St Michael’s Church, Bonington is first mentioned in 1220 as a chapel-of-ease of the mother church at Kegworth. At that time Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, was Lord of Bonington. The church was constructed under his patronage when he rebuilt much of the village in the 1220s after it had been destroyed in the Baronial Wars following Magna Carta. However, stonework above the arch in the south-east corner of the north aisle indicates that the side wall may pre-date the 14th century aisle arcade. Ranulf died in 1232 without any children and his vast estates including several castles were divided between his four sisters.
By 1260 Bonington was a parish in its own right with a resident Rector, John Maunsell, patron Stephen Patric. In 1267 Leodegarius de Nottingham was presented to the living by William Patric. In 1291 the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV taxed St Michael’s and St Anne’s together at an annual value of 16 marks (£10 13s. 4d.). Kegworth was taxed at 50 marks and a note adds 'Nec plus valet hiis diebus quia capella de Bonyngton nuper pertinens ad eandem nunc matrix ecclesia effecta est in diocesi Eborum et ibi taxatur in archidiconatu Notinghamie in decanatu de Bingham'. (Nor is it [Kegworth] worth more these days because the chapel of Bonington, formerly belonging to it, has been established as a mother church in the diocese of York and is taxed there in the archdeaconry of Nottingham in the deanery of Bingham).
According to Thoroton in 1292 both William Patric and William de Segrave claimed the patronage. The decision of the Court of King’s Bench is not recorded but the de Segrave family continued to be involved either as Rectors or Patrons until 1400. Confirmation that the church of Bonington had been transferred to York is found in the register of Archbishop John le Romeyn dated 22 June 1293: 'Admission by Nicholas de Segrave senior, that he and his heirs were bound to present their nominees to the church of Bonyngton to the archbishop and his successors at every vacancy; and that the archdeacon and his ministers should have jurisdiction in Bonyngton as in the other churches of the diocese.' In 1295 the archbishop forbade the rector of Kegworth to remove any of the fruits from Bonington 'quod non permitted Thomam de Neville, rectorem ecclesie de Kegwoth, quicquam de fructibus aut proventibus ipsius ecclesie’.
In 1348 the Black Death carried off 65 of the 126 beneficed clergy in the county including Alan de Rothwell of St Michael’s.
The Inquisitiones Nonarum granted to Edward III, taxed Bonington at 16 marks (£10 13s. 4d.) and in 1428 Henry VI taxed Bonington at £1 1s 4d. (that is 10% of £10 13s. 4d.).
The Valor Ecclesiasticus made by Henry VIII in 1536 fixed the clear annual valuation of the rectory of St Michael’s at £15 2s. 1d., William Ordenna [Ordinner] being Rector.
Church goods were seized by Henry VIII but handed back in March 1553 to John Wayte, parson of Bunington (St Michael’s) 'one chalice of sylver p’sell gylte for ye administration of the holy Comuyon, as also three belles of one accorde hangynge in ye styple of ye same Churche' (see further details in Bell section).
We gain fascinating snapshot of church life in the churchwardens' presentment for 1596 which states: 'Mr Savage is a preacher of God's word; Mr Savage preaches on the Sabbath day and other holy days; Mr Savage does not usually wear his surplice, but [does] at divers times; Mr Fyldynge is presented for not receiving the communion last Easter; Mrs Fyldynge did receive once last year and once this year; Mr Savage has a schoolmaster who teaches his children, whose name is Sir Harforthe, Bachelor of Arts of Oxford; Rychard Massye has been an excommunicated person for more than two years; Mystres Fyldynge came to the church before she was churched; William Munilaw for getting a woman with child ['Elizab. Bently', added in another hand]; he has since been taken for a soldier to Ireland.'
The churchwardens frowned on their minister in 1641 when they reported: 'Mr Thomas Savidg our parson for making use of the churchyard more than is fitting'. The following year they cited him again as 'holding in part of the churchyard for a garden' which makes their earlier complaint clear.
In 1676 the Tanner MSS entry for St Michael’s gives the number of persons of age to receive communion - 176, the number of Popish recusants – 1 and the number of other dissenters who refused or absented from Communion – 4. Signed by John Curtoys, curate of St Michael’s.
At the time of Archbishop Herring’s visitation in 1743 there were 72 families and 'no one Dissenter of any Sort whatever'. There was 'one Publick School, Land that it is endowed withal lies in Barrow Field in ye County of Leicester, the Children Brought Duly to Church' (This is Endowed School founded in 1718. Land to endow it was bought in Barrow on Soar. The school is now a private house but the schoolroom attached in Victorian times is still used for the village playgroup). Charitable endowments for the poor amounted to £4 10s a year, 'the Land being in Hose in ye County of Leicester'. The Rector, Henry Hascard, declared that he lived in the parish: 'I reside constantly & have done so ever since my Induction'. As for those who were not baptised or confirmed 'We have none except some Servants who go att Michaelmas'.
The Rector at St Anne’s, Richard Wenman, who did not reside, also declared there were no dissenters. However a Baptist chapel was built a generation later in 1794 and a Wesleyan chapel in 1796. Maybe there were some murmurs of dissention in 1743.
When Archbishop Drummond conducted his visitation in 1764 the number of families had increased to 89, still with no dissenters 'of no other sort or denomination'. The rector was Edward Whitley and the churchwardens James Berridge and Hart Buck.
Restoration work on St Michael’s in 1857 included reroofing the nave and south aisle, taking down the gallery, reroofing the chancel, rebuilding some windows and the porch. This was completed in 1858 as the report in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 9 December 1858 details:
'Re-opening of St Michael’s Church Sutton Bonington.
This place of worship, which has for some time been in a very dilapidated condition, has recently been repaired. A new roof has been thrown over the body of the church, and a large unsightly gallery, which blocked up the arch into the tower, has been taken down and a tier of seats constructed on the floor. The chancel too has been beautified, and the new roof over it does credit to the contractor, Mr E Dalby of Sutton. Some of the windows have been rebuilt, and the old porch has been replaced by a new one surmounted with a stone cross. The ceremony of the re-opening was performed on Wednesday, the 24th ult., when the Right Rev Dr Jackson, the bishop of the diocese, preached a plain but impressive discourse to a large and attentive congregation. There was a good attendance of the neighbouring clergy, who assembled in the adjacent school-room and walked in procession to the church. A handsome collection was made at the close of the service. We hope that an intention which has been expressed of repairing the tower will be carried into effect, as it is now in a very precarious condition. The clock too has for some time past ceased to warn the inhabitants of time’s rapid flight. Much has certainly been done in the church but still a great deal remains, ere it will be in such a state as to realize the wishes of those who take an interest in its restoration'.
According to the seating plan for St Michael’s found in the parish registers, 'The chancel restored by the Revd R Meek M.A., Rector, and at his cost 1859.’
A faculty dated 31 June 1878 was granted to reseat and restore St Michael’s church. This work was overseen by Mr Edwin Dolby, architect, of Great Marlborough Street, London, a former resident of Sutton Bonington. The tower and spire were extensively restored and the chancel rebuilt along the original Early English lines, though with an early Decorated style east window. Choir seats were installed together with the organ and altar with retable. The north aisle was re-roofed and work done in the nave and south aisle. The box pews were replaced with chairs. Further work was completed in 1895. The Rector was Ralph Yearsley. The Lords of the Manor of both parishes provided valuable assistance, William Byerley Paget of St Anne’s Manor and Sir Ernest Paget of The Hall.
By 1909 further major work was completed. Pews, screen, pulpit, and lectern, were given and a wooden floor provided under the pews with tiles in the aisles. Additional choir stalls and priest’s litany desks were given in 1914.
Many of the windows in St Michael’s were given in memory of members of the Paget family who were benefactors to the church and village in many ways. William Paget bought the Sutton Bonington estate in the 1820s to which he added a great deal of other property. On his death in 1846 the estate was divided between his two sons, George Byng inherited the Lordship of St Michael’s Manor and William Byerley inherited the Lordship of St Anne’s Manor. There are many Paget graves in all three of the parish churchyards (see Churchyard section). At the present time, descendants of George still own land and property in the village and still live at The Hall. Descendants of William also own land and property but live elsewhere.
Over time the two parishes of St Michael’s and St Anne’s gradually grew together but remained officially separate until 1829 when local government reforms were introduced. Ecclesiastically they remained separate until the two parishes agreed to unite in 1923 by order of the Privy Council. However this could not take place until both parishes were in interregnum. The Rev T. W. Bryan became the first rector of both churches in 1950. Both churches continue to be used with St Michael’s (seating 250) always being used for services with large attendances and St Anne’s (seating 120) always used for mid-week services. Both are used as requested for weddings and funerals. Because of heating costs, Sunday services are held in St Michael’s during the Summer and in St Anne’s during the Winter. Although churchwardens are appointed to both churches, there is only one congregation, one PCC and one set of accounts for the parish.
St Michael’s Church is open every day and visitors are most welcome. St Michael’s and St Anne’s Parish, Sutton Bonington, is currently (2017) in a united benefice with St James’, Normanton on Soar. Sunday services are held most weeks at 11.00am at either St Michael’s or St Anne’s Church. Children are most welcome at all the services. Enquiries about the church, services, baptisms, weddings, funerals and home visits can be made to the contacts on the village website.