Visit – All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, Derbyshire

img_2662This church was formerly known as St Margaret’s and stands in the grounds of Kedleston Hall near Derby – the hall being the subject of an exercise in Part 4 which required me to visit a Neoclassical house.

Much of my information is derived from the guidebook available to purchase in the church and it is interesting to note the previous name and the current name is an error that it seems is over 250 years old!  There are 2 Saint Margaret’s and the one this church refers to is St Margaret of Antioch of whom little is known apart from the theory that she was martyred due to persecution of the Diocletian, the Roman Emperor in AD 303.

The cult of St Margaret was apparently popular in Western Europe during the 12th Century which ties in with the foundation of this church – the earliest historical record of the church is dated 1198-99 and it finally became redundant in 1983.

I was unaware that The Churches Conservation Trust now owns the church and is a Grade I listed building due to its historic and artistic importance – the latter I do understand having visited now on several occasions.  The church is still a consecrated building and used on special occasions.

The reason for the redundancy has primarily been due to the social and economic changes of the 20th century including the fact that the community that originally resided at Kedleston was removed, along with the priests who lived there and so they lived further away from the church itself – this has been a common factor for many parish churches on the great estates throughout the 20th Century.    The church was closed at around the same time Kedleston Hall was transferred to the National Trust – a new chapter began simultaneously for both buildings historically.

img_2665As I have noted the first mention of the church appears around the end of the 12th century and this south doorway dates from around that period or the early 13th century.

The tympanum above the door is now sadly defaced but on close inspection you can make out the horseman and wild beasts which the guidebook describes – it is clearly medieval in origin and the secular subjects typical of the Romanesque architecture of the era.

An unusual feature of the church is that it is has a cruciform plan which was more commonly found in cathedral or collegiate churches – the builders it seems had grand plans for this building as well as the resources to build it and this also further enables historians to date the origins of the building.  Further evidence of the 13th century building can be found within the church itself including the 4 arches that support the tower as well as some windows.  There is a Memorial Chapel that obscures the original cruciform plan but it is a very obvious later addition.

Like almost all churches from the medieval period the church has undergone improvements over the centuries or changes at least – I am not always sure if ‘improvements’ is the right word in many cases!  There are 2 square headed windows in the south wall from the Perpendicular period of the late 15th or early 16 century with according to the guidebook one only being moved to its current position when the Memorial Chapel was added in 1907 – it seems the top of the tower was also rebuilt in the Perpendicular style at the same time the windows were added.

As a reminder note to myself the Perpendicular style was a vertical linear style with with elaborate and ornate roof vaulting as well as graceful, highly decorated flying buttresses.  Windows had highly pointed arches with the emphasis on expansive areas of glass and also thin but curvaceous stone tracery – the exterior flying buttresses could be crucial in the support of these large openings which reduced the wall space to a minimum.  This style was the last phase in the Gothic style which had lasted until the early 16th century.

The east end of the church faces the house directly and was altered in the early 18th century so that it would be deemed more acceptable – in keeping with the style of the house it has a more classical style.  The guidebook has answered a question regarding the sundial that can be seen – it has the inscription ‘WEE SHALL’ alongside carved stone hourglasses and a central skull and literally invites whoever sees it to complete what is described as a sombre phrase i.e. the pun is ‘sun/soon dial/die all’ (All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, p. 7).

img_2548In the late 19th century Lord Scarsdale employed an architect by the name of John Oldrid Scott to carry out a major restoration removing box pews and also plaster ceilings which had been added during an earlier century.  During this restoration the nave acquired a high-pitched roof and also a stained glass window in the west end which replaced an earlier plain one – the nave walls had to be raised due to the new roof.

This window is stunningly beautiful and I personally cannot imagine a plain one in its place and it brings to mind the windows of St Mary’s Church in nearby Derby which was designed by Augustus Pugin which had been completed in 1839.    The guidebook points to the cusped tracery above the window which echoes the Decorated style of the early 14th century – this is the second phase of the early Gothic period and is literally a decorated style of the style with much more elaborated tracery and architecture including more complex curves and patterns.

img_2621The Memorial Chapel was added in the early part of the 20th century by Lord Curzon who wanted an elaborate memorial to his first wife who had died very young in 1906.  The north wall was removed and this chapel was added and built in Hollington stone.

The architect, G F Bodley, kept the Decorated style of the west window and recreated it in the new windows with ironwork ‘arcade’ replacing the original north wall – this cannot be seen in my photograph due to the fact I pointed my camera carefully through in order to be able to get a clear image of the chapel.

The chapel is highly detailed in terms of carving and symbols with angels carved on the corbels and incredibly fine and elaborate wooden carving.  The floor itself is green adventurine which is a translucent quartz and upon which the black marble plinth of the white Italian marble tomb stands – the latter marble is apparently from Serravezza.  Upon the tomb itself are Lady Curzon’s interests as well as images of Lord Curzon.

img_2647The Memorial Chapel which is the monument to Lord and Lady Curzon is as elaborate and intricate as was clearly intended and also contains a secret which a volunteer pointed out – the floor to one end of the chapel lowers by a hydraulic system to the burial vault below.  During the course of our visit the volunteer showed us photos of the burial vault and informed us that Lord Curzon’s second wife had refused to be buried in the vault alongside his first wife and hence her final resting place is in the small graveyard.

The small door which can be seen in the background of my photograph opens up on to a spiral staircase which apparently leads down to a disused burial vault of earlier origin.

img_2615The majority of the chapel ornaments were obtained from the abroad due to the English versions being destroyed at the time of the Reformation and these include a large but beautiful silver-gilt Portuguese crucifix dated 1640 –  it is believed to have originally been a processional cross.

Other ornaments in the chapel come from Spain and Mexico  and the fact that Lord Curzon equipped the chapel with such items from far off lands also demonstrates how clergy or lay patrons of the Anglo-Catholic churches did likewise and was common at the time.

There are 2 bas-reliefs at the west end of the chapel which I was unable to obtain clear photographs of but are of Italian marble and it seems copies of two that are to be found in the church of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome.

img_2513The rest of the church contains 37 other monuments all  relating to the Curzon family and one of the most interesting is this one – this is a photograph of a photograph displayed on a nearby wall as the actual carved memorials are two roundels sunk into the chancel floor and covered by a wooden covering to protect them at present.  The roundels are incredibly delicate and date from the 13th century – it is believed they may have originally been painted.  The Churches Conservation Trust is hoping to be able to find a way to display the roundels but glass or perspex is not possible due to the strong likelihood of condensation developing and damaging the stone and hence why currently they are covered to protect them.

img_2516In the chancel is also the alabaster effigy believed to be Sir John de Curzon, 10th Lord of Curzon who died in 1406 – there is a question mark over the exact identity of this figure because Lord Curzon it seems preferred a later date of c. 1440.  However the guidebook does state the canopy above the figure dates from the 16th century and this is accepted.  I find it fascinating to contrast this tomb with the one in the Memorial Chapel – the simplicity of the knight in the medieval period as opposed to the elaborate and wealthy tomb of the Victorian period.

img_2563The other large tomb is in the south transept which is the monument to Sir John Curzon who died in 1456 and therefore is medieval.

The male figure on this tomb is depicted in armour with his feet resting on a dog whilst his wife wears a gown and a cloak with a rosary still clear – yes this information comes directly from the guidebook but also from a close study of the tomb itself.  I find this one of the most beautiful and moving tombs I have seen – the detail of the carving is exquisite and there are figures around the base which my fiance and myself were told represented the children of the couple.

In my photograph on the left hand side you can just see another memorial to a later Sir John Curzon and his wife – Sir John died in 1686 and is wife in 1642.   The memorial was apparently erected in 1664 and is very naive in carving and bright in comparison to many others in the church – it was erected after the end of the Civil War and again it is interesting in style when compared with the tomb directly in front.

As stated above there are 37 surviving monuments in the chapel to the Curzon family and this small church is in effect the history of the Kedleston estate itself – it started off as possibly a farm with the owners of Norse origin.  The name Kedleston it seems derives from the Old Norse name of Ketill and also ‘tun’ which was the Old English word for farm. The Danish had arrived in Derbyshire in 873-74 and it is thought that they took over an English farmstead and promptly renamed it. There is certainly mention of a village or settlement in the Domesday book which went by the name of Chetelstune and within 100 years the Pipe Rolls mention a settlement called Ketelstan – this is the same village which over the course of many centuries became this great estate and the surviving village.

My earlier blog, for Part 4 of this course,  on the hall goes further into detail of the history of the Curzon family.

img_2531One of the most striking aspects of the church is the stained glass windows some of which date from the 16th century.

This photograph shows one of 4 panels which depict the Stations of the Cross by Franz Fallenter of Lucerne (1550-1612) and along with a window in the chancel by the same master craftsman were purchased in Switzerland and only installed in the church in 1910.

These windows are exquisite in their colours and it is remarkable that they are survived the subsequent centuries in such condition.  These windows were made during the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation which also took place in Switzerland in opposition to the Protestant Reformation and these windows are very direct and compelling in their Biblical message.

img_2537The north window of the north transept is in contrast to the Swiss windows very recent in origin as it was only inserted in 1912 and made by one James Powell of London.  The figures of St Chad, St Thomas a Becket and St Nicholas and the 3 figures of St Catherine, St Mary and St Margaret are however based on medieval glass windows that were in the church in the late 17th century and described in documentation.

An aspect of Lord Curzon I do admire is the fact that he seemed intent in restoring much of the medieval aspects of the church as he possibly could and in doing almost brings back the atmosphere of religious devotion from that period in time.

The windows throughout the church inspire religious piety and also speak to the parishioners without the need for words – bearing in mind in many churches the community members were illiterate in the medieval era and subsequent centuries and stained glass windows were used to tell of the biblical stories or of the saints.

img_2564Another window by James Powell and dating to 1890 is in the south window of the south transept and tells of the Ascension of Christ.

What I note about these later windows as opposed to the earlier medieval ones by Franz Fallenter is the more restrained colours and more refined detail.  Franz Fallenter’s windows are brighter and more pictorial with the directness of the Catholic Counter-Reformation whilst the later Victorian and early Edwardian windows by James Powell seem more spiritual in their message in their use of simple colour.  These colours are also seen at St Mary’s in Derby with  the gold colours are representative of the brilliance and splendor of God and the divinity of the Lord, the blue is the life giving qualities of air, sky, hope and healing as well as being representative of the Virgin Mary and the white means purity, virtue and innocence as well as holiness.

I have only covered a very basic history and summary of the interior of this small parish church and feel I have barely scratched the surface – it may be small in size but it is very rich in history.  Kedleston Hall in its present form was effectively built around this church hence its close proximity and I personally feel the church holds the key to the history of the land – it has the history of the family within its walls and grounds and the history of the estate itself.

For me personally All Saints’ Church, or if I am being historically correct I should say St Margaret’s Church and correct the aforementioned 250 year old mistake, is the hidden gem of Kedleston Hall.


The Churches Conservation Trust. 2006.  All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, Derbyshire.  London. The Churches Conservation Trust.



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