Duffield, Derbyshire – St Alkmund

Duffield church – SK350428 – is dedicated to St Alkmund, a Northumbrian prince and Mercian martyr. We met him at Whitchurch last August – northernvicar’s blog – I did not expect to be working in Derby a year later. There are six churches dedicated to this exiled Prince of Northumbria who was murdered in 800 AD in Northworthy (now called Derby)  by bodyguards sent by the usurping King Eardulf of Northubria. He was canonised shortly afterwards, and his coffin is now in Derby museum – St Alkmund’s church (or the Victorian building on the site) disappeared under the ring road. It is assumed that the Duffield church is a daughter church, presumably founded around 850. The name of the Ecclesbourne (river and railway (see below)) comes from the Latin for church – it’s an old church at Wirksworth too.


Domesday (1086) refers to a church and resident priest. The church is away from the village – near sacred water or baptism water? The main line railway runs between the village and the church, and the church has a large war memorial outside.


The church has a good car park and a large attached church hall – it is a strict evangelical church (the sort which has “Core values” on their website). I know I have a few who come from Duffield to the rather more liberal churches that I look after.


There is a Norman corbel table, but that’s in the North Chapel which is now used as a vestry, and there are Norman sepulchral stones in the Ringing Chamber walls. In the Chancel, under this ogee arch, behind the chairs I should have moved, is a Norman tomb, restored in 1847 which is thought to bear the remains of a founder member of the church, possibly Eugenulph de Ferrers who did in 1086. He had fought alongside William of Normandy in 1066 and was given the Manor of Duffield and many others for his services.


The simple nave and chancel of the Normans was added to in the C13 and C14 and probably the C15 too. The church was restored in 1897, and some of the panelling and grills were added then. You can see in the picture of the nave they have a little font at the front of the church, they do not used the fixed one (which has a bowl from c 1660 and a 1920s cover). Some nice banners in the church too.


One previous Vicar who might be worth some research is the Reverend Roger Morrice. He was Vicar from 1658 and was deprived of the living in 1662. As a convinced puritan his ministry did not suit the restored monarchy. He left Duffield and became a private chaplain in puritan households and a very well-informed political journalist. He kept a diary the guidebook describes as “the longest and richest diary of public life in England during the era of the Glorious Revolution. With a quite different moral and religious standpoint it rivals that of the earlier Pepys”. There was an article about it in the Telegraph – website – copies available at £195 (so it might be a while before I read it!).

This is the most splendid tomb. It was erected in 1600 during the lifetime of Anthony Bradshaw. It was erected as a memorial to himself, his two wives and twenty children. He lived until 1614, having had another three children, the middle one called Penultima. He was a prolific writer, and among the inscriptions is a rhyming acrostic based on his name. He was Deputy Steward of Duffield Firth, a member of the Inner Temple, Coroner, Under Sheriff and Attorney of the Court of Common Please at Westminster. It makes you wonder how he had time to father twenty three children!


Some interesting more recent memorials, and outside some interesting slate gravestones. I failed to get decent photos of the Victorian stained glass by Kempe, and missed the Mynors tomb of 1536.


In my defence I could say I was in a hurry to get to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway – website – but we were at Duffield station long before our train departed. At Duffield they are about to fit out their new station building, but tea was available from the brake van. A very pleasant trundle up the line to Wirksworth – the diesel multiple unit took me back to my youth in East Anglia. Refreshments and an excellent bookshop at Wirksworth, and steam up the incline to the quarry. Be patient, gentle reader, I will blog Wirksworth one day.



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