We have very good reason to believe that there was a church here prior to 1176, but there are no written records available to confirm this. The first mention, which we have, is as noted in "The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire" by Robert Thoroton, (I): "Here was a family took their name from there refidence at this place. (2) William de Beleu, fon of Robert de Beleu, who married Alice the daughter of William de Amal, gave her in Dower at the Church door before marriage, all his lands in Lamcote; remainder to the heirs of their bodies; to this were witneffes Mr. H. de Amall, Waiter de Sneynton, Henry de Bully, Chaplains, Adam de Burgunvill, Raph, fon of William de Amall, William Marefcal etc.",
At this time we know from the Torre Manuscript that the Priory of Launde, near the border of Leicestershire and the old county of Rutland, was a Priory of Black Canons of the order of St. Augustine. They held the patronage of the church; it having been given to them by Henry II (1154-1189).
One thing is certain that the records of the church were commenced in 1544 and these are amongst the earliest in the country. Entries for baptisms and burials were made in 1544 and for marriages in 1546.
The church is dedicated to St. Mary, and the patronal festival to commemorate the Nativity of the Virgin is held in Amold on the Sunday following the 19th September and not the 8th September as noted in the "Church Calendar". If we go back to 1752 we would see that, because of past incorrect calculations with solar time which affected the reckoning connected with the calendar, eleven days had been lost. The 3rd of September 1752 was decreed by Parliament to become the I4th September, thereby correcting the calendar. The people of Arnold, however, still kept the same day : Nothing had happened! So, instead of celebrating the patronal festival on the Sunday following the 8th September, the church continued to use the old-established day, which made it the I9th September.
1.Tower Belfry & Choir Vestry 2. Site of Minstrel's Gallery 3. North Aisle 4. Nave 5. South Aisle 6. Pulpit 7. St.Catherine's Chapel 8. Single Piscina 9. Vyse 10. Rood Screen
We would now like to take you on a tour of the Church pointing out the special features, which all make up the history of our lovely church. So you will have to use your imagination as you enter the church through the porch(20)
Immediately on your left as you enter the church, you can see the font; this is a comparatively new one dedicated by the Bishop of Derby on May l0th, I899. This year of I899 seems to have been one of special significance to the church. The oak eagle lectern was purchased from the proceeds of a sale of work, the articles having been made by "the ladies of the church". The new heating system was also installed with money given by Sir Charles Seeley.
Behind the font there is a display cabinet containing a unique exhibition connected with the church. Prior to I958 the National Coal Board intimated that they intended to extract all the coal from under the church, not leaving a pillar of coal as support, so there was bound to be some form of subsidence. Following discussions between the church and Coal Board authorities it was agreed that the church be closed from I2th January, I958, and temporary accommodation be found in a building to be provided by the Coal Board.
The church was subsequently underpinned with a ferro-concrete raft, a new roof constructed and the whole building skilfully and carefully restored and decorated. It was reconsecrated on 8th February,1959.
If we continue round in a clock-wise direction we
come to the choir vestry under the belfry and clock tower; these latter
two are also dealt with under 'Church Exterior'
Belfry & Clock Tower
In the stained glass window you can see the Blessed Virgin Mary. The bells, now numbering eight, have been installed at various times -- two as recently as 1970· One bell, re-cast in 1841, was previously undated, but may have been originally hung with another bell which was inscribed "God save the Church, 1631"· This would tie in with the erection of the upper part of the tower in I630· "Thomas Meers of London, fecit, 1799" was on another, whilst on the fourth bell was "Jesu Salvatori dedicatum munus Henrii Coape Samueli Matthews et Uria Wood generosum civium 1841 (the translation of which is: "The gift of Henry Coape, Samuel Matthews and Uriah Wood, generous citizens, dedicated to Jesus the Saviour, 1841")· In the late 60's the bells were taken down, re-cast and re-consecrated, being rung again for the first time on Sunday, 25th October, 1970, at an afternoon service.
Looking at the belfry through the glass partition, you may be able to see the bellringers practising or ringing prior to a service. Notice the marks on the walls on either side of the archway above the partition into the vestry. These mark the position of the wood or stone door supports of the one time Minstrels' Gallery. Most churches had minstrels at one time or another to lead the congregation in singing and they were usually at the rear of the church in a gallery; they were eventually replaced by organs and pianos. In our case the minstrels were placed above the vestry and the marks just noticed testify to this.
It is known that a new vestry and gallery were added in I839, but the gallery was used for only a short time as the minstrels were replaced in I868 by a harmonium.
One of the last of the musicians was Mr. John Atherley, who was buried in July, I9I2, at the age of 8I years.
Moving on to our right we face the north wall, which is the oldest part of the church. When the church was rebuilt in the 14th century this was the only part of the church which was retained. On this wall we can see a list of the rectors, vicars and patrons of the Benefice of Arnold. The list commences with John de Attleberge who held the appointment until 1267, so we can assume that he first came to Arnold in the middle part of the 13th century. Whilst he was the first known incumbent, he was not the first to officiate in a church in Arnold as, you may recall, we have said there was a church here prior to 1176·
One on the list (whom we will discourse about later) is John de la Launde who was here from 1315-1347. In 1347 he was granted the benefice of St. Mary's, Nottingham, but he died before he became its priest; his will was proved on 4th May, 1347· Notice how some of the incumbents only remained in office for a period of days, whilst one stayed for sixty years.
Moving down the north aisle we see the side of the organ in front of us; in previous days this 'open' archway would have been a window, similar to the one in the south aisle, and there might have been an altar as there is in the south aisle.
Pulpit & Rood Screen
We come next, on our right, to the pulpit, which was stated in I9I3 to be 'modern'; by the style and other means it can be dated as the latter part of the I9th century. Immediately on our left we come to the rood screen, which is a replacement of an earlier one placed in position earlier last century.
Notice the two narrow archways, or bays, one of which you have just come through, on either side of the screen. These were formed by being cut out of the solid pillars or responds (a respond is half a pier, rectangular or square in section, bonded into a wall and used to support one end of an arch) which would have supported the original rood loft which stretched from wall to wall in front of the chancel. The rood loft would most likely have had a representation of the crucified Christ in his agony between his Mother and St. John. It is also possible that at one time over the chancel arch there would have been a Doom painting. This would have shown the risen Christ with tiny souls arising from their graves at the Last Trump, going either to Heaven or Hell. Paintings, depicting scenes from the Bible, might also have been seen on the walls of the church, especially one of St. Christopher carrying Jesus Christ as a Child.
Now look at the top right-hand side of the screen and you will see a doorway. This is connected through the right-hand respond, or pillar, by a circular staircase which comes out on the right-hand side of the pillar. This circular staircase, or 'vyse' as it is known, formed the approach to the original rood loft for the acolytes and servers. They would use the stairs when they had to trim the candles which were always kept burning before the statues; to ring the sacring bell to inform the kneeling congregation of one of the most solemn moments during Holy Communion, that is when the Host was elevated, and also to veil the crucified Christ with unbleached linen at Passion-tide (traditionally the last two weeks of Lent, extending from Passion Sunday to Holy Saturday).
Going now into the chancel we see on our left the organ which eventually took the place in I876 of the minstrels. The first musical instrument to be used when the minstrels were retired in I868 was a harmonium which accompanied the choir in the chancel. In I876 a manual organ was installed at a cost of £301, and in I948 an electric blower was added.
Above the organ chamber you can see a fragment of tracery belonging to one of the old windows which was placed in this position during the building in the fourteenth century. Notice how much finer it is than some of the copies on the other windows. It has been noted that "The whole of this three light window-head appears to have been hewn out of one piece of stone: a practice not uncommon where a good block of stone can be obtained".
Moving on from the organ, we see on our left the Tomb of the Founder, John de la Launde, who was the incumbent from I3I5 to 1347· Although it cannot easily be seen, part of the Latin inscription on the incised grave cover reads: "PERPETUIS ANNIS LATITANT HIC OSSA JOHANNIS", ("Here for perpetual years lie hid the bones of John"). The rest of the inscription is indecipherable despite many attempts to decipher the words. Written in Latin hexameters, the canonical language at a time when Norman French was spoken at court, it points to the tomb being that of a priest. Also on the tomb cover the figure of a Canon Regular kneeling before the Patron Saint denotes the one who was sent (that is John de la Launde) from· the House of the Augustinians at Launde, to whom the patronage belonged. When viewed from inside the altar rail the Canon Regular is seen kneeling at the base of the tomb cover. His left hand is round a short shaft and with his right hand he is offering the Title Deeds in a casket to the Patron Saint of the Church. Above the short shaft is the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ. At the wide end of the tomb cover a shrine is depicted. The tomb measures 24 inches wide at the broad end, narrowing down to 20 inches and is 6 feet 5 inches in length. It is carved from yellow Mansfield sandstone.
The tomb is in the north wall of the chancel, a position usually assigned to the tomb of the founder. From these facts we can confirm that John de la Launde, the founder of this part of the church, was buried here. (When the cover was raised for examination prior to I910 it was found that the vault was empty.) Whilst John de la Launde was the founder of the present St. Mary's Church it has been mentioned elsewhere that there had been a church on the same site for many years, as witness the list of incumbents.
Next to this tomb is the Easter Sepulchre, of which there are only two other stone ones in the county. It was used in elaborate pre-Reformation services at Passion-tide. After the celebration of Holy Communion on Good-Friday the host (that is the consecrated bread) was placed in the large central recess of the Sepulchre. An image of the body of Jesus Christ (it might have been a crucifix) was also put in the large central recess, which was supposed to represent the tomb in which our Lord was laid. The host remained there until Easter Day and when the third lesson had been read at the morning service the three priests standing before the Sepulchre would intone the scriptural dialogue between Mary Magdalene and the angel. Then with great rejoicing the items which had been placed in the Easter Sepulchre were brought out again and shown to the congregation. Of the other recesses the four base compartments would each have contained a representation of a Roman soldier asleep. The remaining compartments probably held representations of either the ascension and the attendant angels or the statues of Mary Magdalene and possibly other holy women, the angels and the apostles Peter and John. Oblations known as "Creeping silver" were given by those who came creeping to the Sepulchre at this special season. The money was put into a receptacle which was in the Sepulchre itself or close by. Observe also the carved head of the monk to the left of the Easter Sepulchre. This probably served as a lamp bracket to carry the light which was kept constantly burning during Holy-Week. It is also known that in certain cases the Sepulchre was attended by watchers from the time when the consecrated bread and body of Christ was placed in the recess to the time of their removal.
Similar stone sepulchres can be seen in the county at Hawton and Sibthorpe.
On either side of the altar are two brackets with carved heads underneath supporting the brackets. They are supposed to represent the reigning monarch when the church was being built -- Edward III (1327-1377) and his wife, Queen Philippa. This shows this part of the church was built during that period and so, once again, we have the evidence of the dates given under the notes about the Founder's Tomb being correct. Nothing is left of the statues which stood on these brackets but we can assume that one would be the Virgin Mary and the other would possibly have been St. Catherine (see notes on this later).
Above the altar notice the east window, which was placed in position in I868, where you can see our Lord, the crowned King. During that year work was put in hand to repair certain items which required attention, a sum totalling £4,ooo being spent. It is recorded that it was thought little could be done to restore the church to its original state as the ends of the church had split vertically; the north and south walls were leaning outwards at the top, with a measurement being taken of two feet out of true.
We come next to the double piscina on the south wall of the sanctuary, which was hewn out of a single block of stone. Note the graceful lines of the tracery, which is almost identical with the tracery in the stone screen of the Minster Church at Southwell which was erected in I340, being the same period as the rebuilding of this church. So it is possible the same craftsmen did the work in both churches. There are two basons (this spelling is used by the Church of England) side by side, each with a drain; it is possible there was a shelf over each bason to hold the holy vessels. The double bason helps, once again, to date the church as it was ordered in the late thirteenth century that priests should wash their hands before the most sacred part of Holy Communion (i.e., the Canon of the Mass, or the consecratory prayer). It was necessary therefore to have one bason for the rinsings from the chalice and the other for the priest to wash his hands. From the end of the fourteenth century a reversion to a single bason and drain became general, the custom then being for the priest to drink the ablution from the chalice. The piscina appears to have been re-set at a higher level during restoration work and so it is not in its original position.
There is another piscina -- a single one -- in the church, this being mentioned under St. Catherine's Chapel. Alongside the double piscina we can see the sedilia, this is the term for stone seats set in the south side of the chancel used by the celebrant of Holy Communion and his two assistants, i.e., the celebrant, gospeller and epistoler.
At one time the chancel floor was lower than it is now so that the seats, which you must visualise as they are now blocked in, could be used for their proper purpose, but you can see in this case their use was effectively ended when the chancel floor was raised. The door on the same wall leads into the vestry.
St. Catherine's Chapel
Going out of the chancel and turning left we see the eagle lectern, which was dedicated at the same time as the font - May, 1899. We notice once again the door, locked, of course, in the column leading to the rood screen. Now at the east end of the south aisle we come to St. Catherine's Chapel.
It has been stated that at one time there would have been four altars in this church: the one in the chancel, one at the east end of the north aisle (where we observed the organ pipes), one on the rood loft, and the one we are looking at now. When this chapel was being restored in the years following the First World War the single piscina was uncovered, as it had for many years been covered with stucco. The chapel was restored in many aspects as the altar rail, the altar and panelling wil testify. A more recent addition in I976 was the altar cloth presented to the church by the Mothers' Union. The altar table has a label attached to it indicating that it was given to the church by the Patron, Rector and Wardens of Gonalston.
Over the altar we can see St. Catherine, St. Agnes and the Good Shepherd in the stained glass window. On the wall is the Roll of Honour of the First World War: another one for the employees of the Allen and Solly factory is on the opposite side of the church in the north aisle. There are various plaques dotted round the walls, especially in the chancel, recording lives and details of local people who were connected with the church.
If you go and stand in the nave you will observe the variance in the width of the bays, there being six on each side of the arcade. The bays nearest the east end (the altar end) are narrower than the others and the reason for this was given when we looked at the rood screen. Next we get three bays all the same width then two more slightly narrower. It is thought that the original church was the length of the first four bays, that is the small bay and the next three of the same width. The responds, or columns, which were at the original western end of the church were, it is thought, taken down at the time when the tower was rebuilt about 1450· They were then placed in their present position at the extreme end of the bays at the west end of the church. Of interest are the stone projections -- called corbels -which you can see near the ceiling in the nave and numbering fourteen in total. They were originally used as part of the ceiling and roof supports, based on a system known as the hammer-beam principle. They supported the wall posts and braces which in turn supported the hammer-beams and rafters which go to make the ceiling and the roof.
In I958 when the new ceiling and roof were put in the present system of beams for support was utilised. To get an idea of how the corbels, braces, hammer beams and rafters and the ceiling looked you will see examples either in the chancel or on a smaller scale in either of the two aisles.
On leaving the church we go into the porch, and if you look on the right-hand side you will see a plaque. The inscription records that the porch was built in 1930 with money given by Lady Robinson in memory of her husband Sir John Robinson who had died the previous year. He had been born in 1839 in the old farmhouse which used to stand at the end of Church Street; during his life-time it was a maltings. This means that immediately prior to I930 there would have been no porch and the south door opened directly to the outside, with all the implications of draughts. It would have been unusual if there had not been a porch at an earlier date which, if in a state of disrepair, would be easier to pull down than repair.
Proceeding now to the outside, look directly over the porch and you will see an empty niche, at one time this would have contained a figure of the Virgin Mary. The reason for this is that when the medieval builders were carrying out their works certain customs were observed. One of these directed that the figure of the saint to whom the church was dedicated should be placed in a niche over the south door. Unfortunately this niche is now vacant.
Once again we will move on and come to the tower containing the belfry and the clocks. The original tower would have been nearer to where the porch now stands and would not have been as high. We know that the church was extended in I450, reference the different widths of the bays in the church. We also know that the upper part of the tower was added in I630. We have said 'clocks' a little earlier because they occur on three faces of the tower. The date they were placed there was I866 at a cost of £161 I2s. 2d., and this from out of the district rate! Just below the clock on the south face you can observe a carved stone panel with rather weathered figures; on the left is a winged angel, a vase of lilies in the middle and the Virgin Mary on the right. It has been suggested that this represents the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary which commemorates the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary was to have a son, Jesus. This feast day is observed in churches on 25th March which is Lady Day.
If we proceed past the west, or choir vestry, door and we go to the north side of the tower you should be able to see the rounded end of a support. When the tower was being strengthened for some reason, possibly when the gallery was being rebuilt, this support was inserted. Over the years, as is the case with many local fallacies, it has been ascribed to being a cannon ball fired from Bestwood Lodge by none other than Oliver Cromwell! We know that his troops besieged Nottingham and Newark castles, but certainly not by any stretch of the imagination St. Mary's Church, Arnold.
Whilst we are dealing with snippets of mis-information we might mention another fallacy, and this is concerning the tunnel which is supposed to go from the back of the altar in the church to where the old farm used to stand in Wood Street, just off Front Street. Indeed it has been claimed that not only does this tunnel go to Wood Street but it continues on through Arnold, Daybrook, Sherwood, Carrington and comes to the surface in the cemetery by the Forest on Mansfield Road! Needless to say no tunnels have ever been found in Arnold, but no doubt this 'rumour' was based on the large cellar which was underneath the old vicarage and part of the garden, the trap door then being in the old house.
A new extension can be seen where the North Porch used to be and this was built to provide toilets for the congregation. Some medieval coffins were uncovered in the course of digging the foundations, which delayed the building by some months as it was necessary to redesign the foundations around them!
If we now retrace our steps past the new block, we see where the south aisle and the chancel meet the corbelling (that is "an architectural member that projects from a vertical surface, usually supporting a weight"). This contains the circular staircase (the 'vyse' noted earlier) which goes from inside the church to the rood screen; also observe how the light is let into the staircase by means of the slits; these are now blocked up. Going further round we pass the vestry and come to the east window. We cannot do better than quote from the History of Amold: "In the apex of the chancel gable there is a small circular window divided into two pear-shaped lights by graceful flowing tracery and beneath it there is a niche ornamented with "ball flowers". These, with possibly the cross on the gable, are all that remain of the once glorious work, but fragmentary as they are they give us a glimpse of former splendour and determine the date of erection of this chancel to be approximately 1340" The east window, as mentioned previously, was placed into position in 1868.
DATES CONNECTED WITH THE CHURCH'S HISTORY The following time scale is given to place the history of the church into perspective.
1086 Arnold first mentioned in written records in the Domesday Book as Emehale (i.e., probably Old English 'earn(a) h(e)ale'--'eagle(s') nook or corner'. 1176 Church first recorded with mention of a wedding at the church door. 1154-1189 Henry II gave the church to Launde Priory (a priory of Canons of the order of St. Augustine, near the village of Lodington, Rutland). 1270 (about). Extension built. 1307 First mention of an incumbent. 1315 John de la Launde was appointed vicar. During this period, possibly about 1340, the rebuilding of the church commenced, but the north wall was not part of this work, as it was retained from the earlier building. The wall has been dated about 1270, but it must have been added to a previous church, as there was a church here by at least 1176 1320-1340 (about). Chancel built (see notes on this under the two brackets on either side of the altar). 1347 John de la Launde died. 13th -14th Century Double piscina added and used. 1450 (about). Tower rebuilt. 1544 Parish records commenced. 1630 Upper portion of tower added (see notes under belfry and dates on bells). 1676 Church repaired, new roof put on. 1797 Five bells noted as being in belfry. 1812 Three bells now in belfry, but a "frame for five". 1839 New vestry and gallery added. 1851 Churchyard enlarged. 1868 Church clock added to tower, one on each of three sides. 1868-1869 Walls and piers two feet out of upright; £4,000 spent on repairs. Minstrel gallery removed and minstrels disbanded; harmonium took their place. 1872 Vestry Meeting appointed constables for last time. 1876 Organ first used. 1877 Chancel restored. 1879 Churchyard full, public cemetery opened on Redhill. 1899 New font, lectern, heating system and baptistry. 1926 Tower repaired. 1930 New south porch added. 1958-1959 Church closed due to coal being extracted from under the church. 1959 Re-consecrated. 1970 Bells now six in number, re-cast and re-consecrated. 1976 800th celebrations of first mention of church in written records 2000 Church clock repaired for Millenium