White's Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1853
Nottingham, St Mary
St Mary's parish is the largest of the three parochal divisions of the town, and county of the town of Nottingham, as it contains about four-fifths of the buildings and population, and the whole of the forest and burgess lands. It includes all the buildings and land on the south side of the Leen, betwixt the Trent and the parishes of Sneinton and Lenton, and all that part of the town on the north side of the Leen, lying east of Sussex Street, Middle Hill, Market Street and Fletchergate; whence the boundary turns westward, and includes all the buildings north of Bottle Lane, Poultry, Timber Hill, Beastmarket Hill, Chapel Bar and the Park, until it joins the parish of Radford. Its principal streets are the High Pavement, St Mary's Gate, Stoney Street, Carlton Stret, George Street, Pelham Street, Clumber Street, Parliament Street, Derby Road and Mansfield Road. Its most important public buildings consist of the Exchange, the Post Office, the Town Hall, the churches of St Mary, St Paul, Trinity and St John; St Barnabas Catholic Church, Wesleyan Chapel, and many other dissenting places of worship; the Dispensary, the Theatre, the Grammar, National, Lancasterian and British Schools; Town Gaol and House of Correction &c.&c. The County Hall and Prison are within the boundary, but the ground on which they stand is exempted from the jurisdiction of the town, by a charter of Henry VI.
St Mary, the largest of the three parish churches in Nottingham, is a venerable edifice, in the collegiate style in the form of a cross, with a very august tower, and on the north side of High Pavement, upon a bold eminence, which rises nearly 100 feet above the River Leen, so that it presents a commanding appearance to the spectator in almost every direction. It has evidently been built in the Gothic style, which prevailed in the reign of Henry VII; and Leland, who visited it about 1540, describes it as being "newe and uniforme yn worke". Its interior dimensions are from east to west, 216 feet; from south to north at the transcepts, 97 feet; in the nave, 67 feet; and in the chancel 29 feet. In 1726, the west end was rebuilt in the Doric order, and the south wall of the nave was new faced in 1761; since which many other parts of the walls have been renewed. Much of the stone used in its frequent repairs is of a very soft and perishable freestone, so that many of the modern parts now present an air of antiquity. In the steeple is an excellent peal of ten musical bells, all cast between the years 1605 and 1761. Many of the monumens, and all the brass plates in the church were destroyed by the liberal Roundheads in the civil commotions of the seventeenth century. In the south aisle is "Our Lady's Chapel", which contains the tombs of the first and second Earls of Clare, over which is a mutilated alabaster figure. On the opposite side is the Chapel of all Saints, where many of the ancient family of Plumptre are interred; and on one of their tombs lies the recumbent figure of a man dressed in a gown with wide sleeves. The Earl of Meath and several other distinguished characters lie interred in the church, as is recorded on many mural monuments, several of which belong to the family of Wright. In the north window is a beautiful figure of St Andrew.
The enclosing of the churchyard with an iron railing was commenced in 1792, but was not completed until 1807. Four other burial grounds have been purchased and consecrated for the use of St Mary's Parish. In 1839, considerable alterations were made to the church at an expense of about £2,000, defrayed by voluntary subscriptions, principally by the congregation. The whole of the nave, side aisles and transcepts are neatly pewed, some of which, nearest the west entrance, are free. These and the seats in the centre, will accommodate 1,257 persons, but the entire sittings in the church are 1,891, children included. The galleries formerly erected over the transcepts were taken down, and a new gallery erected at the west end for the organ, the singers, and the boys and girls belonging to the blue coat school, who are taught psalmody and chanting, so that the whole body of the church, except the chancel, is thrown open, and a new screen erected upon the site of a former one. Previous to this alteration, the church only accommodated 900 persons. A few years previous to this alteration, some doubt was entertained about the stability of the tower, which had been examined by an eminent architect from London, and at the completion of the improvements in 1839, was considered safe. The fears of the congregation were again excited by the falling of some plaster from the ceiling, and on Sunday morning after Goose Fair, 1843, a person in a pew being sleepy, and said to have been resting his hands and head on an umbrella, actually fell down, which caused a dreadful alarm in the church, when nearly the whole of the congregation rushed to the doors, and many were seriously injured in the efforts to get out, supposing the tower was falling. The vicar kept his situation, but could not convince his hearers that there has not any danger.
The Vicarage of St Mary is in the patronage of Earl Manvers, and is now enjoyed by the Rev. Joshua Wm. Brooks M.A. The vicarage house stands opposite the south-east corner of the churchyard, and was built on the site of the old one in 1653. The living is valued in the King's books at £10 5s per annum, but now at £699. The vicar has also 20s yearly left by Alderman Staples, for preaching two sermons upon charity, on the Sundays before Whitsuntide and Christmas, and 10s yearly left by the Rev. William Thorpe, for a sermon to be preached on the day of the restoration of Charles II, besides surplus fees, which in this populous parish are very considerable. The temporal affairs of the church are managed by two churchwardens, each assisted by a sidesman of their own choosing, and remaining two years in office.
[Transcribed by Clive Henly]