Thoroton Society Summer Excursion, 1924

Radcliffe-on-Soar. Holy Trininty Church


Radcliffe-on-Soar. Holy Trinity church.Radcliffe-on-Soar. Holy Trinity church.

THIS is the third visit of the Society to this ancient church, and I scarcely know whether my task is made easier or more difficult on that account.

A description of the architecture and the monuments will be found in former volumes of the Transactions, and in “Arms, Armour and Alabaster,” by our late Honorary Secretary, Mr. George Fellows. In attempting further elucidation I shall let imagination have free play and try to see things as they were before the Great Pillage. When “the gentlemen engaged expressly for the purpose,” of compiling the “Beauties of England and Wales” came here, they found an old decaying church which contained nothing of interest except the headstone to an old parish clerk, which you may still see beside the path leading from the churchyard gate to the south porch.

The quatrain is given for what it is worth. It has been quoted again and again; and yet the headstone is perhaps the least interesting object in connection with this most interesting church:

“Robert Smith, died 1782 in the 80th year of his age.
Fifty five years it was & something more
Clerk of the parish, he the office bore,
And in that space ‘tis awful to declare
Two generations buried by him were.”

It is true that periods of alternate neglect and unwise reparation have removed much of the substance of the original structure; nevertheless the shadow intrigues us still. Even in my time two bays of the nave and one half of the chancel were boarded off and used for services; the remainder was left derelict and untended.

If we adopt the inductive method of procedure, and compare the fragments of ancient work which remain with1 other churches in the district, and with recorded history, we shall find that the one interprets and explains the other; and further, we shall find that at least three distinct building periods are exemplified.

To begin with Domesday Book (1086) “there was a priest, a church & a mill at Radclive.” It may be that this primitive church was timber-built, and therefore not very permanent; but even if it was stone-built not a single worked stone can now be identified. The genesis of any portion of the building now before us would be very early in the 13th century.

The tower from its base to the grotesque corbel-table (but not the spire), the tower-arch with banded jamb-shafts, water-holding base mouldings, and bell capitals with square abaci (the scroll moulding forming a string course above the capitals, belongs to the Decorated Period), the corbel responds of the pier arcades, and I think the bowl of the font2 also, are all Early English work, and envisage just such a church as might have been found in any Nottinghamshire village during the opening years of Henry III.; and like many another village church of the period, the advowson was at that time given into monastic keeping.

At that time the Towns of Kingston and Radclive-on-Soar, pertained to the Constables of Chester. From records at York (Torre) we learn that an ancient Constable gave the advowson of the church to the Abbot and Convent of the (Augustinian) house of the Blessed Mary at Norton, in Cheshire. Neither the name of the ancient Constable nor the3 date of the gift is disclosed, but we know that Constable Roger de Laci confirmed the gift before he died (1211) making mention in connection therewith of his father John, and of William the Younger.

The church is dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity. This fact, alone, is not evidence of date, but we must bear in mind that, owing to the veneration bestowed upon the murdered Archbishop, quite a number of churches founded near the time of the translation4 of Becket’s bones from the crypt at Canterbury to the chapel built upon the site of his beloved Trinity Chapel, were dedicated to Holy Trinity.

Shortly after the church was taken over by the convent the second period of building activity set in; the chancel was enlarged beyond the requirements of a simple parish church, so that it is now slightly longer than the nave (see plan) and follows the usual proportion adopted at that time, of approximately a double square on plan, length 39ft., width 19ft.; the height has been raised in modern days when the present low-pitch roof replaced a roof of higher pitch, springing from the corbels which still remain in the walls.

Window drawing

The enlargement is marked by a distinct advance in the style of architecture; it will be noticed that the single lancet-headed windows of the earlier work are replaced by twin-lancets in the flank wall on the south side, and by four lancet-headed lights grouped together, with incipient tracery in the head to form the east window; while the stone furniture of the chancel, sedilia, piscina, and founder’s tomb—are all characteristic of the end of the 13th century. The date of the east window is debatable; the jambs and mullions have certainly been renewed, but I think the tracery is mainly original work, and not later in date than circa 1300.

The mensa of the altar probably belongs to this period also. It was found beneath the floor during restorations in 1891 and reset in its present position. Whether it was the mensa of the high altar or of a side altar which formerly stood at the east end of the south aisle, as indicated by the discarded piscina, has not been definitely ascertained; the Christian symbols are still distinctly visible at one end.

(1) St. Andrew’s, Kegworth, a mile-and-a-half away to southward, across the river Soar, should be studied along with Radcliffe-on-Soar. It contains identical features and has passed through similar transition.
(2) The font has been stripped of its lead lining and iron staples for fastening, and re-set upon a brick base.
(3) Thrumpton Chapel, in the same parish, went to Norton 12, John (1211).
(4) The Translation took place July 7th, 1220.