For this church:
Domesday Book records that Radeclive possessed a priest and a church in 1086.
In 1115 William Fitz Nigel, constable of Chester and second baron of Halton, established an Augustinian priory a short distance from his castle at Halton, near Runcorn, Cheshire. The foundation charter of the priory includes his gift of the Nottinghamshire churches of Ratcliffe-on-Soar and Kneesall. In 1134 Fitz Nigel's son moved the canons to a new site 4 km away which would become known as the priory (later abbey) of St. Mary at Norton.
The history of the church during the medieval period is marked by several disputes over the advowson.
On 4 May 1270 Ratcliffe’s manorial lord, Peter Picot, presented Theobald de Belhus to the church of Ratcliffe. Five days later Norton Priory presented Richard de Halton to the same church. The dispute over the advowson was resolved in October of the same year by King Henry III who informed Walter Giffard, archbishop of York, that the prior of Norton had recovered the presentation of the church of Ratcliffe against Picot and ordered the archbishop to admit at the prior’s presentation.
The Taxation Roll of Pope Nicholas IV. (1291), gives the clear annual value of the church at £46 13s. 4d., the pension of the Prior of Norton being valued at 13s. 4d.
In 1317 Walter de Allesland became rector of Ratcliffe on Soar and was given licence to study for two years from the date of his institution. The benefice now being apparently ‘void’ the Pope then granted Ratcliffe to Bertrand du Pouget, Cardinal priest of S Marcello, who in turn appointed his own nominee and ordered the prior of Lenton to make the necessary arrangements. King Edward II, however, prohibited the prior from taking any action. Papal correspondence of 1319 to the archbishop of York, the bishop of Hereford and the bishop elect of Winchester accuses the prior of Lenton of refusing to ‘obey the papal order directing him to induct the proctor of Bertrand, cardinal of St. Marcellus, into the rectory of Radclive on Sore’ and also refers to Walter de Alminslond [Allesland] ‘who by lay power has thrust himself into the parish church of Radclive on Sore, of which papal provision was made to cardinal Bertrand.’ The issue dragged on and in 1325 the Pope wrote to King Edward II to beg him to grant possession of the church to cardinal Bertrand’s proctor and to remove from it from the occupier (Walter de Allesland). It would appear the Pope ultimately failed as Allesland was still the rector of Ratcliffe when he died c.1331.
On 1 August 1358 Norton Priory granted to John de Winwick, treasurer of York Minster, the advowson of the church of Ratcliffe on Soar, chapels annexed to it and all other things pertaining. In December 1359 Winwick appointed Henry de Blakeburn rector of Ratcliffe.
Winwick died in late 1359 or early 1360 and in his will specified that the advowson of Ratcliffe on Soar church should be assigned to the chapter of Lichfield. However, when his will was proved on 28 June 1360 a codicil had been added that stated ‘the advowson of the church of Radclyve on Sore should be assigned to the maintenance of scholars dwelling in Oxford in a hall to be built by his executors.’ Presumably, John’s brother, Richard, changed the assignment of the advowson from the chapter of Lichfield to the college at Oxford. An inquisition of 1361 confirmed that it was ‘not to the loss or prejudice of the king if he grants to Richard Wynewyk … that he may give the advowson of the church of Radeclive on Sore to the Provost of the king’s hall of Blessed Mary at Oxford called “le Oriole” to find and maintain certain poor scholars dwelling in the aforesaid hall … The same church is worth, according to the true value of the same, 40 marks a year and the extent of the same is 50 marks.’ Richard also petitioned the Pope in 1363 to confirm the gift and although the Pope granted the petition ‘in regard to the foundation made from the goods of the deceased’ the appropriation of the church was refused.
Further problems arose in 1375 when Richard de Winwick appointed William Julyan as rector of Ratcliffe after the resignation of Henry de Blakeburn. In May 1375 an order was issued to arrest Walter Levenaunt, (a canon of Exeter Cathedral), Ralph Daventre and Baldwin Taillour (‘his proctors and … his aiders and abettors’) and have them presented before the king and council. Apparently, the king had learned that ‘although Henry Blackeburn, clerk, canonically obtained the church of Radecleve upon Sore, by virtue of the presentation of John de Wynewyk’ Levenaunt had challenged his appointment and intended ‘to intrude into the said church and expel therefrom William Julyan.’ The Pope demanded that Julyan be removed but Winwick had the support of King Edward III and ignored him.
In November 1380, twenty years after John de Winwick’s death, his executors obtained a licence from Richard II to give the advowson to Burscough Priory, near Ormskirk in Lancashire. In the following year Alexander Neville, the archbishop of York, allowed its appropriation to relieve the poverty of the priory caused by the pestilence, bad seasons and other misfortunes and to provide a competent income for the cure of the parish of Ratcliffe.
Levenaunt, however, refused to admit defeat and decided on a more direct approach. On 9 October 1381 he led a gang that attacked the church with the intention of forcibly ejecting the rector. Finding the doors barred the gang tried to burn them down and Julyan fled to the roof for safety. Having failed to gain entry to the church the attackers departed. A warrant for Levenaunt’s arrest was issued by the king in May 1383 but in 1384 he petitioned the king to be released from the charge of outlawry stating that he purchased the presentment to the church of Ratcliffe on Soar by due process at the court of Rome, and claimed he had been outlawed by a false judgment brought against him by the king. He was pardoned the following year.
According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 the church of 'Ratclyf super Soore (with the chapels of Kynston [Kingston upon Soar] and Thrompton [Thrumpton])', which was then appropriated to Burscough Priory, Lancashire, was valued at the clear yearly sum of £6 13s. 4d. The vicar was Thomas Wynter.
In the mid 16th century the Archbishop of York ordered that all altar stones should be 'broken, defaced and bestowed to common use'. Such altar stones were to be replaced by an ‘honest table’. Ratcliffe was lucky in that the altar stone was too massive to be broken and it was dropped into the church floor. This order was rescinded at Mary’s accession in 1553 but c1571 the altar stone was buried and replaced by the honest table now used as a Communion table situated at the forefront of the chancel above the steps to the nave. Also at the time of Mary’s accession, two bells were given to the church by the Commissioner of Church Goods. These were replaced c1600 by two bells by Henry Oldfield.
In 1650 the Parliamentary Commissioners reported the impropriate rectory, with an annual value of £80, was the joint possession of Colonel John Hutchinson and William Hazard, gentleman, in right of Hellenor his wife, the impropriators, who received the profits thereof to their own use, 'the Cure being well and constantly served at the charge of the said Impropriators.'
There are frequent references to the poor state of the church fabric in the churchwarden presentment bills of the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1618 the churchwardens of Thrumpton and Kingston-on-Soar were presented for ‘not doing those reparations in the parish church of Ratcliffe upon Soar which time out of mind have been carried out by them, viz. repairing the north and south aisles.’ In 1684 they reported that ‘the church wants whiting and some of the windows are stopped up at the top and the bottom; the church porch floor is out of repair; the chancel walls want whiting and drawing [with lime and hair]; part of one of the chancel windows is stopped up and the chancel floor wants paving; the church wall on the north side is propped up with timber; the leads on the north side want mending…’ There were problems with the church roof on the north side, the flooring and walls in 1704 and in 1718 an order stipulated that the following work was to be carried out: ‘walls to be whitewashed inside; canopy of pulpit to be mended; partition between church and chancel to be mended.’
During the first half of the 17th century a wooden altar, sanctuary rails and font cover were installed.
By the 18th century the church was still in a very poor state of repair and in the latter half of the century the north aisle including the clerestory was completely re-built and the arches rounded. At this time the treble bell by Hedderley was installed.
At the time of Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743 the curate, Edward Moises, reported that there were only 17 families in the parish, including a Quaker family and one that was Anabaptist. There was no meeting house, almshouse, school or parsonage house in the parish and no lands or tenements left for the repair of the church. The curate received £28 for serving the cures of Bunny and Ratcliffe. Divine service was performed once every Sunday and Holy Communion was administered four times a year to about ten communicants (out of 50 in the parish).
Thomas Poynton, the vicar of Bunny with Bradmore, appeared and made the return for Ratcliffe-on-Soar on the occasion of Archbishop Drummond’s Visitation in 1764. The village had only twenty families, none of whom were dissenters ‘except two or three of those called Moravians.’ He lived in the vicarage house at Bunny, where he was the vicar. The curate, James Deavin, lived at Kegworth and was paid £14 for serving both Ratcliffe and Kingston churches. Poynton added that he performed divine service ‘not only here once a fortnight during the summer season but also at Bunny and that all the year, as also sometimes at Kingston.’ The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered here four times a year; Poynton observed that ‘there generally is not above six or seven who partake of it.’
Between 1832 and 1840 the church, originally dedicated to St Mary, was re-dedicated to The Holy Trinity.
The incumbent of Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the Rev John James Vaughan, vicar of Gotham, reported in the 1851 Religious Census that on average 23 parishioners and 20 Sunday Scholars attended the service on Sunday. There were 42 free spaces and 18 other.
In 1868 the church was reported to be ‘fast falling into decay' and Kelly's Directory of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire published in 1881 noted that 'the church was in much need of restoration.' Godfrey (1887) provides a description of the interior in the 1880s:
'Two bays of the nave and half the chancel is enclosed by boarding as high as the capitals of the pillars, and service is conducted in this box, which is fitted up with an altar, pulpit, reading desk, and benches. The floor, also, is partly boarded over, probably concealing other floor stones ... The church is in a most neglected state, and requires much reparation.'
According to Kelly's Directory of Nottinghamshire (1900) there was a partial restoration of the building in 1891 'when the unsightly boarding which enclosed the nave was removed, the chancel rescued from its previously desecrated condition, and the fabric in part new-roofed’. The work cost £830 which was mostly met by Lord Howe, the impropriator and patron of the living. The altar stone was restored and re-consecrated at the same time.
Edwyn Hoskyns, bishop of Southwell, carried out a visitation of his diocese between 1911 and 1915. In December 1913 he visited West Bingham Deanery and in his report to the deanery noted that 'the Church fabric at Ratcliffe-on-Soar is in a very bad condition, and calls for immediate restoration.' At the same time the diocesan calendar for the previous year records that the net annual value of the benefice was £56, the church was able to accommodate 80 worshippers, and there had been six baptisms and one confirmation in the year ending 30 September 1912.
Further restoration work on the church fabric was carried out in 1915-16. Lord Belper and the Diocesan Church Extension Society funded the work.
In 1973 restoration of the Sacheverall tombs was made possible through a generous donation from the Pilgrim Trust. The restoration involved dismantling, cleaning and re-assembly incorporating a waterproof membrane in the tomb chest. In 1979 the chairs were replaced by pews from a redundant Roman Catholic church in Leicester, whilst in 1982 the old wooden church gates were replaced by cast iron gates purchased from a church at Cotgrave. At the same time, the gate pillars were re-built.
In the Millennium year the villagers created a wall hanging which now hangs on the wall of the north aisle.
From 2004 to 2012 volunteers from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) undertook eight summer seasons of conservation work at the church. The work, with funding from SPAB’s charitable resources, included improvements to underground drainage, repointing masonry in lime mortar, lime plastering and limewashing. The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham re-dedicated the church in the autumn of 2012.
The church was built when Ratcliffe was an important community and the neighbouring villages were dependencies. As the importance of the village declined so the church fell into disrepair. It was substantially repaired in the late 19th century and now in the 21st century, with the general rise of prosperity and activity in the village, the church is once more clean and decent.