Retford, Nottinghamshire

Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Retford, Nottinghamshire

The fact that Retford seems to have two parish churches is a historical oddity dating back to when East Retford (St. Swithun's Church) and West Retford (St. Michael’s) were two separate entities.

The earliest surviving feature of this church is the south aisle which was dedicated on Michaelmas Day 1227 by the Archbishop of York. The tower and spire were added in the 14th Century along with the south porch. The spire is one of the best regarded in Nottinghamshire and is modelled on the church of St. Michael in Rouen, France. It seems likely that the architects of this church were imported from Rouen as Lincoln Cathedral – under whose Diocese Retford stands – was served by Norman priests from Rouen for many centuries.

The spire was originally crowned with an iron cross but this blew down in a storm in 1855, taking the tip of the spire with it. The spire was repaired, but the cross was replaced with a more standard weathervane. The spire is so renowned that no less than A.G.W. Pugin described it as ‘a poem in stone’.

In the mid-1800s the vicar here was Charles Butterfield. He was the brother of the famous architect William Butterfield who undertook a rigorous and extensive rebuild of both the church and the nearby rectory. Ninian Comper too was involved in some of the interior decoration.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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