For this church:
Though to all present appearances, a modern place, Mansfield Woodhouse has a history dating from the Roman period. In 1786 Major Hayman Rooke discovered important Roman villas at Northfield with mosaic pavements.
Domesday Book does not record the village separately but under the entry for Mansfield two churches and two priests are described. However, the entry also included the 'outliers' of Skegby and Sutton-in-Ashfield so the two churches could be any combination of Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse, Skegby, or Sutton.
There is no record of the church in the 1291 taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV. Nor does it appear in subsequent taxation documents in 1314 and 1428. It is likely that the annual income was too low for its inclusion.
In 1292 King Edward I granted Thomas, the Bishop of St David's, 16 oaks from the king's woods including Mansfield Woodhouse.
In 1304 a fire that swept through the village destroyed much of the stone and timber church. In January 1305 King Edward I granted timber for rebuilding the village and church as recorded in the Close Rolls:
'The King, to Robert de Clifford, Justice of the Forest beyond Trent, or to him who supplies his place, because the Church of Mansfield Woodhouse, and the houses of the King's tenants of that town, have been burned by mischance as the King learns, the King pitying the losses of the tenants, and wishing to show them favours in timber to rebuild their church and houses, orders the Justices, to cause the tenants to have in the forest of Shirewood timber for rebuilding their houses in accordance with the requirements of their estate, from oaks and other trees suitable for timber.'
Robert Stuffyn founded a chantry sometime before September 1339 as an undated inspeximus appears in Archbishop William Melton's register citing the indenture of this date. He made various benefactions to the Austin Priory of Felley, in consideration of which the Prior undertook to find a chaplain and pay him ‘six silver marks each year’ to pray for the souls of Robert, his wife Alice, and of all their ancestors, and for the souls of all the faithful, at the altar of the Blessed Virgin in Mansfield Woodhouse. Chantry priests were appointed until the time of the Reformation.
On 30 May 1441 Archbishop John Kempe undertook a visitation to the church which described in his register as a chapel: 'Et post nonam in ecclesia parochiali de Mawncefeld' visitabunt eandem necnon vicariam eiusdem cum capella de Mawncefeld Wodhows...'
George Fox, founder of the Quakers, visited Mansfield Woodhouse on his preaching travels in 1649. He appears to have tried to preach in the church whereupon he was severely beaten, placed in the stocks on Cross Hill for a time and then stoned out of the village. He encountered this sort of reception elsewhere during his travelling and preaching.
At the time of Archbishop Herring’s Visitation in 1743 the curate, William Clarke, reported that there were 188 families in the parish, three of which were Presbyterian. There were no Dissenters of any sort nor was there a meeting house of any sort. Clarke was also rector of West Hallam, near Ilkeston, and was required by the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry to reside there rather than Mansfield Woodhouse. He conducted 'the Publick Service' twice on Sunday one week then the following week a service took place in the forenoon at Mansfield Woodhouse and in the afternoon at Skegby St Andrew (which was annexed to it). The sacraments were administered the first Sunday in every month and at Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday: 'there are usually betwixt Thirty & Forty who receive Monthly, & at Easter last They were about Eighty who did communicate.'
William Clarke was still curate in 1764 on the occasion of Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation. The village had 178 families, only two of which were dissenters. He still lived in the rectory house at West Hallam and the resident curate at Mansfield Woodhouse was James Lynam who rented a house in the village as there was no parsonage house.
On 22nd March 1816 the church steeple was damaged by an earthquake which necessitated repairs.
The nave and aisles were virtually rebuilt between 1804 and 1810 and further restorations took place in 1848-53 and 1877-78. It has long been assumed that the mid-19th century restoration was the responsibility of Sir George Gilbert Scott but recent research shows the architect was Scott's former partner, William Bonython Moffatt (1812-87). The work included a new north aisle, reseating, a new tower gallery, the removal of the late medieval clerestory and repairs to the roof, walls and other parts of the fabric. More work was required than originally anticipated with the chancel arch, south aisle and south porch also being rebuilt. Lack of funds led to a temporary pause in the work in 1849 but restoration resumed the following year and it was completed by 1853.
According to the 1851 census of religious worship, the Parish of Mansfield Woodhouse covered an area of 2,860 acres and the population was 1,972 persons. The average congregation in the morning was 300 and in the afternoon it was 170. In addition, there were usually around 100 children at Sunday School. The church had 550 spaces, 140 of which were free.
On 28 October 1868 Sir Stephen Gynne visited Mansfield Woodhouse and made the following observations:
'This Church has a nave with aisles, chancel with S. chapel – and Western tower with stone Spire and a South porch. The whole has been within 10 years greatly renovated and the internal walls of the aisles mostly rebuilt. The windows, which seem to be mostly new, have segmental arches and Decd tracery of 3 lights. The arcades of the nave each have 5 pointed arches, on piers of 4 clustered shafts which have longitudinal bands and of Decd character. There are good head corbels at the springing of each hood moulding in the arcades of the nave. There is no Clerestory, the roofs which are open, seem to be new. The whole of the nave and Tower seems to be of Decd character. The Tower arch is pointed on shafts. The Chancel arch is superior and of 3 orders with capital and longitudinal bands on the shafts as the others. The seats are all open, with poppy heads on the bench ends The pulpit is a new one of stone. The Chancel is narrow and inferior – has a debased E window of 3 lights – and a new open roof with Tie beams and King posts. The South chapel is late Perpr and opens to the Chancel by a Tudor shaped arch, on octagonal shafts – Its windows are of 3 lights, late and without foil – and in it is a piscina – also 2 sepulcral effigies of the Digby family, set up right – which are of post reformation character. Between this chapel and the S. aisle of the nave is a Tudor shaped arch on corbel heads. In this chapel is the organ.
The tower is rather plain and has a West doorway in shape of flattened trefoil, over which is a 2 light Decd window. The Spire is short and of broach shape – having an uncommon effect, rather unEnglish – from the upper range of canopied lights – (2 in all) – being set so very near the apex of the Spire –
The Font is Norman – circular and quite plain.'
The restoration work of 1877-8 was not as extensive as 1848-53. The Nottingham Evening Post, reporting on the re-consecration of the chancel on 7 August 1878, summarised the changes:
'The chancel has been pulled down, lengthened by a few yards, the old vestry converted into an organ chamber, and a new vestry built on the north side of the chancel. That portion of the building formerly used as the organ chamber, being the east end of the south aisle, has been fitted up with oak seats. Opposite to this stands the organ, in what was, until the recent improvements, the vestry. The new vestry is separated from the chancel by a low screen made of oak. Two fine Gothic arches have been let into the chancel wall, one leading into the organ chamber, and the other to the vestry. An opening about ten feet high has also been made in the wall dividing the organ chamber from the north aisle, which is surmounted by an arch, the centre of which is supported by an alabaster pillar.'
The architect was T. C. Hine of Nottingham and the cost of the work amounted to £1,500.
In March 1892 the church tower was 'very much out of repair, and the belfry unsafe for ringing the bells' so the parishioners set about raising £500 for thoroughly repairing the tower and to also add two more bells to complete a perfect peal.
In 1911 the parochial church council bought a plot of land alongside the railway and built a brick mission church to serve the rapidly growing south-west part of the village near Sherwood Colliery which opened in 1902. The church was dedicated to St Catherine.
In 1912 the parish had a population of 11,025, an increase of 126% from 1901. The church of St Edmund could accomodate 490 people and the net annual value of the benefice was £245. There were 760 pupils on the church day school and 640 on the roll of the Sunday school. There were 245 baptisms and 50 confirmations in the year ending 30 September 1912.
Shortly after the end of the First World War the chantry chapel situated eastward of the south aisle was given by the Duke of Portland and Francis Hall as a war memorial. The west window, presented the Misses Paget, was restored in 1919 as a war memorial, at a cost of about £80, excluding and material given by various parishioners.
Unfortunately the church was subject to vandalism in 1975 and it was of great concern to the community who rallied to the cause by setting up a public fund for repairs.
Due to mining subsidence extensive restoration took place between 1986 and 1988. As well as major restoration to the stonework, other changes included moving the choir stalls from the chancel to the north aisle, installing a 1920 Willis organ alongside the choir stalls and modernisation of the heating system. The work was finally completed in 1988 and a flower festival was held in thanksgiving for the major restoration.
Complementing the church, is the Turner Memorial Hall built and opened in 1908 in memory of the late Mr F J Turner, agent to the Duke of Portland’s estates. Attached to the hall is the Stable Centre (previously a near-derelict building). It was refurbished and opened in 1993, serving as a café and drop-in centre, and is also managed by the church. St Edmund’s Scout Group meet at the stone-built Scout Hut at the rear of the hall.
This beautiful, well-positioned church, standing in the centre of the town, still serves the needs of an expanding community.
The church registers date from 1653 and include baptisms, marriages and deaths.