Repton, Derbyshire – St Wystan

Outside Derbyshire, Repton is simply the name of the tune to “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. It is also home to a public school – the school where “Good bye Mr Chips” was filmed (1939 Robert Donat and Greer Garson). The chippy in the village is called “Good buy Mr Chips”.

St Wystan’s church stands in the centre of the village and school at SK 303271 – website. This is a very full website – lots of history, lots of things going on, and a superb index. We parked outside the church, and Julie came in too – disability access was good. A full, very academic guidebook by Dr H.M. Taylor and lots of more accessible leaflets on sale. Ten out of ten in having a “Welcome to Worship” leaflet and one which advertises the other churches in the benefice, inviting us to visit them. “Three Beautiful Churches – One faith, one life, one love.” This blog could take a while!

I photoed the lych gate, but why didn’t I move the black bin? Fastened to it are panels painted by the school to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The lych gate is dedicated to the memory of the Reverend A.F.E. Forman, we’ll come across him again inside the church. They had done a leaflet explaining the panel design, and I’m sure I picked one up … I think they are reflecting on the fact that nothing lasts forever.

The spire rises to 212 feet, and it is generally accepted that the tower and spire date to the C15. The oldest bell was cast by Roger Brasyer of Norwich, who died in 1513. Was it cast in Norwich and transported here, presumably by water, round the Norfolk coast and up the Trent, or was it cast here?

The porch is late C14. The upper room was originally reached by a curving staircase in the church. The Saxon columns were removed from the Nave in 1854.  I can’t find out what the stone is in the left photo.

The Nave is high, this is one of those “wow” churches. It was rebuilt in the C14 and contains some Anglo-Saxon work. The font is lovely, but I can’t find any details.

I decided to start at the very beginning, and descended to the crypt in the north east corner. We’ve done crypts at Hexham and Ripon, and here we are in another ancient centre. From the C7 to C9 Repton was the principal residence of the Royal family of Mercia. Christianity came to  Repton and the Midlands in 653 when Paeda, son of King Penda of Mercia, married Elfreda, daughter of the King of Northumbria. Elfreda brought with her four monks from Lindisfarne, including Diurna who became the first Bishop of Mercia in 656. An Abbey was founded here about four years later. 656 was also the year when Penda was murdered. I am enjoying the stories by Edoard Albert – all about the Royal families of this time – website.

This crypt was built in the early C8 over a spring and may originally have been a baptistery. It was later converted into a mausoleum, perhaps to receive the body of King Aethelbald. He reigned Mercia from 716 and in a charter of 736 he described as “King of England”. He was murdered and then buried here in 757. We know King Wiglaf (died 840) and his grandson Wystan, murdered 849, were buried here. Between 827 and 840 Wiglaf had been in charge of a major re-build of the Chancel and the crypt. After his murder, Wystan was venerated as a saint – and the crypt became a place of pilgrimage. It had a very special feel – I lit candles for Theo and Gareth.

The walls of the chancel are much as they were when the Vikings arrived in 873. Wystan’s relics were taken away by the monks. They were returned a few years later, then moved to Evesham by King Cnut. The modern door leads to an upper chamber. There is a wide opening to a rood-loft where relics might have been kept and from where they would have been displayed on feast days. One could spend a very, very long time working it all out – I will come back with the guidebook (although I realise how many times I wrote that while I was in Northumberland!). I didn’t take decent photos of the stained glass either – another excuse to return.

The organ was added in 1998 and made by Peter Collins. The organ case was inspired by the oldest known in Britain, the sixteenth century case at Old Radnor in Wales. This incised alabaster slab records the burial of Gilbert Thacker who died in 1563. His father  obtained the priory at the Dissolution and left it to Gilbert who was responsible for the destruction of the priory church and most of the monastic buildings.

This is Frances Thacker, of Lincoln’s Inn, a later member of the family, who died in 1710.

This alabaster figure of a knight in armour was formerly at the east end of the north aisle. It is probably Sir Robert Frances of Foremark, who settled there at the end of the C14.

The final memorial in the church (on this visit) is the man we met at the Lych Gate. Arthur Forman – “a true English gentleman”. Let’s also have a couple of “Good Bye Mr Chips” posters.






In the churchyard there is the grave of C.B. Fry. One of those people I’ve vaguely heard of, a great cricketer and sportsman, so I read an article about him here, and a page here.

At the end of the churchyard are 16 Commonwealth War Graves. Actually 15 CWGs and one privately installed tomb (which seems really out of place). They are all WW2 graves, many of airman killed in training accidents while based at Burnaston Airfield, a couple of miles away, where Toyota is now. 10,000 glider pilots passed through the airfield, some of them going on to fly gliders at D-Day and at Arnhem. Snowdrops always remind me of my Theo, who died at snowdrop time – on this occasion they can also stand for young men flying gliders.







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