Carsington, Derbyshire – St Margaret

The second day of my post-Christmas break. On Tuesday 24 January we headed across to Ashbourne, spent too much in the Oxfam Bookshop, had lunch in Jack Rabbits (a café that is accessible with an accessible loo – WIN). Then Waitrose – such excitement, but I got my free Latte. We took the Wirksworth road out of town and then turned off to Carsington. I had walked through the village earlier this month, but didn’t do the church. St Margaret’s church is on a slope in the middle of the village – SK252533 – and the Welcome sign is posted. In the porch are posters offering rather vicious Keep Fit in the church.


When you open the door you see that they have cleared the church and market it as the space. It says they have access to kitchen and disabled toilet (but how do you get in if you are disabled?), and it can be used for Celebrations, Keep-fit classes, Quiz nights, music events, society meetings, local exhibitions, concerts and plays and cultural evenings. Good for them – well done. It is a parish in the Wirksworth Team Ministry – website – and they had some useful leaflets on display (though not one aimed at tourists who might be encouraged to visit all ten churches). Nice marmalade on sale too.

The area has been inhabited since 4,000 BC – shallow graves from this Beaker period were found in the churchyard in 1971. Bronze Age burials were found when the reservoir was constructed. The Romans mined lead in these hills. There is an Anglo-Saxon cross on the Green (I missed it). It is mentioned in Doomsday and a 1291 Taxation  Roll values it at £5. The first incumbent was Hugo de Warkenham in 1311. The parish went with Wirksworth as a gift of Henry I to Lincoln Cathedral circa 1100, and was granted parochial independence in the reign of Henry III. It went back to Wirksworth in 1922, and was united with the Wirksworth Team Ministry in 1992. According to the guidebook “In 2007 the group of parishes was designated as the Wirksworth Mission and inistry Area” – I bet that has made all the difference!

It is a C13 church, with only the pediment and bell cote being altered in the C19, when the porch and boiler rooms were added. Inside, the gallery was added in 1704 by Sir John Philip Gell to accommodate the Hopton Estate tenants.

The font is C14, and I love the little figures. The cover is more modern.

There is a plaster statuette of St Paul preaching on the Acropolis. This is a model of one of the four figures produced by the Reverend Benjamin Jowett, sometime Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and intended (but not used) for the pulpitum of the Cathedral of St David’s. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851, bequeathed to one of the Gell family, and presented to the church in 1956.

Nice idea of snowflakes as a Christmas memorial.

This Royal Arms dates from 1706 and is a loyal pledge to Queen Anne. It was restored in 1977, Jubilee Year.The pulpit, lectern and altar rails date to the C19, installed by the wonderfully named Chandos Pole-Gell. You would think they could buy a little microphone that could clip to the reading desk (if you really need amplification in a church this small). The East Window was given in 1913 by Harry Anthony Chandos Gell and his wife Ada in memory of his parents Henry and Teresa Chandos Pole Gell. “I am the Light of the World” in the middle, St John the Evangelist on the left, and Margaret of Antioch “accompanied by the murderous dragon from which she burst out alive”.

The other windows were presented by Edith Lyttleton Gell in 1929, in memory of her husband Philip. They were crafted by Wippell of Exeter. Philip Gell is presented as Philip the apostle, carrying loaves and fish. John the Divine on the left. The Good Centurion in the middle – the Gells believed they were descended from Romans. Am I the only one who remembers the “Blackadder Back and Forth” film in the Millennium Dome where Stephen Fry and others played Romans – and the more important they were, the shorter their skirt. In the south window are St Giles, St Helena and St Margaret.

As well as the War Memorial is a little Roll of Honour book – I do hope they have copied it. I had enjoyed exploring this little church.

Then I had a wander round the churchyard, and that was fascinating too. Plenty of members of the Gell family, and a large memorial to The Reverend Reginald Currey (1938-40) who was a modest man, and would probably have been embarrassed at the size of the memorial. How do you bury on a slope like this? Snowdrops were just starting to come through – Spring will be here soon, not that we’ve had winter yet.

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