Church Hopping: St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham

Location: Nottingham, England
Website: http://www.stmarysnottingham.org
Architect: Various
Built: Circa 1377–1509 with ongoing restorations and additions

History: A church has most likely stood at this location since Saxon times, and in fact the church is mentioned in the Doomesday Book, a survey of England completed in 1086. However, it wasn’t until toward the end of Edward III’s reign in 1377 that the building of St. Mary’s Church began. The south aisle wall was completed by the early 1380s, during the reign of Richard II. It was during this time period that the Peasants’ Revolt took place, out of which the tale of Robin Hood emerged. The monarchy underwent many changes—power moved from the Angevins to the House of Lancaster to the House of York, back to the House of Lancaster, and then back to the House of York—and the nave was finished by 1475. The tower, meanwhile, was not erected until the reign of Henry VII from the House of Tudor.

[picture from my trip in 2001]

Exterior design: The architecture conforms to the style of the fifteenth century. Not only does the church sit on one of the highest points in the area, but its tower, which is 126 feet above ground level, is about ten feet taller than Nottingham Castle, thereby signifying its importance even beyond politics.

According to the church guide, the many-windowed church originally had clear glass but churchgoers preferred "to worship in an atmosphere of reverent gloom and filled the spaces with stained glass." Consequently, the church boasts beautiful late-Victorian stained glass made by Charles Eamer Kempe, Burlison & Grylls, and Hardman & Co.

[picture from Ilkcam.com]

The south porch doors, designed by the Arts and Crafts Movement’s Henry Wilson, is sectioned off into panels that depict scenes from the New Testament.

[picture from Ilkcam.com]

Interior design: Considering the length of time it took to build the church, in which not only who sat upon the throne changed but undoubtedly style, the architecture of the church is surprisingly uniform. In fact, as J. Holland Walker points out, although the chancel stands apart for its different style, it is with solid explanation.

[picture of nave and general interior from Ilkcam.com]

As the oldest surviving door in the town (it possibly dates back as far as the 1370s), the chantry door is of particular note.

[image from Wikipedia]

Interesting fact: The founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, has ties to St. Mary’s Church. He was baptized at Sneinton Church by George Wilkins, D.D., Perpetual Curate, Vicar of St. Mary’s. The choir stalls at Sneinton Church, acquired in 1848, were originally from St. Mary’s.

Pop culture: The story “Robin Hood and the Monk,” in which Robin Hood visited St. Mary’s because he hadn’t been to mass for a fortnight but was reported by the monk he had earlier robbed, takes place at this church. (The St. Mary’s Robin Hood married Maid Marion in is in Edwinstowe.)

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