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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
North Wingfield Parish Church, St. Lawrence
North Wingfield church
1875 view of the south side of the church.

As you drive along the A6175 from Clay Cross into North Wingfield the church is immediately ahead of you on the top of Church Hill. A church was recorded here in the Domesday Survey of 1086, when North Wingfield possessed a priest and a church, one of just 40 in Derbyshire at that date[1].

The 100 feet high west tower is 15th century, and Perpendicular in style. Pevsner, writing about British architecture in the aftermath of the Second World War, rated the tower as the best piece of the church; he pointed out "the angle buttresses, two light bell-openings on each side, a frieze of shields above and then battlements[2]". The sculpture of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, a "defaced relief" according to Pevsner[2], was discovered in 1860 when the south aisle was rebuilt[3]. The clerestory windows and the north aisle were repaired in 1872[3]. We can see four small clerestory windows on the south side of the church in the top image.

The path beside the church is now fenced by railings, but leads to the fifteenth century Blue Bell Inn, today grade II listed. The inn, beside the north-east angle of the churchyard, was a former Chantry house. Its link to the Savages of North Wingfield was recorded in the parish register in 1650/1 – "15 March. Georgius Savage de Chantry House, sepultus fuit"[4]. The chantry had been founded by Rauf Savage and John Babyngton, Knight; "the chauntrie of blessed Marie Virgyn in the chirche of Sainte Elyn of Northwynfeld"[5].

The parish registers from the 17th and early 18th centuries record several interesting details about the church fabric[4]. For example:

"1633. Upon the first day of August, or thereabouts, their [sic] was a great clock plum (weight) stolen out of the steeple, which was eight or nine stone in weight : some stronge body did steal yt, or else it could not have been carried away, for I could not lift it with one hand. ... The church was made common, and doors left open alnight manie times".

"1633. The parish church steiple at North Wingfield white lymed in September".

"1643. Ye chancell lead was bloane off at ye same time . . . . winde fortie yardes".

"1718. This is to certifie whom it may concern, yt in ye year of our Lord 1718, the loft or gallery, in North Wingfield church was erected by the churchwardens of this parish, viz.:-John Lillyman, Thomas Clay, Ralph Wass, and Samuel Harrison, who, with ye unanimous consent of ye parish, for the defraying of ye charge of so good a work, sold such seats in ye aforesaid loft, as shall be hereafter mentioned to these several parties, to them and their heirs for ever".

The hands of St. Lawrence's dianond shaped church clock show that the building could have been photographed at 10 to 4 in the afternoon, probably in 1875[4]. However, it was said to have been practically useless since 1873 and twenty years later Miss Darby, whose father had been the Rector, set its replacement in motion. By 1910 the clock was described as "one of the Greatest Boons which the parish possesses" as it was reliable and could be seen and heard from a considerable distance[6].

What helps date the top picture is a headstone in the foreground; two of them are easily readable when the image is enlarged, something which underlines the exceptional quality of early photographs. The ground in front of the white headstone for William Whitworth is covered with grass so one can also assume that he had not just been buried, although a slight mound is still visible.

1. White headstone:
In / Affectionate Remembrance / of / WILLIAM WHITWORTH / OF CLAY CROSS / WHO DIED OCT 15TH 1871 / AGED 54 YEARS
(Text below not transcribed)

2. Gritstone headstone to the left:

Church and rectory
In 1880 the east window in the chancel was filled in with "rich stained glass"
in memory of the wife of the then Rector, Rev. G. W. Darby, which he paid for.
This early 20th century view looks across the rectory gardens to the southern side of the church[7].

Tenders were invited for the restoration and reseating of the church in 1879[8]. It was to be a major renovation, especially as when the floors in the nave were taken up the pillars of the arcade were found to be in an alarming state; the arches had to be shored up and the columns repaired. The exterior of Lady Chapel and tracery of its east window were also renovated and the oak roofs of both this chapel and the transept were both replaced and then covered with lead. Minton tiles were laid in the chancel, and the oak seats and prayer desks there were new. The interior was completely transformed80].

Just occasionally there was an an unusual occurrence in the church. One such was in 1886 when worshippers were said "to have been thrown into a state of excitement" when the father of a prospective groom, who was a local musician, stood up when the banns of his son and the prospective bride were read out; it was the "first time of asking". It was reported that he shouted "I am his father, and I forbid the banns". The said gentleman was invited into the vestry, and presumably calmed down, but is not known whether the marriage went ahead[9].

Church and graveyard, early 20th c
The new Darby clock, with faces on the north and south sides of the tower, is illuminated.
Not long after it was installed it was lit at dusk but by 1897 this had ceased.
However, a plea for it to light up the dark evenings was acted on by the Rector and
churchwardens though in February 1900 a snow storm stopped it working for a few hours.

The web mistress' earliest Clay ancestors are buried either in this church or in its graveyard. One of the headstones in the churchyard, the details of which were sent to the web mistress some years ago, records the curious fate of one member of the Clay family as he was laid to rest:

"In / Memory of THOMAS / son of THOMAS / and MARY CLAY / who departed / this life December / 16th 1794: in the/ 40th year of his/ AGE [this last is inset, with verse]
What tho no mornful kindred stand / Around the folemn bier / No parents wring the trembling hand / Or shed the tender tear, / No costly oak adorned with art / My wearr'd limbs inclofe, / No Friends Unpart a Winding Sheet / To deck my last repose"[10].

The gravestone of this rather sad epitaph may be of a later date than the death and burial, but it is said that Thomas was buried in his shroud. One source has said that his coffin was seized by a creditor, someone who lived in the house next door to the White Hart pub. His parents were still alive and would have been able to pay for the burial, so it does lend credence to the possible reason for the lack of a coffin. An article in "The Derbyshire Gatherer" (1880) implied that he was committed to the ground in a bacon chest, but this version of events should perhaps be treated with caution as there are several mistakes in the recording and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the story may have also been elaborated[11].

Inside the church:

North Wingfield, font

Rev. Cox first described North Wingfield's old font in 1875:
"We find, beneath a spout of the north aisle, the old massive font. On the occasion of our visits it was full of water, and was being used as a wash hand bason by the lads of the church school in their dinner hour. From the systematic way in which they went to work - soap even not being absent - it was obvious that this was the purpose to which it is generally applied. It is passing strange how the inhabitants of North Winfield have for so long suffered this ancient font to be defiled. In that rude bowl their forefathers have been christened eight hundred years". ... The font is of rude early construction, the base being channelled in flutings, and the whole of one block of coarse gritstone. ... The present font is an ugly octagon construction, quite out of keeping with the church, and bearing the date 1662[4]".
Cox later recorded that the children "barbarously treated" several early effigies of the Deincourts when, in addition to they times they were washing their hands, they were being educated at the day school held in the north chancel chapel[3].
Several generations of the web mistress's direct Clay ancestors would have been baptised in both the older and the newer fonts.
  North Wingfield, window

Cox on the blocked up North window:
"At the east end of the north aisle is a Norman window, now blocked up which, if it was opened, would communicate with the chapel beyond, on the north side of the chancel. This is of the late Norman period, approaching the transition to the next style, and the arch is not perfectly semi-circular. It is enriched with some clear cut mouldings of the tooth or four leaf pattern, and the capitals of the side pillars are well worthy of attention, as they are a most unusual design, and might, if taken by themselves, be attributed even to the Saxon period. Its date, however, appears to be about the middle of the twelfth century, early in the reign of Henry II[4]". In a later work, the same author described the design of this window as exceptional[3]. Pevsner, in 1953, thought this was the most interesting piece in the church[2].

A number of plaques inside the church commemorate members of the Clay family and their spouses or parents. By the south door is a striking monument to John and Mary Brailsford, who both passed away in 1714; the inscriptions are side by side, on two panels between three columns that rest on brackets. Above the columns is a pediment. John was the son of John Brailsford, later of Staveley, whereas Mary was the daughter and eldest child of Francis Clay and is the 6x great aunt of the web mistress. One Mary's brothers moved to Shirland.

"At / the foot of this / lyeth interr'd / the body of / MARY the wife of / JOHN BRAILSFORD / late of Conygreen / who departed this / life Septembr 2d / 1714./Anno Ætatis 72."
"At / the foot of this / lyeth Interr'd / the body of JOHN BRAILSFORD / late of Conygreen / who departed this life July ye 27th / 1714. / Anno Ætatis 82."

Other Derbyshire churches where the Clay family worshipped, were christened, married, buried or otherwise associated with, can be seen by clicking on the images below:

Ault Hucknall






1. Heliotype plate of "North Winfield S", from a photograph taken specially for Cox's book by Mr. R. Keene of Derby and the plate by B. J. Edwards & Co.[4].
2." St. Lawrence's Church, North Wingfield". Postcard published by J. Saudersch, Clay Cross. Printed in England. Posted in 1917. Another was posted in 1909.
3. "North Wingfield Church". The Canterbury Series J. H. S. D., No. 104. Posted 4 Oct 19-- [Edward VII stamp]
4 and 5. The drawings of the font and the window were from drawings by Mr. Bailey and others (not named) and from plates produced by Bemrose of Derby.
All images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] 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. Cox referred to the village and its church as North Winfield at this time.

[2] Pevsner, Nikolaus (1953), "The Buildings of England, Derbyshire", Penguin Books.

[3] Cox, John Charles, (1915, 2nd edition, revised), "Derbyshire" - Illustrated by J. Charles Wall, Methuen & Co., London. By this time he referred to the village as North Wingfield.

[4] Cox (1875, above) provides more examples about the church fabric from the parish register than are quoted above; the 1633 quote is incomplete here and I have not included those from 1634 and 1650. Thomas Clay, mentioned in 1718, is not a direct ancestor, but is / was related and is my 2nd cousin 7 times removed. See Shirland for a little more about the Clay family.
Please note that the parish registers commenced in 1567, although not all records are readable.

[5] Cox (1875, above) quotes from Add. MSS 5152. The foundation charter that was in the British Museum is dated 4 Feb 1488. He also mentions both the rectory and the chantry being mentioned in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, 27 Henry VIII (also called the King's Book[s]) when Richardus Gwent was the Rector.

[6] "Derbyshire Courier", 12 February 1910.

[7] "Derbyshire Times", 18 December 1880. The Restoration of North Wingfield Church.

[8] "ibid.", 23 July 1879. North Wingfield Church

[9] The "Derby Mercury", 2 June 1886 and "Derbyshire Times", 5 June 1886. Forbidding the Banns.

[10] The MI came from two sources: a photo from Mrs. G. Leighton and a transcript from Mrs. L. Phillips, both members of the of the North Wingfield Family History Group. With thanks to both of them for being so generous with their time. Thomas is the web mistress' 4th cousin 5 times removed.

[11] Andrews, William (ed) "The Derbyshire Gatherer", 1880 from Mrs. G. Leighton.

Also see, elsewhere on this web site:
North Wingfield, Kelly's 1891 Directory. There is more about the church.
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811 includes a short piece about North Wingfield.

Our Genealogy
includes an image of the crest my Clay family used. It is the same crest.

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Another Keene church photograph