On Friday 17 March 2023 Julie had a dental appointment, so I drove to Ashbourne with some bags of books for the Oxfam shop. Then I thought I’d go and find a church to blog (even though I only had my mobile for photos). St Batholomew, Blore Ray, is just over the border into Staffordshire – SK 127492. They are on https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/4331/.
Blore can best be described as a hamlet, and there wasn’t a lot of parking by the church. “It won’t be open” I thought as I walked up, noting the width of the east end of the church and the rather wonderful headstone HERE. I love the way the porch and the door are on the skew.
I opened the gate and the door was open too. Down some horrendous, but characterful, steps, and into a gem of a church. It dates back to the 1100s and may well stand on an earlier site. It may be dedicated to St Bartholomew, or it could be a corruption of St Bertram, a local saint, apparently buried in the next parish of Ilam. The tower is 45 feet high, with walls about 5 feet thick. The oldest bell is dated 1590 and was brought from Ashbourne in 1815. The two original bells for this church are dated 1616 and 1626. The font is C16 – fire extinguisher in case of the fire of the Spirit.
I liked the little organ, then poked round the back. I found this photo and realized I was at Theological College with Peter Davey, the Vicar in this photo. They did a good job of restoration in 1996.
I looked down the North Aisle and thought “that looks fascinating”. It is! The Bassett Tomb. To quote the guidebook “The magnificently sculptured (and once gilded and painted) alabaster tomb to “the last of the Bassetts of Blore” stands behind a medieval carved screen in the cramped space at the east end of the north aisle – in what was once the chantry or lady chapel.”
In the centre we have William VI (1552-1601) and the monument was commissioned by his wife Judith (1566-1640), who lies to his left (ie on the north side). It was made by Jasper Hollemans who created a memorial in a style similar to that of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey. It was probably erected in the 1630s. Judith was William’s second wife. After his death she married again, to Sir Richard Cobbett, but when she died she wanted to go in the vault with husband 2. William gets the tribute in verse on the west end of the monument.
The third reclining person is Henry (1592-1616) who I think married Elizabeth (1599-1643), William and Judith’s daughter. She kneels at his head. Kneeling by the head of Judith is Elizabeth (Catherine) Howard, her granddaughter (born 1616). At Judith’s feet is the casket of James, son of Henry and Elizabeth. At Henry’s feet is the casket of a stillborn child. It is when you look at a monument like this, you realise how much death was part of life.
Yes, I know I have taken a lot of photos of the memorial, but it is rather splendid. I love the armour, the costume, the ruffs. It is also worth noting the arms of the immediate families which are on the side of the monument – there are links with most of the major local families. The family vault was underneath the monument, but it was plundered before the C19 – apparently the space was used as a potato store by a local farmer. The monument was repaired in the 1880s and completely restored in 1996 – they did a superb job.
So what else do we have in this gorgeous church? You don’t often see a War Memorial which lists those who came back as well. Other nice memorials, and some nice medieval tiles.
You also have some lovely glass, a rather nice altar, and a lovely medieval screen.
But actually you just need the ambience of this beautiful church. I sat and soaked it up. I sat and said Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, but I used the Collect for St Patrick off my phone. So peaceful! Outside is beautiful too.