Well, we didn’t quite break in, the door was in fact open. The church, however, wasn’t – though, in our defence, we didn’t realise it wasn’t open until later in the day when we saw it with the Church Open sign outside that had been missing when we ‘broke in’.
Am I making any sense at all?
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
All Saints Church at Kedleston in Derbyshire (yes, I know I’ve been to Northumberland but we stopped at Man’s en route home) is next to the National Trust property Kedleston Hall … and we joined the National Trust while we were away on holiday.
We arrived at Kedleston at around 10am and the house doesn’t open to the public until noon, so we headed straight for the church.
We were following two other couples who walked around the church and then walked off again while I was examining a lovely arch around the south door and looking at a late 17th/early 18th century pun (more on that later). I thought these couples just weren’t that interested in going inside and so I tried the south door, which was open, and went in.
It was dark in there but Man found a box with light switches, so we put them on so we could see. We did turn them off when we left. It wasn’t until we walked past the church later and saw the door standing open, the lights on and a board declaring the church to be open standing outside that we realised it had actually been closed when we went in.
And, while I am at it with the confessions (good for the soul apparently) I have another transgression to admit.
In the chancel of All Saints church are two lids set into the floor. They are wooden and about the size of a dustbin lid and they have rope handles on them. They also have notices on them saying ‘Do not lift the lid, see photograph’. But they have handles on them. I looked at the photographs and they were interesting but did I mention the lids have handles on them?
Yes Ok I lifted the lids, I admit it.
The two heads are set in quatrofoils sunk into roundels in the floor. Excavations have revealed that they are the only carved part of the slab they are set in: there is no body, arms or legs. They are believed to be late 13th century. The inscription claims them as Richard De Curzon, fifth Lord of Kedleston, and his wife.
All Saints is positively awash with memorials but of all of them, I think I like these best purely because they are something I hadn’t seen before. However, if the lids had not had handles on them and labels saying ‘please don’t lift the lid’, I probably wouldn’t have been tempted to lift them. It all come back to those handles … just too tempting :)
All Saints once served a medieval village of the same name and the Curzon family seat, which has been in the family since the end of the 12th century.
The village has long gone, demolished to make way for the finery that is Kedleston Hall, but the church was allowed to remain, immediately next to the new hall.
No church was mentioned in the Doomsday Book and the first reference to it can be found late in the 12th century.
Like many churches, it has been rebuilt many times over many centuries but the oldest part of the building is this gorgeous south door.
It has a decorated arch featuring carved beak heads and above the door there are the remains of a carved scene, that appears to be a hunting scene. It’s called a tympanum and there other examples in Derbyshire.
There’s another great door too – the priest’s door, also in the south wall.
Also on the outside is that 17th/18th century pun I alluded too earlier.
Do you see it?
The words Wee shall and a sun dial … wee shall sun dial … we shall soon die. And just to reiterate the point …
Heading inside the church where, hopefully, the door will already be open and the lights on for you, you are faced with dozens of memorials to the Curzon family and their loved ones.
The first that you see as you walk through the south door is in the Curzon Chapel started in 1907 and made of white Serravezzi marble. This is Lord Curzon, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Viceroy of India, who died in 1905, and his wife Mary.
In the north and south transept, either side of the crossing, lie more memorials.
Here lie more Curzons.
This is Sir Nathaniel and his wife Mary. Their two sons and another child who died as a baby are shown. Sir Nathaniel died in 1785. On the opposite wall of the north transept is a memorial to another Sir Nathanial, this one with wife Sarah. He died in 1718.
The whole place is positively littered with memorials, it really is quite spectacular.
I am finding I am looking at the fabric of the churches in much more detail now and the more I learn, the more I want to learn.
Two things, however, that perhaps I ought to learn though are that I probably shouldn’t just let myself into places when they are closed and maybe I shouldn’t go lifting lids that say ‘please do not lift’ … even if there are handles specifically for that purpose :)