Domesday Book does not record either church or personnel of any classification at Haughton. Its cultivable land lay waste and the manor was considerably impoverished. Despite this assessment in 1086, the chapel’s early Norman south doorway, adjacent herringbone masonry and unadorned tub font, suggest that construction commenced soon afterwards for the purpose of serving a small hamlet. At the present time there is no village in Haughton parish and the chapel ruins are located in solitary isolation.

Gilbert, a ‘priest’, was attributed to Haughton c1170, but the first reference specific to the chapel derives from a charter of 1191, by which John Count of Mortain (later King John) granted the church of Walesby and its chapelry of Haughton to the church of St Mary, Rouen. Confirming in 1257 Rouen’s authority to present Walesby’s vicar, Archbishop Godfrey Ludham of York specified among his dues and duties the chapel of ‘Hockton’ with its tithes, and the joint funding with Rouen of repairs, rebuilding, books, vestments and other alterages. The chapel remained with Rouen until the fourteenth century, when at the deprivation of alien churches it was accounted parcel of the Free Chapel Royal of Tickhill.

Drawing of chancel arch 1909 by Charles BaldockRepresenting this emergent phase, and still standing in the early twentieth century, were a transitional chancel arch with a few Norman stones reworked into the masonry above the gable, and a thirteenth-century north door. A lancet window, reputedly from Haughton, was built into the new organ loft at Walesby church c1890 but its original usage in the chapel is impossible to identify.

By 1298 Haughton’s population and civil assets had substantially recovered. About this time the eminent family of Longvillers assumed possession of the manor, which by female inheritance passed eventually to the Stanhopes. In November 1360 Agnes Longvillers was baptised in the chapel, an event to which several witnesses later attested, one of whom also remembered burying his father there on the same day. Contemporary with the tenure of these two families, considerable reconstruction of the chapel appears to have taken place, and a north aisle was added. Its remains can be seen today only in the arcading of octagonal piers with decorated capitals, infilled at a later undetermined date to create a new north wall. Painted designs still visible on the stoneRevealed where the later blocking has fallen out from beneath the arches, are coloured designs of vines, leaves, and stylised rosettes. Fourteenth-century buttresses still flank the position of the west window, although the tracery of the window itself, bellcote for two bells by which it was surmounted, and east window of the same period have all collapsed.

Objects consistent with the long occupation of prosperous Stanhopes, noted and sketched by Throsby about 1795, included incised grave coverings from outside and finely decorated stones under the chancel arch and in the nave, one bearing a memorial inscription to Johanna Stanhope and the legend ‘Jesu mercy, Lady helpe’. Grave slab with quatrefoil sinkingsOne grave slab described by Throsby and still at the chapel site c1980, had quatrefoil sinkings and incised demi-effigy of a man: a similar part grave slab of a lady with hands clasped in prayer, wearing mantle and wimple to represent a vowess was noted in 1931. Also recorded both by Throsby and again in 1931 but now in Walesby church, was the recumbent effigy of another vowess, potentially identified from records of vows taken, as Elizabeth Stanhope, with the date 1495.

Ecclesiastical authority for the Chapel of St James the Great. Haughton was held from 1504 until the religious Reformation of 1536 by the Abbot and Monastery of Westminster as part of an endowment made by Henry VIII for a new chapel in the abbey. A portion of pre-Reformation stone altar slab showing a consecration cross was used, some time after these events rendered such items unacceptable, to block up a nave window and remained in situ until recently. More enigmatic was a second small infilled window in the chancel, of simple rectangular shape (aperture one foot wide by two feet high), framed with Maplebeck sandstone, and at cill height only eighteen inches above ground.

In the early sixteenth century, on the extensive emparkment of Haughton by Edward Stanhope, St James’ became the domestic chapel to Haughton Hall and continued in this role when the estate was sold to William Holles in 1537. During the Holles occupancy of the following fifty years a mortuary chapel was added to the north of the chancel. At the present time its extent is marked by a few courses of vestigial walls. The depressed Tudor arch of its doorway described by T M Blagg in 1931, is no longer standing.

After 1591, despite financial provision in the will of the second Sir William Holles, the building was apparently indifferently maintained and the monument he desired was never erected over his tomb in the mortuary chapel. According to the family antiquarian Gervase Holles, St James’ was by 1656,

‘.... wholly ruinous and unfrequented…wch nothing but balls and owles repair to, so great is the zeale of the present puritanicall lady [wife of John Holles, second Earl of Clare] in her newfangled religion...’

It was finally abandoned, together with the Hall, after John Holles, fourth Earl of Clare was elevated to the Dukedom of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and removed his seat to Welbeck c1694. During its time of lay ownership the chapel continued to be served by the vicar of Walesby.

The principal interests of the incumbents of Walesby in the years after 1700 appear not to concern the decaying building, but lands in Haughton Lordship once belonging to the Vicarage of Walesby. By Act of Parliament in 1708, ‘Vicars Close’ of seventeen acres, and one acre of ‘Low Meadow’ were commuted to John, Duke of Newcastle and his heirs in perpetuity, for which the vicar received ten pounds and twelve shillings respectively per annum, together with a further two pounds per annum in respect of Haughton tithes. Additionally the vicar maintained the right to graze a mare and foal in Haughton Great Park. This arrangement, to the vicar’s advantage while the estate was emparked, seemed less equitable after the land was returned to profitable agricultural production in the nineteenth century. In 1847 the Reverend Pocklington challenged the fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme over the matter of the tithe-free land. The presiding barrister, finding despite the vicar’s denial that a prescriptive modus payment of forty shillings had been made annually for a full period of sixty years, proved the case for Newcastle.

For two hundred and fifty years the chapel remained as part of the Newcastle Estate, but unused and irrelevant it slowly fell into ruin. A faculty was granted in 1825 for ‘The removal of loose stone from Haughton chapel’ and informal ‘tidying up’ was carried out in the 1970s. The font and recumbent effigy were removed to Walesby church in 1947, but the locations of other artefacts noted in 1931 have not been identified.

In 1927 the chapel and its site formed part of a property transfer between the seventh Duke of Newcastle and the London and Fort George Land Company, who in 1945 conveyed it to the Southwell Diocesan Board of Finance, subject to a mining lease agreed with the Coal Commission in the previous year. Clauses of the conveyance state that ‘…the Company desires... that the remains of the chapel shall be preserved so far as possible in perpetuity...’ and that the Company would transfer into the name of the Board three hundred pounds to be invested and the interest to be used for this purpose. (Click here for full text.)

For what was believed to be the first time since the seventeenth century, on Sunday 30th July 1944 evensong was celebrated in the ruined chapel. Marking the patronal festival of Saint James, the event was repeated annually until the chancel arch collapsed in 1949, and the building was declared unsafe. In July 1945 Bishop Frank Russell Barry of Southwell addressed a service of re-dedication and thanksgiving for the chapel’s restoration to the Diocese. Optimism was high about securing its future and efforts made to this end resulted in Grade II* listing in 1952, but no action was taken to stabilise the substantial ruins then standing, and they have since collapsed.

In 2003 the dimensions of St James’ Chapel can be discerned by dwarf sections of walling among the fallen masonry. Still in situ is the blocked up arcading with stone, doorway and windows possibly recycled from former use in the once existing aisle, and under one arch, exposed by more recent disintegration, coloured medieval decorative artwork. Identifiable structural elements undoubtedly comprise part of the moss-encrusted rubble lying on the ground. How much has been removed is uncertain: a local garden displays a floral feature incorporating tracery apparently from the west window. The paling which partially marks the extent of the site is in disrepair.

Architecturally, the chapel was dismissed by Pevsner as ‘…one more Nottinghamshire village church of a type not at all rare...’ In the context of present circumstances where so much of the structure has already been lost and little remains to examine, this judgement seems ill-considered. Historically it is unique, being the known but disregarded burial place of the legendary ‘Good Sir William’ Holles who died in 1591 and was ancestral contributor to the gene pool of several noble lines. More ancient is its connection with two eminent medieval families who were baptised and interred within and around its walls.

The population of Haughton was probably at its greatest in the early fourteenth century. Twenty-eight land-holding tenants can be identified in 1298 representing (together with their families and those without land) a possible figure well in excess of a hundred. Sixty years later, only seven cottages and the manor house are recorded. The extent of possible recovery is not known. After emparkment only those involved in maintaining the hall and estate inhabited the Lordship, and one-time parishioners of the chapel were served by the mother church of Walesby. Other individuals, from the large area of Haughton Great Park lying in Bothamsall parish were, or became, part of that communion. The current population figure of thirty-four is slightly below that for most of the nineteenth century.

Features of historical interest: (no longer extant) early Norman doorway with chevron and cable ornamentation constructed without jambshafts, herringbone masonry, transitional chancel arch, fourteenth-century windows and bellcote, and depressed Tudor arch to the mortuary chapel; (in situ) chancel piscina, fourteenth-century west wall buttresses, infilled three-bay arcade (probably from a former north aisle) with door and windows of different periods, and medieval painted decoration exposed on arches where blocking has fallen out. Artefacts: early tub font and recumbent fifteenth-century female effigy now in Walesby church.

Although this ancient monument is a rare memorial to a community long since disappeared, and source of valuable information for historians, architects and archaeologists, without expeditious goodwill to halt the long years of neglect and decay St James’ chapel has a precarious prognosis.

Relevant dates

1171Earliest named priest at Haughton. Earliest named parson at Walesby 1179

1191Appropriated to Rouen as a chapelry of Walesby

1191Confirmation of Walesby’s vicarage status and Rouen’s authority

1504-36Granted to the Abbot and Monastery of Westminster

1509Domestic chapel


1945Restored to Southwell Diocese and re-dedicated

1952Listed Grade II*

Church registers

Walesby (Church of St Edmund King and Martyr) with Haughton. Commence 1580. Rarely annotated. References specifying residence in Haughton are not made consistently.