Wilford church in 1910.

The Church. The Church, dedicated to St. Wilfrid, was purposely built near to a graceful bend of the river, where an ancient ford passed over, and nearly opposite to where the Leen in olden times, and the Tottle Brook in modern ones, fell into the Trent. It is a stone building, chiefly in the late Decorated and Perpendicular styles of architecture, and consists of chancel, clerestoried nave, aisles, and south porch, with a low west tower having five bells. The building is one of great interest, and well worthy of an extended description by an expert, for in many parts, both in the exterior and interior, are stones which evidently belonged to a prior building, or to buildings in succession. In the south aisle was an altar, now long since destroyed, but the piscina remains, which Mr. Harry Gill dates as late Norman, and laid in the floor near by is a collection of cover stones of ancient graves, beautifully wrought, which he places at about a.d. 1200. There is also a stone lancet window of the same date. The priest's door in the south of the chancel, and the beautiful window to the west of it, divided into two heights with a transom, he regards as the work of the latter part of the 15th century. There are several stones in different parts of the building which possibly show that the usual practice of sharpening arrows on church walls was here carried out. This is especially marked on the northern pier of the chancel arch behind the pulpit. To understand this it is necessary to refer to the requirement for young men to assemble on Sunday afternoons, on the southern side of churches, to practise archery. The stones thus marked are usually on the exterior of the churches, but here principally in the interior. Is it possible that the church was once roofless, and in ruin? Archery as a part of warfare was at its perfection in the days of Edward III. (1327-1377), and in 1389 serving men were required to practise it. The stones of which the building consists are remarkable in that they include stone from the quarries at Gedling. Castle Donington, Trowell, Bulwell, Derbyshire, while fragments of alabaster from ancient monuments are also found in strange mixture. Apparently there was a rood screen, and a loft, to which there was a circular approach, still to be seen, and the lower part of the tall window, on the south side of the chancel, was intended to give light under the loft, which stretched across the chancel eastward of the chancel arch. A portion of the screen work, made up into a reading desk, is retained in the vestry.

There is a two-light square-headed stained glass window, representing the offerings of the Magi, and inscribed below + In Memoriam H. K. W., and high up on the north wall is a well executed marble medallion bust of H. K. White.

Another window, representing Nathaniel under the fig tree, is erected to the memory of Mr. Wm. Quinton, 1807-1884.

The east window, with three lights, has stained glass, and is inscribed to the memory of the Rev. Thomas Thorpe, forty-six years Rector, died 1864, aged 74. The west window is to the Rev. E. Davies, a succeeding Rector. There is a window to Henry Abel Smith and his wife.

Other windows are memorials of various persons.

Deering, in his history printed in 1751, quoting from Dr. Plot, described a violent tempest which occurred on the 7th July, 1558, when many of the houses in two parishes within a mile of Nottingham, and both their churches, were blown down, and he adds that the two parishes were Wilford and Lenton (p. 77). Assuming the correctness of this, the latter church certainly disappeared, and the rebuilding of Wilford Church may account for the peculiar mixture of stones.

Various alterations were made in the church in 1868, having been approved by a Vestry meeting, among them being the removal of a sounding board over the pulpit, the removal of the reredos, the restoration of the sedelia, etc.

Wilford church (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).
Wilford church (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).

The chancel, nave, south aisle, and tower, were, in 1891, restored, a new vestry built, the north aisle extended to double its former width, five bells re-cast, the church re-seated, and other works done under the care of the Rector, the Rev. E. Davies, at a cost of about £5,000. An organ was, in 1878, presented by Henry Abel Smith, in memory of his wife and eldest son. The west end gallery was removed at the restoration in 1891. Gas having been introduced into the parish, the church was first lit up with gas in 1870.

The churchyard, as well as the church, has many memorials of interest. There are a number of stones dating about 1659-62-64-72-94. Some of the departed worthies are named later on in this paper. The summer-house in the angle of the churchyard, next to the river, is supposed to have been built in 1757, each of the four windows having a beautiful landscape view. There were some charming trees surrounding the church, or forming the approach, which by reason of age had to be cut down. Both the walk and the summer-house are considered sacred to the memory of Henry Kirke White.

All the inscriptions in the church and churchyard have been copied by Mr. Ernest Brewill, and it should be mentioned to the credit of the Rector, Churchwardens, and Parish Clerk, that the churchyard is kept in good condition. Mr. George Smith has been parish clerk forty-two years. Mr. George Brewill, clerk to the Parish Council, has been Assistant Overseer over forty-six years.

The Dial close to the west of the approach to the Church, was given by Col. Sir Hervey Bruce, Bart., to the Parish Council, for a Burial ground, and was consecrated in 1907, by the Bishop of Southwell. A strip to the west of the churchyard was given by the Rector as an extension of the churchyard.

There are on the Loughborough Road two fields, about six acres, called church lands, the rents of which—£18 a year — are received by the churchwardens, and used for defraying church expenses.

The Feast, or Wakes, was on the Sunday before St. Luke's Day, but is not now observed.

The Rector and Churchwardens doubtless went to Southwell every Whitsuntide, in accordance with the bull of Pope Alexander III. in 1171, to join in the solemn procession. They took with them the Pentecostal offerings of Wilford, 1/6, equal to about 37/6 now. Clifton took the same amount, but Ruddington, having a less ratal, took 1/4.

Referring to past usage, the great English Bible was issued in 1538, and it is barely possible, but hardly likely, that a copy was obtained and chained in Wilford Church. The Roman Catholic form of service in Latin ceased in 1549, when, on Whit Sunday, Wilford people presented their prayers to God in their own language. The service according to the Book of Common Prayer was suspended from 1553 to 1559, and again in 1645 to 1660-2, but since the latter date it has continued to be the channel through which the people of Wilford have presented to God their petitions and thanksgivings.

The service is now well and devoutly rendered by the choir, and it is a pleasure to hear the Rector, the Rev. J. Clough, M.A., read the dramatic portions of the Bible, with enunciation, pause, and emphasis, in a natural voice, making the ancient scenes live again, with double the usual benefit, and in marked contrast to the methods adopted in some churches.

Rectors. John, son of Gervase de Clifton, was instituted as Rector 18th January, 1297, the Patron being Sir Gervase Clifton, Knight, and since that date there have been thirty-six Rectors, the present one, the Rev. J. Clough, M.A., late Rector of Clifton, being instituted 7th April, 1891. Notes as to several Rectors are given later on. A complete list may be seen in Godfrey's "Notes on the Churches of Notts.," and also an Inventory of Church Goods in 6 Edward VI. In 1650 the Parliamentary Commissioners value'd the Rectory at £100 per annum, and John Callis was then a "godly, able, preaching Minister."

Records. The King—Henry II.—would have his daughter married, and therefore, in 1169, claimed from the men of Wilford ten marks, which they paid to the Sheriff (Yeatman.) The sum would be equal to about £183 now, so they were very loyal, or submitted to strong pressure, or were very well off.

The Sheriff, in 1218, reported that Clifton, with its soc (subject places, which included Wilford), was an escheat to the King, that is, it had been forfeited, and fallen back into the King's hands. It was then worth £40 per annum, and Ralf de Rhodes held it by the tenure of half a knight's fee (Yeatman). A knight's fee was a portion of land sufficient to maintain a knight to do service for the King. The Conqueror is said to have made 60,000 of them, and compelled any man having £20 income from land to be a knight, and so to do service. The amount of the income looks questionable.

The Manor of Clifton in 1237 appears to have been held by Gervase de Clifton doing homage to the owner of the Manor of Languar, "with suit at the Court of Peverel at Nottingham, from three weeks to three weeks, by Henry fil Gervas, of Wilford, who holds his lands there by doing service." (Yeatman, 414).

When Ralph de Rodes, out of respect for divine charity, and for the health of his soul, and the souls of his ancestors, in 1211 granted land to St. John's Hospital, which then stood at the corner of St John's and Glasshouse Streets, Thomas, the parson of Wilford, Gervase de Clifton, and others, were witnesses, and Ralph Wilford was afterwards (previous to 1821,) instituted as Master thereof (Borough Records).

Sir Gervase de Clifton was Sheriff of Notts, and Derbyshire in 1282, and he paid to the Crown under the name of Gervase de Wilford "c. s." that is, 100 shillings, for a contempt (Yeatman).

There was, in 1349, a chantry in the church at Clifton, with three chaplains daily celebrating divine service, and praying for the souls and good estate of Sir Gervase Clifton, and Isobel, his wife. This chantry was well endowed, and, among other property, had lands in Wilford, which in 1560 were sold as " late belonging to the College of Clifton." It was an awful time when that chantry was instituted, for the Black Death, or pestilence, was raging. The people died off like infected sheep; one-third to one-half of the people in England perished, and everything was thrown into confusion. Doubtless it affected Wilford, but we lack records.

The rate of wages may be judged by the following entry: John Wylford and his servant were in 1514 paid for a day and a half tiling at a house on Swyne Green 15d. 100 tyles cost 4d. A stryke of lyme 1d.; and for half a day on High Pament John was paid 3d. and his servant 2d. John appears to have had to pay 6s. 8d. to enable him to be enrolled as a burgess, in order that he might trade in the town. 6s. 8d. in 1510-11 would be equal to £36s. 8d. now.

"Sir Gervase with seven wives," who when four months old, in 1587, came into the estate, and lived to be nearly eighty, having served eight times in Parliament, should be mentioned. See "The Clifton Book," published by Saxton, See also Dr. Thoroton, and "Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 1911, in an article by Lady Bruce.

Local Records.   The offertories at the Church in the olden time—collections they were then called—were for objects of interest. Thus:—

"September 6th, 1665. Collected for persons visited with the plague and in want, 2s."

"Collected towards the reliefe of Such who suffered by the sad fire in London, 31s. 8d."

"The relief of the Protestants in the Dukedom of Lithuania the sume of eight shillings."

Many collections were made towards churches re-building, and for losses by fire, as far away as Suffolk and Yorkshire.

The Overseers' book contains many items of interest. In a book showing "The disbursements of Wm. Hazard, Constable and Overseer, 1785," are entries such as the following:—

"1801. July 25th. Sunk by selling corn to the Poor, £5 2s. 3d." (Note—This was a year of famine and distress. The price of the best wheat in July was 165 shillings per quarter—five or six times the present price. Hence starvation for the poor).

"6th Novr. Paid Foxcroft on hair powder acct., 1/-." (Did the Auditor ask the Overseer who wore the hair requiring powder?).

"26th. Paid for a load of coals for the poor, 17/-.

The Overseers' total receipts for 1801 were £ 187 6s. 2d. Disbursements £185 0s. 9d.

The Surveyor of Highways in 1881 accounted, among his receipts, for Pent of Gravel lands, £5. Pent of lanes, £1 19s. 0d.

The Churchwarden's books contain items of interest:— Thus, in 1812, after entering in his account, "The Visitation, 21s. 4d.,"he gives "Expenses (long and tediousi,£2 18s. 0d.," and a like remark in 1814. In 1816, "Wine for five Sacraments at 1, 1, 0, 5, 5, 0." Some queries arise on such an entry. Were there only five Sacraments in a year? Was wine very dear? Were there many communicants? Or, was some given to the poor? In 1830 ten poor widows received from Felton's charity, 5/- each. "1851, 10th April, four youths, servants to the Farmers, were taken before the Magistrates for firing of a match during divine service in the forenoon on Sunday, the 4th April 0. 0. 0 expenses 6/9 each, which they paid." We are unable to judge of the case, and so content ourselves by saying, "Naughty boys!" But, Mr. Churchwarden, was it really necessary to go to the County Hall? The Felton Charity lapsed some years ago by a rival claim.

The Civil War.  How Wilford was affected during the Civil    War is not recorded. On the one hand the Parliamentary forces and adherents in Nottingham were strong, and on the other was King Charles writing "To Our trusty and welbeloved Sr. Jervase Clifton, Knt.," "Wee greet you well," and asking for arms, which were duly sent—great saddles, bitte bridles, curissiers, pistolls, musketts, corsletts, and pikes—for sending which, and his devotion to the Royal cause, the good old knight had, when the Parliamentarians overcame the Royalists, to pay £4,000. "as a fine for his delinquency to the Parliament." The strife, the anxiety, the sacrifice, and the loss to the common people must have been terrible.