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Church History

History of All Saints Church

Prebend and Peculiars

The White Book of Southwell, a compilation of manuscripts made in the 13th century shows that Thurstan, Archbishop of York from 1114 to 1140, founded a Prebend of Beckingham sometime between 1120 and 1135.

The grant was confirmed in a letter, by King Henry I youngest son of William the Conqueror, at Winchester, in 1123. Translated into English they read as follows:

“Thurstan, by the grace of God Archbishop of York, to all his successors, Greetings. In order to increase the service of God in the church of the Blessed Mary, Mother of God (at Southwell), we have added there one Prebend, which we have given to Herbert, namely the church of Beckingham and also that of Leverton; in Southwell the mansion that belonged to Gilbert the Chanter; the tithe of the whole of the extra grain of the lordship of my manor of Southwell, a quarter part of the tithe of all my corn and three parts of the tithe of my reclaimed lands that belong to the lordship of the same manor”

“Henry, King of England, to the Archbishop of York, the Justiciars, Viscounts, Barons and all the faithful of Nottinghamshire, Greetings. Be it known that for the love of God I confirm the donation of Thurstan, Archbishop of York, to the church of the Blessed Mary of Southwell for a Prebend the churches of his manors of Leverton and Beckingham and I wish it to be held in peace and honour for ever”

The Prebendaries each owned a house at Southwell and enjoyed special privileges and responsibilities in the administration of the Minster and the prebendal lands, which were known as Peculiars, of Southwell. Visitors to Southwell Minster may see that one of the stalls on the north side of the choir shows the name Beckingham, as does one of the seats in the Chapter House. At that time the whole of Nottinghamshire lay in the Diocese of York and it appears the Prebendaries were intended to help the Archbishop in the administration of the southern part of the diocese.

They in turn were assisted by Vicars Choral at the Minster and Vicars Parochial who officiated in the Parish when the Prebendary was absent.

Originally the Prebend was called Beckingham but included Leverton. At a later date, 1291, Leverton became a separate Prebend. The area of the Peculiar eventually included South Wheatley as well as Beckingham and North Leverton. The Ordnance Survey map of Monastic Britain, which purports to show the boundaries of peculiars at the time of the suppression of monasteries, indicate that these coincided with the present parish boundaries.

Remarkably the Chapter of Southwell survived the Reformation. The prebendal lands eventually passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners following an Act of Parliament passed in 1840. A year later Nottinghamshire ceased to be in the Diocese of York and was transferred to Lincoln. In 1884 the Bishopric of Southwell came into being and comprised of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Finally, in 1927, a separate Diocese of Derbyshire was created leaving that of Southwell in its present form. Meantime the Duke of Newcastle had become Lord of the Manor of Beckingham and the gift of the benefice had passed to the Lord Chancellor.

Associated People

Two important people who figure largely in the early history of the church are Thurstan, Archbishop of York from 1114 to 1140, who provided the land that enabled Beckingham to support a canon at Southwell Minster, and King Henry I, youngest son of William the Conqueror, who formally approved the gift.

The list of prebendaries (click here to view) shows the first to be Herbert. The names of others that are known are given in the list, at least two of which became Bishops. The list after 1642 is believed to be complete, even though two names are missing and shows that the prebendary tended to hold his position for long periods of time. By the time Robert Sanderson became Canon of Beckingham in 1642, he had been a parish priest for many years and Royal Chaplain to King Charles I. The Civil War broke out that same year which must have made it extremely difficult combining his royal and parochial duties, made all the worse as his patrons were eliminated one by one. Incredibly, though he suffered harassment as a well-known royalist, he managed to survive without even losing his benefice. When the Restoration came in 1660, he was made Bishop of Lincoln and immediately became involved in the preparation of the Book of Common Prayer, the opening words of the Preface are attributed to him. Henry Watkins, who was prebendary at the time of the Act of Enclosure in 1776, held office for forty-six or more years. There was also a Henry Watkins who was a non-resident vicar of Beckingham from 1802 until 1845, though this can hardly have been the same man, but may have been his son.

The list of vicars of Beckingham (click here to view) was originally prepared by K.S.S. Train of the Thoroton Society and is currently being updated. Little is known of the first few names on the list, but they become more than just a few names if thought of in relation to the times in which they exercised their ministry. William, the first priest, started his ministry in the year following the battle of Crecy, when English archers rained death upon the French armies. A year or two later the Black Death reached England and spread quickly. About one third of the population died. It may be that William himself perished, for priests were more at risk than most through visiting the sick and burying the dead.

Further down the list Robert Apley was a chantry priest in 1546, a very troubled time. The act for the dissolution of the smaller monasteries had been passed ten years ealier and the spontaneous rebellion in Lincolnshire known as the Pilgrimage of Grace had quickly followed. The plunder of the greater monasteries took place in 1539 and in 1547 the chantries were surpressed and the village churches stripped of their valuables. Robert seems to have stayed on as Vicar of Beckingham.

In the latter part of the 17th century vicars had responsibilities in nearby parishes, much as they have today. There is nothing to suggest that they did not take these duties seriously, although difficulties of travel must have limited the number of services that could be conducted.

Later on the evils of pluralism emerged, this was a practice of accepting benefices for the income they brought and having a lowly paid curate to take the services. So for a period of 70 years Beckingham had vicars who resided elsewhere.

Presumably this abuse ceased when James Stovin was instituted in 1845 for he and members of his family are buried in the churchyard.

Another vicar buried in the churchyard is David Hooke who died on June 30th 1898. It was he who sponsored the restoration of 1892.On the wall dividing the churchyard from Church Street is a stone tablet with the following inscription. “THIS WALL WAS REBUILT BY FRIENDS AND PARISHIONERS IN LOVING MEMORY OF THE LATE DAVID HOOKE, VICAR OF THIS PARISH FOR 25 YEARS, AND HIS WIFE HENRIETTA, AUGUST 1900”. A very practical memorial that is still serving its purpose.

Ivan Turkington was a chaplain to His Royal Highness Prince Charles. The list of names of the clergy carries on to the present day and it is difficult to do justice to each one.

Equally so to the many lay members of the church who have devoted their energies in various ways over the years. A few of these people are mentioned here, who have left their mark in some form. Apart from the stone commemorating Roger Nasone, which is mentioned in the Tour of the Church, the oldest memorial visible in the church is in the chancel floor inscribed “Eliz.th Ward, 1694”. It is known from copies of wills that have survived that internments took place inside the church long before this date.

One such will is that of Robert Hall made in 1529. As well as requesting that his body be buried within the church, Robert made some bequests to the church: – “to the high altar for forgotten tithes, 12 pence” (was this conscience money?) and “to the fabric of the crucifix, 15 shillings”. Robert also remembered the friars at Doncaster, Tickhill, Lincoln and Newark with a bushel of barley each.

They must have been a familiar sight in Beckingham, preaching the gospel and begging farmers for the necessities of life. Another will is that of Dorothy Kepeas who requested burial “afore the altar of Our Lady” (in what is now the vestry) shortly before she died in1534/35. The practice of internment within the body of the church seems to have lasted at least two hundred years.

Near the altar on the chancel floor is a brass plate recording the death of Thomas Waterhouse in 1795. “Sacred To the memory of THOMAS WATERHOUSE ESQ Who Departed this life on the Twenty Third Day of July 1795 AGED FIFTY FIVE”. He was one of the principal landowners of the parish and recorded in the church register in 1793 is the marriage of his daughter Anne to Dymoke Wells, son of the Rector of Willingham.

What is not recorded is that the couple first eloped to Gretna Green to marry! It is said that Mr Waterhouse lived happily amongst his neighbours, was highly respected and for his amusement kept a pack of harriers. Evidently Dymoke Wells was a brave as well as a persistent young man!

The Duckle family are commemorated by two stained glass windows and four wall tablets. They were also landowners of the parish. The first Robert Duckle is believed to have lived at Holme House.

The second Robert Duckle is not commemorated in the church. Joseph Rudsdell who married into the Duckle family and also lived at Holme House, was an interesting character. He came from Morton, Lincolnshire and joined the 10th Infantry Regiment (later the Royal Lincolnshire) in 1805 as an ensign and served in Sicily and Spain during the last years of the Napoleonic Wars, reaching the rank of Major in 1823. In 1830 curiously, he joined the First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards at the lower rank of captain and retired ten days later with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Although it was possible at that time to buy rank, this does not seem very likely. It is probable he was engaged in diplomatic service in the eastern Mediterranean for which the higher rank was useful. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1832. This order was founded in 1818 to bestow honourable distinction on natives of Malta and the Ionian Islands but was later extended to members of the Colonial and Diplomatic Service. Sir Joseph married in 1833 and lived in Beckingham until his death inn 1871. He is buried in the churchyard as are his wife and daughters. The Duckle’s are believed to have a family vault outside the church.

The Building

At first sight All Saints Church appears to be late medieval like many others in North Nottinghamshire. However there are one or two things that do not quite fit that picture, such as the church having a Norman tub Font (which is no longer in use). There is also a fragment of arch at the east end of the north aisle. Walking round the outside of the church reveals it is constructed in ashlar (dressed stone) except for the north aisle and fragments of wall at either end of it, which are rendered.

Inside, the windows of the north aisle are set deep, widely splayed and are much thicker than the rest of the church, 31 to 34 inches at window level. The walls are tapered and rather uneven. All pointing to characteristic Norman work, with badly constructed, rubble filled walls. This wall appears to be the oldest part of the church possibly a remnant of an early aisle less nave. The fragment of arch at the east end may be part of the early chancel arch with what is now the vestry being part of the early chancel. There is a Norman church very similar to this in Littleborough.

There appear to have been four main building phases. The first being in the late 11th or early 12th century, with the simple nave and chancel. The second phase probably still in the 12th century is evidenced by the walls at the east and west ends of the north aisle. These are still thick but vertical. The junction of the two building styles may be detected in the vestry, both on the inside where it tends to be obscured by a wooden partition and on the outside where it is partly concealed by a buttress. The alteration was probably to provide a choir at the east end, the reason for the new work at the west end is unclear.

The third phase took place during the 13th century and was a major reconstruction enlarging the building in order to accommodate the growing population of the village. The two centuries after the Conquest were a time of great change when it has been estimated that the country’s population doubled and in some areas may have increased tenfold.

The church was extended to the south with a new nave and south aisle being constructed, leaving the residue of the old nave as the north aisle. The old chancel became the chantry of St Mary with a new larger chancel being built. The ground plan of the church then became very like that of the present day.

The fourth building phase took place in 15th and 16th centuries involving the replacement and enlargement of the windows, the clerestory would be added at the same time. This was a time of much church building up and down the country. In his leaflet dated 1972, the Revd. F. Smith gave the date of 1520 for the building of the tower and stated that the old west window was put into it.

A major restoration of the church was undertaken in 1892 by Ewan Christian, during which the roof was renewed and a gallery at the west end of the nave was removed. The floor was lowered and relaid and new seating was put in, replacing the old box pews. Ewan Christian was the Ecclesiastical Commissioners architect and was also responsible for replacing the roof at Southwell Minster twelve years earlier.

The south aisle roof was reclad in 1980, the lead being replaced with aluminium. In 1998 the nave and north aisle were reroofed with lead, the north aisle was slated and a lightning conductor was added to the tower. The roof of the north aisle and the tower were originally of welsh slate. The tower roof was recast and relaid in 1999. A small extension was added to the north side of the church, started in 2007 and completed in 2009. The small porch like extension consists of a toilet, tea bar and small meeting area. These improvements enable the church to open its doors for village groups to use and to widen its activities for the benefit of the community as a whole.

New Extension

The possibility of an extension to the church to house a toilet suitable for the disabled together with kitchen area was first considered in October 2005. After many months of discussion, planning, hard work and fundraising, enough money was raised towards the project to enable the build to commence in 2007.

Grants were applied for and obtained with some of the costs being met by the Parochial Church Council and the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. The original estimated cost for the build was £50,000. However, due to unforeseen constructional problems and the need to change the main contractor partway through the build programme the final cost was almost double that of the original estimate.

The small porch like extension consists of a toilet, tea bar and small meeting area. These improvements enabled the church to open its doors for village groups to use and to widen its activities for the benefit of the community as a whole. This page gives a narrative of the build, along with links to a gallery of images and fundraising events.

The work began on 9th July 2007, mostly carried out by specialist contractors, Railton Price of Winterton, Scunthorpe, with an original estimated completion time of 14 weeks. The excavations were dug with great care to a depth of approximately 6ft and inevitably a number of marked graves had to be moved in the process. During the process further graves were found lower down, of which there were no records and some appeared to have been quite badly disturbed and scattered by later burials.

All remains found were treated with the utmost respect, details were recorded and all were reburied elsewhere in the graveyard with a proper burial service on 26th July 2007. There were some interesting finds. Remains were discovered beneath the blocked up arched doorway, which being the oldest part of the church, possibly makes it one of the oldest graves.

A further grave, believed to be Victorian, was found encased in bricks and covered by Yorkshire stone slabs. Inside there was a shield and a metal cross, leading to the belief that this may have been someone of quite high standing, possibly military. Rather mysteriously the skeleton had no lower legs! The local History Group carried out some research to try to identify this person but were unsuccessful.

During the excavations it was discovered that the buttresses, which had been standing for several hundred years, had no foundations whatsoever and there appeared to be no subsidence.

These have now been underpinned with shuttered concrete to the full depth of the excavation due to the soil being unavoidably disturbed.

The original Victorian cement rendering on the west wall was found to be in a poor condition and had to be removed. This was replaced with new lime mortar rendering, requiring two layers with time allowed for drying out in between. In August the hardcore was put down, the ground prepared for concrete foundations and services were laid. September saw the laying of the foundations with the concrete being specially mixed on site.

Also started in September were the cavity walls built of concrete blocks with insulation in between and lime mortar rendering on the outside. Stone cladding, cut by the Stonemasons at Lincoln Cathedral, was later added to the lower outer walls just below the windows of the extension.

Buttresses were built into the outer corners also with stone cladding. The main windows, one on either side of the extension, were made of a design to match the others in the church, with stone surrounds. A much smaller window of similar construction was fitted into the top of the gable end wall. The roof, begun in September, is of Welsh slate tiles. The guttering and down pipes are of black Heritage Cast Aluminium. The extension was eventually surrounded by natural stone and gravel paving.

At the beginning of October the church doorway, believed to have been blocked up in Victorian times, was finally reopened. It was found to be a depth of almost 4ft and had been filled in with a great deal of various kinds of rubble. The original iron hinges were discovered still attached to the doorway. Once uncovered the surround of the inside of the doorway, which is much higher than the outside, was found to be quite ornamental and dramatic.

The height was probably to accommodate processions taking place in the earlier years. A deep recess in the door frame was also uncovered believed created to accommodate a large beam used to barricade the door in times of attack. Research is currently being carried out to discover whether it is Norman or Saxon. It was planned to make this a feature within the church and was eventually fitted with a solid oak door, the arched surround of the outer doorway left uncovered still visible from the extension side.

The extension flooring was lined with thick insulation and covered by screed. Due to unforeseen circumstances all outside work ceased temporarily in early December 2007, leading to the requirement of extra funding, which inevitably meant the build would take a little longer to complete.

Work eventually recommenced in February 2008 with different contractors. Good progress was made starting with the completion of the stone cladding of the lower walls and buttresses.

Natural Stone slabs were laid as edging to the paving around the extension with gravel added at a later stage. Low hedging was also added later, surrounding the extension. The small Ancaster stone cross, cut by the Stonemasons of Lincoln Cathedral, was added to the gable end of the extension and has 2008 engraved beneath it on the roof stone capping. Early March 2008 saw the delivery and fitting of the two side windows made of leaded glass with brass frames and small ventilation panels. The final lime mortar rendering of the walls was completed at the beginning of April. The Alumasc Heritage Cast Standard guttering and down pipes were delivered and fitted later that month.

Fortunately, the delay of outside work did not prevent work continuing on the inside. This being carried out by a local contractor, with the fitting of the tea bar, toilet and meeting area completed.

All inside walls were plastered and the reception area has wood block flooring, oak tongue and groove ceiling, a radiator fitted along with storage cupboards. The tea bar has flooring of a sealed composite material, ceiling as reception area, oak wall and floor units, a sink unit and hot water boiler.

The toilet, built to disabled specifications, has a ledged and braced oak door, part tiled walls, the same flooring as the tea bar area, plastered ceiling, plus a radiator. The plumbing and mains sewage connection were completed later that year. It was found that the inside of the north aisle wall had a serious damp problem due to the use of cement rendering by the Victorians. This led to the rendering being removed from part of the wall and a window and new rendering of lime mortar being added which when dry was followed by a coating of emulsion.

Daffodil bulbs were planted, beside the bushes surrounding the outside of the extension, in 2008 and tulip bulbs in 2009, both donated by the Parish Council. The extension was finally completed on 2nd March 2009. The first major event held in the church making full use of the new facilities was a concert given by Lincolnshire Hospitals Brass Band to which 140 people attended and was considered a great success.

On Sunday 1st November 2009 the extension was officially opened and blessed incorporated in an All Saints Day Service with a dedication of the Local Ecumenical Partnership. The service was attended by invited representatives of the many charities and other bodies and by individuals who had so generously contributed to the total cost of the extension. The Service was lead by The Rt Revd. Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood and Revd Dr David Perry, Chairman of Lincoln and Grimsby Methodist District. After the service all attending were invited to enjoy the refreshments served in the church.

New Extension Gallery