Chapter VI.

The Church Service

The history of the Church at Sutton-in-Ashfield does not consist merely in the changes and additions to the fabric. The changes in the religious views of the people did not fail to make themselves felt, and though we have no record of the effect produced by the teaching of John Wycliffe, 1324 to 1384—the upheaval of the Reformation of 1530—the Puritan dominance of 1642-60—the revival of John Wesley 1738-91, we doubt not their influence was felt at Sutton.

The Commissioners appointed by Henry VIII made a clean sweep of all the Monastic buildings and possessions, and as may be seen in the 'Valor Ecclesiasticus' Vol. iv, p. 16, a.d. 1530 they reported as follows: The Prior of Thurgarton has a pension from the Church of Sutton-in-Ashfield of xxvis viiid. And again in Vol. 5, p. 150, "Church of Sutton-in-Ashfield In Profits the glebe together with the house is worth xxs per ann. In tithes of the pasturage and harvest offerrings and other emoluments in ordinary years xiii1 in all xiv1. Then the annual sum paid to the Archbishop for sinodals (i.e. expenses of holding synods, or meetings of Clergy at York) 4/-, to the Archdeacon of Nottingham 7/6, to the Dean of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln and his successors for a pension 27/8. And remains xii1 xs xd.

These all disappeared with the ruthless hands of the Commissioners, and in 1559 were sold to Bartholemew Garroway, Attorney for James Hardwick.

In the following reign Commissioners were again sent round to glean up anything that had escaped, in what has been called the Great Pillage, and made the following Report. 5 September ye VI Ed. VI. Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Richard Motteram, Nycolas Bennet. Churchwardens. Rogere Motteram, John Branderith, ye nhabitants. Imprimis—one Chalice with a cover parcel gylte.

ii Vestments whereof i is of Saten color yalow, and ye other is grene and red with ii Albys thereto belonging. Item in the Steple iii Bells. Itm. i Handbell. It. ii Cruettes.

(signed) V. Rusland . . . . Gage G. Pierpoint, Jos. Hoy, A. Nevyle. All these were seized with the exception of one bell left in the Tower. The Ornaments used in the ancient Service of the Church having thus disappeared the Puritan influence growing its methods of worship brought the Service to the quiet unemotional type, the interior of churches were white-washed, the roomy box pews inserted, the pulpit" with a reading desk and a seat for the clerk in front, while the Sermon became the principal feature in Public Worship.

This influence of the Puritans, especially during the protectorship of Oliver Cromwell again stirred men's minds to religious activity, and the several Committees appointed to direct the Church Services, and to deal with Ministerial appointments made themselves felt at Sutton-in-Ashfield.

In the Lambeth Palace Library is the Report on the Survey of Church Lands as follows: "An Inquisition indented at Nottingham 14 August, 1550 (a mistake for 1650) before John Hutchinson and others upon the Churches in the Wapentake of Broxtowe, it states that the Impropriate Rectory of Sutton-in-Ashfield is held by the Earle of Devonshire, the Vicaridge by Nicholas Hasard, 'a Preaching Minister'." It cannot be stated what form the Service took at that time, but some idea may be formed by the fact that in 1642 Robert Wallis, clerk was indicted before Quarter Sessions for refusing to read the Book of Common Prayer at Sutton-in-Ashfield. It is interesting to note that only a year or two later, a.d. 1645 the Long Parliament passed an Act forbidding the use of the Book of Common Prayer, making the penalty on a third offence a year's imprisonment, but superseding it a few years later by a Prayer Book of their own called "The Directory for the Public Worship of God in the Three Kingdoms." During this unsettled period the teaching of George Fox in 1646 found many adherents, and probably he visited Sutton. An account of the Society of Friends, or Quakers as they were called, will be found later.

The great revival caused by the preaching of John and Charles Wesley from 1738 to 1788, when John died, does not seem to have had much effect upon Church life in Sutton. The Congregation in Church so increased that in 1715 a Gallery was erected at the West End, and Galleries over both North and South Aisles in 1749, although at that time there was no resident Minister.

The Clergy wore a white Surplice during prayers changing into a black gown before the Sermon. An Inventory taken by the Rev. Thomas Hurt states "Church Furniture, Three bells, a small Silver Chalice and cover, the latter having the inscription upon it ANODNI 1571, a pewter flagon, a pewter salver, a pewter plate, a green cloth for the Communion Table and Two Napkins, a Bier of black cloth covering, a Bible, 3 Common Prayer Books, a Book of Homilies, a Font, the Kings Coat of Arms. The Church and Church Yard fence wall repaired by the Parish, Chancel by the Duke of Devonshire. Thomas Hurt, Curate, Thomas Dove, Saml. Barnes, Churchwardens." A similar Inventory had been taken in 1777 "by me Thomas Cursham, Curate, when Thomas Wood and Saml. Boot were Wardens."

In 1798 a Faculty was issued by Charles Wylde, D.D. Official to the Archdeacon of Nottinghamshire, to Thos. Hurt, Curate, James Wright and Wm. Stanhope, Wardens, for re-pewing the Church, and in 1825 when preparations were being made to instal a new Organ, given by John Shooter, a blacksmith of Harstoft, a minute in the Vestry book states that the Chancel was to be limewashed at the same time as the rest of the Church. The Minute is signed by Chas. Neale and by John Brandreth, Parish Clerk. This gift of an Organ was noticed in John Bull a Newspaper of that time as follows: John Shooter, blacksmith of Harstoft near Tibshelf, gave it (the organ) to Sutton Church as there was no one to play it at Ault Hucknall and Tibshelf. It was opened by Mr. Woolley Organist of St. Peter's Church, Nottingham 17 February, 1825. The Rev. W. Fry of South Normanton preached on behalf of the National Schools when £22 3s. 0d. was collected. Up to 1867 the Organ was placed in the West Gallery, the Choir in front of it, but in 1868 when the Galleries were removed, the Aisles lengthened and the Church re-seated an Organ chamber was built adjoining the Chancel, and the Choir seated on both sides of the latter.

In 1907 during the Ministry of the Rev. F. J. Adams, a new Organ was installed, a new East Window with stained glass replacing some glass given by the late Mr. William Kinder, inserted, the Sanctuary embellished new Choir Stalls erected by Mr. John Briggs and Mrs. L. P. Banks (late a Surgeon in the town) and Organ Screen by the late Mr. C. B. Beecroft, and to commemorate the blessing of Peace (after the dreadful War 1914-1918) 11 November, 1918, three additional bells were placed in the Tower and dedicated October, 1920. One marked 'Peace 1919' another 'Victory 1918' and the third bell marked "To the glory of God and in memory of John and Mary Briggs," and on the Eastern walls of the Tower inside the Church two marble tablets were placed onjwhich the names of all the young men of St. Mary's Church, Sutton, who laid down their lives for their Country are inscribed.