Bakewell Churches Group Visit June 15 2016
St Giles Calke
Through the woods and away from the garden of Calke Abbey is the small church of St Giles.The church was founded in 1100 and became part of Calke Priory, which was one of the first Augustinian houses in England. After the dissolution of the monasteries it became the parish church of Calke until 1834 and it is now a private chapel, owned by the National Trust.
The church has been much altered in its time. First, in 1573, it was reduced in size so that only the nave of the original church remained and then further altered in the nineteeneth century by Sir George Crewe who felt that it had deteriorated to the point of being 'unworthy for God's service.'He built a new tower,cased the church in stone and provided the wooden furnishings seen today.These are fine altar rails and a wooden gallery, all made from estate timber.
Besides admiring these we looked at the hatchments on the walls. These heraldic devices were hung outside the house for a month following the death of a member of the family, before being brought to the church.The painted stained glass east window and the large font were also worthy of interest.
Holy Trinity Church. Staunton Harold
Over the west doorway is told the story of the church.'In the yeare 1653 when all things sacred were throughout ye nation either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley,Baronet, founded this church, whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in ye worst times and hoped them in the most calamitous.The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance'.
The church was created as a political and religious statement. Shirley was a staunch believer in the Divine Right of Kings and also, tied in with this ,believed that the Anglican faith,before it was contaminated by Cromwell and his supporters ,was the only true religion. He therefore designed his church to reflect 'the beauty of holiness' so prized by Archbishop Laud.Its rich interior is a testament to the old style religion.The roof is painted with a theme of Creation out of Chaos,a helm and gauntlets hang from the chancel arch and wood panelling extends all round the walls, even on the piers of the arcades. Nave and aisles are filled with box pews and the lovely wrought iron gates which divide chancel from nave and are 18th century, are the only later additions.
It is a pity that Sir Robert never lived to see his church completed, for he died of smallpox in the tower of London aged 27 years. Cromwell said that if Shirley could afford to build so splendid a church, he could fit out a ship for the Navy. When Shirley refused he was put in the tower and the church was completed by his son and heir in the early 1660s