St Margaret, Bilsthorpe. T.C. Hine built the transeptal chapel as a mausoleum of the Saviles of Rufford Abbey during his restoration of the church in 1873. The top of the tower was rebuilt in 1663: the nave and chancel are late 14th century. (A. Nicholson, 2003).
A pretty village on the borders of the far-famed forest of Sherwood is Bilsthorpe, situated at the foot of a hill a few miles from Southwell. In the ancient parish church lie the remains of several eminent men, among the foremost of whom is Bishop Chappell, to whose memory there is a tablet at the west end, with a flattering Latin inscription. The prelate was born at Laxton in 1572, and after proceeding through his university course at Christs College, Cambridge, became Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and Dean of Cashel, being subsequently appointed Bishop of Cork and Rosse. He appears to have been a learned disputant, for in Fullers Worthies reference is made to a debate taking place at Cambridge, in which he so disposed of the arguments of Dr. Roberts, of Trinity College, that the latter had to be carried out of the theatre in a fit; and King James, who was present on the occasion, taking up the thread of Roberts disputations, was obliged to relinquish his position, thanking God that Chappell was his subject and not anothers, lest he should lose his throne as well as his chair.
Chappell was the author of a book on the method of preaching, and he also wrote his own biography. Flying from Ireland in consequence of the rebellion in 1640, he sought the secluded parish of Bilsthorpe, of which his friend, the Rev. Gilbert Benet, was Rector, and died in 1649 at Derby.
View of Bilsthorpe Manor Farm from the churchyard. The house dates from the 17th century but is sadly empty and dilapidated (A. Nicholson, 2003).
In the sixteenth century Bilsthorpe belonged to Sir Brian Broughton, eldest brother of Peter Broughton, of Lowdham, but later came into the possession of the Saviles of Rufford, and in that family it still remains. In the church, which was originally a Norman structure, is a fine tomb erected to the memories of Mr. Henry Savile, of Rufford Abbey, who died in 1881, and of his wife Amy, who died in 1878. Near this tomb, within a tablet of glass and marble, is a wreath of everlasting flowers, sent by Queen Victoria on the occasion of the funeral at Bilsthorpe of Mr. Augustus William Savile, her Majestys Assistant Master of Ceremonies, who died at Cannes in 1887. This member of the noble family of Savile was universally esteemed for his high and courtly bearing; while his cultured taste in art and decoration was unsurpassed. He built the charming Villa Edelweiss on the heights of California at Cannes, which was occupied by the Queen.
Throsby preserves a tradition that in Bilsthorpe Hall, near the church, Charles I. for some time concealed himself from his enemies, and the cupboard in the manor farmhouse is still shown where he is supposed to have been secreted. Possibly the incident may have occurred when his Majesty proceeded to join the Scottish army at Newark after escaping from Oxford.
In addition to specimens of the Norman style of architecture in the church, there are windows of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods. A considerable portion of the moat formerly surrounding the church and the mansion of the Norman lord still remains.