Clayworth lies along a stretch of the Roman road from Lincoln to Doncaster - Danum in Roman times - and is bounded on the south side by the Chesterfield Canal.
Its ancient church, dedicated to St Peter, is a charming wayside picture of grey walls and roofs, a timber fronted porch and a fine line of windows six centuries old, the whole surrounded by trees.
The square tower with its eight fine pinnacles and eight quaint gargoyles contains some of the oldest work in the church, dating from early in the 12th century, and in parts probably from pre-Conquest times. Sections of the wall between the nave and the chancel are equally old and have herringbone masonry near the arch. Higher up on this wall can be seen the line of an earlier roof. There are two Norman doorways, the south door - the main entrance - is a fine old door with studded panels and restored tracery. The north door has a later mediaeval doorway built outside it.
The 13th century nave arches are wide and particularly elegant. Their pillars are on Norman bases, one pillar with five heads and three ornaments, another wreathed with foliage. At the base of this pillar, and nearly hidden underneath the pew seat, is a tiny recumbent figure, perhaps it is a memorial to the child of the stonemason - nobody knows. Above the nave is the clerestory - clear storey - which was added in the 15th century, with its strikingly painted ceiling, which was restored and repainted colourfully in 1994.
Most of the windows in the church date from the 14th century, and many are enhanced by modern glass. Saints, prophets and angels making a fine gallery,
others showing Christ giving the keys to Peter, the Annunciation and the Nativity. The tower has a Jesse window, and in the main east window above the altar are scenes of Our Lord washing the feet of the Disciples, Peter leaving the Judgement Hall, Gethsemene with the disciples sleeping, and the Crucifixion.
The tower houses a ring of eight bells - the oldest is dated 1629 and was cast at the Doncaster bell foundry. The third and fourth were added after the Second World War in memory of two young army officers from the village who were felled by the same bullet. To complete the octave two further trebles were added in 1999 to celebrate the millennium. In the tower, the oldest memorial in the church is a floorstone with a worn inscription to a Rector in 1448. On the tower wall is a memorial to the brother of William Sampson, a Rector, who founded the first village school and left behind sixty-two closely written leaves of parchment giving a history of the parish from 1676 to 1701. Known as the Rector’s Book, the original is kept in the Nottinghamshire archives. Rector Sampson endowed the school with a bequest of land, an endowment which survives to this day as the Clayworth Educational Foundation and supports village children in further education.
The village school, founded by Sampson, was first held in the church, in the rear of the south aisle - then known as the Lumber Room, now known as the Otters Corner. As well as the entrance to the tower staircase, this corner of the church contains the original stone font which has traces of paintings, and memorials to the Otter family of Royston Manor, Clayworth. The lead piece on the wall was recovered from the nave roof when it was re-leaded. It shows the initials of the Rector and Churchwardens in 1741. Its replacement bears the initials of their successors in 1994, Rev Alan Mumford and Churchwardens Margaret Langley and Frank Marriot.
The chancel is decorated with fine murals by the renowned Scottish artist Phoebe Anna Traquair 1852-1936. The murals were completed in 1905 and were renovated to their original splendour during 1996 by Elizabeth Hirst, an internationally acclaimed art restorer. The murals are the largest work of art in the East of England and are one of only two murals in England by this artist, the rest are in Scotland.
Between the nave and the chancel is a fine wooden screen. The base of the screen, with its embattled rail enriched with floral medallions is pre-Reformation. The upper part is an early 20th century addition, and was carved by local craftsmen. The 13th century archway in the south wall of the chancel opens to the Chapel of St Nicholas, and between the chapel and the south aisle is a simple stone screen built in the 1300s, a rare possession for a village church.
To the north of the chancel are the 13th and 15th century archways to the north aisle, which houses the church’s splendid organ. This was given to the church by Sir Joseph and Lady Laycock of Wiseton Hall in memory of their eldest son Christian Laycock who died at the age of 8 on Christmas Day 1911. The organ was completely rebuilt and restored during 1996 and is a particularly fine instrument for a small village church. In this chapel there is also a moving memorial to another child, Jonathan Acklom from Wiseton, who died aged 11 after a two year illness bravely borne, and he is credited with sense and wisdom which would have set a fine example to his peers. The Ackloms were a Yorkshire family, distinguished in the Civil War and they moved to the Wiseton Estate in the time of Charles II. A memorial to the Hartshorne family of Hayton Castle (now a farmhouse off the road to North Wheatley) is a quaint brass with the tiny figure of Time lying on his back, he has his scythe, and the sands are run down in the hourglass at his feet. The rhyme on the brass tells of the virtues of John Hartshorne of 1678. Also in the chapel, under the 15th century arch, is the great plaster tomb of Henry Fitzwilliam. This tomb is thought to be the oldest example of a plasterwork monument in the UK and is therefore of national importance.