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.
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?