Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire – St John the Baptist

We headed out on Sunday afternoon 11 September 2016 to do a couple of Heritage Open Days properties – and this is the afternoon of the guidebook. Our first church has two, one about the church, the other about every single house in the parish! St John the Baptist, Ault Hucknall, is on a minor road with few houses nearby but just a few miles from the M1 – SK467653. It is open on Summer Saturday afternoons and this weekend. The kettle was on! There are pictures of the church at this website. One of the other people there (and at my next church) was Mike Critchlow. He puts some of his lovely photos on twitter and flickr


Ault is thought to be a corruption of the French “haute”, so it could mean Hucca’s High Valley. It is suggested that the church was on a prehistoric site, and this wonderful tree is pretty ancient. We will come to the Saxon tympanum later, and the church is mentioned in Doomsday. There are steps to the church, but there is disabled access via a long ramp to the north side – it wasn’t well signposted, and Julie took one look at the steps and went back to the car.


Inside the Norman Chancel Arch is quite amazing, and bears comparison with the figures in Allestree. My photos are dreadful – this is the only one that is any good. I am annoyed with myself, should have done better. Need to go back with a tripod. With the eye of faith you can see Creation, the Fall, the Flood and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Rahab the dragon and a serpent can also be seen – perhaps this was a visual aid in preaching and teaching.


This narrow arch is further east, and the altar is rather hidden.


The Nave roof dates to the C14 and there are rather nice figures – again, it should have been a better photo. The chest is another lovely piece of woodwork.


There are some good memorials – including this moving one to a 21 year old chorister – I wonder if another name was going to be added below.



At the east end of the south aisle we have this window, tomb and stone. The Cavendish Chapel was erected in the Perpendicular period of architecture in the C15 – before the Reformation an altar would have stood here. The Cavendish family are at Hardwick Hall, just down the road.

The East Window, the Savage Window, dates from 1527. We have Lady Elizabeth Savage and her daughter in the bottom corner – “Pray for the welfare of John Savage, Knight and Elizabeth his wife, who had me made in the 1527 of our Lord.” Over Christ’s head can be seen the sun, which has an eye in the centre, representing the glory of God. Christ’s naval is also an eye, which is interesting – there must be a theological reason for that.


The tomb is that of Ann, 1st Countess of Derbyshire. “In this tomb, under the figures of Modesty, Prudence, Love, Obedience, and Piety and of the subsidiary and guardian virtues, are placed and preserved the ashes of a most excellent woman, Ann Keighley, daughter and heiress of Henry of Keighley, in the Count of York, Knight. She married the exalted nobleman, William Cavendish, Knight of Cavendish, (afterwards raised to the Earldom of Devonshire) and bore him three sons, Gilbert, William and James, and as many daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Frances. James, the youngster sleeps beside his mother. William, Earl of Devonshire and Lord of Hardwick, the heir and now the only survivor, who wishes to preserve at the same time the memory of his dearest mother and brothers and sisters, had this monument made.” William is buried at Edensor, just down the road from Chatsworth.


In front of Ann is a black marble slab “Here are buried the bones of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, who for many years, served the two Earls of Devonshire, father and son. A sound man and well known at home and abroad for the renown of his learning. He died in the Year of our Lord 1679 on the 4th day of the month of December in the Ninety first year of his age.” He may be one of England’s greatest philosophers, but I am ignorant – so read He was born in 1588, started school at 4, and by 6 was learning Greek and Latin. He graduated from Oxford in 1608 and was recommended to William Cavendish, Baron Hardwick, as a suitable secretary and tutor. He worked there until he died in 1679 at Hardwick, and was laid to rest here.

thomas-hobbesdsc04119Outside there are some nice headstones, but I missed the table tomb which used to bear the sad inscription

Rebecca, I, the fever caught

Through washing clothes from Sheffield bought.

No-one could assistance lend

To save me from this untimely end.”


This figure might cheer us up.


dsc04171On the west end of the church we have some wonderful carvings. A large tympanum and a lintel are set into the wall. The carving dates to the C12, and (according to the guidebook) the  lintel portrays the combat between St George and the dragon, or it might be St Michael. The notice outsides says that it is neither, but Christ. The figure is shown wielding a butcher’s knife. This is a reference to the last part of Gregory the Great’s commentary, the Moralia, in the Book of Job. Gregory explains that the knife will be used to cut up the flesh of Leviathan for the merchants of Jerusalem (Job 4). The scene depicts the combat between Incarnate Christ and Leviathan (Death). The shackle in which Leviathan had hoped to detain Christ has been uprooted and is falling sideways. Yes, of course, you all said. Here is a picture from 1795.



We ought to have a look at the tympanum in Hoveringham church in Nottinghamshire; we have already seen the one in Southwell Minster – see my blog. This is a fascinating church, and I must go back next summer.



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