Church of the Month

Categories: Church of the Month

The featured church for May 2021 is St Mary Magdalene, Newark-on-Trent. It is widely considered to be one of the finest medieval town churches in the country.

The church consists of an engaged west tower with spire, nave and chancel under a continuous roof, with clerestory and aisles, north porch, south porch and library, vestry, chantry chapels, transepts, and crypt (now a treasury).

The phases of building:

  • The crypt and four large piers at the crossing date from c.1180.
  • The four-stage west tower was started c.1220 in the Early English style; the upper stage and the spire were completed in the 1340s
  • The very wide south aisle dates from the early 14th century and has ‘windows with elaborate undulating tracery’
  • The nave and north aisle probably completed c1460-1487
  • The Transepts (‘the boldest part of the building’) date from the 1490s
  • Chancel and chancel aisles completed by 1490
  • Two chantry chapels date from the early 16th century
  • Library above south porch presented by Bishop White (a former vicar of Newark) in 1698.

Restored 1853 by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Nave roof, south porch and spire restored 1913. Chapel of St George decorated by Caroe, c1920. Chapel of the Holy Spirit decorated by Comper, 1930.

Significant interior features:

  • Oak rood screen made in 1508 by Thomas Drawswerd of York
  • Outstanding set of 26 carved misericords beneath the seats of the rear choir stalls
  • Two stone chantries between sanctuary and chancel aisles (one on north built for Thomas Meryng in 1500; chantry on south founded by Robert Markham in 1506 has two inset painted panels depicting the ‘Dance of Death’)
  • Font has a 15th century lower part; the bowl a replacement of 1660
  • Large brass (2.8 m x 1.7 m) in memory of Alan Fleming, a Newark wool merchant, who died in 1361
  • Three 17th century wall memorials with busts (John Johnson, Robert Ramsey and Thomas Atkinson)
  • Monument to Anne Markham (died 1601) shows very fine workmanship
  • The East window of the Holy Spirit Chapel is composed of mediaeval stained glass brought together from elsewhere in the church (originally assembled in 1846 and restored and rearranged in 1957)
  • Impressive reredos of 1937 designed by Sir Ninian Comper depicting the Risen Christ, the Entombment, the Raising of Lazarus and St Mary Magdalene announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles

Further information on the church is available on the Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project website.