|Shirland Parish Church, St. Leonard's
St. Leonard's Church, Shirland, the church tower
The church is in the centre of the village, beside the turnpike
road connecting Chesterfield and Alfreton. Gladwyn Turbutt,
in his "History"
of the village writes that "The earliest reference to a
church at Shirland occurs in an interesting fine, dated 22 September
goes on to comment that "a dispute of this nature could
only have occurred a short while after a new church had been
According to Nikolaus Pevsner it is "essentially a fifteenth
century church. The West tower has diagonal buttresses and eight
pinnacles on the battlements".
St. Leonard was a hermit - a Frankish nobleman - who settled
near Limoges about the sixth century. Writing in 1875, Reverend
J. Charles Cox observed that "the memory of this humble-minded
hermit seems to have been formerly regarded with much favour
in England, for more than one hundred and forty churches still
retain their dedications to his name". ... "There are
three other churches in Derbyshire dedicated to St. Leonard,
viz., Thorpe, Monyash and Scarcliffe".
The number has increased and there are now around 180 churches
dedicated to him.
Amongst the memorials inside the church is a marble tablet
in memory of the web mistress's 3x great grandfather, John
Clay (1790 - 1865), and his two daughters, Sarah Lee and Mary
St. Leonard's Church, Shirland
Although the part of the churchyard surrounding the church
has been largely cleared of its really old headstones, some
memorials are still to be found. These include what must
have been a very costly large chest vault to the Bansall
family, which is of particular interest to me as Mary Bansall
(1799-1844) had been a Clay before her marriage. Unfortunately,
these memorials here have not withstood the effects of circumstances,
weathering and nature. Cox provides
a photograph of the church (see below) and the Bansall
memorial is on the left, close to the church porch; it surrounded
by iron railings that presumably disappeared during the last
war. When the web mistress last visited the church there
was a yew tree almost covering the tomb.
This third picture, from Cox, is captioned Shirland
Church S.E. and was taken between 1870 and 1875, when the
volume covering the Hundred of Scarsdsale of his history of
the churches was published.
It is a heliotype plate and is of such quality that the white
gravestone in the foreground is quite clear. The headstone
marks the grave of Ellen Bennett who lived in Higham; she was
buried on 2 May and was aged 65 when she died.
AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE OF
WIFE OF JAMES BENNETT
WHO DIED APRIL 28TH 1870
AGED 55 YEARS
HER END IS PEACE
A list of MIs for the church has been checked
and Ellen's gravestone isn't listed.
On the opposite side of the old highway stands the old manor
house, now called Manor Farm, where several generations of
my Clay ancestors lived and farmed the land. The names of John
and Mary Clay, with the date 1746, are carved on the barn wall
of Manor Farm. The Clays in Shirland were part of the family
from The Hill, North Wingfield;
the branch of the family who lived in Shirland had come to
the village in 1695 and built Gables Farm in Higham (which
is in the parish of Shirland). The family finally left Shirland
in the 1870's, though younger sons had moved to Bonsall, Crich,
Liverpool, Matlock and Nottingham before that date. My Bryon
ancestors farmed at Shirland Lodge.
1. The two coloured photographs are © Andy Andrews, re scanned
2. The heliotype plate is from
a photograph taken specially for Cox's book by Mr. R. Keene of
All other information
provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only. Page updated August 2010.
and notes on the text:
 Turbutt, Gladwyn (1978,
reprinted 1997), "A History of Shirland and
Higham Press p.93 ISBN 0 9504692 1 1.
 Pevsner, Nikolaus (1953), "The
Buildings of England, Derbyshire", Penguin
 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
 Monumental Inscriptions, Shirland St. Leonards, Derbyshire
Family History Society. No date, but recorded by Margaret and Bill Brooksbank
and Joy and Graham Chantry.
 Some of the younger sons of the Clay family in North
Wingfield went to Alfreton, Ault Hucknall, Birmingham, London, Manchester, Salford,
Sheffield (all ENG) as well as to Pennsylvania, USA and to Port Philip, later
Melbourne, in Australia.
Elsewhere on this web site:
Gentleman's Magazine Library - Derbyshire to Dorset
Pigot's Directory extract of Shirland names
entry in Kelly's Directory for Derbys, Notts, Leics & Rutland,
listed in Kelly's Directory for Derbys, Notts, Leics & Rutland,