Alvaston, Derby – St Michael and All Angels

Sunday 1 September 2019 and I was invited to an evening service at St Michael and All Angels at Alvaston as All Christians Together in SE Derby were going to sign a Covenant. I drove up to the church – SK 392333 – and the bells were ringing. I never thought I would miss church bells, but I do. Here there are six, all made by Taylors of Loughborough, and being rung very well before the service. Their clock is by Smiths of Derby, installed in 1896, and the tower itself was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1775. I parked in the car park on the north side of the church and had an explore of the churchyard. Some interesting memorials, and personal tragedies.

Some nice figures on the porch, and then a decent ramp into the church itself. There is a pre-Conquest sepulchral slab in the porch. It was found during the 1856 rebuild of the church. The original chapel is mentioned in Doomsday, held by St Michael’s church in Derby. It then passed to William Fitzralph, and then was gifted to Darley Abbey. The list of Vicars goes back to Thomas Hycchynson in 1535, and the Registers to John Edmunds in 1614. Thomas Shipton served for 52 years, dying in 1774, his successor Joseph Smith for 35, then William Spencer for 34,  then Edward Poole for 39. The small chapel had become a building with tower and spire by the C15, we mentioned the tower rebuild after 1775, then the whole church was rebuilt in 1856 – most of what existed before was either taken down, or had already fallen down.

A couple of years ago they had a big project to remove the pews, sort the heating system, and install chairs. They have done a very good job – it has been done as a piece, and looks like it has been planned. They have some extra chairs which were out for the evening’s United service.

I hate TV screens and I kept watching the altar candle – which was quite some flame. I would rather use stained glass to meditate.

The East Window was installed in the 1950s to commemorate the centenary of the rebuilding. In the Chancel we also have Jesus and the fishermen – this one given in memory of Mrs Webb, wife of a previous Vicar. In the nave, by the door we have Jesus with children of all nations. It was given as a memorial to those who died in WW2.

The War Memorial is nearby, as is a memorial to Stanley Birch. I looked up the ship – on 5 February 1944 Khedive Ismail left Mombasa bound for Colombo carrying 1,324 passengers including 996 members of the East African Artillery’s 301st Field Regiment, 271 Royal Navy personnel, 19 WRNS, 53 nursing sisters and their matron, nine members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and a war correspondent, Kenneth Gandar-Dower. She was part of Convoy KR 8 and it was her fifth convoy on that route. Early in the afternoon of Saturday 12 February, after a week at sea, KR 8 was south-west of the Maldives. After lunch many of the passengers were below watching an ENSA concert, while others sunbathed on deck. At 1430 hrs the Japanese submarine I-27 had taken position off Khedive Ismail‘s port side to attack. A lookout sighted I-27‘s periscope and raised the alarm; Khedive Ismail‘s gunners opened fire on the submarine, and the submarine fired a spread of four torpedoes, two of which hit Khedive Ismail. The troop ship’s stern was engulfed in flame and smoke and she sank in three minutes.  Of 1,511 people aboard Khedive Ismail, only 208 men and 6 women survived the sinking and subsequent battle. 1,220 men and 77 women were killed. The sinking was the third largest loss of life from Allied shipping in World War II and the largest loss of servicewomen in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations. Stanley was an engine room mechanic – and only 19.

Some other memorials that are worth a read, and we have a Screen Header, which dates to 1736 and was made by Robert Bakewell. The screen in Derby Cathedral is a superb example of his work. Michael the Archangel is in charge.

The quality of the tea made up for 1 hour 11 minutes of worship songs – I left church feeling so out of touch with where the Church of England is now. I turned on Classic FM – and filled the car with a real organ and choir. It turned out to be the Nun’s Chorus from Casanova by Strauss – not quite the proper religious music I thought it was!

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