Building » Oldcotes – St Helen

Oldcotes – St Helen

Main Street, Oldcotes, Nottinghamshire, S81

An attractive Gothic Revival design of the 1860s by S. J. Nicholl, built at the expense of Edward Chaloner of Hermeston Grange, a Liverpool timber merchant. The church and linked contemporary presbytery are set within a burial ground and a scheduled ancient monument, the site of a Roman villa. Together the buildings and open space form a pleasing group in the local townscape and conservation area.

In 1858-9 the Rev. Robert Arrowsmith is recorded in the Catholic Record Society as saying Mass in the domestic chapel of Edward Chaloner at Hermeston Grange. Chaloner was a Catholic timber merchant from Liverpool who purchased Hermeston Grange in about 1835, along with large part of Oldcotes village. An authority on wood, Chaloner’s 1850 book on mahogany was a standard reference work of the time. He was also a benefactor of Catholic building projects, including the schools at St Oswald’s Old Swan and St Vincent de Paul, Liverpool.

The mission was established in 1868, served from St Mary, Worksop. St Helen’s church and presbytery were built at Chaloner’s expense, from designs by S. J. Nicholl, of London. The builder was J. Athron of Doncaster. The foundation stone was laid on 15 September 1868 and the church, seating 120, opened in 1869. The dedication was chosen by Chaloner in memory of his daughter Helen. In 1871 the church and presbytery were conveyed to the trustees of the Diocese of Nottingham, along with an endowment of £100 p. a. to support a priest.

The Building News for May 1871 provided the following description of the church:

“The church is designed in the style of the fourteenth century; it comprises a nave, with south porch, a chancel and chancel-aisle and transept; the chancel-aisle is divided so as to form a chapel and an organ chamber, separated from the chancel by screens. The windows have flowing tracery, and the arches are of stone, handsomely moulded; Roche Abbey stone is the material of the walls, and for the roof and other timbers, the screens, organ-case, traceried doors, benches & c., cedar is exclusively employed. The architect is Mr. S. J. Nicholl, of London; and the builder, Mr. J. Athron, of Doncaster.”

Along with the Chaloner family, St Helen’s also had strong connections with the Riddell family, local Catholics landowners, who supported the church over the years. Katherine Flora (Edward Chaloner’s daughter) married John Gerard Riddell in 1863 (account in The Tablet, 18 April, 1863). The Riddell family vault is at the church.


The church is located in Oldcotes, a village in Nottinghamshire, seven miles north of Worksop. The idyllic rural setting retains much of its historic core along Main Street, including the Grade II listed Earl’s House and Bull Farmhouse. The church lies within the boundaries of Oldcotes Conservation Area, which also includes Hermeston Hall, dating from the mid-seventeenth century and greatly extended in the nineteenth century by John Gerard Riddell after his marriage to Katherine Flora Chaloner. From about 1835 the hall was home to Edward Chaloner, who funded the building of St Helen’s. A stone wall defines the boundary of the church, the presbytery to the north, the burial ground to the west and extensive grounds to the east, containing the remains of a Roman villa. A scheduled ancient monument, it has a tessellated pavement representing Theseus in the Cretan labyrinth. It is reported that the excavated area was filled in but the site is likely to have extensive remains, more than previously uncovered.

The church is appropriately listed in Grade II. The attached presbytery is not mentioned in the list entry, and might be deemed to be listed by virtue of attachment. It was built at the same time, presumably also from Nicholl’s design, in red brick, contrasting with the stone of the church. There is carved stone enrichment around the entrance. The interior has not been inspected. The building would merit consideration for listing in its own right, or the list entry might be amended specifically to include it (as might possibly, for group value, the stone boundary wall).

List descriptions



Roman Catholic church. 1869-71, probably by S. J. Nicholl. Ashlar with ashlar dressings. Tiled roof with decorated ridges and stone coped east end. 3 ridge crosses, with a single ridge cross to the porch. Buttressed and set on a plinth with a chamfered ashlar course over. Nave, south porch, north chapel/organ chamber, chancel, north east decorative ashlar bell turret. West end with single 4-light arched window with tracery, cusping and hood mould. A string course runs under. The north wall has 3 two light arched windows with tracery, cusping, hood mould and label stops. The north wall of the chapel has an arched doorway, with, to its left, 2 two light windows, each with cusping and a single stone mullion under a flat head, a string course runs under, and below is a single narrow rectangular opening. The east wall of the chapel has a single round window with tracery, cusping, hood mould and label stops, below is a string course and a single narrow rectangular opening. The east chancel has a single 5-light arched window with tracery, cusping and hood mould, a string course runs under. The south wall has 5 arched 2-light windows with tracery, cusping and hood mould. The buttressed porch has a moulded arch supported on engaged columns with hood mould and label stops. Both the east and west walls have a single 2-light traceried window. The porch interior has a piscina supported on a foliate corbel and with an arch over. The inner moulded, arched, doorway has a hood mould with label stops over.

Interior. Nave and north chapel are divided by a single moulded arch supported on a foliate decorated capital to the left, the right respond also having a foliate decorated capital. The moulded chancel arch is supported on 2 foliate decorated capitals and has a hood mould with label stops over. The 2 bay chancel/north chapel arcade with moulded arches supported on columns with foliate decorated capitals has C19 screens. The organ chamber is separated either side from the north chapel by single half arches, each terminating at the apex in a boss. There are 2 arched doorways in the north chapel, north wall with hood mould band over and 2 label stops. Between the 2 doors is a niche with triangular arch over, and supported on 2 corbels. The south chancel wall has a piscina with arches over. Flanking the east window are single cusped niches. On the north chancel wall is a painted panel with blind trefoils over and hood mould with finial. The chancel roof is supported on foliate decorated corbels. The furniture is C19 and C20. Listing NGR: SK5909888540

Scheduled Ancient Monument

 Name: Roman villa at Oldcoates. List entry Number: 1006385. Description not available (see

Heritage Details

Architect: S. J. Nicholl

Original Date: 1871

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II