Stanford on Soar
St John the Baptist


The first recorded Rector of Stanford was Robert de Gloucester in 1229. The Taxation Roll of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291 gives the annual value of the church as £10. In Henry VIII’s time the rectory was valued at £9 7s 4d. In 1650, during the time of the Commonwealth, the Parliamentary Commissioners valued the rectory at £80. Robert Raynes was then patron and Thomas Fould, a “preaching minister”, the incumbent.

Among the village’s claims to fame is the reported visit of King Charles I who watered his horses here giving the local stream the name of “Kings Brook”. On that occasion, under the yew tree near the present lychgate he met Sir Henry Skipworth, the church’s patron and a loyalist to the Royalist cause. The yew tree stood until it was blown down during the 1988 gales, and was then found to be 1200 years old.

Not all happenings in the church’s history have been so worthy of remembrance. In 1566 William Cowle of Stanford was sued for a chalice which disappeared from the church when he was churchwarden and he was excommunicated for its loss. The matter was left to arbiters and he was ordered to pay 16s 8d towards the cost of purchasing a new chalice.

When Cromwell’s Roundheads visited the church they carried away some of the old brasses, memorials to former residents of the parish.

The Connection with Stanford Hall and its Families

No description of Stanford church would be complete without mention of its association with the various Stanford Halls which began some eight days before the death of Queen Mary Tudor. At this point the demesne of a manor of Stanford was granted to Robert Raynes, the Queen’s goldsmith. Robert Raynes secured the patronage, giving him the privilege of appointing the rector, in addition to responsibility for the fabric of the church.

The first Hall was situated not far from the present railway bridge and near the church. About a century after its building, the grandson of Robert Raynes decided to build a new Hall in a more elevated position. His own son wasted his inheritance so this Hall was sold to pay off his debts.

The new owner was a London Alderman called Thomas Lewes. Mr Lewes restored the church and built the vault in the south aisle (for members of his family, though it was later shared with the Dashwoods). In addition he gave the altar silver and flagon, all inscribed with his own monogram.

The Lewes dynasty continued for four generations. Charles Lewes, great grandson of the Alderman, was the last member of the family to possess the Hall and the property then passed by marriage to Samuel Phillipps of Garendon in Leicestershire. He had married Charles Lewes’ sister Sophia. Samuel Phillipps died without issue and the property then passed to the Dashwood family.

Some years before Samuel Phillipps’ death, Richard Dashwood, a son of Sir Richard Dashwood of Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, had married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas, eldest son of Alderman Lewes. Through this connection Stanford Hall came to his descendants. The first Dashwood to occupy the Hall was Charles Vere Dashwood, who became High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire. The old stone building proved unsuitable for the new owner’s needs and another new Stanford Hall was built during 1771-74.

The first Dashwood entry in the baptism records was in 1741 and the final Dashwood burial entry is 1953, so the Dashwood association with Stanford on Soar was to last for 212 years. During this period three members of the family were Rectors, one for over 25 years and another for nearly 50. As country gentlemen and benefactors the Dashwoods were highly regarded. The 1841-1871 censuses clearly indicate that they lived at Stanford Hall in style. The 1851 census states that there were 13 domestic staff resident in the Hall with further employees living in housing in the Hall grounds.

From 1800 to 1827 Samuel Francis Dashwood was Stanford’s Rector. He was followed later by Samuel Vere Dashwood, grandson of Charles. Samuel Vere Dashwood was Rector from 1829 until his death in 1877. He married twice and the two marriages produced a total of 17 children. On his death his son in law George Horatio Davenport became Rector of the parish for another 4 years. He had married Sophia Diana Davenport at Stanford in 1866. Many of Samuel Vere Dashwood’s children expressed a wish to be buried at Stanford even though they lived in retirement in the south of England in places as far away as the Isle of Wight.

After Samuel Vere Dashwood’s death the estate passed out of Dashwood ownership and was purchased by the Ratcliffs, a family with brewing interests in Burton-on-Trent. The Ratcliff family were great benefactors to Stanford Church and they also provided employment for many Stanford residents. The Ratcliffe family was responsible for the great restoration in 1893-4.

After Richard Ratcliffe’s death in 1898 his son, also a Richard, applied for a Faculty to secure a large plot at the side of the south entrance door for the purpose of family burials. To support the application the following remarks were made about his father:

“Richard Ratcliffe of Stanford Hall and owner of 1682 acres of the Stanford Estate spent upwards of £11000 in embellishing and beautifying the church also extending the churchyard which should accommodate 569 separate graves.”

The Structure of the Building

The Older Fabric

The church comprises a nave with clerestory, north and south aisles, chancel and western tower. The nave arcade appears originally to have been Early English work, but the pillars and capitals were converted into circular ones. The lofty clerestory is an addition of the Perpendicular period. The north aisle is of the late Decorated period and the south aisle was erected or altered in the Perpendicular period. The side aisles are separated from the nave by three pointed arches, chamfered, springing from circular columns, two feet diameter with foliated caps.

A similar archway lays open the belfry to the church and there is another arch at the entrance to the chancel. Prior to the 1893-94 restoration, over each of these two arches there was a corbel with an angel sounding a trumpet. At the east end of the south aisle there is a family vault which contains members of the Lewes and Dashwood families.

There are blocks of Moutsorrel granite in the base of the splendid 15th century tower of the church.

Prior to some restoration of the church in 1882, defrayed by the Rector at the time the Rev G H Davenport and costing £300, the family pew was over the vault. The pew was then removed and the roof of the vault was raised several inches above that of the aisle. During this restoration new pitch pine pews were installed in the nave. These were replaced by oak pews during the 1893-4 restoration.

Originally the roof timbers were painted to represent veined marble. The floor was paved with nine inch paving tiles and in it were the remains of several alabaster floor stones with unintelligible inscriptions, clearly indicating that the church was built before the 15th century. Until after the Dashwoods became incumbents there was no east window. Also the original font was of classical design and resembled an inverted bell supported on four curved legs with its cover painted in an imitation of marble.

The Restoration of 1893-94

A major restoration, supported by the Ratcliff family, was carried out between 1893 and 1894 under the direction of W S Weatherley. This involved almost a complete rebuilding of the chancel.

Old photographs (signed by W S Weatherley and Richard Ratcliff and now on the wall of the north aisle) show the building before restoration, with an angel blowing a trumpet above the chancel arch, and a similar one above the arch at the tower entrance.

Photograph of the interior
before the restoration,
looking east
Similar photograph, looking west

The following work was carried out:


The interior and exterior walls were repaired.

A new east gable and parapet to the side walls was erected.

The east window was raised.

The floor was taken up and relaid with a marble one.

The present roof was taken off and replaced with a new oak one.

A new vestry and organ chamber was erected on the north side.

The former seats were removed and replaced with new oak ones.

A new screen, a new reredos and panelled walls were erected.

The altar was adapted and new altar rails were provided.

After the chancel alterations had been carried out, a new organ was installed.

Nave and Aisles

The external and internal walls were repaired.

A new roof with lead work was provided.

A new oak pulpit was provided and the church was re-seated with new oak open benches.

A new font was provided at the west end of the church and a new porch was erected at the south side of the south aisle.

The floor was lowered, the grave slabs relaid and the floor then paved with tiles.

A new cornice and parapet was erected round the north aisle.

The tomb in the north aisle was exposed.

The monument blocking the window at the east end of the south aisle was removed and repositioned at the west end of the south aisle.

The wall monuments for Caroline Dashwood and Samuel Vere Dashwood, originally fixed in front of the medieval doorway forming the entrance to the south aisle, were removed and repositioned on the west end of the same aisle.


Internal and external walls were thoroughly repaired.


New oak doors were provided throughout the church.


New heating apparatus was provided for the whole church.

The Twentieth Century

In 1928 Sir Julian Cahn purchased Stanford Hall. Sir Julian was a cricket enthusiast and a member of the Magic Circle.

After his death in 1944 the Co-operative Union purchased the Hall to convert into a College.

In 1967 there was an exchange of correspondence between the General Secretary of the Co-operative Union and the Southwell Diocesan Registry about the right of patronage to the living of Stanford-on-Soar which belonged to the Stanford Hall estate. The suggestion was made that the patronage should be transferred to the Diocesan Board of Patronage and that the Co-operative Union should meet the cost of transfer which was anticipated to be approximately ten guineas. The matter had arisen because of the impending change of incumbent. There could be a possibility that the living might be in the gift of the trustees of Stanford Estates Ltd. These recommendations were accepted by both the parties involved. The Co-operative Union left Stanford Hall in 2002.

During the period when the Co-operative Union owned Stanford Hall an Annual College Service was held at the church. Among the preachers on these occasions was Dr Leslie Paul, the author of the much discussed Paul Report on the Deployment of the Clergy. He was a writer of poetry, books on philosophy and other subjects

On 21st January 1992 the Church Commissioners, in pursance of the Pastoral Measure 1983, consented to the union of Stanford-on-Soar with three other nearby benefices. This was to create a new benefice which should be named “The Benefice of East Leake, West Leake, Stanford-on-Soar, Rempstone and Costock”. The new benefice was to belong to the Archdeaconry of Nottingham and the Deanery of West Bingham. The Rev Stephen John Smith who was the incumbent of East and West Leake was appointed as the first incumbent of the new benefice. The parsonage house of the benefice of Stanford-on-Soar was transferred to the Southwell Diocesan Board of Finance.

The church is near the Loughborough boundary. It always had strong links with the town and, according to Mr Graham Unwin who has been a choir member for over 50 years, until recently many of its congregation came from the town. Some leading citizens of Loughborough are buried at Stanford.

In 1987 the lead on the roof was stolen, costing the church £4500 to replace.

Births, Marriages and Deaths

The earliest register is a tall book containing 25 leaves of parchment and is bound with other documents in leather covers. The entries in English commence in 1633 for baptisms, marriages and burials. The entries for baptisms and burials end in 1785 and those for marriages end in 1753, but a gap in entries occurs between 1639 and 1649. The remaining registers are of more ordinary kind.

During the incumbency of the Rev Mr Thwaytes from 1686 to 1720 the number of marriages per year averaged eleven, compared to the usual one or two marriages per year under other rectors. Couples came from all over the Midlands to be married at this local “Gretna Green”.

Between the years 1713 and 1776 twenty five persons buried in Stanford Churchyard were registered as “passengers”.

On 17th August 1844 Maria Lister brought her son Francis Arthur to be baptized by her brother the Rev Samuel Vere Dashwood. Unfortunately Maria had married a bigamist so her brother insisted that her child be baptized with the Dashwood surname despite the fact that the child had a state registration in his father’s surname. Her brother made appropriate remarks in both the baptism and marriage record books confirming the situation. Maria then separated from her husband and spent the rest of her life living in style with up to five servants in the Loughborough area. Four of her brother’s daughters were more fortunate in their choice of partners. One married a son of the Rev John Bateman, Rector of East Leake and West Leake, and the others married clergymen.

There is note of a typhoid epidemic brought to the village by the navvies working on the railway as it passed close to Stanford. The little old school was used as a hospital.

In the 1851 census of religious worship the church was returned as St Luke, Stanford-on-Soar, and the entry was written by Sam Oakwood, Minister. Oakwood does not appear as a Rector, and was doubtless the curate who actually ran the church. Only 147 people lived in the parish. 51 people (including 16 children) attended the morning service, and 42 (11 children) the afternoon worship. The building could accommodate 170.

Records indicate there are the following testamentary burials of some of the earlier Rectors of the church:

Rev Will De Stanford in 1345.

Rev Illingworth on 11th October 1404. He made a request to be buried “in the Quire before the Image of St Mary ye Virgin”.

Rev William Buxstede on 14th December 1505. He made a request to be buried in the chancel.

Rev Robert Hedworth on 1st January 1532. He requested to be buried “in the churchyard on the south side of the Quire, a part of his body to lye within the wall of the church”.

Rev John Price on 23rd June 1665. He died intestate and administration was granted to Mary Price, his relict.