The Church of St Mary the Virgin is the oldest religious foundationDomesday Book: A Complete Translation (Penguin Classics) in the City of Nottingham, England, the largest church after the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Nottingham and the largest mediaeval building in the city. The church is Grade I listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as a building of outstanding architectural or historic interest. It is one of only five Grade I listed buildings in the City of Nottingham. It is situated on High Pavement at the heart of the historic Lace Market district and is also known as ''St Mary's in the Lace Market''. It is a member of the Major Churches Network, and part of the parish of All Saints', St Mary's and St Peter's, Nottingham.


The church is mentioned in the Domesday Book and is believed to go back deep into Saxon times. The main body of the present building (at least the third on the site) dates from the end of the reign of Edward III (1377) to that of Henry VII (1485–1509). The nave was finished before 1475 and it is notable for its uniformity of gothic perpendicular style. It is likely that the south aisle wall was the first part of the building to be constructed in the early 1380s, with the remainder of the nave and transepts being from the early 15th century. The tower was completed in the reign of Henry VIII. The church was owned by Lenton Priory from 1108 to 1538 and the monks took the living of the church as Rector, and appointed a Vicar to perform the daily offices. In 1513, a school was founded in the church by Dame Agnes Mellers as ''The Free School of the Town of Nottingham''. This is now Nottingham High School. In the Foundation Deed, Mellers provided that a Commemoration Service should be held in the church "on the Feast of The Translation of St Richard of Chichester". With the exception of the Goose Fair, it is the most ancient ceremonial event still perpetuated in the City of Nottingham, George Fox founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers or Friends, was imprisoned in Nottingham in 1649 after interrupting the preacher at St Mary's. Nottingham Bluecoat School was founded in 1706, and the first lessons were taught in the porch of the church. For several years from 1716, the church was used to house the town fire engine. It was kept at the west end, and was still there until at least 1770. St Mary's opened a workhouse in 1726 at the south end of Mansfield Road and ran it until 1834 when responsibility for workhouses was transferred from parishes to secular Boards of Guardians. The workhouse was demolished in 1895 to clear part of the site needed for the construction of the Nottingham Victoria railway station. The church was closed for 5 years from 1843 for a major restoration. It re-opened on 19 May 1848 when the Bishop of Lincoln John Kaye presided.

First Sunday School

St Mary's pioneered Sunday School education for those children unable to attend a day school. Pupils were taught reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as religious knowledge. The first Sunday School was opened in 1751, 35 years before the generally acknowledged first Sunday School was founded in Gloucester by Robert Raikes.

New parishes created from St Mary's

*1822 St Paul's Church, George Street, Nottingham, built as a chapel of ease *1841 Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Square *1844 St John the Baptist's Church, Leenside (destroyed by enemy action in May 1941) *1856 St Mark's Church, Nottingham *1856 St Matthew's Church, Talbot Street *1863 St Ann's Church, Nottingham, with St Andrew's created out of this parish, in 1871 *1863 St Luke's Church, Nottingham *1863 St Saviour's, Arkwright Street *1864 All Saints', Raleigh Street, as a chapel of ease (now merged again with St Mary's following the unification with St Peter's and All Saints') *1881 Emmanuel Church, Woodborough Road, in 1885 *1888 St Catharine's, St Ann's Well Road out of the parishes of St Mary, St Mark, St Luke and St Paul *1903 St Bartholomew's Church, Blue Bell Hill Road


*1762 West front rebuilt by William Hiorne of Warwick in the Classical style. *c1818-20 South aisle restored and crossing vault replaced by William Stretton. *1843 Tower saved from collapse by Lewis Nockalls Cottingham. *1844–1848 Five year restoration of roofs and west front returned to gothic style by George Gilbert Scott (church closed) at a cost of £9,000 (), *1848-1860s Internal restoration by George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffatt. *1872 Chancel reroofed by George Gilbert Scott. *1890 The Chapter House was built by George Frederick Bodley. *1912 The Lady Chapel added by Temple Lushington Moore. *1935 Tower ringing room floor concreted and new bell frame *1940 The Simpson memorial choir vestry added. *1992–93 Exterior fabric restored and cleaned. *2008 New kitchens and toilet facilities. *2013 Removal of the wooden flooring platforms, installation of underfloor heating and new stone floor.

Chantry door

The chantry door is considered to be the oldest surviving door in Nottingham, dating from the 1370s or 1380s. it contains an example of iron work from the medieval period in the locking mechanism. The chantry room has latterly been used as a bonehouse, a coal store, and a chair store. It now contains a toilet for wheelchair users. The survival of the door is likely to be due to the fact that it has not been heavily used, and is internal within the church. File:StMarysNottinghamChantryDoor1.JPG|View of the old exterior of the Chantry door File:StMarysNottinghamChantryDoor2.JPG|View of the Chantry door from the north aisle

List of vicars

* 1086 Aitard * 1228 Thomas de Punignal * c1235 Nicholas (? of Ostia) * c1250 Philip de Norhamptone * c1266 William de Birley * c1279 Robert de Adinburg * 1289 Richard de Notingham * 1290 John de Ely * 1304 Robert de Dalby * 1313 Henry de Parva Halam * 1317 John de Ludham * 1322 John fil William Cosyn * 1347 John de la Launde * 1347 Robert de Wakebrigge * 1348 Richard de Radclyff * 1348 Roger de Nydingworth * 1349 Richard de Swanyngton * 1351 Thomas Pascayl * 1357 John Chatarez * 1357 John Lorymer, of Hoveden * 1364 John de Stapleford * 1371 William de Sandyacre * 1374 Robert de Retford * 1401 Richard de Chilwell * 1409 William Ode * 1442 William Wryght * 1461 John Hurt, S.T.D. * 1476 Thomas Turner, M.A. * 1498 John Greve, S.T.B. * 1499 Symeon Yates, Dec. B. * 1504 Richard Taverner LL.B. * 1534 Richard Mathew, Dec.B. * 1535 Richard Wylde, M.A. * 1554 Oliver Hawood * 1568 John Louth, LL.B. * 1572 William Underne * 1578 Robert Aldridge * 1616 Oliver Wytherington, M.A. * 1616 John Tolson, S.T.B. * 1617 Ralph Hansby, M.A. * 1635 Edmund Lacock, B.D. * 1645 William Howitt * 1647/8 Nicholas Folkingham * 1649 Jonathan Boole * 1651 John Whitlock M.A. and William Reynolds, M.A. * 1662 George Masterson, M.A. * 1686 Samuel Crowborough, D.D. * 1690 Benjamin Camfield, M.A. * 1694 Timothy Caryl, M.A. * 1698 Edward Clarke, M.A. * 1708 Samuel Berdmore, M.A. * 1723 John Disney, M.A. * 1730 Thomas Berdmore, M.A. * 1743 Scrope Berdmore, D.D. * 1770 Nathan Haines D.D. * 1806 John Bristow, D.D. * 1810 George Hutchinson, M.A. * 1817 George Wilkins, D.D. * 1843 Joshua William Brooks, M.A. * 1864 Francis Morse, M.A. * 1886 John Gray Richardson, M.A. * 1900 Arthur Hamilton Baynes, D.D., Bp. * 1913 Thomas Field, D.D. * 1926 James Geoffrey Gordon, M.A. * 1933 Neville Stuart Talbot, D.D., Bp. * 1943 Robert Henry Hawkins, M.A. * 1958 Douglas Russell Feaver, M.A. * 1973 Michael James Jackson, M.A. * 1991 James Edward McKenzie Neale, B.A. * 2004 Andrew Gilchrist Deuchar B.Th (Priest in charge) * 2009 Christopher Harrison (Priest in charge, appointed Vicar 2011) * 2018 Tom Gillum

Laying on of hands

It was at St Mary's that the practice of laying on of hands by the Bishop during a Confirmation service was first observed ca. 1760 and documented by Thomas Newton, Bishop of Bristol. It was performed by John Gilbert, Archbishop of York.


Bronze doors

The bronze doors were designed in 1904 by Henry Wilson in memory of his father-in-law, Rev. Francis Morse. The intention of the design of the doors is to illustrate the Life of Our Lord in its relation with the Holy Mother to whom the church is dedicated and by the general treatment to suggest the idea of pity. In the tympanum enclosed within a vesica the Holy Mother supports and cherishes the body of Christ, while in the spandrels, on either side, the gates of Death and Life are suggested: the Dove, typifying the spirit, enters weary into the one and issues strong-winged from the other, thus symbolising the unending round of Death and Life. The dedicatory inscription "In loving memory of Francis Morse, 1818–1886, Father, Pastor, Friend" in the form of a pierced cresting, divides the tympanum from the doors themselves. These are formed into panels by mouldings of beaten bronze, with angel bosses at the intersections. On each leaf of the door are five panels, in relief, illustrating the Life of Our Lord, the subjects on the left leaf being “The Annunciation,” with Gabriel appearing at the Virgin's window in the early morning; “The Visitation,” with the Virgin running to meet her kinswoman. Below these come “The Nativity,” followed by “The Epiphany,” and the lowest panel shows the Salvator Mundi on a Cross of branching vine. At the foot of the Cross stand Adam and Eve, conscious of the fall, while the doves of peace and pardon hover overhead. The subjects of the panels on the right door of the leaf are “The flight into Egypt”; “The Baptism in the Jordan”; “The entry into Jerusalem”; The three Maries at the Sepulchre”; and “The Resurrection.” In this panel the Saviour is shown emerging from the tomb and while still bound with the grave clothes, the Spirit of Life, in the form of a Dove, flies to His breast, and overhead the birds sing at the coming of a new Dawn.

Other features

The church has a fine collection of late Victorian stained glass windows by many famous makers, including Kempe, Burlison and Grylls and Hardman & Co.. The reredos above the altar is by the artist Charles Edgar Buckeridge. It is also known for its octagonal mediaeval font with a palindromic Greek inscription ΝΙΨΟΝΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑΜΗΜΟΝΑΝΟΨΙΝ (Wash my transgressions, not only my face), and a rather battered alabaster tomb fragment which portrays a lily crucifix and a Nottingham Alabaster panel depicting Archbishop Thomas Becket.

The church today

St Mary's internal dimensions are * from west to east * from north to south (across the transepts) while the tower stands above ground level. The church has a wide ministry to many different groups. It is the Civic Church to the City of Nottingham. In the past, the election of the town mayor took place in the church and this tradition continues with a welcome to the new Lord Mayor of Nottingham in a service held each summer. It is the University Church for the University of Nottingham and several schools and organisations hold annual services here. In recent years, in addition to its function as a place of worship, St Mary's is the venue for a wide range of concerts and public performances, and is home to the Nottingham Bach Choir. The assistant curate at St Mary's takes the ancient title 'Lecturer'. This title, fell into disuse in the 17th century, was revived for Rev. John Pennington on his appointment in 1975. The last to hold the post was Rev. Stephen Morris, until 2014. The church retains the Book of Common Prayer, the traditional Liturgical colours and the principal services are sung by a robed choir. St Mary's retains the historic practice of celebrating the Eucharist at a High Altar ''Ad orientem'' with priest and people facing eastwards, rather than the contemporary practice of ''Versus populum'' having the priest facing the congregation. File:St Mary's Church, Nottingham - 2.JPG|Interior view looking west from the sanctuary File:St Mary's Church, Nottingham - 1.JPG|Interior view looking north east from the south porch File:St Mary's Church, Nottingham - Organ.JPG|Interior view looking south east from the north aisle with the organ by Marcussen & Søn


The vicarage of St Mary's was formerly at Washington House on High Pavement, but with the increasing industrialisation of the Lace Market at the end of the 19th century, the church purchased a new residence opposite the castle gatehouse. This was used as St Mary's Vicarage until Canon Eddie Neale retired in 2003. The adjoining property was the rectory for St Peter's Church, Nottingham. A joint parish house has now been purchased in The Park Estate.

Notable burials in St Mary's

* John Samon, Mayor of Nottingham, 1416 * Thomas Thurland, Mayor of Nottingham, 1473 * John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare, 1637 * John Holles, 2nd Earl of Clare, 1666 * Eleanor Fitzwilliam, Countess of Tyrconnell, 1681, daughter of John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare * Lady Jane, Dowager Countess of Valentia 1683/4, widow of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia, daughter of Sir John Stanhope. * Chambre Brabazon, 5th Earl of Meath, 1715 * Lady Mary Brabazon, daughter of Chambre Brabazon, 5th Earl of Meath, 1737 * Thomas Berdmore, dentist to King George III, 1785 * George Africanus 1834 * Robert Aldridge, Vicar of St Mary's (1598–1616)

Notable marriages in the church

*George James Bruere, later Governor of Bermuda, 1743 *Alexander Manson MD, pioneer in the use of iodine in medicine, 1814.

Bells and clock

There are twelve bells in the ring. * Treble ''Eijsbouts Astensis me fecit Anno MCMLXXX''. The Society of Sherwood Youths gave me. "Their sound is gone forth unto all lands". Canon M.J. Jackson, Vicar, S. Yarnell and E. Mottram, Churchwardens. (E) Eayre and Smith. * 2nd ''Eijsbouts Astensis me fecit Anno MCMLXXX''. The Parochial Church Council gave me. "God is gone up with a merry noise". Canon M.J. Jackson, Vicar, S. Yarnell and E. Mottram, Churchwardens. (E) Eayre and Smith. * 3rd C. & G. Mears, Founders, London, Recast 1856. J.W. Brooks, Vicar. W. Dearden, J. Coope, Churchwardens. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 4th Raised by Scrope Beardsmore, Vicar DD. Richd Lambert and John Wyer, Churchwardens. The Hon'able Wm. Howe & John Plumtree Esqrs – Members for the Town Subscription, 1761. Lester & Pack Fecit. Recast, Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 5th By Subscription. Revd. Scrope Beardsmore DD. Vicar. G. Browne, H. Ward, J. Burgess Ch. Wardens. 1765. ''Sodales Musici Nottinghamiensis Restaureverunt''. Lester & Pack of London Fecit. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 6th By Subscription Revd. Scrope Beardsmore DD. Vicar. G. Browne, H. Ward, J. Burgess Ch. Wardens. 1765. ''Intactum Sileo Percute, Dulce Cano''. Lester & Pack of London Fecit. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 7th ''Sustio Voce Pios Tu Iesu Dirige Mentes Venite Exvitimus''. (I. Edwards, I. Sweetaple. Churchwardens 1699. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 8th Robert Aldredg, Vicar, Ralphe Shaw, Henrie Allvie, Wardens. 1613. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 9th ''Hee Campana Sacra Filet Trinitate Beata''. W. Sturrup, T. Graye. Wardens. 1690. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 10th ''In noe ihu xpi ome genu fleetat celestm trestriu et infroru''. R.A.V. M.G. 1605. W.L. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. * 11th ''Tu Tuba Sic Sonitu Domini Conduco cohortes''. Richard Hunte Major, Nicholas Sherwyn, Richard Iohnson, Iohn Gregorie, Robert Alvie, Peter Clarke, Humfrey Bonner, Richard Morehaghe, Anker Jackson, Aldermen, 1595. Also four impressions of the coat of arms of Elizabeth I alternating with four signs of the Henry Oldfield foundry. * Tenor Revd. Scrope Beardsmore DD. Vicar. G. Browne, H. Ward, I. Burgess, Ch. Wardens. 1765. ''I will sound and resound unto thy people, O Lord, With my sweet voice, and call them to thy word, I tole the tune that douleful is to such as live amiss, But sweet my sound seems unto them who hope for joyful Bliss.'' Lester & Pack of London Fecit. Recast Gillett & Johnston, Croydon, 1935. The first record of a tower clock dates from 1707 when a clock was installed by Richard Roe of Epperstone. This was replaced in 1807 by a clock by Thomas Hardy of Nottingham. The 1707 clock was moved to Staunton church. The current tower clock which dates from 1936 was installed by George & Francis Cope. It was the first electric auto-wind clock by that firm.



There are three choral services a week – Wednesday Evensong, Sunday Eucharist and Sunday Evensong. Under the leadership of John Keys, the Choir of St Mary's is highly regarded. Renowned for its versatility and wide repertoire it performs music from plainsong through to world premieres, performs regularly in concert on its own and with St Mary's resident orchestra, The Orchestra of the Restoration. Organ and Choral Scholarships are available to students in full-time higher education.


The Organ is by Marcussen & Søn of Denmark and is a fine example of a neo-classical style instrument. It was installed in 1973 by the organist of the time, David Butterworth. It has 25 speaking stops and is a small organ for a church of this size. Nevertheless, it is an instrument of the highest quality which adequately gives musical support to choir and congregation as well as serving as a solo instrument.


There are records of organs in the church in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but no record of any of the organists from this period has been found.

Organ scholars

* David Gostick 1997–1998 (now director of music of Wimborne Minster) * Alistair Kirk 1998 * Richard Leach 1999–2000 * Simon Williams 2000–2003 * Christopher Burton 2003–2004 * Jamal Sutton 2004–2005 * Nicola Harrington 2005 * Ben Lewis-Smith 2006–2007 * Simon Williams 2007–2009 * Max Puller 2009–2010 * Dominic Wong 2010–2011 * Edward Byrne 2019–2021

References in literature

The church is mentioned in chapter 15 of Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. "They threaded through the throng of church-people. The organ was still sounding in St. Mary’s. Dark figures came through the lighted doors; people were coming down the steps. The large coloured windows glowed up in the night. The church was like a great lantern suspended". In the ballad Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin attends mass at St Mary's. The ballad is written in a manuscript dating from about 1450.

See also

* All Saints' Church, Nottingham * St Peter's Church, Nottingham *List of church restorations and alterations by Temple Moore

List of Greater Churches


External links

Choir websiteSee St Mary's on Google Street View
{{DEFAULTSORT:Nottingham, Saint Mary Category:St Mary's Church, Nottingham Saint Mary Saint Mary Saint Mary Category:Temple Moore buildings Saint Mary