Derbyshire  February 2020

Ballidon All Saints  -  Open 
Bonsall St James    -  Open                    Carsington  St Margaret  -  Open
Boylestone St John The Baptist  -  Open

It was to be a full day out in Derbyshire, with half an eye kept out for the weather. There was a severe weather warning for snow for late in the afternoon and it was a case of getting shot what was possible and then heading home once the weather turned. It didn’t quite work out as planned though!

We had reached Ballidon, a hamlet of less than 100 people, to the west of Wirksworth by mid morning. It was bitterly cold and the wind was screaming across the hills. The tiny church of All Saints here is redundant, and cared for the by Friends of Friendless Churches, a charity that I hold dear!

Structurally, this is a simple two cell building of nave and chancel, the two almost seamlessly running in to each other. There is a bellcote to the west, a south porch and a north vestry. The church is very isolated, in the middle of a field, a few houses visible through the trees to the north. Apart from that the only real neighbour is the local quarry.

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The church here dates from 1205, built as a chapel of ease to Bradbourne a few miles away to the south. It is thought though that a church may have existed here before that time. In those days the size of the village is liable to have been greater than it is today. The church was added to during the 14th century, and there was a period of restoration in the 1820’s and rebuilding in the 1880’s.

The website had stated that the church was liable to be open, and so it proved to be. Stepping inside, the noise of the wind was incredible. Memories of taking a communion at Scott Willoughby in Lincolnshire a few years previously; a remote church where the noise of the wind was deafening throughout!

Plain and simple inside, as you would expect, with benches leading up to the restored chancel arch; the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer mounted to the wall on either side.  There are four steps up to the chancel, which has an oak reredos and the Ten Commandments mounted on to the east wall. The east window has Victorian stained glass.

During a six week period, I saw around 100 churches in Derbyshire; including some of the biggest and the most impressive. Churches like this though hold a special place in my heart. Small, redundant, isolated but still loved and nor forgotten. These churches are part of our heritage and our church preservation charities do a fabulous job in helping to ensure that churches such as this are cared for so that future generations can enjoy them. Each generation are temporary custodians of these buildings and each generation needs to care for them; to pass on to the next.

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The church of All Saints, Ballidon.

The severe weather hit just as we were leaving Ballidon. The snow was very hard but the roads were okay at that time so we pressed on. We took a trip back to Crich, which had been closed the previous day, when I had got my opening hours mixed up. This church will be covered on another page. By the time that we got to Bonsall, the snow was settling and all was looking white and lovely.

I found the exterior of St James the Apostle difficult to photograph; the snow was coming down so hard at that time that I was reduced to shooting whatever I could from the cover of whatever trees were around.

The church consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles, chancel and south porch. The church dates from the 13th and 14th centuries and was restored in the 1860’s.From the cover of the trees I could establish that there were gargoyles around the tower.  I wasn’t prepared to investigate these; nor the church grounds to be honest!

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A quick dash to the south porch and it was lovely to see that the church was open. I was pleased for two reasons. Firstly, it was good to see it open! Secondly, it delayed me having to go back to the van!

The lack of daylight, combined with the large amount of stained glass meant that it was very dark inside so lights on here was a must; as much as I don’t like using them.

The nave is separated from chancel by a screen, with a wooden carving of the crucifixion above; text below reading ‘Not one of them shall be forgotten before God’. Brightly coloured kneelers rest on top of the pews and there was stained glass in the east windows of the chancel and aisles.

One monument caught the eye. A putti, a naked child, is in mourning, wiping away a tear, with hand pressing down on a human skull. We often see occasions where the skull, as a symbol of death is pressed down upon, leaned against or sat on. This appears to have been used as a symbol to point out that death has been beaten. We have unlearned some of the symbols that were used in centuries past. This monument also has a broken column, a symbol of a life that has been cut short.

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There is a lot of stained glass here, and it was enjoyable to spend some time looking around it. The east window of the chancel shows the last supper, which in fairness is not the greatest quality.  The stained glass in the east end of the south aisle depicts the crucifixion and the ascension at the centre pieces, with four smaller panels around them showing four scenes from Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 and 36 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Elsewhere, the parable of the Good Samaritan shows the Samaritan tending the wounds of his mortal enemy, a Jew; the priest and a Pharisee walking on ignoring the scene. This window, to my mind, fits in very nicely with the window in the south aisle. What to do and what not to do! How to behave!

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The church of St Margaret, Carsington.

We moved onwards, a little slowly to be fair and arrived at Carsington; the church of St Margaret. The scene was just beautiful; but the quantity of snow that had come down; but had now eased was such that we were going to start making our way home after this church had been photographed. The school bus sideways across the road a little way down from the church helping us to make a decision!

There was a church here back as far as the 12th century, but the church that we see today dates from 1648. It stands on the bottom slopes of Carsington Pastures, tree lined behind, with the whole scene looking glorious covered in snow. A scene to remember with great fondness!

The building itself is really just a single cell, with nave and chancel flowing in to one another. There is a bellcote to the west end, a south porch and a north vestry at the western end.

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It was good to find the church open. Inside, nave flows in to chancel with no chancel arch. Inside, things are plain and simple. Whitewashed walls, simple alter with no reredos. The nave is panelled at the sides, there is a painted coat of arms on the north wall dated 1706. The font certainly looks to predate the 17th century and has carvings of human heads around the base.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The east window is of interest; with Jesus at the centre of three panels, looking directly at those approaching the communion rails, holding a light out in front of Him ‘I am the light of the world’ reads the text below.

There are two windows to north and south, directly opposite each other. Both are of interest. One is concerned with communion, with wording from the creed under the window reading ‘I believe in the communion of Saints’

To the left is St John, who holds a goblet of wine. This has a dragon coming out of it. John was given a poisoned goblet of wine and the poison, symbolised here by the dragon, left the wine after he prayed over it. To the right, holding the bread is St Philip. Philip is present here due to John Chapter 6 verse 5 – 7  “ When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do; Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wage to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

The window opposite depicts St Helen, St Giles and Margaret of Scotland. St Helen holds a cross; in her final years it is said that she found the true cross whilst on pilgrimage. St Giles is pictured with a deer and an arrow. Legend states that Giles had a friendship with a deer while he lived as a hermit. He was hunted by the Kings men who shot an arrow at the deer; missing the deer but hitting St Giles. He became the patron saint for those with physical disability. Margaret is crowned and holds a Bible.

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The church of st Margaret, Carsington.

A beautiful church, photographed in the most glorious of surroundings!  Although the snow had made the Derbyshire countryside just fabulous, it was hard going on the roads and Gary’s sat nav kept updating as roads were being closed. At one point there was a brief discussion about whether we would have to find a travel lodge or similar to hole up in for the night.

Eventually though, we got through the worst and daylight was fading by the time that we went approached the turning for Boylestone. There had not been so much snow here, so we were safe to stay and take a quick look at the church of St John The Baptist.

There is some history to this small village, which can be found eight miles east of Uttoxeter.  There was a village mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The village is famous for the English Civil War ‘Bloodless Battle of Boylestone.’  One evening during August 1644, Royalist troops on their way to Wingfield Manor took refuge in St John the Baptist church. During the night they were surrounded by Cromwell’s men and forced surrender.

The church of St John The Baptist is in a delightfully rural setting, set apart from the rest of the village a little. The church dates back to the 14th century, with the tower added in 1844. The chancel was restored in the late 1880’s.

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Approaching the church from the west, the visitor immediately sees that the tower is offset to the south west. The church consists of nave with tower, south aisle and chancel. The three stage tower has a clock on the south face and a stair turret to the south also. On top of the tower is a very small spire.

There was a thin coating of snow, but they hadn’t had the amount that they had had a few miles away. It was late in the day, on a freezing cold winter afternoon, it would be dark in a little while; but still the church was open! It is really easy to forget the army of volunteers that keep these churches open to visitors throughout the year; rain or shine and in the depths of winter. They make our hobby possible.

The main entrance is through a door in the west face of the tower. Script over the inner door reads ‘This is none other than the house of God’.

Moving inside, the pews are Victorian; the chancel is separated from the nave by an iron gate; standing at the chancel and looking west, we can see that the west end of the church is screened off.  Unusually, the plain octagonal 14th century font is to be found towards the east end of the south aisle rather than traditionally the west end of the nave. Boards are mounted to the east wall of the south aisle, detailing the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

The stained glass in the east window is on two levels. The upper level depicts the crucifixion in three panels. The bottom level, partly hidden by the Victorian oak reredos show the annunciation, the nativity and Jesus as a baby presented to Simeon in the temple.

Another stained glass panel shows John the Baptist, with tunic made out of hair ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ reads the text alongside ‘Behold the lamb of God’.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world to stay inside; and in fairness doubtless more sensible!  As a photographer I believe that you get out what you put in. If you are prepared to go out in the cold and the snow and the wind you will see some lovely sights; and this was the case here! Some pleasant memories; both of the churches and the conditions that some of them were photographed in,

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