Notes on the churches of Derbyshire (part 2)
The whole of the old parts of the church that yet remain, viz., the south aisle and its windows the arcade of two arches supported by an octagon pillar, dividing the nave from the south aisle and the chancel with its windows, priest's door, buttresses, and well-moulded wall-plate are all of the first half of the fourteenth century, when the Decorated style prevailed, and when there was such a marked revival in church architecture that few buildings escaped its influence.
In the south wall of the chancel is a pointed piscina niche, and in the opposite wall the large square recess of an almery. There is also another small piscina at the east end of the south aisle, pointing to the former existence of a second altar. At the west end of the same aisle is the font, which is of octagon design, and of the Perpendicular style of the fifteenth century. Three of the panels are left blank of any carving, showing that it was intended to stand against the wall. It is two feet eight inches in diameter, and four feet high.
There are now no monuments of any age remaining ; but at least three memorial slabs of alabaster were recklessly cleared out of the chancel in 1842, and have of course long since disappeared. On one of these, which was immediately in front of the altar rails, was the incised effigy of a priest in his robes; and this much of the inscription could be read some sixty years ago:"hic jacet dns... Bentley quondam Vicarius... qui obiit... die mensis Aprilis anno dni... Mill"
Some church notes in the Dodsworth MSS. at the Bodleian, taken about 1660, mention the arms of Shirley in one of the windows of the church, and also a monument bearing the following inscription, of which there is now no trace: Hi jacent Willmus Pope et Agnes uxor ejus quiquidem Willmus 10 die Octobris 1508, et domina Agnes obiit 8 die mensis" The will of William Pope, of Shirley, of the year 1520, who was probably son of William of the monument, requests that his body may be buried in the church of S. Matthew, of Shirley. He left 18s. 4d. to the church, and three pounds of wax to be burnt about his body on the day of sepulture
At the east end of the north aisle is a large monument to the memory of the late Bishop Shirley, formerly Bishop of Sodor and Man, who died in 1847; and also a mural brass cross, erected in 1873, to the memory of the late Canon Shirley, of Christ Church, Oxford.
The new tower did not stand for many years. The foundations were found to be so weak that it became necessary to take it down, and it was completely rebuilt in 1861 in a substantial manner, though not harmonious with either the style or proportions of the church. A small brass plate in the basement of the tower, which is used as a vestry, records that " This tower was erected 1861. E. W. Mitchell, vicar; Josh. Beeston, Josh. Wilbersley, churchwardens." The tower contains three bells, which are thus inscribed :
I. " Ihs Nazarene Eex Judeorum, fili Dei miserere, 1688."
II. Bound the haunch are the initial letters IHC. , a foliated cross, and a fleur-de-lis ; whilst on the waist below is the founder's mark of Ralph Heathcote, of Chesterfield, consisting of the initials R.H., with a fylfot cross below them.
III. "God save his Church, T. Y. I. C. Wardens, 1688."
We have been told that there were many well-carved old oak pews in this church previous to its unfortunate treatment in 1842. The only remnant of these now to be seen is in a pew at the east end of the south aisle, where are the initials C. C. M. C., and the date 1649. Possibly this may have been the pew of the family of Colwich, to whom the site of the dissolved Preceptory at Yeaveley, in this parish, was assigned in 1559, and which they held for more than a century.
At the east end of the modern north aisle, in the outside masonry, is a quaintly carved stone bearing an incomplete representation of two quadrupeds and some foliage There is no doubt that this is a portion of the Norman tympanum which was at one time over the principal entrance to the church. We suppose it was discovered during the alterations of 1842, and built in here for preservation.
To the south of the church is a fine and specially lofty yew tree. It suffered much during a gale in March, 1876, when it lost some of its most far-reaching boughs. Its circumference four feet from the ground is seventeen feet, being one foot more than its brother tree in the neighbouring churchyard of Edlaston.
There are considerable remains of the old churchyard cross, consisting of the three square steps, base stone, and about two feet of the shaft of the cross.
The registers commence in 1658, and contain no entries of special interest. On the outside of the oldest volume is written the name of the adjacent parish of Longford ; possibly it may have been originally purchased for that church, and subsequently transferred to Shirley.
We should also not omit to mention the following entries in the Mevnell MSS. : "Walter Salt in 1660 was said to be patron in right, but the family of Shirleys have seized thereon. The chancel has been lately (1816) sold to the churchwardens by Peter Pegge
The old parish of Shirley included the chapelry of YEAVELEY. Beyond the fact that there was an ancient chapel here, the minister of which was appointed by the Vicar of Shirley, we have not been able to glean anything respecting its early history.
The Parliamentary Commissioners of 1650 say (under Shirley) : " Yevely is a member and hath a chappell decayed and may couveuientlye bee united to Hedlestone." The decayed chapel seems soon after this to have fallen into complete disuse and ruin, until at last hardly any trace of the building remained. Confusion has more than once arisen between this parochial chapel, which was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and the Preceptory of the Knights of S. John, dedicated conjointly to S. Mary and S. John Baptist, which was also in this township, but was an altogether separate religious establishment, situated at Stydd, about a mile from the village of Yeaveley. A Derbyshire work published in 1839 says " Tradition states that this Hermitage (i.e. the Preceptory of the Kuights of S. John) stood by the roadside in the village ; and a dwelling-house, evidently built on the foundation of an ancient building, is still shown as its site."t This must, in all probability, have been the foundation of the old chapel, for it could have had no connection with the Preceptory.
About the close of last century a mean, barn-like edifice of brick was erected at Yeaveley, in the centre of the village, in which to hold the worship of the Church of England. Mr. Rawlins gives its dimensions as 39 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 3 inches ; and Mr. Meyuell says " It is situated in a field and there is no churchyard, they bury at Shirley." In 1840 this building was taken down, and a rather more pretentious-looking structure, with a small west tower, but also of brick, was erected in its place at a cost of £500. Recent legislation has made Yeaveley an independent vicarage. The patronage is in the hands of the Vicar of Shirley. The registers commence in 1841.
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