Old Duffield Village, Church, and Castle,
With some Personal Reminiscences.

A Lecture given before the Duffield Branch of the Church of England Men's Society, Dec., 8th., 1921,

The Church


And now begins the history of our church, for we know from Domesday Book (completed for Derbyshire in the year 1086) that here was a Saxon church with its resident priest. How did this provision for the worship of God come to be made in Duffield? Did a band of zealous missionary priests (like St. Guthlac of old) push up from the great Saxon monastery at Repton - first the Trent and then the Derwent - and build here a small church of wood or stone, or did the much- honoured church of St. Alkmund at Derby become a missionary centre, and was the first building of a house of God in Duffield due to the zeal of its clergy ?

There is a story which says that when the body of the venerated St. Alkmund was hastily removed from Lilleshall in Shropshire, to Derby, for fear of an invasion of the Danes, the fugitive monks, seeking Derby by a roundabout route, rested with their sacred burden for a time on the site of our church before crossing the Derwent, and that hence came the building of a Saxon church on this spot, and its dedication to the much- revered and beloved St. Alkmund, a young man of saintly character and royal descent, who had taken the lead in a struggle with the barbaric Danes, and apparently been treacherously slain by them.

Webmaster's note:
I have transcribed my grandfather's words verbatim. According to more recent accounts, however, Alkmund was assassinated in Derby (then Northworthy) by his bodyguards.

At any rate, we are probably quite safe in saying that the ground on which our church stands has been hallowed as a place for worship for over a thousand years. The ancient yew tree and the flowing river - symbols of the resurrection and of eternity - mark it as a spot such as the very early inhabitants of this land were wont to choose for their devotions.

And here I find it necessary to repeat that there can be no manner of doubt about the dedication of our church to St. Alkmund, although the point has been raised again recently.

The difficulty some people express as to the Wakes, or village feast, occurring the first Sunday after All Saints' Day is easily explained. Wakes are often helpful with regard to parochial dedications, but are never to be implicitly trusted. In the time of Henry VIII, many dedication feasts, or wakes, were by order transferred to All Saints' Day, or to some usual festival, with the intention of lessening the number of holidays. There seems no doubt that this was the case, as in many other instances, at Duffield. Researches by Dr. Cox have most conclusively settled the question as to dedication. Briefly, his evidence consists of extracts from:

  1. Several old and rare books published between 1742 and 1811.
  2. Pre-Reformation wills, in which interment is desired "in the Church of St. Alkmund at Duffield."
  3. The Chartulary of Darley Abbey, which refers to St. Alkmund's, Duffield, early in the 15th. century.
  4. A Lichfield Episcopal Register of the 14th. century, where the Church of St. Alkmund at Duffield, is named.

As Dr. Cox remarks, we have here an extraordinary combination of evidence, such as is rarely obtainable, with regard to the dedication of a church, and he adds that of the hundreds of dedications he has investigated, he cannot remember one where the evidence is so cumulative in character and irresistible in amount.

First published 1922, Derby, Harpur and Son. Website copyright 2001 Jed Bland. 16.04.01