Blog – Our Heritage, Your Heritage

“Tell the stories to help people to care”

2nd Annual Christian Heritage Conference

This was the overall message at the second annual Christian Heritage Conference organised by Bassetlaw Christian Heritage (BCH) which took place at The Well Conference Centre in Retford on Friday 10th March 2017. A common theme amongst delegates was the need to construct meaningful stories about their areas of interest, which people could relate to, and care about.

Local author and historian, Adrian Gray welcomed 30 delegates representing 27 different organisations from around England engaging in discussions about ‘working with your local council’, ‘does Christian Heritage matter’, ‘using publicity, marketing and social media’, ‘modern pilgrimage’, ‘engaging with local churches’, ‘raising money’, ‘engaging with religious education’, and ‘news from London’.

Delegates provided fascinating and informative accounts, including Dr John Clements about the local Separatist John Robinson’s time in Norwich and Norwich Old Congregational Chapel which is advancing Puritanism today.

George Burrows from the Birmingham Christian Heritage Centre showed that people voluntarily give them historical items, including a Bible signed and owned by Thomas Babbington MP (a member of the anti-slavery movement with William Wilberforce).

Geoffrey Marshall, from the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association gave an exhilarating romp through his innovative and successful activities including post office promotional franking, services in the open on top of a tower, and a dinner dance in a cathedral.

Sandra Withington from Bassetlaw District Council, Paul Howitt-Cowan from West Lindsey Churches Festival, and Anna Scott, Heritage Consultant, said that working with councils and local churches was most effective when aligning with their objectives, priorities and aspirations, and being aware of their limited budgets. There was then a more reflective session from author, Diana Chapman, who gave a moving statement on her belief that Christian Heritage really does matter.

Sarah Crosland, of the National Churches Trust, explained that visits to Christian places of worship were increasing and that 4 out of 5 Britons think that churches are an important part of our history. Websites, mobile technology, and the importance of video images were the norm now and vital in interesting people in heritage sites.

Robert Mountford, Ecumenical Mission Officer (Churches Linked Across Staffordshire and the Potteries) described how ‘Pilgrimage walks’ were increasing in popularity in Staffordshire, and some churches were even offering overnight accommodation.

Hilary Wheat explained how the Hidden Treasures project in Bilborough, as well as successfully renovating a neglected and vandalised church building, was able to provide youth training opportunities to local people.

Mike Arnold from Nottinghamshire SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) emphasised the importance of working with the education system in contributing local topics and resources for schools. The day was completed by Ben Virgo from Christian Heritage London, who showed the impact of short videos made using mobile phones.

Next year’s event is already planned for Friday March 9th 2018, and if any organisation involved in Heritage Tourism would like to attend or take part they should contact Adrian Gray at

Annual Religious Tolerance Conference

When: Saturday 11 March 2017, 9.30 for 10.00am

Where: The Well, Hospital Road, Retford, DN22 7BD

Professor John Coffey (University of Leicester) heads the programme at this year’s Retford Annual Religious Tolerance Conference at the Well on March 11th.

The Annual Religious Tolerance Conference takes place at The Well in Retford on Saturday March 11th 2017, at 9.30am for a 10.00am start.

John Coffey
Prof John Coffey

John Coffey is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester. He will give an historical approach to the ideas of persecution and tolerance in religion, politics and ideas through the 17th and 18th centuries. He has written extensively on this subject, and is the author of four books including Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558-1689 (2000) and Exodus and Liberation: Deliverance Politics from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr (2014). He was the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (2008).

Rev Canon Tony Walker, Area Team Rector, Retford Area Team Ministry will interview Imam Bakhtyar Pirzada, Deputy Principal, Eaton Hall, on Islamic teachings and debates on tolerance.

Andrew Haigh, CCO, International Christian Consulate will give a modern-day perspective on religious tolerance through the subject of Christian refugees in the Middle East.

The event will be introduced by Cllr Jim Anderson, Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, with a concluding summary and reflections from John Mann MP and Cllr Jo White, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Bassetlaw District Council.

The event is open to all, and everyone is welcome.

Following on from our successful event in March 2016, when we commemorated the anniversary of the death of Thomas Helwys, supported by Baroness Berridge and Rev Tony Peck, we are now making this an annual event to focus on the subject of religious tolerance. Last year’s event resulted in a Radio 4 Sunday Worship broadcast live from The Well in October 2016, on the same subject.

We are very grateful to Bassetlaw District Council and Churches Together in Retford for their continuing support.

Babworth ‘Pilgrims’ Church Snowdrops Weekend – even better in the rain!


Known as “the Church in the Woodland”, All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth provided the ideal setting for a delightful display of snowdrops even though the weather was challenging, to say the least!

On the weekend of Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th February, a steady stream of visitors exceeded last year’s visitor numbers, and braved the rain to come and walk the Snowdrops Trail and call in to the church to enjoy the homemade refreshments on sale.

A popular part of the weekend’s activities was the successful ‘Separatists and Mayflower Pilgrims’ exhibition. The exhibition included a description of the role of Rev Richard Clifton who was a prominent Separatist and Rector of Babworth from 1586 to 1605. On Saturday 11th, a talk by tour guide, Maggy Watkins, focused on Clifton’s connections with Bradford and Brewster. These men were prominent Mayflower Pilgrims, and the story of the Scrooby congregation’s struggle to escape arrest and leave for Holland fascinated an attentive and appreciative audience.

There were also many architectural wonders to see, including stained glass windows by Kempe, Eginton, and Wailes. Furniture by “Mousey” Thompson proved an exceptional attraction, with many visitors of all ages enjoying the challenge of ‘counting the mice’.

Bassetlaw Christian Heritage will be returning to All Saints’ Babworth during Open Churches Weekend on 8th and 9th July 2017 with another chance to see the exhibition and a further talk with another perspective on the Mayflower Pilgrims story. The church is also open with refreshments on Saturday afternoons from May through to September.

Snowdrops at Babworth

Snowdrop Weekend, All Saints’ Church, Babworth

Saturday 11 February 2017, 10am-4pm; Sunday 12 February 2017, 12-4pm

Talk: ‘Richard Clifton’ by Maggy Watkins, 11am Saturday 11 February

Free entry

The snowdrops surrounding All Saints’ Church at Babworth provide a wonderful display of nature showing the first beginnings of a new year of growth. The setting of the church deserves its title of ‘The Church in the Woodland’.

Take a walk along the Snowdrop Trail to get your appetite for a cup of tea and a cake inside the church. Look around at some of the features of the Pilgrims’ church itself – can you find all of the “Mousies”?

Buy some produce and plants – but be early, they go quickly. There are toilet and disabled facilities as well as a generous car park.

The church will be open on Saturday 11th February between 10am and 4pm and also on Sunday 12th between 12noon and 4pm.

On Saturday 11th February, at 11.00am, tour guide Maggy Watkins will give a talk on Richard Clifton. Part of the Mayflower Pilgrims exhibition will also be on display in the church throughout the weekend.

Entry is free, and everyone is welcome.

All Saints’ Parish Church, Babworth, with snowdrops
All Saints’ Parish Church, Babworth, with snowdrops

Countdown to 2020 – Scrooby connects with US musical roots

The Separatists and Mayflower Pilgrims came from our region – they changed the world and still do today – the countdown to the 400th anniversary in 2020 of their voyage to America in the ship called the Mayflower has begun.

It is not all about looking back through history. The Mayflower Pilgrims story reinforces the ‘special relationship’ and shows that links between the UK and US may go back 400 years, but they are alive and well today.

Giles Hedley playing steel guitar, with the Aviators, joined by Spike Arrowsmith (lead guitar), with Ed Marshall (12 string guitar) and Dave Wilson (Harmonica) from More Dog

If music be……

As part of the countdown to 2020, Scrooby Parish Council Chair, Ed Marshall, will be organising a series of concerts with connections to the US in Scrooby Village Hall. In the Summer of 2016, Scrooby Village Hall played host to the Luke Winslow King Band with a concert in the Village Hall on 30 June.  Luke is a Mayflower descendent so this was doubly significant.

On Saturday 17th December, Giles Hedley and the Aviators brought the blues home in style, with Giles playing a number of guitars in a range of stances, including behind his head, Hendrix-style. The evening was kicked-off by Ed Marshall himself with his band, More Dog, giving great support. During the evening, both bands were joined by Scrooby-based lead guitarist, Spike Arrowsmith, who added a Clapton-like flavour to the night. At the end of the evening, Ed Marshall and Dave Wilson from More Dog, and Spike Arrowsmith, joined Giles Hedley and the Aviators for a spectacular finale.

There will be more to come in 2017, with the next great event currently being arranged – watch this space for more information – be there!

Impact of the local Separatists

The Mayflower Pilgrims, and those who inspired them, lived within walking distance of Retford. William Bradford was from Austerfield, William Brewster from Scrooby, Richard Clifton from Babworth, John Robinson and John Smyth from Sturton-le-Steeple. These people made a difference to the world, and they still do. William Bradford from Austerfield with William Brewster, from Scrooby led the new colony and remained constant allies throughout.

Richard Gere, Ashley Judd, and Sarah Palin trace their ancestry through to William Brewster; Bing Crosby was also a descendant. Sally Field, Hugh Hefner, and Clint Eastwood trace their ancestry to William Bradford; Christopher Reeves and George Eastman were also descendants. The modern USA traces its origins back to the Mayflower Pilgrims; the nation celebrates Thanksgiving Day as a major national holiday, and the US Constitution traces its origins back to the Mayflower Compact, which was written, and signed, by people from our area.

Worksop Priory Vicar celebrates birthday as Christmas Tree Festival hosts successful ‘Rebels and Religion’ Pilgrims Exhibition

It was Fr Nicholas Spicer’s 55th birthday on Saturday 3rd December, when around 400 visitors arrived at Worksop Priory Church to look at the Christmas trees, and the Pilgrims Exhibition, and enjoy the hospitality of the Christmas Fair.  Over 1000 visitors called in between 30th November and 4th December to see the annual Christmas Tree Festival, including for the first time an exhibition on the Separatists and Mayflower Pilgrims, in the historic setting of Worksop Priory.

Visitors of all ages enjoyed the colourful display of over 30 beautifully decorated Christmas Trees from local organisations, including Worksop Rotary, Bassetlaw Food Bank, Joel The Complete Package, Church Bellringers, The Crossing, Worksop WI, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Bassetlaw Hospice, Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Services, and Bluebell Wood.

The Pilgrims Exhibition is being promoted in 2016 as part of Bassetlaw District Council’s theme of ‘Rebels and Religion’; it tells the story of the Separatists who left England to go to Holland, some of whom ended up as the Mayflower Pilgrims, who successfully founded the Plimouth Colony in the New World. This became the event from which the United States of America traces its origins. The Mayflower Compact, which was drawn up, and signed, by people from in and around Bassetlaw is acknowledged as the basis for the United States Constitution.

Worksop Priory also featured in the Separatists debate through its Vicar, Richard Bernard, who sympathised with the Separatists, Brewster and Robinson, but decided to stay and purify the Church from within, becoming part of the Puritan movement. His daughter, Mary, married Roger Williams, a Baptist, and together they travelled to the New World and eventually founded what is now Rhode Island State. Williams was a student of Native American languages, an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans, and one of the first abolitionists in North America, who organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the British American colonies.

There are many stories of people who lived in and around Bassetlaw, who have changed the world, and whose legacy continues to make a difference today. The Congregational, Baptist, and Methodist churches were all founded by people from this area, as was the United States, and the first Quaker martyr came from Retford. The personality characteristics of independent thinking, passion, and tolerance are as much alive today as they were in the past.

ILLUMINATE – PILGRIMS FESTIVAL gets better and better


Beat that? They did! ILLUMINATE Pilgrims Festival gets better every year! 2016 events exceed the success of 2015 on the way to the 400th Anniversary in 2020.

From an inspiring art exhibition and fascinating talk at Babworth church to the closing presentation at Retford Town Hall… The week was filled to the brim with the stories and celebrations of the region and heritage – our ‘Mayflower Roots’.

The United States of America traces its origins to the people aboard the Mayflower and recognises the Pilgrims as its forebears.  Bradford and Brewster, came from Austerfield and Scrooby, with important influencers coming from Babworth – Clifton, and Robinson and Smyth came from Sturton-le-Steeple.  Because of this we have a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S. and it was celebrated in style at Spencer’s on the Square with an ‘Americana Eveningon Tuesday 22nd November.  Over 60 local people gathered for a glittering evening with a sumptuous early Thanksgiving dinner. Jessica Mary Brett and Max Bowker provided uplifting, toe-tapping entertainment – singing American classics from the 50s and 60s.

More than 150 people flocked to the picturesque Babworth Parish Church over the weekend of 19th/20th November to see the inaugural ‘Pilgrims Festival Art Exhibition’, and to listen to the knowledgeable Adrian Gray speak about “How Nottinghamshire Changed the World”. Thirty-nine diverse exhibits were on show – all the work of local artists who had their own individual interpretations of the Pilgrims’ story.  An exhibition which illustrated the Separatist and Mayflower Pilgrims story ran throughout the week in Retford Town Hall and was seen by over 300 visitors.

Heritage talks were given by Malcolm Dolby, who gave a fascinating talk on the life and times of William Bradford; Sue Allan provided a perceptive view of what life was like at the time of the Separatists; and Natasha Scullion delivered an absorbing look at St Martin’s, Bilborough, Hidden Treasures: The Building and its People’.

Last year, three primary schools (about 100 children) accessed the Pilgrims Story in an entertaining and educational way. This year, eight primary schools, plus local Cubs Brownies and Rainbows were engaged in Pilgrim-themed workshops and enjoyed Talegate Theatre, with their ‘Chronicles of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ – an uproariously funny look at the pioneering adventure, in which over 400 local schoolchildren participated. On Thursday 24th, Carr Hill Primary School gave an outstanding performance of a special play written by one of their governors, Barry Upton. This was attended by around 80 schoolchildren from Carr Hill, plus teachers and parents, and grandparents.

On Thursday 24th there were candle-lighting services during the day at the ‘Pilgrims Churches’ in Austerfield, Scrooby, Babworth, Sturton-le-Steeple, and Gainsborough (United Reformed Church). The day started at Gainsborough United Reformed Church with a service led by the Minister, Rev Dr Gillian Poucher, including clergy members from the local Anglican (Canon Mike Cooney) and Methodist (Rev Louise Carr) churches and members of the congregation. Then there was a service at St Peter & St Paul’s in Sturton-le-Steeple led by Rev Mark Cantrill and Barbara Bartle, Churchwarden, who dressed up for the part in outfits from the time of the Pilgrims. They were joined by pupils from nearby Sturton Primary School, who joined in question and answer sessions and began to understand the part that the village has played, through Robinson and Smyth, in the development of the beliefs of the modern Western World. Then there was a simple service at St Helena’s Church in Austerfield, where William Bradford was baptized, led by Rev Jonathan Strickland, assisted by Churchwarden, Sue Goodall. This was followed by a service at St Wilfrid’s Scrooby, led by Rev Julia Jesson, Area Dean, which was attended by Ed Marshall, Chair of the Parish Council, and members of the congregations of Scrooby, Ranskill and Blyth. At All Saints’ church in Babworth, in the afternoon, the service was led by Canon Tony Walker, Team Rector of Retford, and was attended by Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who had arrived specially from London for the evening, Rev Julia Jesson, Area Dean, and members of the Babworth and Ranby congregations.

St Swithun’s Parish Church in Retford welcomed all to a Civic Service on Thursday 24th November.  Rev Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Chaplain to the Queen, Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey and Priest in Charge of St Mary-at-Hill near Monument, gave the address and spoke powerfully and movingly about tolerance and caring.  Retford Post 16 Centre drama students performed an insightful interpretation of ‘Separatists, Rebels and Religion’ written and dramatised by Anna Scott and Neil Brownhill.  Worksop College Choir, VOX, and the North Wheatley Choir ‘Songbirds’ sang inspirational songs as part of the service, which told the story of the Pilgrims’ decision to leave England and seek a new life overseas.

The Civic Service was attended by Judge John Machin, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire; John Mann, MP; Cllr Jim Anderson, Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council; Cllr Garry Clarkson, Mayor of Retford; Ven David Picken, Archdeacon of Newark; Cllr Madelaine Richardson, Deputy Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council; Cllr George Derx, Deputy Mayor of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council; Cllr Helen Richards, Deputy Mayor of Retford and Neil Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, Bassetlaw District Council. Councillors from Bassetlaw, and West Lindsey, District Councils and local Parish Councils were also welcome guests.

The service began with candles being brought from churches at Austerfield, Scrooby, Babworth, Sturton-le-Steeple and Gainsborough (URC) to provide one light as remembered in William Bradford’s words ‘as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.’    All those who took part in the Civic Service gathered in St Swithun’s churchyard to create a ‘400’ image again using lights to illuminate the shape in the darkness.  This is part of the national Mayflower 400 campaign led by Plymouth in Devon, England where towns with a connection to the Pilgrims Story are encouraged to hold an event based on light referring to the Bradford quote. Plymouth created the first ‘400’ in 2014, and Retford has participated in 2015 and 2016.

A Civic Reception was held in the Town Hall where Anna Scott, Heritage Consultant, introduced a sand art film showing the Pilgrims Story; Cllr Jim Anderson, Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, reflected on the success of the week congratulating the organisers on having improved on the excellent 2015 events. This was followed by John Mann MP, who gave an inspiring speech on his commitment to the Pilgrims Story and its beneficial relevance to Bassetlaw. He also revealed that he had invited Richard Gere and Bruce Springsteen to visit Bassetlaw’s commemorations – it remains to be seen whether they will attend. The speeches were completed by Rick Brand, Chair, Bassetlaw Christian Heritage, who emphasized the focus on local engagement with the Pilgrims Story to ensure that the area in and around Bassetlaw connected with the Pilgrims benefitted beyond 2020.

This amazing week of celebrations culminated on Sunday 27th with the Christmas Market and Light Switch-on and an enchanting display of almost 100 beautifully decorated Christmas trees in St Swithun’s church (until 3rd December), and a Star Festival at Grove St Methodist Chapel.

Babworth Church hosts successful first Pilgrims Festival Art Exhibition

Over 150 visitors went to Babworth Parish Church last weekend (19th & 20th November) to see the first Pilgrims Festival Art Exhibition.

There were 39 exhibits, including paintings by local artists, Gerry Fruin, Jenny King, Margaret Harwood, and members of the Misterton Art Group, Brushstrokes. Three-dimensional works were provided by Madelaine Richardson, with a superb bust of William Brewster, and a range of pottery from Dave Hughes, the Mud-Mechanic, including specially commissioned candlesticks, which will be used in the Candle-lighting and Civic Services taking place on Thursday 24th November.

The standard of work was high and the range of styles included watercolours, oils, acrylics, embroidery, clay and mixed media. Encouraged by the response from the artists and the public, it is planned to hold another exhibition next year and to work with any groups that would like to know more about the story over the next 12 months. It is not all about the Mayflower ship – although there were a number of skilled interpretations of it – the only requirement is that the work should be inspired by the Separatist and Mayflower Pilgrims story. So, artists, please put it in the diary for next year!

Babworth Church is an outstanding location to hold an event focused on the Separatist story as it is where Richard Clifton preached and where William Bradford and William Brewster travelled to hear him, risking fines or imprisonment for doing so. As well as its historic and architectural interest, there are also several ‘Mousey Thompson’ mice to find, keeping younger visitors entertained. Babworth will hold its candle-lighting service at 4pm, and its candle will feature in the Civic Service at St Swithun’s in Retford at 6.00pm, both on 24th November.

On Saturday 19th, local author and historian, Adrian Gray gave a brilliant talk on “How Nottinghamshire Changed the World”. Adrian added new facts and stories about people whose daily lives we can only imagine, who came from in and around Bassetlaw. He told the story of Elizabeth Hooten, a woman travelling about the world on her own, being banished to the West Indies from the New World Colony, and returning; then being sent out into the snow-filled forest with only one helper, and surviving by following the tracks of wolves – remarkably dying in Bermuda after a long life.

A free talk will be given on Friday 25th November, 12.30 pm in Retford Town Hall, by Natasha Scullion, on “St Martin’s Bilborough, Hidden Treasures: The Building and its People”. The talk is free to all and is followed at 2.00pm by a public performance by Talegate Theatre of their “Chronicles of the Pilgrims” – a light-hearted look at the story. The exhibition about the Separatist and Mayflower Pilgrims story will be open in Retford Town Hall from 10am until 4pm.

Commemorating Clifton’s 400th – BCH touring exhibition and talks in May

Bassetlaw Christian Heritage is involved in a series of events this coming May to commemorate 400 years since the death of Richard Clifton – leading Separatist and preacher who inspired the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Events are taking place in Austerfield, Gainsborough, Babworth and Retford.

BCH are pleased to be taking part in the Doncaster Heritage Festival, the West Lindsey Churches Festival and the Retford Arts Festival to stage an exhibition on Clifton and the Pilgrims and offer talks on the history by Adrian Gray.

May 20th 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Clifton, who died in Holland before the Pilgrims left for America via Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth.

What’s on and when?

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th May 2016 11am-4pm St Helena’s Church, Austerfield

  • Open Church Weekend as part of the Doncaster Heritage Festival, including a Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists, including William Bradford and William Brewster.
  • Refreshments will be provided.
  • Talk by author and local historian Adrian Gray on Sunday 8 May 8 at 2pm, providing an engaging insight into the Bradford, Brewster and Clifton story with an overview of the times that they lived in and their importance to us today.
  • Adrian’s new book From Here We Changed the World will be available, which provides an outline of the story and a detailed commentary on fascinating insights into some of the key places in the region. It is a story of martyrdom, sacrifice and unbelievable bravery; of shipwreck, cannibalism and yet extraordinary service to others.
  • Read a short history of Austerfield church below.
Saturday 14th May 2016 Pilgrims & Prophets Clifton Tour
  • Tour of churches with connections to Richard Clifton and the Pilgrim Story, with a heritage commentary, (itinerary subject to confirmation) starting at The Crossing in Worksop going on to The Well in Retford then Marnham, Fledborough, Babworth, Scrooby, and Everton before returning to The Well and The Crossing.
  • Departures from from The Crossing in Worksop and The Well in Retford.
  • Led by Adrian Gray and Rev. Geoffrey Clarke – for further information contact Adrian Gray (tel./text 07470 366689), or The Crossing in Worksop, or The Well in Retford.
 Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th May 2016 United Reformed Church, Gainsborough
  • Open Church Weekend with organ recitals as part of the West Lindsey Churches Festival – including Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists.
Saturday 28th, Sunday 29th & Monday 30th May 2016 10am-4pm All Saint’s Parish Church, Babworth
  • Open Church Weekend as part of the Retford Arts Festival;
  • Exhibition of paintings by local artist Gerry Fruin;
  • Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists.
  • Refreshments will be provided and car parking is available.
Saturday 28th May 2016 11am St Swithun’s Parish Church, Retford
  • Talk by author and local historian, Adrian Gray on ‘Retford’s Christian Heritage’ as part of the Retford Arts Festival.

Spotlight on Austerfield

The Clifton commemorations begin at historic St Helena’s Church at Austerfield, now over one thousand years old. The structure of the building alone is worth a visit, but when you consider the people who have lived and worked here, and the events they have shaped, influencing the lives of millions across the world – you will wonder why you haven’t visited before.

St Helena’s Church was built in 1080 by John de Builli, using stone from the Roche Abbey quarries. Over the centuries the church has seen new sections built and renovations completed to make it the church you see today.

The tympanum over the south doorway depicts a serpent-like dragon. An article published in 1954 suggests it is 8th century and relates its symbolic meaning to the calculation of the incidence of Easter Day.

In 702AD Austerfield was the location of a Synod, where a dispute between the King of Northumbria and Wilfrid, Bishop of Ripon was resolved. The Synod also discussed and agreed was the way that Easter is calculated.

The church has several windows by one of England’s greatest stained glass artists, Charles Earner Kempe.

In the nave is a Sheila-na-gig of which there are only 16 recorded in England! This is a quasi-erotic stone carving of a female figure sometimes found in Norman churches. This carving had been blocked into a wall in the 14th century, and was only rediscovered in 1898 during restoration work.

In 1897 the north aisle was built in memory of William Bradford.

Austerfield is perhaps best known by its connections with the Mayflower Pilgrims. William Bradford was born in Austerfield and was brought to be baptised on 19th March 1589.

In front of you, when you enter the church, is the stone baptismal font where Bradford was baptized and a beautiful stained glass window on the north side of the church commemorates the 400th anniversary of this event.

William Bradford went on to become the second Governor of Plimoth Colony in America and was the second signer of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor.

Bradford was just 18 when he left for Holland with the Scrooby Group of Separatists in 1608, and only 30 when he arrived in America. As a young man he had often been unwell which led him to read and develop an interest in religious issues.

He became a close friend of William Brewster, who was Master of the Post at Scrooby, which is where the Scrooby Group met after Richard Clifton was forced out of Babworth.

Clifton was an important preacher and Bradford and Brewster regularly walked to Babworth to hear his sermons, even though it was illegal at the time.

[As featured on Heritage Inspired]




John Mann’s Pilgrim 400 debate in Parliament

Bassetlaw MP John Mann recently asked questions in Parliament about the plans for the 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage, coming up in 2020.

You can read the debate in Hansard or watch the debate on

Mr Mann outlined the history of the Pilgrims, and their roots in Bassetlaw:

“At first glance, nonconformity and its influence on democracy are a series of extraordinary coincidences based in the beautiful setting of rural Bassetlaw, and they are all linked by geography, message and history. The modern history of our great ally and special partner, the United States of America, comes from a tiny group of men and women who, in the autumn of 1620, arrived on board the Mayflower at Cape Cod in Massachusetts. They were a group of religious and political nonconformists who risked their lives, and at times lost their liberty, in order to establish the basis and values of the society they wanted. It was a society that, through the Mayflower compact—which was the basis of that first settlement on the east coast of America—created both the foundations for the constitution of the United States and the model for parliamentary democracy.”

Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, acknowledging Plymouth’s role in the story of the Mayflower, invited Mr Mann to join with him and co-chair an all-party parliamentary group to recognise the 400th anniversary.

Mr Mann positively embraced the invitation, hoping that a:

“Bassetlaw-Plymouth amalgam cross-party group would be a powerful way to spread the message of the values and principles of the Mayflower Pilgrims.”

In response to Mr Mann’s statements about Bassetlaw, David Evennett, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, stated that:

“It is only right that all parts of the United Kingdom that were involved in that momentous occasion can profit from the renewed interest that the citizens of the USA will have in visiting the UK as part of the 400th anniversary commemorations in 2020. This matters not just for the constituencies involved, but for tourism and the economic benefits brought by those tourists from America and other parts of the world, because we have a great story to tell. American tourists spent nearly £3 billion in this country in 2014.

The Plymouth area has received financial support from the Government, with £35,000 announced to upgrade facilities at the Mayflower museum. However, I would like to allay any fears that the people of Bassetlaw might have that all Mayflower-related financial support is going to Plymouth and will not be distributed across the country: £500,000 worth of support was announced in the autumn statement 2015 by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, as we heard, for Mayflower-related celebrations across the country. VisitEngland is in the process of allocating that sum and will involve in its work a number of areas across the nation, not just the city of Plymouth.”

You can read the full debate from 9 March 2016, including Mr Mann’s history of Bassetlaw, in Hansard.