A History of Pinxton

Pinxton is a large village, mainly in Derbyshire but partly in Nottinghamshire. It lies about three miles east of Alfreton, six miles south-southeast of Mansfield. It is in the parliamentary division of Bolsover, hundred of Scarsdale and rural district of Bolsover.

The ecclesiastical parish is part of the rural deanery of Alfreton, archdeaconry of Chesterfield and diocese of Derby.

The earliest settlement is believed to be the Saxon manor of Snodeswic – written ‘Esnotrewic’ in the Domesday Book. The name Pinxton most likely evolved from Norman times when Drogo Fitze Ponce held the manor. Over the years the name changed from Ponceston through Ponkeston, Pynkeston and Pynxton to Pinxton.

The Saxon manor no doubt had its centre near the Toll Bar crossroads. The lord’s hall may have been situated where Manor Farm stood. The few cottages would line the west side of the Green (now the bottom of Town Street).

The Norman lord looked for an easily defended site, and built his castle where St Helen’s Church now stands. All that remains of his building is the chapel, which forms the south transept of the parish church. Some of the stones from the castle were used in the building of the tower. The church, although in the geographical centre of the parish, is still to the north and west of the main settlement.

During the last decade of the 13th century the first parish church was built on the site of the abandoned castle. The old private chapel was incorporated as the south transept. The first Rector, Richard de Hereford, was instituted in 1299, the patron being Dionysius le Wyne. The church was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. After the middle of the 16th century the use of the name of the patron saint was dropped, the building being known simply as Pinxton church. This was common post-reformation practice. In the 18th century it again became the fashion to have saints’ names in the title of parishes. Records of the original dedication having been lost, the name of St. Helen was adopted.

The tower was added in the 14th century. At first glance it appears to be a plain uninteresting structure, but it has several features worthy of note. Its position at the end of the south transept is possibly unique for an English church. The oblong shape is also uncommon, the north and south walls being longer than the east and west. This would have kept the tower in proportion with the 13th century building.

When the building of the tower was completed in the 14th century, a bell was hung in the belfry. This was not dated, but bore the inscription, ‘Ave! gratia plena, dominus tecum.’ This cracked and was long unusable – possibly before the installation of a second bell that was inscribed, “Thomas Mears of London, fecit 1803′

The nave was widened in 1755.

1851 plans were drawn to extend the nave the equivalent of two bays.

The Rev’d S.A Beveridge came in 1926.

The gallery was pulled down in 1928.

The porch and nave were demolished in 1939.

The ceiling was raised to accommodate the rebuilt pipe organ when new in vestries were added to the north of the chancel in 1970.

The Coke family vault was constructed below the floor by Rev’d D’Ewes Coke. It was built of brick with barrel shaped roof. It houses the coffins of his benefactress Sarah Lillyman (died 1780) and members of his family. There are six lead sealed and leather covered coffins, three on the floor, and three above them supported on an iron frame. The vault was reached by brick steps, the entrance being under slabs in the chancel floor. There was no room for further coffins after the burial of D’Ewes, son of the Rev’d D’Ewes Coke in 1856, so the entrance was sealed.

The earliest graves were in the ground to the south of the church. This was closed for burials in 1900.

The 14th Century Tower of St Helen's Church Pinxton

Coal was mined as early as Tudor times, if not before, but it was not until the 18th Century that Pinxton became a colliery village.

Pinxton was also known for its Porcelain created by John Coke and William Billingsley.

In 1801 the population had risen to 463, but by 1851 that figure had more than doubled to 943.

The Coke 1724 Estates map shows the triangular village green, with four cottage gardens on the west side.

(Taken from the book  ‘Pinxton in Times Past and St Helen’s Church Pinxton by Jack Shooter)


The compiler of the attached notes on Pinxton in the 1890’s was a ‘local character’ in his own right. He was born in London in 1878. His father, a silversmith, died when he was still at school, leaving his mother and five children. The eldest brother who took over the duty of breadwinner worked in the London office of Pinxton Collieries. As a promotion he was sent to the Pinxton offices, and mother and the rest of the family were found a colliery cottage. On leaving Pinxton school ‘Will’ as he was affectionately called, joined his brother in the colliery offices.

While in London Will had been a choir boy, and on showing great interest in the work of the church organ tuner was encouraged to assist, and taught how to tune a pipe. From that time on his great ambition was to be an organ builder.

When he reached school leaving age, the lack of finances dictated that he forgo all hopes of an apprenticeship with an organ builder, and make a contribution to the family income. However, he saved all the pocket money he could, and persuaded Henry Jackson, the Lincoln organ builder, to give him instruction in the craft at weekends. To benefit from this, Will had to cycle the forty miles to Lincoln – there being no money for train fares.

By the time he was thirty he was working spare time as an organ tuner in his own right, and had built his workshop on Wharf Road. His wife and daughter kept shop at the front of the premises, and with their help Will was able to hand in his notice at the colliery offices. He had at last achieved his ambition of becoming a full time organ builder.

His reputation was such that his own name should rightly be added to his list of Pinxton worthies.