Gonalston church and Gonalston Spital


Gonalston was reached by way of Burton Joyce, a place visited by the Society in 1898. The Rev. Atwell M. Y. Baylay, of Thurgarton, had prepared a paper on the church, etc., as follows.

Prior to the year 1787, the Church of St. Lawrence, Gonalston, consisted of a nave with south porch, a chancel, and a north aisle continued eastward into a Chantry chapel along-side the chancel. There was on the west gable of the nave a wooden bell-turret containing two bells, and partly supported by a wooden pillar inside the nave. The bells bore the following inscriptions, viz,:—

"I. H. S. Nazarenus. Rex. Iudaeorum. Fili. Dei Miserere mei. 1684,"  and
"God save this Church, 1684. C.S., R.F., Wardens."

The roof of the nave had been flattened, but was still covered with lead. There was one step down from the porch into the nave, the floor of which was level with that of the chancel, from which it was divided by a wooden screen. The whole church it would seem, was of 14th century work, but there had certainly been a church at Gonalston from a much earlier date.

In 1787 a diminution of the church (to use Throsby's phrase), was carried out by Sir Philip Monoux. The north aisle and chantry were pulled down, and the arches walled up. The sepulchral effigies which had been in the aisle were thrown "higgledy-piggledy" into a pit under one of the pews in the nave, where they were discovered in 1848, by Richard Westmacott, junr., R.A., who communicated to the Royal Archaeological Institute a most interesting account of his long and patient search for them, in the course of which he came upon a large stone coffin, containing the skeleton of a man. The bones were coated with fine red mud, from the water springs which had found their way in through the drain holes in the bottom of the coffin. This still remains in its place under the floor of the nave.

In 1853 an extensive re-building was carried out, from designs by Mr. T. C. Hine of Nottingham. The north aisle was re-erected, without the chantry chapel to the east of it. The westernmost arch of the arcade was destroyed, to make way for a small tower and spire. In this tower two new bells were placed, in addition to the two old ones described above. The rest of the nave, and the porch, were also re-built, with a much higher floor level than before. Part of the original plinth of the nave wall can be seen in the coal-hole outside the church, on the south. All that is ancient in what now meets the eye consists of the two beautiful arches into the south aisle, and the two very curious windows on the south, from one of which the cusps have been removed. All these ancient features have, of course, been re-erected at a higher level when the nave was re-built. At the east end of the nave a new chancel arch was built, with two steps leading up to the proposed new level of the chancel. The chancel, however, somehow escaped restoration at that time, and is an interesting specimen of Early Decorated. I believe it has been slightly shortened, I cannot guess at what date. The floor remains where it was before 1853, when it was level with that of the old nave, but the original level, as evidenced by the base of the jamb of the walled-up arch into the chantry, has been much lower. In the floor are three altar slabs. The large stone which forms the base of the piscina has been the lid of a stone coffin. A portion of the incised cross is visible.

It is remarkable that Westmacott found three piscinae in this church in 1848. It is possible that the third belonged to an altar against the southern part of the chancel screen, a not uncommon position. This would also account for the third altar slab. This third piscina, Westmacott found lying loose at the west end of the church, and he states that to preserve it he had it built into the north wall of the chancel. But none is now to be seen there except that which belonged to the chantry chapel, and which remains, walled-up, in its original position. Possibly the other is now hid by the north buttress of the chancel, which is modern, and is known to have been built since 1848.

Outside the north wall of the church will be seen what is believed to be the bowl of the Norman font, cast out by the Parliamentarian troopers, and long used in a field as a drinking trough for cattle. In its stead, after the Restoration of Charles II., was used a hollow, cut out in the top of a large hewn stone—probably once part of a doorway of some old house. This stone is still to be seen in the church, to the north of the chancel arch. In 1853 it was replaced by the present modern font.

Of the three effigies, now in the north aisle, the more perfect one of the two knights is undoubtedly one of the family of De Heriz, who owned Gonalston from the time of Henry I. to Edward III. The hedgehogs (the family arms) viz.: azure, three hedgehogs or, are still visible on his shield. He is possibly John de Heriz who died A.D. 1299. The other effigy of a knight is somewhat later, but still, I should think, of the time when the same family ruled here, and may represent a second John de Heriz, who died in 1329. The beautiful effigy of a lady is also of the 14th century, and not improbably represents Matilda, the last De Heriz, and heiress of the estate, who married Richard de la Riviere. In her hands she holds a reliquary. The foundations of the old manor house may be traced in the field to the west of the churchyard. See Thoroton's History for particulars of the family of De Heriz, which was connected with many Notts, families ; and for particulars of their successors at Gonalston.1

Within half a mile of the church, on the road to Southwell, is the site of Gonalston Spital, i.e., the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene of Broad Busk, founded in the reign of Henry III. by William de Heriz, for a Master, Fellows, and, I suppose, a certain number of poor persons. A chantry was founded in the chapel of the Spital by Joanna, daughter of John de Heriz, in 1326, and it is thought by some that it is this lady, and not Matilda de Heriz, whose effigy remains in Gonalston Church.

The office of Master appears to have been early amalgamated with that of Rector of Gonalston, but Fellows continued to be appointed as late as the time of James I., if not later. The endowments, however, in time became merged in those of the rectory, and the buildings dwindled down to one cottage adjoining the Spital Church. But as long as the latter was standing, each rector of Gonalston had to be inducted into it, as well as into the parish church, and to perform Divine Service and preach a sermon in it on that occasion. Throsby described it in his time (A.D. 1797) as "an ill-looking place, without glass in the windows."

Finally, about 1820, the then rector pulled it down, and made some of the stones into a sham ruin near his own entrance gate. This erection was, however, removed by his successor. The present occupier of the cottage at the Spital can recollect a low piece of walling, nine or ten yards long, visible above ground in the garden there. An unfailing spring of water under the highway, opposite to the Spital, is known as the "Holy Well."

The Rev. F. H. Paley, the rector, kindly showed the visitors the church plate, which consists of a silver chalice and paten, on which are no hall-marks, but which are probably late Elizabethan or Jacobean; also a flagon, plate and bowl of pewter of, apparently, the early Georgian period.

The Registers are among the oldest in the neighbourhood, and date from 1539. They are, however, in rather bad condition, and mice appear to have taken toll of them to a deplorable extent.

The chief owner here now is John Liell Francklin, Esq., to whose family the property came by the marriage of his grandfather with a daughter and co-heir of Sir Philip Monoux, Bart., of Sandy Place, Beds. In 1807.

(1) An interesting article on the finding of the de Heriz effigies, written by Mr. Richard Westmacott, F.R.S., will be found in the Archaeological Journal, Vol. VI., 1849. Our Society is indebted to the Royal Archaeological Institute for kindly permitting the reproduction of one of the illustrations.