By the late 1400’s some Nonington villagers had acquired considerable land-holdings and were very wealthy by contemporary standards and subsequently chose to donate some of their wealth to the church. They did this in part to show their wealth and also to ensure that they and members of their immediate family were remembered in masses or prayers in church by either the parish priest or Church Brotherhoods, by the work on the church fabric or the church vestments paid for by their bequests, or by the simple burning of various lights or devotive candles.
In late medieval times the most important way of expressing lay piety was the religious brotherhood or parish guild. Many of the rituals and observances of medieval religion such as the ornamentation of churches with chapels and chantries and the popularizing of private masses, images, pilgrimages and processions can be attributed to these brotherhoods.
Church Brotherhoods often existed to maintain and look after the Lights, or votive candles, of a parish church. St. Mary’s at Nonington had the Brotherhood of Jesus. The Jesus Mass was a weekly devotion sung every Friday, becoming more frequent during the 15th. century after the adoption in 1457 of the Feast of the Holy Name (7th August).
Various bequests were recorded as having been made to the Brotherhood of Jesus in Nonington in the early 16th century:
Mass of Jesus.
1512 Stephen Ferrier-To the Mass of Jesus of Nonington, two seames of malt, and 2lbs of wax, for my soul, parents, ect.
The Brotherhood of Jesus.
1505 Richard Metforth-To the new Brotherhood of Jesus, a quarter of barley.
1507 Sir John Rogers, vicar [of Nonington]-To maintain the Lights belonging to the Fraternity of Jesus, 3 vats (hives) of bees as they stand.
1509 Robert Cokesall-To the Brotherhood of Jesus and Guild of Jesus that is in the parish, 5 acres of land.
1510 John Oxinden-Light of the Brotherhood of Jesus to be prayed for, a lb of wax and quarter of barley.
1511 William Sherland-To the Brotherhood of Jesus, 2 ewes.
1511 Thomas Borant-To priest singing in the church for the brothers and sisters of Jesus 20/-.
1512 Stephen Deill-To the Brotherhood of Jesus 20/- as soon as they will purchase any land.
1513 Simon Quylter-To the purchasing of lands for the Jesus Brotherhood 6/8d.
1514 William Pemberton, rector of Chillinden-To the Brotherhood of Jesus in the parish of Nonington, 5 acres of ground beside Oxinden in the said parish.
1518 Thomas Bert-To the Light of Jesus, a seame of malt.
1519 Thomas Quylter-To be buried in the church in the Chapel of Jesus there-That the churchwardens have a seame and half of barley to find my lamp in Jesus Chapel continually.
1525 John Hamon-To the Brotherhood of Jesus 26/8d, to be paid when there is an able priest set [provided], to pray for the brothers and sisters of the same, but if no priest be set within seven years, then the money be disposed by my ex’ors [executors] in the church as they think best.