Derwent Valley Heritage Way 8 – Whatstandwell to Belper

It has been a long time since I walked any of the Derwent Valley Mills Trail. Monday 2 September was a lovely day, and I didn’t want to work on a Monday. I caught the Transpeak bus north to Whatstandwell station, and started walking south. Always seems wrong to arrive at a station by bus! The bridge over the canal looks rather fragile, and the lack of boat traffic means there is plenty of weed in place.

It is a pleasant walk along the canal, with the railway next to you. Although sometimes busy with walkers, today I saw nobody.

I came off the canal at Ambergate, down under the railway, across the A6. The church was locked, but the garage sold me lunch. Ambergate was quite a station once – it was triangular.

I crossed the bridge over the Derwent, just south of the confluence with the Amber, and then walked up through the lovely woods, The Birches, then along the minor Whitewells Road. 

We then cut down beside Coppice Wood and along Wyver Lane. We passed the Wyver Lane Firing Range which was built in 1899. There had been a firing range for the Belper Vounteers on Chevin Hill since 1800, but by the end of the century new rifle technology had made the original range inadequate. George Herbert Strutt gave this land and paid for Mr A.F. Hurt’s cottage to be removed from the site (I wonder what Mr Hurt thought). He also gave £250 towards the £900 costs of providing facilities. It was much used in the early stages of World War 1, and was used until the 1970s.

Then on past the Nature Reserve, beside the railway, and into Belper. There’s a nice little garden at the north end of Belper Bridge (does the railway ever work), and the Mill is now advertising a planning application for lots of apartments. Let’s hope this works – it is too nice a building to be derelict. We’ve not really had a good look at the Museum here.

I crossed the road, went past Christ Church, then headed up Long Row. There are some lovely workers’ cottages up here, and I managed to get some photos without cars in the way. I was annoyed at missing a Yellow train as it past underneath.

I shall count this walk as finishing at St Peter’s church – a church which needs to be blogged – and therefore being about 6 miles, although I continued on to see Peter, a lovely member of our choir at St Edmund’s, in a residential home in the town, and then caught the bus home. It had been a lovely day.

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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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Northampton, Northamptonshire – All Saints’

We could have driven back from Milton Keynes straight up the M1, but instead went on the back roads to Northampton. I worked here for a couple of years back in the late 1980s, but don’t think I’ve ever been back. We found a parking space, had a wander, and ended up in All Saints’ church – SP 754 604. They have a website at You could not get a town centre church much different to Milton Keynes, but it is wonderful that both are open. A notice at All Saints says it is the only town church open during the week.

There was a Norman church on this site, but – with the exception of the tower – it was destroyed in the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675. By 1680 it had been rebuilt with the help of donations from all over England, including 1,000 tons of timber from King Charles II. The Portico is rather wonderful. It was added in 1701, and I failed to photo the statue of Charles which was added in 1712.

The Nave is a wow – its design is attributed to Henry Bell of Kings Lynn whose work was heavily influenced by Christopher Wren. The Nave is basically two concentric squares with the inner square formed by four majestic Ionian columns. The columns are topped with figures of the four evangelists. The plaster ceiling and dome are decorated with acanthus motifs, religious symbols, cherubs and oak leaves. Edward Goudge, one of Wren’s chief plasterers was responsible for this work.

The West gallery houses the recital organ which was presented by the Sunley Trust in 1983 in memory of Mary Sunley. It was made by J.W. Walker & Son of Suffolk, and is linked to the new chancel organ. The clock is an C18 bracket clock, signed Davies, Northampton. The two pictures in the gallery are of Moses and Aaron, and were the C17 reredos.

Going up into the Chancel is quite splendid. The ceiling is magnificent. The oak pulpit dates from 1680, though the base is Victorian. Lectern rather good too. The reredos was erected in 1888. The large painting of the crucifixion is thought to be Italian. I like the cherub under the 10 Commandments. The marble font is 1680.

There is some nice glass in the Lady Chapel, and these two chairs look nice and comfy.

I also liked the selection of monuments. The poet John Clare is remembered too.

The Good Loaf artisan bakery and café is in the portico – not as cheap as High Wycombe, but it is good to see the church open and business being there. It is a wonderful church, a real town centre church serving its community.

At the east end of the building is the Northampton Town and County War Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Sadly the gate to that was locked.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire – Christ the Cornerstone

Driving home from High Wycombe on Saturday 18 August we stopped in Milton Keynes, and went to the Church of Christ the Cornerstone – SP 850 388. It wasn’t that busy on a Saturday morning – the café wasn’t open – but that part of MK seems to be more offices than anything else. The website is at We looked at buying our first house in MK around 1985 – I remember reading the brochures one lunchtime while I was working in London – and we have visited this church once before. It was described as MK’s Cathedral, but it doesn’t really have a “cathedral feel” when you enter. Looking at its list of services, it doesn’t have that pattern either. However we got a welcome from the chap in the shop, and it was nice to have a wander in, an explore, and a pray.

The ecumenical scene in the 1980s was rather more lively than it is today. Churches nationally were working together, and each County would have a paid ecumenical officer. Nowadays there are probably no County Officers left and, while each denomination is supposed to have an Ecumenical Officer (I am the CE one for Derbyshire), most of us do it on top of the day job, and the powers-that-be seem to have no real interest in what we do. If I remember right, most churches on the estate in the new City of MK were ecumenical (ie several different denominations working together), often with two or three ministers from different churches.  40 years later most of these churches still exist, probably with only one minister. There are now far more churches (in the sense of denominations and groupings) than there were 40 years ago, but getting them together is even harder. When we do work together good things are achieved – and I am grateful for the variety of churches and experience that made me.

It was in 1979 that the Church of England, the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the United Reformed Church came together in a partnership to worship together in the city centre, and this church building was opened in 1992. The Covenant that they signed is at and I like this line: “Travelling as Pilgrims on a journey that has already started and which will lead we know not where, we are pleased to place our trust in God, in whose hands the future lies, and to be led forward by Him.”

You can tell it is a C20 church – “The architect for the church was Iain Smith of Planning Design Development Ltd, a local Milton Keynes firm. The architect of the flanking office blocks, however, were Conran Roche. The contract for the overall development of Church Square was won by Beazer Developments Ltd. The church itself was built by Marriotts of Rushden, Northants.” No Christopher Wren on this dome!

According to the blue window is by A. Beleschenko and the etched cross behind the altar and pulpit by Diane Radford.

I really wanted to see this memorial window. Fiona lived just down the road from us near Huntingdon and Julie met her when they both did a car maintenance course in the mid-80s. She also took me out in the car on a few occasions when I was learning to drive. She was engaged to Paul, a priest in Birmingham, and we went to their wedding in Hemingford in 1986. We went off to Theological College in Lincoln and didn’t see much of each other – and then, just after I had been ordained and started my curacy (1994), we received the news that Fiona had been taken ill and died.

The window artist was David Peace and the maker was Sally Scott. The quote is from Mahatma Ghandi, “Truth is like a vast tree which yields more and more fruit the more you nurture it. The deeper the search in the mind of truth, the richer the discovery of the gems buried there.”

Finally we went into the little chapel. I ignored the plethora of notices and lit a candle in her memory. You meet some lovely people as you journey through this world.

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Hughenden, Buckinghamshire – St Michael and All Angels

On Friday 17 August 2019 we drove out of High Wycombe and spent the morning at Hughenden, the National Trust property which was the home of Benjamin Disraeli. Julie enjoyed the author links – although neither of us (and most of the visitors) have never read anything by Disraeli. There was a good exhibition upstairs about his life, politics and relationship with Queen Victoria. The best bit was the exhibition about the house in WW2 – bomber command had done all their map work there. The NT didn’t know this until they heard a visitor talking to his grandchild in 2004 about his time working there, then they managed to find out a lot more. I love maps! It was raining by the time we’d done the house, so we had lunch and left the gardens for another day.

The Parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Hughenden, is at the entrance to the Park – SU 864954. The church advertises itself as ’The Church in the Park.’ Very posh website – – on the evangelical end of the church – there must be a PhD in church websites and their relationship with what we used to call ’churchmanship.’ At least this one includes ‘history’ – excellent photos at They like their advertising, and had a good board full of photos of a lively church. They also had a banner reminding people that the church is not owned by the National Trust. Good leaflets too.

The original church was built by Geoffrey de Clinton between 1100 and 1135. In 1870 it was in a very bad state of repair, and the Vicar Canon Blagden, with the help of his father-in-law James Searight, raised most of the money and rebuilt it. I wonder how much time and energy Disraeli put into it.

It is a very Victorian church. The font is Early English, probably from the original church, found and returned. The key is old too – apparently the ring would stand in if a couple couldn’t afford a wedding ring – that’s not a story I’ve ever heard before.

There is a selection of effigies in the North Chapel. I didn’t work out which one was which  – indeed, I’m not sure anyone is very sure which is which.  It is suggested that they were put there by a local nouveau riche one trying to produce a pedigree. I like that idea!

The Chancel may be the oldest part of the church, but it is the most Victorian. Various items in the church were paid for by the Hughenden Memorial Fund, in memory of Benjamin Disraeli. The mural scheme depicts the Christ Child on Mary’s lap. Look at Joseph’s expression, and that of the camel. The memorial to Disraeli was installed by Queen Victoria – apparently it is the only memorial installed in an English church by a reigning monarch. She also allowed his Garter insignia to be moved here from Windsor too, and allowed him to be buried here rather than in Westminster Abbey. Her Prime Minister was her favourite – he knew how to flatter her!

The pulpit is a memorial to James Searight – lots of angels and archangels – rather delicately done. One nice piece of stained glass too.

We must return to Hughenden when the sun is shining.

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High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – All Saints’

Thursday 16 August 2019. We are in High Wycombe, having been to see Taming of the Shrew at Stratford last night, and off to see Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre later today. We went for a walk into the town. All Saints’ church was wonderful. It’s at SU865930 and has a website – . Proper, inclusive, grown-up Christianity, which includes heritage, music, arts and spirituality on its website. It opens its building with the Mustard Seed café – they were very welcoming indeed. Disabled access was very easy – loos too. I only had my phone on me, so I’m sorry these photos are not brilliant. Go and pay High Wycombe a visit!

William of Malmesbury writes that St Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, regularly passed through the town en route to London. He was licensed by the Bishop of Lincoln to consecrate a new church built by Smertlin, a wealthy resident whose land-holdings are mentioned in Domesday – 1087 has been suggested as the date (he is remembered in a statue – for All Saints they have a study afternoon looking at all their saints). In 1273 the Bishop of Lincoln offered an indulgence to those who helped rebuild the church, and much of the Norman work was replaced. The nave is huge. The chairs work  very well. I didn’t take a photo of the tables at the west end as there were too many people in the café. The tower is C16 and has a ring of 14 bells – that must be worth hearing.

You enter the church at the west end, then I worked my way round clockwise. The font is Victorian, and the light raises a rather boring Victorian font to something worth looking at (does the colour change with the liturgical season?). I can’t remember the significance of the elephant.

The Parish Chest is C16. The memorial is to 2nd Lieut. Frederick Youens – he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (I wonder if that did anything to soothe his mother’s grief?) – worth reading

The window was given by Dame Frances Dove in 1932, the first woman to be elected to the Borough Council in 1932. She was refused the mayoralty because of her gender, so had this window – featuring 32 famous women – installed in the church, just by the Mayor’s chair. That is the way to make a protest!

The organ is a Henry Willis of 1930, but now needs £350,000 to get it working properly again. Some lovely carving.

I walked up beside it in to the NE aisle to have a good look at the Shelburne Memorial by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers (1754) commemorating Henry Petty, first Earl of Shelburne, and his wife Arabella. When Henry died, his title lapsed because his six children and grandson, all shown on the memorial, had pre-deceased him. I like the books too.

There are other good memorials – how many words could they write about Philadelphia? – and in the window is glass commemorating the negotiations between William Petty (Prime Minister 1782-3) and Benjamin Franklin at the Treaty of Paris, which bought to an end the American War of Independence. The window was installed in 1990.

The South East chapel is rather nice, and I like the various memorials down the south side of the church. Note the memorial to Jacob Wheeler, a shoemaker who died in 1621.

I didn’t photo much of the stained glass, but I did like the colours in this one. It is also worth looking up to the roof of the Nave, and along the length of the church itself.

The Nave altar reredos was carved in 1922 as a memorial to the Town’s men who died in WW1. It was brought forward, along with the altar, in a re-ordering of 1993.

Having had a good explore, we patronised the café, used the facilities, smiled that the Christian name of the administrator is ‘Thistle’, and went and had a wander outside. Feeling very upbeat after a wonderful church visit, I was brought back down to earth by the sight of the homeless camp in the churchyard. Please don’t think I am criticising the church – I am not – but it makes me very angry that in rich C21 Britain we are OK with the number of homeless people in our Society.

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Cley, Norfolk – St Margaret

We had a good hour in Blakeney Church, then caught the bus the short hop to Cley. Cley windmill is rather nice b&b (a bit above my price range) with its own website – Probably built about 1819. We found a nice café, though it wouldn’t be Julie friendly.

St Margaret’s church is to the south of the village – TG 048432. The parish website is at, and it is worth mentioning the wonderful Norfolk Churches site – When he visited in 2004, Simon Knott took many excellent photos, and told the story of the church with much more skill than me. He ended his blog with a comment: “This church had been built for so much more than congregational worship, but this was all it could now do; as if the Anglican community was camped out uneasily in its ruins, in the vastness of something so wholly beyond their imagination.” Fifteen years later, and I wonder if I can dare to suggest that the Anglican community in at least some of these churches is starting to realise we must do more than just camp out. We walked down to find all the doors wide open, and Borderlines in place.

“Every summer, Cley Contemporary Arts offers locals, returning visitors and tourists the chance to encounter the perspectives of artists on their connections to Norfolk”. This year guest curators Theodora Lecrinier and Hannah Turner Wallis of Dyad Creative have selected 40 works by 43 artists to reflect on the theme of Borderlines. They are on show in St Margaret’s, in the churchyard, and at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust centre. More information at

I have to say that modern art does nothing for me, but it was wonderful seeing the church well used. I hope that the busyness of the summer (and I hope some money) gets them through the winter. It was disappointing seeing that this is a church with a bat problem – I am sorry if I offend the wildlife lobby, but bat urine and faeces are destroying many of our medieval churches, and demoralising many of our congregations.

Wiveton church is less than a mile away across the river – a river which would once have been busy with local fishermen and men who traded further afield, across the North Sea as part of the Hanseatic League. Their wealth is seen in this church – we’ll look at the shields by the South Door later.

You will notice that the tower is on the north side, and this was probably the line of the original church. In the C13 the church was rebuilt – chancel first, then the Nave. The work is similar to that of John Ramsey, who was master mason to Bishop Salmon of Norwich and the Cathedral Priory, and then later in Ely. He was probably the designer, but left the work to others. The work on the Nave and Transepts probably started around 1315. The nave was lengthened and the west front built in the 1340s – perhaps they planned a new tower, but ran out of money. The Nave was heightened in the mid 1400s – enjoy the carvings.

I can’t tell you which artist did which piece of art – although the booklet gives me titles and a biography, it is not always easy to work out which is which. The orange banner behind the altar is called “The Essence of Eveything”. I’d pick up Eucharistic symbolism – the catalogue does not.

In the south aisle is an installation by Joy Pitts entitled ‘3000 Used Garments’. “Like birds and humans, garments migrate from one country, region, or place to another. Starting life as plants for harvesting, followed by weaving and finishing, garment production, shipping and distribution. These 3,000 garments have been intercepted allowing them to pause at St Margaret’s church before completing their journey. This installation reflects the support and inclusion offered in the context of the church.” That gave me pause for thought.

In the north aisle ‘Encroach’ by Henri Lacoste shows Norfolk as the sea level rises. Our collective weakness to do anything about it is challenged. The geographer in me could relate to this one.

In the west porch was this triangle. Is it the catalogue’s fault that I can’t identify it – or my fault for not giving the exhibition the time it deserved?

There’s some lovely woodwork too. The fine octagonal Jacobean oak pulpit dates from 1611 – it’s too fine to be left to the mercy of the bats. Some of the benches are C15- enjoy the faces. In the Chancel the six misericords are rather lovely. The underside of each one is carved with the initials JG, a merchant’s mark, and the Grocers’ Arms. These arms were not granted until 1532. JG may represent John Greneway – the Greneway family were connected with Cley. A Thomas G was church warden here in 1553 and a Ralph G was an alderman of London in the same decade.

The font dates from the middle of the C15 – this type of font was new and fashionable in the 1460s. (I love the idea of it being a fashionable font – was there a maker of such fashionable fonts? Where did you purchase it from? How did you choose it? Was there a font catalogue? Can anyone tell me?). It shows the seven sacraments.

There is a little early glass, but much of it is early C20 – I like the mill.

Here’s an interesting memorial. I wonder why he died at 42, and how she coped with her six children.

I went out into the South Porch. It can be dated to between 1405 and 1414. Full of carving, heraldry, and the shields of the various families who were instrumental in the building of the church. The family of Sir John de Vaux had been granted land by the Normans. A charter of 1265 says he was granted land by Henry III. He owned land at Boston and at Cley, both important ports. He was the first of many wealthy and important men, and their families, to be linked to this church. They are probably also the sort of people who bought art (art which would have been ‘modern’ at the time they purchased it!). I don’t know who made the banners in the churchyard.

There are fascinating gravestones as well. Thank you, good people of Norfolk, for caring for such lovely churches.

We walked back into the village, then caught the bus on to Sheringham. We had time for a walk down to the beach, then had coffee by the North Norfolk Railway before catching our train to Norwich. On to Ely where Elaine left, and I continued to Nottingham, then down to East Midland Parkway with arrival at 2215. I pack a lot into a day!

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Blakeney, Norfolk – St Nicholas

In East Anglia on 29 July 2019, and the bus took us on through Wells – an interesting piece of driving. Then we changed onto the Coasthopper and continued east. The bus stops outside St Nicholas church, Blakeney – TG 033434, – and it is quite some church. A welcoming noticeboard and a lovely guide.

The first evidence of a church here is in Domesday, but no evidence of this building has been found. The oldest part of the current building is C13, Early English style – wonderful stone vaulting in the Chancel dates to 1240. If I was the Vicar I’m sure the Chancel would be big enough for most of the services! The Nave itself was built in 1435 in the Perpendicular style. The hammer beam roof is made of oak and chestnut – I really need to get a tripod so I can photo angels properly.

The unusual seven lancet window in the east end is based on the Te Deum depicting Mary and the child surrounded by saints and angels. The Chancel is the oldest part of the church and dates from the C13. There are four medieval misericords.

The woodwork in the Nave is newer, but the carvings are great fun.

There are some interesting pieces of graffiti – you can imagine a shipowner or captain doing it as a votive offering. This must have been a stunning church in a prosperous town – you can imagine the thanksgiving when a ship came into port, and the tears when it didn’t. There are memories of the lifeboats as well. Hettie was in service between 1873 and 1891.

The font is C15, with the mutilated faces of the gospel writers.

There is one window of medieval stained glass, glass saved at the Reformation.

On the south side there are lots of early C20 windows. St Etheldreda and Ely Cathedral, Oswald and Heavenfield, Thomas Becket and Henry II.

In the porch there are two nice modern windows by Jane Gray. One commemorates the Few, the other a Millennium window for the village.

Under the tower is the Church Office (with church administrator coping with a baptism family), and you can climb the tower for a donation. We donated, and climbed. Stunning views from the top. Enjoy!

The churchyard was worth having a wander round as well.

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Burnham Market, Norfolk – St Mary the Virgin

On Monday 29 July 2019 I had a day in East Anglia. The 0621 from East Midlands Parkway, meet Elaine at Ely, get into King’s Lynn at 0902, and catch the 0930 bus along the coast. There is a £10 bus ticket valid on all the services – it really is a bargain. The Coastliner 36 bus came into Burnham Market at 1110, past St Mary the Virgin church – TF 830421 – and it looked busy. We needed coffee, so off the bus and into a café! Then through the market and the church has a flea market (do I want to buy a flea?). It certainly had a buzz about the place. The church website is, but it doesn’t give us much info about the church itself.

The South Porch is originally C15, once with a room over the porch. Most of the interior is C14. The pews are Victorian, and they are debating getting the out – a good idea (though they are useful for displaying pictures for sale – I wonder how many they sell). A good wooden ramp, and toys by the font – the bowl is late medieval, the base modern.

There is a C14 effigy under the tower. It was discovered, upside down, in the north aisle in 1823, so no one knows who he is. The brass lady has three children – some of the brass has gone missing. The inscription of 1523 refers to John Huntley and his two wives, Mary and Anne.

The East window was designed and installed in Coronation year 1953 by E.F. Erridge. The leaflet describes it as one of the finest post-war windows in Norfolk.

The tower was built around 1310, and the parapet dates to the C15. Various interesting pictures – Adam and Eve, the executioner with the head of John the Baptist, St Andrew, and various others if you had binoculars.

Some nice memorials around the churchyard too. We got chatting to another photograpeher, and had to make a dash for the next bus.

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Crich, Derbyshire – St Mary the Virgin

Last summer my blog readers will remember that I did a lot of work on The Carriage of Mail on Trams for an exhibition at the Tramway Museum at Crich. Over the winter they made it into an exhibition. I went over on Wednesday 17 July – and was given a tour. I was impressed with what they have done. It’s well worth a visit.

I stopped at the parish church on my way home – SK348546. I have driven past it many times. It is a church with a permanent Easter Garden – that’s class. I am going to praise their website – – for the line “the church has a toilet for the disabled, is wheelchair accessible & also has a hearing loop.“, but not for the fact they deal with their history in four lines. They have no guidebook either, but there are some laminated sheets which tell you some history.

Pevsner says it is “Quite an impressive church with early origins; restored in 1861 by Henry Currey.” Not sure about that word ‘quite’. It is a Grade 1 listed building, dating from 1135. As you enter and look up you see that a recent family service included a helium heart, and they have someone who likes making banners (even the piano gets its own text).

Half way up the north aisle is a curious wooden beam which is thought to have come from the roof of the chancel when its roof was restored. The beam reads “Thomas Shelmerdine – Minister 1649”, he was called a minister as it was in the Commonwealth. Would the beam and the writing have been hidden from view? Three years later we have this lovely brass.

The Wakebridge tomb is almost certainly that of Sir William de Wakebridge, despite there being no name on the tomb. The most interesting feature of this tomb is the Catherine wheel that an angel is holding to his ear. Originally there was an angel on either side of the body figure, but one has been destroyed and the angel at the front has lost its head. Sir William was involved at the start of the 100 years War. In 1349 the Black Death took his father, wife, three brothers, two sisters and a sister-in-law. He founded a Chantry Chapel in the north aisle, and later (1368) another on the south side.

The stone columns on the North side are the oldest ones in the church and are of Norman design. In the final column is a stone which looks like a cat (or does when you turn it upside down) – is it a Saxon piece? The piece of carved stone below it may be part of a stone cross – again, no idea of the date.

The east window of the north aisle is a Light of the World window – we’ve found a few of them on our travels. It was installed as a memorial to the Reverend Chawner, Vicar here between 1855 and 1875. The subscription was organised by Dr Dunn, the parish doctor, medical officer for the Belper area, and personal physician for Florence Nightingale – she was involved in finding the firm to create this window.

The Chancel screen was removed when St Mary’s was restored in 1861, ended up in a builder’s yard in Derby, was purchased by the vicar of St Peter’s and erected there. It was returned to Crich at some stage.

The John Claye tablet has an amusing pun on his name. The Claye tomb is next to the altar on the north wall. The engravings are of John (died 1632) and his first wife Mary (died 1583). On the side end of the tomb are five kneeling figures, John’s children –  Susannah, Mary, Penelope, William and Theophilis. The memorial above the tomb is The Pole Memorial. “Here lies the body of German Pole, master of Wakebridge in the county of Derby, a squire who departed this life on the 19th day of April in the year 1588 from our Virgin’s birth. He took to wife Margaret the daughter of Edward son of John Ferrers a soldier from Tamworth. Afterwards the aforementioned Margaret was married by John Clay.” The 1986 memorial has “excellent design and lettering characteristics” says Pevsner. I think it is too cramped.

Captain Wheatcroft was serving in India in November 1857, having earlier fought in the Crimea. His wife had a dream one night in which her husband was in great anguish. She told her family about it, and was very apprehensive about his safety. A telegram arrived from the War Office saying he had been killed on the day after her dream. She did not accept this date, and the following year a fellow officer confirmed he had witnessed the Captain’s death on the day that his wife had the dream. Eventually records were changed.

The stone lectern on the north side of the altar is one of only four left in Derbyshire – right, better go and find the others! (Pevsner says Spondon and Chaddesden, but if they are I missed them both!).

A bright East window, and two nice bench end – one C15 or C16 century, the other earlier. The font is Norman but “zealously scraped.”

I was stunned by the length of the Roll of Honour, and went outside with pensive thoughts. There is a large war memorial by the gate. Also some interesting slate memorials on the walls of the church. A fascinating place.

October 2019 – I have just read the book The Crich Mineral Tramways by Dowie (published by Tramway Publications in 1976). I knew that the tram line ran along a line originally built by Stephenson, but didn’t realise that it ran right down to the Cromford Canal, or that there were other lines in the vicinity (one of which ran next to this church). You can trace several of the routes on the OS map, so I must have an explore with my camera.

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