Notes on Holy Trinity Church, Kirk Ireton
This page is taken from a leaflet of the same name by Tony Short. Pictures to follow shortly.
The Saxon Church
There is no evidence of a church here before the Norman Conquest but it is likely that a church did exist here before the present very substantial one was built in the 11th Century.
The Norman Church
As the church at Kirk Ireton was given with Wirksworth by Henry I to Lincoln Cathedral it must have been in existence before his reign (1100 – 1135). The circular arch around the south door, and therefore the south wall, the lower section of the tower below the bell-chamber and the two nave arcades were all built at this time.
The north arcade appears to be by a different hand to the south arcade and may, because it is lighter in build, be slightly later. The Norman arch to the tower was lowered to form a segmental arch when the gallery was built over the western bay of the nave. The outline of the original arch can be traced above it in the wall. The thin lancet window in the tower is of this date.
Originally this church had a tower which finished below the belfry, a shorter chancel and no extensions to the aisles to the east end. The roof reached from the north and south walls in one sweep over the nave arcades with no clerestory making it very dark and mysterious inside.
The peculiar north door with its sensuous ogee arch dates after 1280 and is probably from the 13th century.
The Black Death 1348
About this time the porch, the belfry and the chancel were built together with the vestry and the door in the south aisle. This included the re-building of the chancel arch. In the tower supporting the floor of the bell chamber is a beautiful carved beam probably part of a rood screen across the arch. This beam is coloured and has vines and birds carved on it. The chancel is an outstanding example of the 14th century mason’s craft. Derbyshire was well endowed with outstanding craftsmen in the 14th century including Henry de Yevely, the king’s mason and Thomas Mappleton, carpenter.
On Sunday 12 May 1811 a hurricane struck the village flattening chimneys, stripping roofs, hurling sheds, cattle and all manner of things about.
The doorway to the vestry is beautifully carved and the corbelled head on the north wall is boldly executed. This head originally had a mate on the south wall, these carried the wooden arch which supported the steeply pitched roof. When the present roof was built it cut into the apex of the east window. There is a piscina in the south wall and the trace of an aumbry (cupboard) set in the north wall.
The window in the south wall of the chancel was walled up until about 1870 when it was rediscovered in perfect condition inside the wall.
The south porch appears to date from this period and the bell-chamber was also added to the tower at this time. It is interesting to consider the builder putting up the bell-frame on top of the tower inserting the bells and the building the walls up round it, and roofing it in.
There are now four bells, three larger ones and one which possibly the sanctus bell, rung at the elevation of the host. One of the bells is inscribed “God save His church 1699” and another has “John Ward, Will Harrison C.W.” cast on it.
The 14th century vestry which is obviously built with the chancel as the buttresses and the plinth are continuous, is quite unique. There were very few vestries built onto medieval churches.
The Tudor Period
Late in the 15th Century or early 16th century (1480 – 1530) two chapels were formed by extending the north aisle as far as the west wall of the vestry and the south aisle was also extended. The very crude flat four centres arches were built at this time, removing the south corbel and rebuilding the chancel roof. Note the Tudor rose on the roof beam.
The flat headed windows in the aisles and the clerestory may have been built at this time. The present clerestory windows and the one in the north aisle by the font appear to be early 18th Century (1690 – 1720).
The 18th Century
In 1741 as stated over the door head in the tower the large gallery was built. A substantial beam spanned on to the square capstones of the western arch. The crude patching and cutting can still be seen. This beam carried the gallery, access was gained via the “false gothic” door cut into the west wall of the tower. A sort of box to give headroom at the top of the stairs existed on the floor of the lower chamber in the tower.
On Sunday 12 May 1811 a hurricane struck the village flattening chimneys, stripping roofs, hurling sheds, cattle and all manner of things about. This wrapped the lead roof of the church over the tower and accounts for the iron grillage on the west side of the tower. As this no longer has any structural strength it could be removed. The tower weakness may have been helped by cutting the door in the base of the wall.
The 19th Century restoration
This occurred in 1873 as a date-stone in the west wall of the nave attests. The gallery was removed, and with it the staircase. The bench seats were introduced and probably box pews were removed.
In the tower there are several boards recording charities in the village. The perpendicular style font is a 19th century memorial to the vicar. A small restoration font stands in the church. The earliest font was a large plain Norman stone which ended up catching water by the west door of the south aisle until a plumber tried to melt lead in it and lit a fire under it and smashed it.
In the 20th century the pulpit was made by Alan Sherwin a famous joiner and carpenter in the village in memory of the schoolmaster’s son. The tower was enclosed with a glass screen and the worktop built to form a servery in 1990.
The monuments in the church include the reredos in memory of John Blackwall. Behind the alter were stone tablets to Ellen Mellor of Idridgehay and of Thomas Catesby and his wife Elizabeth of Ireton Wood, parents of Ellen Mellor. There was a brass to Robert Mellor dated 1580 in the north aisle. The communion table remains in the south aisle and dates from 1679. The crude top is a repair. The church gate posts are purported to have come from the Manor house which is supposed to have stood on the site of the school.
They are later 17th century design and good quality.
The church should be compared with Bradbourne and Brassington, Hognaston and Wirksworth, similar date and detail. Hognaston and Parwich churches have tympana and Kirk Ireton may have had a similar carving under the semi-circular arch over the door. Brassington has good Norman detail and a carving in the upper part of the tower which may be Roman or Saxon. Bradbourne has a Saxon cross and a magnificent Norman tower with a fine doorway. Wirksworth has a sarcophogas lid which dates from 7th century and there are interesting early carvings of Adam, “‘Towdman” and other figures from an earlier cruciform church on this site. The circular churchyard is also interesting.