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St Mary, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

(53°18′13″N, 1°6′57″W)
SK 590 789
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Nottinghamshire
now Nottinghamshire
  • Simon Kirsop

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The church consists of a nave with N and S aisles; two transepts with a long Lady Chapel attached to the south transept; two W towers; and N and S nave doorways under porches. The cloister lay to the N of the nave, and there are further doorways into its S range from the N aisle. Vestigial remains of other monastic buildings are lying to the N. Nothing remains of the chancel. The eastern bay of the nave is assumed to date from shortly after the priory received a grant from its founder, William de Lovetot, in 1130. It was not completed until the last quarter of the century. It has three storeys: a ten-bay arcade; a gallery with alternating wide and narrow openings, the wide openings placed above the arcade bays; and a clerestorey with no passage, its windows positioned above the nave piers. This odd arrangement allows the heads of the main gallery arches to impinge on the clerestorey zone, rising between the windows. In about 1200 the Romanesque choir was replaced and in 1240 the Lady Chapel was built. This fell into disrepair at the Dissolution and stood, ruinous and detached, until its restoration by Breakspear in 1922. In 1929 he joined it to the nave by means of a S transept, which he reconstructed from the evidence available. The N transept dates from 1935, and the E end is by Laurence King (1966-74). The Romanesque features are the nave and the lower portion of the towers. Despite the rebuidling of the walls of the aisles in the 19thc. all the doors appear to be in their original settings. The exterior string courses, corbel tables and aisle windows are all 19thc. replacements, and the exterior of the south transept is entirely 20thc.


Worksop was listed among the lands of Roger de Bully in 1086. No church or priest was recorded at that time. Worksop (formerly Radford) Priory was a house of Augustinian Canons founded in 1103 by William de Lovetot. In 1130 there was a further and more extensive grant to the Priory by William together with his wife Emma (the daughter and heiress of Roger de Bully who held the manor at the time of the Domesday Survey). The Priory was surrendered at the dissolution by the then prior Thomas Stokkes and 15 canons on 15 November 1538. Thereafter the nave was used as the parish church whilst the crossing arch at the E end of the nave together with the two subsidiary arches from the N and S aisle were blocked and the buildings beyond fell into disuse. The Priory lands were granted to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury whose family had held the manor since 1406. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 gave the value of the temporalities held by the Priory as £302.6s.10d and that the Priory held, in Nottinghamshire, the churches of Worksop, Walkeringham, Gringley, Sutton, Normanton, Burton, Osberton, Car Colston, Willoughby, Wysall and Screveton and, amongst others outside the county borders, one third of the Rectory of Sheffield.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Wall passages/Gallery arcades


Interior Decoration

String courses

Work on the eastern bays of the nave must have begun immediately after 1130, but the striking change in the elevation indicates that this campaign only extended westwards as far as pier 1 of the arcades. Thurlby (1998) has argued that the crossing, transepts and E bay of the nave were executed by a master mason from Southwell. The remainder and the entire gallery and clerestorey levels have been dated fromc.1160 toc.1180 in the literature; see Prior (1900), Clapham (1934), Webb (1956). Thurlby has argued for a completion date ofc.1180. There is no direct evidence, but Baxter (1998, 195-96) has suggested that a gift of luxury books to Worksop (then Radford) by a canon of Lincoln Cathedral in 1187 was associated with the completion of the church, possibly commemorating its consecration. Again following Thurlby, parallels for the 1180 campaign are with French-inspired early Gothic buildings in the north, including Roche Abbey and Roger of Pont-l'Eveque's eastern arm at York Minster. Locally, some of the foliate ornament on the capitals of the piers of the nave (e.g. N arcade pier 3) has similarities to that on the capitals of the S aisle at Caunton. The truncation of the church at the dissolution, which left the remaining Romanesque elements of the crossing outside accounts for their weathered state. The W end also shows much evidence of the effects of atmospheric pollution particularly on the W doors. The limestone from which the church is built was probably quarried at Steetley which is a few miles away in Derbyshire.

Victoria County History: Nottinghamshire, II, London, 1908, 125-129.
Anon, 'The Retford Excursion', Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 5 n.a (1901), 25-27.
R. Baxter, Bestiaries and their Users in the Middle Ages. Stroud 1998.
A. Clapham, English Romanesque Architecture after the Conquest. Oxford 1934, 97.
J. C. Cox, County Churches: Nottinghamshire, London, 1912, 238-239.
J. Stacye, 'The Priory and Parish Church of Worksop or Radford, Nottinghamshire', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, XXX, 1874, 156-70, 277-96.
M. Thurlby, 'Worksop Priory Church: The Romanesque and Early Gothic Fabric.' British Archeological Associaton Conference Transactions XXI (1998), 101-109.
E. S. Prior, A History of Gothic Art in England. London 1900, 116-17.
C. W. Walker, The Priory Church of Our Lady and St Cuthbert, Worksop, 7th ed., Gloucester, 1975.
G. Webb, Architecture in Britain: The Middle Ages. Harmondsworth 1956, 52.
N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire. second ed., London, 1979. Reprinted (with corrections)1997, 385-389.