St Michael's Church - Taddington

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper on 10th August 2009, reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

ST MICHAEL'S CHURCH, TADDINGTON

There was a time when Taddington rumbled with coaches travelling the Buxton-Ashford turnpike, but 21st-century travellers have to turn off the busy A6 to seek out the village and its medieval church.

The lych-gate, a World War 1 memorial, opens onto a long path beside which is the shaft of a stone cross believed to date from the 7th century, probably the oldest in the Peak. Both outside and inside the church modest tablets record the many memorial gifts, from the entrance gates to the church clock and the choir stalls. Two large boards give detail of 18th-century charities for the aged and needy, plus bequests which provided schooling for poor children.

Beneath the charity boards is the older of two fonts, a Norman treasure which in Victorian times was discovered by church historian Dr J.C.Cox in the kitchens of a nearby coaching inn. The font had long been used for washing beer glasses but it also bore recent traces of pea soup.

St Michael's has two side chapels. The Lady Chapel, separated from the nave by a pierced oak screen, contains painted figures of St Mary to either side of the altar, one given in memory of a little girl accidentally killed in 1945. The carved reredos in the Blackwell Chapel was formerly a fireplace mantel in an old local house. A stone slab supports memorial brasses of the ancient Blackwell family; full-length figures with good costume detail represent Richard, who died in 1505, and his widow Agnes. She wears a hood and mourning mantle. Small figures of their five daughters and six sons are lined up beneath them.

Quite an assortment of human faces peer from the chancel: stone corbel heads on the chancel arch and another supporting a statue of St Michael, whilst a stone bracket beside the altar is carved with a large face on each of its three sides. Unique to the Peak is the 15th/16th century stone lectern projecting from the north wall. Fund-raising efforts in recent years have saved St Michael's from serious decline. For some time the spire was held together by an ignominious wooden brace but it is clear that much loving care has been expended here. At the time of Dr Cox's visit the spire had been repaired and the bells stood in the porch awaiting re-hanging. Dr Cox noted that a local deaf and dumb man had the task of striking one of them to call the parishioners to prayer - a story which we can not match.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 10th August 2009.

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