St Swithun

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The first recorded reference in history to a church in East Retford comes from 1258 but most of the church was rebuilt in the 1650s, following the collapse of the tower in 1651.

About this church

Although there are records of a church on this site in the 13th century, the church today is a typical large town church, built on a cruciform plan with a central tower. The oldest part as it now stands is the north transept which today is called the Lady Chapel and used for weekday or other small services. The central pillar and its two arches belong to the 14th century and still display their original painted decoration. A document of 1535 says that St Swithun's had four chantries. The neighbouring Chapelgate probably takes its name from the existence of the chantry chapels. The north transept chapel is also a war memorial.

The rest of the church is basically of the 15th century and is in the style often called perpendicular. The central tower collapsed in a storm in 1651, destroying much of the chancel and south transept. It was rebuilt in 1658 and from outside it clearly has a 17th century look to it. Inside, massive piers were built to carry its weight and these low, heavy crossing arches are a feature of the church today. Looking eastward from the nave, the columns of the earlier arches can be seen, much more slender and with a much higher springing. Under the tower, on the South side high above the vicar's stall, although not easily seen with the naked eye, is a stone bearing the inscription Ano Mundi 5226 Ano Christie 1582. It was moved to there from the chantry in 1873.

There are many memorials in the church. The oldest one is a floor slab in the northeat corner of the north transept chapel. It dates from 1496 and is in memory of Henry Smyth, but most of the memorials are of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

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The outstanding feature of the church is the stunning murals in the chancel painted in 1904-5 by the Edinburgh artist Phoebe Anna Traquair.

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