View from the south


St Mary Magdalene

Nottingham Archdeaconry

East Bingham Deanery


Much of Keyworth St Mary’s parish church was built in the 14th century, in the aftermath of the Black Death of 1348/9, though the chancel dates from the early 14th and the tower may be from the very early 15th century. A vestry was added to the north of the mediaeval building in 1975. There have been several major restorations, the most recent in 1870/2 (nave, chancel and aisles), 1926/7 (tower) and 1993 (roof of nave).

The most striking and unique feature is the lantern tower. In contrast to most of the rest of the church, it was built of ashlar (dressed stone, in this case Triassic sandstone from Castle Donington). There are four components. Firstly, a massive square tower, flanked by buttresses, accounting for three-quarters of the total height. Above it, is a smaller square tower, set back to make room for a parapet. Above that, is an octagonal ‘lantern’ with window spaces through which light could be directed. Finally, there is a squat spire. It has been conjectured that the lantern, occupying one of the highest points in the locality, may have, in mediaeval times, provided a guide to travellers across poorly defined tracks, and was also a means of conveying messages along a line of similar high points (eg Beacon Hill in Charnwood).

The south and north aisles immediately below the tower are also of ashlar, as is the south porch, though the external walls of the latter were refaced with local rubble in the 19th century. The rest (nave, north aisle and chancel) is built of undressed local Blue Lias limestone and rubble, except for the modern vestry which is of brick. On the south side of the nave is a scratch sun dial, now badly worn, which was the village time-piece before the installation of bells in the tower (three were hung between the mid-16th and mid-17th centuries, and three more added in 1992), and the clock (the first, installed in 1796, was replaced by the present one in 1893).

The churchyard has been artificially raised and levelled behind a perimeter brick retaining wall, mostly built (or rebuilt) in the early 19th century. It was extended to the north of the church in 1861 and again to the east in 1930.

The basic plan of the church is rectangular rather than cruciform, with the long axis running the traditional west-east. There are no transepts and no west door. It is asymmetric in that the nave is flanked by a north, but not by a south aisle, except at the west end.

The chancel is the oldest part of the building, dating from the early 14th century. It is possible that the eastern third, roughly corresponding to the sanctuary behind the altar rail, was built somewhat later than the rest, and perhaps reflected in the contrast between the older Early English trefoil (three-leaf) headed lancet windows behind the choir stalls, and the newer Decorated quatrefoil headed windows above the sanctuary, including the big East window.

A doorway in the north wall once led to a small chantry chapel or vestry. This was a ruin by the early 19th century and is now the site of the modern vestry.

Set into the walls of the sanctuary are three features used in the conduct of the mass: a sedilia in the south wall, with seating for officiating priest and deacons; a piscina also in the south wall, to hold water with which to purify the communion vessels;an aumbry or cupboard in the north wall, to hold sacred vessels, the original shutters of which have disappeared. Wooden doors have been fitted to this aumbry. Also in the sanctuary is a modern (c1968) statue of Mary Magdalene, holding a model of the church.

The Nave and North Aisle were probably built at the same time, in the late 14th century. The Perpendicular style window frames are plain and square-headed - perhaps a shortage of skilled craftsmen following the Black Death obliged builders to adopt simpler designs than previously (at any rate in a poor parish that could not afford to pay over the odds for scarce craftsmen). There are two gothic pointed arches between the nave and north aisle; and one each linking nave to chancel and the tower base respectively. Like the windows, they are plain, with little decoration. There is a modern statue of the Blessed Virgin near a 1903 rood screen separating nave from chancel.

Seating arrangements for the congregation changed four times in the 19th century, most recently in 1885, when the present pews were installed, replacing chairs. Present seating capacity, excluding choir stalls, is about 150.Originally, the north aisle only extended as far back as the nave. When the tower was added, it was flanked by newly-built aisles, a westward extension of the north aisle, balanced by a south aisle west of the porch. Up to the mid-19th century, a long room occupied most of the space under the tower, together with adjoining parts of the north and south aisles. This was used as a schoolroom until the Parochial Schools building was erected on the corner of Selby Lane and Elm Avenue in 1862. Later, it served as vestry until the new vestry was built in 1975, releasing space for more seating.

The South Aisle and porch are, like the tower, built of ashlar and are probably, like it, of very early 15th century origin. The south aisle is unusual in only occupying the rear of the church, so there are no arches linking it with the nave. The external walls of the porch were refaced with local limestone in the 19th century.

Personal memorials are conspicuous by their absence. Keyworth has apparently never had a resident lord of the manor or other wealthy family to leave behind alabaster tombs or brasses. Some recent windows have been installed to the memory of past rectors (Alfred Potter and his wife in the chancel, Canon Fry in the north aisle) and to celebrate the end of the Great War (in the south wall of the nave). Most recently, a Millennium window was inserted in the south aisle, depicting all the churches in the parish. Also the only village War Memorial in which those who were killed in action are recorded, is in the church (facing the porch). It is significant that all those listed from the First War are privates or junior NCOs. Keyworth had very few of the classes from which officers were recruited in those days. Incidentally, there were four Disneys mentioned - three brothers and their uncle - who had all played and triumphed in a football match - Disneys versus the rest of the village - before the War.

Particular thanks to Bob Hammond for research on this entry