Before 1848, Manthorpe was a small village of stone cottages, strung out along what is now the Low Road, with only a few scattered cottages higher up the slope. Until 1806, the road to Belton was by way of Swallow’s Mill and round the edge of the Park to the Lion Gate, then down the Main Avenue to Belton House. The land between Manthorpe and Belton was part of the Open Field system, strip-farmed by the villagers of Manthorpe.
With the coming of the Enclosure Act, the Enclosure Commission for Great Gonerby and Manthorpe of 1806 allocated most of this land to Lord Brownlow, who agreed in return to make and maintain a new road, and footpath between Belton, Manthorpe and Little Gonerby, and also a connecting lane to Great Gonerby.
The building of St John the Evangelist, Manthorpe began in 1847 and was completed, including the spire, in 1848. The architect was G G Place of Nottingham. The Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Lincoln on the 17th August 1848.
Some new cottages were also built, mainly the brick cottages along the west side of High Road, but some of the older stone cottages were improved by brick additions at about this time. The cottages were owned by Lord Brownlow and occupied by workers on the Belton estate.
1841 to 51 saw the largest increase in the number of new churches than any other decade of the 19th century. There was a similar increase in the number of clergy. However, the religious census of 1851 showed that only a minority of people attended a place of worship, especially in the urban areas, and of those only about half attended Church of England services.
It is against this background that the opening of Manthorpe Church took place. Under the leadership of John Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln, there was a drive to build new churches and parsonages where changes in population merited them. In 1849 Manthorpe with Londonthorpe was constituted a church district within the parish of Grantham. The census of 1851 shows this ecclesiastical district to have a population of 254.
The costs of construction of the Church at Manthorpe was at the sole expense of the Hon. and Revd. Richard Cust, M.A., Rector of Belton and brother of John Cust, the first Earl Brownlow. Lord Brownlow gave an acre of land for the Church, the vicarage and the graveyard, which he enclosed. He and the Revd. Richard Cust endowed the living and built the vicarage. The living was set up as a perpetual curacy united with Londonthorpe, and under the patronage of Lord Brownlow.
The spire was built in memory of Lady Frances Brownlow by her eight surviving children and her son-in-law Sir William Middleton.
The painted east window was installed by contributions from 54 clergymen in appreciation of the Hon. and Revd. Richard Cust’s building of the Church.
The west window was donated by orientalist and East India Company administrator Robert Needham Cust; son of Lord Brownlow’s brother Rev Henry Cust, Canon of Windsor. It is inscribed, Ex dono Roberti N. Cust apud Indos (Donated by Robert N. Cust of India) AD 1848.
The windows in the south wall of the nave, depicting the four gospel writers, were installed in 1982 in memory of Percy and Adelaide Barker. Percy was a churchwarden for 40 years. They are the work of John Hayward and L H Bond.
Manthorpe itself is a village of some 40 houses on the edge of Belton Park (National Trust) and is a conservation area. The town of Grantham has grown out to reach Manthorpe through the building of a large estate of private housing begun in 1964. Today the church serves both the village and the estate as well as Manthorpe Road: about 3,500 people.
The parish is no longer connected to Belton and Londonthorpe but is in plurality with the Parish of St Wulfram, Grantham. This means that the Vicar of St John’s is also the Rector of St Wulfram’s.