Old Duffield Village, Church, aud 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


A few more words about our parish church. The history of the fabric is written in its stones for the student to read, and it is a most interesting example of the various styles of architecture which have prevailed in this country since Norman times. There is nothing left of the Saxon church; but there is undoubted evidence that the Norman successors replaced that building by a Norman church with a nave much the same size as now. The remains of this period - the oldest part of our church - are the north wall of the chancel, which was formerly the outside wall, and which has a corbel table of ten grotesque and hideous heads; now, unfortunately, partly hidden behind the organ. In those superstitious times, these and similarly ugly gargoyles, were placed outside sacred buildings with the idea of scaring away evil spirits.

The other principle remains of this period are to be found in an unexpected situation. Up in the ringing chamber, built into the walls round the windows, are several stone coffin-lids, or gravestones. They are carved with crosses and other designs, and belong to the Norman period, probably before the year 1200. There are some other carved stones to be noticed. Built into the wall at the south-west end of the church are two stones carved respectively with a rough representation of an eagle and of a lion. They are evidently two of a set of four, as they represent the symbols of two of the evangelists - the lion of St. Mark and the eagle of St. John. Of course, they are not in their original position, and have been defaced - the round parts of the figures have been chiselled of to make them flat. They were found in their present condition during the restoration of 1897, built into the wall, with the figures inside. It is difficult to say what was their original purpose; they may have decorated an early font, or been two of four stones at the corners of a tomb. There is a strong consensus of archaeological opinion that these are Norman work, and they probably belong to the latter part of the eleventh century.

But I dealt more fully with the history of the fabric in my former paper on Duffield Church and I will only remind you briefly of the principal changes which have been made in the structure since Norman times.

Of the Early English style of architecture which followed the Norman, and prevailed in the 12th and 13th centuries, we have examples in the chapel on the north side of the chancel, sometimes called "the vicar's chancel", which was built at this time, and contains a typical lancet window; the north transept was added probably late in the 13th. century also the pointed arch from the nave into the chancel.

During the 14th century, in the reigns of Edward I., II., and III., great alterations were made; the south aisle was rebuilt to its present width, and the beautiful window in its west wall erected - this is a very good example of the Decorated style. Dr. Cox was in error in stating that this window was built during the restoration of 1847; it is obviously the original 14th century window. The south entrance and porch are of this date. The tower and spire were probably built a little later in the 14th century.

About the end of the 15th century, the east window of the chancel, in the Perpendicular style, was built, the roofs of the church were altered to a low pitch, and the clerestory windows inserted. The lines of the old elevation of the roof at the east end can be seen outside.

The church has now, generally speaking, taken the form with which we are so familiar, and, with the exception of the south chapel, built by Mr. Rowland Smith in 1897, it remains in plan and in structure as it was in the 15th century. We must pay a tribute to those old inhabitants of Duffield who through the long centuries cherished our church, maintained, enlarged, and improved it, according to their lights, so that it comes down to us as a priceless possession, owed by us to the faith and piety of our forefathers.

But to the piety of these medieval times followed dark ages in church life and church architecture. Think of what the interior of the building must have looked like before the restoration of 1847, when the Misses Colvile, of Duffield Hall, rebuilt the south aisle, and a great clearance was made internally. The church was blocked by galleries. A "singing gallery" occupied the west arch, where fiddles, bassoons, and clarinets, supplemented at times by brass instruments, formed the church baud and led the singing. (I think the last survivor of the old church band was William Dawson who played the ophicleide.) There were galleries in the north transept and near the south door, with steps leading up to them; these were the special and private preserves of two wealthy families. The chancel arch was partly hidden by two large paintings of Moses and Aaron. Whitewash and paint had been freely used. The font and capitals of the pillars were painted sky-blue, and it is said the walls were covered with paintings of cherubs and angels, "especially at the west-end, over the singing gallery." Was this intended as a delicate compliment to the voices of the choir of those days ? It is much to be regretted that these examples of the art of a bygone age should all have been lost.

Compare all this in your mind's eye with the appearance of the church now - its open spaciousness, its beautiful and chaste fittings and furniture, due to the reverent care and treatment it received at the restoration of 1897, when through the munificence of the late Sir Arthur and Lady Heywood, the late Mrs. Gillett and others, and the generous help of the parishioners generally, a most thorough renovation and beautifying of the interior of the church was carried out at a cost of £4,500 from the designs of Mr. J. Oldrid Scott, the eminent architect. The stained glass window in the chancel are from the studio of Mr. Kempe the foremost artist in stained glass at that time ; the east window being the gift of Mrs. Francis Calvert Gillett, formerly of Duffield Bank House, as a memorial to her husband.

The clock and chimes were at this time presented by the late Mr. George Clementson Greenwell.

The handsome brass lectern was the gift of the late Mr. Robert Hoskins in memory of members of his family.

It should be mentioned that in 1884 the old peal of six bells were recast, and a full peal of eight hung. As a jubilee- offering, in 1887, Sir Arthur Heywood, Bart., presented two additional bells, making ten in all - the only peal of ten in the county, outside the borough of Derby, and justly admired for their sweet and well-balanced tone. The same generous donor also endowed the belfry with a sufficient sum to pay the ringers' salaries, and to keep the bells and ringing chamber in order in perpetuity, without any charge on the church-wardens' funds.

The new bells were dedicated by Dr. Maclagan, Bishop of Lichfield, on February 23rd, 1884 - almost his last official act in Derbyshire before the severance of the county from the diocese of Lichfield. The form of service used contained a hymn written for the occasion by Miss Moore, eldest daughter of the Vicar, and, apart from the interest attaching to the writer and the occasion, the intrinsic merits of the verses' justify their reproduction:


Thou, who hast bid all things on earth
Exalt Thy name in endless praise,
We consecrate our bells to Thee,
And music sweet from them we raise.

'Tis "Holiness unto the Lord."
Ring out, ye bells, the lofty strain,
And be there found in every heart
An echo of the sweet refrain.

Ring, chime, and ring, and clash, and peal,
Until our hearts with one accord
Touched by your joyful symphonies,
Make melody unto the Lord.

Long may your clear and mellow notes
Send through our vale their tuneful sound,
And the soft murmur of your chime
Rejoice the little hills around.

Perchance your harmony may reach
Some wanderers from the narrow way,
And draw them by its gentle spell
To where God's people praise and pray.

Ye, on the Day of holy calm,
Shall soothe and cheer the careworn soul,
When labour's wheel a little space
Has ceased upon her path to roll.

The marriage feast shall make your notes,
At times the nation's joy or woe,
And then the knell or muffled peal
Some lonely mourner's grief will show.

Lord! grant that when our spirits pass
The boundary of space and time,
And we have ceased for evermore
To listen to this earthly chime,

Our ransomed souls may hear the bells,
The golden bells so sweet and clear,
That on the border of His robe,
Proclaim our great High Priest is near.

They ring His perfect righteousness
May we, in garments like His own,
Safe by the music of their bells,
Go in and out before the throne. - Amen.

Gertrude Moore.

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