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Antiquaries, in the thirteenth volume of the Archæologia, from drawings by the late William Wilkins, esq., who conjectured that it was erected by king Ethelred, in the seventh century. We cannot but think that he has referred this edifice to too early a period, as its style by no means accords with that of the buildings, which, on the best evidence, are supposed to have been erected in the Saxon times; of which the conventual church at Ely, and the crypt at Repton, are those, whose dates are, perhaps, the best authenticated; but it coincides with that of the ecclesiastical edifices, which we know to have been built about the time of the Norman conquest.
Melbourn church has undergone little alteration, except in the lower range of windows, which have been enlarged; it consists of a nave and side aisles, separated by massy pillars, some of the capitals of which are ornamented with foliage and figures of animals, others with crosses: the arches are circular, ornamented with zig-zag mouldings. Between the nave and chancel is a large square tower, the upper part of which is more modern, with pointed windows; at the east end of each aisle is a chantry. The east end of the chancel and that of each of the chantries, Mr. Wilkins observes, appear to have been originally circular; they are now all square, with gothic windows. The entrance at the west end of the church consists of three porticoes, with groined roofs, divided by arches from the nave, having chambers over them; Mr. Wilkins supposes these to be the porticus of the Saxon churches, described by Bede. The whole length of Melbourn church, within the walls, is one hundred and thirty-three feet, the width forty-four feet nine inches.
The desecrated church of Steetley exhibits a very complete specimen of the later and more enriched style of Saxon architecture, on a small scale. It is quite entire except the roof, and has undergone no alteration except in one of the windows on the south side, which has been enlarged. It consists of a nave and chancel, each twenty-six feet in length; the east end being circular and vaulted: the ribs of the arches, and the capitals of the half pillars, from which they spring, are much enriched with various mouldings, grotesque heads, foliage and other ornaments.
A cornice, supported by brackets, ornamented with roses, heads, &c. runs round the upper part of the building on the outside. The circular part at the east end has also a fascia of foliage running round it, about the middle of the building; and is besides enriched with pilasters in the Saxon style. The arch of the south door-way is ornamented with zig-zag mouldings and heads; the shafts of the pillars are covered with sculptured foliage and other ornaments, in the style of the south door-way of Ely cathedral.
Considerable remains of Saxon architecture are to be seen in the churches of Alsop-in-the-Dale, Ashford, Bradburn, Bakewell, Bolsover, Boulton, Brailsford, Brassington, Clown, Darley, Heath, Hault Hucknall,* Hognaston, Kedleston, Killamarsh, Kirk Ireton, Long Eaton, Ockbrook, Parwich, Sandiacre, Stanton, Swarkstone, Tissington, Thorp, Whitwell, Longford, Willington, Winster and Yolgrave. The south door-ways of those of Ashford, Hognaston, Kedleston, Long Eaton and Swarkstone, have rude sculptures in bas-relief within the circular arch: of Bradburn and Whitwell churches, the towers at the west end are in this style of architecture. At the west end of Bakewell church is a large arch, very richly ornamented with Saxon mouldings and grotesque heads: on the sides of this arch are some remains of small interlaced arches.
Thirteenth century. The specimens of the early gothic architecture which occur in Derbyshire are few, and by no means remarkable. The chancels of Bakewell, Marston-upon-Dove, and Doveridge churches are in this style, as is Breadsall church, which is a handsome edifice, with an embattled tower, supporting a spire at the west end. In the ruins of Stid chapel are clustered pillars with foliated capitals, and the windows which remain are lancet-shaped.
Fourteenth century.— Tideswell church is a large uniform building, in the form of a cross: the nave and aisles are separated by clustered pillars and pointed arches. At the west end is a tower, with four embattled turrets, terminating in pinnacles, ornamented with crockets. The altar-piece is of stone, enriched with two tabernacles; and on each side of the east window, over the altar, is an ornamented niche. John Foljambe, who died in 1358, and whose monument is in Tideswell
* Gentlemen's Magazine for 1779, part I. page 449.
church, is said to have been a principal contributor to the erection of that edifice. The chancels of Norbury, Dronfield and Sandiacre churches, exhibit fine specimens of this style. That of Norbury church has large handsome windows, with much of the original painted glass remaining in them.
Remains of the architecture of this century are to be seen in the churches of Mackworth and Marston-upon-Dove: there is a very elegant window, with a niche on each side, at the east end of the north aisle of Mackworth church; and in the north wall of the same aisle is an arch, with a richly ornamented canopy over it, between two windows. Spondon church is a handsome building in the style of this century.
Fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. There are no remains of the ecclesiastical architecture of these centuries worthy of particular notice, except the tower of All Saints' church at Derby, which has been generally and deservedly admired: it is about one hundred and fifty feet in height, and richly ornamented with gothic tracing; that of the battlements being pierced. On a fascia, running round three sides of the tower, is this inscription, in text hand—“Young men and maydens."
Painted glass. There are some remains of painted glass in the churches of Ashbourn, Bradley, Dronfield, Egginton, Hault-Hucknall, Sandiacre and Sutton; but none of sufficient consequence to merit particular notice. In the churches of Morley and Norbury, the remains are considerable: those in the chancel of the latter are in a very good taste; and evidently coeval with the building, which is in the style of the fourteenth century.
Rood-lofts, screens and stone stalls.* — In Ashbourn church is a very perfect rood-loft and screen, and at Ilkeston a stone screen of the rood-loft, in the style of the thirteenth century. In Chel. morton church is a stone screen, with quatrefoils at the top; and the lower part of one in Bakewell church. In Elvaston church is an elegant gothic screen of the rood-loft; and in the chapel at Hayfield an entire rood-loft, the upper part of which is modernized, and has a modern painting of the crucifixion, and St. Mary, and St. John.
In each of the churches of Brailsford, Breadsall, Church-Broughton, Dronfield, Ilkeston, Langley, Longford, Sandiacre and Spondon, are three stone stalls, of equal height. Those of Dronfield and Sandiacre are richly ornamented, in the style of the fourteenth century, and there is a piscina adjoining each, in the same style. In Baslow, Denby and Whitwell churches, are two stone stalls: those at Whitwell are richly ornamented, in the style of the fourteenth century. In the chancel of Chaddesden church is a single stone stall, with a piscina ; and a single one also in the north, and another in the south aisle of the same church.
Ancient fonts. — There are few of the Derbyshire fonts that are worthy of notice, except that in Ashover church, which is of lead, and apparently very ancient, being in the Saxon style: it is two feet one inch in width, and one foot in height; and is placed on a stone pedestal of more modern date. This font is ornamented with twenty figures of men, in Aowing drapery, each holding a book in his left hand; and differing only in the position of the head, and of the right hand, which is more or less elevated in different figures: they are all very rudely executed in bas-relief, and stand under circular arches, separated by slender pillars. The fonts in Kirk-Hallam and Osmaston churches are circular: the former being ornamented with tracery of semicir. cular interlaced arches; the latter with tracery of circular arches and foliage. Those in Winster and Mellor churches are large and circular, ornamented with rude sculptures in bas-relief. Melbourn font is in the form of a basin, standing on four legs; that in Bakewell church is large, and in the gothic style, ornamented with figures, very rudely executed, in bas-relief.
The ancient sepulchral monuments, which occur in many of the churches, will be noticed in the Parochial History.
* The holy rood or rood-loft, derives its name from the Saxon word rode or rood, which signifies a cross. It was an image of Christ upon the cross, made generally of wood, and placed in a loft or gallery over the passage leading from the nave into the chancel. The nave without represented the church militant, and the chancel the church triumphant, and those who passed from one to the other must go under the cross and suffer affliction
History of Churches in England, page 199.
Customs, games, superstitions, fc.
manners and customs of a district always bear some traces of antiquity; and notwithstanding the changes which society is undergoing in the course of every generation, the close observer may perceive a vestige remaining in the manners of the people indicative of the mode in which their ancestors thought and acted. Rush-bearing, or the covering the floors of churches with rushes, was formerly common in the northern districts of this county, and was undoubtedly a relic of druidism, as on the days of sacrifice we find that the places consecrated to the worship of the ancient British deities were strewn with rushes. Our ancestors, a very few centuries ago, had rushes strewn on the floors of their ap ents, as may be proved from various
passages in our old comedies. It appears, however, that the custom of rush-bearing was confined principally to the mountainous region of the High Peak, and that since manufacturing industry has changed the manners of the inhabitants, and many elegant new churches have been erected there with modern conveniences, the custom has considerably declined. Mr. Rhodes, in his Peak Scenery, in alluding to this rural rite, has the following interesting passage.
“ Previously to our leaving Glossop we visited the village church, a plain and lowly structure, and as little ornamented in the interior as it is without. Here we observed the remains of some garlands hung up near the entrance into the chancel. They were the mementos of a custom of rather a singular nature, that lingers about this part of Derbyshire, after having been lost in nearly every other. It is denominated rush-bearing; and the ceremonies of this truly rural fête take place annually, on one of the days appropriated to the wake or village festival. A car or wagon is on this occasion decorated with rushes. A pyramid of rushes, ornamented with wreaths of flowers, and surmounted with a garland, occupies the centre of the car, which is usually bestrewed with the choicest flowers that the meadows of Glossop Dale can produce, and liberally furnished with flags and streamers. Thus prepared, it is drawn through the different parts of the village, preceded by groups of dancers and a band of music. All the ribands in the place may be said to be in requisition on this festive day, and he who is the greatest favourite amongst the lasses is generally the gayest personage in the cavalcade. After parading the village, the car stops at the church gates, where it is dismantled of its honours. The rushes and Aowers are then taken into the church, and strewed amongst the pews and along the floors, and the garlands are hung up near the entrance into the chancel, in remembrance of the day. The ceremony being ended, the various parties who made up the procession retire, amidst music and dancing, to the village inn, where they spend the remainder of the day in joyous festivity.”
Mr. Farey, in speaking of the rush-bearing at Chapel-en-le-Frith, states, that it usually takes place, as he was informed, at the latter end of August, on public notice from the church wardens, of the rushes being mown and properly dried, in some marshy part of the parish, where the young people assemble: the carts are loaded with rushes and decorated with flowers and ribands; and are attended to the church by the populace, many huzzaing and cracking whips by the side of the rush-cart, on their way thither, where every one lends a hand in carrying in and spreading the rushes. At Whitwell, instead of rushes, the hay of a piece of grass-land called the church close, is annually, on Midsummer eve, carted and spread in the church.
A very ancient custom called well-flowering still continues to be practised annually at Tissington. Holy Thursday is the day devoted to this very elegant rural ceremony. The day is held as a festival, and all the wells in the place, five in number, are decorated with wreaths and garlands of fresh gathered flowers, disposed in various devices. Sometimes boards are used, which are cut to the figures intended to be represented, and covered with moist clay, into which the stems of the flowers are inserted, to preserve their freshness. These flowers are arranged so as to form a beautiful mosaic work, often tasteful in design and vivid in colouring. The boards thus adorned are so placed in the spring that the water appears to issue from among beds of flowers. On this occasion the villagers put on their best attire, and open their houses to their friends. There is service at the church, where a sermon is preached ; afterwards a procession takes place, and the wells are visited in succession: the psalms for the day, the epistle and gospel are read, one at each well, and the whole concludes with a hymn, sung by the church singers, and accompanied by a band of music. This done, they separate, and the remainder of the day is spent in rural sports and holiday pastimes.—This custom of well-flowering is undoubtedly of the highest antiquity. It was common to the Greeks and Romans. The ode of Horace to the fountain of Blandusia is well known.
O fons Blandusiæ, splendidior vitro,
The worship of the rural deities among the ancients was always connected with the decorating of springs and wells with flowers; and this has been beautifully alluded to by Fletcher in his Faithful Shepherdess, where the swains, in worshipping Pan, throw flowers upon the waters.
“ All ye woods and trees and bowers,
Move your feet
To our sound,
All this ground,
He is great and he is just,
Let us fling
In the earlier ages of poetry and romance (as Mr. Rhodes justly observes) wherever fountains and wells are situate, the common people are accustomed to honour them with the titles of saints. In our own country innumerable instances occur of wells being so denominated. “Where a spring or a river flows,” says Seneca, “ there should we build altars and offer sacrifices." From this ancient custom, which has been continued through a long succession of ages, and is still in existence at Tissington, arose the practice of sprinkling the Severn and the rivers of Wales with flowers, as alluded to by Dyer in his poem of the Fleece, and by Milton in his Comus.
with light fantastic toe the nymphs
“ The shepherds at their festivals
A similar custom of dressing fountains with flowers has lately been either instituted or revived at Wirksworth, on account of the waters recently conveyed from the adjacent moor to the marketplace and higher parts of the town, by means of cast-iron aqueducts. The taps of the pipes are adorned with chaplets and garlands, and the whole resembles very nearly the festivities at Tissington. The clubs of the town walk in procession, with bands of music, and a sermon is delivered at the church.
Sugar cupping is another of the remnants of ancient customs now running rapidly into disuse. On Easter Sunday, young people and children go to the Dropping Tor near Tideswell, with a cup in one pocket and a quarter of a pound of sugar* in the other, and having caught in their cups as much water as they wished, from the droppings of the Tor spring, they dissolved the
sugar in it.
At Baslow, the rural festival of kit-dressing took place on the 4th of August, in the present year (1829) the procession was attended by the Baslow band, and the decorations of the kits surpassed in beauty and taste any that had ever before been seen. There were a great number of persons from the surrounding country, and even from' more distant places, assembled to witness this rural fête, which gave unusual delight. On one of the kits was this inscription:
The farmer, the plough-boy, the fleece and the flail,
A beautiful garland and a large pink coloured flag with emblems, were also carried in the procession. Twigs of willow were bent over the tops of the kits, and entwined with ribands and flowers; and many fanciful ornaments of muslin and silk, mingled with trinkets of silver and gold composed the garlands, which were also formed upon a frame-work of willow twigs, interwoven together. The maidens of the village, attired in their best, carried the kits on their heads, attended by the young men. In the evening a happy company assembled at the Wheat Sheaf inn, where dancing and merriment concluded the day's festivities.
The miners have also their festivities. On the 13th of May they dress their cowes or coves (the places in which they deposit the ore) with oak branches, garlands and other rural decorations, which for one day at least, give these dreary spots a bright and benignant aspect. This is called the miners' holiday: a solid dinner of beef, pudding and ale is provided on the occasion, and when the weather permits, the whole of these festivities is conducted in the open air. The Bar-masters preside ; music and old songs conclude the carousals of the day.
Churches and houses are dressed at the time of Christmas with ever-greens in this county as they are generally in every part of England. Mr. Rhodes mentions the traces of a custom, which once prevailed in various parts of the kingdom, but which is now nearly obliterated. When unmarried women died, they were usually attended to the grave by the companions of their early years, who, in performing the last sad offices of friendship, accompanied the bier of the deceased with garlands, tastefully composed of wreaths of flowers, and every emblem of youth, purity and loveliness, that imagination could suggest. When the body was interred, the garlands were borne into the church, and hung up in a conspicuous situation, in memory of the departed. There is (adds Mr. Rhodes) something extremely simple and affecting in this village custom.
In Hathersage church there were, when Mr. Rhodes saw the place, several of these memorials of early dissolution, but only one of a recent date. In several of the churches of this county similar memorials are to be seen; and at Glossop, some years ago, it is asserted that a garland consisting of ribands, artificial flowers, &c. cost the young men of the place no less than thirty pounds.
Mr. Pilkington, in mentioning the peculiar customs of the inhabitants of Derbyshire says, that in the liberty of the Peak Forest, when a person dies, it is customary to invite every family residing within the district, to attend the funeral, and a cake or a paper of biscuits is given to every individual who comes to the house of the deceased. The custom is somewhat different in the Low Peak. At Wirksworth and its neighbourhood, it is usual among the lower class of people to invite their relations and acquaintance, each of whom, according to his ability, contributes towards the expense of the funeral. When invitations are sent, enquiry is generally made, whether it is to be a free or a pay burial.
If this custom has really any claims to antiquity, we must suppose that originally honey was used instead of sugar.