Ballidon, Derbyshire – All Saints

All Saints church, Ballidon, is on the right of the road as you drive up to the village – grid reference SK 203 544. It is now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches – friendsoffriendlesschurches.org.uk – a charity I have discovered in the last couple of years. Their magazine is a treat. There is a laybye almost opposite the gap in the wall which leads to the church. On Friday 31 December 2021 we were glad to be able to pull off the road and park here as there are a lot of large lorries which drive past en route to the quarry at the end of the lane. With the best will in the world, this is not a Julie-accessible church, so she spent time with her book.

The settlement is very old, there are remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows, and of a sizeable mediaeval population. There is no mention of a church in the Domesday Book and the present building dates from c 1100. The south door is simple Romanesque architecture – which is the phrase the guide leaflet uses, and I asked myself whether I could define “Romanesque”. https://artincontext.org/romanesque-art/ tells me it is a European art movement, “a large-scale architectural style that emulated the Classical Roman styles from the Antiquity and Byzantine periods.” Yes, that is probably what I would have said – I’m not as ignorant as I thought I was!

I opened the gate and door, and stepped into the church. A simple church, nave, chancel and vestry. Constructed of local limestone rubble with gritstone dressings. A document from 1547 shows the church was well equipped for divine worship, and a hundred years later William Alsop was dismissed as a clergyman for conducting illegal marriages – where did all these people came from who wanted to get married here! The church was remodelled in 1822 and 1892. In the 1851 Census of Religious Worship it had seats for 72 people, a service was held fortnightly in the evening and the average attendance was between 20 and 35 – which gives a lie to the story that our churches were once full. The benches date from 1882.

The font is wonderful. It dates from the C14 and has some interesting carvings – I missed what the leaflet describes as “a sexualised woman”. The man with his book is upside down. The bowl of the font doesn’t belong with the darker coloured stem, though they are of a similar date. I am glad that Friendless Churches took this building over when it was closed, but it is sad the font is (I assume) never used. (I don’t know why my camera gave it a green tinge).

This painted reredos is on the nave altar – the leaflet describes it as “naively painted”. Why is one of the magi, or is it a shepherd?, carrying a lump of stone? There is a similar painting behind the altar at the east end. Woodwork dates to 1882. Quite damp at the end here, including some water on the floor.

The east window dates to 1894 and is by Kempe – the appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene. The chancel arch was well repaired, and I love the way that an official notice has survived for more than a century.

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