The church of East Drayton was in the possession of the Chapter of York at least by the end of the 12th Century.  Architecturally, the oldest part of the church dates from the late 12th Century with 13th and 15th Century additions.

The North arcade is 14th Century early Decorated while the South arcade is 15th Century Perpendicular.   Having survived being in “an evil plight” in 15th Century, the chancel was restored by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1857.  The nave and aisles were restored by public subscription in 1873.

Features of historical interest are:

  • a complete mediaeval exterior almost entirely in Perpendicular style but with some work in the Decorated style and embattled everywhere
  • a pinnacled porch with stone arches like a timber wagon-roof, carvings of human heads and animals
  • the fine 15th Century wooden screen which is canopied, vaulted and decorated with lively tracery
  • a 14th Century floor slab with stylised cross
  • replica of a 14th Century gradual
  • ‘cake rings’ (cheeses) celebrating weddings on the interior of the bell ringing chamber walls, 1769 -1865

East Drayton is in the Bassetlaw Hundred, South Clay Division

Foundation of the Church

The church, together with the chapels of Askham and Stokeham, was in the possession of the Chapter of York by the end of the 12th century at least. This is known because Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Earl of Essex, renounced all his rights in the chapel of Drayton in favour of the canons between 1199 and 1213. The vicarage of Drayton was ordained 23rd February 1330/1.  Drayton was in the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of York and not a part of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham until 1841.

The building of the present stone church began in the late 12th C and continued over the next 300 years. It has been described as having a very complete medieval exterior.

Amour de Valance, a half brother of Edward III, was in 1324 lord of the manor of East Drayton, which he held to the time of his death along with the lordship of Dunham.

16th Century

The major building work had by now been completed, but soon the nave and chancel were in a ruinous condition.

In the Visitation of 1559 the vicar of Stokeham was to serve Drayton and Stokeham up to Easter and from then to supply Stokeham with a curate at his own cost.  At the end of the Visitation the names of the clergy who failed to appear were set forth.  The Nottingham absentees, including prebendaries' of Southwell were approximately 50. The incumbents who did not respond to the summons of this Royal Visitation included the rector of East Drayton.

17th and 18th Centuries

After the Civil War one Robert Mellish was allowed as part of his composition to settle augmentation for three lives upon the churches of Askham, Drayton and Ragnall.   At least 43 livings in the county, including East Drayton, were worth only £10 pa or less but only 17 of them received augmentation

In 1603 Canon LXXX was issued and this laid down standards for church fittings, eg

  • all aisles be paved
  • seats cut down to a common height all facing the same way to enable all the congregation to see the Holy Table and prevent anyone being able to evade the surveillance of the churchwardens.
  • where old pews existed, new ones had to be made
  • screens between church and chancel to be removed or repaired
  • reading desk to be erected in the chancel
  • The Holy Table had to be lengthways against the east wall of the chancel with rails stretching from north to south walls

The Visitation of 1637 was to examine progress, and the East Drayton churchwardens were presented, i.e. questioned on various counts, namely for lack of an altar rail, boarding of the seats, no poor box, lack of three locks and keys on the parish chest and of a table of the prohibited degrees of marriage.   They alleged they now had the three latter items and asked for time to provide the remainder.

An early visitor to the church was Dr Robert Thoroton, who, writing in 1677, said “The vicarage was 10 marks: ‘tis now 9L 3s 4d value in the King’s books, and the Dean and Chapter of York have the patronage which the Chapter had formerly”. He also describes the coat of arms of Lord Burgh in the south aisle, but makes no mention of a mortuary chapel:

  • pIn the south aisle within a garter, Or three Flowers de Liz Ermine quartering Or three Pallets Sab and Or a lion ramp Azure, Lord Burgh, Arg three barres Azure

The later visit by Throsby (1790-96), who updated Thoroton’s Antiquities, was not very informative either.  While describing the village as being well built, he proceeds to describe St Peter’s as being

  • “of a size corresponding with a populous village, but visiting towards the close of the evening, and being informed that there was nothing within of

ancient note, I puffed on towards the place where I intended to sleep at without going within it, which has been my practice at other villages in the county”.

Had he entered he would have seen a fine rood screen, the mortuary chapel of the Burghs, the ringer’s loft and the musician’s gallery - all swept away in later restorations.

19th Century

The Ecclesiastical Commissioner’s (E.C.) surveyor in 1856 said the interior was in a miserable state with walls green and damp.  The floor needed relaying and the pew linings and floor were rotten.  The north door was likewise rotten and had been bricked up to keep out the weather.  The windows were in a wretched condition in respect of glazing - scarcely any of the glass being free from fraction, and the lead work was useless. He finished by saying: I may perhaps add to this report that the chancel is a very fine one but is in a more disgraceful condition in respect of its fittings than any I have yet seen throughout the country.

The chancel was restored in 1857 at a cost of £240, and the nave and aisles restored in 1873 at a cost of £650 defrayed by subscription.  This restoration saw the disappearance of both the musician’s gallery and the ringer’s loft behind.  From a sketch plan of the nave prepared prior to the 1873 restoration the west door in the tower is given as the chief entrance, and an area at the east end of the south aisle is screened off - possibly the mortuary chapel of the Burghs.   A stove is situated in the west of the nave behind the pews.  This must have been a favourite place to sit in winter.  The coal-house was inside the church at the west end of the north aisle.

For many years prior to 1850 there had been a band in the musician’s gallery for church services consisting of a violin, clarinet, bassoon and a brass viola.  The conductor was George Scott who wrote each score for the four instruments.

Sir Stephen Glynn said the masonry was generally good in 1868 but that the wall of the north aisle was inferior and out of condition.  The nave was out of order though there were signs of attempts to improve its condition.  Some plain old benches remained, but the nave was chiefly filled with rickety pews.   A photograph of the nave looking towards the chancel in 1873 shows a narrow uneven tiled central aisle with box pews.

Records show that repairs were constantly being requested by the parish or recommended by the E.C. The nave was repaved in 1894, but at the same time the vicar was criticised for not having chosen a better pattern for the design of the pew ends and they regarded them as being remarkably ugly.  The windows were still bad but the parish had no means of repairing them.  The roof had been fairly decorated at a cost to the vicar.

20th Century

The lower panels of the rood screen were filled in with modern wood and the tracery in the main arch similarly patched.  The rood cross was taken down in 1939 after earlier criticism by the E.C. that it was “fairly modern, out of proportion and out of keeping and tradition”.

It was also recommended that the old oak Laudian communion rail, which was lying at the end of the south aisle in 1916, should be restored to its old position in the Sanctuary as “it is a good example of its period with beautifully turned balusters”.  This recommendation was not followed.   A faculty of 1921 was granted for an oak altar with a plaque on its south side to be a memorial to 1914 - 18 war victims.  Initially a stone altar had been approved.

In 1938 the west wall was in very bad condition.  “The door should be removed and the opening filled up and faced inside and out with old stone to match.” This has been badly executed.  Similarly, the spandrels of the arcade were plastered and painted to represent stone.  Recommendations were to remove the plaster on these and on the aisle ceilings to expose the timbers.  Both items remain unchanged.

The oak choir stalls were donated by Edwinstowe church in 1941 and were cleaned and restored for £350.

In 1981 further renovations were called for when attention was drawn to water seeping down one wall inside the church close to the tower, in the porch, and outside, leaving tell -tail long green streaks.  The building was strong and stalwart, but showing signs of the passing years.  The church was once again badly in need of restoration.

The new lych gateA lychgate was erected in 2004 aided by a grant of £11,477 from the Heritage Lottery Fund under a Local Heritage Initiative project. Made of oak, it is topped by the restored St Peter motif, in ironwork, from the original lychgate.

Special Features


The church was at one time in possession of a 14th C Gradual written on vellum, 134 pages, 16" x 11", and bound between boards covered in sheepskin.  The manuscript is set to music and with one or two exceptions there are twelve lines of music per page. Large capital letters are beautifully illuminated in blue and red with smaller capitals being executed alternately in the same colours.  Towards the end of the book are various scribblings in which ‘Estdrayton in coun Nott’ occurs and later ‘Iste Liber () ville de Estdrayton’.  There follows an insertion of 2¼ columns of names both male and female in which the name Reyner occurs several times.

This manuscript was undoubtedly the service book used at East Drayton church.  Although sometimes described as the York Gradual, it has not belonged to York cathedral nor any other religious house, but was written for use in an ordinary parish church. This has been proved by the fact that it gives only masses for Sundays and festivals, omitting those for weekdays.

Today a black and white facsimile is displayed in the church.  The original is in the Bodleian library, Oxford, having been sold for £112 15s in 1898.

‘Cake Rings’

The removal of the ringer’s gallery has left the ‘cake rings’ high up on the tower walls well above present floor level. These ‘rings’ are painted on the north and south walls in ochre on a black painted background and are 33cm in diameter. There are over 60 rings remaining, dating from 1777 to 1865 and refer to a local custom connected with weddings. On the wedding day the bells were rung immediately the register was signed and at intervals throughout the day. The wedding party bought up to the belfry a large plum loaf of 6 or 8 lb weight and a cheese. All the school children paraded to the tower and the oldest ringer distributed a piece of loaf and cheese to each child in the order in which they stood in school. The ringers also received £1, which it was the custom to spend in equal shares at the two village pubs -The Blue Bell and The Harrow.  If all had been carried out in the above manner the ring was painted on the belfry walls with the initials of the bride and groom and the date. The rings can be seen high up on the north and south tower walls above the vestry.  In 1981 it was reported that some were fading and the stone crumbling in places.

The interior of the church looking west
The cake rings are visible in the tower

Close-up of the cake rings

Membership of the Established Church

In the 1851 Religious Census, only 3 attended morning service and 12 in the afternoon, while the Wesleyan Methodist boasted 50 for morning and 80 for afternoon attendance - this from a population of 251.  The rector says that all but 2 of the farmers were Wesleyan - who did not attend church.  Two Quakers were prosecuted for refusing to pay tithes to the vicar in 1670. The suit was allowed to drop but the defendant’s expenses exceeded many times the amount owed.  The Protestation Returns of 1641 showed that out of 62 men over 18 years of age all affirmed, none refused, and there were no Dissenters. Compare this with Visitation returns for 1743 where 15 or 20 usually receive communion out of 50 families in the parish. There were also one Quaker and one Catholic family.

In 1879 sittings, i.e. seats, in the established church were 400 and in the Free Church 110, giving an excess capacity for the village of 366.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built by Messrs Newton & Warburton at a cost of £137 13s, and opened by the Rev. S. Cooley of Manchester on 26th April 1857.  It was registered as a place of worship on 23rd Feb. 1859.  A renovation was carried out in 1897 costing £70 3s 3d raised by a subscription which raised £118 3s 3d. The roof was repaired in 1945 by W Neal & Son of Retford for a sum of £5 19s 10d. Sold by auction in November 1985, a presale survey was made:

Roof appears to be sound

Notice board at front starting to rot

Cracked window pane in NE corner

Plaster not good on E side at SE corner and between 1st & 2nd window from front and under circular window S side.

All windows are rotting and paint peeling

Air bricks broken E side

Wood panelling rotting near middle window E side

When electric fires switched on, current-breaker operated.

There is no longer a Methodist meeting house in the village.

Population Trends and Work

Lowe’s Agricultural Survey of 1798 gave the births and burials for the five years from the beginning of 1789 to the end of 1793 as 36 births and 22 burials from a population of 236.  The population remained relatively stable until the 1870s when it dropped by a quarter, probably with a drift to the towns where there were more opportunities.

Farming appears to have been the only industry together with the services of miller, wheelwright, blacksmith, joiner, farm bailiff, cow keeper, labourer, boot maker, victualler, and schoolteacher. Professions were often combined, eg victualler and blacksmith. Hops were grown locally and considered stronger than Kentish.  They were sold at annual Hop Fairs in Tuxford and Retford.  At the beginning of the 19th century there were 11,000 acres under cultivation, but by 1880 this had dwindled to 28 acres, and in 1910 none.  The open field system of farming was bought to a halt by Enclosure in 1819.  Enclosure was considered to be a “great social and moral improvement or a colossal legalised robbery, an unscrupulous confiscation, and a heartless swindle”.  The surveyor, William Calvert, was a man of original thought who came to grief in a pioneering attempt at aviation - the trouble being “he couldn’t work the wings fast enough!”

Incumbents’ Housing

The living conditions of the vicar could be indifferent. In Archbishop Herring’s Visitation Returns 1743, the curate said the condition of the parsonage house was extremely bad.   In Terriers of 1764 and 1770 it was described as consisting of two bays, covered with thatch, the floors and walls made of mud.  However in 1777 there were three bays with under floors of clay, the upper floors plaster and the roof still thatched. By 1786 the house is built of brick and covered with tile, containing three rooms floored with brick, the upper storey and garrets floored with plaster. It was sited about 1km north of the church.  This is now the site of a private house.

The vicarage has grown substantially by 1887 when it has 8 rooms, viz 5 bedrooms, 3 sitting rooms and 2 small dressing rooms, bathroom and WC, also kitchen and back kitchen, larder and pantry.  By 1932 the glebe house and parsonage has 13 rooms including study, drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, kitchen, scullery and seven bedrooms, cupboards, usual offices, hot water and bathroom.  Linen blinds for the drawing room and linoleum for the hall.  The coach house is now a garage, but the stable and saddle rooms are retained.  This is now a private house called The Old Vicarage opposite the church on Low Street.

Key Dates

  • 1086 Village of East Drayton recorded in Domesday Book
  • 1268 First named incumbent
  • 1330/31 Vicarage of Drayton ordained
  • 1857 Chancel restored
  • 1873 Nave and aisles restored
  • 1952 Re-hanging and re-dedication of bells
  • 1967 Electric heating installed

Church Registers

Parish records exist from 1755, but the Bishop’s Transcripts survive from 1629 through 1635-38, 1664-67, 1669-70, 1683, 1689-92, 1700-05, 1708-20 and 1722-33.

The 1755 register begins on a flyleaf with a subscription list, dated 20th October 1767, for the (victims) suffering by fire in Montreal. Entries for 1755 follow.

(Information source:  Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project.)