St Wilfrid


A church is not mentioned in Domesday Book. The earliest fabric of the church appears to date from around the 14th century.

In his Antiquities of Nottinghamshire Thoroton noted that the patronage of the church of Kelham was given to Welbeck Abbey around the time of King Richard I, in the late 12th century.

In 1204 a fine was levied between Richard, Abbot of Welbeck, and Alexander, prior of Shelford, over the advowson (right of patronage to Kelham church). It was concluded that the abbot and his successors and the prior and his successors should each have one moiety (portion of ownership) of the advowson.

In 1230 there is record of a confirmation to the prior and convent of Shelford of a yearly pension, including a stone of wax from a mediety of the church of Kelham. St Wilfrid’s Kelham is listed in the 1291 taxatio returns. This was an assessment for tax ordered by Pope Nicholas IV. The annual value of the benefice was given as £10 and the patrons were recorded as the Welbeck Abbey Premonstratensian Canons. The annual value was still 15 marks (£10) in the 1341 Nonae Rolls. The 1428 Subsidy tax records of Henry VI show that the value of the church had remained the same. The subsidy for Kelham was 20s which was 10% of the overall value, 15 marks or £10. Around 1475 the chancel screen was repaired. Also around the end of the 15th century or early 16th century most of church was rebuilt, except for the tower, and side aisles were added.

Nicholas Orme, in his book Medieval Children, notes that St Wilfrid’s claimed to own a relic of the finger of St Stephen. It was said that it aided women during childbirth.

A churchwarden presentment of 1603 gives details of the minister, value of the parsonage and congregation numbers at the time. The minister resided in the parish and was described as a ‘diligent preacher of God's word and is a Bachelor of Arts’. The value of the benefice was £19 8s 4d. There were 200 communicants and one recusant.

Instructions to the churchwardens from the Archdeacon’s court in 1639 reveal information about the physical condition of the church. These instructions were part of a wider drive throughout the Church of England to make sure that church buildings were in good order and repair. The churchwardens in Kelham were informed that the seats in the church were not uniform and the font cover was inadequate.

St Wilfrid’s appears to have been involved in conflict during the civil war. The north door was pierced with a row of holes. These were made to allow muskets to be discharged from within the building.

Parish registers at Kelham begin in 1663.

By 1677, when Thoroton wrote Antiquities of Nottinghamshire, Lord Lexington was patron of St Wilfrid’s.

The Lexington

The south chancel chapel dates from the 18th century and was probably built as a funerary chapel to the Lexingtons. It contains monuments to Robert Sutton Lord Lexington (d1723) and Lady Lexington (d1703). The monument is made of marble and on top are effigies of the Lexingtons, reclining back to back.

Lord Robert Lexington was owner of Averham and Kelham. His father was created Lord Lexington by Charles I in 1646. Robert Lexington served William III and Queen Anne as an envoy and ambassador. An inscription on the monument describes the achievements of Lord Lexington in these roles.

Lord Lexington’s son was also interred in Kelham. He died in Madrid while his father was an ambassador there and his body was transported back to Kelham, concealed in a bale of cloth. 

In the chapel another tablet commemorates Thomas Lord Manners (d1842). He served the Prince of Wales and King George III as Solicitor-General. He became a Baron of the Exchequer, Peer of the realm, and then Lord High Chancellor of Ireland.

His brother, a former rector of St Wilfrid’s, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1805. Charles Manners-Sutton was rector of the parish of Averham with Kelham, progressed to Bishop of Norwich in 1792, also became Dean of Windsor, and then rose to the position of Archbishop.

Thomas Herring, Archbishop of York, toured the diocese in 1743. A visitation report includes details of St Wilfrid’s. The parish held 40 families and there were no dissenters. There was also a charity school in the parish. The Rev James Naish resided in his parish and had no curate.

In 1764, with the visitation of Archbishop Drummond, there were only 10 families in the parish and no dissenters.

According to Bailey's Annals, in 1844 the church at Kelham was 'new roofed, and completely renovated.' However, no corroborating evidence for this claim has been found.

The 1851 census listed a population of 167 for Kelham. The average congregation in morning services was 70 and in the afternoon 90. The average number of Sunday School scholars in mornings and afternoons was 30.

St Wilfrid’s was restored by Charles Hodgson Fowler during 1872-3 and reopened on 20 January 1874. White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire estimates that the restoration cost about £800. According to the Nottingham Journal of 23 January 1874 J H Manners Sutton 'restored nave and aisles of the church almost entirely at his own cost' and the rector 'restored the chancel at his own entire expense.' As part of the restoration the windows were re-glazed, and oak stalls put in. A new pulpit, lectern, litany desk and altar table were installed. A classical arch leading to the south chancel chapel was replaced by a gothic one. Also turreted stonework was added to the outside of the nave, and side aisles.

In c1912 Sir Edward Hoskyns, Bishop of Southwell, toured the diocese. The visitation records name the rector as J Cyril Walker. The church was able to accommodate 150 people.

Efforts to raise funds for restoration began again in 1963.

In 1982 Newark District Council contributed a significant sum to save the church tower from collapsing on the roof.