St Mary’s Church
The Church building is usually open daily during daylight hours and you would be most welcome to visit and look around in peace and quiet or for prayer. Guides for visitors are available as you enter the church.
The first chapel built here was established in 964AD. The oldest visible part of the church today is the arch of a 12th-century doorway built into the north wall. The church tower was begun in the 14th-century.
During the civil war it is believed that Oliver Cromwell’s troops stabled their horses in the church. Ireton House, which borders the church on the west side, was once home to Henry Ireton – a general in Cromwell’s army and a signatory to the warrant of execution for Charles I. He later married Cromwell’s daughter and was buried in Westminster Abbey but, after the restoration of the monarchy, Ireton’s corpse was exhumed and hanged at Tyburn Gallows in 1661. Three of his siblings and his parents, German and Jane Ireton, are buried in unmarked graves in the churchyard.
The churchyard is also the burial place of the remains of many of those killed in the Chilwell shell filling factory explosion on 1st July 1918. Over 130 people died in the disaster, including 25 women. Another 250 were injured. It was Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster. At the time, the government tried to cover up the extent of destruction so as not to weaken national morale. On July 1st 2018 – a century later – a new memorial was dedicated in the churchyard to commemorate those who lost their lives.
Inside the church there are many notable features worth seeing, including several interesting memorials to notable local families that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. There are also a number of distinctive stone carvings on the capitals of the nave columns (high up on the pillars in the centre of the main body of the church).
The choir stalls incorporate Jacobean carved panels that show strange beasts such as sea monsters and mermaids.
Most of the stained-glass windows are modern, though some include elements of the original Tudor windows and there is a fine war memorial window. This portrays the badges of regiments to which parishioners have belonged and scenes from war-torn Belgium.
St. Mary’s eight bells are an important feature of the church. The oldest dates from 1370 and is still in use today.
Visit the Diocesan History Website for more information on the Church and it’s fixtures and fittings.