We regard the best account of our building’s history to have been written (and kept up to date by Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project. Click here to read the piece below and much more besides on their website.
The earliest parts of the church fabric date to the 12th century. The chancel was originally Norman and parts of it remain today.
A church at Harworth is mentioned in Domesday Book. Harworth is listed under land belonging to Lord Roger de Builli and Fulk held Harworth from Roger. Eight villagers are listed and one smallholder. The pre-1066 value of the land is listed as 40s. and the present value as 30s.
The church in Harworth was part of the chapelry of Blyth Priory, a Benedictine Priory founded in 1088 by Lord Roger de Builli. As part of the chapelry of Blyth, the patronage of Harworth church was given to Rouen Cathedral. In 1174 Henry II had granted to his clerk, Walter of Courtances, the gift of the chapelry of Blyth. In 1191 the future King John, Count of Mortain, confirmed this gift to Rouen Cathedral and Walter of Courtances, then Archbishop of Rouen. The patronage of Harworth Church was later given to the collegiate royal chapel of Tykehill.
In 1286 the Rector of Harworth, John Clarel, was called to Rome to answer to charges and incomes due to the dean and chapter of Rouen. He was also rector of ‘Brigeforde, Ludham, Marcham’ and other chapels.
All Saints is listed in the 1291 taxatio returns. These were assessments for tax ordered by Pope Nicholas IV. The annual value of the benefice is given as £13 6s. 8d.
In December 1312 King Edward II granted Bartholomew de Cotingham, who was a king's clerk, the vicarage of Harworth. However, in June the following the year the king revoked his presentation as he had mistakenly believed the church was void and belonged to the jurisdiction of the archbishop, whereas in reality Harworth was annexed to the free chapel of Tickhill and was exempt from such jurisdiction. This issue sparked a petition by the archbishop of York to the king in 1315, requesting that he was granted jurisdiction in the case of these annexations; the king ordered a Commission to investigate. By 1342 the holder of the chapelry of Blyth (i.e. the free chapelry of Tickhill) was excluded from holding the vicarages of Harworth, Wheatley, East and West Markham, Walesby, and Lowdham.
In 1341 the church was assessed in the Nonae Rolls, a taxation of ninths. The entry reads: 'They say that the church of Harworth with vicar of the same was taxed at 26½ marks [£17 12s. 4d.] and they say that the ninth of sheaves, lambs and their fleeces are worth 18 marks [£12] a year at true value and no more, hay and glebe 2 marks [£1 6s. 8d.], and altar oblations and other tithes are valued at 6½ marks [£4 6s. 8d.] per year. This is of interest as it considerably exceeds the reported values in 1291 and 1428.
The 1428 Subsidy tax records of Henry VI show that the value of the church was the same as it was in 1291. The subsidy for Harworth was 26s 8d, which is 10% of the overall value, 20 marks or £13 6s 8d.
In the will of Ralph Wentworth who died in 1486 he left his body to be buried in Harworth churchyard, his best animal as mortuary, 3s. 4d. to the vicar for 'tithes forgotten', and 20s. to the fabric of the belfry.
Under Henry VII the Chapel of Tykehill was dissolved and the patronage of Harworth church passed to the convent of Westminster.
In 1538 the parish register for Harworth began.
With the Reformation, under Edward VI, the convent of Westminster was dissolved. So the patronage of the Harworth church was granted to the Earl of Shrewsbury. This patronage later passed to the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk. The Duke of Norfolk was still listed as Patron in Thoroton’s Antiquities of Nottinghamshire (1677).
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of Henry VIII lists lands, tenements, and free rent in Harworth, belonging to the inferior cell of St Thomas, with a clear annual value of 7s 3d.
A churchwardens’ presentment of 1601 admonished ‘Mr John Rodes for not repairing the chancel’ and a presentment of 1603 gives details of the minister, value of the parsonage and congregation numbers at the time. The minister was ‘a preacher and a Maister of Arte’. The benefice was ‘valued in the King's Books at £5; 3’ [£5 3s]. Also there were 145 communicants and only one woman recusant. By 1609, the problems with the chancel had resurfaced and the churchwardens presented that ‘the chancel is out of repair in the default of the Earle of Shersbery’, and in the following year ‘the Ri. Honorable Gilbert 'thearle of Shrowsburie' for not maintaining and repairing the chancel.’
In 1639 instructions were sent to the churchwarden’s of All Saints by the Archdeacon’s court concerning the condition of the church building. This was an attempt by the Church of England to ensure that church buildings were in good order and repair. The only instruction to the wardens in Harworth was that the seats needed boarding.
In 1672 the Norman chancel was apparently ‘rebuilt’ (though much 12th century work still remains today).
Thomas Herring, Archbishop of York, toured the diocese in 1743. The visitation report records details of All Saints’. There were 60 families in the parish. Two of the families are listed as dissenters, one was Quaker, the other Roman Catholic. There was a charity school, which taught 40 children and a local hospital. The vicar was Matthew Tomlinson and he had a resident curate.
In 1764, the report from the visitation of Archbishop Drummond also records 60 families. Three or four families are described as Anabaptist and one as Quaker. There was still a school catering to 40 girls and boys and the vicar was the Rev Joshua Waddington.
In the 1790s John Throsby records the patron of Harworth church as Samuel Hartly in his revision of Robert Thoroton's Antiquities of Nottinghamshire. He also records the incumbent as the Rev William Downes. However, in the 1832 White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire the patron is again listed as the Duke of Norfolk.
During repair work in 1828 an arched recess was discovered in the church and a preaching cross was found in the churchyard. This cross was placed above the east window.
The 1851 religious census recorded the church’s tithes being worth £400, the glebe £200, and fees £3. The average congregation numbers for morning services were 100 and for afternoon services 80. The average Sunday School figure for mornings and afternoons was 56 children.
In 1869 the church was largely rebuilt by the Mansfield architect, C J Neale, except for the medieval tower. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, reporting on the reopening of the church on 19 January 1870, provides some details:
'The work just completed includes the re-erection of the whole of the body of the church and the chancel, with the addition of two new transepts, each 17ft. by 15ft., a vestry, and an organ chamber. The chancel arch and the arch at the entrance from the porch, from their being rare specimens of the Norman style of architecture, have been retained. The church has been built with wallstone obtained from the neighbourhood, and is dressed with ashlar stone, supplied from Ancaster. The tower is the same as before.'
An old gallery was also taken down and the total cost of the work was £1,425 most of which was met by public subscription.
White’s Directory of 1885 also mentions an ancient stone coffin in the churchyard, in the south wall of the nave.
In 1888 a new pulpit and reading desk were gifted to the church by B I Whitaker Esq. of Hesley, in memory of his father, who had given £500 for the restoration of the church.
In c1912 Sir Edward Hoskyns Bishop of Southwell toured the diocese. The visitation records list the value of the benefice as £390. The population of Harworth in 1911 was 939. The church was able to accommodate 400. The number of children on the church day school roll numbered 104 and on the Sunday school roll numbered 50.
Work on sinking a shaft for coal in Harworth began in 1913 and this led to concerns that 'the burial ground of Lord Galway's ancestors [would be] undermined by the coal workers' so on 17 July 1914 the remains of Lord and Lady Galway were removed from the family vault in the church and transferred to a newly built family burial ground near Serlby Hall.
From 1992 to 2004 a small group of parishioners removed the plasterwork from the interior walls (except for the Vestry) and repointed the stonework. During this period the condition of the organ had worsened so the team helped to replace it with a two-manual organ from Gainsborough Methodist Chapel. After installation in the church the team completely overhauled and restored the instrument.
By 2012 there were problems with the tower roof. The roof itself was rebuilt and the parapet walls on the north and south sides were taken down and reconstructed. A new concealed stainless steel ring beam was installed within the tower roof to prevent horizontal stresses in the stonework.
The gates at the rear were donated by Edith and Ernest Frost (thus EE), they were devoted churchgoers. Edith was renowned for making many, many Christmas cakes for parishioners.
Seen from the East as you come down the hill from Bircotes the church looks bigger than it is. The 14th century tower with its battlements and 8 tall pinnacles is typical of this northern part of Nottinghamshire. All the other walls are embattled in keeping with the tower.
The South door and porch is transitional in style i.e. between the Norman and Gothic styles, but it was much restored in 1869. The stone seats either side of the porch are where the first village school was held. On the right of the door are two crosses, marked in the stone.
The rectangular holes in the west wall were revealed when the plaster was removed during the present restoration. The holes along the top are where the beams of a flat ceiling were supported. At present the reason for the other holes is unknown.
The pulpit dates from 1869, as does the small wooden font. The carved conical top on the font is thought to survive from an 18 th century baluster font.
The chancel arch at the East end of the nave is Norman in form. It is adorned with an alternate block and roll moulding which is very unusual. It is a 3-fold structure comprising the main arch, which is solid and plain, and two decorated arches supported on slender pillars. Whether this is the original Norman arch preserved through the various restorations, or whether it dates from 1672 is unclear. But certainly, it contains much of the original Norman stonework. The slit in the north pillar of the arch is a hagioscope or
squint. Hagioscopes gave a view of the altar to people sitting behind a pillar, or for unclean people such as lepers who were hidden from the congregation. This squint is orientated to give the priest at the vestry door a perfect view of the main door, possibly to watch for the entrance of the squire and so begin the service. Whether this was its original purpose or it was turned around at some stage is not known.
In the chancel in the south wall are two sedilia, which are seats for officiating ministers at mass.
These date from Norman times as does the base of the piscina (now hidden behind the aumbry curtain, the aumbry being where reserved portions of the holy bread, wine and oil are kept).
The east ‘window is painted glass with the date of its installing on the window. The three panels show Christ as the Good Shepherd, the Ascension into Heaven, and Christ as the light of the world, knocking on a door with no handle on His side. The design on the aumbry curtain is a modern interpretation of the lantern that Jesus is holding. The various banners hanging in the church were made between 1990 and 1997 by church members. The ones in the Lady Chapel depict 7 events in the life of Mary, mother of our Lord.
All Saints Church can best be described as a living church and shows how succeeding generations have modified and renovated their church to ensure it best meets their needs in worshipping God.
All Saints' Church has had many improvements in the last 20 years. A new Tarmac path was laid from Church Lane to the main door. This was for better invalid access. A handrail has been fitted on the steps from the car park leading to the main door. In 2002, a sound system hearing loop was installed. In 2005 short handrails were installed on the steps leading to and from the main Altar.
Extract from Quinquennial (i.e. five yearly) Report 2005:
Parapet Walls to Tower 2005
It was noted that at the last report that on the north and south sides of the parapet walls there was evidence of recent cracking and repairs to historic cracking. Since then the parapet walls have been taken down and reconstructed with Helifix (Helical spiral bars) bars used to reinforce the stonework. At the same time a new concealed stainless steel ring beam has been installed within the tower roof and this should prevent horizontal stresses in the stonework. All of this work was proposed by the structural engineer appointed to the project and followed on from a detailed timber investigation of the original oak wall plates. At the time of this inspection all of the pinnacles and merlon stones were checked for stability and appeared to be sound.
During 2006 and 2007 the base of the tower was used to build a Tea Point and a toilet. This involved constructing a mezzanine floor for the Bellringers' use.
Following a Quinquennial inspection, in October 2010 the architect discovered the work
carried out on the Bell Tower from the previous inspection, was not up to standard. So once again repairs have been done. This was in the region of £26,000-00.This involved complete renewal of the lead, the supporting timbers, and any damaged stonework. The quality of the work this time 2014 has been excellent, and should last for many years. Other work had to be done to enable the re-leading and other work to be carried out. This brought the final total cost to something like £39,000-00.Little financial help has come from outside. The congregation has organized many fundraising events.
Prior to the demolition of Harworth Colliery Tower and following faculty approval, a free-standing nesting box was installed by Wildlife Trust and representatives of Harworth Estates on 21 st January, 2016. A cleaning and maintenance programme by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust includes checking the nesting box for breeding birds; they also agreed to check all gullies are clear of debris. There has been no evidence or sighting of peregrine falcons. Faculty was agreed for Notts Wildlife Trust to install a camera and monitor this was done in March 2018.
Stained Glass window
To commemorate the demise of the mining industry in Harworth and Bircotes All Saints' - at the suggestion of then Vicar, The Rev'd Leah Vasey-Saunders - decided to replace the plain glass East window in the Lady Chapel with a stained glass window. In June 2016 a list of artists was received from our Architect, Allan Joyce. The PCC agreed that Graeme Willson Architect from Ilkley be approached and he was asked to sketch an image to depict the mining heritage of our village.* Graeme was one of Britain’s leading ecclesiastical artists with a distinguished track record extending over thirty-five years. His previous commissions included projects for York Minster and a number of other historically sensitive sites. We were delighted to engage with Graeme to carry out this work following his presentation to the PCC on 6 th September - the PCC were impressed by his portfolio and agreed together with the Architects approval, to pay for the services of Graeme and his colleague Martin Johnson to undertake this work. A faculty was applied for in December 2016. Gerald Holian spearheaded the fund raising and incredibly raised £17,205 in fourteen weeks, all the money was raised from our generous parish.
Our beautiful miners’ stained glass window was installed on the 25 th January, 2018. On the 28 th January at 1pm the dedication service took place, led by Bishop Paul. It was a triumphant and emotional day, our church was packed to the rafters. What a wonderful legacy and fitting tribute to the miners of our community. We are so proud of what we achieved. The final cost of the window was in the region of £19251.
The window generated a lot of interest and continues to do so. The daughter of Mr. Wright (the first colliery manager of Harworth) got in touch after seeing the clip on Look North. It was a very interesting visit and she brought with her the history of her father, who is buried in our church grounds. A TV crew from Channel 5 visited church to film the window as they were creating a documentary on demolitions that went wrong (the pit tower did not go down at the
first attempt) this was aired sometime in Easter 2019.
Sadly Graeme Willson, Miners Window artist passed away Saturday 27th October,
2018. He was diagnosed in December 2017 with cancer of the oesophagus but continued to work on the window, this was to be his last project. Gerald and Ann attended his funeral on 12th November 2018. Graeme was a humble man with a great fondness for Harworth. *The original preparatory drawing of the Miners’ Window was presented to Gerald Holian by Graeme Willson. Gerald gifted the drawing to Harworth & Bircotes Sports Pavillion where it hangs proud of place.
Revd Nicky Skipworth (Vicar from September 2018 - current) applied for a grant on 3 rd March 2021 for internet connection to bring our Church into the 21 st century, this was approved and £1,250 allowed us to make the necessary connections. It allows us to live-stream services, facilitate contactless credit/debit card donations and a host of other benefits.
Church Hall Kitchen refurbishment
As part of their charity wing Howden’s Joinery donated a brand new kitchen, including new cooker, gas hob and extractor hood. A new fridge completed the kitchen with money raised from Revd Nicky’s slimathon.
In June 2021, a ‘music stand’ was purchased for the Church from the legacy left by our beloved sister Beryl Simper. This is now used every Sunday in church, it is transportable and looks lovely it is also ideal height for children to read the Gospel from.
Relocation of high altar – thus making user friendly for all
Vestry – removal of plaster and redecoration
New carpets throughout the church
Improvements to sound system
Under floor heating!
Replacement external ‘prisoner ‘type metal gates with wooden / oak to be more sympathetic to the environment.