I doubt I would ever have found my way to West Stockwith but for my curiosity to know where the Chesterfield Canal ended.
That’s how I found the attractive Grade II*-listed eighteenth-century church of St Mary the Virgin, which stands beside the River Idle as it joins the River Trent.
It was built in 1722 at the bequest of William Huntington, who died on Christmas Eve 1714 aged forty-one. His monument, carved by E Poynton, sits in the north-east corner with his effigy gazing towards the altar.
The inscription explains that he was a ship’s carpenter, the second son of John and Mary Huntingdon,–
who by his Last Will & Testament after ye death of his Mother and the Marriage or Death of his Widow gave Seven-Hundred and Forty Pounds for ye Building of ye CHAPPEL and HOSPITAL round about it, and for ye Support of a MINISTER SCHOOL MASTER & ten POOR Ship-Carpenters’ Widows and other CHARITYS, bequeath’d all his Lands in West-Stockwith Gunhouse, and Misterton for ever.
When the River Trent was the only useful transport artery in the district, there was no doubt enough profit in shipbuilding for a second son, presumably without heirs, to amass so much surplus wealth.
The second minister, Rev Robert Pindar, complained in 1743 that the original trustees, once the building work was complete, were misapplying the income from the trust and a Chancery suit was slowly and expensively proceeding.
The church is a simple brick oblong, with a bell-turret, lit by tall round-headed windows filled with plain glass apart from a small panel in one window of stained glass dated 1842.
It was built with the adjoining almshouses on the site of William Huntingdon’s shipyard, replacing an older chapel-of-ease which stood on what is now Canal Lane. The parish church was two miles away at Misterton.
There is no east window. At the east end, two giant Ionic pilasters frame a blank space that seems to need something larger than the carved oak altar and reredos, given as a war memorial in 1922, and a modern cross. Apparently, much of the original furnishing and decoration was removed in 1887.
Presumably the church once had box pews. The present pine benches are dated c1900.
West Stockwith became an independent parish in 1892, and remained so until it was reunited with Misterton in 1957. A Local Ecumenical Partnership with the local Methodist congregation was formed in 2000.
St Mary’s Church continues to function, is well looked-after, and is a haven of quiet in a particularly quiet part of north Nottinghamshire.