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 –http://www.crichstmarys.org.uk – 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.

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