|Ault Hucknall Parish Church, St. John the Baptist
Ault Hucknall [Hault Hucknall] church is about a mile away
from Hardwick Hall. Pevsner, whose architectural guide of Derbyshire
was first published in 1953, thought the position of St. John
the Baptist was "lovely".
above photograph was taken around 1875 for Rev. Cox's book
and even when Pevsner was writing, it would have been a tranquil
spot with views of the Hall and little else nearby but these
days the M1 is in the valley below and cuts off the church
from the hamlets of Astwith, Hardstaff and Stainsby which are
part of the parish.
As Hardwick Hall is so close perhaps one would expect to find
several tombs of the Cavendish family in either the church
or the churchyard but there is only one, to Anne, wife of William
the first Earl of Devonshire. Also inside the church is a plain
black marble slab commemorating Thomas Hobbes, who lived with
the Cavendish family and died at Hardwick in 1679, aged 91
The central "crossing" tower is, according
Pevsner, usually found on "the most ambitious
churches of the county".
Below it is a Norman archway "with bold mouldings of the
beak-head and chevron pattern, and with other curious devices".
Cox on Ault Hucknall's blocked up west doorway (look under the large window on
"On the exterior of the church several stones will be noticed by the practised
eye, which show by their moulding that they have formerly served
in a Norman building. But the most interesting relic of the old church is the
upper part of a now built-up doorway at the west end of the nave. It consists
of the tympanum or semi-circular stone, which so often formed the part of a
Norman doorway. This tympanum is most quaintly carved with rude mythological
figures. It was considered of sufficient importance, even last century, to
merit a description and an engraving in the Gentleman's
It seems to be in much the same condition now as when then
described. To the observer's right is a tall quadruped with
a long tapering neck, somewhat resembling a giraffe, but the
head terminates in a beak, and each of the legs in claws. The
tail twists back between the legs and behind the back, above
which it seems to terminate in a cross set in a circle. In
the right hand corner is a much smaller quadruped with ears.
Down the centre of the stone is a Latin cross with a long stem
; on the left is a centaur, corresponding in size with the
giraffe like figure opposite, in one hand it holds a palm branch
and with the other it grasps the cross.".
Cox also concluded that the stone immediately below, with the
winged dragon, a cross and a man fighting the dragon, was not
originally in this position.
Cox on the fragment of old screen inside the church:
"In the modern vestry ... is a handsome fragment of oak carving, a portion,
we suppose, of a former screen".
Worth later attributes this to the Decorated period.
The graveyard of St. John the Baptist church contains a number
of headstones for the Clay family; although they are not my
direct ancestors they are, nevertheless, related and the surname
appears in parish records from the sixteenth century onwards.
1. Heliotype plate of "Hault Hucknall S.W.",
from a photograph taken specially for Cox's book by Mr. R. Keene
of Derby and the plate by B. J. Edwards & Co..
2. The drawing of the doorway from drawings by Mr. Bailey and
others (not named). The screen fragment was drawn by W. E. Keene.
Both from plates produced by Bemrose of Derby.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann
Written, reasearched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
 Pevsner, Nikolaus (1953), "The
Buildings of England, Derbyshire", Penguin Books.
 Cox, J Charles (1875) "Notes
on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol I, Hundred of Scarsdale",
Chesterfield: Palmer and Edmunds, London: Bemrose and Sons, 10
Paternoster Buildings; and Derby.
 The memorial to Thomas Hobbes was recorded
in the Gentleman's Magazine; a link to the on site transcript
of the Ault Hucknall [Hault Hucknall] entry is provided below and
includes Hobbes' MI.
 Cox, John Charles, (1915, 2nd edition,
revised), "Derbyshire" - Illustrated by J. Charles
Wall, Methuen & Co., London.
 Worth, R. N. (1890), "Tourist's
Guide to Derbyshire", Edward Stanford, London
Also see, elsewhere on this web site:
Hucknall, Kelly's 1891 Directory. There is more about the
the Hault Hucknall entry in the Gentleman's Magazine
Parishes, 1811, see Hault Hucknall