Langford Church History

The History of St Bartholomew's Church, Langford, Nottinghamshire.

Introduction.

 St Bartholomews ChurchLangford is named after a river-crossing, rather obviously.  However, the River Trent is now about 2 miles from the village of Langford, which suggests that either the river or the village has moved since the place was named. In fact both have moved, the river most of all, because the Trent used to flow next to St. Bartholomew's Church, so that Holme, the next village to the South, was on the opposite bank.  However, one stormy night about 1575 there was a cataclysmic flood, the Trent changed its course, and Holme and Langford found themselves on the same side of the river, as they have been ever since.

That event took place halfway through the recorded history of the village, as we know from the Domesday Book (1086) that there was a priest, and therefore a Church in Langford in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and that the area of the parish then was the same as today, 1,430 acres. There were more people living in Langford in 1086 than there are today (1990), 161 as against 55. In fact there were about the same number living in Langford in 1086 as in 1886.  However, the least number of people ever to live in Langford is probably none, because the village was "dispeopled" in 1593 in order to make way for sheep. As a result, the present site of the village is about half a mile from the previous site. Thus neither village nor river is in the same place as our Saxon and Norman forefathers knew them.

The Church of St Bartholomew.

There are no remains of the Saxon Church, and the present Church was built between 1190 and 1254 in the Early English style. The church was once larger than today, as there was a North aisle which collapsed sometime in the 15th or 16th Century, and bones found in the Old Vicarage garden show that the Churchyard used to be more extensive than it is today. Traces of a fresco painting of the coat of arms of the Pierrepont family were found on the wall of the nave in the 19th Century, and there is a stone effigy of a knight in a coat of mail in the sanctuary. The effigy is of a member of the Pierrepont family in the 15th Century, when that great family owned the manor.

 St Bartholomews Church by Pat FinnToday the Church consists of a Chancel, Nave, South Aisle, South Porch and West Tower, all built in blue bias limestone of the 13th Century.  The tower is probably the most recent part of the building, though that too is of the 13th Century. The windows are of a typical Nottinghamshire type, with quatrefoil tracery, of about 1400; the capitals of the piers to the arcade of the South Aisle and the jambs of the Chancel arch are decorated in the embattled style, and there is a beautifully-carved built-up archway on the North wall of the Chancel, which must have served as the entrance to a demolished side chapel. Similarly, the arcades of the lost North Aisle are still visible in the North wall of the Nave. On the south wall of the chancel is a piscina, a sink where the communion plate was washed.
There are a number of 19th Century family monuments on the walls of the Church, mostly to the Duncombes of Langford Hall, one of whom, Captain G.T. Peirse-Duncombe presented the Sicilian marble font to the Church in 1887.
Despite the importance of the Church, which is a Grade One listed building, there was a serious proposal in 1954 to move it stone by stone to the Ladybrook Council Housing Estate, Mansfield, for use as a parish Church there. The estimated cost of 17,000 pounds was evidently less than the cost of building a new Church. Fortunately nothing came of this.

However, the Church has had its vicissitudes. Leaving aside its undocumented partial collapse or demolition during the 17th century, there is a record of a visitation on behalf of the Bishop of Lincoln in 1519, which states that the Chancel was not furnished at all, had no lead on the roof, and no glass in any of the windows! Then later, in 1684, there was a petition from the Minister, Churchwardens and inhabitants of Langford to King Charles II asking for 100 oaks ( to be shared with Hockerton Church ) in order to repair the Church roof. Evidently the Church had been almost destroyed in the Civil War, if not before, and the parishioners were rebuilding the walls with their own hands; but they were too poor to buy any timber. The matter was referred to Thomas Corbym, the royal Surveyor-General of Woods, who reported that "Langford Church is exceedingly ruinous, the cover thereof, formerly leaded, being all gone, and the timber of the roof, as well as all the seats, almost rotten, and the stonework much decayed." A warrant was issued, the oaks were felled, and the present Nave roof is the one which was erected in 1685-6.

There have been other restorations and repairs, including one in 1841, when the Nave and Chancel were re-pewed. That work was paid for by subscripti9n, at a total cost of 150 pounds. Then, in 1878, the patron of the living, Trinity College Cambridge, re-roofed the Chancel.  However, we still read, in 1911, that the tower exterior was in poor condition. That is even more true today, in 1990.

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