Alsop en le Dale, Derbyshire – St Michael

Wednesday 24 August was a beautiful day. After a morning service we drove to Ashbourne and parked in the centre. It is not the most Julie-wheelchair-friendly town, but Costa is accessible and there is a very good Oxfam bookshop. Those of you who know my wife will know that was expensive. Then we drove north and went to Alsop en le Dale – I last looked down on this village from my balloon.

DSC03484-01St Michael’s church is at SK160551, park of the Peak Five group. The house opposite is quite special too. A welcoming notice telling me the church is open, and the noticeboard inside is busy.



The church has an early Norman foundation, and a rather splendid Norman doorway. There are foundation charters from 1240 and 1290, when it was a dependency of the mother church in Ashbourne. The registers date back to 1701.


The church was restored in 1883, much of it paid for by Sir Henry Allsopp. Apparently the Allsopps still come together in the village on a June Sunday every year. Perhaps I should start a custom of Barhams coming together at one of our three villages (Huntingdon, Suffolk and Kent). A tower was built, a new floor with Minton tiles, and the oak pulpit was apparently “removed” from an Ashbourne church. Rather a good pulpit. The architect was Mr F.J. Robinson of Derby.


The Millennium window is by Henry Haig, and was installed in July 2001. Its design is based on Revelation 21 and 22 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth”. The river of life flows up the centre of the window, arising out of the throne of God. It is also suggestive of the cross of Christ – an empty cross, symbolising the resurrection. The reddish fruits of the trees of life can be seen, and the shapes of alpha and omega symbolizing the fact that Christ is the beginning and end of all things. The green reflects the connection made with the landscapes of Derbyshire and the glory and splendour of God’s creation. The yellow represents the light of the glory of God, and you can see the descending Holy Spirit. Lovely!


DSC03610DSC03612Outside are some lovely tombs. Ralph Johnson and his wife Grace, Mary and Francis, are remembered on the side of the church. Two sad slate graves are Naomi (aged 7), her baby sister Rachel, and her mother Rachel (aged 44, the year after Naomi died).  My heart goes out to Joseph, husband and dad.


We drove back into Tissington, had an ice cream in the café opposite the church, and then drove to the car park on the Tissington trail, at the old station. I left Julie with one of the many books she had bought, and went for a 3 mile walk to Alsop station, and 3 miles back. A good walk, nice views, but nothing at Alsop when I got there. There is a photo of the station just after closure at this website. You can just see the churchyard from the station.



We drove back the pretty way, a wonderful ford, Bradbourne (a Thankful village), Hognaston, Hulland and Kedleston. Lots of churches to discover and blog – you lucky people!



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Tissington, Derbyshire – St Mary

When I left Ponteland, the lovely staff of Richard Coates School gave me a balloon flight as a leaving present – jokes about Vicars and Hot Air. I flew from Tissington on Monday 15 August with Virgin balloons – website. I had to be there at 6 am, so parked by the Hall and Church, and walked up to the launch field.

DSC03390Being one of the first there, Graham the pilot, Chris his sidekick, and me got the hot air blowing into the balloon, and I hung on to various ropes and did what I was told. 16 of us in the basket plus the pilot – a little cosy.


We flew north from the village, with views over the Hall and the church, then roughly up the line of the old railway. We decided the trees look like those on a model railway layout.


Dovedale down below us, a mile or two to the west, and then we flew over Alsop en le Dale. That will be another church to blog. It was fascinating looking down and working out the various features we could see, wondering why the fields were that shape, and just enjoying the silence when the burner was turned off. You do feel as if you are simply floating.


After about an hour we were looking for a place to land, and a recently harvested field did the job.

DSC03516We were warned to sit down in the basket, to brace ourselves against the backrest, hold the rope, and not to stand up until we were told to. In fact it was a gentle bump, a short drag, and we came to rest.

DSC03522We climbed out, got the air out of our balloon and packed it away. We had a trailer ride to the nearest road, then a minibus back to Tissington. We all said farewell, though we could have done with a cooked breakfast. The café in Tissington was not open yet – it was still before 10 am – so I had a walk to explore the church.


St Mary’s church Tissington stands in the middle of a beautiful village – SK176522. To quote Pevsner “From the triangular green one enjoys a picture of exquisite beauty”. Across the road is Tissington Hall, built in 1609 and still lived in by the FitzHerbert family – website.  Nice to see the church has a page and a link to the parish website. Rather unbelievably for a church in a tourist hotspot, there was no guidebook on sale. I eventually found a Tissington book at the Tourist Office in Ashbourne which has a couple of pages about the church.

There are some lovely yew trees in the churchyard, and the sun was bright. It is obviously a Norman church, look at the solidity of the tower – though much of the “Norman” work on the Nave is Victorian. Inside the porch is a wonderful tympanum, early Norman. Pevsner puts it beautifully: “The doorway is Norman too; one order of colonnettes with one scallop and one primitive volute capital, billet frieze in the label, and a tympanum with two little standing figures to the left and right, a double diaper frieze between them, and the main field with a plain chequerboard pattern and a cross distinguished by diapers in its five chequerboard fields.” If you wonder what “diaper” is – this is a useful website. I wonder if anyone gave permission for that cable attached just below it.


Inside is a church with some amazing things. Let’s start with a Norman font. See what images you can make from these photos. Quite a magnificent organ for a village church.


DSC03543The Chancel Arch is lovely – but the C18 pulpit on the right and huge monument on the left rather take away from it. The monument is to Francis and Sir John FitzHerbert – father and son – and their wives. Francis died in 1619 and Sir John in 1642. Francis was married to Elizabeth Bullock, Sir John to an Elizabeth FitzHerbert (I wonder what the connection was). The monument is beautifully executed and the costumes are wonderful – amazing robes and ruffs.


DSC03554DSC03552DSC03555DSC03553Another lovely memorial is Mary FitzHerbert, died 1677 – lovely putti at the top. This one is good too, and there are others around the church.


The Communion rail dates to 1570-80, apparently made by Roileys of Burton. Their work is also in Gayton, Northamptonshire, and Somerton, Oxfordshire. Be interesting to know more about them.

DSC03556DSC03563Finally, enjoy Noah’s Ark in this undated window.


A dominant war memorial in the churchyard, plus some interesting tombs.


The Hall looks worth a visit, and wells to dress – a Derbyshire custom I will learn more about.


I stopped in Ashbourne for a late breakfast – scrambled eggs and Derbyshire oat cakes. An excellent way to start the week.


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Glasgow – St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral

DSC03277There was a cheap deal on Virgin Trains, and a day return from Crewe to Glasgow for £14 is not to be sniffed at. On time into Glasgow, and time for a walk. I had never been down to the Clyde, so walked down the side of the station to the river. It is not the most beautiful river, but there is a bridge leaflet here. The piers are those of the first Caledonian Railway Bridge, built in 1878 and demolished in 1966. The current railway bridge is the 1905 Caledonian Railway Company’s ‘New Clyde Viaduct’. Before opening it was load tested with 19 locomotives.” Imagine being the chap driving loco nineteen. The road bridge on the right of the top photo the George the Fifth Bridge opened in 1928.  The statue is called La Pasionaria, and is by Arthur Dooley. It commemorates those who fought in the Spanish Civil War. More details here.

DSC03293DSC03286DSC03289I had walked this way to come and visit one of the Betjeman Best Churches, St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral – congratulations on a superb website and domain name . DSC03295DSC03296The foundation stone was laid in 1814 as a church was needed to serve the growing numbers of Catholics in the City.  Many of these were labourers, who had come from the Catholic districts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and across from Ireland. Their parish priest was Andrew Scott, and this church is a result of amazing work by a poor community. The architect was James Gillespie Graham. It was one of the first buildings in Scotland of the Neo-Gothic revival, as influenced by Pugin (a good friend of Graham’s). In 1878 it became the seat of the Archbishop of Glasgow and (officially) the Cathedral. It was restored between 2009 and 2011. The guidebook (an excellent publication) says “the 2011 restoration brought light, colour and fresh décor to the Cathedral.” The door was open so I walked in to a beautiful space.


In the porch we have a mosaic from 2011, designed by Netta Ewing and crafted by the studio of Hani Mourad in Bethlehem. St Andrew and St Mungo were painted by Brendan Barry in 2010. In background of the first painting, St Rule is seen handing over a casket with St Andrew’s relics to a monk waiting on the shore below the cliffs at St Andrews. St Mungo is portrayed standing on a wooded hillside above the Clyde Valley.


The font is very special, and the white marble leads from door to font to altar.


The font was sculpted by Tim Pomeroy in 2011 from a four tonne block of Carrara marble, from the same quarry Michelangelo used for his masterpieces. The water springs up from the bases – a direct link to John 4.14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst … it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Lovely carving when you get down and look.


Also worth looking up  – though I didn’t quite get the ceiling boss in focus.


The High Altar and Sanctuary are rather special, with the words of St Andrew and St Peter engraved on the altar. The glass dates to 1859, but they have no record of the artist. The decoration was all renewed at the restoration, and adds just the right amount of colour and sparkle to the church.


On the north side is the Blessed Sacrament Aisle and Chapel. The painting is of Saint John Ogilvie, and is by Peter Howson 2010. The guide says that he is “illuminated by a column of light and radiating peace to the onlooker”. I have to disagree – a picture of a man about to be hanged does not radiate peace to me. He was martyred in 1615 at Glasgow Cross – part of our country’s history that should sadden us. I hope he accepted his death and found peace, I hope that the many who are martyred this day find peace as they accept death – but I’m not sure that I should find peace as I watch. Perhaps my unease is because I am part of the Established Church, the Church that caused him to be killed.



DSC03302On the south side is the Lady Aisle. The traditional statue, from the C19 altar, now surmounts the new sacristy door. The angels either side, and the figures of the door, were designed by Jack Sloan and worked in steel by Hector McGarva. On the doors we have Saints Ninian, Brigid, Andrew, Mungo, Margaret of Scotland and Columba, each identified by the symbols proper to them. Lots of candle lighting opportunities too!


Outside is an Italian Cloister Garden, which would have been lovelier if the rain hadn’t started. It was designed by the Roman architect Giulia Chiarini. A 200 year old olive tree, gifted by the people of Tuscany, has been planted, and a fountain and stream traverse the central space. There are plaques telling the sotry of the Cathedral, sculptured Coats of Arms from the medieval past, and a memorial to the Arandora Star, torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland on 2 July 1940. 805 lives were lost, many of them Italian. There are two websites with details – here and here.

DSC03329DSC03330DSC03331On the other side, the Cathedral is reflected in the modern building – the two go very well together. I had really enjoyed my visit here.

DSC03336After lunch I went to Central Station for a guided tour – their website has excellent photos. The original station is 1879, with a major rebuild at the turn of the century. Paul was our guide, and we went down under the platforms. Coal and grain were stored here, you can see where the horses were tied, gas mantles and lots of rivets. We were told many stories, including about the War dead when they were still bought back from France in 1914. The bodies would be taken off the train, and laid out in the vault below. Wives, mothers, girlfriends and sisters would come to see if they could identify their loved ones – imagine the state of the corpses. If they found them, then they had the responsibility of getting his body home (the army’s responsibility finished when they arrived in Glasgow). Upstairs to find a couple of men hanging round the station, and hope they would carry for you if you paid them a couple of shillings. Can you imagine their pain? Paul is hoping to get a memorial – the painted boards were part of a temporary display – he also has plans to clean and restore some of the deepest parts of the station, perhaps to get a coach in the platform. It will be worth going back. A fascinating afternoon – highly recommended.


I amaze myself how much I can pack into one day!


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Lincoln, Lincolnshire – St Benedict

St Benedict’s church is the Mothers’ Union church in the centre of Lincoln – SK974711. It is run by the Lincoln Mothers’ Union, and they have a website, but it doesn’t tell me when the church is open. On Wednesday 10 August we had had lunch in the nice Italian – Bar Unico – across the road, then Julie went shopping and I explored with my camera. They had a welcoming poster outside, and rather lovely flowers inside.


The church is just a bit of a church. There was a probably a Saxon church on the site, but the first written record is in 1170. Robert Dalderby, one time Mayor of Lincoln, probably founded a chantry at the altar of St Mary’s in this church. Apparently, in return for a lump sum of 300 pounds of silver, two chaplains would be paid a yearly rent of ten pounds of silver for their ministry. In 1378 Roger de Tateshall (Tatershall) built and endowed a chapelry. The church was the headquarters of the Guild of Our Lady and the Fishers’ Guild.


In the C16 the parishes of Lincoln were reorganized. The number was apparently reduced from 49 to 9. The guidebook says this was a number “which still far exceeded the needs of the population. Most of the churches were small and mean and in disrepair, and, indeed, several had fallen victims of the Civil War. St Botolph had collapsed, and the tower and nave of St Benedict were so much damaged that they were taken down, the tower rebuilt across the Chancel arch.” So what we have left is a C13 chancel, an early C14 chapel, and the replacement of a collapsed Saxon tower.


There are some interesting faces on the south side immediately under the eaves, and you can see by the door where different bits of the building once existed.

DSC03222DSC03221In the C18 there was only a monthly service in the church, this became monthly, and the church closed in 1854. By 1928 the fabric was in a dangerous condition. It was restored and reopened by 1932. In 1969 it became the MU centre. I got a nice welcome, some lovely flowers and MU displays – all linked. The lock is rather special , made of oak it is 400 years old.



A nice altar with gorgeous Perpendicular Gothic window.  Was the niche for books and vessels?


The font is C18. The statuette dates to the C15, probably from Antwerp, given to the church in 1932. Mary with a jar of ointment.


DSC03231A Coat of Arms (George I), good memorial and some nice glass.



This brass, difficult to photo because of the reflection, was at St Peter’s at Arches until the church was demolished in 1932. It represents John Becke, who founded a noble citizen family. He was a draper and Alderman of the City, and ultimately Mayor of Lincoln. He, his wife Maria, and ten children, are depicted kneeling. Father and seven sons, wife and three daughters. Two of the children, Augustine and Marie, are holding skulls, indicating that they died before their parents. The guidebook does not give the date, but her costume dates to the time of the Puritans.


The City’s War Memorial stands in a small garden outside the church. The details are at this website – it was installed in 1922. I noticed the stone to one to Bill Fowler, who died on HMS Barham when she was sunk in 1941. He was one of 841 men who died in the Mediterranean that day.

DSC03217DSC03251hms barham

The HMS Barham association have a site here. They have an Annual Memorial at Evensong in Westminster Abbey every November – Gareth and I went in 2011, when they commemorated the 70th anniversary. It was the last occasion when survivors processed the standard down the Nave to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Bearing in mind that those men were in their late 80s, early 90s, it was extremely moving – you could have heard a pin drop.


In this centenary year of the Battle of Jutland we ought to record that she also played a part in that conflict – details here. We visited the Naval Graveyard on the Island of Hoy in Orkney a few years ago where the survivors are buried. I want an Orkney holiday next year – you can wait for the blog.

I also spotted an Arthur Barham, Sergeant 53638, Royal Garrison Artillery. He died in WW1. I wondered if he was any relation to us.


We went up the hill, and walked along to the Castle to visit “Wave” from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. Poppies and original concept by artist Paul Cummins, installation designed by Tom Piper. It was made by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces. They were originally at HM Tower of London in 2014. It was actually a bit disappointing, partly because the sun was in the wrong direction to get a decent photo – but it feels a bit mean to moan when it marks the sacrifice of so many.



Later Cathedral Evensong was sung by an American choir – not bad at all – and we had soup at a nice café. Back to the Cathedral for the Mystery Plays – wonderful. Rain started falling at the interval, and by the end of the play we were both thinking “come on, resurrect”. It was very special, and (despite the weather) we were glad we went.



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Belper, Derbyshire – Christ Church

Belper is a town we regularly visit – a manageable branch of Morrisons. On Monday 8 August we went to explore the town. The main road is not the easiest to wheel along, so I left Julie in Belper library while I went to visit the church. An excellent library – we must not loose them. They have some excellent reading lists, but I can’t find them on line – libraries website. Something to think about at the library door.


Christ Church, Belper, is at the high end of the Church of England. One recent priest is now a Greek Orthodox Priest, another is a Catholic Priest. Father Jonathan is currently in charge – he was on the interview panel which gave me this new job (thank you!). I like the Welcoming banner for Derbyshire Churches, and the Welcoming notice on the door. I hadn’t found the website but it looks worth an explore. I need to update our church information. The What’s On page looks interesting – several flower festivals – but it raises the question, how does one get an event on to it? I will make enquiries. The church has an excellent website.


The church stands on the triangle, where the roads from Derby, Matlock and Ashbourne meet. Originally the little hamlet of Beaurepaire looked to the parish church in Duffield, and a chapel of ease was established in the C13. It served until the early C19 but, by then, the rapid rise in population, resulting from the establishment of the Strutt Mill in 1776, meant the chapel was far too small. The church of St Peter’s was built, but that wasn’t big enough either. In 1845 the Strutt family provided the impetus for this church to be built. First the new Ecclesiastical District of Bridge Hill was created, a priest in charge appointed, and church services were then held in the Club Room of the nearby Talbot Public House. An appeal was launched for a new church and, in 1847, a plot of land was purchased at 8s 6d per square yard. The Appeals committee must have done an excellent job – donations came from “a servant, Brighton”, “Henley on Thames Cricket Club” and Her Majesty, Adelaide, the Queen Dowager. By the time the foundation stone was laid, two thirds of the money had been raised, and the rest was supplied by grants. The church was consecrated on Tuesday 30 July 1950.


The church was designed by H.I. Stevens. It reflects the Early English style of architecture, harkening back to a simplicity of design and an early Christian style of architecture. The altar is prominent, the centrality of the Mass, and everything faces it. Medieval Catholic tradition, with plenty of symbols. You can decide on the symbolism of the butterfly – we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar at our Theo’s funeral.


At the west end, the font and a Lady Chapel is up a very high step. They have some redevelopment plans which seems to replace one big step with two smaller steps. Could we manage a wheelchair ramp? The font has a drum stem, with eight engaged shafts. Eight is a number formed of one circle leading out of another – a symbol of re-birth. Back to caterpillars and butterflies …


The War Memorial in church is a First World War memorial. The Second World War memorial is on the outside of the church. The War Memorial window is, as so often, St George. There is some nice Victorian stained glass – much of it by Kempe. The sun was very strong, and in the wrong direction.


There is a huge amount of research I could do about the Strutt family and the history of Belper. It will be a pleasure. This looks a good place to start – website – and this website covers the North Mill.


Several of the windows were installed in memory of previous Vicars, and to Mothers Superior of the Community of St Laurence in Field Lane. In 1876 the Reverend Edward Hillyard came to Belper from Norwich, and the nuns of the Community of St Laurence came too. This Laurence stood in the community until, after 120 years, the remaining nuns moved to Southwell. The last two sisters went into care homes in 2012 – one aged 87, the other 101.


The tiles in the Chancel floor tell the story of Melchizedek (Genesis 14) – I’m sure I have commented before that his ministry was in the windows of the Theological College Chapel in Lincoln. The reredos shows the 12 apostles, and is based on the medieval screen at Ranworth in Norfolk – I need a holiday doing Norfolk churches sometime. It was designed by Henry Temple Moore and installed in 1909. It cost £7 a panel, so that is £84 in total. Restoration in the 1990s cost £2,600. The church guidebook gives a very useful potted biography of each apostle.


There is a lot more in this church I could have photoed – worth another visit sometime. The town has some fascinating architecture. The Mill, the Penny Bank, the Lion Hotel and Sweet Memories. Splendid flowers too.



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Derwent Walk 1 – Ladybower to Hathersage

Monday 1 August 2016. This is the new me, the good me, having a day off! We had a lie in, then drove north. We found the Peak Shopping Village at Rowsley station and had an excellent lunch. We continued north through the Chatsworth Estate, then Grindleford, Hathersage, Bamford, to the Heatherdene car park beside Ladybower Reservoir. Having walked Hadrian’s Wall (did I mention I walked Hadrian’s Wall?), my next task is he Derwent Valley Heritage Way. This National Trail runs for 55 miles from here south to the River Trent at Shardlow, south of Derby. Therefore it runs through my parishes of Allestree and Darley Abbey. The route was set up in 2003. The website is here and the Long Distance Walkers Association has a site here. I’m not sure that’s an Association I am ready to join. There are also two useful books.


250px-Derwent_Valley_Heritage_Way_roundelThe River Derwent rises on Bleaklow and Howden Moors at about 2065 feet above sea level. Now the water is channelled down into the Howden, Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs. Heatherdene car park – SK203858 – seems an odd place for the Trail to start as Howden and Derwent reservoirs are further upstream, which suggests there is more Derwent to walk than the Trail itself. Ladybower was built between 1935 and 1943, and then took two years to fill. It is a little amusing that we link these reservoirs with the Dambusters (the raids and the film), yet the third reservoir was not full until the end of the War. Those of us in Derby drink this water.

ladybower being built

This photo is not one of mine. The Dambusters raid took place on the night of 16-17 May 1943. In 1993 there was a remembrance service at Lincoln Cathedral, the flight took off from Scampton. We had been to the earlier service and Gareth (who was about 4) asked who all the people were who were gathering. I told him they were remembering the Dambusters and he ran down the Nave doing his Dambuster impression.

lancaster ladybower

Here is the reservoir’s website. They also have a reservoir facebook page – here.

There is a Reservoir Visitor Centre a few miles further north at Fairholmes which has more facilities than this car park (we went there several years ago and Julie hired an off-road mobility scooter). Heatherdene was quiet, just parking and a loo. Julie sat, read, and watched the squirrels. The Trail is signposted (though it could do with a clean). Outside the loo is a rather nice carved bench, then there is a metalled path down to the road.


It is quite a busy main road, but easy enough to cross by the memorial to those who built this reservoir and dam.


The dam is a clay-covered earth embankment, built by Richard Baillie and Sons. It was enlarged and strengthened in the 1990s. Some lovely metal gates – they did things properly in the 1940s. The intake is rather striking.


Having walked along the dam you turn right and follow the old railway down the west side of the valley. This line was built from the main line at Bamford up to the dam to aid its construction (you can just see it on the photo of the building of the dam).  There are excellent photos here. It was a lovely walk – and I chatted to a little girl who, with her little brother and dad, were geo-caching. There is some nice art work, the Bamford Parish Touchstones, installed for the Millennium and designed by Jenny Mather – see this website.




I came off the old railway by a building which is now a Quaker centre – website – it used to be the Derwent Valley Water Board HQ. Then beside the field, past lovely oak trees, and under the Hope Valley Railway line – the main line from Sheffield to Manchester. Across the main Castleton road, and then the first river you cross is the River Noe, which runs off Kinder Scout and past Edale.


The Noe It then joins the Derwent, and it is the Derwent we meet next.


The path follows the river, and is a lovely walk. Enjoy the photos. There were one or two places where it was a little overgrown, but nothing that couldn’t be managed. All the gates and stiles are fine, and there is no litter. One of the footpath signs was very sensible.


There is a rather wonderful set of stepping stones across the river, but they’re not on our trail. Overweight walkers might have a problem a bit further along.


A nice stretch through Goose Nest Wood, then I reached Leadmill Bridge on the B road from Hathersage south. I’d only done just over 5 miles, but I needed to get back to the start.


I walked towards Hathersage. There is a train to Bamford at 1628, but Bamford station is to the south of the village, so I’d still have a long walk through it and up to the reservoir. A better idea will surely be to walk into Hathersage village centre and catch a bus. There is a 1628 bus to Castleton via Bamford Turning Circle. Surely that means the bus turns off the main road, heads north through the village, turns round, and heads back south. Time to grab a coffee and join a crowd of Guides waiting for the bus (what is the collective noun for Guides?). The bus drove along the main road, but the Turning Circle is at the south of Bamford village by the station. I snarled, and retraced my steps to the Thornhill Trail and up the side of the valley as the main road through Bamford is not very walkable. No worries, it was a good walk. You will have guessed that the straight line on the map is the bus ride! I must go back sometime to blog Bamford and Hathersage churches. Julie had been content with her books. We drove home. How many months before I reach the River Trent?


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Duffield, Derbyshire – St Alkmund

Duffield church – SK350428 – is dedicated to St Alkmund, a Northumbrian prince and Mercian martyr. We met him at Whitchurch last August – northernvicar’s blog – I did not expect to be working in Derby a year later. There are six churches dedicated to this exiled Prince of Northumbria who was murdered in 800 AD in Northworthy (now called Derby)  by bodyguards sent by the usurping King Eardulf of Northubria. He was canonised shortly afterwards, and his coffin is now in Derby museum – St Alkmund’s church (or the Victorian building on the site) disappeared under the ring road. It is assumed that the Duffield church is a daughter church, presumably founded around 850. The name of the Ecclesbourne (river and railway (see below)) comes from the Latin for church – it’s an old church at Wirksworth too.


Domesday (1086) refers to a church and resident priest. The church is away from the village – near sacred water or baptism water? The main line railway runs between the village and the church, and the church has a large war memorial outside.


The church has a good car park and a large attached church hall – it is a strict evangelical church (the sort which has “Core values” on their website). I know I have a few who come from Duffield to the rather more liberal churches that I look after.


There is a Norman corbel table, but that’s in the North Chapel which is now used as a vestry, and there are Norman sepulchral stones in the Ringing Chamber walls. In the Chancel, under this ogee arch, behind the chairs I should have moved, is a Norman tomb, restored in 1847 which is thought to bear the remains of a founder member of the church, possibly Eugenulph de Ferrers who did in 1086. He had fought alongside William of Normandy in 1066 and was given the Manor of Duffield and many others for his services.


The simple nave and chancel of the Normans was added to in the C13 and C14 and probably the C15 too. The church was restored in 1897, and some of the panelling and grills were added then. You can see in the picture of the nave they have a little font at the front of the church, they do not used the fixed one (which has a bowl from c 1660 and a 1920s cover). Some nice banners in the church too.


One previous Vicar who might be worth some research is the Reverend Roger Morrice. He was Vicar from 1658 and was deprived of the living in 1662. As a convinced puritan his ministry did not suit the restored monarchy. He left Duffield and became a private chaplain in puritan households and a very well-informed political journalist. He kept a diary the guidebook describes as “the longest and richest diary of public life in England during the era of the Glorious Revolution. With a quite different moral and religious standpoint it rivals that of the earlier Pepys”. There was an article about it in the Telegraph – website – copies available at £195 (so it might be a while before I read it!).

This is the most splendid tomb. It was erected in 1600 during the lifetime of Anthony Bradshaw. It was erected as a memorial to himself, his two wives and twenty children. He lived until 1614, having had another three children, the middle one called Penultima. He was a prolific writer, and among the inscriptions is a rhyming acrostic based on his name. He was Deputy Steward of Duffield Firth, a member of the Inner Temple, Coroner, Under Sheriff and Attorney of the Court of Common Please at Westminster. It makes you wonder how he had time to father twenty three children!


Some interesting more recent memorials, and outside some interesting slate gravestones. I failed to get decent photos of the Victorian stained glass by Kempe, and missed the Mynors tomb of 1536.


In my defence I could say I was in a hurry to get to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway – website – but we were at Duffield station long before our train departed. At Duffield they are about to fit out their new station building, but tea was available from the brake van. A very pleasant trundle up the line to Wirksworth – the diesel multiple unit took me back to my youth in East Anglia. Refreshments and an excellent bookshop at Wirksworth, and steam up the incline to the quarry. Be patient, gentle reader, I will blog Wirksworth one day.



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Kedleston, Derbyshire – All Saints

Julie and I have moved to Derby, but not yet started work. So let us do what normal people do on a Sunday – go to a National Trust property. Kedleston Hall is just down the road, so let us enjoy it – website. We drove across the parkland, parked in the main car park, and wheeled to the house. Let’s start with coffee and something to eat. Disabled access is via the rear door near the shop, and the house wasn’t quite open. I decided 17 July was a little early to buy Christmas cards.


When the house opened we were welcomed in. It was built for Sir Nathaniel Curzon and opened in 1765. The architect was Robert Adam, and he set out to build a house that would rival Chatsworth. Caesars’ Hall is the entrance hall and behind it you have the Eastern Museum and a second hand bookshop. There is no wheelchair access to the first floor, so I left Julie while I had a quick trot round upstairs. She was perfectly happy today in the bookshop – we will do upstairs when the house is quieter and she can manage the stairs on her crutches. The Marble Hall at the top of the stairs is just stunning. The twenty columns of veined alabaster were quarried on the estate of Curzon’s brother at Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire, and the fluting was carried out by local masons after the columns had been put up.


The Drawing Room has beautiful blue sofas – my comfy blue sofa does not have nude mermaids on the arms – and I love this chess set. The State Bed is in the process of being renovated. The bed posts were carved from cedar of Lebanon. Various Old Testament prophets talk about cedars of Lebanon – I bet they wouldn’t have thought of beds!

After collecting Julie and leaving her and her pile of books, I went for a walk. 3.3 miles in an hour. Along the front of the house, down to the Lake, up the side, along the top of the estate with lovely views down the house, back down the other side, past the car park, time for an ice cream.


Time to have a look at the church. All Saints’ church is beside the Hall and not disabled accessible – unless there is another route up through the gardens which I haven’t found. Grid reference SK312403, it is in the care of the Churches’ Conservation Trust – website. It is the only survivor of the medieval village that Curzon demolished to provide a site for his new house. He would not want to disturb the burial place of his ancestors (disturbing his tenants would have been a minor problem!).


Most of the church was constructed from local Derbyshire sandstone in the late C13, although you enter the church through a lovely Norman door. Apparently no other Derbyshire village church has a crossing tower like this. The East wall and sundial was classicised around 1700 and the sundial added.


It looks like a pretty normal village church, with a rather ornate font which dates to 1700. Photos from the 1860s show a flat plaster ceiling in the nave, a curving staircase up into the central tower, and a “rather haphazard arrangement of box pews” (to quite the CCT Guide). The architect John Oldrid Scott carried out a restoration in 1884-5 giving some new windows, a high pitched roof, and a new floor. That all cost in excess of £1,000.



Then you look at the north side, and there is a rather different Chapel. It was added by Lord Curzon in 1906-13 as a memorial to his first wife, Mary Leiter. She was only 35 when she died, and he wrote “There has gone from me the truest, most devoted, most unselfish, most beautiful and brilliant wife that a man ever had, and I am left with three little motherless children and a broken life.” I wonder what his second wife made of this – and of the chapel. The architect was G.F. Bodley and the Australian sculptor Sir Bertram Mackennal carved the recumbent effigies of Curzon and his wife in white Serravezza marble. The floor is made from green aventurine from the Ural mountains in Russia. When we lived in Cambridgeshire we used to say that the wind came direct from the Urals, now the marble comes from there.


There are rather a lot of other memorials, and they are all rather great. In the North Transept we have this memorial to Sir Nathaniel Curzon and his wife Sarah. He died in 1718, but the memorial dates to 1737 – it was made by Sir Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781). He was originally from Antwerp, then settled in London about 1730 – you can find out more about him at this website.


This memorial is to Sir Nathaniel Curzon (died 1758) and his wife, their two sons and a child who died in infancy. It is by John Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770). There is another monument by him in Derby Cathedral, and sixteen in Westminster Abbey.


There are other memorials high on the walls, and two in the floor. Under the chancel floor, under circular oak covers, are the head of a knight in a helmet and a lady in a head-veil and wimple. They don’t let you lift the covers, but provide a photo.


There are more monuments in the South Transept. This is Sir John Curzon – I think the one who died in 1727.


In the centre is a wonderful tomb-chest on which reclines the effigy of a man, another Sir John (died 1456), in plate armour with a sword, his feet resting on a dog and his head on a headpiece with a crest. His wife is dressed in a close-fitting gown, girded at the waist with a super-tunic and a cloak. A rosary hangs from her waist, at her feet are two dogs.


On the wall is this memorial to, you guessed it, Sir John Curzon. He died in 1686, his wife 44 years earlier – the guide says the memorial was erected in 1664. I suppose that means he could admire it for a few years. I assume the seven figures underneath are their children.


This is lovely, but I can’t find it in the guide.


Finally, let’s have a few stained glass windows. The East window is by T.F. Curtis and dates from 1913. This soldier (?) looks a little effeminate.

DSC02970DSC02969There are various heraldic windows with some lovely touches.


I think these are medieval glass, by Franz Fallenter of Lucerne (1550-1612), They were bought from Switzerland in 1910.


This is a fascinating church, and I need to go back with the guide and work my round slowly. I wonder if we could bring the church choir and sing Evensong one summer next year?





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Roman Exploration – Piercebridge Roman Fort, County Durham

One more Roman blog from the North. Piercebridge (NZ209157) is a place I have driven through many times – it is a useful diversion that cuts a few miles off when driving from the A1 to Hexham. The road follows the Dere Street, the Roman road that ran from York to Corbridge. There was a bridge here over the Tees – indeed there are remains of the bridge (to be precise, the second bridge) in a field south of the river. The first bridge (probably of timber) is a little downstream of the current bridge, the second (below) was of stone, about 180 metres downstream from its predecessor. It would probably have been about 123 metres long. One day I will park and walk along to this one.

piercebridge-reconstructionToday I approached from the north, where there is a sign for the Roman fort. There are excellent plans at the English Heritage website. They assume that there must have been a C1 or C2 fort here, but it has not been found. What has been found is a C3 fort. We know that a large fort to house auxiliary troops was built around AD 260 and occupied until the end of the Roman period.

DSC03004Most of the fort lies below the village buildings, but excavations in the 1970s, concentrated near the east gate, and the garrisons commanders house, the NE corner of the fort, and the latrine has been found, as well as some of the buildings of the civilian settlement outside the east gate.  I had an interesting poke around.



The path took me right down to the river, then I returned along the road. Sadly St Mary’s church was locked – not surprising as it was quite late in the day.












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Hexham, Northumberland – St Andrew (Hexham Abbey)

I have several hundred photos of Hexham Abbey. Our son Gareth was verger there, we enjoyed worship there, we own a house in Hexham. They have a daily pattern of worship and a choral tradition, places to pray, a website, an excellent guidebook, a Visitors’ Centre, a cafe, and lots of lovely things to photograph. Here is a selection.

012One of the oldest things in the Abbey must be this Roman tombstone for Flavinus. He was only 25 when he died, but had served in Britain for seven years. It dates to the end of C1, and may well have come from Corbridge.

345The church was built in 674-8 as a Benedictine monastery, by Wilfrid, Bishop of York. It almost immediately became a Cathedral and Hexham became a bishopric. Wilfrid’s follower and biographer, Eddius Stephanus, described its “crypts of beautifully dressed stone, the vast structure supported by columns of various styles and numerous side-aisles, the walls of remarkable height and length … we have never heard of its like this side of the Alps.” The crypt is very atmospheric – look at the Roman stones, how many were originally part of Corbridge bridge? It is worth looking at the photos of the crypt at Ripon Cathedral too.


Other ancient lumps of stone can be found if you lift the boards in the floor and look down on foundations. Others are displayed in the walls and the Centre. The Frith stool is a Saxon cathedra or Bishop’s throne, one pf only two surviving examples. (I’m told the other one is in Beverley Minster, which was founded by John who ordained Bede and was bishop of Hexham. He also founded the school of my friend Gareth H in 721). Acca’s cross is an C8 stone cross, traditionally held to be the headstone marking Bishop Acca’s grave – Acca was Wilfrid’s successor. Bede says he enriched the church with paintings, sculpture and rich hangings, created a “very complete and excellent library”, and introduced a skilled music teacher to ensure that the music and liturgy of the church were as fine as any in Europe. I love the little chalice – I think this is the replica I photoed. Whenever I take Communion to someone at home, I feel I am following in the footsteps of a Saxon bishop.


121314151617181920As the power of the Northumbrian kingdom waned, and Norse raiders became increasingly bold, Hexham ceased to serve as a Cathedral and at some point the monastery was abandoned. The church survived and in about 1083 the priest Eilaf obtained a grant to rebuild the church from the Norman archbishop of York and by the early 1100s a body of canons had been established here. One of the monks was Aelred, who went on to become abbot of Rievaulx Abbey and a spiritual writer. The church remembers him on 12 January – indeed he is first in the alphabet. Between 1180 and 1250 the canons constructed a substantial church in the new Early English style. The aisles rectangular chancel was built first, then the south transept, north transept, and the crossing under a solid tower. Not the Nave, please note. The night stairs lead down the west side of the south transept – it is rather lovely that today they lead down from the Song School, so musicians still process down the stairs the monks used. I went to a wonderful concert by Voces 8 – website – which includes our lovely friend Andrea. They sang “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan from the top – it was one of those moments where music says so much. The Tyrrell Window was installed in 2012. According to the Abbey website, “The window reflects upon the theme of hospitality, at the centre of which is the chalice and bread of communion.” It is by Alan Davis  of Whitby, North Yorkshire – he too has a website. Good views down into the chapel and across the church – nice angels too.


Outside the church you can see some original work, but not a lot.


Life was not always easy. In 1296 the priory and much of the town was set alight by raiding Scots led by William Wallace – the fact the church was dedicated to their patron saint did not stop them. But there is some beautiful work that dates from these centuries. A couple of soldiers rest in peace – Sir Gilbert de Umfreville, 1245-1307, and Thomas of Tyndale from the early C14.

3233I love the Leschman chantry chapel and its figures. It stands to the left of the High Altar. Rowland Leschman was prior 1480-91. “The lower part of the chapel walls is stonework, carved with a series of crude, vigorous, almost barbaric images, some of them surprisingly satirical for the tomb of a prior. This inner wall is decorated with a series of comical or grotesque faces, while the scenes on the outer wall … include a fox preaching to geese, … a sheep stealer and a jester. Above these on the outer wall are niches containing a series of more traditionally devotional scenes, including St George and the dragon, the Virgin with the crucified Christ, St Peter and St Paul, and a lily, symbol of purity. … The figure who guards the entrance to the tomb, thought to be St Christopher with his staff. … Inside the chapel, the stone altar has five inscribed consecration crosses, … while above it the reredos, a painted wooden screen, show’s Christ’s Resurrection, with the prior himself kneeling in prayer before it. He appears in an unusual effigy on his tomb, with his cowl drawn down over his eyes.”



Next to the Leschman chapel is some beautifully painted woodwork, dating from the C15. They were originally separate items. We have images of Christ, the Virgin and the Apostles. Above them is the Dance of Death – Death, a gruesome skeletal figure, dancing before cardinal, king, emperor and pope. Above them, in what was originally a reredos, is a panel showing seven of the eight canonised Saxon bishops of Hexham. (One of the more recent Vicars of Hexham commented it puts you in your place when you realise how many of your predecessors have been canonised (Sainted)).



There are more painted images on the chancel screen, which also supports the lovely Phelps Organ of 1974.


Here is the High Altar. I have failed to get any general photos of the Chancel and the stalls. The choir stalls in the chancel have wonderful misericords, and I have photoed five of them. Lovely wooden chest and chair too.


In 1536 Henry VIII’s commissioners arrived to close the Priory down. The monks resisted, but the end came in February 1537. “The younger canons were simply thrown out; the older ones were given a gown and forty shillings each.” The church was left with a single curate, using the Chancel as the parish church. The remnants of the Nave were abandoned, by the C18 the area had become a burial ground. The church has some memorials and a Breeches Bible – Adam and Eve sewed their fig leaves together to make themselves breeches.


In 1858 the East End was demolished and rebuilt and then, at the end of the C18, the Reverend E.S. Savage persuaded the Newcastle steel magnate Thomas Spencer to pledge a £12,000 donation to rebuild the Nave on the C12 plan. The architect was Thomas Moore, a pupil of George Gilbert Scott. It was finished in 1906. There is some Victorian stained glass, the top two are William Wailes with C20 added backgrounds, and a couple of Evetts windows. I also like this modern altar and reredos.


And a final reminder – which is rather appropriate since this is my final Northumbrian blog with photos taken as a Northumbrian resident – that our churches are people first and foremost. Here is my Gareth, verger at Hexham from 2009 to 2011, and his Henry, one of the tools of his trade.







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