The 15th Century Alterations.

The wave of church building which characterises the 15th century, has left its mark upon this church. The roof of the nave, which had hitherto been of continuous pitch over nave and aisles, was raised by the addition of a clerestory with a range of three large windows on each side, the heads and mullions of which have since been destroyed. There are no clerestory windows where one would expect to see them, in the eastern bay, because the earlier transept roofs here abutted on the clerestory walls. The marks of the high-pitched transept roof may still be discerned on the north wall, but the south transept was now provided with a lower-pitched lead roof of wide span, perhaps including a western addition to the transept. Its weather-mould is just visible above the aisle roof in Plate 4.

A weather table is carried along the whole length of the north side below the clerestory sills, but not on the south side.

The western part of the south aisle wall was now rebuilt, including the inner doorway of the porch, which has fluted moulding on a splay and embattled caps to small inner shafts. The window of this date to the west of the porch of two-lights and square label, but much mutilated, is the only one of mediaeval character now remaining in the aisles.

In the chancel a large east window was inserted, arched inside with oak saddle-beams, the wide splays and low sill of which still exist, though all the rest has disappeared, except a couple of stones indicating its style and richly-moulded jambs, discovered in the foundations. A "low side window" was inserted in the south-west corner, with a curious arrangement of the sill, which is raised five inches in the left-hand corner, perhaps to form a book rest.

The chancel was re-roofed at this period, and covered with lead instead of the stone tiles which it originally had. Some of these beams and purlins still remain, but the roof was reconstructed and still more flattened in 1671, and has now again been renewed.

Four good perpendicular belfry window-heads indicate that some work was done early in the 15th century to the tower, which, up to this time, was, I think, crowned by some kind of spire.

The church was still in its mediaeval condition when described by Thoroton in 1678. The tombs in the transepts were in situ, and the windows displayed the shields of Brett, Caltoft, Hethe, and Babington in the nave; and of Chaworth, Deyncourt, and John Allestre, Prior of Thurgarton, in the chancel; but every vestige of this glass has disappeared.

Several interesting entries in the Registers, noting the position of interments in the churchyard, help us to complete the picture. In 1652, Anna alia ante fenestram vli claves (vli = videlicet), "another Anna (was buried) in front of the Keys window," no doubt refers to the triple keys of the arms of the Prior of Thurgarton, in a south chancel window. Other entries of burials are noted as in via juxta taxum; prope fraxinum; in campanili; prope crucem in caemiterio, indicating the existence of a churchyard cross, which, with the keys, the yew, ash, and steeple of that day, has disappeared from view. These entries were made by John Hull, who became rector in 1628. He was evicted during the Commonwealth in 1652, and closes his entries with a bitter little appreciation of some of his parishioners, Partes mittuntur ad Rectoriam pro Henrico Kerke, Bessicle, et falso Wesbye, which I suppose must be translated, "Parties are sent to take possession of the Rectory at the instigation of Henry Kerke, Bessicle, and that traitor Wesbye."

The reconstruction in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The unusual amount of post-Restoration rebuilding and alteration that has taken place requires careful study. Thoroton, whose history was published in 1678, saw the church in its mediaeval condition, while Throsby (new edition of Thoroton's Hist., 1790) describes the church briefly as having formerly been larger, and pathetically laments that the tombs and effigies were thrown into a neglected heap in the churchyard, "insulted by parish officers, pelted at by boys, disregarded by priests." Between the visits of these two writers, the appearance of the church had been completely transformed. It must indeed have been almost in ruins; traceried windows dislocated and roofs falling, no doubt in consequence of the continued outward movement of the walls; and strong measures were necessary to save it. But all regard or taste for Gothic architecture had passed away, and almost every vestige of it was removed or hidden in the reconstruction that took place during this period.

To take the chancel first: two dates, 1671 and 1686, cut on the walls with the initials of the rector, Henry Smith, indicate the period at which the work here was carried out. The three lancet windows on the north were blocked up; the Decorated windows on the south and the Perpendicular east window were replaced by circular-headed Renaissance windows, the stained glass which filled them thrown away; the ancient tile flooring discarded; the sedilia and piscina destroyed; and every projecting string or mould cut away to make a flat surface for plastering. The roof was reconstructed mainly out of the old timber at a very flat pitch. The walls were strengthened and made vertical externally by a casing of rubble and a new plinth on the south, and by good ashlar work cut into the line of the square angle buttress on the north side.

The renovation of the nave and tower was the work of the eighteenth century. It has been supposed that the Brunts family, whose monumentsare in the north aisle, took part in this work. But Gabriel Brunts, the founder of the Mansfield Alms-houses, died in 1636, as recorded by a Latin inscription on a slate slab of irregular shape in the rebuilt east wall of the north aisle. A monument to his son Robert who died in 1676 appears to have been erected at the time of or subsequent to the rebuilding of the wall, for its cornice is returned so as to fit into the splay of one of the new windows; but it is more likely that this monument, together with the adjoining Hacker monument, was removed here from a similar position in the old transept. An old book containing churchwardens' accounts from 1662 to 1757 is unfortunately defective between 1679 and 1694, a period which covers the reconstruction of the chancel; and the date 1662 on the ironwork of the south door is the only proof of renewal of any thing in the nave during the seventeenth century.

In 1770 a Brief was issued for the re-building of East Bridgford Church, and the result of it is thus recorded by a tablet on the tower:—

"This TOWER was rebuilt, and the CHURCH
roofed, pewed and repaired in the year of our Lord 1778.
Moore. Architect."

From the wording of this it does not appear as if the the alteration of the aisles is included in the work of this date. But the petition of the Brief is "that the parish Church of East Bridgford is a very ancient Building and greatly decayed, and that the parishioners have Laid out several sums of Money in repairing the same, yet the same is become so ruinous that the Tower steeple and great part of the body of the said church must be taken down and rebuilt . . . which upon a moderate Computation will amount to the sum of One thousand one hundred and eighteen pounds."2

From this we may gather that whatever may have been done previously in the way of repairs, the main work of the reconstruction of the nave was carried out in 1770-78 in the following manner: the two transepts were pulled down, and the walls of the north and south aisles continued eastwards, the whole length of the nave.

In the new walls, segmental arched windows of the plainest description were set high up under the wall plate, and the old windows at the west ends of the aisles were replaced with openings of a similar description, with the single exception of the south window west of the porch, and this was deprived of its mullion and cusping to make it match the others. The clerestory walls were lowered, thus reducing the clerestory windows to square openings with flat lintels and a single mullion. The roofs put upon the nave and aisles were of a meagre character, with plastered ceilings, one of the fine old cambered beams of the nave roof being used in the belfry and some of its purlins in the porch. An oak pulpit of good workmanship of this period was provided, and the architect supplied a font of wood at a cost of £2 10s. The only ornament afforded was a new corbel head, perhaps representing George III. as an act of gratitude for His Majesty's Letters Patent for the Brief.

The tower was entirely rebuilt from the plinth course. Though poor in detail it 'is not of bad proportion, and it has a battlemented parapet and pinnacles with handsome vanes. The heads of some 15th century windows were re-inserted, without their labels, in the new tower. The old foundations of the tower were strengthened at the angles by great masses of lime concrete, which, however, failed in their purpose of preventing further settlement through not having been carried deep enough to go below the clay. A plain blank wall, relieved only by a gallery, took the place of the tower arch, some traces of which it is not unreasonable to hope may be found beneath the plaster.

East Bridgford Church from 1778 to 1860. Sketch from an old photograph.
East Bridgford Church from 1778 to 1860. Sketch from an old photograph.

The sketch given in Plate 5, made from an old photograph, shows the appearance of the church after these alterations. The lines of the jambs of a large window are just visible on the cast wall.

The present font was brought from Bingham Church in 1863. It has a rude ornamentation cut into the flat surfaces of its six sides by shallow panelling, and bears the date 1663, and is of a type of which several examples are to be found in the neighbourhood.3 This seems to point to the destruction of fonts by the Parliamentary troops during their long sojourn in this locality in 1646, a practice which does not appear to have been generally followed elsewhere.

About thirty years ago the Rev. A. A. Barker replaced the round-headed 17th century windows of the chancel, with two new two-light traceried windows on the south, and a five-light east window, bringing to an end the long series of changes and chances the building has undergone until the present work of much needed restoration was commenced in 1902.

The foundations, where defective, have now been underpinned with cement concrete, the soil lowered round the church, the walls of the tower, porch, and chancel repaired, the chancel re-roofed, and its floor re-laid. The nave still remains to be done, and calls for much expenditure to make it safe and seemly, but at present our funds are exhausted and the work must stop.

(1) Appendix B.
(2) Brit. Mus. MS. Church Briefs B xi. 2.
(3) As at Shelford, Whatton, Scarrington, Newark, and Southwell.