For this church:
There is no mention of a church in Domesday Book. There were no entries in the 1291 Taxatio return, the 1341 Nonarum Inquisitiones or the Henry VI 1428 subsidy. Nikolaus Pevsner commented on the beauty of West Stockwith (also referred to as Stokketh, Stockkyth and West Stokewith), a Nottinghamshire village that is close to the border of Lincolnshire. Pevsner described the village as a ‘specially pretty… west bank Trent riverside village of brick, of almost Dutch character… an inland port with a barge basin and warehouse at the junction of the rivers Idle and Trent and the Chesterfield Canal, opened in 1775’.
The earliest record of a church occurs in the Register of Archbishop Melton. On 21 April 1334, the archbishop granted a faculty to the inhabitants of West Stockwith, in Misterton parish, to have services in their new chapel. We may reasonably assume therefore that this chapel was built in or around 1333-4. The faculty explains the reasons why the chapel was built, due to the distance of the hamlet from the parish church at Misterton, and ‘the dangerous roads, and other perils and hinderences’. A suitable priest was to be supplied to perform Mass and to celebrate other canonical hours. The chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (‘beate Marie’).
It is known that this chapel was still standing in 1559, and in 1677, Robert Thoroton wrote that Misterton church was dedicated to All Saints, with Stockwith chapel, but does not elaborate further on details of the chapel. It was evidently a simple chapel-of-ease for the villagers of West Stockwith in the parish of Misterton.
There is no trace today of the medieval chapel which is said to have stood on the site of the Aegir flats in Canal Lane.
West Stockwith was a port and shipbuilding place frequented by sailors. It is interesting that in 1631, thirty-four years before the Great Plague in London, there was a warrant for levying by restraint sums of money in arrear for the use of the inhabitants of West Stockwith infected with plague.
In 1714 William Huntington bequeathed £740 for the erection of a chapel and ten almshouses in his ship yard. The almshouses were intended to be for widows of mariners and ship carpenters.
The church was built by the executors of William Huntington, a ship carpenter. It cost less than £300 to build, and with the almshouses, occupied the site of Huntington’s Shipyard. The main feature inside was a life-size marble monument of William Huntington, the statue had him reclining on his elbow and holding a paper with a ship in his hand; the artist was E. Poynton.
Pevsner characterized St Mary’s church as Classical style (c.1722). It was a plain rectangular building, a single chamber forming both chancel and nave, with a bell turret on the west gable. There were three round-headed windows on each side, all of plain glass except for an inset panel of stained glass in the middle north window.
From 1722, when the church was built, until 1896, it was a ‘Donative’ – that is, the minister was appointed as chaplain by the Trustees of Huntington’s Charity. Huntington endowed his church with some of the land he owned, this included a farm at Gunnas (purchased from David Kirgarth), which he described as his ‘Manor’. The parson of Stockwith was Lord of the Manor of Gunnas [Gunhouse?] The farm was sold. Another two pieces of land called Soss Close and Common Close still belonged to the vicar. There were 6 acres of land in total. When the church was first endowed, these lands brought in an income of about £60 per year, a good deal in those times. The almshouses were endowed with lands in Misterton and West Stockwith, and cottages in West Stockwith, which were let for about £30 per year. In 1731 the assistant curate was James Hargreaves.
The church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it was consecrated, on 30 September 1732 by Sir Wm. Dawes, then Archbishop of York, upon the same conditions as the first chapel – that the parishioners should receive the Holy Sacrament at Misterton on the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, and pay their portion towards the repair of that church.
The 1743 Archbishop Herring’s return for ‘West Stockwith Chappel, Retford’ states:
May it please Your Grace
Your Grace having enjoyn’d me to give free and faithful Answers to your Questions, I think myself in Duty bound to give you the utmost Satisfaction I am able. And therefore I beg Leave to inform your Grace That William Huntington late of West Stockwith Shipwright by his last Will and Testament dated February 14 1714 devised £740 for the building a Chappell and Ten small Alms Houses in his Ship Yard and endowed the said Hoses with upwards of Thirty Pounds a year in Land for the support of Ten poor Ship Carpenter’s or Sailor’s Widows That the said Chappell and Hospital were built and the Chappell consecrated in the Year 1722 and the Estates belonging to them invested in the Hands of Trustees appointed for that Purpose. That a Minister being elected at the Time to officiate in the Chappell did enter immediately to the Salary appointed for him, but no Widows were then put into the Alms Houses nor have any received any Benefit from the Charity. After some Time indeed Two or Three Widows were placed in the Alms Houses and lived there several Years but they never received any Part of the Endowment And the Rents and Profits of the Poor’s Estate have all along been received by the Trustees without Account That in the Year 1738 which was about Two Years after I was nominated Minister the Inhabitants agreed to file a Bill in Chancery against the Trustees and insisted that I shou’d joyn in the said Bill to bring the Trustees to Account which Bill being then filed is now depending before the Lord Chancellor and has cost us a great Sum of Money out of our own Pockets, but that the Trustees make Use of the Charity Money for their defraying their Charges thereby prolonging the Cause and hoping to tire out those who bear their Expences themselves. This, may it please your Grace, is the Truth of the Case, as near as I can state it, and it is great Pity the Benefaction shou’d be so much abused. And we humbly hope your Grace will take it into Consideration. Since the Chappell was consecrated the Inhabitants of West-Stockwith have, for the most Part, brought their Children to be baptised at the Chappell, the Mother Church being Two Miles distant, and in Winter the Roads almost impassable. And in my Predecessor’s Time a Copy of his private Register of such Children as were baptised in the Chappell was entered in the Parish Register, the Vicar of the Parish receiving his usual Fees, but of late Years (tho I have a Licence from the Dean and Chapter to do that and all other Ecclesiastical Duty in the Chappell and tho the Vicar of the Parish has constantly been paid his Fees) yet he has refused to admit into the Parish Register a Copy of my private Register of such Children as have been baptised by me in the Chappell to the great discontent of the Inhabitant’s who’s Children must either want the Benefit of a Register or be carried in Winter Time Two Miles in Roads almost impassable to be baptised. For which Reason I have taken the Freedom to lay this Matter before your Grace, and for the sake of the Inhabitants of West Stockwith shou’d be very glad that either the Copy of my private Register shou’d be entered in the Parish Register, or that your Grace’s Officers wou’d accept it without Fees as we have no Fund – belonging to the Chappell for the defraying that or any other Charges.
I am with all due Regard Your Grace’s most obedient Son and Servant.
Stockwith Sepr. 6: 1743 ROBT PINDAR
C. Robert Pindar. Adm. By D. and C. of York, 18th Dec., 1734. D. Lincoln, 4th June, 1732; P. Lincoln, 20th May, 1733. Lincoln Coll. Oxon., B.A., 1730; M.A., 1733.
Churchwarden Old: John Foster
New: William Moody.
For not exhibiting a Presentment; for not paying his Court fees, and for not exhibiting a Terrier. John Foster
Abp. Notes ‘M. To Consider Mr Pindar’s Letter.’
In the 1764 Archbishop Drummond’s Parish Visitation Returns the Curate Robert Pindar appeared and exhibited his subscription on being Licensed. The outgoing churchwarden was William Farr, and his successor was Robert Moody. There was no return made. But in the return for Misterton, Robert Pindar stated that ‘There is a hospital chappell at West Stockwith in the parish of Misterton, which is a private donation founded by Mr. William Huntington late of that place, shipwright, for the sole benefit of tweve poor widows inhabiting a hospital adjoining the said chappell, and for the benefit of no other persons, but not subject, as I am advised, to any episcopal jurisdiction.’
In 1844 White’s Directory recorded that West Stockwith had 651 inhabitants, and about 600 acres of land. The Duke of Portland was lord of the manor, but the land belonged to various owners, and was tithe free. St Mary was referred to at this time, as a chapel of ease. In 1844 the Rev. William Adamthwaite was the incumbent. In 1844 the almshouses which consisted of five first-floor rooms, and five second floor rooms, were occupied by six pensioners who were given £12 each per year.
The 1851 Religious Census returns mentioned: ‘MISTERTON PARISH consisting of the townships of  Misterton and  West Stockwith.’ It gave the population as 324 males, 330 females, total 654. It reported the Episcopal Chapel connected to Huntington’s Charity. Endowed; land £230. Space: free 280. There were 72 people present in the general morning congregation and 157 in the evening. There were 28 Sunday scholars in the morning. The averages for the general morning congregation were given as: 95 and 65. The average for the evening congregation was 160. The average for the morning Sunday scholars was 35. The average for the afternoon Sunday scholars was 55. The remarks made by Henry Christopher Barker, the Chaplain, stated: ‘The Morning Congregations vary, and are considerably larger on the alternate Sundays when there is a sermon (on March30th there was no sermon). I have therefore in the second column given the averages for the number of attendants on the alternate Sundays respectively. The Sunday scholars properly belong to the Wesleyan Sunday School, though the parents of many of them are members of the Established Church. The second service, always with a sermon, is alternately in the afternoon and the evening. I therefore give two averages.’
White’s 1885-86 Directory stated that: ‘Huntington’s body was initially interred in the chapel, but afterwards removed to Misterton churchyard.’
In 1887 the church was restored and re-seated for £300. It is thought that at this time, much of the oak, such as the pulpit, box pews and gallery were removed; as well as the plaster mouldings and tablet containing the Ten Commandments, from above the altar.
Kelly’s Directory reported that the ‘registers were formerly incorporated with those of Misterton, but since the formation of West Stockwith as a separate parish in the late 1890s it has had its own registers,’ at this point the parish priest was then appointed by the bishop.
There was no reference to West Stockwith or the church in Bishop Ridding’s visitation of 1892. Kelly’s Directory noted that ‘West Stockwith formerly a township and chapelry, in the parish of Misterton, was formed into a distinct ecclesiastical parish by Order in Council dated September, 1892’.
Kelly’s also stated that ‘a new vicarage house was erected in 1907 at a cost of £1,499.’
West Stockwith was described by H. H. Swinnerton, in Cambridge County Geographies: Nottinghamshire, (1910) as ‘A small river port situated in the extreme north of the county at the point where the Idle, the Morther drain, and the Chesterfield canal enter the Trent. Large chemical and engineering works provide many of the people with employment.’ The population for West Stockwith in 1901 was given as 667.
In the 1912 Bishop of Southwell’s visitation returns: St Mary the Virgin (1722) was shown as in the Deanery of Bawtry. The vicar was W. T. Longman since 1896. The net annual value of the benefice was 200. The population in 1911 was 848. The population in 1901 was 871. The church accommodation was 220. There were no church day school figures given. The church Sunday School, numbers on the roll were given as 52. There were 11 baptisms recorded and 5 confirmations recorded in the year ending 30 September 1912. The April version of the Southwell Diocesan Magazine showed that the Bishop’s itinerary included a visit St Mary’s on 2 February 1913 at 3:00pm.
In 1920 the vicarage had a net yearly value of £260, a gift of the Bishop of Southwell; the Reverend was Thomas Hardy Newby MA of Keble College, Oxford.
Kelly’s Directory (1922) described the church as ’a plain rectangular building of red brick, in the Classic style, consisting of chancel and nave, and a turret on the western gable containing one bell’.
The total of the church collections for 1938 was £46 5s 7d. The total of the collections for 1939 20-28 December was £50 15s 6d. In 1939 the Holy Sacrament was offered 143 times during the year. Communicants in 1939 were 838 compared to 663 the year before in 1938. The figures included 25 sick communions in 1939 and 3 in 1938. There were 9 baptisms in both 1938 and 1939. The Rev. H. Woodcock commented that the ‘number of communions made is striking, and I read it as evidence of our growing love and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.’
In April 1939 there was a whist drive and dance held in the church room on Easter Monday. During the Holy Week and Easter there was an evensong and reading at 7. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, the Holy Eucharist was at 9:30am. On Good Friday there was Matins, Litany, and Ante-Communion at 10am, and an hour’s meditation at the cross. In July the Rev. H. Woodcock commented on the King and Queen’s Royal visit to Canada. In August of 1939 the church held a garden fete that raised £18 10s.
In 1939 St. Mary the Virgin had Sunday Holy Communion at 8am and also 7am on festivals. It had sung Eucharist at 10:10am, Evensong at 6pm, Sunday School (in Church) 2pm, a children’s service was held on the last Sunday in the month at 2:30pm, weekday and festival services were announced. Baptisms, marriages and confessions were by appointment. In 1939 the Reverend H. Woodcock published The Outlook a parish magazine, for three half pence. In the November 1939 Woodcock wrote a beautiful and insightful comment in the magazine on the fact that they were 50 days into the War, it is interesting to read his views on dictatorships and democracies and his belief that Britain had hegemonically lost its liberty: ‘Parliament, and Local Authorities have made themselves secure from being “turned out” for the duration, by announcing that there will be no elections. And that casual vacancies will be filled by nomination without opposition in the case of Parliament, and by co-option in the case of Local Authorities. Of course, all this is done in the name of “not interrupting our best war effort” The fact remains, however, that business and trade is being slowly but surely strangled by the controls and pools, and the will of the people is robbed of its expression by the no election policy of the Government...The great British Democracy has gone and lost its liberty for the sake of restoring liberty to the continent of Europe.’ Woodcock commented that the church room would not be blacked out at that time, in case people seemed to stay at home more throughout the winter nights and due to the war.
In 1957 a United Benefice between All Saints Church Misterton and St Mary the Blessed Virgin, West Stockwith, was created.
On 19 April 1962 a faculty for carrying out work at St. Mary’s church was set out in a schedule to the Reverend Geoffrey Frank Blackmore Bachelor of Divinity, the Vicar, and Fred Fox and Gerald Nash the churchwardens of the parish of West Stockwith: ‘To carry out the following works in the Parish Church of West Stockwith in the county of Nottingham and Diocese of Southwell the said works to be carried out in accordance with the report of the Georgian society.
In 1963 St Mary's church was restored, as far as possible retaining the original Georgian character of the building.
On 23 January 2000, a service of inauguration was celebrated to mark the formation of a Local Ecumenical Partnership between the Anglicans and Methodists, and some of the Methodist chapel’s artefacts are now housed in the church.