The Rectors of St Peter's Church
Part One: 1241 - 1499


The history of St Peter's Church, Nottingham goes back at least 130 years before the first known Rector, who was instituted in November 1241. The church was founded some time after the Norman Conquest together with St Nicholas', both were in the "French borough" settled in the shelter of the Castle, while the pre-Conquest foundation of St Mary's was in the "English borough". St Peter's was given by William Peverel to the Priory of Lenton, just west of Nottingham, at the time the priory was founded, between 1109 and 1114. The Priory had responsibility for church affairs and doubtless appointed chaplains to look after it. It is quite possible that there were rectors before 1241, receiving tithes direct from the parishioners (this is the historical difference between rectors and vicars) but no records survive.

The patronage, or the right to choose the next rector, was in the hands of "the Prior and Convent of Lenton" through the Middle Ages, except for some years during the Hundred Years War when the King held the Priory and so appointed the rectors of St Peter's. In 1525 the Prior of Lenton allowed the existing rector to choose his successor for one "turn", and the patronage then passed to the Crown. In the 1640s the Presbyterian form of church government was dominant and ministers were chosen by the elders and by the Town Council. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 the Crown resumed the patronage and retained it until it was transferred to the Bishop of the new diocese of Southwell in 1885.

(Nottingham was in the Diocese of York until 1837, which accounts for the close link with the Archbishops of York; it was then briefly in the Diocese of Lincoln until the Diocese of Southwell was established in 1884.)

The date given for each rector is usually the year of his induction. Dates such as "1287/88" refer to the period before 1752 when the new year began on 25 March and dates before 25 March were officially in the old year.

Titles such as "Master" (usually indicating a university graduate), "clerk", "deacon" etc. are given for the earlier period when used in the sources, but not later when the terminology was less erratic. Early rectors up to the Reformation are sometimes referred to as "Sir", but this was a courtesy title given to priests, rather than indicating a knight, and has not been included here.

In some cases all that is known is that a named person was at St Peter's at a particular time, without any record of when he came or went. Many rectors were also in charge of other churches at the same time as St Peter's, a practice known as pluralism. A chaplain or curate was often given the task of actually performing the rector's duties at one church or another.

Master John de Nottingham
1241 - ?

Archbishop Gray's register shows his institution on 11 November 1241; allowing for the loss of 11 days when the calendar was changed in 1752 this is equivalent to 22 November today.

William Bishop

Some doubt exists about whether he was at St Peter's or St Nicholas'; he is not listed in Train's "official" list of rectors.

John de Cathalle, "deacon"
1280 - ?
Richard de Stapilford (Stapleford)
1288 - ?

Instituted when a "sub-deacon" by Archbishop Romeyn, March 1287/88; a year later he was given a year's leave "for honest study". There was a Carmelite friar of this name in the Cambridge convent in 1341.

Peter de Brus, of Pykering (Pickering), "chaplain"
1292 - ?

Bailey's Annals of Nottingham suggests he was a cousin of Robert Bruce, King of Scots 1306-29, but there is no evidence for this.

Adam de Kirkeby (Kirkby), "deacon"
1300 - ?

May have been the archbishop's proctor at the Curia, 1289 - 1309.

Master Adam de Pykering
by 1317

Commissioned by Archbishop Greenfield in February 1316/17, along with the rector of Gedling, to seek out "criminous clerks" and hold them for trial before the King's judges in Nottingham. Also rector of Londesborough in 1317. May be the same as Adam de Kirkeby, but someone called Adam son of William de Pykering was vicar of Misson in 1308 and might have moved to Nottingham.

Lancelot de Corembto, "acolyte"
1322 - 1323?
William de Wylughby (Willoughby), "clerk"
1323 - ?

It was probably in his time that St Peter's spire was built. In December 1330 he received a transfer of land in French Street, Nottingham, from Walter de Lincoln, including "the Chapel" on the corner of Jews' Lane, and passed most of it back to Walter and his heirs a month later. Was he a property speculator, or holding land in trust for some reason? About this time he was assaulted and beaten by Richard le Orfèvre (or Goldsmith), a "common malefactor" who was brought to court in September 1332 for this and a string of other offences over several years.

Robert Jolan
by 1347

Known only by the vacancy occurring on his death in 1347.

William de Whatton, of Stoke
1347 - 1349

Described as "clerk having the first tonsure" when instituted; that is, he was ordained and had taken the first step to becoming a monk. He resigned from St Peter's in 1349. At this time Lenton Priory was in the King's hands because of the war with France.

Henry de Keworth (Keyworth), "chaplain"
1349 - 1370

Exchanged parishes with the Vicar of West Alvington (Devon) in 1370, and remained there until his death in 1392.

Robert de Neubold (Newbald), "priest"
1370 - 1375

Vicar of West Alvington or Alington (Devon) 1362-70, exchanged parishes with Henry de Keworth. Remained at St Peter's until his death in 1375.

William de Rodyngton (Ruddington), "clerk"
1375 - 1409?

Appointed to St Peter's in September 1375 on the death of Robert de Neubold; in October 1376 he was granted two years leave of absence. He served as Warden of the King's free chapel in Nottingham Castle under Henry IV (while also Rector of St Peter's) in 1399. He was still rector in 1409.

Richard de Chilwell
by 1411

Very probably the same man as was vicar of St Mary's, Nottingham, 1401-09.

Master Hugh Martyll
1421? - 1426

Probably Hugh Martell, rector of Tollerton c.1396-1402 and 1425-42 and of St. Michael's, Sutton Bonington 1409-21. If so, he may have come to St Peter's in 1421 for a few years before returning to Tollerton where he died and was buried in 1442. (He left his mill-horse to the Grey Friars of Nottingham, whose house was in St Peter's parish.) In 1438 he was sued for debt: it was alleged that he had bought various spices (all listed in the indictment) worth 19s 8d from John Ewer of Nottingham, over a period from 1425 onwards, but had not paid for them. The case seems to have been unproven for lack of evidence about exactly when the spices were bought.

Master John Burton, "priest"
1426 - ?

Described as a Bachelor of Laws, but not found in university records.

Robert Willoughby
1430? - 1439

One of the executors of the will of Nicholas Strelley, September 1430. Willoughby himself died early in 1439; in his will he asked to be buried in the chancel of St Peter's.

John Drayton, "clerk"
1439? - 1445

Probably succeeded Willoughby in 1439, died in 1445.

Master William Gull
1445 - 1484

William Gull is the first rector of whom we have a clear picture. He came to Nottingham aged about 40, after a distinguished earlier career at Cambridge. He was a Doctor of Divinity, and had served as university proctor in 1431 and as a fellow of Clare Hall (now Clare College); he presented books to the College library and gave money to help build it. He also helped to found God's House (now Christ's College).

He and his sister Ellen played a significant part in the life of the town of Nottingham. The Guild of St George was very active at St Peter's at this time, and Gull acted as auditor for it (he also left the guild 3s 4d in his will). There are records of their giving money and stone to repair Hethbeth Bridge (the old Trent Bridge) on more than one occasion; and he will certainly have been involved in the reception of Richard Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) in 1483, when the mayor and other notables met him at St Peter's to welcome him to Nottingham. (Richard was travelling south as Protector of the young Edward V - one of the "Princes in the Tower" - after Edward IV's death.)

Gull already had royal connections: in 1474 he was a member of the Chapel Royal at Westminster, when Edward IV granted him a plot of land there. Other important people clearly trusted him: in 1456 he was an executor of the will of Ralph Lord Cromwell, Lord Treasurer of England (also constable of Nottingham Castle and Warden of Sherwood Forest, which probably explains why Gull was involved). Among other people for whom he served as executor was Sir Thomas Chaworth of Wiverton (near Langar), who left him either a Latin manuscript or "a rose peece with a coverkyl".

Gull died in 1484; in his own will he asked to be buried in the chancel of the church he served for nearly 40 years. His sister Ellen was buried there too a year later, having left "two cows and all her goods" to the nunnery at Heynings (near Gainsborough) for the use of strangers and guests.

Master John Mayewe
1484 - 1486

Appointed by Sir Gervase Clifton as assign of Lenton Priory, on William Gull's death. Mayewe was already a Bachelor of Canon Law. He was almost certainly the John "Mayew" who witnessed a Nottingham deed of 1483 and described himself as "a clerk of the Diocese of Lincoln and a public notary by Apostolic and Imperial authority" - that is, recognised both by the Pope and by the Holy Roman Emperor. He may have retained some official function, since he was described as "late official clerk of Nottingham" when the Guild of St George acknowledged his bequest of 6s 4d in 1496. He stayed at St Peter's only a short time before resigning (he was then awarded an annual pension of 10 marks - £3 6s 8d). However he seems to have retained links with the church and held a lease on "a chamber and garden" next door to St Peter's Rectory, for which he paid a red rose yearly. He was probably rector of Costock 1454-49 and Vicar of Lenton 1459-96 at the same time as his two years at St Peter's.

Master Robert Colyngham
1486 - 1499

Like his two predecessors Robert Colyngham was a Cambridge man, with BA and MA degrees and then like Mayewe a Bachelor of Canon Law (he was an executor of Mayewe's will). As with Mayewe too, St Peter's was only one of the churches he was incumbent of at the same time. Up to 1480 he was rector of Bishop's Wickham (Essex). He then became vicar of Mansfield, also of East Stoke, obtaining a papal dispensation to do so. He gave up East Stoke when he came to St Peter's, and this seems to have been his principal church where he stayed until his death in 1499, since he asked in his will to be buried in the chancel - though he strangely refers to it as the church of "the holy apostles St Peter and St Paul".

Peter Hoare, 1992

Part Two: 1499 - 1656
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997