Fourth Annual Heritage Conference held in Retford

Thirty heritage specialists travelled to Retford from across the UK to listen to fourteen presentations at this year’s national Christian Heritage Conference, held on Friday 8th March 2019 at The Well.

Organisations involved in the development and delivery of heritage-based activities met to exchange best practice and form future partnerships.

Because of the local story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, and the importance of that story to the area in and around Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw Christian Heritage started the annual conference in 2016 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of local reformer Thomas Helwys. It is now firmly established on the national heritage calendar.

Local historian, and author of the book From Here We Changed The World, Adrian Gray, led the day, focusing on the importance of the local people. There then followed a series of presentations by the following organisations:

This event continues to attract national interest in Retford and the next event is being planned for Friday 6th March 2020.

Pilgrim Embroiderers receive funding boost

East Retford South Councillor, Helen Richards attended a recent meeting of the Pilgrim Churches at All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth to announce her support for Bassetlaw Christian Heritage’s (BCH) appeal for the Pilgrim Embroiders’ embroidery project.

Cllr Richards has given £100 towards the embroidery framing costs and also provided a donation of £150 to BCH towards their Pilgrims Festival events in and around Retford in November.

Pictured are Rick Brand, Chair, BCH; Cllr Helen Richards; and Pilgrim Embroiders: Jenny King, Fay Evason, Beverley Naylor, and Lynn Hadland. One of the works in progress is also pictured – this one is Babworth Church.

The newly-named Pilgrim Embroiders, led by local artist Jenny King, are currently working on five embroideries relating to the Pilgrim Churches in Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire (Austerfield, Babworth, Scrooby, Sturton-le-Steeple and St Swithun’s, Retford).

These artworks, when completed and framed, will hang in each of the churches for public view and will be available to come together as a feature for exhibitions around the area. They are hoped to be included in Bassetlaw Museum’s exhibition in 2020.

There has been a great deal of interest in the Pilgrim Embroiders’ work when they have attended events locally. They are looking forward to taking their work to other events across the summer to meet more people and show them what they are doing – they might even let you have a go!

Bassetlaw Christian Heritage is currently raising funds for this work, and anyone wishing to make a donation should initially contact BCH.

Religious Tolerance Forum 2019

Is Free Speech at risk? – Find out here

This year’s Retford Religious Tolerance Forum is on Saturday 9th March 2019, 10am-1pm at The Well, Hospital Road, Retford, DN22 7BD.

George Washington, First President of the United States, said:

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter”

The first Retford Religious Tolerance Forum was held in 2016 to commemorate the death of Thomas Helwys in 1616, the first Baptist martyr and original advocate of religious tolerance between Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those with no faith.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Dr Larry Kreitzer – “Pioneer of Freedom: New Light on Thomas Helwys of Nottinghamshire”

Dr Kreitzer is from Regent’s Park College at the University of Oxford and holds a Research Lectureship in the Faculty of Theology. He is a member of the Society of New Testament Studies and has served on the Editorial Board for several academic journals. He will provide new insights into the life of Thomas Helwys.

  • Dr Martin Parsons – “Religious Freedom in Britain since 1700 – and what it tells us about the World today”

Dr Parsons comes from the Barnabas Fund, the main ministry of which is to send financial support to projects which help Christians where they suffer discrimination, oppression and persecution as a consequence of their faith.

  • Dr Calum Miller – “Is Free Speech really under threat?”

Dr Miller is a medical doctor, philosopher, and ethicist who graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with degrees in Medical Sciences (Neuroscience) and Medicine & Surgery. Calum currently teaches Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Oxford.

  • Ben Huxtable of Release International

This event originated in 2016, commemorating the death of Nottinghamshire tolerance campaigner, Thomas Helwys, who was part of the English Puritan and Separatist movement that produced the Mayflower Pilgrims and led to the creation of the Congregational and Baptist Churches.

This will be the fourth annual Religious Tolerance Forum to be held in Retford. It provides a unique opportunity for the subject to be discussed in an open forum.

Previous speakers have included Baroness Elizabeth Berridge (member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief), John Mann MP, Professor John Coffey (University of Leicester), Rev Tony Peck (General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation), Imam Bakhtyar Pirzada (Eaton Hall), Dr David Appleby (University of Nottingham), and Mr Phil Lyons (CEO National Holocaust Centre).

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

All Saints’ Babworth Snowdrops Weekend – better than ever!

All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth, the Pilgrims’ Church known as “the Church in the Woodland”, recently provided the ideal setting for a delightful display of snowdrops.

On the weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February 2018, a steady stream of visitors exceeded last year’s record attendance numbers.

Churchwarden, Peter Swinscoe stated “we must have had over 1,000 people across the weekend – there has been a steady stream of visitors – it has been a very enjoyable time for everyone”.

They came to Babworth to walk the Snowdrops Trail and call in to the church to enjoy the homemade refreshments and gifts on sale, see the embroiderers working and listen to the talk .

On Sunday 10th, a talk by tour guide, Maggy Watkins, which covered a wide range of connections with the Mayflower Pilgrims, was very well attended. The story of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ struggle to escape arrest and leave for Holland fascinated an attentive and appreciative audience.

Throughout the weekend, a group of embroiderers led by Jenny King worked on their representations of five of the Pilgrims Churches (Austerfield, Scrooby, Babworth, Sturton-le-Steeple and St Swithun’s Retford). These artworks, when completed will hang in each of the churches for public view and will be available to come together as a feature for exhibitions etc. Bassetlaw Christian Heritage is currently raising funds for this work (contact us).

The papers of Revd Edmund Jessup who played a major role in establishing the Pilgrims’ story at Babworth, during his time as Vicar of Babworth (1950-85), were on display, as was the ‘Separatists and Mayflower Pilgrims’ exhibition, which included a description of the role of Rev Richard Clifton, who was a prominent Separatist and Rector of Babworth from 1586 to 1605.

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

Fresh air and heritage – it’s time for the Babworth snowdrops weekend!

All Saints’ Parish Church, Babworth

Babworth Road, Babworth, DN22 8HE

Saturday 9th February 2019 (10am – 4pm)

Sunday 10th February 2019 (12pm – 4pm)

The 2019 Snowdrops Weekend at All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth, the ‘Church in the Woods’, is an annual pilgrimage made by many people, from a wide range of locations in and around Bassetlaw, and beyond!

As well as taking a stroll around the churchyards, there are walks through the woods, providing a great breath of fresh air as spring starts the journey back to summer. Inside the church there will be a warm welcome and an even warmer hot drink and a piece of cake! Early birds will also be able to buy local produce and cards. There is a car park and toilet facilities.

At 1pm on Sunday 10th, local tour guide Maggy Watkins, will host a question-and-answer session on the Mayflower Pilgrims and other members of the Separatist Movement. This will be an informal opportunity to find out everything you wanted to know about the Pilgrims but were afraid to ask!

Babworth Church is an outstanding location to visit (from May to September it is open every Saturday afternoon) as it is in many ways the ‘crucible’ of the Separatist movement where Richard Clifton preached, assisted by John Robinson, and where Mayflower Pilgrims William Bradford and William Brewster travelled to hear him, risking fines or imprisonment for doing so. Part of the Separatists Exhibition will also be on display in the church throughout the weekend.

As well as its historic and architectural interest, there are also several ‘Mousey Thompson’ mice to find, keeping younger visitors entertained. Refreshments will be available.

Artist credit: Elaine Nash

Pilgrims & Prophets local history tour: 2 June

EXPLORE THE HISTORY OF BOSTON, THE MAYFLOWER PILGRIMS AND LINCOLNSHIRE’S GREATEST MONK!

A fascinating local history ‘day out’ by coach with guided tours

P&P 2 June tour link

DATE: Saturday 7th July: pick up Worksop (09:00) and Retford (09:20)

  • Guided tour of ‘Boston Stump’ – one of England’s great parish churches and home of John Cotton, one of America’s greatest 17th Century Church leaders
  • See the home of John Foxe, author of Tudor England’s best-selling book
  • Visit the cells in which the ‘Mayflower’ Pilgrims were imprisoned after their first escape attempt
  • Visit extraordinary Sempringham – home of St Gilbert and England’s only monastic order, where puritan leaders plotted the ‘Great Migration’ in 1629

BOOKING DETAILS:

  • PRICE INCLUDES morning coffee and cake, light lunch, and admissions
  • BOOKING INFORMATION: The all-inclusive price is £32.50 but we are offering an ‘early bird’ rate of £30 for bookings by 1st May.
  • Book by email (mail@pilgrimsandprophets.co.uk), by phone to Maggy on 07724 848958, or to P & P c/o The Well, Hospital Road, Retford including a cheque to Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours and your contact details.

 

Retford leads the way!

Retford’s Annual Religious Tolerance Forum provides the key to support for the Mayflower Pilgrims Commemoration in the USA 

There is enthusiasm in the USA for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ arrival in North America in 1620, however there is concern about its impact on the First Nations people who were already there.

By focusing on the theme of religious freedom and tolerance and looking forward through heritage rather than backwards as history, this will provide an approach, based on shared values, which should be acceptable to everyone. The fact that Retford has established an annual event focused on this subject, based on the thinking of its local puritans, some of whom were Mayflower Pilgrims, is of major interest to partners in the USA.

At this year’s Religious Tolerance Forum, held on Saturday 10th March 2018 at the The Well in Retford, Bassetlaw MP John Mann, who had just returned from a visit to Boston (USA), was able to share this exciting information arising from his trip. John Mann MP is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Also at the Religious Tolerance Forum, Adrian Gray, local historian and author of the book From Here We Changed The World, told the story of the roots of religious tolerance in Bassetlaw and Gainsborough. The Forum in Retford is an annual event, started in 2015 to commemorate the death of local puritan, Thomas Helwys, who was the author of the first document advocating religious freedom, not only between Christian denominations but also with Jews, Muslims and those without any faith. He also claimed that there should be no connection between state and religion, meaning each individual should be free to believe what they want.

Dr David Appleby, Lecturer in Early Modern British History at the University of Nottingham, focused on the subject of tolerance in the aftermath of the English Civil War, which proportionally had a greater casualty impact on the population than the First World War. He examined how the political environment was shaped and modified by the views and opinions of the people and how the leaders of the day responded, with the resulting persecutions and unlikely collaborations.

Phil Lyons MBE gave an extensive view of the National Holocaust Centre with its elements of the exhibition, The Journey, telling a refugee story from the perspective of a young boy, collections including 700 historical items, and The Forever Project which provides interactive survivor interviewing. Virtual reality applications are also being created enabling immersive experiences to be taken out to schools. This is currently the only museum of its type in the UK.

Rev Richard Warren interviewed representatives of Release International and Open Doors who seek to provide evidence of, and argue against, persecutions happening today around the world.

The event was completed by a video of an interview between Rick Brand, Chair of Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Next year’s event will be held on Saturday March 9th, 2019 – save the date!

What’s the background to this event?

The main Separatists and Mayflower Pilgrims came from the area around Retford, in Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire; Bradford from Austerfield, and Brewster from Scrooby. Although not travelling to North America on the Mayflower, Clifton, from Babworth, Turvin from Retford, Bernard from Worksop, Smith and Robinson from Sturton le Steeple along with Helwys from Broxtowe were all part of the local puritan movement.

Roger Williams (from Essex) married Mary Bernard, daughter of Richard Bernard of Worksop Priory, and together they travelled to North America, where they befriended the local tribes and learned their languages, ultimately setting up Rhode Island State as a beacon of religious tolerance, separation of state and religion, and rejection of slavery.

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.

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.

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]