잉글랜드의 노스움브리아 태생인 성 윌프리드는 린디스파른 수도원에서 교육을 받고, 리용과 로마에서 수년동안 지냈다. 앵글로색슨 교회와 교황청의 긴밀한 관계를 수립하는 데 크게 이바지했다. 켈트 교회에 로마 가톨릭 교회의 의식(儀式)을 확립하고 규율과 판례에 대한 여러 차례의 격렬한 논쟁을 벌이는 데 생애를 바쳤다. 그는 북부 잉글랜드의 셀트족 전례를 반대하는 로마교회의 비타협적인 지지자로서 귀향하였고, 664년의 휘트비 회의에서는 로마파의 승리에 결정적인 역할을 수행하였다.
그후, 요크의 주교로 임명되었으나, 켄터버리의 성 테오도르로부터 강한 반대를 받음으로써 착좌하지 못하였다. 678년, 테오도르는 그와 아무런 의논도 없이 요크 교구를 둘로 나누었을 때, 그는 노스움브리아로 갔다가 국왕 에그프리드에 의하여 체포되었다. 그후 그는 삭손 지방으로 피신하여 그 지방의 복음화를 위하여 헌신하였다. 성 윌프리드는 당대의 위인이었으며, 유능하고 용기있는 분으로서, 또 정치와 교회 쌍방에서 큰 인물로서 위협적인 존재였다.
The Patron Saint of the church, St. Wilfrid, lived from 634 to 709 A.D. He was for many years Bishop of York; his vast diocese (not yet an archbishopric) included Nottinghamshire. He baptised in this area and it is quite likely that he baptised in the ford near the church; it is often thought that the name of the district (Wilford) is possibly a contraction of Wilfrid’s ford. (Alternative theories are ‘the ford where the willows grow’, or Willa’s Ford).
St. Wilfrid was a great builder of churches and probably there have been consecrated buildings on the site of the present church since his time. The finding of several Saxon remains near the church tends to confirm this view. Some of them have been built into the porch and the west wall of the south aisle of the church to preserve them. The two most interesting ones are a stone carved with a flower or cross motif and a decorated capital.
At the east end of the south aisle is a fragment of walling which was built with stones dug from the site and boulders probably obtained from the river bed. This is thought to be a fragment of a pre-Conquest church. Near this walling is a piscina niche ornamented with ‘sunken star’ and ‘cable’ mouldings which indicate that it is of Norman origin. This piscina (a sink for washing communion vessels) served an altar dedicated to St. Katherine, this being evident from a bequest in the will of a member of the Clyfton family which has been recorded in the archives at York.
Other old and interesting features are the collection of grave covers of the 12th to 16th centuries which have been used to pave the floor of the east end of the south aisle and the carved piglike face on the inside wall near the ridge of the south aisle roof, approximately in line with the main door. This carving is thought to be 900 years old and is considered to be the symbol of St. Anthony, who is the Patron Saint of butchers.
A further item of interest is a water stoup, thought to be of the 13th century, which was found in the Rectory garden some years ago. This stoup, now in the porch corner to the right of the door, would almost certainly have been in the porch wall before the Reformation and would have held ‘holy’ water with which parishioners would ‘cross’ themselves before entering church. After the Reformation such practices were regarded as superstitious and items associated with them were removed from churches.
The first written record of the church which has been found is in the Nomae (Name) Roll of 1241. The second is an entry in the Taxation Roll of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291.
The church which existed at that time was probably severely damaged by the flood which devastated the Trent Valley in 1346, and it is thought that it was largely rebuilt shortly afterwards, the opportunity being taken to enlarge it, to include a nave, south aisle and narrow north aisle. The enlargement may well have been necessary and possible because of the growing size and importance of the agricultural community and the prosperity of the knightly family, variously known as de Wilford or de Clyfton. Gervase de Wilford, after retiring from the office of Baron of the Exchequer in 1361, devoted his time to church building. His son was Rector of Wilford at that time, so Wilford Church may well have benefited.
However the original chancel apparently received no attention at the time and it became derelict. There is evidence of this, as the eastern face of the chancel arch shows traces of having been exposed to the weather for some time. Some of the stones of the arch are scored with grooves which were undoubtedly made by parishioners sharpening their arrows during Sunday afternoon archery practice in the churchyard. Such practice was not only encouraged but made compulsory during the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns. This period includes the Battle of Agincourt (1415), the high point of archery in battle. (In the absence of any old yew trees, one was planted in the church yard in 1991.)
The present chancel was built by the Southwell Guild of masons about 1430, this date being approximately fixed by entries in the wills of John de Eyton and William Clyfton, It is similar to those at Wollaton and Barton-in-Fabis. The exterior stonework has remained unaltered and is in good condition. It is likely that the original roof was lead covered and of such a high pitch that it tended to push the supporting walls outwards. Support is given to this view by the fact that the south wall is out of the perpendicular. Probably the original roof was replaced shortly afterwards by one with a much lower pitch and the present embattled parapet added at the same time.
Interesting features on the outer face of the south wall of the chancel are three scratch sundials or Mass clocks.
Some of the stone decoration of the interior of the chancel has been removed. The canopied niches which contained images of St. Wilfrid and St. Katherine can still be seen on either side of the east window. The three-seat sedilia had some protruding carving rather crudely chiselled off when the walls were panelled with wood in the 17th century. This panelling was removed in 1868.
Before the end of the 15th century the clerestory was added to the nave, the battlement of this being set in line with that of the chancel.
The tower was built at the same time. It has been thought by some people to be too small to be effective, especially when viewed from the south side of the church. However, its builders perhaps felt that it would be unwise to build a taller and heavier structure near the river bank. The tower originally housed two bells which the Reformation Commissioners allowed to remain when they inspected the church in 1553. Both bells were recast in the 17th century. A third bell, which bears the inscription ‘God save the King 1663’, was added shortly afterwards. Two other bells were added in 1890 so that there is now a ring of five bells.
In the belfry is a board bearing the Royal Coat of Arms of George I. This would originally have been mounted in the nave to comply with regulations, introduced after the Reformation, which required churches to display such arms.
Towards the end of the 17th century, deal wainscotting was fitted around the chancel and a musicians’ gallery was set up at the west end of the nave. At the same time the walls of the nave were plastered and whitewashed. When the church was renovated in 1890 this plaster and whitewash was removed, the north aisle was considerably widened and the vestry added. In the course of this extension the roof of the north aisle was heightened; the now-redundant openings of what were once clerestory windows above the arches on this side remain as evidence of this change.
The roof of the nave had to be replaced in 1935 and the present chancel roof was erected in 1960. The panels of this roof are decorated with monograms of Jesus Christ and Christian emblems such as the Star of Bethlehem and the Crown of Thorns. The supporting corbels bear the coats of arms of St. Wilfrid and the present dioceses in whose areas St. Wilfrid worked.
The font is thought to be of the 14th century, but it is difficult to date it exactly, as it appears to have been redressed at some time.
The furnishings are all relatively modern. The lectern was donated in 1890 at the time of the renovation and the other items were all presented to the church this century, the Forman-Hardy family having given the Communion Table, Reredos and Rood Screen, and members of the Brewill family the Pulpit, Communion Rails and Choir Stalls on the north side of the chancel. In 1984 the Rood Screen was moved from the chancel arch to its present position on the north wall of the east end of the chancel.
The organ was provided in 1878 by the Smith family of Wilford House, who were prominent Nottingham bankers and root founders of the National Westminster Bank. Two tablets in memory of members of the family are in the nave.
There is no very old glass in the windows, most of which have been installed as memorials to incumbents or parishioners. The east window, which is a memorial to the Revd. Thomas Thorp, is the oldest. The window next to it on the south side of the chancel is in memory of the poet Henry Kirke White, who wrote the words of the hymn ‘Oft in danger, oft in woe’. The window depicts his poem ‘The Star of Bethlehem’. A further memorial to him can be seen of the wall of the north aisle.
A list of the Rectors and Patrons of the parish, dating back to 1297, is hung at the rear of the nave. Particularly notable among them were Gamaliel Clyfton (Rector from 1508 to 1541) and Benjamin Carter (Rector from 1694 to 1732). Gamaliel Clyfton, who was a friend of Archbishop Cranmer and an expert in Canon Law, sat injudgement at hearings concerning the marriages of Henry VIII. Benjamin Carter was a great benefactor and he endowed the present church school, built the rectory and left money for various charitable purposes. He also gave Communion Plate to the church in 1717. Some of it is still in use, but several items were stolen in 1974. They have subsequently been replaced by modern silver.
There are several interesting exhibits in the showcase near the main door.
Some of the memorials in the church have already been mentioned. Amongst the others, that to Henry Smith and his wife (to the right of the main door) is worth noting, as it concentrates not on the achievements of the people it commemorates, but on the work of Jesus. Though its Victorian language sounds over-formal by modern standards it clearly brings out the truth of the Gospel in its emphasis on human sinfulness, God’s grace in Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and the peace which comes only through trust in Christ’s atoning death.
The war memorials, commemorating the men of Wilford who died in both World Wars, are on the north wall.
Outside the church in the north-west angle of the churchyard is an octagonal summer-house, which was built in 1757. At that time the outlook from it, towards Nottingham over the Trent and the Meadows, would no doubt be extremely pleasant. The lower storey, which is on a level with the river, is still referred to as ‘the mortuary’. It was the custom in this country for Coroners’ Inquests to be held in the porch of a parish church. With a ferry, a difficult ford nearby and a far more dangerous ford a little higher upstream, Coroner’s Inquests must have been frequent at Wilford and a mortuary probably therefore became a necessity. For instance, it is known that on the 30th July, 1784, the ferry boat capsized, eleven men and women were thrown into the swollen river and six of them were drowned.
Other interesting outbuildings are the large tithe barne and the small but very complete dovecote. These were restored in 1980 with labour supplied by Nottingham Community Industry.
The graveyard contains a large number of 18th century Swithland Slate gravestones, worked with the most beautiful calligraphy and carvings. Pevsner, in ‘The Buildings of England’ series, declares to be ‘magnificent’ one of 1758 by J. Radcliff, sculptor, in memory of Elizabeth and Rebekah Cumberland. It is found near the south-east corner of the chancel, adjacent to the railinged grave of John Deane who is recorded as commanding a ship of war in the service of the Czar of Muskovy (Peter the Great).
The whole complex retains a strongly historic character, shielded from the encroaching development of Nottingham by the River Trent. It remains however, what it has been for centuries; the focus of a living, worshipping Christian congregation which, whilst valuing its heritage, is not afraid of change as it seeks to serve and bear witness to the God who in Jesus Christ calls us all to submit our lives completely to him, so that by his Spirit he may change us into the people he wants us to become.
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