North Muskham
St Wilfrid


No church is mentioned in Domesday Book at North Muskham, although both the Archbishop of York and Peterborough Abbey held land here.

The earliest part of the church that remains dates to the Transitional period, c.1280-1300 in the north arcade and lower part of the tower. The church was said to be of great proportions, standing high above the river Trent and overlooking it in a commanding position.

The church was a prebend of the canons of Southwell Minster. The prebend was founded probably by Thomas II Archbishop of York 1109-1114 and was endowed with a part of the great tithes of North Muskham, with the great tithes of Caunton, and with certain temporals in North Muskham and Caunton. In 1204 a letter of Pope Innocent III noted that the prebend was one of two prebends made out of one large one; as South Muskham was also founded at the same time as North it seems probable therefore that the prebend initially covered both churches and was split before 1204.

At some point, but certainly by 1218, a mediety of the church was appropriated to Shelford Priory. The archbishop's ordinary jurisdiction thus extended only to this mediety of the church. The other mediety was appropriated to a prebend in Southwell and was within the peculiar jurisdiction of that chapter.

In the mid-13th century, one Richard de Sutton was the prebendary of North Muskham. In 1260 the vicars of Southwell granted to him that when the Missa de defunctis was celebrated in the church (presumably Southwell), a special petition should be made for him and another for the souls of Robert de Sutton his father and Alice his mother; also they promised to find a wax taper to burn daily at our Lady Mass for the soul of the said Richard. A chantry at St. Peter's altar at Southwell was founded for Richard de Sutton's soul by his executors, Ernald de Callenton and Oliver de Sutton.

In 1291, at the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV, the clear annual value of the prebend was given as £40.  A portion of the church was also appropriated to Shelford Priory and this annual value (Ecclesia de Muscham pars Prioris de Shelford) was given as £10 13 s 4d; the latter portion was exempted from taxation 'as appropriated to military orders, or hospitals, or poor nunneries'.

The church is mentioned in the Nonarum Inquisitiones, a taxation of 1341, which translated reads: ’Item they say that the prebend of North Muskham is taxed at 60 marks and the ninth of sheaves, lambs and fleeces are worth 40 marks and no more with 4 marks annual rent and 2 carucates of land belonging to the said prebend, which are worth 6 marks per annum, and 2 tithes of hay worth 5 marks a year and altar fees worth 60 marks a year’. This was quite a high value compared to other churches in the area.

At the 1428 subsidy of Henry VI, North Muskham prebend was taxed at £4 (i.e. 10% of £40) thus showing there had been no change in annual value since 1291.

In 1472 the vicar of Caunton, with North Muskham, shirked the Whitsunside procession and thus hindered his parishioners from bringing their offerings, for which he incurred excommunication. On 5 March the same year he was convicted of sorcery and compelled to resign.

At the beginning of the 16th century the chancel and north aisle were rebuilt in a late Perpendicular style by John Barton, a London merchant who had purchased the estates of the neighbouring parish of Holme, but there is little known of the church in this century after this date. It has been suggested that the church suffered like other churches on the Trent side in this district during the siege of Newark, when lead was taken from the roofs of the churches to be melted into bullets. It appears that until the end of the Commonwealth, there was no covering on the roof. A restoration is believed to have taken place sometime after the church’s neglect, which has been suggested to have been of poor judgement with pews of the box-kind being added and a large gallery erected.

At the Reformation the valuation of the prebend of North Muskham is given in the Valor Ecclesiasticus as £32 4s 5d.

The registers date from 1705 for all entries, although they are in poor condition.

In 1727, a free grammar school was founded by Mrs Woolhouse and the Disney family, who endowed it with land producing upwards of £50 per annum. It did have some exhibitions to Pembroke College, Cambridge, created by a Mr. Smith, but they are now lost.

An account was left by the Rev Arthur Sutton about some of the history of the church, such as the following extract, ‘The buttresses of the north aisle should be noticed, as each of them is enriched with an ornamental panel, containing a coat of arms and the rebus of Barton (a bear and a tun), a family of wool-staplers, who no doubt built this aisle, as they did the greater part of Holme Church, Holme having been a hamlet of this parish until the Trent changed its course in 1600, when it was made into a separate parish’. The chapel at Holme was part of the parish until it was changed to be part of Langford in 1854, likely due to this change in the course of the river.

In 1764 the Rev William Harding reported at Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation that there were 65 families in the parish and 25 in the chapelry of Holme. None were dissenters. He mentioned the charity school, in which twenty boys and girls were taught to read English, writing and arithmetic: ‘the children are properly instructed and brought to church’. Harding lived in Newark: ‘the badness of my house is the reason of my non residency in which no vicar has resided in the memory of man’. He took services himself every Sunday either at North Muskham on in the chapel at Holme, and administered the sacrament four times a year.

In 1851 the Rev J.M. Parry reported a population of 663, and 250 seats in the church. He recorded a general congregation of 73 in the morning and 51 Sunday scholars, and added that ‘when the service is in the afternoon the congregation is much larger. The church is very ill-pewed and is capable of many more sittings.’

Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church on 14 March 1854 and recorded that it was ‘a neat church, wholly Perpendicular, built of excellent stone masonry and consisting of a nave with aisles, Chancel without aisles, and western tower and south porch. The whole has good embattled parapets.’
Part of St Wilfrid's was fitted with open sittings, at some point between 1853 and 1864, the cost being defrayed by a church rate.

By the early 20th century the church was in a poor state. A report of 1906 observed that the 'the roofs were decaying and the stonework bulging, while the fittings were of the poorest deal' and that 'the old pulpit was merely wedged into the corner of the Chancel Arch by a village carpenter and was entered from the Reading-desk, which was just a pew facing westward in front of the Rood-screen.' 

A full restoration of the church was proposed in 1904 by the Rev. F.O. Collings; however, he died in March, 1905. His successor, the Rev. W. H. Williams, formerly vicar of Sutton-in-Ashfield, continued to fight for the changes to take place. The work was carried out in 1906-7, with a number of fragments from earlier work exposed. The contractors were Messrs A. Woods and Sons, of Alford who carried out the project with an outlay of £1,700.

The 'barbaric' heating
apparatus, c.1905

The architect, Mr. C. Hodgson Fowler, F.S.A., of Durham, insisted that the church had fallen into a very deplorable condition. He also claimed that there was no trace of the Norman work in the building, with the earliest part being of the Early English style nave, and therefore he gave a founding date of 1190. The restoration required was extensive, with repairs needed for the walls, roofs and windows, and the floor in need of levelling. Previously there was a heating apparatus in the centre of the nave which consisted of an iron pipe chimney which carried straight into the roof. Hodgson Fowler, however, proposed the use of a heating chamber outside as a substitute, thinking the apparatus barbaric. The chancel was filled with two large high pews, where visitors were secluded with heating stoves of their own.

In 1912 the Rev W. H. Williams reported that the village had 662 residents, that there were 81 children on the Sunday School roll, and that over the past twelve months he had carried out 14 baptisms, and ten people had been confirmed.

A rood and gates were added to the screen in 1927 as thank-offerings, the rood a gift of Mr Gardener, and the gates from Canon and Mrs Williams. Around this time there was a crucifix shrine placed in the church made from wood of the old training ship ‘Britannia’, inscribed with the names of the men of the parish who fell in the Great War 1914-18. In the following year (1928) the Lady chapel was furnished and dedicated.

In 1930 Ellacombe chiming apparatus was installed in the clock by Messrs J Taylor & Co. of Loughbrough.

The rectory was appropriated to the priory of Shelford, of which the Duke of Portland was patron, and was augmented with £200.
The living is a vicarage which was valued in the King’s books at £5 6s 8d, which was equivalent to £173 in 1853.  It was built in 1863 at a cost of around £1700. The prebendary of North Muskham is patron and appropriator. Initially the funding came from Queen Anne’s Bounty, with £400 augmented, to build the vicarage and to invest in glebe land at Skegby, which was enclosed in 1771 when 91 acres were awarded to the vicar, and 300 acres to the Earl of Falconberg, in lieu of the tithes.

1986. The oil pipe from the church yard to the tank was replaced as it was leaking.

1988. The Church was rewired. The original was in lead covered rubber cable and we were getting shocks off the heating pipes. The new wiring was piro.

1989. The altar rail was repaired and new gates fitted.

1990. Was held to be the 800th anniversary of the founding of the church and a service was held,  attended by the Archbishop of York. Before his visit the church was painted and new blue carpets were fitted. The then churchwarden, Michael Turner, constructed a platform over the bells and an iron ladder to access the roof replacing a worm-eaten and rotten vertical unsafe ladder.

1991. Some of the old chairs were placed with new ones constructed to the old pattern.

1992. constructed iron candle holders around the nave columns replacing unsafe wooden ones.

1995. Michael Turner made a new key for the old south door lock following the theft of chests and a credence table.

1996. A burglar alarm was fitted and the Polkington Flagon put into the Newark treasury for safe keeping.

1998. Lime and sycamore trees which were dying were removed; also an overgrown robenias and replaced with a copper beech and a cherry. The gate onto the marsh was vandalised and replaced with a stile.

1999. Steeplejack used to remove tree growing out of the tower. Two candle stands made out of the riddle posts were donated.

2000. Additional lights and power points installed. Children’s corner was constructed.

2004. The clock was converted to electric winding and the face re-gilded.

2006. Church interior was lime-washed and two trees dying back were removed from the churchyard.

2009. A new oil fired boiler was installed.