a graveyard to the south, then the cloisters would have had to be constructed to the north. Excavations have shown that the original church had a small nave, although it is unclear whether this pre-dated the priory’s foundation. The priory soon replaced it, building a long choir terminating in three parallel apses (Hartwell et al 2020, 583; Walker, 1975, 7).
The charter quoted above makes it clear that by the early twelfth century Worksop had a mill and millpond, which later place-name evidence locates at Pond Yard on the western side of what is now Priorswell Road, by the branch of the Ryton which was probably cut in the late eleventh century as a mill leat, although it may have been a natural river channel, adapted to serve the mill. The charter also granted pasture land and a carucate of land in Worksop field, bearing out Domesday Book, which notes arable and meadow associated with the settlement.
William de Lovetot is recorded in a Pipe Roll of 1140 (Stacye, 1874, 161) but it is not clear exactly when he died. Pigot, a brother of Worksop, who wrote a rhyming chronicle in the reign of Edward IV, states that he was buried by the lowest step leading to the high altar, as befitted the founder (Stacye, 1874, 161). This indicates that construction of the Priory had progressed considerably during his lifetime.
Construction continued apace under his eldest son Richard, who added the dedication to St Mary to that of St Cuthbert (Walker, 1975, 7). He made further valuable grants to the priory under a charter of c. 1160, laid on the altar of the priory church by him and his son William. Paraphrased by the Victoria County History, the charter notes two bovates of land in Hardwick Grange near Clumber, ad utwara, the whole site of the town of Worksop near the Church, inclosed by a great ditch as far as Bracebridge meadow; also outside the ditch a mill, a mansion, and Buselin’s meadow; other moist lands on the north by the water; and from the water by the road under the gallows towards the south, marked out by crosses set by himself and his son; a mill with a fish-stew at Manton; all Sloswick, and half the church at Clarborough. Incidentally the VCH gives a different definition of the terms inwara and utwara, saying that the former means land appropriated to the service of the house in receipt of the grant, whereas in the case of land ad utwara, service was due to the king.
Stacye notes slightly differently ‘in Worksop, the land which was Wulvet the priest’s and Hugh his brother’s; to wit, that between the way of Park and Impecroft, to make a holt for twigs (virgiltum)…the whole site of the town of Worksop near the church, as it is shut in by the great ditch unto the meadow of Bersbrigg, and without the ditch the seat of a mill, with one dwelling-house and the meadow of Buslin, which is between the holt of the church and the water. But on the other side of the water, towards the north, the meadow and land by the bound of Kilton, from the water into the way under the gallows towards the south, and by the crosses, which he himself and William his son erected with their own hands, unto the moor, that is, the miry and moist plain; the land also towards the south from the head of the causey beyond the plain, as it is girt by a ditch to the water’ (Stacye, 1874, 162).
By the same charter Richard de Lovetot also confirmed grants by his mother Emma of a mill at Bolam, land at Shireoaks, Hayton, Rampton, Normanton and Tuxford, and the church and land at Car Colston. He also granted the canons the privileges of feeding as many pigs as they possessed in Rumwood, and of having two wagons for the collection of all the dry wood they required in the park at Worksop (Page et al, 1910, 126).
The charter is not only of interest in terms of the development of the Priory’s estate, but also as regards the development of Worksop itself. By the mid-twelfth century there were clearly at least three mills along this marshy stretch of the Ryton, which was crossed by a causeway by this date. The mansion or dwelling-house is taken to be that later known as Jesus House, and the gallows are taken to have been on the Blyth road, north of the town. Incidentally, ‘Bracebridge’ does not indicate a bridge that was braced in some way – the name derives from the Middle English berse denoting a forest enclosure, possibly a hedge made of stakes (Gover et al. 106).
These grants to the priory were confirmed in 1161 by Pope Alexander III, in a bull giving the canons the privileges of exemption from tithes, presentation to their churches, burial rites for all persons except the excommunicated, and permission to celebrate mass at a time of general interdiction, in a low voice with closed doors and silenced bells (Page et al, 1910, 126).
Richard de Lovetot was also buried in Worksop church, near his father. The date of his death is not known but he was succeeded by the son William who had helped him mark out with crosses the extent of the charter land in c. 1160. On the day of his father’s burial William made further generous grants to the Priory of the tithe of all his rents. He died no great length of time after his father, in c. 1176 (according to Stacye) or 1181 (according to the VCH), and was also buried at Worksop.
The de Lovetots had been great benefactors of Worksop, and by the time their dynasty came to a close, the Priory Church would have possessed a nave, nave arcades which still partially survive, an impressive west front and the western towers, still surviving. There was also a choir and transepts. Although very few of the other priory buildings endure, the general layout can be envisaged. There would have been cloisters adjoining the north aisle of the nave, and the meeting room to the north of the north aisle may have been a parlour where the canons received their guests, with the Prior’s lodging above. The kitchens have been identified by finds on the site of the Old Abbey School buildings (now BCVS). The cloisters would have continued parallel with what is now Priorswell Road, and returned to form a courtyard, with the refectory, warming house and reredorter (latrine) in the northern range parallel with the stream, with the canons’ dormitory above. The chapter house lay beyond the eastern range of the cloisters, and there would probably have been a library and treasury adjoining the northern transept of the church. The infirmary was to the east of the church, and the monks’ cemetery to the south-east (White, 1875: Walker, 1974, 11-12)
By the end of the twelfth century, Worksop Castle, which would originally have comprised a timber keep or stockade, had been rebuilt in stone, also under the lordship of the de Lovetots (SAM description 1109295). The little town would have been a hive of activity during the period, and the population is likely to have expanded considerably with the employment created by building work and the increased level of commerce and trade this would have brought.
William de Lovetot left a daughter named Maud or Matilda as his heiress. Aged only seven when her father died, she was eventually given in marriage to Gerard de Furnival, who had been with King Richard at Acre, and he thus came into possession of Worksop, along with the rest of the great estate which had belonged to the senior branch of the de Lovetots (Stacye, 1874, 163). During this period Philip, a canon of Lincoln, donated amongst other books, the Worksop Bestiary to the Priory. An illuminated manuscript on the subject of natural history, it contains remarkably lively and realistic illustrations. Now at the Morgan Library in New York, it is easily accessed on-line and is well worth viewing as an example of the worldly and intellectual riches held by the Priory in its heyday. Gerard de Furnival continued the tradition of gifts to the Priory, granting the right to pasture forty cattle in Worksop Park between Easter and Michaelmas, as well as donating land at Shireoaks, profits from his mill at Worksop, and further pieces of land. He died on Crusade in 1219 and was buried at Evrard, one of his Normandy possessions. During his lifetime the Norman choir was replaced by a substantially larger choir, in the Old English style (Walker, 1975, 7; Speight, 1995, 68).
During her long life (she survived into her 90s) Gerard’s widow Maud (or Matilda) made many more gifts to the Priory, with a full charter of confirmation in 1249. Their elder sons Thomas and Gerard also went on Crusade, where Thomas was killed. Gerard returned to England and was sent back to Palestine by his mother to bring Thomas’s remains back for burial at Worksop, where they were re-interred. Gerard and the youngest brother William were also in their turn buried at Worksop. It is thought to have been Lady Maud (or Matilda) who was responsible for the construction of firstly St Peter’s Chapel on the south side of the Choir, and then the Lady Chapel, where her youngest and possibly favourite son William was buried (Stacye, 1874, 165-6; Walker, 1975, 7). It is said that after the chapel fell into ruins, the large stone that covered his tomb lay in the churchyard for many years. It was eventually moved into the house of a woman living close by, and used as a sink-stone. Ironically, the Latin inscription running around the edge of the stone is said to have translated as; ‘Remembering me, turn pale! And as thou art running in a like path, sing a psalm, I entreat thee, for William de Furnival’ (Eddison, 1854, 45).
The Furnival estates passed to Thomas’s sons: Gerard in the first instance, and after he died childless, to his younger brother, also called Thomas. Although Gerard made grants to the Priory, Thomas’s tenure of the estates was marked by a dispute over the Priory’s rights in Worksop Park. This occurred in 1269, when the Prior brought an action because there had been so much waste, sale and destruction of timber in the Park that there was insufficient dry wood for the two wagons to which they were entitled under the charter of c. 1160 (Page et al, 1910, 126). Thomas must have made peace with the Priory, since it provided chaplains and a clerk for his new castle in Sheffield. In 1265 the General Chapter of the Augustinian Order was held at the Priory (Walker, 1975, 8) and in 1276 Alan de London, one of the canons of Worksop, was instituted to the church of Worksop by Archbishop Giffard of York, on the presentation of the prior and convent (Page et al, 1910, 127). He is thought to have been the same Alan de London who is recorded as prior between 1279 and 1303 (Train, 1961, 209). Centuries later the vicarage is said to have been ‘a straggling dilapidated building which adjoined the east side of the priory gatehouse’, although it is unclear whether it pre-dated the gatehouse. It survived into the early nineteenth century (White, 1875).
Royal goodwill is evident by a grant of Henry III in 1268, allowing the Priory to take two cartloads of heather daily from ‘Rumwood and Cuthesland’ in Sherwood Forest, to compensate for losses sustained in their wood at Grove, where felling had been carried out by the Crown. Edward I subsequently granted 60 acres in the eastern part of Rumwood to the Priory at a rental of 10 shillings, with the option for them to enclose and bring it into cultivation if they chose so to do (ibid, 128).
However, all cannot have been well for in 1280 Archbishop Wickwane visited the Priory and subsequently issued injunctions stating that the prior was not to permit the holding of private property; that lockers were to be checked and anything found inside was to be applied to the common cause; and that he was to forbid going outside the Priory except for necessary reasons. Canons were not to go out alone, or to eat or drink with guests unless the prior was present. The archbishop also stated that idle canons were to be punished, that the sick were to be kindly treated, that silence was to be observed, alms were not to be wasted, and that the entertainment of costly and useless guests was forbidden (Page et al, 1910, 127).
It would be reasonable to assume that the Priory’s affairs had been regularised by the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1291 the Taxation Roll (Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV) gives the Priory’s income as £71 6s 8d (£40 for temporalities) (Page et al, 1910. 127). In 1300 William Pelleparius de Radford, a skinner, funded a chantry ‘for one secular Priest to celebrate divine service for ever in the Parish Church of Worksop, at the altar of St Leonard giving ornaments and fittings for use at such altar’. The chapel was situated in the south aisle of the nave, and its position is marked by the fluted bowl of a piscina with a small credence shelf, which was discovered in the late 1920s (Brown (ed), 1925, 215-6). In 1300-1, the Register of Archbishop Thomas of Corbridge relates that two canons from St Oswald’s, Gloucester, staying at Drax, were to be sent to Bridlington and Worksop respectively. Peter of Melbourne was to go to Bridlington, while Henry de Coulom was to go to Worksop (Brown (ibid 71-2). In 1302 a further General Chapter of the Augustinian Order was held at the Priory, and the Tickhill Psalter dates from approximately the same period (Walker, 1975, 8). Beautifully illuminated with scenes purporting to illustrate the life of King David but bearing more resemblance to rural life in early fourteenth century England, it was produced by Prior John de Tickhill. It is another Worksop manuscript of extremely high quality which has found its way to America, in this case the New York Public Library. Unfortunately in 1313 Prior John was found guilty of incontinence and maladministration, and removed from office (Page et al, 1910, 127).
By this time the Furnivals had ceased to be benefactors to Worksop Priory on the scale of their predecessors. But the action of Thomas’s son, also Thomas, in getting a charter for a market and a fair in Worksop in 1296, would have had a beneficial influence on the Priory as well as the town. The Grade II listed market cross which now stands outside the Priory Gatehouse dates from this period, although it originally stood at the corner of Potter Street and Bridge Street before being moved in the nineteenth century. Whatever excesses of hospitality had been committed over previous years, the Priory Gatehouse was built in c. 1314 for the accommodation of visitors, and the porch and pilgrims’ shrine date from c. 1390. Another reference to the Augustinian emphasis on the care of travellers comes from a grant from Edward III in 1335. Ralph de Nevill and his fellow justices of the Forest had taken the Priory’s Rumwood holding into their own hands, alleging that the Priory had enclosed 13 acres more than the 60 acres to which they were entitled. ‘The king, willing to show the canons a special favour, in return for the manifold charges they had frequently incurred when he visited their priory, granted them the whole space they had inclosed free of all rent for ever’ (Page et al, 1910, 128).
It has been estimated that the population expanded generally by about 50% in the two hundred years after Domesday (Thirsk, 2000, 82) and although there is no documentary evidence specifically for Worksop, the existence of its fair and market suggest a reasonable level of economic activity. Commercial activity would have taken place within the context of what was still a feudal society. Details of the open field system can be inferred from Scurfield’s reconstruction of the manors of Worksop and the Priory, based on Harrison’s survey of 1635 (Scurfield, 1986). Each of the five centres of population – Worksop, Radford, Kilton, Ratcliffe and Gateford – would have had open fields. Worksop’s were known as Near Field, Far Field and probably Worksop Field. Gateford’s fields had long been enclosed by the mid-seventeenth century and are therefore more difficult to infer, but they may have been located in the areas later known as Nether-town Fields and Lath-Fields, south of Cheapside and Retford Road.
In 1341 the Nonae Rolls record that Worksop was taxed on income of 60 marks (£40, the same value as the temporalities in 1291), and that the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces were worth 40 marks (£26 13s. 8d) a year at true value and no more, hay and glebe were valued at 23s. 4d. annually, and mortuary oblations and other small tithes were worth 18 marks 3s 4d (£12 3s. 4d.) a year.
Worksop’s population would have fallen dramatically during the mid-fourteenth century due to famine largely brought on by a worsening of the climate, and then by the Black Death, which struck in 1348. Depopulation led to falling prices, the proportion of meadow and pasture to arable increased, and labour was commutated for cash.
The Furnivals continued to be buried in the Priory, and the Thomas de Furnival who fought at Crécy and was nicknamed ‘the Hasty’ was buried there on his death in 1366 – part of his alabaster effigy survives, now located in the south transept. His brother William, the last male Furnival heir, died in 1383, and was also buried in the Priory, on the south side of the Choir (Stacye, 1874, 167). The Furnival estates passed to William’s daughter Joan, who was married to Sir Thomas Nevil, later Lord Treasurer of England under Henry IV (1399-1415). She is thought to have died young, leaving a daughter of the marriage. Sir Thomas survived her for many years, and died in 1406. It was during his lifetime that the porch was added to the Gatehouse and a shrine for pilgrims built. Amongst other bequests, his Will left £40 to the fabric of the steeple of Worksop Priory church, and he requested that his body be buried there ‘without any great pomp’ (Stacye, 1874, 167). His alabaster effigy, and that of his wife, with a lion at her feet, survive and are located in the South transept.
At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI the priory was taxed at £4 and so valued at 60 marks (£40) which is the same value as in 1291.
Sir Thomas had taken Ankaret, the widow of Richard Lord Talbot, as his second wife. Maud, his daughter by Joan Furnival, was later married to her step-brother John Talbot, the son of Ankaret by her first husband. A noted military commander, and the ‘valiant Talbot’ of Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part I, he was made Earl of Shrewsbury in 1442. He died aged 80 in 1453, at the Battle of Chatillon, which effectively ended the Hundred Years War, and his heart was buried at St Alkmund’s Church, Whitchurch, Shropshire. As Stacye has it, ‘he was so much engaged in public and foreign employments even from his early youth, that it can hardly be supposed that he would take much interest in the affairs of Worksop or its Priory’ (Stacye, 1874, 169).
He was succeeded by his son, another John, who also held high office, and who was also killed on the field of battle, in his case in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton during the Wars of the Roses. His son the 3rd Earl, another John, died in 1473 aged 25. Both were buried in the Lady Chapel, but subsequent Earls and Dukes of Shrewsbury were buried in Sheffield.
Inheriting at the age of 5, the 4th earl, George, by contrast, lived to the age of about 70 and was at the heart of public events through stirring times for almost his entire life. He fought for Henry VII at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487, when he was 19. He was present with Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and was godfather to Henry’s sister Mary. He supported Henry’s divorce, was present at Katherine of Aragon’s trial, and accommodated Wolsey at Worksop Manor Lodge on his journey to London after he had been arrested for treason in 1530. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy was passed, making King Henry supreme head of the Church, and although it was generally accepted by the clergy and monastic houses, there were uprisings in the north of England, the most serious being the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Along with the Duke of Norfolk, it was the Earl of Shrewsbury, at the age of about 68, who raised troops to counter the rebellion, and it was they who negotiated with the rebels at Doncaster, and persuaded them to lay down their arms.
One of Henry VIII’s first actions on becoming head of the Church was to have its property valued so as to raise taxes, and the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 valued Worksop Priory’s income and noted a number of its regular outgoings. These included the sizable sum of £9 16s 4d per annum for the distribution of bread and beer to the poor at Christmas in memory of William de Lovetot, which seems very generous until considered in the context of the Prior’s daily dish of meat costing £3 pa, and the canons’ dish costing £4 pa. Overall, the Priory’s annual income was assessed at £239 15s 5d (Page et al, 1910, 127) making it the third-richest monastic house in Nottinghamshire after Lenton and Thurgarton Priories (Cameron, 1975, 51-2).
The commissioners Legh and Layton visited Worksop in 1536 and claimed to have discovered four canons guilty of unnatural sin and one desiring release from his vows. On 31st October 1538 Sir John Percy wrote that ‘the prior and convent of Worksop are so covetous, they sell flocks of sheep, kyne, corn, woods, etc’. As Page says ‘And who can blame them? They clearly foresaw their overthrow’ (Page et al, 1910, 128). On 15th November the Priory was dissolved, and the surrender was signed by 16 clerics:
The canons with asterisked names are those who had been accused by Legh and Leyton (Page et al, 1910, 128). The fact that they received pensions tends to suggest that there was no truth in the allegations.
The 4th Earl of Shrewsbury died a matter of months before Worksop Priory was dissolved, to be succeeded by his son Francis. Given how close the Talbots were to the Tudors, and that they were the descendants of the Priory’s original founders, their claim to its site, precincts, estates and other riches was very strong. The site and precincts, and most of its possessions and lands (approximately 2,330 acres) were granted to the 5th earl in November 1541, in exchange for a cash payment of £485 8s 6d, the manor of Farnham Royal in Buckinghamshire, and the service of providing a right hand glove for the monarch at his coronation, and supporting his arm whilst he held the sceptre (Stacye, 1874, 169). This service continues (Walker, 1974, 9), and was carried out at Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
At the time of the dissolution it is likely that the priory precincts were enclosed by a wall, the northern boundary of which was beyond the recreation grounds and would have included the old site of the Prior’s Well. Bracebridge would have been on the eastern boundary, with Jesus Cottage nearby. The southern boundary was probably Cheapside, previously Long-Wall Way, westwards to approximately the former Boundary Inn on Potter Street, and then northwards, enclosing the fishponds and water mill (Walker, 1975, 10-11).
Leland visited Worksop on one of his itineraries (c. 1538-43) and described it as follows:
‘About a mile beyond Blyth, I passed by a park caullid Hodsak, where Master Clifton hath a fair house. And a 2 miles farhther, much by hethy and then woddy ground, I cam over a smaul broke with a little stone bridge over it: and so strait into Werkensop, a pretty market of 2 streates, and metely welle builded. [Made a market town more than xxx years ago.] the Priorie of Blak Chanons there was a thing of great building. Ther is at the south side of the priory cowrt a very fair great gate of hewyn stone. The olde castelle on a hill by the towne is cleane down, and scant knowen wher it was.’ (quoted by Holland, 1826, 143).
Richard Nicholson, the architect responsible for restoring the church in the 1840s, drew an impression of what he thought the priory would have looked like before its dissolution, with its apsidal choir and attached chapel. In envisaging his reconstruction, Nicholson seems to have been heavily influenced by Southwell Minster, to which Worksop undeniably bears resemblances. However, there is no evidence that Worksop had steeply pitched roofs to the nave and aisles, as imagined by Nicholson, and as built during his restoration. Both Thoroton and Buck show virtually flat roofs, and Canon d’Arcy, responsible for commissioning Brakspear’s work in the 1920s and 1930s, considered that Worksop’s roofs had originally been flat. Nonetheless, Nicholson’s perspective drawing gives an indication of the scale of the Priory. Nearly double the length of the surviving church, and with its magnificent spires, it would have been one of the most impressive structures in the county.
The demolition of the abbey buildings and the choir would have begun soon after the property passed into the hands of the Earl, and it is likely that most of the building materials – dressed stone, rubble, lead, timber and glass – would have found their way to other of the earl’s possessions. However, ‘a local tradition says that many of the beautifully carved stones of the ancient monastery were used for repairing the roads, and richly ornamented fragments are said to have been found in all sorts of unfrequented places, whither they had been carried by sacrilegious hands’ (Standish, 1901, 27).
The Gatehouse survived, and part of the Lady Chapel was retained, perhaps because it contained the tombs of the 1st Countess, and 2nd and 3rd Earls of Shrewsbury, and a number of Shrewsbury retainers. The nave of the Priory survived due to its use for parochial services, the arches that terminated the nave and aisles being walled up, with the east end windows added in about 1560. Until the building work took place it must have been an extremely uncomfortable environment in which to worship and the relationship between the parishioners and the Shrewsbury family must have been very strained during this period.
Items from the churchwardens’ accounts, which seem to have been begun shortly after the dissolution, are reproduced by Nicholson, and show day-to-day administration, expenses relating to the liturgy and items to do with demolition and the transformation of the priory nave into parish church. A selection of the items are included as follows:
It is interesting to note changes in worship between the reign of the catholic Mary and her protestant successor Queen Elizabeth, reflected in a matter-of-fact way in the accounts, which also give dates for the new bells and blocking the eastern arch to form an end for the nave. It is also rather comforting to see that keeping birds out of the church has always been an ongoing problem!
In 1567, ‘p’cells of money [were] collected and gathered by the church wardens of the P’yshners …. towards the repayre of the church & othr necessaryes’ and large quantities of stone were sold. The church was in a very dilapidated state, the roofs of both aisles appear to have fallen in, and several windows were unglazed.
The money which had been raised was spent as follows:
In its essence this work created the parish church as it was to stand until the mid-nineteenth century.
Through the remainder of the sixteenth century, the churchwardens’ accounts shed light on continued work in the church, to the rood loft, the stalls and pulpit, the windows and vestry, and to the gatehouse. In 1587 Roberte Fryth and Xpofer Wynne were presented for not paying the cessment for the repair of the church; Jo. Mecocke and Wm Gybson for the same. The spires were slated and repaired at a cost of eleven shillings in 1590, and the organs were repaired in 1596 by Christopher Carlile at a cost of nearly four shillings, including ‘sope to skoure pipes, quicke silver, sowther, & glewe’. There is also a list of ‘the charitable contributions of the inhabitants [of Worksop] to the Townes of East and West Retford, burnt wt fire’ in 1585, and an item of three shillings ‘payd to six virgins when the Queene’s matie came to Worksop Manor’ on her journey from Scotland in 1603 for her husband James I’s accession to the throne in 1603. £5 11s 2d was spent on redecorating the church in 1626, and this included for the royal arms of Charles I, which hung from the roof at the east end of the church. He had succeeded to the throne in 1625. The substantial sum of one guinea was spent on ringing the church bells for three days when Charles I passed through the town in 1633 during his progress to Scotland, for his coronation and to hold a parliament (Nicholson, 1850, 17). Wood has estimated Worksop’s population from baptism and burial records, and concludes that it stood at about 700-1,000 in 1600 (Wood, 1937, 24).
A vicar during Elizabeth’s reign, John Goodriche, came to notice in 1595 by being accused of immorality and not being godly, sober and honest (Train, 1961, 210), and his successor, Richard Barnard, was indicted for refusing to use reverence in administering baptism (Copnall, 1915, 167). These would have seemed minor scandals compared with that which occurred at the death of Oliver Bray, Barnard’s successor, in 1614/5. He died a young man, aged about 27, and a local woman, Margaret, wife of Ralph Pattrick of Worksop, was indicted for murdering him by poisoning on 13th January of that year (Copnall, 1915, 35).
In the spring and summer of 1635, John Harrison surveyed the manors of Worksop and the Priory for the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, 2nd Earl of the Howard line. In 1616 he had inherited the Worksop estates of the Earls of Shrewsbury through his wife Alethea, youngest daughter of the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. Although the map which accompanied the survey has been lost, a conjectural reconstruction has been carried out, depicting the manors of Worksop and the Priory, which comprised nearly 8,000 acres (Scurfield, 1986).
The reconstruction shows that although the manors had been united since the Dissolution, there remained two distinct centres of settlement in 1635. One was concentrated to the east of Castle Hill, around the Market Place, Bridge Street/Park Street and Potter Street. The other – Radford or ‘Nether Town’ – lay to the south of the Priory church and gatehouse, along Abbey Street/ Lowtown Street and Cheapside. The low-lying land in the vicinity of the river was meadow, including much of what had lain within the Priory precincts, and there was pasture where Eastgate now runs, and arable to the south of Cheapside, with sheepwalks beyond. Although Worksop itself still retained an open field system at this date, the open fields in the vicinity of Radford, which had been the Priory manor, had long been enclosed (Nether-towne Fields and Lath-Field). Of the land which had belonged to the Priory, 199 acres were let to Thomas Mychell, 410 acres to the bailiff John Flower, and 1284 acres to Henry Cole, who occupied Jesus House at Bracebridge. Mychell’s farm included fields named Fermery yards and Godscroft, lying either side of Longwall Way, the latter name possibly referring to the original Priory precinct boundary, whilst the former may point to the position of the Priory’s infirmary. Cole’s land stretched south of Manton Farmhouse and included two very large arable fields and Manton sheepwalks. Flower’s land was more scattered and included Tomcroft, land further south, grassland by Castle Hill and an extensive sheepwalk east of Manton (Scurfield, 1986, 51).
The centre of settlement located to the west of Castle Hill would originally have been dominated by the castle, but by 1635 there was ‘nothing remayning thereof, but only a hill where ye Castle stood’. ‘Tenter Green’ abutted Castle Hill and separated it from the market-place, with stalls, the standings of the butchers’ shambles, and at least 4 shops. There was a ‘markett kept every Wednesday and one fayre yearly, and that upon the XXth day of March’. The shops were located under the Moot Hall, perhaps the one official building in the town. The parish’s most imposing secular buildings would have been Worksop Manor, located in the Park, designed by Robert Smythson and built in the 1580s, and Manor Lodge of c. 1594-5, also probably by Smythson.
The other centre of settlement – Radford – would still have been dominated by the Priory church and gatehouse, with the vicarage adjoining. On the north side of the church was the ‘Old Churchyard’ and the still standing remains of an ‘ancient house which in tymes past was a Priory (being much decayed)’. In Priory Fold on the opposite side of the lane, stood a granary, kilnhouse, brewhouse and mill, the latter described as old and unlet – probably disused. Nearby in ‘Priory Lath Fold’ was a large 7 bay barn and a small granary. The names ‘Backhouse meadow’, ‘Wellhouse yards’ and ‘Fyrmery yards’ probably refer to the previous existence of buildings (Scurfield, 1986, 52-3).
The Hearth Tax returns made in 1664 and 1674 show that Worksop was the fourth largest town in Nottinghamshire, after Nottingham, Newark and Mansfield, with 176 houses, suggesting a population of around 750 (Webster, 1988, xxiii, 132), according quite well with Wood’s estimate for 1600. In its size it stood out from other settlements in the north-west of the county, which was generally thinly populated, and it was also distinguished by its greater prosperity, having a much lower proportion of one-hearth households than for example, Carlton-in-Lindrick, Norton Cuckney and Warsop, which were all relatively large settlements with more than 100 houses, but comprising between 48 and 62% of single-hearthed dwellings. Worksop’s higher level of prosperity would have been due to its market (ibid, xxix). The vicar in 1674 was Samuel Buckingham, and the vicarage can be identified from his name, as a rambling dwelling with 6 hearths.
The earliest depiction of the Priory Church is that published by Thoroton in 1677. It shows a relatively low pitch to the nave roof, the eaves of which were battlemented, with pinnacles. There is irregular fenestration to the southern aisle, which must have had a flat roof since the gallery windows are clearly visible. The church appears to be in a good state of preservation, but this may partly be artistic licence – all Thoroton’s engravings are very neat. It is known from an entry from the ‘church-books’ of 1689, detailing a payment for ‘…taking down and setting up ye battlement of the steeple’ that the tops of the towers had to be repaired shortly after Thoroton’s engraving was published (Holland, 1826, 110), which suggests they weren’t in as good repair as Thoroton suggests. The monastic parlour is depicted to the north of the church, neatly thatched and with a chimney to the side, looking to be in domestic use. Part of the Lady Chapel is shown, in a ruinous condition and with piles of rubble surrounding it.
Buck’s engraving of 1726 shows much the same view, although the general state of repair seems far worse. The ruins of the cloisters and of the stubs of the south transept pillars are clearly visible where they adjoined the nave, with vegetation sprouting from them. The nave roof appears even lower in Buck’s depiction than in that of Thoroton, although that may simply indicate a different viewpoint.
Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743 notes that Worksop had 368 families (Wood, 1937, 25-6). Further information is provided in the responses of the Revd Ward, the vicar at that time, to Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation questions in 1764 (Fisher (ed.), 2012, 203-4). The Revd Ward stated that there were 455 families in the parish, indicating a population of about 2,000. This would suggest a considerable increase since 1674 and indeed since 1743. There were four families of Quakers, and 38 families of Roman Catholics. This was a very high proportion for provincial England, and would have been due to the fact that Worksop Manor was owned by the Catholic Dukes of Norfolk, who probably employed Catholic retainers. The schoolmaster was the Revd Peacock, who for a stipend of £4 p.a. instructed eight children in English, writing, accounts and the principles of religion, and accompanied them to church. The school was endowed by Mr Medley’s charity, which was funded by an estate at Ecclesfield, Yorkshire. The Revd Ward lived in the vicarage, employed no curate, and provided prayers every Wednesday and Friday, prayers morning and afternoon every Sunday with a sermon at the morning service, and sacrament seven times a year. There were nearly 1,360 communicants in the parish, and a West Gallery had been erected in 1760, followed by a North Gallery in 1784 (both were removed during the 1845-9 restoration). There had also been a small gallery in the late seventeenth century ‘betwixt two pillars next to the south church door’ with seven seats each accommodating six members of the congregation (Holland, 1826, 113), but this appears to have been removed by the early nineteenth century.
The first map to show the area in detail is George Kelk’s map of 1763 (NCRO WS 3L/1-6). The curtailed church is shown, with the south porch, but the Lady Chapel is omitted, since it was in a ruinous state by this date. Buildings are shown to the north of the church, likely to be those described in a Terrier of 1781, quoted by Holland:
‘In the church-yard stands the barn, the roof of which, having lately fallen in, is not yet rebuilt…also a stable, with two stalls, built with stone, and covered with thatch a hen-house, built with stone, and covered with tiles…’ Kelk depicts the Gatehouse, with the road passing under its arch, and the vicarage attached. The buildings to the south-west of the gatehouse included a wheelwright’s and a public house, but much of Potter Gate remained undeveloped, as did Mares Croft, although there were buildings along Cheapside and Lowtown Street.
On 5 November 1757 a draft intimation for a faculty to be granted to Robert White and Joseph Wilson, churchwardens, to build a new pulpit in Worksop church, was prepared (UNMSC AN/LB 240/1/37). In 1760 faculty papers were prepared to erect a new galley (UNMSC AN/M 4/7/115), and around the same time further faculty papers prepared ‘to build seats in the place where the pulpit and reading desk lately stood in Worksop church’ (UNMSC AN/M 4/7/116).
Kelk’s map predates the Chesterfield and Stockwith Canal, which opened in 1777. By Holland’s day it was sufficiently successful to pay a 7½% dividend, and it soon attracted housing, malt-kilns, warehouses, inns and wood-yards to its banks, ushering in a level of industry and commerce which by 1801 had increased Worksop’s population to 3,263 (Page (ed.), 1910, 310). John Wesley visited the town on 29th July 1780 but received a poor reception – ‘…when I came, they had not fixed on any place; at length they chose a lamentable one, full of dirt and dust, but without the least shelter from the scorching sun: this few could bear; so we had only a small company of as stupid hearers as ever I saw’. He never returned to Worksop. However, a Methodist chapel opened in 1813 and by the 1830s there were four non-conformist chapels and a Roman Catholic chapel at Sandhill Dyke (Holland 1826, 149; Jackson, 1992, 71).
George Parkyn’s aquatint of 1815 shows the low-pitched aisle and nave roof evident in Buck’s engraving, although fewer pinnacles, suggesting that they had fallen down or been demolished during the 18th century. The aquatint shows the east window and those in the east ends of the north and south aisles, and heavy buttressing to the wall of the north aisle, where the cloisters would originally have adjoined. The gallery windows to the north side of the nave are visible, indicating a low roof to the north aisle. More masonry had been lost from the Lady Chapel by this date.
A new vicarage was built in 1814, described in a terrier quoted by Holland (p131):
‘There is a very good vicarage-house, it is new, built of bricks, and covered with tiles, and consists of four rooms on the ground-floor, four chambers over them, and a closet. The floors are of deal or fir-wood, except the kitchen and passage, which are of limestone. There is a good arched cellar under the dining-room and part of the assage: adjoining to the house is a good Brewhouse, paved with bricks, and over it a chamber, the floor of which is of fir wood; there are two stair-cases, which are made of oak.
The churchyard is fenced, on the north by the church, a wall and a ruin; on the east and west, it is walled; and on the south side it is fenced by a low wall and iron palisade. The glebe consists of pond-yard, in which stands the vicarage-house; one acre two roods and thirty-eight perches; pond-yard near Worksop-church, one acre three roods and thirty-three perches; and part of a croft, seventeen perches.’
The new vicarage was in Potter Street, which Holland described in the mid-1820s (p144-5), stating that it ‘must at one period have been in a state far inferior to its present appearance…it used to be so wet or overflowed, as to require stepping-stones across for foot-passengers; the name of pond-yard in which the vicarage-house now stands, seems to favour the report; indeed such is the underground moisture of the low-town, that there are probably not half-a-dozen cellars in Radford. This street contains the post office, the bank of Messrs. Cook, Childers and Co, and many respectable private dwellings… Cheapside is the designation of a few small houses, mostly built in the bank along the road-side between Radford and the Bracebridge. Mr Champion has here a neat brick mansion on the right-hand of the road to Retford; and nearly opposite is an ancient timbered dwelling called Jesus House, which may originally have been one of the membra domestica of the priory.’
The Revd Thomas Stacye was instituted in 1792 and would have been the first occupant of the new vicarage. In 1832, by which time he was at least 80, Archdeacon Wilkins described him in a letter to the Archbishop of York as well-respected and kind, but said that a dreadful speech impediment ‘distressing and disgusting to witness…is such as to have driven too many of his parishioners to the meeting house and threatens to dispel most of the remainder, and affords just ground of complaint from all…I am wholly at a loss to comprehend him, and was compelled to call upon the churchwardens or his son to interpret from me; added to this his memory is very defective, and as the consequence of his determination to accept and admit of no assistance whatever, his ministry is a solemn mockery’. He would not resign and proposed to carry on until his son was old enough to be ordained, so that he could act as curate whilst his father continued to draw the emoluments of vicar. (This sounds extremely self-interested but it is of course possible that the poor old man and his family had no other means of support.) A very pragmatic solution was found: Archdeacon Wilkins raised a subscription to pay for a curate to take over the duty of the parish from that date, so that the parish was properly served, without expense to Stacye. It was as well that Wilkins had taken action, because 13 years later, Stacye still held the living, although at this point John Stacye, his son, had been ordained and could act as his curate. The Revd Stacye died shortly after, by which time he was in his mid to late-90s, and in 1847 the Revd James Appleby was instituted to the vicarage (Wood, 1953, 45-6). John Stacye does not appear to have remained in the Church after his father’s death, but he contributed to Nicholson’s ‘Sketches of the Remains of the Abbey Church…at Worksop’, White’s Worksop, the Dukery and Sherwood Forest and was the author of The Priory and Parish Church of Worksop or Radford, Nottinghamshire to which this current piece of work is indebted.
By the 1830s Worksop was by all accounts, pleasant and thriving, described in White’s Directory of 1832 as ‘a handsome market town…of 1170 houses, being an increase of 2303 persons and 411 since the year 1801…there are about forty maltsters [and] excellent barley (as well as other grain and roots) is produced in the parish…Worksop is a clean and plesant market town, with an eastern suburb called Radford. On the approach from the east, the appearance of the town, lying in a valley, overtopped by the magnificent towers of the church, and backed by swelling hills finely clothed with wood, is extremely picturesque. Its situation is indeed delightful, and both nature and art have contributed to its beauty, for the houses are in general well built, the two principal streets spacious and well paved, and the inns clean and comfortable…Much of the bustle of business enlivens it, from being on the post road to Sheffield, and having the advantage of the Chesterfield Canal…though there are no manufactures here, the condition of the poor is better than in most other places for many of them find employment either in agricultural pursuits or in the numerous malt kilns in the town and neighbourhood, where there are also six extensive corn mills’ (White, 1832).
Although Worksop was thriving, by this time the church was in a very poor, even dangerously crumbling condition, not helped by the fact that since the Dissolution it seems to have been customary for residents of the town to take stone from the churchyard for their own purposes, at the rate of 1s per load. The practice was ended by the Revd Appleton, who soon after his institution prevented a man from taking pieces of stone from the ruined walls of the Lady Chapel. The man was so sure of his rights that he took the matter to court. He lost, and the age-old custom finally ended (Jackson, 1992, 72).
Richard Nicholson, a young Lincoln architect, described how he became involved in the project to restore the church as follows:
‘The idea of the Restoration of the Church of my Native Town was suggested to me in the year 1845, by a casual conversation with some of my friends, who were, at that time, like myself, sojourning in London for the ostensible object of seeking knowledge; and it will be readily conceived that numerous associations arose in my mind prompting me to assist in carrying out the suggestion. In the spring of the same year I visited Worksop, and found, on enquiry, that the Restoration of the Church was seriously contemplated by many of the parishioners, from whom I received great encouragement to adventure on the undertaking.’ (Nicholson, 1850, i).
He drew up plans and in February 1846 a public meeting chaired by the Duke of Newcastle resolved to carry out a thorough restoration, aiming to make the parish church structurally sound and restoring it to how it had looked originally. Work began with the removal of its furnishings, fixtures, box pews and the galleries which had been put in during the 18th century. This revealed the full extent of the church’s dangerous condition and the number of intra-mural burials which had taken place over the centuries, particularly on the south side of the church, where they had undermined the pillars to the extent that they were 15" (38 cm) out of perpendicular. It became clear that the work would preclude the church’s use while it was being carried out, so the nearby Abbey Girls’ School was licenced as a place of worship so that services could be held there in the interim.
The bases of the pillars on the south side were replaced with new Anston stone bases modelled to the form of the originals, set on new foundations, each of two blocks of stone over concrete. The foundations were set level, whereas the pillars they supported were out of true by a matter of about 1½" (4 cm), and so iron wedges were inserted between the bases and their supporting blocks, to be gradually withdrawn as each pillar subsided onto its new, level base.
At the same time, eight timber cross-beams were placed across the church resting on the sills of the clerestory windows. On the north side a length of timber running along the outside of the church was fixed to the protruding ends of the beams, whilst the wall was shored up with timber supports on the inside. The cross-beams had iron rods fixed to their southern ends, which passed through a horizontal timber beam, flush to the clerestory wall, running the full length of the outside of the church. Screws were fitted to exert an even pressure on the timber, and very gradually, they were tightened to right the wall. As it regained the vertical, the iron wedges under the pillars could gradually be removed. Considering that the wall was 117' (35.5 m) long, and that the pillars were 34' (10.5 m) tall and 3½' (1 m) in diameter, this was truly a remarkable achievement.
Once this was done, the remainder of the restoration was carried out. The foundations and bases of the pillars on the north side of the nave, and the pillars of the two western towers, were removed and replaced in a similar manner to those on the south side. The foundations of the south wall of the south-west tower were replaced up to the top of the moulded base above ground level. The north and south aisle walls were rebuilt, the north aisle doorways restored, and windows – which according to Nicholson were similar to those in the south aisle – were introduced. The flat aisle roofs were removed and restored to a steep pitch, and the flat nave roof was replaced with a steep pitched open roof with interlaced rafters (Nicholson, 1850, 9-10).
The framework of the nave roof was assembled in an adjoining field and on Whit Monday 1847 it was bedecked with flowers and evergreens, to form the venue for 380 children at the annual National Schools treat. Afterwards it was taken apart and raised into its final position section by section (Jackson, 1992, 73).
The gables at the east and west end were raised accordingly and surmounted with crosses. A new triplet window was inserted at the east end of the nave, with a wheel window above it, and a single-light window was inserted at the east end of both aisles. The western portal and the window and string course above it were also restored, along with many of the internal mouldings, which had previously been thickly whitewashed. Finally, the many interior vaults were filled in and covered with memorial floor slabs interspersed with flagstones, the chancel was repaved, and the aisles relaid (Nicholson, 1850, 9-10; Jackson, 1992, 71).
The sizeable beams which had been used to correct the structural issues, were used a second time as scaffolding for cleaning and restoring the upper part of the building and for putting up the new roof, and afterwards, were used as flooring (Nicholson, 1850, 10). A very unusual engraving survives, depicting the restoration work in progress.
As well as seeing the completion of the Priory restoration, 1849 also saw the arrival of the railway in Worksop, leading to considerable development to the north of the town, along the Carlton and Gateford roads. The area south of Potter Street was also built up at around this time – what had been a field called Marescroft developed into a warren of streets, alleys and courts of poorly constructed cottages, many of them back-to-back, bounded by Abbey Street, Newgate Street and Cuthbert Street (Jackson, 1969, 3).
A religious census was carried out in 1851, by which time the population of Worksop had reached 7,332 (Watts, 1988, 55). The census recorded that, following the restoration, the church could accommodate 1150. The minister, Mr Appleton, stated that the averages were 1,000 for the morning service, 500 for the afternoon, and 700 for the evening. On the actual day of the census – 30th March 1851 – there was a congregation of 567 for the morning service, 266 for the afternoon, and 311 for the evening service.
As well as the 1,164 Anglicans, there were 1,021 non-conformist worshippers on census day, as well as 14 Mormons and 317 Roman Catholics, the high number of Catholics reflecting the long-standing influence of the Dukes of Norfolk, who had allowed local Catholics to use the chapel at Worksop Manor, and had then provided a building for worship in the town. Added together there were 38.7% active worshippers in the population of Worksop – somewhat lower than the county average of 44%.
Further impetus to economic growth was provided by the discovery of coal on the Duke of Newcastle’s land at Shireoaks, where a colliery was opened in 1859, which came to employ ‘the greater portion of the inhabitants of the village …which greatly increased in size and population…and also of the surrounding neighbourhood’ including Worksop itself (White, 1864, 638). By 1861 Worksop’s population had risen to 8361 (Page, 1910, 310).
Despite or perhaps because of economic expansion, by the 1860s, local perception was that religion was losing the fight against a variety of evil influences. At a meeting in 1862 the Duke’s agent, Henry Heming, stated that ‘no one can pass through this town late on a Saturday night and witness the indecencies and drunkenness which are so prevalent, or notice the desecration of the Lord’s Day (by young people especially, who, instead of attending a place of worship, are prowling about in every direction, often committing depredations upon property and insult upon individuals, or gambling upon the roads) without feeling that the masses are “as sheep scattered abroad, having no shepherd…I believe that there are nearly seventy inns and beershops in the town of Worksop, and taking an average accommodation of each at twenty, you will find that much greater accommodation has been provided for the demoralising, health-destroying and domestic-comfort-destroying agencies than has been provided by the stablished church for religious worship’ (quoted in Jackson, 1969, 28). A new church, dedicated to St John, opened in 1869 to the north of the town centre, in response to Worksop’s growing population.
White’s Directory of 1864 makes no mention of any social problems that Worksop may have been experiencing by the mid-19th century, but notes that the restoration of the priory had cost £2,122 12s, towards which the Duke of Newcastle had contributed £500. The directory goes on to mention the Furnival and Lovetot memorials as described by the priory caretaker as ‘morals of antikkity, merable of the Funnyfields and Lovecats’ (White, 1864, 631).
Richard Nicholson concluded his description of the 1849 restoration by saying that ‘much still remains to be done, which the parishioners will, doubtless, soon be able to complete’ (p10). By 1875 it could be said that Nicholson’s east end had been completed by the construction of the reredos, when White described it as follows:
‘The last ornament added to the edifice is the beautiful reredos presented to it by his Grace the late Duke of Newcastle, with his usual generosity. This gives great richness to the east end of the church, and looking from its opposite end, terminates the vista very pleasingly; but when the eye has become accustomed to its varied hues, and can critically trace out all its details, again it becomes a question whether its features accord well with the old fabric it has been placed in; and also whether its really best materials, such as the marble shafts forming a part of the composition, should have been so entirely subdued by the tints emanating simply from the painter’s brush aided by gilding. As a work of art, however, it will command admiration; and the difficulty of treating this end of the church must be borne in mind, consisting as it does, simply of a veil of masonry, filling up the original central tower-arch. There can be no doubt as to the genius of the designer, Mr G. G. Scott, nor of the munificence of the noble donor of this reredos.’
It must have been known that repair work was needed to the towers in the 1870s, because in 1874 Sir George Gilbert Scott provided a ‘Specification of Works required to be done in Restoring, Repairing &c Worksop Abbey Church’. Nothing was done during the 1870s but the town was reminded that not all was well at Christmas in 1881, when the church bells had to be silent. The north tower, which housed the bells, was dangerous by this time and it was feared that the vibrations caused by their ringing would prove disastrous. A specification and quotation was provided by a firm of Sheffield architects in December 1882 (NCRO PR 22,643), which stated:
‘There are cracks and indications of settlements in the lower portions of the Towers, but it is only in the upper stages of the Northern one that there are defects requiring serious attention, the same stages of the Southern Tower, in which there are no bells, being comparatively sound. On the Southern face of the Northern Tower the wall is split through for the whole height of the two upper stages and there is a considerable crack on its Eastern face. These injuries have been mainly, if not altogether, caused by the ringing of the Bells, which are hung in a badly arranged dilapidated frame wedged tightly between the Tower walls. Considerable portions of the walls and Piers having been cut away to make room for it. The Stonework in different parts of the Towers is decayed, and some of it loose and insecure, pointing and general repairs are needed and the roofs, more particularly that on the Southern Tower, require attention. It is absolutely necessary that, before the Bells are again rung, they should be taken down, with their frame, and rehung in a proper manner, with new fittings, in a new and more compact frame, so arranged to be kept quite clear of the walls …
Quote £500 including all structural work and recasting the 3rd bell. Flockton and Gibbs, Architects, 15 St James’ Row, Sheffield. 2nd December 1882’
An appeal was launched, and it was decided to have all the bells recast and two new ones added. The work was done at Messrs. Warner’s London foundry, and by Christmas 1883 the structural work to the towers had been completed and the bells rehung, allowing the traditional peal to be rung out on Christmas Eve (Jackson, 1992, 73-4). A photograph of the church survives from the 1890s, when Priorswell Road was cut through from Cheapside so that the road no longer ran beneath the Gatehouse arch. It shows the Priory Church following the Nicholson restoration and the Flockton and Gibbs repairs to the towers.
The Revd Appleton had been succeeded in 1870 by Edward Hawley, whose previous post had been as perpetual curate of Shireoaks, so he was familiar with Worksop and knew many in the congregation. An active man who had gained his rowing blue at Cambridge, his ministry was successful at first but in later life his health deteriorated and physical and mental illness dogged his final years, in the words of his obituary ‘unsuspected by himself and misunderstood by others’. Gladstone visited Worksop occasionally in his capacity as a trustee of the 5th Duke of Newcastle, and he described the Revd Hawley less charitably – ‘a drinking vicar who has delirium tremens’ (quoted by Jackson, 1992, 74). From 1882 the vicar was the Revd Henry T Slodden, very conservative in outlook – he wrote all his sermons with a quill pen – but diligent and well-respected, serving Worksop for 27 years. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Priory had been transformed from a decaying church with an inarticulate vicar into a well-maintained place of worship served by competent and conscientious clergymen, providing half the town’s schools, with an increased role in the local life of the community. By 1901 Worksop’s population had reached 16,112 (Page, 1910, 310).
The Revd Slodden died in 1909 and was succeeded by the Revd G J A d’ Arcy, Canon of Southwell.
Archbishop Hoskyns visited Worksop deanery in March and April 1911, and in his letter to the clergy he referred to the rapidly changing character of the Dukeries:
‘…around these beautiful parks, where still are seen the ancient forest oaks of Sherwood, a great change is coming. Close to Clumber and Welbeck we note the tall colliery chimney and the stream of miners as they come and go to work, and ere long this will be the case at Rufford. Not slowly but rapidly Worksop is becoming a great mining centre, and, if report is true, will soon have within it a population of 30,000 and not 20,000.’
He referred to plans to rebuild the choir of the church, and build a new church school, and noted that the living was valued at £298 p.a., which was by no means generous considering the size of the parish, which necessitated the employment of two curates. 1,037 pupils attended the church day school and 812 attended Sunday school (Austin (ed.), 2004, 88-9, 213).
The first large building project under the Revd d’ Arcy was the restoration of the Gatehouse, which was undertaken in memory of his predecessor. It was completed in 1912, the same year that St Anne’s parish church was established in response to Worksop’s continuing growth, touched on by Archbishop Hoskyns.
War was declared on 4th August 1914 and ‘very early on Wednesday morning the members of the ‘C’ (Worksop) Squadron of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and the 6th (Worksop) Battalion of the Notts and Derby regiment were present at the Drill Hall to report themselves and to be medically examined’ (Worksop Guardian, 7/8/1914). Local factories were turned over to war production, including Messrs. Steel and Garland Ltd of Kilton Road, who went from manufacturing fire grates to hand grenades. Many men volunteered and the local newspapers printed a selection of their letters from the trenches for example this from Lance-Corporal. Luke Watkinson, D Company, 10th Sherwood Foresters:
‘I went out to the Dardanelles with the 9th Sherwood Foresters, and I came back to England into hospital. Now I have joined the 10th Battalion in France, and I have found a lot of my old Worksop chums here. I am quite happy in my little dug-out until the Germans send one of Krupp’s iron foundries over and blow me out of it…I think there are plenty of young men in Worksop who could enlist. This is my second time out and some of them have not enlisted yet. I think I would rather be going down Manton pit with my bottle than be out here under fire and up to my knees in mud and water… I send my best respects to all my friends in Worksop and come to a close.’
Corporal Watkinson was, sadly, to be killed in action in France on 5th May 1916.
In the face of mounting casualties, conscription was introduced in January 1916 and some of the applications for exemption heard at the Worksop Council Offices make sorry reading:
‘A Carlton horseman asked for exemption from Group 15 on the grounds that he had a widowed mother who was dependent on him, that one brother was serving and that another was going in March. The tribunal, after going into the financial question, thought the mother would be better off with the separation allowance, and the application was refused. A young farmer from Styrrup made out a good case for exemption. He was, he said, the only male on the place on which he had 185 sheep, two cows and some pigs. His widowed mother was seriously ill and a sister was also an invalid at times. Another sister kept the house. He was put back to May to enable him to sell his sheep.’
The war ended on 11th November 1918:
‘The news that The Great War was at an end, and that the Germans had accepted the terms of the Armistice, became known in Worksop about 10 o’ clock. For a time people could not believe it, the news seemed too good to be true. It was almost impossible to imagine that hopes were realised and that the dark shadow of war had been lifted. Presently the news was confirmed and it spread with amazing rapidity. Work was suspended and the streets were thronged with people…As the day wore on the Priory Church bells rang a merry peal and it was very evident that work was to be put aside for the day’ (Worksop Guardian 15/11/1918). In all, Worksop had lost 452 dead (Nottinghamshire Family History Society).
The Priory Church commemorated the end of the Great War by restoring the Lady Chapel in memory of the fallen. It had lain roofless, ruined and detached from the main body of the church since the sixteenth century – the photograph depicts its condition towards the end of the nineteenth century. In response to Worksop’s expanding population a scheme had been put in place before the outbreak of war to renew the East End of the church with a long choir, transepts and a west tower and crossing which would link to and include the restoration of the Lady Chapel. Plans were drawn up by Harold Brakspear, a prominent architect and archaeologist, later knighted, who was responsible for the restoration of St George’s Chapel Windsor. The scheme was published in The Builder in October 1911 (NCRO PR 22, 679). The plans were shelved at the outbreak of war, but the project gained momentum again in the early 1920’s, beginning with the restoration of the Lady Chapel. The work was carried out by Brakspear and his restoration, according to Pevsner, was carried out ‘on the strength of, on the whole, reliable evidence’. The Lady Chapel was re-dedicated for divine service in 1922. The names of the fallen ‘of the old parish of Worksop’ are noted on oak panels carved by Thomas J Pepper (Walker, 1975, 21).
In 1929, the Lady Chapel was joined to the nave by a south transept, again by Sir Harold Brakspear. Thomas Pepper also carved the Rood, Last Supper and Patron Saints, all of Sherwood oak (Walker, 1975, 21), but unfortunately these no longer form part of the fabric of the church. While the work to the south transept was being done, an interesting discovery was made, which Canon d’Arcy announced in the Diocesan Magazine in 1930:
‘It gives us great pleasure to record the discovery of the old piscine (altar drain) belonging to St Leonard’s Chapel at the end of the South Aisle of the Nave. It was always supposed that there was one hidden somewhere, and from an old plan of the Nave we were able to locate it. Unfortunately all of it that jutted out from the wall has been cut away, to make a level plastered wall all along the aisle. However, enough remains to show what it once was like, and a very beautiful thing it must have been when perfect. It forms a recess in the wall, and on the left hand side is a fluted panel, with drain, while on the right is a stone table to hold the vessels for the celebration of Holy Communion. So far as we know its design is unique…and the architect (Mr Harold Brakspear) who came up to inspect it, tells the same story. Under his directions the stone has been carefully exposed to view, and it will add largely to the interest of an already most interesting church’ (NCRO DR1/1/12/14/43-4).
In the same year, Canon d’Arcy noted that the southern half of the nave roof had had to be reinstated and re-leaded – he noted ruefully that the leadwork from the 1845-49 restoration had not stood the test of time, and that a high proportion of the other roofs would need repair when funds allowed. The following year he wrote that ‘the roof especially was absolutely new then, replacing the old flat roof of lead, which was wrongly thought to be a later roof than the original. Investigation of the roof revealed that the lead of the gutters was practically all perished, the slates had partly perished and loosed in their holding; and the wood underneath both slates and gutters was rotten’. He noted that immediate repairs were needed, that the work would cost £550, and that only £173 12s 10d had at that point been raised (ibid).
As soon as the expenses of building the South transept were settled up, fundraising began for the North transept, crossing, and Lantern, which were added in 1935 (Walker, 1975, 21). Sir Harold Brakspear did not live to see his plans realised, and the work was completed under the direction of his son Mr Oliver Brakspear, who annotated his father’s original design for the west tower. At this point the blocking walls at the east end of the nave and aisle were removed, revealing the Norman piers and arches of the original central tower (NCRO DR 1/1/12/14/47). The stained glass from the 19th century east window, and Sir Gilbert Scott’s reredos, were relocated at the end of the north transept. The lantern is shown on the architectural drawing on the left – much lower than the tower Brakspear had designed, but an effective ‘half-way house’ with which to top the central space linking the nave and transepts, until further funds became available. The construction of the north transept, crossing, and lantern was facilitated by a gift of building materials by Worksop Corporation:
‘To the west of the Church – just over the way, in fact – stood the Priory Farm and Priory Mill. Quite recently the Borough Council purchased these properties for demolition purposes in order to extend the Canch Recreation Ground…Representations were made to the Mayor that the materials used in these buildings came from the old Priory Church, with the result that the Town Council most graciously offered the stone etc., as a free gift to the Church authorities provided the latter made themselves responsible for the demolition, to this a glad answer was given, and the dismantling has shown that the Vicar and Wardens were right in their contention. Cut stone, blocks of arches, bases of pillars and columns, and even tombstones with inscriptions, have all been brought to light – a clear proof that those who built the mill and its surrounding buildings simply walked into the Church precincts, and took what they liked for their work. These stones have now been restored to the first owners and are within the Church grounds in great masses. Surely an act of poetic justice! … The old stone is being used wherever possible, and it may be that some of the blocks will even be replaced where they were laid by the builders of old in days now long far distant.’ (NCRO DR/1/1/12/14/47)
Archbishop Hoskyns had referred in 1911 to the expansion of coal mining in the area. Manton pit had opened in 1905, and Clipstone opened in 1922, followed by Firbeck in 1923, and Harworth the following year. Work had actually started at Harworth in August 1914, but the capital had been put up by a German mining magnate. The officials and workmen of the sinking company were promptly interned at the outbreak of war and work ceased until a British company was formed in 1917 (Waller, 1923, 15-16). The other Dukeries pits followed in quick succession – Ollerton in 1925, Blidworth in 1926, Bilsthorpe in 1927 and Thoresby in 1928 (ibid, 4). It is estimated that the population of the area increased by 25,000 between 1921 and 1931 due to the influx of miners and their families, about 70% of whom had come from older pits in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, with the remainder haling mainly from Derbyshire, Yorkshire and the North-East (ibid, 29, 35). Pit villages were built to accommodate many of the miners and their families, but the impact on Worksop itself was considerable, and by 1931 its population stood at 26,285, roughly in line with Archbishop Hoskyns’ prediction.
As the 1930s carried on, further repair work continued at the Priory Church. The aisle walls were in a poor condition despite being partially rebuilt in the 1840s.
‘Mr Oswald Brakspear puts the decay of the stones to various causes. One of these certainly is that the stone was too porous when it was put in … Another cause was due to defective drainage. The north side was put right last year but the south side, which was apparently in working order, was in a very bad condition on examination. For some unknown reason the old culvert had never been connected up with the main drain, and the rainwater could not get away, so the rising damp accounted for the perishing of the stone both at the top and the bottom of the walls. A further cause was the formation of the string course, which prevented the water from getting away. On these repairs we have made a start, says Canon D’Arcy, but we shall only be able to do them as we have the money in the fund.’ (NCRO DR 1/1/12/14/52)
World War II broke out on 3rd September 1939. Conscription was introduced immediately, and by the end of spring in 1940 over 4,000 evacuees had been moved to the Worksop and Clowne areas – ‘One little lad said to a Worksop Guardian reporter: “My mammy told me that I had been away many times to see my aunties and uncles I do know, but today I was going to see an aunt and uncle I don’t know”’ (Worksop Guardian 7/6/1940). Coal mining was not a reserved occupation and many miners were conscripted into the armed services, resulting in a severe labour shortage in the pits. By mid-1943 the industry had lost 36,000 workers and the effect on the war effort was becoming severe. The problem was addressed by directing 10% of new conscripts to the mines, and they became known as ‘Bevin boys’. Many found themselves directed to the pits in the Worksop area – for example in January 1944 ‘Forty new Bevin Boys arrived at Cresswell Colliery on Monday. They will stay at Cresswell for four weeks and then be moved on to various collieries in the North Midlands. A cheerful set of lads, the batch were all aged 18-20 and were from the south’ (Worksop Guardian 14/1/1944). The D-Day landings began on 6th June 1944 and a notice for the Priory Church stated that ‘His Majesty, the King, on the night following the invasion of France, called all his Subjects to Prayer. The Vicar invites all to a Special Service of Intercession next Sunday Evening, at half-past six, which will be in place of the usual Evensong’ (Worksop Guardian 9/6/1944). Canon d’Arcy died during the war, in 1941, and his successor was the Revd J G Morton Howard.
Huge alarm was caused locally in April 1945:
‘Following an extensive search by the police over a wide area, three German prisoners of war who were missed from a camp near Worksop when the roll was called on Monday night, were re-captured at Clowne in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “The whole of Clowne area was tense with excitement when I received warning that the three escaped prisoners had been seen on the railway nearby” writes our local representative. “There must have been something like 1,000 men out searching, while many housewives closed and bolted their doors with particular care” ’ (Worksop Guardian 13/4/1945).
The war in Europe ended on 8th May 1945 – ‘the rejoicings were tempered by acts of humble reverence and heartfelt thanksgivings for mercies vouchsafed with remembrance of those whose sacrifice helped to bring victory and thoughts also for our men – and women – still separated from their loved ones. The outstanding feature of the celebrations was the crowded attendance at Church services’ (WG 11/5/1945). Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on 15th August 1945, effectively bringing World War II to an end. Worksop lost 216 dead during World War II, commemorated on the Cenotaph on Memorial Avenue.
Restoration work continued at the Priory Church during the 1950s and the layout to the western approach to the church, the Avenue, and the area fronting the gatehouse was improved. A temporary church opened at Manton in 1953, replaced with a church hall in 1956, and a permanent church in 1963, removing the need for the Choir proposed by Brakspear, which was to have been built in response to Worksop’s increasing population. In 1960 the gatehouse was itself restored, and two years later the Borough Council took charge of the South Churchyard and began an improvement scheme (Walker, 1975, 22).
In 1965 Mr J F Ellis, formerly a Worksop timber merchant and in his childhood a Priory choirboy, left a bequest of £43,000 to the church, to enable the central tower and choir to be completed. Further fundraising was carried out, and work began in 1970 with Lawrence King and Partners as architects. The work comprised a new East End, with a new organ and triple lancet window under a reclaimed stone arch, a vestry and sacristy behind, and a meeting room and other offices above. The work was completed in 1974 and on 18th May of that year a service of Dedication took place for the hallowing of the completed extension and renovation. Although he criticises its detailing, Pevsner says that ‘the scale and simplicity of the squat tower (with thin fleche), gable-ended choir and two-storeyed sacristy and vestries are right’. The rib-vaulted parlour, previously used as the choir vestry, has recently been restored as a meeting room.
The latter years of the twentieth century were unkind to Worksop and the Dukeries. Despite the closure of Firbeck Colliery in 1968 because of geological issues, coal mining remained a prosperous industry, and in the 1960s another Dukeries pit opened, at Bevercotes. As recently as 1983, Waller was able to say that ‘at present production levels Bilsthorpe Colliery could continue production for at least 480 years and Ollerton Colliery for at least 313 years’ (Waller, 1983, 23). And yet, partly for political reasons, and partly due to the trend towards ‘cleaner’ means of generating electricity, almost all the collieries in the area closed in the 1980s and 1990s. Only Clipstone, Harworth, Welbeck and Thoresby surviving into the 21st century, and all are now closed. Local unemployment rose dramatically, and social problems such as drug abuse soared. Although it would be fair to say that Worksop still has social problems which date back to the traumatic closure of the area’s coal mines, employment in light industry and logistics has been established in recent years, and levels of unemployment are now below the national average.