Chapter VII.


THE PATRON SAINT of East Retford Church is St. Swithun, whose day is kept on the 15th of July. All churches are dedicated to Almighty God in honour of some particular Person, Place, or Event, and the Patronal Festival must not be confused with the Dedication Festival. The latter would naturally be held on the anniversary of the day when the Church was first consecrated, but as this was frequently forgotten, it was ordained by Convocation in 1536 that: "The Feast of the Dedication of a church shall in all places throughout this realm, be celebrated and kept on the first Sunday of the month of October for ever, and upon none other day."

St. Swithun was born about the beginning of the ninth century. He was a man noted for his learning as well as for his piety, and was chosen by King Egbert to be tutor to his son Ethelwolf. When Ethelwolf became king, Swithun was his constant adviser, and was soon made Bishop of Winchester, which town was then the capital of England. Here was brought up Ethelwolf's son, Alfred, under the eye of Swithun, to whose care much of his own high character was doubtless due. St. Swithun died in 862, and was buried by his own request in the churchyard, but his bones were translated to the cathedral in 971. In 1093 they were removed to the present building, the foundation stone of which had been laid in 1079. The grave can still be seen in the presbytery east of the choir.

The Registers of Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages, begin in 1573, and are all in good condition, though at one time they were very near being seriously damaged, for on the 14th of December, 1830, the Vestry was broken into, and the parish chest containing the registers was carried away. It was found next morning in a neighbouring field. Its front was smashed in and the documents it contained were lying scattered about, some of them having been thrown into a pool of water. The thieves had probably expected to find the Communion Plate. As it was, no damage was done beyond the discolouring of a few pages of the registers, and of some of the other parish books.

The registers previous to the 19th century are bound in six volumes.

Volume I. (60 leaves) contains entries from May the 17th, 1573, to October, 1653. At one time the Births, Marriages, and Burials, seem to have been kept separately, but they are now all bound together.
Volume II. (52 leaves) contains entries from October, 1653, to March, 1710. The Baptisms are at the beginning, the Marriages in the middle, and the Burials at the end of the volume.
Volume III. (47 leaves) contains Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, entered together from April, 1711, to December, 1755.
Volume IV. (60 leaves) contains Baptisms and Burials from January, 1756, to December, 1804, the Baptisms being at one end and the Burials at the other.
Volume V. (88 pages) contains Marriages from June, 1754, to November the 25th, 1781.
Volume VI. (82 pages) contains Marriages from November the 26th, 1781, to April, 1803.

The registers contain few of the curious notes found in those of some parishes, but during the first half of the 18th century, the Rev. T. Gylby often added the occupations of those whose names he entered. These are of some interest as shewing the chief trades carried on in Retford at that period. A list of many of them is given below in English, as well as in the Latin in which they were entered in the books.

Aldresse Alderman's Wife (?)
Armiger Esquire
Calcearius Shoemaker
Candelarius Tallow Chandler
Cheiropaeus Glovemaker
Clericus Clerk
Colonus Farmer
Corbipaeus Basketmaker
Coriarius Tanner
Ephipiopaeus Saddler
Faber Ferarius Blacksmith
Faber Lignarius Joiner
Galeropaeus Hatter
Generosus Gentleman
Horologopaeus Watchmaker
Hortularius Gardener
Lanio Butcher
Mercator Merchant
Pauper Pauper
Pharmacopola Chemist
Pistor Fisherman
Plumbarius Plumber
Sartor Tailor
Senator Town Councillor
Serva Maidservant
Serviens ad Clavos Nailmaker
Sutor Shoemaker
Textor Weaver
Tinctor Dyer
Tonsor Barber

In Volume III. is the following entry:—

"Novemb. ye 25, 1723.
Mr. George Wharton has left to ye Vicar of E. Retford ye sum of five shillings to be paid by ye trustees of a Charity he left to ye Church & town, on every Easter Monday,
conditionally yt ye Vicar do on Easter
Sunday before in order to ye perpetuating
of ye gift (left to ye poor by his uncle Mr.
Will Wharton) to posterity in ye words
following:—" I give forty pounds into ye
hands of ye Bayliffs & Aldermen & Minister
of E. Retford wm I do appoint as trustees
to dispose thereof to ye best advantage : & ye
interest thereof to be annually disposed
among ye honest poor people of ye town at
ye discretion of my aforesaid trustees and
yr successors," wch forty pounds ye Corpor
ation have laid out in lands, but bought in
yr own name, without mentioning ye donor
or uses.                       Tho Gylby vic. ibid."

A sentence written underneath the signature has been erased with a knife, and an endeavour has evidently been made to cut the whole page out of the register, possibly by a member of the Corporation, so as to destroy the record of their wrong doing.

In Volume I. is a curious receipt for the cure of the plague, which runs as follows:—

"In ye time of a Plague let ye person
either infected or fearfull of ye infection take
a penny-worth of Dragon Water, a penworth
of oyle Olive, Methradate 1d., & treacle 1d.,
then take an unyon & fill it full of pepper
wn you scouped it, yn roast it; & after yt
put it to yeliquor & strain & drink it in
ye morning, & if you take ye same at night
lay soap & bay salt to your feet & sweat
upon it & with God's blessing you shall
recover.                            Tho Gylby Vicr."

The above is an exact copy of the words written by the Rev. Tho. Gylby, the ancient spelling being faithfully adhered to. In course of time the ink grew feint, and a "copy" was written below, and also in another register by the Rev. Joshua Sampson. This is the version that was accepted by Piercy, but the old writing is still sufficiently distinct to show that the "copy" by Mr. Sampson is incorrect in several particulars.

The National Schools were opened in 1858. There is one for boys and another for girls, the Head Master's house being between them. An inscription on the building says:—"The site of these schools was purchased by the special contributions of the parishioners, in grateful and affectionate remembrance of the zealous labours of the Rev. Alfred Brook, M.A., Vicar of the parish from a.d. 1854, to a.d. 1857."

St. Catherine's Mission Room is situated in Carr Road. It was built in 1884, on a site given by the late Mr. Job Conworth, and holds about 130 people. It contains a good altar of English oak carved by Dr. Witham, of Leeds, and in the chancel are two very fair stained windows by Hardman, given by Mrs. Conworth in memory of her husband.

The Parish Magazine was first published by Canon Gray in December, 1870.

The Grammar School. There was always a close connection between the Church and the Grammar School. By the original rules which were drawn up under the advice of Holgate, Archbishop of York, in 1552 for the government of the school, it was ordained that:—"The School Master and Usher shall command and compel their scholars to come to hear Divine Service in the Parish Church of East Retford every Sunday and Holy-day, and that those scholars which be apt and meet to the same do help in the quire to maintain the said Divine Service, and furthermore the said School Master or Usher shall cause one of their said scholars every Sunday to read the Catechism in English, openly and distinctly in the body of the said Parish Church, between the Morning Prayer and the Communion, as well for their own instruction as for the instruction of other young children in the said parish."

The Permanent Fabric Fund. This is a sum of £1,000, which in 1898 was invested in India 3½ per cent, stock, in the names of the Official Trustees of the Diocese, who are known as the Diocesan Finance Association. The fund produces an income of £28a year, which is used to keep the outside of the Church in thorough repair. The originator of the fund was Mr. E. Wilmshurst, who in 1885 gave towards it a sum of money which was given to him as a testimonial when he ceased to be churchwarden after twenty years of service. The rest was raised by a public subscription, to which the late Mrs. Overend was a generous contributor.

BRITISH MUSEUM. In the Manuscript Room at the British Museum are numerous architectural drawings of many places in Nottinghamshire, including several of East Retford Church. Some are by S. H. Grimm, a water colour painter who died in 1794. These include a general view of the exterior, and a drawing of the tracery of the east window. (Add. MSS. 6747 p. 42.)

There are also drawings by T. Kerrich (1748-1828) who was a prebendary of Lincoln and one of the earliest lithographers. Among these is a drawing of a window which used to be in the Chancel, but which no longer exists. (Add. MSS. 6758 p. 70.)

Several interesting sketches of the neighbourhood may also be seen, which were made by J. Buckler (1770-1851), who was an architect and water colour painter. These include a drawing of the figure in the vesica piscis, as it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Briefs. The rubric after the Nicene Creed which authorizes the giving out of notices, specially states that briefs are to be then read. These were Royal Letters Patent giving licence to make collections for charitable purposes and were a usual means, after the Reformation, of obtaining money for the repair of churches. It was one of these briefs that was obtained by the people of East Retford from the Protector, after the tower fell in the 17th century.

Trade Guilds and Mysteries. Mention has been made in the first chapter of the Trade Guilds and of the Mysteries. These Guilds were close corporations to which entry was usually obtained by apprenticeship to one of the members. No one, who did not belong to such a Guild, was allowed to practice any trade or craft controlled by it. In many cases the Guild of Merchants became practically the governing body of a town, so that in ancient cities the place where the Corporation meets is still known as the Guild Hall. The Guilds not only regulated the employment of their members, but also met at regular intervals for enjoyment and for worship. Often they had a special altar in the parish church appropriated to their use. They were accustomed to take a leading part in the processions which were held at special times, particularly on the Feast of Corpus Christi, which was the day when the Mysteries or Miracle Plays were usually represented. It is from these that the evolution of the modern theatre may be traced. They were held under the patronage of the clergy, and represented originally the legends of some particular saint, and later the whole story of the Creation and Redemption of Man. As at Oberammagau they were acted by the people of the town itself, often by the members of some particular Guild. From the extract which was given in the first chapter, it seems probable that this was the case at Retford, where one of the strongest Guilds was that of the Tanners, tanning being in olden times one of the chief industries of the town, the tanyards lining the banks of the River Idle.


Total length 127 ft.
Width across Nave and Aisles 53 ft.
Width across Nave and Transepts 80 ft.
Width of North Transept from East to West 19½ ft.
Width of South Transept from East to West 19 ft.
Length of Chancel 45 ft.
Width of Chancel 19½ ft.
Length of Chantry 28 ft.
Width of Chantry 14 ft.
Height from Ground to Top of Tower Pinnacles 97 ft.
Height from Ground to Tower Roof... 81½ ft.
Height of Nave 48 ft.

A Chronological Summary.

1258. The Vicarage ordained.
1392. The Chantries of St. Trinity and St. Mary legally endowed.
1528. A great part of Retford destroyed by fire, including Four Chantries.
1585. (about.) Another great fire in Retford.
1651. Fall of the Tower, and of the "Five Quires thereof."
1658. The Restoration of the Church finished.
1773. The Old Vicarage House built.
1810. New Battlements and Pinnacles to the Tower.
1835. A New Peal of Eight Bells.
1852. The South Porch Restored.
1854. Churchyard closed for Burials.
1855. Opening of the Church after Restoration.
1863. The New Vicarage House built.
1873. The New Chantry opened.
1877. The Bishop of Lincoln becomes patron. The endowment is increased.
1884. The Bishopric of Southwell founded. The Bishop of Southwell becomes patron.
1884. St. atherine's Mission Room built.
1890. Two New Bells.
1905. The Church put in thorough repair.