The Rectors of St Peter's Church
Part Two: 1499 - 1656

Master William Ilkeston
1499 - 1510

William Ilkeston had been a fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1474-93, and for a short time in 1490-91 rector of Wollaton as well (he had a pension of 10 marks from the time he resigned the benefice at Wollaton). He was a canon of Newarke College, Leicester (and prebendary) from 1493 to his death c.1515. On resigning from St Peter's in 1510 he became rector of Hoggeston (Bucks) and stayed there till his death. There are records of legacies to him from Edward Hunt in 1488 (the bequest included "a muster-de-le-vilows gown furryd wt black lame thorough") and from his brother Robert de Ilkeston, rector of Wollaton, in 1490 ("all my books").

John Plowgh, senior, otherwise Kyngesbury
1510 - 1538

John Plowgh the elder was a Nottingham man (his brother Christopher was a tailor and a burgess of Nottingham) and seems to have been well-regarded. In 1525 Thomas Hobson, the Prior of Lenton, gave Plowgh the very unusual right to choose the next rector. Perhaps the prior had some foreknowledge of the tragic events of 1536, when he and eight monks were charged with treason and executed in 1538 when the priory was dissolved. John Plowgh died in the same year: in his will he passed the right of election to his brother Christopher and other worthy citizens, but recommended Christopher's son John to succeed himself. He asked to be buried in the chancel, and he left 10s to the "churche warkes" as well as various legacies to his brothers Gerard and Christopher.

John Plough, junior
1539 - c.1550

John Plough the younger had been ordained less than a year when he succeeded his uncle in February 1539. The right to nominate the rector was formally exercised by William Warener, a Nottingham baker, one of the associates of his father Christopher Plough under his uncle's will. He may have studied at Oxford before that, since he took the degree of B.C.L. there early in 1544; in the same year he took on the parish of Sarratt, Herts, but stayed at St Peter's until about 1550 when he resigned.

He must have welcomed the Reformation and no doubt introduced the new services to St Peter's, for in 1553, when Queen Mary I succeeded Edward VI and the persecution of protestants began, Plough left the country. He settled in Basle, where many protestant exiles lived, and wrote several treatises such as the Apology for Protestants and The Sound of the Trumpet.

After Mary's death, he returned to England, though not to Nottingham: the Rector of Basle University was paid two shillings for signing a passport in the name of "Johannes Blougk" early in 1559, and later that year Plough became vicar of East Ham. In December 1560 he moved to be vicar of Long Bridy, Dorset, and died two years later. He must have been only in his forties, and hardship suffered during his years of exile may have hastened his death.

Nicholas Cooke
1550 - 1559

"Parson Coke" had a house in St Peter's Lane in 1552. In May 1553 an inventory of the church goods was taken for Edward VI's commissioners and they delivered over the six bells and clock in the steeple to Cooke and the churchwardens. In August 1559 Queen Elizabeth's commissioners reported that the "parsonage" had been vacant since the previous February, and it seems likely that Cooke had died. The curate who was taking services was not using the Lord's Prayer, Creed or Ten Commandments in English within the Latin Mass, as required by the Act of Uniformity of June 1559. The church was in a generally neglected state and there was no parish register; how far this was due to Cooke's neglect, absence or death cannot be ascertained.

Charles Morley
by 1568

There is no evidence of when Charles Morley took over the vacant living, or whether someone else came before him. Indeed he may not have been rector as such: the first reference to him dates from 1568, when he was described as "curate". The first parish registers date from 1572 in Morley's time, though they should in law have been kept since 1559; he and the churchwardens had to pay a forfeit to the Queen's commissioners because earlier records had not been kept. At the same time he was described as "sequestrator", that is the official taking care of the parish's resources pending the arrival of a new incumbent. He may have died in 1578.

John Wytter
1578 - 1583

Known only from the record of his installation on the death of the previous incumbent - perhaps Charles Morley; he died in 1583.

Charles Aynsworth
1583 - 1588

Probably rector of Bulwell 1588-1626/7; he was "dean of the deanery of Nottingham and Bingham", June 1599, when he witnessed an inventory.

Ralph Shutte
1588 - 1600

Shutte was a Cambridge BA (Queen's College), and had been rector of St Nicholas' from 1586 before moving to St Peter's. In 1589 he was charged with conducting an irregular marriage (the bridegroom was already betrothed to another woman) and despite pleading the authority of the Archdeacon he was excommunicated. He must however have been pardoned since he continued as rector until his death early in 1600.

John Pare
1600 - 1604

John Pare was instituted within a month of Ralph Shutte's burial. His father was George Pare, of Broad Marsh, Nottingham - in St Peter's parish - and he had taken his MA at Cambridge (Trinity College). He left St Peter's in 1604 to become rector of Tollerton, once again moving very fast: the official record of his institution is dated three days after his predecessor was buried. He stayed at Tollerton for the rest of his life and died in 1636.

Francis Rodes
1604 - 1606

Resigned in 1606. May be the same as Francis Rhodes who was Rector of Fiskerton 1587-1600, Vicar of "Leake" 1592-96 and Vicar of St Mary's Lincoln 1593-1601, but no firm connection is known.

Roger Freeman
1606 - 1609

Freeman left little mark of his activity at St Peter's or elsewhere. He died late in 1609 and was buried on 29 December.

John Kell

Kell was instituted in April 1610 and died late in the same year.

Thomas Law
1611 - 1617

With Thomas Law a period of restlessness in the church life begins, with the growing tension between the Puritan movement and other church traditions which was part of the background to the Civil War. According to the Chancery Act Books of the Archbishop of York, Law was first suspended for quarrelling with his parish clerk in church, then in 1617 he was forced to resign from St Peter's for preaching after his suspension.

George Cotes
1617 - 1640

George Cotes was another Cambridge man: he had taken his MA in 1615 and had been ordained the same year. As well as serving St Peter's, he was probably vicar of Radcliffe-on-Trent until 1622 and rector of Adbolton 1623-28. A record survives of the Easter offerings collected for the Revd. George Cotes in 1624, detailing all the inhabitants of St Peter's parish and the sums levied on them. In 1625 a gallery was built in the church and Cotes had to pay 7 8s 4d more than the parish had allowed for the work.

Cotes was a man of some learning: in 1628 he was appointed by the Town Council to interview Thomas Leeke for the post of headmaster of the Free School (now Nottingham High School); forty years later Leeke's son Samuel became rector of St Peter's. Cotes also left a large library, valued at 80 after his death - much the most valuable part of his goods and chattels, but sadly we do not know what books he owned. He seems to have had some Puritan principles, but he did not resist Archbishop Laud's requirement to erect altar rails and celebrate Holy Communion within the sanctuary rather than in the nave - to the anger of his parishioners, several of whom were called before the Archdeacon's Court for refusing to take Communion.

George Cotes died in November 1640, part way through a course of sermons on Jeremiah 48:13 - this is recorded in the parish register, and may be the source of the supposed "longest sermon ever preached" which has been attributed to St Peter's in 1640. The register comments that "like the dying swan [he] did sing most sweetly before his death".

A monument was erected by his nephew Samuel Cotes in the chancel of St Peter's (the first rector known to have been commemorated in this way). The monument was made by Richard Hill, "tomb-maker", and cost 7 13s; it was "broke into pieces" and destroyed when the chancel was being repaired sometime before 1751, but fortunately Thoroton had recorded the Latin inscription. It spoke of his scholarship and care of his flock: "His breast was a storehouse of piety, his tongue was a trumpet of the Spirit, his hand always delivered Christ to others, his home was a school of religion, his life was a moral example" until he finally "flew out of the chains of his body" at the age of 53. (He used two spellings of his name: "Coates" was the regular form of his signature until the last few years of his life when he changed to "Cotes".

John Goodall
1640 - 1645?

John Goodall was the nephew of George Cotes (according to Cotes' will), and had served as his uncle's curate since 1637 - then was inducted as rector the day after Cotes was buried. He had very likely been at Cambridge too, and like his uncle had imbibed Puritan doctrines, which in his case developed much more strongly in the heady atmosphere of the 1640s. In 1641 he was involved in the opposition to Archbishop Laud's reforms: Edward Lake, an official of the Archbishop's Court, arrived at St Peter's on 28 September to see if the new arrangements were in force and found the doors locked against him. Goodall and the churchwardens were arraigned, but did not appear before the court.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Goodall cannot have been sympathetic to the Royalist troops from Newark, who in January 1643 "possest themselves of St Peter's Church and certaine houses neere the Castle from whence they shott into the Castle yard" - indeed his church seems to have suffered more drastic damage at this time. He was, however, no friend to Colonel John Hutchinson, the Parliamentarian Governor of Nottingham Castle, whose wife Lucy gave that report of the occupation of St Peter's. She also recorded that "one of the Presbyterian ministers, whose name was Goodall" had preached against the Governor's powers, while approving the activity of the Town Committee which was at odds with Hutchinson. She went on to describe further tribulations that Goodall suffered: he had been put into another living by the Committee and captured by the Royalists, and despite his "unworthy pulpitt raylings at him" Hutchinson gave him priority over one of his own officers at the next exchange of prisoners between the two sides. This generous move seems to have touched Goodall's heart, and Lucy Hutchinson noted that on his death-bed he expressed "his trouble for having bene his enemie".

The reference to Goodall's having moved to another living is a mystery. Nor is it clear how far he was in fact explicitly a Presbyterian, or why the Committee might have moved him; but the next incumbent does seem to have been in post by June 1645. When Goodall died a year later, he was buried at St Peter's and was described as "late minister of St Peter's", perhaps implying that he had not retained the living until his death.

Richard Whitchurch
1645? - 1656

Richard Whitchurch was presumably installed by the Nottingham Committee, the ruling body of the town and, under Parliament, of the church, to replace John Goodall. The congregation of St Nicholas' moved into St Peter's about the same time, since their own church had been demolished. In December 1646 the congregation agreed to build a gallery to accommodate the large numbers attending service, and this was erected in 1647.

Whitchurch appears to have been actively sympathetic to Presbyterianism, and he was encouraged by the Nottingham ministers Whitlock and Reynolds to bring in Presbyterian forms of worship and organisation at St Peter's. By mid-1651 he was reported to have "set up his congregation" and ruling elders were elected in September 1651. By the end of 1655 he was ill of consumption, and in January 1656 the Town Council allowed him 5 a quarter for an assistant (this was John Barret, who succeeded him). In June 1656 his Sunday sermon was interrupted by Susanna Melford, who accused him of preaching false doctrine, and claimed "that perfection may be attained in this life" - she was brought before the Sessions the following Friday. Whitchurch died a few months later and was buried on 7 October 1656.

Peter Hoare, 1992

Part Three: 1656 - 1853
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997