The church of St Leodegarius, Old Basford in 2005.The church of St Leodegarius, Old Basford in 2005.

It seems highly probable therefore that Basford church was restored and partially rebuilt between the years 1219, when the first vicar “WILL” was presented by the prioress and nuns of Catesby, and 1227 when “ROBERT” was installed in the house “built for the first time at the charge of those nuns.”

This “house,” renewed from time to time as occasion required, survived until quite recent years,1 when it was demolished to make room for a huge gasometer which now occupies the site. A typical remnant of Old Basford may be seen in the “The White Cottages,” which are separated from the old vicarage site by the new tramway route which has left the real “Old” Basford a backwater on the stream of modern progress.

We can picture the church as it once stood, with nave and aisles part new and part old, but made to harmonise with a new chancel at the east end and the old Norman belfry tower at the west end; the walls built of Basford stone quarried near the site,2 with dressings of magnesian limestone from one of the numerous quarries higher up-stream.

We have no means of telling by whom this excellent work was done. Its analogy to the work at St. Peter’s at Nottingham, and at All Hallows at Gedling, together with the knowledge that all three churches were under monastic patronage3—the prior and convent being under obligation “to repair and new build the chancel of the church”—leaves little room for doubt that the alterations in each case were undertaken by the same guild of masons. In all probability this was the guild which has since come to be known as the “York School,” for the similitude between the workmanship and the material employed here and at Southwell choir, also built under York influence by Archbishop Walter de Grey (1234-1240) is unquestionable.

On comparing the pier-arcades at Rolleston, St. Peter’s, Nottingham, Basford, Southwell, Upton, Lowdham and Epperston, it will be seen that they were built in succession from one controlling source. A comparison of contemporary chancels is now only possible between Basford and Gedling,4 They are seen to be alike in the irregular spacing of the windows, the position and details of the priest’s door, and the introduction at a later date of a “low-side” shuttered opening; only that Gedling is apparently a little later in date, more elaborate in design and larger than Basford, being 12ft. longer and of the same width.

If the relationship between the ancient stones of this church and the glorious work at Southwell is known and established, the fact should be an occasion for pride and interest to parishioners, now that Southwell has become the cathedral of the diocese.

By the middle of the 14th century further alterations were taken in hand. The south aisle, was widened and screened so as to form a Lady-chapel at it eastern end. Confirmation as to the former existence of a side altar is found in the piscina, hidden for a time behind a mural monument, but brought to light again at the time of the fire. No trace is left of the enclosing screen-work, but Stretton tells us that when he visited the church in 1815 the chancel-screen remained and also “part of the parclose in the south aisle.” The only relics of the screen now remaining are the corbels which supported the rood-beam on the west side of the chancel arch. The evidence that this side altar was dedicated in honour of St. Mary is found in a testamentary burial, dated 17th December, 1428, which states that “Johanna Eland wife of William Eland to be buried in the chapel of St. Mary in the church of Baseford.” This William Eland was a direct descendent of Sir William Eland of Algarthorpe, who, as Governor of Nottingham Castle, took such a prominent part in the arrest of Earl Mortimer, 19th October, 1330.

The south porch is contemporary with the aisle. In accordance with a prevailing custom in this district the porch originally had a stone vaulted roof, whereof only the corbels remain in situ. Alternating with these corbels, a number of carved heads collected from various parts of the church, have recently been inserted so as to form a cornice beneath the wall-plate of the modern timber roof.

Thus the church stood until the Reformation, when the period of neglect began. But by a curious coincidence the greatest amount of damage has been done in this church not by the iconoclasts of the Revolutionary periods, not by the apathy and neglect of the Latitudinarians, but by the misfortunes which have dogged the heels of the restorers.

A century ago the church was encumbered with a gallery in the south aisle and across the west end; the nave was filled with horse-box pews and the beautiful columns and doorways were encased in plaster. These anomalies had been removed, the north aisle was enlarged and other restorations were taken in hand, and when they were just on the eve of completion the old tower fell as already recorded (1859).

The new tower was erected from designs by Mr. Allom of London (son-in-law of Mr. Fox, of the Firs) who acted as Honorary Architect.

Further restorations were undertaken about 1886 under another London Architect, Mr. Thompson, of Oxford Street. A new roof was put on the nave and chancel, when, in the night between November 30th and December 1st, 1900, two days before the re-opening services were to take place, a fire broke out in the chancel, then full of scaffolding, and the roof was again utterly destroyed, so that now not a single fitting, save one bell in the tower; not a vestige of the ancient furniture, save it be the “kissing stone”; not a fragment of ancient glass; not a mediaeval monument remains. The floor-stones which lay in the chancel and aisle were broken by the fire and the falling debris; they are still under the modern floor but quite illegible. This is the more to be regretted as they surely contained some interesting memorials, seeing that a long array of well-known county families have held the manors in succession—Orreby, Baseford, Eland, Cantelupe, Zouch, Cromwell, Cockfleld, Langford, Strelley, Annesley, &c., &c.

Early in the year 1902 the work was again completed, but on the day before the re-opening the old Vicar, Henry Rogers Pitman, died 23rd April, 1902.

Several memorial tablets of the 18th and early 19th century have found a place on the walls of the new tower, and in the south porch, and there are some excellent Swithland headstones in the churchyard. Just west of the porch is the table-tomb of Henry Ward, who died March 1st, 1735, aged 108, one of three brothers each of whom was over 6ft. high and lived to be over 90; and near the gate, the grave of one who was hanged for participation in the Luddite riots.5

The Prioress and Convent of Catesby held the preferment until the Dissolution, their last presentation being dated 10th August, 1505. Thenceforward it was at the disposal of the Crown. On 26th November, 1550 “the Assigns of the Prioress and the King” are named. On 11th July, 1595, it is “Elith Reg,” and on 1st March, 1604, it is “Jae Rex.” On the 7th January, 4th Elizabeth (1562) the rectory and advowson of the vicarage was granted to James Hardinge and his heirs.

It used to be said at one time, that the “mensa” of a pre-Reformation altar survived in the form of a memorial stone, which stands upright against the outer wall of the south aisle; but this is not the case. The stone in question, 7ft. long by 31/4ft. wide, formerly lay in the floor of the nave. It is just such a stone as would have been used for the purpose, but is minus the marks of identification; neither is there any indication of a chamfer or moulding on the edges. I think it is just one of the large paving stones for which this district is still noted. The inscription it bears is not without interest. “Here lies the body of John Clarke M.A. and sometime Rector of Cotgrave, who, though he ended his public testimony August 24 1662 yet served God in his generation till he fell a sleepe 25 September 1669. AETAT. 39.

He was one of the 2,000 clergymen who resigned their livings under the Act of Uniformity, rather than conform.

Notes on the parish registers, with a transcript of marriages (commencing 1558) have been printed in Vol. VI., Nottingham Parish Registers.

In the reign of Edward VI. (1552) an Inventory was taken of the contents of every parish church in the land. The Inventory for Basford has been published, The original may be seen at the Public Record Office (Aug. Off. Bks. 507. fol. 8 b). This Inventory was made after chantries had been suppressed, when much of the church furniture had already been despoiled. An earlier Inventory taken in 1548 before the suppression would be more interesting, but it does not appear to be extant.

BASFORD. The inventory of all the goods and Juyles within the parishe churche of Basford takyn the fyrst day of September in the vjth yere of the Reigne of oure Soverayne lord Edward the Syxth by the grace of god Kyng of England, France and yrland, &c.

The challes stolen in Maie quinto
Pyrste in the Stepull three Bellys
Item one Crosse of Lattyn
Item one Cowpe of velvyt of dyverse collours
Item one Vestament of Blew Satten
Item one Whyte Vestement of Fustyan
Item one Vestament of grene Sylke
Item one Vestament of velvett of dyverse colores
Item ij albys  Item ij towellys, ij candylsticks of brasse
Item ij autaclothys    A Crystmatory
Churchwardens Hughe Rowell   Robert Morris
Crystaine Tynmore vicar
Parishioners William Daneson Henry Scheye and Clement Grene.

Meller's mark

Of the “three Bellys in the Stepull” above referred to, one is still in use. Number 2 bell is inscribed on the waist with a rosette and the words

S

A

N

C

T

A

 

M

A

R

I

A

It also bears the well-known mark of Richard Mellers, a founder who flourished in Nottingham in the 15th and early in the 16th centuries. The other two bells are not so old by a century. Number 1 bell is inscribed IHS—BE—MI—SPED. The founder’s mark is a Calvary between the letters H.O. with a crescent and star above; this is the mark of another Nottingham founder, Henry Oldfleld. Number 3, the tenor bell, also bears the mark of Henry Oldfield and the following legend:—

“sweetly toling men do call
to taste on meats that feeds the soole [1606]”

(1) It it true the Terriers for 1743, 1777. 1786, say “No Vicarage house—1 Silver cup. 1 Pewter flagon. 1 Pewter plate. 3 bells.” but the Vicarage house must have been revived again after that period of neglect.
(2) West of Cinder Hill, Dexter’s farm.
(3) St. Peter’s, Nottingham—Lenton Priory (Clugniac). St. Leodegarius, Basford—Catesby Priory (Benedictine), All Hallows, Gedling—Shelford Priory (Austin Canons).
(4) Although the greater portion of the walls of Gedling chancel has been rebuilt the work was done on original lines and thus serves for a comparison.
(5) “James Towle was executed for participation in Luddite frame-breaking at Messrs. Heathcot & Boden’s Lace Factory at Loughborough, at midnight on Friday, June 28th. The execution took place at Leicester. November 20th, 1816, and the funeral at Basford the following afternoon in the presence of several thousand spectators.”