Churches of Derbyshire

The Chapelry of Earl Sterndale

by J. Charles Cox (1877)

This transcription by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2010

OF the early foundation of this chapel to Hartington, we know nothing. The first mention of it, with which we are acquainted, occurs in the Inventory of Church Goods, taken in the reign of Edward VI:-

“Sternedall Chappell - Sept. 30. Rich. Frost, priest.
j bell - j broken bell - j vestyment of Blewe scamell - j albe - j amys”.

The Parliamentary Commissioners of 1650 recommended that Earl Sterndale should be made a separate parish, but it was not till the reign of Victoria that their recommendation was carried out.

In the year 1819 a Brief was granted to obtain funds for the rebuilding of this church. The preamble of the Brief runs as follows - “Whereas it hath been represented by humble petition of the minister, chapelwardens, and inhabitants of Earl Sterndale by certificate of the justices at Quarter Sessions assembled ..... that it is a very ancient structare, and, through length of time greatly decayed ..... and so ruinous that the inhabitants cannot assemble therein for the public worship of Almighty God without great danger” - it was therefore considered necessary for it to be taken down and rebuilt. Hugh Hartley, “an able and experienced workman” estimated the cost at £1700, exclusive of old material. The trustees for the funds collected were the Bishop, Pache Thornhill, Henry Pache Thornhill, Samuel Frith, Marmaduke Middleton, Philip Gell, and Charles Hurt, etc., etc.

But this appeal had not much effect, for in 1821 a second Brief was issued, in which it is stated that only £136. 10s. 11¾, had been collected. The fabric certainly seems meanwhile to have been in a wretched plight. Mr. Rawlins, who visited it on the 16th of June, 1823, describes it as in a dilapidated condition, roof broken, and wind and rain penetrating. He gives its dimensions as nave forty-seven feet, by twenty feet three inches, and chancel seventeen feet two inches, by fifteen feet two inches. Mr. Meynell, who visited Earl Sterndale a few years previously, describes the church as in a very ruinous state, although repaired in 1793. He adds that at the east end was “a Saxon window”, but that those to the south were of 1793 date. However, Mr. Meynell took a south-east sketch of the church, and from that it appears as if the Saxon window was merely a square-headed one of the Perpendicular period. In 1828 the rebuilding of the church was at last accomplished.

Mr. Rawlins says - “There are no monuments whatever save one, which, although it consisteth not of sculptured marble or plate of brass, yet speaketh and telleth greater things, inasmuch as good for the mind, and directions for attaining eternal life and happiness, is contained in a small cupboard library on the south side of the altar; having above its folding doors this inscription, ‘Master James Hill, His Gift, 1712’. The names of the books, twelve folio and twelve quarto, were painted on the doors of the cupboard, and included the Homilies, Clark's Martyrology, Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Theopolitica, etc. The font”, says Mr. Rawlins, is plain, “and placed upon a square pillar”.

The old chapel had merely a bell cote on the west gable, but a small embattled tower was given to its successor in 1828. Three bells were hung in this tower in 1866, all of them bearing the same inscription - “J. Taylor & Co., Loughborough 1866”. Previous to that, the tower had only held a single bell, cast by the same founders in 1851, which had in its turn succeeded to one cast in 1792.

The church is dedicated to St. Michael; its registers only begin with the year 1768.

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in October 2010.

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