Clifton Campville, Staffordshire – St Andrew

Friday 31 March 2023 and we drove south of Derby to find three locked churches. Then we crossed the border into Staffordshire and Lichfield Diocese, and our luck changed. St Andrew’s Clifton Campville is in the centre of the village at SK252107, but I managed to find a parking space. Their website is I will give them 10/10 for a website which says when the building is open, has some nice photos and a guide, and says “we have a disabled toilet and a movable ramp to aid wheelchair access through our main doors.” Unfortunately they lose marks because they also have a letter from Nadine Dorries as they were recipients of the “Culture Recovery Fund” post-Covid. How she, or anyone from the current government, can have the gall to write “it is my unwavering belief that culture must be for everyone” when all around us we see cultural activities being under-funded and cut back, is beyond me. Rant over! It is part of the Mease Valley Churches, so there are others to visit (apparently Harleston and Elford are usually open). My photos were taken on my phone as I had left the camera at home and I didn’t even get a photo which shows the size of the interior of the church.

I entered church and was greeted by a young man who turned out to be John the Rector. We had a good chat – when I mentioned I was a month off retiring he asked me if I’d do the job again (the answer is “yes” (most of the time)) – and we compared notes. It is a long time since I was Rector of a multi-parish benefice and knew the constant struggle of small numbers and large buildings. He’s also walking that tightrope between just doing what we’ve always done because it’s what we’ve always done and a small group of supporters want it, and trying new ways of getting people in and part of church life. I had noticed the plan to do something different on Palm Sunday, and hope it goes well. I also like a morning service on 7 May entitled “Cakes for the Coronation” – funny thought that I’ll have retired by then!

The village of Clyfton is first mentioned in a charter of 942, and was held by the King when they compiled Domesday. “There are eight hides with appendages. There is land for four ploughs. In the desmesne are two ploughs and two serfs and 33 villeins and 7 borders. With the priest have 11 ploughs. There ae two mills rendering 10s and there are 50 acres of meadow.” We had driven past what I assume is one of those mills on the way into the village. In 1296 Sir Geoffrey Camville, fourth member of the Camville family, was created Baron Camville of Clifton on becoming Lord of the Manor – and the village took his name.

A little of the C12 church survives – one assumes that anything earlier was rebuilt – and there was major work done in the C13. More rebuilding in the C14 gave us a lovely Gothic church. The guidebook tells us that “The Bishop’s Register entry of 22 April 1366 gives an interesting perspective on the setting up of a Chantry on the south side ‘in honour of the Holy Trinity, Mary the Mother of God, and all the Saints, and for the safety of the noble Sir Richard de Stafford, Kt … it was agreed that the priest should celebrate daily … at the altar of the Virgin at the south side of the church, on Sundays a mass of the Holy Trinity, on Mondays of the Holy Ghost, on Tuesday of St Thomas the Martyr, on Wednesday for the departed, on Thursdays of Corpus Christi, on Fridays of the Holy Cross, on Saturdays of the Virgin Mary, unless a double feast fall on one of those days, or the choir sing the office of S. Andrew.’” It is an interesting question as to how a priest in the wild north of Staffordshire was supposed to work out whether it was a double feast or not, but it must have been quite an establishment. In the Chancel we have some lovely stalls with misericords – it gives you an idea of the numbers here. (The modern choir stalls work quite well in front of them).

Various rectors had other jobs so they would find a mere curate to look after the village. Apparently between 1610 and 1619 three of the rectors, Richard Neile, John Overall and Thomas Morton, were also bishops of Lichfield – which makes you wonder how they got through three bishops in less than a decade. In the Chancel is a rather lovely memorial to members of the Pye family – I love that Sir Richard Pye was “a gentleman of inflexible integrity” and his brother, Baronet though he was, “chose the clerical state”. I must remember that line for my final order of service – “in 1994, I chose the clerical state”. The sculptor was John Rysbrach, who settled in England from Holland in 1720.

In 1830 it was recorded that work had been done on the roof, and that the income to the Rector was £2,500 a year – that was well worth having. The Rector was also reprimanded for grazing his cattle in the churchyard. I can safely say that in my 29 years of ministry I have never been reprimanded for grazing my cattle in the churchyard, though I was reprimanded in Cockfield when my sheep escaped onto the village main street.

The entrance to the chancel is marked by a beautiful screen – gorgeous carving.

The East Window contains C19 glass by Jones and Willis. The Easter Garden is quite something – well done!

You can enter the Lady Chapel from the Chancel or via the screen from the south aisle. The most amazing thing is the tomb of Sir John Vernon of Harleston and Eileen his wife, 1545. Just enjoy it – and remember that once it would have been brightly painted in red, green and gold. The couple themselves, the figures around the base, the animals below them, the smile on the lion –  I want one (though I could never afford it, and we’d never get permission for it).

The altar is 1927 – I’m not sure how it fits with the tomb, but I suppose that nothing really fits with the tomb.

In the south aisle are the remains of a wall painting. I could type out what the guidebook says about it, or I could include a photo of someone’s wonderful calligraphy. (How about giving it a good clean?).

I failed to photo the roof or the nave, but I did photo these three lovely faces on the columns.

Finally we went into the north chapel, a lovely place for a quiet pray. Gorgeous roof, and I wonder how old the graffiti is.

There’s a lot of this church I didn’t photo, but there is a limit to how long one can leave one’s wife in the car. Thanks John for your welcome.

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