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English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
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[Page 74]

Wirksworth.

[1821, Part II., pp. 401-403.]

During an excursion, in the summer of 1820, through various parts of the romantic county of Derby, I arrived at the town of Wirksworth, where I slept. On the following morning, Sept. 16, I visited the parish church, which was then undergoing a complete repair. This church is built in the cathedral manner, consisting of a nave, with north and south aisles, having small transepts attached, and also aisles adjoining the choir. After taking a survey of the whole, I went into the chancel, and found, fixed in the north wall, a specimen

[Page 75]

of rude and ancient sculpture in basso-relievo, representing various circumstances in the history of our blessed Saviour (see Plate II.). This stone, which is of grit quality, measuring 5 feet long and 2 feet 10 inches wide, has, under the very judicious directions of the vicar and churchwardens, been placed where it now is. This relic of primeval piety was discovered on removing the old pavement before the altar railing (the sculpture being downwards), and it was not without considerable time bestowed, and great care used, that it was safely presented to public view. It was doubtless much longer, as is evident from its broken and mutilated extremities ; and it is with a design that it should be further preserved in your valuable magazine, that I am induced to send you the accompanying drawing, taken from a sketch I made the morning I first viewed it. The following description is what I apprehend to be nearly the true one. (The small figures above and below my drawing are intended for reference to the different subjects.)

1. The washing the disciples' feet. ...The towel lies at the foot of the basin.

2. The cross, on which is the Lamb, emblematical of our Saviour. I incline to think that the figures above the cross are intended for those of St. John and St. Peter; St. John on the left, from the head leaning towards the cross; that disciple being the beloved one, is represented reclining on Christ. St. Peter on the right, alluding to that incident in his life, the denial of his Master. Beneath the cross are two birds, cocks. 3. The entombing of Christ, wherein He is represented lying on a bier, as in the act of being carried by Joseph of Arimathea and his attendants to the sepulchre. The figure beneath, in a recumbentposture, is descriptive of the conquest obtained over the monster death and the grave, by Christ's Passion. The foot of the bier seems to retain Satan captive, as being placed directly through his body. The faces in the centre over the body of Christ, are intended for the guard, the chief priests and Pharisees placed at the sepulchre, to prevent the body being stolen by his disciples. (St. Matt. xxvii. 62-66) ...

4. The presentation in the temple. The figure with a palm-branch in the hand, denotes the Christian's joy on being rescued from sin and misery, by the appearance of Christ upon earth, and offering himself a willing sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

5. The Nativity. The busts beneath, and the person who is pointing towards the Infant, signify the wise men from the east.

6. The Ascension. Our Redeemer is here attended in His ascent by angels who are supporting and bearing Him triumphant in their hands, towards the blessed abode of His heavenly Father. Christ carries His cross in His hands, the trophy of His having subdued the powers of darkness and death ; and by that means restoring to life

[Page 76]

and immortality the sons of men; made subject to bondage by Adam's transgression. (I Cor. xv. 21, 22.)

7. The return of the disciples to Jerusalem after the Ascension. (St. Luke xxiv. 50-52.)

Yours; etc., R.R. RAWLINS.

We have been favoured with another drawing of the same subject from Mr. Hunt, who thus communicates some additional information :

The stone was found during the late repairs, about two feet below the surface of the pavement, over a stone-built vault or grave; indeed over the proper covering of the said grave, which contained a perfect human skeleton of rather large stature than otherwise. Nothing very remarkable besides was discovered ; a few tiles were found different parts of the church under the floor; two of which had on them, one the arms of Beauchamp, the other those of John Gaunt's father-in-law, Henry the good, Duke of Lancaster, according to Froissart, who died of the plague in 1360, and was buried on the south side of the high altar of the collegiate church at Leicester, founded by his father. In the Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem we read at page 14, vol. i., that it appeared in 39 Henry III, that Margaret de Ferrars, Countess of Derby, had, amongst other property ("pro dote sua"), Asleiorhaye and Arlewashele, both of them places in this parish. After the battle of Chesterfield, in 1266, Robert de Ferrars, for rebelling against his sovereign, was divested of the Earldom of Derby with its large possessions, which were given to Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, and eventually formed a considerable part of the revenues of the Duchy.

[1821, Part II., p. 501.]
A short dissertation upon the singular figure above mentioned, in the words of a learned antiquary, who has investigated with great skill and judgment the early architecture of this country, may perhaps, not be foreign to the subject :

"There is reason to believe," says Mr. Kerrich,* "that this figure was held in particular veneration by Christians from very early times"; and he supposes "it might have some reference to the symbolical representation of Christ under the figure of a fish, an this is the more probable, because we are told it was called 'Vesica Piscis.' But however this may be, and whatever ideas of sanctity might be attached to the thing itself, we may remark that in painting as well as sculptures of the lower ages, we find it almost constantly used to circumscribe the figure of our Saviour, whenever He is represented as judging the world, and in His glorified state, particularly


[Page footnote]
* "Observations on Gothic Buildings and Architecture," Archæologia, vol, xvi" p.306


[Page 77]

over the doors of Saxon and Norman churches. Episcopal and conventual seals, and those of religious societies, and of all ecclesiastical officers, were universally of this form, and continue to be made so to this day."


Yours, etc., E. I. C.



Old Road at Ashbourn.

[1792, Part II., p.1O73.]
The view which accompanies this (Plate I.) exhibits part of the old road at Ashbourn, in Derbyshire. It is not now in use, one infinitely better having been made at some little distance from it. It is, indeed, rather a wonder that they who planned the old one should prefer cutting their way through a bed of rock to levelling inequalities in the slope of the same hill. However, the remains of this road are exceedingly pleasant, for from most parts of it the church and Dovedale hills are visible; while the sides of the rock throughout produce an astonishing variety of beautiful foliage, vines, etc., that hang luxuriant down. The rock is not of the hardest kind, as there are strata of yellowish sand, intermixed with others inclining to red, that are continually crumbling. The whole neighbourhood of Ashbourn affords prospects seldom equalled. The continued series of hills, which rise one beyond another, remind one of a calm at sea, where huge undulating waves follow on each other in endless succession. By-the-bye, I cannot think it is ever calm at sea, for at no time (except during violent gales) is the motion of a vessel more disagreeably felt than when the surface of the waves is as polished as a mirror.
J. P. MALCOLM.

The following articles are omitted :-
1772, pp. 515, 552, 573, Observations on the Ashbourne inscription.
1773, p. 8, The same.
1793, part ii., pp. 792.793. Dishley Farm, near Bakewell.
1802, part ii., pp. 1085-1086, Buxton described in the Johnsonian style.
1802, part ii.. pp. 706-707. Midsummer Tour [commencing at Derby].

References to previous volumes of the Gentleman's Magazine Library:
Prehistoric Antiquities: Stone implements found at Brimington ; cave at Castletown ; skeleton of rhinoceros at Wirksworth - Archæology, part i., pp. 16, 60-61, 307-308.
Roman Remains: Pig of lead at Matlock Moor - Romano-British Remains, part ii., p. 583.
Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian: Scandinavian place.names ; Saxon graves at Winster - Archæology. part ii.. pp. 175, 292.
Dialect : Local words in Derbyshire - Dialect and Wordlore. pp. 169, 170, 335.
Folk Lore : Decorating wells at Tissington ; memorials of Robin Hood - Popular Superstitions, pp. 143-143 ; English Traditions, p. 87.

Engraving from The Gentleman's Magazine Library - Image Copyright 2002 Ann Andrews


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Wirksworth Parish Church and Saxon Carving