Tollerton has two churches – St Peter’s Church, the Anglican Church located on Tollerton Lane, and the Tollerton Methodist Church on the corner of Burnside Grove and Stanstead Avenue. The latter is a much newer building whilst St Peter’s has a very long history and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
When Tollerton Hall was St Hugh’s College some local residents of the Catholic faith attended their Sunday mass. One visitor to the St Hugh’s website wrote:
“When I was a little girl, my mother brought us to Sunday mass at St Hugh’s. I was always in awe of the marble, the glass roof and the nuns, who taught us Sunday school. We stopped coming to mass at St Hugh’s when I was about 11 or 12 – the feeling was that we (the few Tollerton Catholics) should go to Keyworth at Mary Ward“.
Another attendee at St Hugh’s Mass was Irene Power who, during the 1950s, lived on Medina Drive. In her publication entitled ‘Love Never Gives Up’ (2008) she recalls going to mass at the junior seminary where she established good relationships with the priests and nuns and also attended musical shows that they staged there.
St Peter’s Church
Structure and Features
It is suggested that there has been a Church in Tollerton since before the Norman Conquest but it is possible that this earliest church was not on the present site. St Peter’s nestles in tall beech trees close to Tollerton Hall and its current foundations date back to the 12th century. Little appears to be known about the medieval Church apart from the fact it had a gabled tower.
It was customary for the rector to repair the chancel and for the village, usually the squire, to maintain the nave. The church was substantially renovated in 1812 by the owner of Tollerton Hall, Pendock Barry. He pulled down the roof and much of the walling of the medieval Church and also cleared the interior. He built an ambulatory from the Hall to the Church, constructed a Mausoleum for the burial of his family and built an extension to the west end which provided a porch, two tiny vestries and a gallery pew. The Barry family would sit in this pew when attending services, warmed by an open, grey marble fireplace.
It is suggested that the rest of the Church was designed like a university college chapel; steps were put on either side and the pews placed sideways facing each other across the central aisle. At the time one parishioner described them as ‘garden seats’. It is said that the pews, pulpit and reading desk were then painted a yellow drab picked out with black and it is recorded that a visitor soon afterwards described the whole as being of ‘a most dreary appearance’.
Other Key Features of St Peter’s Church
An old Saxon font was removed by Pendock Barry and was discovered in 1918 being used as the trough to the parish pump; it was then reinstated. A rare medieval pedestal piscina dating back to the 12th century was also thrown out as part of the 1812 restoration and was later discovered amongst a heap of rubbish. It was then used as an ornament in the Hall grounds before being brought back to the Church, where it now stands in the chancel.
Above – The old font and right – the old piscina Courtesy of Jayne Thompson
There is a stained glass window of Peter walking on the water which was added to commemorate Rev. Abraham Welby’s son, George R E Welby, who accidentally drowned in Okanagan Lake, British Columbia in April 1894 at the age of 21 years. George, born in Tollerton, was the second son of Abraham and Bertha Welby and had gone to Canada as a pioneer settler. According to information held by the Diocese of Southwell, this memorial window was unveiled in 1896. Rev Abraham Welby was the rector at Tollerton for over 30 years and preceded Sidney Pell Potter who published ‘A History of Tollerton’ in 1929.
To the left of the west door is a medieval font and along the walls in the nave there are five excellent hatchments with three further ones in the organ loft. Hatchments are funeral memorials bearing the coat of arms of someone who has died. Seven of these hatchments at St Peter’s Church relate to the Pendock Barry-Neale family, who were either Lords of the Manor or rectors in the case of younger sons from the Middle Ages to 1847. The eighth hatchment relates to Mrs Susannah Davies, who was Lady of the Manor between 1847-1872. In 2012 one of the churchwardens, Liz Day, produced a pamphlet detailing the history of the hatchments at St Peter’s and this is available on-line at: http://www.stpeters-tollerton.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/hatchments-June-2012.pdf
The oldest hatchment in the Church relates to Pendock Neale who was Lord of the Manor in the 1700s. See image on the next page. It shows the arms of Pendock and Barry joined with those of Harriot Elliot, his wife.
One of the old hatchments
The mausoleum lies at the east end of the south aisle and is separated from the rest of the building by a fine wrought-iron screen. It is thought that Pendock Barry Barry built the mausoleum after the death of his mother, Susanna, in 1811. Inside there is a strange assortment of disparate architectural elements ; commemorative obelisks, saints in niches, an aedicule (a small shrine) with perpendicular panelling. One of the most striking features of the interior is the glazed ceiling; this is supported by a series of arches and floods the whole area with light. When Mrs Susannah Davies died in 1872 she left a fund for the maintenance of the mausoleum
Further restoration work also took place in 1909 and 2006 to make the church look much as it is does today. In September, 1950 an article in the Nottingham Evening Post said:
“Falling masonry and the recent appearance of large fissures in the wall of the tower have emphasised the urgency of the work of restoration of the parish church at St Peter’s, Tollerton“. An appeal was launched that year towards the repairs. Then in 1977 the pinnacles were removed from the church as they had become unsafe. No one quite knows what happened to these but no doubt there is someone within the community who can shed some light on this matter.
St Peter’s Church with its pinnacles
Henry Thorold in his publication ‘Nottinghamshire’ (1984) referred to this Church as follows: “It is the oddest building: the tower is stone, the body of the building stucco, the clerestory brick“. He also refers to the three bells in the tower.
A far more favourable view is given in White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire (1853) where it is described as “a handsome structure dedicated to St Peter …….. tastefully fitted up at the expense of the patron.”
The Organ and Music
The pipe organ dates back to 1909 and was the gift of William Elliott Burnside who was then at Tollerton Hall. It is said that it cost £595 at the time and is a ‘Forster & Andrews’ organ. Originally the detached, pneumatic console was situated at the front right hand side of the nave so the player would be facing the chancel. In 1959 Bernard Hopewell, who then lived at 147 Tollerton Lane, paid for a new electric console and this was installed in the squire’s gallery at the west end of the Church. Mr Hopewell was the organist at the Church at this time and he also paid for a major overhaul of the organ.
Hugh Wayman of Tollerton Lane was also an organist at St Peter’s Church and at one stage was an organist at Ruddington Parish Church too. He was a very keen musician and in a short article in the Nottingham Evening Post (August 1950) it said he often spent his bank holidays practising on the organ at Mount St Bernard Abbey in Charnwood Forest. On one occasion he gave an impromptu organ recital to visitors at the abbey.
Hugh also ran a boys’ choir at his mother’s school (Tollerton Preparatory School on Tollerton Lane) called ‘St Michael and All Angels’ which Peter Brooker of Russells Farm joined. He recalls that the choir had a very smart maroon uniform and would sing at local churches.
Mike Connelly, a former resident of Tollerton, recalls sometimes pumping the wooden handle of the organ for Hugh Wayman in the early 1940s. He was also in the choir and rang the calling bell prior to the service starting and “getting sawdust in my eyes from where the bell rope emerged through a hole in the planking above my head!”
In 1950 an article in the Nottingham Evening Post reported that five choirboys were suspended from the Ruddington Parish Church choir for going on an afternoon trip to Lincoln Cathedral with the former organist Hugh Wayman, against the wishes of the vicar at Ruddington. These boys then joined the choir at Tollerton.
Prior to the organ being installed at St Peter’s, the Church had a harmonium and this replaced the six piece orchestra that played in the Church in the 1800s. It said in Potter’s book (1929) that the orchestra was “not long-lived” and that it included John Duke who played the double bass, Mr Burton who played the flageolette, Mr Forse on the violin and Rector Ward’s footman the cornopian. At this time George Duke used to lead the singing. There are records that suggest there was fierce opposition to the introduction of the harmonium in 1869.
Much later in the 1980s the vicar, Michael Lumgair, introduced additional instruments like guitars, bassoon, recorders and piano which also met with considerable disapproval at the time.
Attendance and Expectations
The strained relationships between the village squires and the rectors through to early 1800s did little to attract people to the Church. Pendock Neale (later Pendock Barry) did not like the rector’s preaching, which was held in high esteem elsewhere, so forced his parishioners to worship at Plumtree and few would have dared to do otherwise!
Relationships with the Rector and the Church appear to have improved in 1847 when Mrs Davies was Lady of the Manor and Rev. Ward was the Rector. The entry in the 1851 Religious Census (see below) suggests that the Church was well attended.
|Morning – 80
|Afternoon – 100
|Morning – 15
|Afternoon – 15
Alongside this information were the following remarks from the Rector, Richard Charles Ward:
“As there is no Dissenting Chapel in the Parish the whole of the Parishioners are in the habit of attending their Parish Church except when detained at home by sickness, old age etc.”
Given that the entire population of Tollerton in 1851 was 157, one can only assume that some parishioners attended both the morning and afternoon services.
The Church upheld strong discipline and high expectations. Archdeaconries had their own courts in which offenders would appear and be dealt with. People were brought before the courts for a wide variety of offences including religious dissent, non-payment of church dues, disorderly behaviour in church precincts and superstitious practices. According to the Bingham Deanery Visitation Records from around 1626, Isabel Leeson from Tollerton was presented for misbehaviour in church at divine service, after hurling stones from one desk to another. Leeson is an old family name in Tollerton. Around the same time some other Tollerton residents were referred for not paying their church dues including George Ward who at some stage was a church warden.
As well as referring misconduct the parish clerk maintained the discipline during services. Potter (1929) illustrates this as follows:
“John Duke tells us that in his young days ‘Bob’ Chambers (the parish clerk at the time) was armed with a long rod with which, as occasion required, he prodded the youths who were guilty of unseemly behaviour during the service.”
Smart dress was also a requirement when attending church and the Lord of the Manor would ensure that those working on the estate were suitably attired. David Broughton, a current resident of Tollerton Lane whose mother and uncle worked at the Hall, recalls that in the 1920s, Mrs Burnside bought all within her service an outfit for Sunday best which was worn to church. Reference is also made to this provision in Potter’s publication (1929).
Some of the old gravestones in the churchyard
In the Churchyard there are some very fine and old slate gravestones now leaning against the south wall dating back to 1800. The oldest known grave is that of James Hickling who died in 1800 at the age of 35 years. He is just one of twenty two Hicklings buried at St Peter’s between 1800 and 1919. Parish records list other prominent family names such as the Thurmans with nineteen burials between 1813 and 1904 and Chambers with eleven burials between 1841 and 1980.
To the east of the Church is the high wall that Pendock Barry built in 1812 to shut out the view of the Church from the Hall following disputes with the rector. This wall is often referred to as the ‘dubious’ wall since it was thought to have been built on consecrated ground.
Many of the earliest rectors were related to the squire of Tollerton – two Barrys, one Pendock and four Neales. This was not always a positive thing as relationships were often quite strained between those at the Hall and the Church. Others were related to the squire through marriage such as John Major in the 1720s and Job Falkner who was rector in the late 1730s through to his death in 1753.
Eyebrows may have been raised when the daughter of an earlier rector, Cuthbert Stote instituted 1662, eloped from her boarding school with a tradesman (thought to be a miller or baker) and married at the age of 15 years. Ann Stote, Cuthbert’s daughter, had been born in Tollerton in 1664. Interestingly, in August 1780 a brief article appeared in the Derby Mercury stating that a £100 reward was offered to anyone who could find a register or proof of the marriage of Ann Stote and William Manby whom she eloped with.
Some stayed a short time like Abel Collin Launder who was only in the parish for two years before moving to Clifton. Others stayed for an extended period of time, such as Richard Charles Ward who took up the post in 1840 and remained rector until his death in 1867.
Rev. Ward appears to have been a popular rector. In July 1864 there was much celebration when his only daughter, Arabella Sarah, was married at St Peter’s Church. An article in the Nottinghamshire Guardian (29 July 1864) described the wedding scene in detail including the following:
“At Gamston a triumphal arch spanned the roadway and at Tollerton there were several others tastefully decorated with flowers. The pathway from the door of the rectory to the altar was carpeted with crimson cloth.”
The wedding was also marked by a general holiday in Tollerton and the surrounding villages. Rev. Ward was succeeded by Abraham Adlard Welby who was in post for around 37 years until his retirement in 1904. He was a godson of Pendock Barry Barry and appears to have been very popular and held in high esteem within the parish. Upon his retirement, the parishioners and other friends presented him with a silver salver as a token of their regard and gifts were also given to his wife and daughter. In recent years there have been some discussions about a possible family link between Abraham Welby and the current Archbishop of Canterbury – Justin Welby – but no link as yet has been confirmed.
However, not all rectors were so virtuous. Rev. John Godsell Prentice who came to Tollerton about 1910, was sentenced to six weeks hard labour for fraud in 1918, having stolen food and cigarettes from the church army canteen at a local munition works. Further newspaper articles reveal that he was an inmate at Bagthorpe Prison in 1918. His wife, Hilda, was also charged with stealing food tickets from the same place and he was found guilty of aiding and abetting her actions.
The next rector was Sidney Pell Potter who took up his role at Tollerton in May 1918. Potter wrote ‘A History of Tollerton’ (1929) which plots much of the ancient history of the village. Thereafter there have been numerous rectors and presently there is a vacancy for this position.
Tollerton Methodist Church
The Methodist Church in Tollerton was founded in 1961 when Mrs Godfrey and Mrs Walker started a Sunday School at Mrs Walker’s home on Stanstead Avenue. Numbers attending grew so the Sunday School transferred to a classroom at Tollerton Primary School. Sunday evening services were held in members’ homes and eventually a plot of land was purchased at the corner of Stanstead Avenue and Burnside Grove. The laying of the foundation stone took place on 27 June, 1964 and Mrs Godfrey, who by then had left Tollerton, performed this ceremony.
Tollerton had to wait until 1964 to get its own Methodist Church but there were numerous other chapels in the area. Normanton-on-the Wolds possessed a Wesleyan Methodist chapel which opened around 1797 and closed in 1964, and is now converted to residential use. At one stage in the 20th century, Clipston-on-the Wolds had a ‘tin tabernacle’, now disappeared, which stood near Glebe Farm in Clipston. The accounts held in Nottinghamshire Archives end in 1942, which may be when this chapel was removed. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Cotgrave was established around 1802 and from about 1817 there was a Wesleyan congregation that met at Bassingfield. In the 1851 Religious Census, the latter is listed as ‘Bassingfield Cottage’ and states that they held evening services only.
The building of Tollerton Methodist Church was completed and the official opening service took place on Saturday, 14 November 1964 conducted by Rev. James Jackson, the Superintendent Minister, from West Bridgford with the assistance of the Rev. Malcolm Sweeting, Minister of the Church. In 1987 the main hall was extended and an extra room built on. Numerous events took place in aid of the building fund including craft fairs, jumble sales, a dinner party with entertainment, sponsored walks and many other community focused events. On 14 November 1987, the Methodist Church held a re-opening service and on Sunday 15 November, a re-dedication service in conjunction with the 23rd anniversary of the Church to mark the official opening of the new look Church.
Over the years the Methodist Church Hall has been the venue for many different types of village functions and activities. In the 1980s, Tollerton WI, Tollerton Ladies Club, the Camera Club all met here as well as the monthly Parish Council Meetings. There were also barn dances, dancing classes, beetle drives and much, much more as well as being used as a polling station.
In the early 1990s this church gained permission to solemnise marriages; the following confirms this:
A Building certified for worship named TOLLERTON METHODIST CHURCH, Stanstead Avenue, Tollerton, in the registration district of Rushdiffe in the Non- Metropolitan County of Nottinghamshire, was on 9th February 1993, registered for solemnising marriages therein pursuant to section 41 of the Marriage Act 1949, as amended by section 1(1) of the Marriage Acts Amendment Act 1958. A Leah, Superintendent Registrar 2nd March 1993.
The Christian Unity Group met twice yearly to consider matters of mutual interest between the two churches in Tollerton but was disbanded in 1986. A monthly United Service, bringing together parishioners from the two Tollerton churches, was also introduced.