All Saints church, Annesley.
All Saints church, Annesley.

ABOUT 40 years ago the church which dominates the landscape for miles along the Leen Valley, and which is at present in the restorer's hands, was built in consequence of the old church of All Saints being situated at too great a distance from the growing mining population. The ruthless destruction of this edifice by an incendiary occurred so recently, that to recapitulate the facts so far as they are known, would be but to occupy space with unnecessary details of a "tragedy" we would rather forget. We are more concerned with the pleasantly situated gray worn church in whose vaults " the dead of feudal ages sleep." The note of decay struck by Byron in his fine descriptive poem of Newstead, is sounded here, but in a lesser degree, for the edifice is not " pervious to the wintry showers." The gray worn tower gave up its ancient bells, which had long called out from the belfry, to the new church and they were destroyed in the fire. We saw them, or what was left of them, as they lay among the smouldering debris after the conflagration had been mastered. This new place of worship, situated about a mile from the hall and All Saints, was erected to meet the growing demands of the parish, and no one will doubt the wisdom of the present squire's father in moving generously in the matter. He gave a substantial sum of money and the land upon which the edifice, alas! to-day a wreck, now stands. It is, however, a matter for regret that the old church, which is unrivalled in the deanery in one particular period of architecture, should be going to decay. For many years after the new place of worship was built afternoon service was held on the Sabbath in the church adjoining the hall, and the children of Mr. and Mrs. Chaworth Musters have all been christened there, but for some time owing to the building being unsafe no service has been held, the vicar's whole time being taken up with church and Sunday school work at the other end of the village. The churchyard gates are kept locked, and very properly so, for destructive-minded persons have on several occasions been discovered hastening to complete the ruin of the place. It was a bright October day when we visited Annesley, and in addition to being permitted to see all there was to see at the church, Mrs. Chaworth Musters kindly allowed us to take a rubbing of the old brass, now kept in the hall. The church is very pleasantly situated on rising ground, but the pedestrian passing along the Derby road in the direction of Eastwood might, particularly in the summer time, fail to notice the "gray worn tower " hidden from view by the tall beech trees. To the south of the church stands the beautiful residence of Mr. J. P. Chaworth Musters, the scion of a noble house. Turning more to the east may be seen the "Hills of Annesley bleak and barren." but despite Byron's description of the landscape the prospect is pleasing. Let us enter the church by the south porch, a brick and plaster erection. The interior we found beautifully clean, but through disuetude the place breathed odours earthy and damp. A big crack in the masonry of the south chapel east window is noticeable, and some of the glass is damaged. There was some very good glass here at one time, according to Tnrosby, bearing the Annesley and Chaworth arms, but little now remains. Not long before the "unhappy wars which destroyed such matters," in the east window of the chancel, were to be seen the Chaworth arms with quarterings.

Annesley possessed a Norman church, and a glance at the place to-day suggests the thought that it was probably aisleless. Some of the Norman masonry may still exist in its walls, but the only real Norman feature left is the font. Without doubt this font is the most interesting in the Deanery. Of plain cylindrical shape its surface is enriched by a diamond pattern, and a band of star ornament near the rim forms its finishing feature. The marks of the iron which once secured the cover, are plainly to be seen. Apparently, for a long period Annesley's Norman Church remained 'untouched, until the fourteenth century, when a south aisle was added. Long before this addition was made Reginald de Annesley, son of Ralph, who gave the church of Felley to the Priory of St. Cuthbert of Radeford, near Wirksop, in the year 1156, confirmed this gift, and likewise one bovat which his father gave to God, and the church of All Saints, Annesley, to find a lamp burning all the hours which were sung in the church.

William de Wakebrugge and Robert de Annesley, parson of Rodyngton founded a chantry in the church here for a secular priest (John de Breton was the first) to make special mention of them, and John de Annesley, in his mass whilst they should live, and for their souls when dead; as also for the souls of John de Annesley, Knight, and Annora, his wife, and of their father and mother. The presentation was to remain to the said William and Robert during their lives, and then devolve to the said John de Annesley and his heir, and for want of such to his brothers and their heirs, and in case of failure of all to the Prior and Convent of Felley and their successors. The King's licence for this chantry is dated 10th February, 36, Edward III. and the confirmation by the Archbishop of York 27th, January, 1373. From the Parliamentary inquiry into these chantries in the reign of Henry VIII., we read by whom the chantry was founded as already stated. It also mentions that Ed. Curness was chantry priest in 1548, being 44 years old, and from Beauvale monastry " the preacher (i.e. Ed. Curness) schoolmaster and poore relieved by the chantry." There was no otner curate to help the minister but this chantry priest. Already the chalice with a paten had gone (weighing XI. ozs.) to the King's keeper of his jewel house. It was laid down that the chantry priest was always to ''sing mass before the parish matins should be begun, and that done to assist the parish prieste for the time being at matyns, masse and evensong and on the week days, and say masse for the benefactors soulls at the said chantrey, and all christian soulls as more plainly dotne appeare by the foundacyon. The south aisle was built about the period named, for a chantry chapel, and the tower was also erected during the fourteenth century. Later, we find, about 1436 John de Annesley granted to the Dean of Lincoln, and others his manors, including Annesley, which descended to him on the death of his grandfather. Four years later the jury found Alice de Annesley to be daughter and heir of the said John. She was first married to George Chaworth, third son of Sir Thomas Chaworth, from whom the Rt. Hon. Patricius Viscount Chaworth, of Armagh, as heir male lineally descended, inherited the manor and, as Thoroton wrote: " Now makes it his principal residence, where he hath also a  pleasant  park . . . . "

The east window of the south chapel is the finest in the church. It has five lights, with the head filled with reticulated tracery, and having deep jamb moldings, inside and out, ending in each case with a large roll and fillett. Similar moldings are on the three square headed windows on the south wall. The one nearest the porch is a single light, and the same size as the others, although they are each of two lights. The west window has three lights, and the same moldings as the others. Near the east end of the south wall is a three-stall sedilia and a piscina. The heads of the four arches are trefoiled; a cluster of three filletted columns divides the sedilia into its parts, and the scroll hood mold meets a string course of the same section running round the chapel. Above, the sill of the window is higher than the others to allow for the sedilia and piscina underneath. Unfortunately the original roof of the chapel is gone. Its place is taken by a plain king post truss. The tower has geometrical decorated windows of two lights on each side. At the north west corner is a semi-octagonal projection running about half way up the tower, for the staircase. The top of the tower is finished by a plain battlement with no pinnacles. Returning to the chancel we notice the arch is plain, and resting on the east face of its south abutment is a fireplace. Just prior to the Tudor period, or early in the reign of Henry VII, the  two-light window at the base of the tower was added, the three-light window on the north side of the chancel, two others of two-lights on the south side, and the south priests door. On the south side of the chancel is a small piscina under a plain pointed arch.

Soon after this Annesley, no doubt, with other churches throughout the length and breadth of the land suffered as a consequence of change. The rectory, with the advowson and right to patronage, late belonging to the Prior of Felley, 15th July, 35, Henry VIII., together with a messuage in Teversal, and other things were granted to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple and the heirs of Richard. The next day they had licence to alienate the premises to William Bolles and his heirs. This rectory and church, parcel of the possession of Wm. Bolles exchanged, together with the rectory of Granby, and the rectory of Boney, etc., etc., were granted to Roger Mauners and his heirs.

The Parliamentary survey (1650) states:— "Annesley Impropriate rectory, worth £16 per ann in possession of William Cartwright, Esq., who receives profits thereof to the use of Lord Chaworth, there is noe viccar, nor curate there now, but formerly the viccar had sixe pound per ann given him and the small tythes for his sallary, bothe worth eight pounde thirteen shillings and fower penne." Prom the records of the inquiry in 1656 in regard to the augmentation of livings we cull the following:—" On consideration of an order of the trustees for the maintenance of ministers at the 8th July, 1656, touching an augmentation for the minister of Ansley in ye county of Nottingham which they present to his Highness and the Councell for their approbacon ordered by his Highness the Lord Protector, and the Counsell that the said ordce. bee approved of and ytaccording to the provisions thereof the sume of fifty poundes a yeare bee continued to the minister, for the time being of Ansley aforesaid being first approved of by the Councell for approbation of Publique Preachers. And that the said sume bee yearly paid into Christopher Sanderson the present minister approved according to the ordinance for approbacon of publique preachers and the said trustees are to take ordr. that the same be paid accordingly.

W. Jessop cl of ye

Another augmentation deed dated October, 1656, sets forth that "the yearely sume or tenne poundes out of the Rectory of South Scarle and the further yearly sume of fforty poundes out of the Rectory of Stoake, both in the sayd county of Nottingham, amounting to the said yearly sume of fifty poundes to be accompted from the 16th day of October, 1656, and to be given from time to time, continued and paid to the sayd Mr. Sanderson for such time as he shall discharge the duty of the minister of the said place or untill further order of those trustees. And Major John Robinson, Receiver, is hereby appointed and authorised to pay the same unto him accordingly. Provided that this order be first entered with the auditor—Jo Thorogood, Rastall, Edw Cressett, Ri Sydenham Jo Pocock."