Notes on the History of Clarborough Church

The present church building only dates back to the thirteenth century however there has been a church in the parish for a significant amount of time before that. Although the 1086 Doomsday survey mentions two mills but no church this does not rule out the possibility of a place of worship too poorly endowed to be recorded.

It is known that a church had been established by 1103 because part of its income was donated by William of Lovetot, Lord of Hallamshire, to his new priory at Worksop. William’s son later went so far as to divert half the church’s revenue to his family’s new monastic enterprises. It is likely that as a result of this the benefice became impoverished and the building derelict as for the next century or so the story disappears into the shadows.

In 1258 the Archbishop of York, Sewal de Bovil commenced building the church which was founded in 1260. The North arcade dates from about this time. Sewell gave the church to the Chapel of St. Sepulchre in York which he had recently built and which needed endowments. However, Sewal did reserve "toft and croft" lying near the churchyard, the tithes of the enclosed crofts of the town and of Bolham mills and the altarage, for the use of the vicar in Clarborough. In return, the vicar was to be responsible for the support of two chaplains to serve the Welham, Bolham and Little Gringley. The parish church of St John the Baptist became the focus of the village. In 1393 Clarborough formed one of the prebends of York Cathedral the prebendary at the time being Roger de Weston.

During the turmoil of the sixteenth century the income from tithes reverted to the Crown. No doubt the building also lost its statues and murals but following legislation during Henry VIII's reign parish registers were started, the oldest of which dates from 1567.

Puritanism was next to hit the parish when Edward Southworth, a local landowner, fled to Holland with the Pilgrim Fathers. Edward left a small charity endowment in Little Gringley; some years later his widow sailed from Holland to New England and married William Bradford, the second Governor of the new colony. In 1612 Thomas Southworth left behind 6/8d (about 33p) for the payment of tithes and 20/- ( £1)

“towards the repairs of the North Causey in Clareborough meadows and the way over Clareborough moor leading from the church to Moregate.”

Later in the century most of the nonconformists were Quakers who suffered a certain amount of persecution for failure to communicate in their parish church and pay tithes until following the Toleration Act of 1689 William Hudson of Moorgate, secured a licence to hold meetings.

Over the years the fabric of the church building has been considerably altered. Little is known about the earlier periods in its long history, but details of two changes in the nineteenth century have been recorded. In about 1825 the interior was renovated new pews were installed and a gallery was erected at the west end. A well known local landowner, H C Hutchinson paid for a small organ to be built in the gallery. In 1874 the church was thoroughly restored, ("over restored" according to Professor Pevanser) in the manner of the Victorians. £2,000 was raised by subscriptions and the building was re-roofed, given a new organ-chamber and instrument on the south side of the chancel, and “refitted with open benches”. Finally in 1897 the approach to St. John the Baptist’s was improved by the addition of a lych-gate erected by Emily Garland in memory of her Uncle, William Birks

It would appear that over the course of the alterations the number of seats was greatly reduced as the ecclesiastical census returns for 1851 records 400 seats whereas an 1895 source mentions only 259. The 1851 return informs us that the afternoon service on 30th March was attended by 100 adults and 40 children. Attendance was most likely affected by the thriving chapel-of-ease at St Saviour’s Moorgate opened in 1829 with its average attendance of 700 adults and 123 children at the two Sunday services. Also, by 1851 Clarborough also had both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist societies with a total attendance of over a hundred.