A Brief History of St Nicholas Church
The town of Newport was probably founded by Henry I and the church dates from the 12th century when there was the tower and at least a north aisle to the nave. The tower was rebuilt in 1360 together with new aisles of 5 bays. The remains of the previous tower are at the base of the arch. Since the Reformation, the church has undergone much alteration and rebuilding. In 1658 the first gallery was built. The first major work was done in the 18th century, possibly 1728, when the north and south aisles were built in bright red brick. Lovely windows were replaced by plain ones with clear glass which were described as ‘hideous’. Plans of the church in 1836 show an ‘engine house’ for fire engines in the north wall.
In 1837 work included installation of galleries and the oak pews were replaced by ‘cheap deal ones’. Also 45 gas lights were installed. The cost of the work was £2,000 and at the re-opening service £66 was collected towards the cost. In 1866 it was decided that the old chancel was unsightly and decayed and pulled down and the chancel was rebuilt in a semi-circle at a cost of £600. At that time there were vaults and brass plates fixed to the floor in memory of those buried beneath. In 1875 the floor of the chancel was raised to elevate the altar and to enable the clergy to be seen and heard by the congregation.
The Great Restoration – in spite of the recent restoration the church was pronounced as unsafe and closed in 1883. The lead on the roof was replaced. The columns were rebuilt with original stone and the 15th century roof was supported on timber scaffolding during this time. Five ancient wooded carvings were found either at this time. These were being used as brackets for king posts for the main roof beams. A stone carving, presumed to be of Saint Andrew, was also found. The earth in the interior was found to be completely honeycombed with graves and vaults and this condition called for careful attention from a sanitary point of view. The ground was made solid with concrete and this was covered with wooden blocks. The floor was lowered by 18 inches. The red brick walls of the south and north aisles were rebuilt in sandstone. During the demolition of the wall at the east end of the north aisle remnants of an ancient and very picturesque window was discovered. Under the sill were two wall tombs and these pointed arches were moved to the centre of the north aisle wall. The Salter tomb was moved from the south door to the Lady Chapel (inside there were 2 skulls and other human bones and the bones of a duck). The west window was exposed and the 14th century window reconstructed. The church was reopened in September 1885 with the total cost being £10,646.11.1d.
A further restoration was carried out in 1890 including the chancel being rebuilt again and the poor east window replaced with a new five light window, a new vestry and the west porch. The deal roof of the chancel was replaced with a new oak roof. The reredos was carved from white Caen stone and an oak altar table supplied. The bronze tablet over the vestry door gives details of this work. An organ was installed and new pews put in. In 1915 the six panels of saints on the east end wall were painted. They were unable to find an image of St George so this is a portrait of Lt. Budgen (who was killed in the First World War and was a son of a former Rector). In the chancel there is a window by Burne Jones and William Morris. The windows in the Lady Chapel are by Kempe.
In 1904 Lady Boughey of Aqualate Hall paid for the building of the south porch.
The windows are noted as fine examples of 19C and 20C work.