The Parish Church of St Wilfrid

Nothing now remains of the Saxon church, probably made of wood, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The Norman piers supporting the chancel arch are the oldest parts of the present building dating from before 1160. However, in the capital of the north pier of the chancel is a carved panel recording the first establishment of Christianity in Calverton. The panel depicts St. Wilfrid giving the blessing after baptising a convert. St. Wilfrid of Ripon, Bishop of York, Patron Saint of Calverton, accepted the invitation of Wulfhere King of Mercia to assist in the evangelicalisation of the kingdom in 666 A.D. St Wilfrid died in 709 A.D.  Calverton church has been extended many times. The Norman church is likely to have been much smaller. The nave and chancel were enlarged in the 13th century when the Roman chancel arch was replaced by the present early pointed arch. In 1499 Thomas Belfin left 13s 4d for the construction of a rood loft and there is evidence that a screen was also built. During the time of the Rev. Maurice Pugh in the 1700's the nave and tower were extensively rebuilt and were much as we see them today. A gallery was built over the west end of the nave in the time of the Rev. S. Oliver (1827-64), and the nave was re-seated with box-pews. All that remains of these is the music cupboard beside the pulpit. It was made by a parishioner for his own use and returned to the church by his great-great-grandaughter in 1958. The pew numbers can still be seen on the doors. Monuments on the west wall are to John Coape Sherbrooke, for many years a resident of Calverton Hall, and to Mary Cooper who invented an improved musical notation system, which never became popular. A tablet to the memory of Jane Pepper, founder of a local charity, in the south wall of the chancel records her many gifts to the church and parish. In the east window the Rev. T.W. Smith and his wife are commemorated. He was responsible for the restoration of the church building in 1881. Previously in 1874 he had given a new altar, the old one being used to make the cross which stands over the beam above the chancel steps. The present altar (1956) is a replica of that of 1874 and retains the same 4 inch thick mensa of Irish fossilised marble. The south porch was also built in 1881 and the roof renewed. The organ chamber and organ were installed in 1888. War memorials are on the walls of the nave, there are also memorials in memory of Colonel Frank Seely and Mrs E. and G. Seely, great benefactors of the parish. The arms of the commune of Longue-Jumelles are located on the south wall of the nave. Calverton being officially twinned with this Loire village in May 1974. The William Lee annexe was added in 1962 and contains many documents relating to the village as well as toilet facilities. The church also has some interesting silver dating back to 1683. The ringing chamber contains a fragment of a medieval coffin lid, some carved stones - part of a frieze of leaves, and one of the series of carvings depicting the occupations of the seasons. Nine of these well-known carvings are on the west wall of the clock chamber and are of much interest to historians and visitors. The church clock dated 1812 was bought from Farnsfield for £20 in 1879 by Samuel Potts of Calverton and Mansfield, and is wound daily. The tenor bell which marks the hours was bought by subscription, and with the treble, 2nd and 3rd bells hangs one storey higher in the bellchamber. The churchyard was closed for burials in 1887. The oldest gravestone near the church door is to the memory of Margaret Wilkins, 1698. When Main Street was straightened in 1965, the gate of 1881 was retained and the lamp above it is housed in an old gas street lantern from Arnold. The York Stone paving is from Nottingham Lace Market. The stump of the old yew tree which stood on the south of the church was removed in 1966. Several strong and interesting characters have occupied the position of Vicar of Calverton. Among the most notable are John Allot, Thomas Ogle and Maurice Pugh. Of course, lay people have always made an immense contribution to the life of the church. Edwin Bell, the Parish Clerk deserves special mention.

The Quakers

The Quakers were greatly persecuted in Nottinghamshire in the 17th century, particularly in Oxton. In 1670 John Oldham of Calverton was fined for being at a peaceable meeting in the house of Robert Bradshaw of Oxton. His weaving gear and tools and a pair of boots were taken from him. Robert Bradshaw was fined 2 mares and 5 beasts.In 1689, the year of the Toleration Act, Quakers were allowed to 'affirm' instead of taking the oath. In that year William Surgey and Sam Wilkinson of Calverton registered a 'friends meeting house' at the quarter sessions, not to be locked, bolted or barred. Also in 1689, William Surgey married Mary Lambley of Calverton. The Quakers were said to have met in the cottage at the corner of 'Woods Lane', Calverton, opposite the blacksmith's but their membership increased more in the surrounding villages such as Farnsfield and Oxton. Robert Sherbrooke of Oxton left money for the succour of poor Quakers and is buried at the site of their meeting house and burial ground in Oxton opposite the Green Dragon Pub.

The Methodists

In the second half of the 18th century, Methodist Societies were being formed and chapels built. Travelling preachers visited Calverton and the surroundng villages, travelling on foot or by horse as did John Wesley for fifty years. The worshippers met in cottages and fields, and in 1790 a Mrs Morley of Calverton and others testified to the benefits they had received through such gatherings. A society was formed, the membership increased and a Wesleyan chapel was built in Mansfield Lane in 1815. Those attending paid 1d per week and among the names recorded were Wright, Hallam, Binch, Hind, Morley, Jeffrey, Kirkham and Clayton. Sunday schools filled a great need in the education of the village children, as there was no day school until the church school opened in Burnor Pool in 1846. Eventually there were strong dissenting groups within the Wesleyan church as well as in the Anglican church, and numerous broke away, some forming their own movements. Some took the name of their leader, others became Sionists, Independents etc. The United Methodists built their own chapel on Flatts Lane, later known as Mews Lane. Among the stalwarts of the early days were Messrs Collyer, Bardell, Blood and Turton. This chapel is now the village hall. The Wesleyans were left with few members, and might well have closed down had it not been for the installation of a new organ in the parish church. This caused much dissension among the Anglicans, especially among members of the displaced orchestra, and many turned to Methodism. Thomas Hunt and Robert Harrison formed a partnership in 1880 to save the chapel. Revival began and restoration work was carried out in 1884, new pews and a schoolroom being added. £100 was raised in one day for the work, a great achievement. Other notables were Mrs F. Binch, Richard and Sarah Hallam, William Bardell and his daughter Dorothy Hempshall, organist for more than 40 years, and Mr and Mrs W. Richardson. The Mansfield Lane chapel was used until 1960 and the modern chapel on Collyer Road was built in 1963. The Primitive Methodists used the former Roeite chapel (see below) for their meetings until 1907 when the last sermon was preached there by Mr F. Saxton of Hucknall. The chapel was then sold to Sir Charles Seely for £50. A spacious new chapel was built on Main Street, for which an organ was purchased from a lady in Basford for £50. The Primitive Methodists, often called 'Ranters' because of their zealous and sometimes noisy meetings, flourished and made many converts. Among the early members recorded on the foundation stones of the chapel were J. Orange, F. Smith and G. Smith. The Primitives worshipped for 75 years at Main Street until its closure on August 29th, 1982.  

  1. 1907: Opening of the new Primitive Chapel.
    1907: Opening of the new Primitive Chapel.
The Roeites

The Roeites, John Roe’s Society or Reformed Quakers (sometimes disparagingly, ‘Deformed Quakers’), were a group of dissenting Protestants, which married and buried its members, as the Quakers did, and which flourished for a while in Calverton. Their original meeting house was a converted barn, close to the junction of Woods Lane and Dark Lane, where a large tree now stands..

John Roe (1732–1823), who founded the sect, may have been of the same family as Robert Roe, the ‘oppressed Quaker’ of Epperstone, who had been in trouble in 1669 for holding illegal religious meetings, and of Richard Roe the clockmaker of the same village.

A early as 1759, John Roe had written about his religious beliefs and of his reactions to the preaching of dissenters who came to Calverton, but it was not until about 1780, when he was in his late forties, that he established his sect. He may well have been prompted by unhappiness with the vicar James Bingham since, in 1778, he had been cited (as John Rooe (sic), basket-maker) for non-payment of tithes, together with Thomas Hinde, tailor, and Bartholomew Lee, farmer. He must have been encouraged by the provisions of the recently passed Nonconformist Relief Act 1779 which freed dissenting ministers from the need to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, formerly required by the Act of Toleration 1689.

The Roeites' presence in the village evidently caused a degree of bad feeling, because Calverton schoolmaster Joseph Morley, writing to the Nottingham Journal in 1787, was moved to declare that: their religion in short, is a heap of inconsistencies promiscuously jumbled together, and their preaching an invariable compound of railing, absurdity, billingsgate and blackguardism…John Roe, their founder, holds himself as the only true prophet since the days of the Apostles, and he bitterly inveighs against all denominations, and d--ns the world in a bag...and I need not hesitate to aver that the wickedness, blasphemy and abomination delivered from Roe’s pulpit are without parallel.

A peculiarity of the group was the custom of marrying its members after partners had been selected, not by courtship, but by a jury of twelve drawing lots. This was 'in order to know precisely the will of Heaven concerning their matrimonial union'. The idea was so extraordinary that even the German poet and philosopher Friedrich von Schiller, in far-away Stuttgart, was moved to write about it, and lamented in a 1781 article, Arme jugend van Calverton!, about the lack of sentimentality and passion in the arrangement. The Roeites however contended that they had the right to marry, as well as to perform any religious duty, under the Act of Toleration 1689. The Marriage Act of 1753 had tightened the existing ecclesiastical rules, providing that for a marriage to be valid it had to be performed in a church and after the publication of banns. However, Jews and, crucially, Quakers were seemingly exempted from its provisions (Catholics and other dissenting groups were not exempt), and it may be that John Roe believed, for this reason, that this Act did not apply to his 'Quaker-like' group.

On 1 May 1780 John Roe went through a marriage ceremony, in the meeting house, with Isabel Morris, of the parish of St Mary, Nottingham. Later Elizabeth Morris (sister to Isabel) was similarly joined with Thomas Bush. On 20 April 1785 the churchwardens of St Wilfrids accused Isabel Morris (using her maiden name, rather than ‘Mrs Roe’), before the Church Court at Southwell Minster, of having three illegitimate children and Elizabeth Morris (‘Mrs Bush’) of having one such child. The ostensible reason must have been that the illegitimate offspring would become a burden on the parish. The two mothers failed to appear at Southwell to answer the charges, and in February 1786 letters of excommunication against them were issued by the vicar, James Bingham. On Sunday the 5 March the curate of Calverton, Ephraim Rogerson read out the order in church. As the two women did not apply to have the excommunication lifted within forty days, the Archbishop of York asked the Crown to issue writs of excommunicato capiendo to the Civil Courts to imprison the women, and they were taken to the county gaol, without any prospect of ever being released.

Although no child of the sect seems to have actually become chargeable to Calverton parish, ‘Mrs Roe’ and ‘Mrs Bush’ had effectively, been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Nottingham county gaol. The matter had got out of hand, and reports began to appear in the press which expressed disquiet about the affair and the way in which the animosity between the dissenters and the Established Church was ‘disgraceful in this enlightened age’. It was reported that, in the village, neighbours set fire to the fences of the Roeites, interrupted their services by blowing horns and firing guns, killed John Roe's cow, 'broke his trees' and even threw dirt at the congregation when passing them in the street.

John Roe’s brother William wrote from Farnsfield to Lord George Gordon, of the Protestant Association, appealing for his help (Gordon had himself been excommunicated) and the M.P. John Courtenay, who was later to write Conduct of the Dissenters in England (1790), raised the matter in Parliament, as a general feeling of unease about the issue began to become apparent. A legal counsellor in 1788 gave his opinion that if the writs had been correctly issued, there seemed no possibility of them being released from prison, unless their marriages could be made out to be Quaker, or their Roeite marriages could be made legal by a new Act of Parliament. In August 1790 Lord Kenyon, the Lord Chief Justice said that they could be released if they did penance, but the two sisters were not at all penitent and refused. Eventually, in 1798 after twelve years imprisonment, it appears that ‘Mrs Roe’ and ‘Mrs Bush’ were allowed to escape and return to Calverton, when part of the gaol was being rebuilt.

The Quaker writer William Howitt attended one of John Roe's services, and described the converted barn amongst the orchards. A very plain chapel with loft, pulpit and seats (not at all like a Quaker meeting house, thought Howitt), and a congregation of thirty slumbering, while Roe, attended by Isabel, provided a 'droning commentary' on the transfiguration.

John Roe, a small man with long white hair, combed in flowing locks on his shoulders, continued to preach in the converted barn, and died at the age of 91 in 1823. The Roeite sect did not long survive the death of its founder and, although White’s Directory of 1844 reported a ‘small meeting house’, there was no mention of the sect in the Religious Census of 1851.

The Pentecostals

Evangelist Mr Brian Day founded a Pentecostal Fellowship in Calverton in 1969. From 1974 they held services in the village hall (formerly Mews Lane chapel) where they worshipped for 12 years. During this time a building fund was set up and they were eventually able to purchase the former Primitive Methodist church on Main Street in 1985. Up to this point, the pastors had all been part-time but on September 1st 1986 Mr Peter Willows was appointed full-time Minister and joined the team of former Pastor Mr Charles Bowler and Evangelist Mr Brian Day.

The Baptists

In 1832 the Baptist Denomination opened in 'The Nook', this chapel having previously been erected by the friends of the 'New Methodist Connexion'. Mr S. Ward was the pastor for 25 years, both he and his wife giving devoted service to the community. His farewell address was signed by Seth Binch, Alfred Marriott and John Hind. A new gallery had already been built, bringing the seating to 200 when in 1862 the pews and harmonium were fitted at a cost of £17. Mr John Hind presented the communion cup in 1859. Activists in the Baptist Church during these early years included Richard Spencer, J. Spencer, J. Binch and H. Leafe. Mrs Minnie Binch and the Rev. Price will be remembered for their dedication and Mr G. Renals gave devoted service as secretary for over 20 years. 

The Catholic Church

Mass was held in the home of Mr and Mrs William Bowers of 3 Hollinwood Lane every Sunday for about two years until the Church of St. Anthony was built in Mansfield Lane. Father Tuto had come from the Catholic Church at Woodthorpe to celebrate the house masses and stayed on for a short time after the new church was established. He is a memorable figure among the priests who have served Calverton; another is Father Jones, a well known personality who served his community tirelessly.

The Chartists

Some useful information from Mags Beardall 

My husband is directly descended from the Beardall family who were frame work knitters in Calverton during the first half of the 19th Century. During the 1850's my husband's Great Grandfather William Beardall and his family moved to Manchester. 

However, prior to that I have now discovered that William was an active Chartist fighting for the working man's right to vote. It appears that Calverton was a little "hotbed" of Chartism during the late 1830's and 1840's most probably influenced by the activities of Feargus O'Connor who later became MP for Nottingham. Indeed William's sister Sarah Beardall married a William Lester and they named their son, Feargus O'Connor Lester in 1841.  

From the newspaper articles I have looked at in the "Northern Star" it also seems that religion was mixed in with Chartism and there was a "Chartist Chapel" in Calverton. Any ideas where that may have been?  

Both William Beardall and William Lester were among several Calverton citizens to be nominated for the chartists' General Council. For example on 31 December 1842 the Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser published the following list of "Nominations for the General Council" from Calverton:-

Mr William Lester, framework-knitter, Watson's-buildings.
Mr James Page, ditto, Candy's-yard.
Mr Thomas Lester, ditto, ditto
Mr William Beardall, ditto, Crookdy-lane.
Mr Joseph Roe, ditto, Watson's-buildings.
Mr William Brown, cordwainer, Forest, sub-Treasurer.
Mr George Swinfield, framework-knitter, Spring-gardens, sub-Secretary.

I also found that representatives from Calverton would attend regular meetings in Nottingham. There seems to have been some big issue over a Reverend Stevens in 1839 which I have not yet looked into.

Another interesting article in The Derby Mercury (14th Feb 1844) informs us that mugging is nothing new: "On Saturday night last, whilst Mr William Beardall, of Calverton was returning home from Nottingham, he was stopped at the bottom of Gallows-hill by three men, who took from him his money, to the amount of five-pence. The rascals also ill-treated him, and knocked one of his teeth out."  

I hope this information is of interest and perhaps there is an expert in the village who knows more. What it does seem to prove is that the people of Calverton have a strong spirit and will stand up for what they believe to be right, as many of you seem to be today with the Dark Lane issue.

Kind regards