Old Christ Church


In 1835, the parish of Newark had a population of 10,000 but the Parish Church, St Mary Magdalene, had only 216 pews (all of which were private property) providing accommodation for 1374 people and the free sittings for the poor, such as in the forms in the aisle, provided for only 500. There were galleries, though most of them were unstable and hence were unused. It was therefore proposed for the erection of a new church, capable of holding 1000 people with half of the sittings to be free. On 5 October 1835, a circular was issued requesting donations and by 19 January 1836, the money had been raised for the building of the church. A letter was sent to the Lord High Treasurer and First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (acting for and on behalf of the King William IV), the Rev John Garret Bussell (vicar of the Vicarage of Newark-Upon-Trent) and the Archbishop of York, on 2 November 1835, to request permission to build a church under the Act 1 & 2 William IV c 38. By December, confirmation had not been received so a further letter was sent to the Archbishop of York about any opposition from the patron and the vicar. He wrote back and replied that he had not been notified of any bond required by the Act, therefore the patron and the vicar had not raised any legal objections - so work could go ahead.

Another circular was then issued stating the need for a piece of freehold land with immediate possession and insisted that any details should be sent by, or on, 23 January 1836. By 12 January 1836, offers had been sent in. These sites included Farndon Road, Barnby and Balderton Gates, Lombard Street, Parliament Street, Chatham Street, North Gate and London Road. As a result, an advertisement was sent the next day to the editors of the Nottingham Journal, the Stamford Mercury, and a Hull newspaper requesting architects, builders and others for contract work. The advert stated that the church was to be built in a Gothic Style, without pillars inside, of brick and with a slated roof. It was also to be faced with white bricks and well ventilated.

A public meeting took place on 9 February 1836 at the Town Hall, with all subscribers invited. The purpose was to elect a committee of management, determine a site and to fix upon a plan for the erection of the new church. The committee agreed to purchase the premises known as Withers Premises in Lombard Street on 30 March 1836 and made an offer of £1450 for them. This offer was accepted, but then superseded by an offer from Mr Beaumont for land in Lombard Street, with the buildings, for a lesser amount of £650. The latter site was previously home to a row of stables and large warehouses.

On 11 July 1836, there was a meeting at Mr Simpson’s house (the vicar 1837-44) where the issue of financial difficulties was made apparent. The money raised up to this point was only enough to pay for the site and building, not the endowment and repair fund which were equally as important. The church borrowed £1400 from a bank, with the intention of repaying the interest out of pew rents and a greater effort was put towards securing more subscriptions to pay for the loan. On 16 July 1836 the Mayor, James Thorpe, said that work could go ahead and he laid the first stone of the church exactly a month later. A bottle containing silver coins of King William IV and a list of subscribers for the church were deposited in a cavity in the stone. A brass plaque was fastened to the stone with an inscription that read:

The first stone of this church, erected by voluntary contributions,
was laid by James Thorpe, Esq., Mayor of this borough, on Tuesday 16th August 1836.
W. A. Nicholson, architect, Lincoln.

The church was built in an Early English style, with three gables in stock brick and groups of three lancets at each end. The galleries were built on cast-iron columns and a tall lancet arch reached to the straight-ended chancel. The general contractor for building the church was John Ward about whom little detail is known.

The Deed of Endowment dates to 5 August 1837, and the consecration of the church by the Archbishop of York took place on 7 August 1837. The Archbishop was assisted by Archdeacon Wilkins and the sermon was preached by Mr Simpson. Unfortunately, the day started badly when the Archbishop turned up at the newly built Roman Catholic church on Parliament Street rather than Christ Church!

The tablet placed in the church, created in the memory of James Thorpe, bears a historical inaccuracy causing the centenary of the church to be celebrated a year late. A Communion Plate was given by Rear Admiral Sir R H and the Honourable Lady Bromley of East Stoke, along with a silver flagon (dated 1685), a silver chalice (1634) with another chalice made in 1836 to match, and two silver patens (made in 1725).

Pew rents were charged at £180, though there was an annual cost of £40-50 in expenses. The total cost of building the church was £4300. There was space for 1144, with 572 free. There was some concern over the proximity to the Independent Chapel located only a few yards away in the belief that the services would disrupt each other. As of 4 June 1838, the church was in further debt of £799 16s 3½ d, whether this was a result of the building costing more than initially budgeted or because of running costs it is not apparent. There is a lack of information about the early years of the church, with no service books, and a magazine did not commence until later in the church’s history. We do find several sermons printed in leaflet form from the Rev. J.W.K. Disney, who became vicar 22 July 1844. Not long after, Christ Church became a parish and a deed was produced dated 9 August 1847.

According to Mr Sealy (who became the vicar in 1896), baptisms were not permitted until 1847, nor licensed for the publication of banns of marriage and solemnization of marriage until 1857. The baptism registers first date back to 13 June 1848 while the marriage registers begin on the 20 May 1858.

On 20 April 1878 the Rev H A Jukes became vicar. He is described as the most popular of the vicars of Christ Church and he changed the church to quite a degree. In 1880 the church underwent major alterations both inside and outside. The old fashioned, high-backed pews were replaced with neat, light, pitch pine open benches and new choir stalls placed on both sides of the chancel. A new, more ornamental, pulpit was built, replacing the original three-decker pulpit. The original organ of 1839 was replaced with a new one donated by Mrs Hall (a member of the congregation) along with a brass lectern, service books, hymn books and music books for the choir. A Mrs Reed gave a brass alms dish. The roof was repaired and the ceilings repainted.

In 1882 a number of new classrooms were built for the boys’ school in Albert Street. On 7 July 1885, these rooms were opened by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, with the church now free of debt. These were, even with the new Christ Church built in 1958, managed by a body of trustees (with the vicar as the chairman). They were, however, under the control of Parochial Church Council and technically were not Christ Church property. Over the years, the Parochial Rooms were used for bible classes, meetings for the women of the mother’s meetings, meetings for members and friends of Church of England Temperance Society, the Girl’s Sewing and Bible classes in winter months and even the distribution of soup to the poor – where 900-1,000 gallons were produced per year.

From January 1889, a new monthly paper was delivered free to homes of the parish. It was gradually enlarged and improved over time and was continually produced to the end date of this church. However, a charge was made for issues from January 1920.

Further additions and alterations were made to the church in late 1896, including the installation of a bathroom and the creation of a church council. In January 1897, a tablet was unveiled in the memory of the Rev H A Juke who was greatly admired for all the work he had done for the church. New tiling was laid between the choir stalls in the same year.

There was nothing major that occurred during the early 1900s. As of 1901, Vestry meetings were held at 7pm rather than 9am for no stated reason. In 1902, a Silver Paten was presented to church by Mr J E Easterfield (the Church Warden). In 1903 the Church interior was repainted. A Visitation was made by the Bishop in 1912. Then in November 1913, a strip of land 15ft wide on the east side of the church was purchased and became private property of the Church - so that people would not use it whilst visiting the memorial of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee built in 1900 across from the church. It cost around £300 for the purchase and the creation of a wall. There were no grants available to pay for the addition so the vicar’s stipend was reduced by £5 15s 4d per annum to account for the cost.

In 1916, the ‘first Parochial Church Meeting’ - though there actually was one in 1896 when the Church Council was created - where 5 men and 5 women were appointed to be the official new councilv. In 1917, the Rev G H Casson (a former CMS Missionary) became vicar, and with the position he abolished Pew Rents. He later held a council meeting on 20 May 1919 and outlined the idea of a new church with a method of raising the money. Over the next month, the idea was debated but the majority ruled for its commencement. In July, it was reported that the suggested site adjoining Regent Street was too cramped but there was a possible site on the east side of Albert Street – its position was decided here in September. However, there was no further mention of the progression of the new church in the minute book. Accordingly, matters must have moved on as the lofty pulpit was lowered and moved a few yards eastward to rest against the wall between the vestry and the sanctuary rather than the east end of the choir stalls on the north side.

In 1927, the Rev J E Godsmark became vicar. Electricity was installed in the church at a cost of £98 and used for the first time at the evening service on 16 September 1928. In 1931, the vicar started a free-will offering scheme. The year after, the idea for a new church was revisited with the full cost calculated to be £20,000 and also the extension of parish boundaries was in discussion, due a new housing site called Hawtonville that was to be built. Negotiations were made in due time and it was decided in the same year to accept the Town Council’s offer of an island site of 1½ acres at the top end of Lime Grove at a total cost of £363. The vicar and church wardens visited every house of the parish in order to raise the money so that the site could be purchased. However, the schools of Christ Church were in need of refurbishments which made plans for a church extension difficult as the cost was too great. In 1930, it was recorded by Mr Godsmark that there was a total of 645 scholars, so its importance for a well-presented school outweighed the need for an extension. In 1936, it was decided instead that a new senior school was to be built in the parish of Hawton and the infant school was to be updated while two others were to be sold. These plans were then altered again to proceed with the building of a new church instead of a new school.

Work had commenced on the building of the new church hall but then stopped as war was declared in September 1939 and there was an uncertainty to what this would bring. Permission was then obtained to complete the hall and was opened by the Bishop of Southwell on 6 March 1941. When the Church Hall was opened for services Hymns Ancient and Modern, was used while Hymnal Companion was used for Christ Church. Between 1941 and 1944 The Church Hymnal for the Christian Year was introduced at both churches on Whit-Sunday. The Rev C B Bardsley became vicar in 1943, when the new church hall was in greater use. During the black-out of war time, evening services were held on Sunday afternoons at Christ Church but during the autumn and winter months between 1943 and 1945 they were held at Church Hall which was ‘blacked-out’.

In 1952, a new estate was built partially in Christ Church parish and partially in the parish of Hawton, but too far from Hawton church. The Diocesan authorities suggested that the Vicar of Christ Church should also be the Rector of Hawton, then have an assistant curate that could live in Hawton Rectory. On 5 May 1953 this was appropriated, and Mr Bardsley was instituted and inducted as the Rector of Hawton.

In 1953, the license to build the new church had expired so new plans were made. On 4 December 1954, Messrs F A Broadhead and Royle of Nottingham were invited to a Parochial Church meeting to prepare for a suggested plan for the new church. In 1955, Mr Royle submitted the suggested plans and they were approved - although some changes were made to the plan later, as the church was made larger and better proportioned at a higher cost. The new church was to accommodate 350 people with a maximum of 400.

On 1 December 1956, the foundation stone of the new church was blessed by the Bishop of Southwell and laid. The lectern, Bishop’s chair, credence table, pews, organ, brass alms dish and all the Communion plate were all taken to the new church. The pews from the old church were rebuilt, lengthened and installed in the central aisle. Finally, on 13 October 1957, the Rt Rev Russell Barry, the Bishop of Southwell closed the door for the last time. The building was then rented out to help with funding the upkeep of the new church.