In the early years of the village, the parish church was St. Martin of Tours, Alfreton. Services for baptisms, marriages and deaths were held there from all over the parish. After the erection and consecration of the Church of St. James in Riddings, and the establishment of the Riddings Parish, the emphasis for religious services concentrated there. Due mainly to the increase in the population of Somercotes, which was outstripping that of Riddings, a Chapel of Ease was founded in 1854, which was dedicated to St. Thomas, although the parish vicar remained at Riddings. The vicar of Somercotes was inducted in 1898, and was the Reverend F C Mohany, who was, prior to his appointment, the Curate–in-Charge to the vicar of Riddings.
Below is a list of the Curates and Vicars who presided at the Church of St. Thomas:
PHOTO: A photograph of a plaque in the Church of St. Thomas listing the Vicars of Somercotes (photograph taken in 2012)
MAHONY, Charles Frederick, 1898
Charles studied theology at Durham. He became a Deacon in 1891 and a Priest in 1892. According to “The Clergy List” published in 1897, Charles was actually appointed the vicar of Riddings with Somercotes that year.
In 1898, Charles, originally curate-in-charge at Somercotes as an assistant to the Rev. Arthur Cotton of Riddings, was appointed the first vicar, a momentous occasion in the religious life of the village, which was recorded in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 10 December 1898. “ST. THOMAS’ CHURCH, SOMERCOTES - Induction of the First Vicar – With a rapidly growing village and populous adjuncts, Church people in Somercotes have for years felt the utter inadequacy of their status to deal satisfactorily with religious and social matters in and around Somercotes. No one felt this incompetency more keenly than the Rev F C Mahony, who for over 2½ years had laboured so successfully as curate-in-charge of the village. He appealed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to legally establish a vestry at St. Thomas’ Church. This they were perfectly willing to do, but as it would be a great expense, they expected the congregation to raise £1000 toward the project, an enormous task for a comparatively poor district, which had to be accomplished in a year, or by the 1st December last, if the scheme was to be consummated. Nothing daunted, with the assistance of the best of friends, Mr Mahony and his band of workers set to work to raise this money, and by the aid of sundry functions during the year this sum has been raised, and the coping stone was fixed to the project last Tuesday evening, when the Bishop of Southwell inducted the Rev F C Mahony as the first vicar of Somercotes. There was a large congregation at the church to witness the ceremony, which consisted of the usual formalities. The clergymen present were:- The Rev A C Beckton, of Alfreton, and Rural Dean; the Rev G J B Christie of Alfreton; the Rev J H Lewis of South Normanton; the Rev H Rogers and the Rev A Cotton of Riddings and the Rev W P Mahony. The Lord Bishop, who was suffering from a cold, gave a brief address to the new vicar. He said it was usual on such occasions as the present to welcome and introduce to the congregation a new person. But the present circumstances were very different. A work had been accomplished that day, which he hoped would prove beneficial and a blessing to the people of Somercotes. They knew Mr Mahony well, and that he had successfully laboured amongst them for several years. He trusted that the Church work in Somercotes would go on and prosper, and that a new church which they hoped to build in the future would be utilised to the glory of God. Following the induction, a coffee supper was held in the National Schools, which was largely patronised. The proceeds of the repast will be devoted to the building fund of the new church.”
During the ministry of Charles at Somercotes, with the help of his brother, William, the new church was built and consecrated on 15 October 1902.
Charles left Somercotes to become the vicar of Brassington. His new appointment was mentioned in an article published in the Sheffield Independent newspaper, which was published on 12 may 1902 “The Rev. F C Mahony has accepted the living of Brassington, three miles from Wirksworth, the income of which is £105 net, with a population of 670. The new vicar was until recently perpetual curate at Somercotes, near Alfreton and before that he held the curacy of St. Thomas’s, Derby…”
MAHONY, William Percy, 1902
William studied at St. Bees and became a Deacon in 1895 and a Priest in 1896. His father, Patrick R Mahony was chaplain to Taylor’s Asylum Institution, St. Pancras, London. William was born in 1871 at Clapham, London and like his father and brother, Charles Frederick Mahony, became a priest. On the census return of 1901 he is listed as living as a clergyman with his brother at Somercotes.
Although William first served in Somercotes as an assistant priest to his brother, the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald published on 15 March 1902 records his appointment as vicar as “NEW VICAR OF SOMERCOTES – The Rev. W. P. Mahony – We understand that the Bishop of the Diocese has offered the living of Somercotes to the Rev. W P Mahony, the brother of the Rev. F C Mahony, the Vicar for whom he acted as curate, and the former has accepted the living, which is worth about £170 per year. Mr Mahony has been resident some years in Somercotes, and being in touch with the people, fully cognisant of their needs and the local requirements, no better choice could have been made. He has an intimate knowledge of the new church and will be the best fitted to carry out the original intentions of his brother and the parishioners. An indefatigable worker, the appointment will be a popular one.”
The Derby Daily Telegraph of 07 February 1919 records Williams move from Somercotes that year “NEW DERBY VICAR – Rev. W. P. Mahony Coming to St. Barnabas – The Rev. W P Mahony, vicar of Somercotes has now accepted the offer by the Bishop of Southwell of the living of St. Barnabas, Derby. Mr. Mahony, who was educated at St. Bees and was ordained deacon in 1895 by Bishop Legge of Lichfield and priest in 1896, has been in Somercotes since 1898, first as assistant priest to his brother (the first vicar of the parish), and for the last seventeen years as vicar. He is of the Evangelical type, and has rendered solid service at Somercotes, where he and his brother carried through the scheme for the erection of the present fine church. He will take up his work in Derby about the end of March.”
BIRTWISTLE, Richard Ernest, 1919
Richard Birtwistle, MA, was born in 1871 at Crawshawbooth, Lancashire, the son of Benjamin Hartley Birtwistle. He was educated at Hatfield Hall and Durham University. The Reverend Birtwistle was appointed vicar in 1919, after the Rev. F C Mahony left to take up the living of St. Barnabas in Derby. The appointment was published in the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal on 8 August 1919, which read: “The living of Somercotes, vacant through the preferment of the Rev F C Mahony to St. Barnabas’, Derby, has been offered by the Bishop of Southwell (patron) to, and accepted by, the Rev R E Birtwistle, who has acted as curate at Tibshelf for 13 years.”
By 1929, Richard had been made the Rural Dean of Alfreton, as this title was used in an article in the Nottingham Evening Post of 11 February which read in part “… Rev, R E Birtwistle (Rural Dean of Alfreton and Vicar of Somercotes)…” This title was used in other articles throughout the 1930s. He remained vicar of the parish for twenty years and during this long period became a respected member of the community. His name appears in many publications and article in local newspapers.
Richard died in 1940, and his obituary was printed in the Derby Daily Telegraph on 25 March 1940 “FUNERAL OF REV. R. E. BIRTWISTLE – Tribute to the Rev. R E Birtwistle, Vicar of Somercotes for 20 years, who died on Tuesday, was paid by the Bishop of Derby (Dr. A E J Rawlinson) at the funeral service at Somercotes Parish Church on Saturday. He was a faithful soldier and servant of Christ, said the Bishop, and the large congregation present was a tribute to the esteem in which he was held by his parishioners. Mr Birtwistle, who was the third vicar of Somercotes had a severe illness just over a year ago, followed by a complete breakdown in health, which force d him to resign the living. Shortly before Christmas he left to live in retirement at St. Annes-on-Sea, in his native county of Lancashire, where he died.”
CLARK, Charles Gordon Froggatt, 1940
Charles was appointed vicar of Somercotes in 1940. The Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald dated 15 March 1940 reported on the event: “NEW VICAR OF SOMERCOTES – Derbyshire Associations of Rev. C G F Clark – The Rev Charles Gordon Froggatt Clark, Rector of Ilmington, Warwickshire in the Diocese of Coventry since 1935 has accepted the perpetual curacy of Somercotes offered to him by the patron, the Bishop of Derby, which became vacant owing to the resignation of the Rev. R E Birtwistle through a breakdown in health. Mr. Clark is a brother-in-law of Coun. C A M Oakes JP of felley Priory, Notts, the managing director of Messrs James Oakes and Company and other companies and he is thus fortunate in having a close relationship with a family who have done so much for the Church in the Riddings and Somercotes area, including the two late uncles of Mr. C A Oakes, Ald. James Oakes and Mr C Henry Oakes. The new Vicar, possessing Derbyshire associations is a young man with educational and athletic achievements and Somercotes is fortunate in the selection of the Bishop.”
PHOTO: Charles Gordon Froggatt Clark
Charles was born in Dover, Kent, the elder son of the Reverend Charles Clark. He was well educated, attending private school at Oakham, Rutland and Emanuel College, Cambridge where he gained an MA in 1933. He attended Wycliffe Hall, Oxford where he completed his theological training, being ordained deacon in 1931, and priest in 1932. He married Joan, daughter of Captain Raleigh Hills of the Clay Cross Company and his brother Gordon, married the sister of Mrs C A M Oakes.
The Reverend Clark remained Vicar of Somercotes until 1944.
BOWYER, Robert Joscelyn, 1944
Robert was born on 20 June 1913 at Southwell, Nottinghamshire. He was vicar at Somercotes for four years. Not much is known about his ministry or his life prior to his appointment as parish priest. However, one article that was published in the Derby Daily Telegraph on Monday 3 November 1947 reveals that he was known for more than just his religious calling. The article states that “The Rev. R J Bowyer of Somercotes is the author of a short story entitled “The Bonfire” which will be broadcast in the North of England Home Service on Wednesday at 6.45pm.” In a time when there was no television for most people (the BBC service had restarted in June 1946 after the war) and very few radio stations were available, many people would have heard the Rev. Bowyer’s short story.
PHOTO: Robert Joscelyn Bowyer
The Rev Bowyer left Somercotes for a post in Derby. The Derby Daily Telegraph reported on the move on 8 March 1948 “SOMERCOTES VICAR FOR DERBY – A former vice-chairman of Derby Borough Touth Committee, the Rev Robert J Bowyer, vicar of St Thomas’s, Somercotes has accepted the living of St Luke’s Derby, in succession to the Rev L U Green who has resigned. Mr Bowyer, who has been at Somercotes since 1944, was previously curate of St Giles’s, Normanton and of St Werburgh’s, Derby. He was secretary of Derby Diocesan Youth Committee from 1941 to 1943 and a founder vice=chairman of Derby Churches Youth Committee. He is a member of Derbyshire County Youth Service and Alfreton Rotary Club, chairman of Somercotes Welcome Home Committee, a Toc-H Padre, a representative for S.S.A.F.A. and a British Legion Welfare Officer at Somercotes. His wife is Derby Diocesan Religious Drama Adviser and an adjudicator of Derbyshire County Drama Committee.”
The Rev Bowyer was appointed Rector at Mottistone Church on the Isle of Wight between 1953 and 1976, and died on the island in 1992.
SHEMILT, Joseph Doughty, 1948
Joseph Doughty Shemilt was born in Reddish in 1907. He graduated with an Associateship of King’s College, London and after being ordained he served at various parishes in Derbyshire. The Derby Daily Telegraph, published on 23 April 1948 reports his appointment to the parish of Somercotes “NEW VICAR OF SOMERCOTES – The Rev. Joseph Doughty Shemilt, Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s Derby, since September 1943, has been appointed by the Bishop of Derby (Dr. A E J Rawlinson) to the benefice of Somercotes, in succession to the Rev. R J Bowyer. Before going to St. Bartholomew’s Mr Shemilt was vicar of Hognaston-with-Kniveton for several years”.
There is currently no information available as to where the Rev. Shemilt moved after Somercotes in 1957, but he did serve as vicar of St. Peter’s Church, Broughton, Staffordshire between 1962 and 1968. He died in 1972 at the age of 65.
OLDHAM, John, 1957
Not much is known about the Reverend John Oldham. His tenure of Vicar of Somercotes ran from his appointment in 1957 through to 1964. His next appointment was recorded in the Totley All Saints’ Parish Magazine which was published in January 1964. It reads: “The Rev. John Oldham, Vicar of Somercotes since 1957, is to be the new Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s, Derby.”
The Post Office Telephone Directories of 1960 and 1962 record his address as “The Vicarage, Birchwood Lane”.
PATERSON, Stuart Maxwell, 1964
Stuart Maxwell Paterson was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire on 31 March 1937. He was educated at Southwell Minster Boarding School before graduating at Theological College. He became Curate at Ilkeston and moved to Somercotes to become the parish priest in 1964. His appointment was recorded in the Totley All Saints’ Parish Magazine which was published in January that year and read: “On July 10th the Revd. Stuart Maxwell Paterson to Perpetual Curacy of Somercotes. Patron – The Bishop”. Prior to his appointment at Somercotes the Rev. Paterson was the Senior Curate of St. Mary’s, Ilkeston.
The Rev. Paterson married his wife, Margaret in the parish church. He left Somercotes in 1970 to take up the position of vicar at Wigglesworth, but left this post shortly afterwards to work for the Guardian and Observer newspapers. He returned to the church and ministry, moving to Scotland, and eventually lived at Inverurie. He died there in 2015 at the age of 77 years.
GINGELL, John Lawrence, 1970
The Reverend John Lawrence Gingell became vicar of Somercotes in 1970. The Parish magazine of St. Mary and St. Lawrence at Bolsover, Derbyshire, published in December 1970 reports “The Reverend John Lawrence Gingell, B.D. A.L.C.D. to the vicarage of Somercotes. Patron, The Bishop. 1st Oct.”
DAWKES, Peter, 1972
To be updated
COPE, JAMES, 1994 (Priest in Charge)
To be updated