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Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, an ancient Sherwood Forest Village recorded in Domesday


Two aspects of St Swithun’s showing the unusual double crosses on the roof ridge


The small square tower was built at about the time of Queen Mary at some date between 1553 and 1558 and of a late Perpendicular period style. Messrs Cope of Radford in Nottingham added the clock on the north face of the tower in 1856; it was partly paid for by public subscription. During later restoration work in 1896 the tower was pulled down to the level of the ridge of the nave roof and then the stonework, windows, battlements and pinnacles were carefully renewed.

Images of St Swithun’s in the twenty-first century


Early History of the Church: The first church in Woodborough would probably have been built between AD 971 and 1086 and would have been of Anglo-Danish workmanship having, chancel, nave and western tower. The walls would have been made of wood logs run in with mud, small windows high up, and a pitched roof. 

By order of the Archbishop of York a small, more permanent and imposing Norman church was built in stone about 1150 by the then Lord of the Manor, Ralph de Wodeburg. The foundations of its north and south walls were revealed during restoration work in 1892 and the Norman door and font are the other surviving relics. The Norman church was a small building on the site of the present nave, and the door now reset in the north wall was probably originally its west door. Further restoration work was carried out on this in 1892 when some of the carving was recut to original designs. In design the building would probably have been small and massive with low walls, two round-headed windows in each of the side walls, a low round-headed chancel arch and a small chancel also with round-headed east window and two side windows. 

Aisle, chancel, pulpit, lectern and oil lamps from photographs taken in 1894


The present church was consecrated in 1335, but rebuilt and enlarged after the Black Death in 1356 by Richard de Strelley who had then recently inherited the Manor of Woodborough. Construction of this new church would have been by a school of masons whose most famous work is the Chapter House at Southwell Minster. The chancel at Woodborough would have been paid for and probably designed by Richard de Strelley and his father Sampson, who had also rebuilt Strelley Church. Various fragments of heraldry can be found in the church relating to the Strelley family, particularly their shields outside on the gable of the east end. Although the Strelleys had been a great local family in the Middle Ages, being Royalists in the Civil War impoverished them and soon after the Restoration the Manor House (Woodborough Hall), was acquired by George Lacock, a Nottingham solicitor. His son Philip was later to rebuild the Manor House, probably about 1670, and memorials to the Lacock family can be found near the altar. 

Local stone was used to build the new chancel; known as Woodborough water-stone it would have been quarried in Stanley Wood, which stands on a hill overlooking Woodborough Hall. This stone can also be seen in the foundations of several local cottages and barns. There is a sepulchral slab from the 12th century near the chancel and another serving as a door stone to the porch.


In 1869 raised seats in the tower were occupied by the choir. A harmonium was brought from the Vicarage every Sunday (weather permitting). Otherwise the Clerk led the singing with a tuning fork.

In October 1894, the Rev'd. Buckland wrote—“At the Harvest Thanksgiving a new Pulpit and a new white Altar Frontal will be used for the first time. The Pulpit is of carved oak to match the Choir Stalls and is executed from drawings left by Mr Mansfield Parkyns. The work has been carried out by Mr Richard Ward, who did so much of the Choir Stalls under the direction of Mr Parkyns, and by Miss Sibyl Parkyns who has done the finer carving. The central panel will contain a carving in walnut wood done by Mr Parkyns—an angel carrying the soul of the little child to Paradise . . . . . . The Altar frontal is the gift of Miss Rosa Price of Bournemouth.


The needlework has been done by the Misses Buckland of Bournemouth, the Vicar’s sisters. The material is white brocaded silk, with orphreys richly worked in a design of pomegranates and crowns with the words “Halleluiah” in a scroll. The central design is a cross with pomegranates”. (This frontal was still in use and in good condition in 1953).


A new purple Altar frontal was used for the first time last Advent (December 1894) this was the gift of Miss Rosa Price of Bournemouth, while the needlework has been done by the Misses Buckland. The material is purple brocaded silk with two plain plush orphreys and the letters I.H.S. (Jesus the Saviour of men) worked as a central design. Colours are used by the Church as a means of teaching.


WHITE, the symbol of joy and purity, is used at Christmas to teach us to rejoice at the glad tidings of the birth of the Sinless Saviour, at Easter for joy at the Victory of Christ of Death, and at Ascensiontide for the joy at His Ascension into Heaven. It is also used at the Feast of the Annunciation, St Michael and all Angels, and All Saints.

RED, the colour of Blood and Fire, is used on ordinary Sundays* to remind us of the precious Blood of Christ, on Holy Days to remind us of the blood of the Martyrs, and at Whitsuntide as an emblem of the Holy Spirit who descended with tongues of fire.

PURPLE, a deeper tone of red, is the Church’s mourning and is used in Advent, Lent and Holy Week to remind us of our sins which Christ will judge at His Second Coming and which were the cause of His sufferings and Death upon the Cross.

* Since Rev'd Buckland wrote the above, St Swithun’s has acquired a green frontal which is used on ordinary Sundays".


Left: The chancel and east window 1902. Right: St Swithun’s east window 1915.


The Chancel: The sedilia on the south side of the chancel, framed within the returns of a heavy cill, has moulding contemporary with the window masonry although not of such delicate design. The piscina is treated in an unusual manner, having a short-filleted shaft with cap and base moulding corresponding to the respond of the chancel arch. Opposite the sedilia is a plain square aumbry with a later door. Earlier churches by the school that built St Swithun's have had more elegant Easter Sepulchres here. 

Note also the iron hook on the right hand wall near the altar rail. This is a Lenten Veil hook - used before the time of Henry VIII to hang a veil hiding the altar from the people. Originally there was also a carved oak rood screen but this had become so decayed that it was removed completely during repair work carried out in 1845. The square blocks at the ends of the arches by the chancel arch show where the rood screen was, but the only remaining trace of it is a hole in the masonry of the arch. 

The altar table is Jacobean oak and has massive legs. John Woode, then Recorder of Newark, gave it in 1660 after the Reformation as a thanks offering for the end of the Civil War and the restoration of King Charles II to the throne. It bears a Latin inscription on all four sides reminding us that John Woode was one of the Guardians of the Peace of the County and Verderer of the Forest of Sherwood. A silver chalice and paten were given to the church at about the same time. Later another member of the Woode family endowed the first school in Woodborough. 

Floor stones and a brass in the chancel commemorate Philip Lacock who died in 1668, Charles Lacock who died in 1688 and Philip Lacock who died in 1707. It is worth walking to the west end of Main Street to see the Lacock house (Hall Farm), which has a splendid plaque over its porch proclaiming that it was built for Philip Lacock in 1710. Opposite this house, there is a small bridge over the dyke to a site now occupied by bungalows, where there is evidence of a footpath to the entrance of Woodborough Hall, for which it was possibly the dower house. 

On the north wall near the altar is a homiletic tablet put up in 1770, not by a priest but by William Edge, churchwarden, who lobbied hard for Woodborough to have its first resident vicar after years of neglect by absentee Prebends, vicars and curates. 

After the death of Maurice Pugh, curate of Calverton in 1766 a Mr William Leybourne was appointed to the curacy and afterwards was appointed in addition to several other parishes. The outcome was that Woodborough church services suffered and William Edge, a church warden who took his position very seriously, wrote a letter of complaint to the Archbishop of York in March 1771. He pointed out that the village was being very badly served and that he had persuaded Mr Leybourne to nominate Mr Richard Oldacres, Master of the School, to serve as curate. William Edge supported the nomination and a number of parishioners added their names to the letter. The result was that Richard Oldacres was ordained Deacon and Priest in 1771 and so William Edge's action not only obtained for the village a resident priest, but indirectly a village vicarage, but not until over 100 years later!


The Choir Stalls: The pulpit, choir stalls and oak screen in the tower were made in Woodborough commencing in 1892 to a design by Mansfield Parkyns. Parkyns was a famous explorer who lived in retirement at Woodborough Hall, He worked with local joiners Richard Ward and Harry Ullyett, (Mr Ward pictured left in 1894 is seen with the chancel ceiling bosses). Mr Parkyns carved the choir stalls and dedicated the whole as a memorial to his wife who died in 1877. The skills of the two craftsmen can be seen in the poppy headstalls, their shallow canopies carved with quatrefoils in tracery and in the reading desks with symbols of the Evangelists. Sadly, Mansfield Parkyns died in 1894 following a brief illness without seeing his work completed. Mr Ward completed the choir stalls at his own expense in 1894 or 1895. Richard Ward was a skilled joiner who had also been a churchwarden for many years.


Note: Mansfield Parkyns is one of Woodborough's most celebrated inhabitants being the second son of Thomas Parkyns the 5th Baronet who was also known as the wrestling Earl. Mr Parkyns settled at Woodborough Hall after a lifetime spent in exploration in Abyssinia and Egypt. His grave, until recently, was just outside the porch entrance to the church. However, following an extension to the porch in 1999/2000, the headstone has been relocated slightly, but the grave is now within the church.


The choir stalls.


The Nave and Tower: After completion of the chancel by Richard de Strelley, the Norman nave was pulled down and the present arcade of three bays built in its place on the line of the old walls, but to a poorer standard. The original intention may have been to have five bays since the south side of the south-west pier has the spring of another arch. The nave design is perpendicular of a type common in Nottinghamshire. The poorer workmanship is particularly noticeable towards the west end. That the chancel was completed before the nave is evident from the fact that the western buttresses of the chancel from the east end of the aisles, and the weathering of the buttresses are clearly visible. The hexagonal pillars do not appear to be of the same period as their plinths, which indicates that the plinths are part of the Norman church, whilst the pillars were replaced later. 


The clerestory windows are devoid of decoration and are unbalanced with regard to the arches below; furthermore there are three on the south side but only two on the north. Judging by evidence found during reconstruction in 1891, the aisles were built with stone and timbers from the Norman church, the west door of which had been set into the outside of the north wall. The aisle windows were not well designed, they were without tracery and no two are the same size. Their present tracery was inserted in 1891. A piscina in the south aisle shows that a side altar once stood against the eastern wall. 


Near the pulpit is a cross slab to William Ailvye, yeoman died 1591. The family of Alvey is one of the oldest in the village; Alvey's cobblers shop was a feature of the east end of Main Street until 1980's when it was converted to a private house. At the back of the nave in the northwest corner is another slab, a coffin topped gravestone of 12th or 13th century style, which may record John Perot of Wodeburg who died in July 1491 and in his will asked to be buried 'in the N side of ye Ch of Wodeburg'. On a more contemporary note the altar in the children's corner, to the left of the pulpit, carries a small brass plaque commemorating a mid-air collision over Woodborough in 1966 between two training aircraft. The memorial gives thanks that there was no loss of life.


The font: The round Norman tub shaped font which now stands near the south inner entrance door is cut from a solid piece of Mansfield stone and probably first stood near the west door of the Norman church. Its oak cover is more recent, being carved by Amos Rose in 1846 and possibly given by Henry Patching in that year, there is a date carved into the rim and on the underside of the cone there is evidence of the makers name and year. Amos was born in Woodborough in 1817 to a carpenter John Rose.

Exterior features: a rare feature of St. Swithun's is the sculptured gable (see below right) cross on the east end, restored in 1891 (and again in 1992) as an exact reproduction of the original. It bears a sculptured representation of the Crucifixion on one side and the Virgin and Child attended by St. Catherine and St. Margaret on the other. A similar cross adorns the west gable but without the attendant angels. The only other gable of this kind known in Nottinghamshire is at Clifton. The Strelley shields beneath the triangular window at the apex of the gable have been noted earlier.


The 'paly of six' (argent and azure) signifies Strelley of Strelley; the right-hand shield being differenced for Strelley of Woodborough with what Thoroton refers to as 'a great cinquefoil' (gules). The mason who carved this one may not have been too familiar with heraldic devices because our cinquefoil has six petals instead of five, perhaps because it was easier to divide the circle into six! Another point of interest here is the small window above the shields, which is not visible from inside the church as it is above the barrel vaulting. The buttresses have well carved gargoyles with grotesque heads, perhaps representing the expulsion of evil spirits from the House of God, although another suggestion is that they were a reminder of the suffering then recently experienced during the Black Death.   

Those between the chancel roof and nave roof are perhaps the most interesting; one on the North wall between the guttering is possibly a Sheela-Na-Gig. This is an early pagan fertility symbol closely related to the Green Man, which often appears in Romanesque and Gothic architecture and can be seen locally in the Chapter House carvings at Southwell Minster. On the south wall there are a variety of graffiti - scorings, diagrams and initials and dates. The earliest date seems to be 1661 and HIS 1723 can be found on a buttress to the tower. The circular diagrams were possibly sundials, used with a portable gnomon. The vertical grooves nearby could well have been made by the local youth sharpening arrowheads to practice archery in the churchyard. 


New Porch and Meeting Room: This was proposed in 1998 by lay reader, Dr Richard Turner, to become a worthy project to celebrate the new Millennium. The Church could build an extension on to the south side of the church thus replacing the porch that had stood for at least 100 years. The project team consisted of churchwardens Paul Sail and Chris Parrott with additional assistance from Brian Slatcher.  


Left the old porch. Right the new porch and meeting room built 2000.


After two years in the planning, it was eventually approved by all the planning authorities. Reconstruction work lasted for about 6 months and now provides a new entrance porch and doorway, foyer a small meeting room, a toilet suitable also for the disabled, and a small kitchen. When work commenced, the tombstone of the notable Mansfield Parkyns, the last person to be buried in the churchyard, had to be moved slightly, it is estimated that 70% of the new building incorporates stone and other materials from the former porch. It has a pitched roof with slates that blend in with the old. During the work, entrance to the church was by way of the west doorway in the bell tower.


The Bishop of Southwell the Right Reverend George Cassidy dedicated the new south porch on September 10th 2000.



Acknowledgements:


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St Swithun’s Church - History of the Church from 1100



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The chancel ceiling bosses and Richard Ward who carved them 1894


Some miscellaneous extracts from a variety of early documents:

In 1670 “the Vicarage seems to belong to Oxton, but being worth little or nothing a fair Church is unsupplied”.
In 1741 the Rev’d. Maurice Pugh was really Rector of Eastwood and also Vicar of Calverton. He came to live in Calverton in 1740, being admitted Curate of Woodborough on 17th April 1740.
In 1743 the Archbishop Herring noted in Woodborough —