St Anne's Church - Beeley

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper on 26th March 1990, reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


Built as one of the numerous chapels of Bakewell church in about 1150, St. Anne's has a well-documented history and a complexity of architectural styles.

Fabric of the Norman building is seen in the round-headed south doorway, with its weathered shaft capitals and three now featureless human heads. A line of Norman pillars was lost, however, when the original north aisle was demolished in 1819, then at a major restoration of 1883 the great stone font lost all evidence of its Norman origins in a 'barbaric' reshaping. Still intact is a carved Norman bracket in the south-east corner of the nave. Masonry of succeeding periods is evidence of alterations into the late fifteenth century, at which time battlements and pinnacles were added to the low square tower.

The tower has three bells, and down in the baptistry a notice reminds bellringers of parish rules and regulations drawn up in 1879.

Additional ‘Directions to the Steeple Keeper’ were left by the bellfounders. In the baptistry floor a slab of 1694 ‘doth press but not oppress’ John Greaves. while in the north aisle lies a stone to his wife, ‘that excellent woman Mrs. Ann Greaves.... here interrd, her better part to blissfull regions ascended’. Their family seat, The Greave, was renamed Hilltop by the Saviles, who have a rather worn monument in the baptistry and a most imposing marble memorial in the chancel. Gilded and carved with winged cherubs in high relief, this stands to brothers George and John Savile who died in 1733 and 1734.

Also of mid-eighteenth-century workmanship is the bassoon displayed on the north wall; played to three generations of the Hulley family, it provided church music in the days before the organ. Above the bassoon is a brass to eighteen-year-old Sarah Holmes, erected in 1893 by fellow Sunday School teachers and young friends.

THANKSGIVINGS AND SOUVENIRS In the same wall a stained glass window shows Christ with a golden crown, between two uniformed soldiers. Beeley church stands in the background, with British flags in the upper lights; the window being a thanksgiving for all who safely returned from the Great War. Rolls of Honour from both World Wars hang on the west wall, the earlier one gilded and richly illuminated, its frame the work of master wood-carver Advent Hunstone of Tideswell. Surnames are listed in threes and fours, with six Bonds and six Graftons. The name Grafton is just discernible on a dark memorial brass in the vestry, while an alabaster monument in the aisle was erected by workmen, tenants and friends of Samuel Grafton, former senior churchwarden. Today, Mrs. Olive Grafton serves as a churchwarden and present (1990) custodian of the church key.

In safekeeping in the vestry is a collection of documents of great local interest: photographs, a roll of vicars, curates and priests-in-charge since 1253, details of the bells, nineteenth-century sketches of St. Anne's and its font, and a rubbing of a notable brass in the chancel. Inscribed in flowing lines, this small brass to John Calvert, who died in 1710, bears a tiny engraving of a shrouded corpse laid in an open coffin.

Family tragedies lie behind three late Victorian memorials; the brass altar cross and a north aisle window were given in memory of Alfred Clement Sculthorpe of the Natal Mounted Police. Son of a former vicar, he died of enteric fever in Zululand in 1900. His three sisters, Harriette Mary, Annie Louise and Eveline, who all predeceased him, share a slender memorial window in the chancel, its theme ‘Suffer Little Children’.

The east chancel window of Christ with the Disciples, and the Trinity in its upper tracery, is a memorial to Lord Edward Cavendish who was assassinated in Dublin in May 1891. A year later parishioners installed a Nativity window in memory of his father, William, 7th Duke of Devonshire.

A WIDOW, A DAUGHTER, A BRIDE After the last War, a large prayer book was given by the widow of Gunner Walter Ollivant who died as a prisoner-of-war in Japanese hands. Slightly later are the oak choir stalls installed as an appropriate memorial to William Ward, 28 years a churchwarden and sixty years a chorister. An aged oak chair nearby is the only piece of the church's old furniture to survive the 1883 restoration. Recent gifts include the many cheerful tapestry hassocks embroidered by Gladys Hopkins.

Two notable gravestones in the Churchyard are now difficult to locate, but believed buried here is Lucy Collier, daughter of Bishop Latimer who was put to death by Queen Mary. On record too is the pathetic epitaph of Mary Woodson who in 1785 died on her way to be married in this old and lovingly cherished church.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th March 1990.

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