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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