Manuscripts and Special Collections

The Wollaton Antiphonal (MS 250)


 A detail from The Wollaton Antiphonal 

Latin, 15th century (c.1430), 412 leaves, size 575 x 366mm

Antiphonals (also called antiphoners or antiphonaries) are books of music for Catholic religious services. They contain the words and music to the sung portions of the Divine Office, which is the cycle of daily services celebrated in churches and religious houses throughout the year. Antiphonals are usually very large to allow them to seen by members of a choir. They are just one of a series of service books required by a church or religious house.

The 'Wollaton Antiphonal' was created in around 1430, probably in East Anglia, for the rich book collector Sir Thomas Chaworth and his wife Isabella. It spent its first thirty years in Sir Thomas's private chapel at his home, Wiverton Manor in Nottinghamshire.

It is an extremely rare survival of an Antiphonal illustrated with beautiful miniatures and borders. Its size is remarkable. The parchment leaves on their own (without binding) are estimated to weigh 7 stones (45 kilograms)!

The Antiphonal was purchased for St Leonard's Church in Wollaton after Sir Thomas Chaworth's death in 1459. At the Reformation, it was taken to Wollaton Hall by the Willoughby family, later Barons Middleton. It remained in the Wollaton Hall Library until it was given back to the church by the 10th Baron Middleton in 1924. 

Turn the Pages of the Wollaton Antiphonal. 75 pages from this sumptuous manuscript are available to browse in virtual form. Viewers can zoom in on high-quality digitised images, read explanatory notes, and listen to related audio content.

View the catalogue record


Special Projects

The Wollaton Antiphonal has been the subject of a ten-year conservation project, involving the removal of its early-19th century binding, the conservation of decayed leaf edges, the consolidation of its delicate pigments, and its rebinding in two volumes.

In 2009-2010 it was one of the manuscripts studied as part of the 'Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Readers and Owners' research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

In 2011-2012 a further project created a virtual publication of selected pages of the Antiphonal. This again was funded by the AHRC. 


Further Reading

  • W.H. Stevenson, Report on the Manuscripts of Lord Middleton, Historical Manuscripts Commission (1911), 236-237
  • A. du B. Hill, 'The Wollaton Antiphonal', Transactions of the Thoroton Society, vol. 36 (1932)
  • N.R. Ker and A.J. Piper, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, vol IV (Oxford, 1992)
  • Kathleen L Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490 (London, 1996), 204-206
  • Ralph Hanna and Thorlac Turville-Petre (eds), The Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers (Boydell and Brewer, 2010)


 Decorated page from the Wollaton Antiphonal, MS 250 f. 155r

Decorated page, MS 250 f. 155r



Manuscripts and Special Collections

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