Paper read at Syerston to the members of the Thoroton Society, on their visit to the church, on June 26, 1900.

By the Rev. A. W. Bailey, Vicar.

Syerston church in 2007.Syerston church in 2007.

SYERSTON, or as anciently written, Sireston, is included in the benefice of East Stoke. It was formerly in the patronage of the holder of the Prebendal stall of Stoke in the Cathedral Church of Lincoln. At the time of my collation to the living (1874) it was in the patronage of the Bishop of Lincoln, and it is now, by virtue of the creation of the See of Southwell, in the patronage of the Bishop of Southwell.

Thoroton, writing upon Syerston, says, "I suppose this "Town is in Stoke parish, for the Vicar comes and serves the cure here” and I find it so described on some pages of the ancient registers of the church; but beyond the fact that the vicar of Stoke has the cure of souls here, Syerston is, in every other respect, a distinct parish; Syerston and Stoke do not even adjoin—the parish of Elston lies between.

The benefice formerly not only included Syerston with Stoke, but also the chapelry of Coddington, which is on the far side of Newark, and the chapelry of Elston, which is more properly the chapelry of Stoke, as I gather from a very old map in the possession of Sir Henry Bromley.

In recent years the chapelries of Coddington and Elston have been separated from this benefice, and Syerston only is now attached to Stoke.

So far as I can judge from the registers, the population of the parish has always, as now, been very small. It was, at the last census, 102.

I have been able to find scarcely any record of the past history of the place beyond what is written in Thoroton's much-prized volume. He gives us names of owners of the soil from Norman times until his own, but I need not relate what he tells us; as members of the Society which bears the name of this great antiquary and archaeologist, probably most of you have referred to his book before coming on this day's excursion.

The Church, which I am asked by your Secretary, Mr. Standish, more particularly to speak about, is dedicated to "All Saints"—at least, it is so by tradition. It contains tower, nave, chancel, and south porch; it originally had a doorway on the north side of the nave, the position of which is shewn internally and externally by the stone jambs yet remaining. It measures within, from the east wall to the door of the vestry at the base of the tower, just under sixty-seven-and-a-half feet; and from the south to the north wall nearly fifteen feet. There is no break in the line of the roof or wall on the outside to mark where the nave ends or the chancel begins; the chancel and nave are of the same width.

The tower, as I am told by experts, is, with the exception of the battlemented parapet, of the thirteenth century; the parapet, previously to the recent restoration, was of bricks and plaster in an advanced state of decay, and this has been replaced in stone. The tower holds two pre-reformation bells, that on the north side, being the old "Angelus" or "Sanctus" bell, is two feet in diameter, and bears the legend "AVE MARIA"; that on the south side, measuring two feet and two inches in diameter, has no legend, but it has impressed marks which show that it was cast at the ancient Nottingham bell foundry.

The nave, chancel, and porch are fourteenth century work, though there are two windows in the church which may be earlier, and the east window is probably an insertion of the fifteenth century.

The church, prior to its restoration in 1896, was in a very unsafe condition; our Bishop, who had previously visited the church, wrote in his first Charge, there "stand, if they can be "said to stand, the ruins of Syerston"; and if the work of restoration had not been taken in hand, I am persuaded the church would not be standing now. The walls, particularly on the south side and at the east end, had gone very much out of the perpendicular; the east end and a great length of wall had to be rebuilt from the foundation, in doing this the utmost care was exercised, so that it may be said almost every stone came back again into the very place it had previously occupied.

The roof, from one end to the other, was in a very rotten state: that over the nave being of the meanest material and rudest construction; and beneath, throughout the length of nave and chancel, was a low, uneven, and much-broken plaster ceiling, which shut out from view the whole tracery of the east window. Now, in accord with the period to which the church belongs, a graceful open roof of pitch pine has been placed over the nave, and a boarded and ribbed roof of the same wood over the chancel; these are divided by two double ribs, which, springing from two carved stone corbels, form a chancel arch. The beams of the old chancel roof were of oak, and somewhat carved, and this carving, showing the date "1629," has been preserved, and is now seen in the wall-plates of the porch, and in the present Credence table.

The fine carved-oak pulpit, which now stands in the nave is, as was the late chancel roof, of the reign of Charles I., and bears date in the canopy, "1636." It was thickly encrusted with a dirty yellow paint, from which it has been cleaned, and it is now a handsome feature in the church.

It is to be regretted nothing remained, in the unrestored church, of the old screen, except a few feet of the extreme support on the north side, which indicated where the present screen should be erected. Two or three of the old benches happily were in the church, and these repaired are yet retained, and have served as the pattern for the rest. There was an ugly gallery of deal at the west end, and this, and the unseemly deal pews and fittings have been swept away, and the furniture of the church and chancel are now of oak. The new screen, prayer desk, and chancel benches are chaste in design and workmanship, and deserving of attention. The chair within the rails, like the Credence table, has been constructed out of the old chancel roof oak, with the exception of the back, which is a bit of good carving, said to have been formerly in the Church of S. Mary, Newark.

The piscina is worthy of observation, having in the basin a rose, curiously carved, and hiding the mouth of the drain.

The font is ascribed to the fifteenth century, and is remarkable as having what appears to be a kneeling-stone for the officiating minister at baptisms.

There were no monuments on the walls when Thoroton wrote. In Throsby's edition of Thoroton we read, "not an "inscription in" the church. The only monuments now are those of the family of the present owner of the parish, the earliest of which bears date 1795. The painted glass of the east window is by Kempe in memory of the late Mr. Fillingham. It is considered a good example of the artist's work; the centre light represents the Crucifixion, and the side lights the Blessed Virgin and S. John, and adoring angels are represented in the tracery above.

I may mention that, in the course of the work of restoration, there were found beneath the floor of the church three German (Nuremberg) tokens; all of these have impressed on the obverse the figure of the cross above the world, and on the reverse a circle of crowns and fleur-de-lis. The motto on one in German is "The word of the Lord abideth for ever." I do not discover any dates upon the tokens. I should be glad if any member of the Thoroton Society would explain this curious find.

The silver communion plate here consists of a small Elizabethan cup with a cover, which evidently is intended to serve as Paten, and another small Paten. Mr. Brodhurst (now of Heath Vicarage,) some years since, when making notes on the church plate of this Archdeaconry, sent particulars of this cup to the great authority on church plate, Mr. Cripps, who wrote in reply "The curious stamped marks on the cup [N + G] "are not Hall marks, but indicate some provincial maker, and the engraved initials [W. P.] are those of Vicar, Churchwarden, or other donor." It appears, according to Thoroton, there was one William Pole, owner of Syerston, just at the time when this cup, from its fashion, is believed to have been made.

The Registers of the Parish date from 1567. I have noted in them nothing I need refer to except as touching the year 1646. That was a year of very great mortality in East Stoke. The East Stoke Register has entries of 161 burials, and of the buried it is stated "seven score and nineteen" (159) "died of the plague." In the Syerston Register of this same year are entries of only two burials. So there appears to have been here a perfect immunity from the plague which raged in Stoke, though the villages of Stoke and Syerston are only a little more than a mile apart, and both churches were served by the same vicar.

But strange to say, while there were only two burials in this year (1646), there are entered in the Register no less than eleven marriages! This number of marriages is very largely in excess of the average: taking fifteen continuous years, in which this year was one, there were only three other marriages recorded, and I may remark that, of the marriages of this year (1646), only two of all the persons married in the church had their residence in Syerston; so I take it from these entries, and entries in other years about this time, that there was then no obligation on the parties married that either should belong to the parish where the marriage was celebrated.

I will only further mention that there occurs in the year 1821 the record of the burial of a Thomas Sills who died in Syerston, aged 104.

I feel I have detained you too long, but I hope some particulars I have given may not have been altogether without interest to you.