Shirley, Derbyshire – St Michael

On the afternoon of Friday 11 August we went for a drive, and ended up at the village and church of Shirley – St Michael’s, SK 218416. It is part of the Brailsford benefice, with this website – click on it just to see the name!

A pile of church and village guides produced in 1991 – not a lot has happened since then (or has it?, read on). Sewallis, a Saxon Thane, held land at the Norman Conquest. At Domesday Henry de Ferrers was Sewallis’ overlord, and Sewallis’ son Fulcer had a mill and four oxgangs. Fulcher’s son, Sewallis, and his wife Matilda, probably took the name “de Shirley”. Members of the family fought at the Crusades, at Shrewsbury and at Agincourt. Sir George became a Baronet in 1611, and his great-grandson became Lord Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth in 1711. Tradition has it that Bonnie Prince Charles spent the night here during his invasion of England in 1745, an invasion that petered out at Derby. Walter Shirley was Vicar and Archdeacon of Derby, he restored this church in the 1840s, then went on to be Bishop of Sodor and Man. John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) – author, critic, novelist, poet – was born here.

The church is mentioned in Domesday. In 1230 it was given by Fletcher de Ireton to Darley Abbey – I want it back! There is a cross in the churchyard. The leaflet says the “Churchyard cross is a reconstruction of part of the only memorial there would have been to all the people buried in the graveyard between 1086 and late mediaeval times, when private gravestones began to be used.” Really? I have never heard this theory. I think it’s wrong. There is a rather nice yew tree as well – is it older than the one in Allestree?

Entering the church, I like the fees and memorial plaque – thank you Vergers.

The chancel arch is probably the oldest part of the church, although when they re-ordered the south aisle recently they found the remains of the old altar.

By now I had been joined by two congregation members who showed me round. Box pews, organ and a C15 font.

The War Memorial has some lovely wording. There are other memorials too.

The south aisle window – 3 pm on Good Friday.

A kitchen under the gallery, ground source heat pumps and solar panels. We need to know more – sounds like a project.

A lot has happened in this church since 1991.

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