St. James' Church, Papplewick

St. James' Church, Papplewick (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).
St. James' Church, Papplewick (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).

In his book "Not far from the Smoke," F. J. Cowles makes this comment. "All the history of Papplewick is enshrined in the quaint little church which stands some distance from the village. The Hon. Frederick Montagu, the builder of the XVIII century Hall, rebuilt the Church and only spared the XIV century tower . . ."

While this rather caustic comment has a mede of truth, nothing can detract from the beauty of the Church's setting, nor from its serene atmosphere. From an old print preserved in the Kaye MSS in the British Museum ,the following description has been made in a booklet by Walkerdine and Buxton:— "The old Gothic church (XII century) was aisleless and probably had been largely altered in the XIV century. The east window was square-headed, a two light; while on the north side of the chancel, high up, was a plain two light window. The chancel was slightly narrower than the nave but the nave wall was carried some three feet or more into the chancel on the north side, as though for a rood staircase. There was a plain north door with a pointed head, and on each side of it two square-headed two light windows of the XIV century. Further to the east was a plain window, devoid of mullions, apparently a XVII century alteration. The roof was of fairly steep pitch, and slated."

Whether the church had fallen into a state of dilapidation, through neglect, as occurred at Annesley; or whether, having completed the Hall the Hon. Frederick Montagu wanted to continue his passion for rebuilding can only be speculation. The fact remains that after rebuilding the Hall in 1787, he rebuilt the nave and chancel of Papplewick Church in 1795. They were built in the prevailing style of architecture, unfortunately at a time when ecclesiastical architecture was at a low ebb.

As was the case at Linby, a church existed here from very early times, and in the grant made by Henry II to Newstead Priory, part of the endowment was "The Town of Papplewick with the Church of the same and the Mill."

Old Stained Glass, Papplewick.

Probably the church would be served by the Canons of Newstead, since there seems to be no record of a resident priest; and this would continue until after the dissolution of the monasteries at the time of the Reformation. Subsequently the responsibility of providing the parish with a priest would rest with the purchaser of the monastic estates; in this case, Sir John Byron.

It appears that often Papplewick was held in plurality and went with either Annesley or Blidworth, until in 1855 it was united to the rectory of Linby.

The present church, dedicated to St. James, has in recent years been completely decorated and re-pewed; at the same time the organ, a Willis, was moved from the west to the east of the north wall. The east window is a fine example of Francis Eginton's work, and is a copy of Reynold's famous window in New College Chapel, Oxford, but depicting two figures only, namely Faith and Hope. It is a magnificent work of which the residents are justly proud, and is signed and dated by the artist, the date being 1796.

In the window west of the porch are some fragments of really old stained glass though obviously wrongly mounted, and some fragments inside out. One figure represents St. Peter, while the other shows a monastic procession. There is one obvious portrait, of a kneeling figure wearing a tabard bearing lozenges sable & argent, with a crescent for difference on the shoulder. There would seem to be some connection, at present untraced, between this and one of the shields on the porch at Linby. Another fragment has the word "Steffa" decipherable, probably referring to the protomartyr, St. Stephen.

Tomb of Francis Montagu at St. James' Church, Papplewick (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).

In the churchyard stands a magnificent yew tree which some say dates back to the days of the royal decree that yews should be planted in every churchyard to maintain the supply for the famous English longbow. Taking the usual approximate formula that each foot diameter represents a period of 75-80 years, the age of the tree would be 320-350 years: since the trunk has a circumference of 13 ft. 6 ins. at a point four feet from the ground.

Amongst the tombstones are several examples of the early XVII century, a rarity; while one of the XVIII century has caused much speculation by bearing the date 17012. From the registers it is shown that the actual date was 1712. so that either the mason followed a sequence 1708, 1709, 17010, 17011 etc; or since the date is brought quite up to the edge of the stone, the 0 may have been added for symmetry. The solution advanced that the child died at midnight on 31st December, and that they did not know whether she died in 1701 or 1702 putting both years in order to be correct, is ingenious until one remembers that it was not until 1752 that the New Year began on January the first.

St. James' Church, Papplewick (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).
St. James' Church, Papplewick (photo: A Nicholson, 2005).

The church is noted for its many incised tomb slabs, several of which were reproduced nearly a hundred years ago in "Sepulchral Slabs" by the Rev. E. L. Cutts. It would seem that in the various alterations of the church, several have been moved from their original positions, while others have been cut and mutilated to fit as floor stones. They are of varied designs, some dating as early as the XIII century; and the symbols incised refer either to the rank or occupation of the departed. There is the Forester's slab, marked with bow and arrow, horn and baldric: the Woodward's tomb, with the woodward's knife (though some think this to mark the resting place of King John's carver): two in the porch walls bearing bellows, the insigna of officials at the Forge Mills: and one with initials V or W B, which may have been the original stone altar of the church, since it carries three of the usual five crosses associated with altar stones. The remainder of the stone has been cut away to make it fit the entrance.

There are two remarkable stones set in the porch; one is immediately over the doorway, & the other which was set high up on the inner side of the archway has been placed immediately above it. The former is of late Saxon or early Norman date, representing St. James, with his emblem, a pilgrim's staff in one hand. In the other hand appear to be either early forms of keys, or it may represent a fuller's club. If the latter then it refers to St. James the Less, and the church may have been dedicated to the two St. James. Here again can be speculation only, since in some of the wills in the York Registry the church is spoken of as dedicated to St. Helen. The second figure is one of three illustrated in Thoroton (Throsby's edition) who wrongly describes it as made of wood. The figure appears to be holding an orb in one hand, and a shell in the other. Of the third figure pictured in Thoroton there is no trace.

Sepulchral slabs in Papplewick Church.
Sepulchral slabs in Papplewick Church.

Inside the church the musicians' gallery, and the old "squire's" pew remain, the latter still having its old private fireplace left. As is usual, there are many tales of the Squire rattling the fireirons to warn the preacher when to cease his discourse.

Immediately inside the door is the old Norman tub font which for many years lay neglected in a hedge-bottom of the churchyard, but now restored to its proper place. Until this was done the only provision for Baptism was a most inadequate marble bason, which is attached to the wooden partition forming the wall of the choir vestry. On this partition is painted the Royal Arms, perhaps placed there when the church was rebuilt in 1795. It cannot be later than the early years of George III, since the Coat of Arms carries the Fleur-de-Lys of France, removed from the Royal Arms early in the XIX century.

Suspended over the door, near the gallery end, is the Hatchment of Miss Catharine Judith Fountayne, daughter of Anne Colladon (who married John Fountayne) and who succeeded to the Papplewick estates after the death of the Hon. Frederick Montagu in 1800. She died in 1822. The heraldic description of the Hatchment is as follows: Qly, 1st and 4th, or a fess gules between 3 elephants heads erased sable (Fountaine), 2nd, Or 3 lions passant in pale sable (Carew), 3rd, Qly i. and iv. Argent 3 fusils conjoined in fess gules within a bordure sable (Montagu), ii and iii. Or   an eagle displayed sable beaked and membered  (Monthermer). On a lozenge with gold floriated border above which is a winged cherubs head, also gold.

Motto: Resurgam. Background: all black.

Interior of St. James' Church, Papplewick.
Interior of St. James' Church, Papplewick.

The bells are three in number, and each carries an inscription. One bearing the trade mark of the celebrated Nottingham bell-founder, Henry Oldfield, and also the date 1620. The inscription reads, "I sweetly tolling men do call, to feaste on meates that feed the soule." The second bell is simply marked with a cross, and the name ELENA inscribed in Old English. It is thought that this bell may possibly date back to the latter half of the XV century, and be the work of Redeswell, Langton or Selyoke. The third bell bears the name William Tagg, Churchwarden, dated 1792, and the founder's name, Arnold of Leicester.

In the church are memorials to the Montagu and Colladon families, and one to William Howett, a benefactor of the parish. More recent are the War Memorials, and a tablet to the memory of John younger son of C. W. Chadburn, Esq., Patron of the living. It was to the Glory of God and in memory of John Chadburn that the church was restored and repaired in 1938. A second tablet has been set in the alcove commemorating Alan Chadburn who was killed at "Knightsbridge" during the Libyan campaign.

In further support of the possibility that the church was originally dedicated to St. Helen; that is, in addition to the evidence in the Wills at York and the inscription ELENA on the oldest bell in the tower, there may be a clue in the orientation of the Church.

In one of the Camden Society's pamphlets on Architecture written in 1843 is the suggestion that when the orientation of a church deviates considerably from True East (as opposed to Compass East), the church may have been orientated to "the horizon point of sunrise on the day of the Saint to whom the church is dedicated."

Papplewick Church is set 12 degrees north of True East (as against the error of 4 degrees in the case of Linby), so the error is considerable. The horizon point of sunrise on St. Helen's Day (Old Kalendar) is 16 degrees north of True East, but only a 4 degree difference therefore in orientation for this day. On St. James's Day sunrise is 30 degrees north of East, or an error of 18 degrees, and therefore can be discarded as a possibility.

It is possible therefore that while the orientation of Linby was based on True East, Papplewick (which was undoubtedly built by a different set of masons), was orientated on the horizon point of sunrise with St. Helen's Day as the guide.

All readings have been based on Polar North, since the use of the magnetic compass was not introduced into this country until about 1390, a date subsequent to the building of either church.

I have to thank the officials at the Royal Observatory for the data relating to the various horizon points of sunrise.