It is possible that the Beck Valley between Maplebeck and Caunton could have been settled by the Danes in the 9th century. The name ‘Maplebeck’ incorporates the old Norse word ‘bekkr’ for stream and many of the old field names such as Foxen Wong; Meadow Ing; Hag Ley and Far Brakes are from the Old Norse words for field, meadow, hillside and clearing.
At the time of the Domesday Book, Mapebec/berg is shown as King’s land held by Gilbert de Ghent, a nephew of William the Conqueror, and was described as having ‘2 bovates of land, land for 4 oxen, 3 sochmen have 1 plough.’ There is no mention of a church of priest.
The village is situated on a belt of sandstone called Keuper Marl or Skerry and this rock has been quarried since medieval times, the stone being used not only to build the church but also Trent bridge and Bishop Alexander’s Castle at Newark and the Old Bishop’s Palace at Southwell. The old names of some of the fields such as ‘Cliff Close’ suggest that the stone was quarried within the village and this can be seen in the level of the roads leading out of the village as they are much lower that the surrounding land.
The piece of land bordering the south side of the churchyard is known locally as the place where a monastery once existed. It may be that there could be some truth in this belief. The Rufford Abbey records show that in 1239 there was an agreement between Abbot Geoffrey of Rufford and Brother Terry de Nulla, Prior of the Knights Hospitaller in England, concerning tithes from lands held and worked by the monks in Maplebeck. A later agreement between Matilda Burdon and the Prior of the Hospital of St John states: ‘a chaplain will celebrate daily at the chapel of Maplebeck and will minster the sacraments and will honestly officiate at the office pertaining to the chapel, and will continually reside in the town of Maplebeck in a suitable house for the friar and brothers’. Whilst this may not evidence a monastery as such, it does suggest that some church-owned establishment did exist. The estates of the Hospitallers certainly included Maplebeck church as recorded in 1338 by Prior Philip de Thame to the Grand Master Elyan de Villanova where he states: ‘Item ecclesia de Wynkebourn in proprios usus, cum capella de Mapelbeck…’
During the 12th and 13th centuries considerable grants of land in Maplebeck were made over to Rufford Abbey in return for the right of the Burden family – then Lords of the Manor – to be buried in the abbey. In 1404, Sir Nicholas Burden was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury and his daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, married Sir Robert Markham, and so the manor passed into that family. Their son John, became Lord Chief Justice of England. Earlier, in 1352, one Robert de Maplebeck was the abbot of Rufford.
There is no record of Maplebeck paying tax in the 1291 Pope Nicholas IV taxation, probably because it belonged to the Knights Hospitallers who were exempt. In the 1341 Nonae Rolls, Maplebeck is joined with Winkburn and was not taxed, but the yearly value of the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces (the same value as the tithe) is given as £6 3s 4d with income from altar fees worth £3 3s 4d. In the 1428 subsidy returns, Maplebeck (chapel) is associated with Kneesall church.
The Bristowe family were significant landowners in Maplebeck and Beesthorpe from at least the 14th century and resided at Beesthorpe Hall from 1547 to 1935. In 1540 Anne Bristow gave the church various utensils and it is possible that one of those is the silver chalice that is on long-term loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the manor of Winkburn was conferred on William Burnell. The charter dated 1549 includes the rectory, church, and advowson of Maplebeck, and the hamlet of Maplebeck; Henry VIII gave the manor and the grange to the Earl of Shrewsbury.
In 1587, the churchwardens reported that ‘the glass windows in the chancel are in decay in default of the executors of the Earle of Rutland, as we think’ and the same was still the case two years later. Evidently the patron was negligent in his care of the chancel as in 1601 it was apparently not paved, and by 1612 the churchwardens presented ‘Mr William Burnell for the chancel being unrepaired’.
Another Sir Robert Markham brought himself close to bankruptcy by his extravagances at the Elizabethan court and in 1591 he sold his manor at Maplebeck to Sir John Holles (later the 1st Earl of Clare). The 2nd Earl of Clare acquired the rectory, glebe land, tithes and the advowson and right of patronage of the vicarage from the Burnells of Winkburn.
It was recorded that on 17th July 1616 Francis Smedley, churchwarden of Maplebeck, ‘prophaneth the Sabbath by bowlinge in the church yeard and drinkinge in the chancel about a fortnight since.’
On the 27th July 1675 Robert Parker, curate of Maplebeck was interrogated about ‘…several clandestine marriages celebrated by him. William Greene, the apparitor, certified that he had served the citation of Parker in the churchyard of Maplebeck. Did not appear. Excommunicated’.
In 1694 the 4th Earl was elevated to the Duke of Newcastle and in 1707 Queen Anne granted him land in Sherwood Forest to build his new mansion, Clumber. Maplebeck was now a tiny part of a huge estate.
In 1743 the parish had just 25 families, one of which was a Quaker family. There was no licenced meeting house, and neither was there a school, an almshouse or a parsonage. John Brackon, the curate, read the Sunday services as required by the Church of England, but he omitted midweek services on the grounds that ‘the inhabitants being altogether farmers, and people employed in labour’.
In the late 18th century John Throsby wrote that Mrs Burnell had the patronage of the church and the proprietor was the Knights Templar.
In 1820 William Stretton described the dilapidated church as ‘the worst and most disgraceful church I have ever seen.’ The Duke of Newcastle noted in his diary that the village was in a wretched condition, but spent money on a new vicarage rather than the church or the poverty stricken living conditions. The church remained in a ruinous state and towards the end of the 19th century the Reverend Turton had to conduct services in a room in the vicarage.
The population in 1851 was 162 people, living in 34 houses.
By 1853 Maplebeck had become a perpetual curacy with a value of £68. The Duke of Newcastle was the patron and principal owner.
The population in 1855 with 162 people living in 34 houses. The church was reported as being in a very poor, and hardly safe, condition. The average number of communicants was 10 and the average number of churchgoers – 60. Sunday school was held in chancel for 13 boys and eight girls.
In 1857 the Duke of Newcastle sold the village to the Earl Fitzwilliam.
The population of the village in 1861 was 136 and there were 31 houses and the living then was in the Diocese of Lincoln. At George Ridding’s 1892 visitation it was noted that the parish was one of 16 in the county valued at less than £100 and that repairs and improvements were still required. In 1894 there was a proposal to restore the tower and spire.
A major restoration was carried out in 1898 by Hodgson Fowler with money left by Reverend Turton together with a sum provided by Earl Fitzwilliam. At that time the living was annexed to Eakring.
In 1912 only four children attended the Sunday School, and there had been just two baptisms in the previous twelve months.
Maplebeck is a ‘Thankful Village’, the description given to the 51 villages in England and Wales to have suffered no fatalities in the First World War.
Following the death of the 10th Earl in 1979 the estate was split up and sold to pay death duties. His present-day successor is patron of the benefice at this time.
By 2012 the population had reduced to 96.