Blog – Our Heritage, Your Heritage

500th anniversary of the Reformation

On Saturday 14th October 2017, a musical workshop will take place in St. Saviour’s Church, Welham Road, Retford, DN22 6QW.

Between 9.30am and 5.30pm Andy Watts of The Carnival Band will help participants explore the musical heritage of Martin Luther and the Reformation, and ways in which it developed in England, particularly the West Gallery music as performed today by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. The number of places for singers and instrumentalists is limited to 50 (£10 including lunch).

Places can be booked at search for Luther 500 Applications, or

The workshop will be followed by a REFORMATION 500 COMMEMORATION SERVICE at 7pm in St Saviour’s Church to which everyone is invited. The music and songs rehearsed during the day will be included and the preacher will be the Rev Paulina Hlawiczka, the Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Nottingham.

On 31st October 2017, all round the world, people are marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the castle chapel in the German town of Wittenberg – an event that has become known as the starting point of the Reformation.


Luther, an Augustinian monk, taught Biblical theology in Wittenberg’s new university. He found himself facing two difficulties. First, it was hard to reconcile his understanding of the Bible’s teachings with some traditional teachings of the Church. Second, he struggled with his own spiritual standing in the eyes of God. His theses dealt with several different matters, but were particularly prompted by the sale of letters known as ‘Indulgences’. These were said to shorten the length of time spent by departed believers in Purgatory, but Luther could find no Biblical basis for such a belief. He had gradually come to understand that human beings are reconciled to God purely by God’s generosity, his grace, rather than by anything they might do, however good.

Within a very short time the theses, which had been written in Latin, were translated into German, printed and widely distributed throughout the many different territories of Germany. Luther had no intention of causing a rift in the Church of Rome, but that is indeed what happened. Ever since, here in the west, the Roman Catholic Church has continued to exist alongside many Protestant Churches.

In this anniversary year Roman Catholics and Protestants are joining together to commemorate 500 years of continuing reform. All over the UK, and across the world, there are an enormous variety of events. In Retford, the Churches are inviting people to consider how the Reformation prompted by Martin Luther gave church music back to the people.

Arguably, Luther started a series of events which included Henry Vlll’s dissolution of the monasteries and establishment as head of the Church of England, swung violently through the reigns of Edward lV, Mary l and Elizabeth l, including the Spanish War and Cranmer’s Protestant Reformation. A hundred years of religious and political challenge delivered James 1 to the throne of Great Britain and the Separatists to arise in the area in and around Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire.

From here, some of them started a journey to found a colony in America. This year’s Pilgrims Festival starts on Saturday and Sunday 18th & 19th November with a Pilgrims inspired Art Exhibition at Babworth, followed by a range of events in Austerfield and Bawtry on Sunday 19th November; Retford on Tuesday 21st November; and Gainsborough on Wednesday 22nd November. A Thanksgiving Day Dinner is planned at Spencer’s on the Square in Retford on Thursday 23rd November and a concert by Doncaster Waites at Scrooby Village Hall on Friday 24th November. The Christmas Tree Festival at St Swithun’s and the Star Festival at the Grove will start on Saturday 25th November and the Christmas lights will be switched on in Bawtry and Retford on Sunday 26th November.

“Religious freedom everywhere must be defended”

2nd Annual Religious Tolerance Conference

Religious freedom and tolerance have been promoted in and around Bassetlaw for over 400 years. Following the successful event in 2016 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Thomas Helwys, Separatist and early tolerance advocate, the second Annual Religious Tolerance Conference took place at The Well Baptist Church and Conference Centre in Retford on Saturday, March 11th 2017. This event attracted attendees from across England as well as in and around Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire.

The conference was opened by Cllr Jim Anderson, Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, with an insightful world overview linking faith to humanity, democracy to freedom, and tolerance to understanding. Cllr Anderson focused on the point that religious freedom everywhere must be defended, using examples from scripture to support the argument.

The main speaker, John Coffey, is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester. He brought to life the stories of Thomas Helwys, who lived at Broxtowe Hall, and John Murton, from Gainsborough, both of whom advocated religious tolerance, not only within Christianity, but between religions and also for those without. They also promoted a separation between civil and spiritual loyalty, saying that the King could not dictate a person’s religion. This was revolutionary at the time, 400 years ago, and it cost Helwys his life. It is a concept that is still a topical issue today.

Another advocate of religious freedom with links through marriage to Bassetlaw was Roger Williams who married Mary Bernard, the daughter of Rev Richard Bernard, Vicar of the Priory Church in Worksop. Roger and Mary travelled to the New World Colonies following the journey of the Mayflower Pilgrims, and eventually set up Rhode Island State. Williams got on well with the native population in the area, and welcomed all beliefs, including pagans, into the Rhode Island State.

Professor Coffey focused the debate on the question of who had responsibility for an individual’s soul, and the role of coercion in religious practice. In the third century, Tertullian had written to a proconsul of Carthage stating the case for the religious freedom of the individual. However, since St Augustine in the fifth century justified the use of force against an heretic sect, the principle of the church having responsibility for the safeguarding of individual souls had grown, especially following the conversion of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who joined the Eastern and Western empires, and converted to Christianity.

A representative from Release International gave an overview of the world situation regarding persecution, where an estimated 80% of all acts of religious discrimination are against Christians. Release uses the phrase “Love Kills Hate” and advocates that we use our freedom wisely through “Love in Action” on the basis that you can always make a difference.

Rev Canon Tony Walker, Rector of Retford Team Ministry, interviewed Imam Bakhtyar Pirzada, Vice-Principal of Jamia Al-Karam based at Eaton Hall, near Retford, which provided a fascinating insight into the Muslim faith. Imam Pirzada explained that Islam attempted to create a state of peace in three main elements: the Mind, the Body and the Soul/Heart, and that it was essentially opposed to violence. There are six key concepts of dignity, diversity, no compulsion in religion, commonality, neighbourliness, and the preference of peace over war. Imam Pirzada highlighted the ‘golden age’ of Islam in Europe, before the Renaissance, especially in Muslim Spain, when all major religions lived together in harmony and contributed to the scientific and intellectual development of Europe. Citing poverty, ignorance and politics as the causes for most civil unrest, he stated that less than 1% of the Muslim population were potential extremists, whilst the majority are interested in getting on with their lives. He said that Islam is about intellectual intelligence and learning, referring to Al-Azhar University in Cairo as a source of Islamic learning for over a thousand years.

Sharia Law was discussed as governing the ‘body’ or the physical element of faith, dealing with every aspect of living including worship and social dealings. It includes a penal code, but is not fully enforced anywhere in the world with the teaching of Islam categorically instructing people to adhere to the law of the land. Aspects of Sharia Law are adopted by Muslims and non-Muslims alike such as its principles of Islamic finance and Sharia-compliant banking, which the major banks in the UK and elsewhere have provisions for.

About education, Imam Pirzada said it was important to have “both eyes open” referring to the religion and the place where you live, the context. He felt extremists promoted fallacies and misinterpretations of out-of-context passages from classical times, without contextualising the religion and that is what created the problems. The founder of Jamia Al-Karam is a respected scholar among the British Muslim community and one of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world, and he was the first to write against extremism, and state the illegitimacy of the group ISIS according to Islam (ISIS: State of Ignorance).

Councillor Jo White, Deputy Leader of Bassetlaw District Council, and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, carried out the extremely challenging task of summarising the morning’s discussions, which had contained a wide range of detailed information, accurately highlighting the themes of tolerance running through each presentation.

The conference was closed by Bassetlaw MP, John Mann, who had recently co-chaired a conference on tolerance in Germany with Chancellor Merkel. He highlighted, with personal examples, the fact that prejudice still existed in Bassetlaw and needs to be resisted. He referred to 2020 being an historic date and opportunity for the area in and around Retford to again assert its place in history, and the shared values between the US and UK, in advocating tolerance, political justice and freedom. He concluded by saying that we should look forward, with a firm understanding of our past, into a future to 2020 and beyond, to promote our values of democracy and tolerance.

“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.