Melbourne, Derbyshire – St Michael and St Mary

“A little drive” out on Saturday 2 November (and writing it up on 4 November). Melbourne is a small town but, like most small towns, parking seems to be at a premium. We eventually found a space outside the Hall, and I wandered into the church – SK 389250. (Nice to see welcoming notices on both north and south side – south side entrance is flat, but there’s nothing to tell you that). It is rather a wow church when you walk in – https://www.melbourneparishchurch.org.uk/.

A church is listed in the Domesday Book, and it may – like Repton and Breedon – have been a substantial structure. It was rebuilt into the form we see now in the C12. When Henry I founded the diocese of Carlisle in 1133 he presented the church at Melbourne to Adelulf, it first bishop. It has long been assumed that Adelulf used this church as his base since Carlisle was a bit dangerous (and Virgin Trains are so bad), but there is no evidence of this, he seems to have stayed up north. The manor was a Royal manor, so had Henry I built himself a substantial church – at the west end we can see a gallery, could this have been a royal pew?

The Norman arches and their carving are rather wonderful – it has the feel of a special, Royal, important church. A statement of power is being made. Not quite as much as a statement as Durham, but certainly the same idea.

I liked the window under the gallery – one leaflet says it’s 1953, but nothing says who made it.

The font is C13, and the flower arrangers go for quiet and subtle! (I hope they check the lists of baptisms planned before doing quite such a big display!). There is also a fascinating notice about their solar panels – in November 2011 they installed a 9.84kW array of 48 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. So far the feed-in-tariff has earned them £28,000 – the aim is that they pay for themselves within 25 years. The weblink is derbycarboniniative.org, which does not work – hardly fills you full of confidence (and certainly doesn’t enthuse me to push sceptical PCCs in this direction).

I made my way up the north aisle. The hatchments and flags tell the story of the occupants of Hall and Town. Sir Penistone Lamb was created the first Viscount Melbourne in 1781. His second son William inherited the title in 1828 – he was Home Secretary before becoming Prime Minister in 1835. As Australia developed, one province was named after his Queen, and its capital after him. His is the second hatchment on display, theirs’ is the flag.

One imposing bishop, an Agnus Dei, and a C13 chest.

The North Transept ends with an altar, once it would have ended with a semi-circular apse and the altar would have been further east. I like the glass and the altar frontal, but I missed the squint into the chancel. Look at the carvings as we move round to the Chancel arch. Did you spot the cat on one side, and the dog straining at the lease on the other?

Worth looking at to the bell frame as well, and west to enjoy the Nave. The top of the tower is C17 and the original four bells dated between 1610 and 1732. They were recast and rehung in 1882 (with two bells added), and another two were added in 1887 (Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee). The organ dates to 1860, and was rebuilt in 1981. This is a church with a good choir – Julie had been here for an RSCM day.

A very proud eagle, and the wall painting behind is a wonderful relic (it was hidden behind a plaque). There would have been a great scene of hell and damnation, now we have the demon Tutivillus hovering over two women – wonder what they did wrong!

In the Chancel we have some space. The side walls are Norman, the east is part of the late medieval rebuilding. It is a high chancel, and there may have been a second storey – once again, you are reminded that this is a major church. The hatchments are those of the first and the third Lord Melbourne. The east window glass is by Hardman.

At the east end of the south aisle I liked the painting, The Red Cup by Michael Cook, and lit candles on this All Souls’ Day for my lovely lads. I looked Michael Cook up and found him at http://www.hallowed-art.co.uk/pages/exhibitions.html  – he currently has work in display at Derby Cathedral. Better go and have a look!

I want for a wander out of the south door and round the outside. The church is surrounded by buildings, including a tithe barn at the west, so you can’t get a good overall view. But look at the details.

We went next door to the craft shops and tea room at Melbourne Hall – https://www.melbournehallgardens.com/. Tea room has flat access for the wheelchair (and did a very nice ham omelette), but we’re not sure whether there is a disabled loo. The gardens look worth a visit, and the Hall is open occasionally. If I’m doing the gardens I might come on the bus!

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