St Edmund - Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member SMacB
N 53° 02.918 W 001° 44.469
30U E 584385 N 5878421
Quick Description: Medieval church of St Edmund, King and Martyr, Fenny Bentley.
Location: East Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 12/27/2019 12:00:05 AM
Waymark Code: WM11W4V
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member pmaupin
Views: 1

Long Description:
"Fenny Bentley, just north of Ashbourne, is perhaps best known for its connections with the Beresford family which produced a marquess, an earl, two viscounts, five barons and several baronets, three archbishops, four bishops, two admirals, six generals, three judges and an abundance of MPs. Their progenitor, Thomas Beresford, fought at Agincourt in 1415, returning safely to marry a wealthy heiress and build the moated Old Hall, now known as Cherry Orchard Farm. Yet the village does have another half-forgotten claim to fame, something it shares with Peak Forest in the High Peak, in that clandestine marriages used to be solemnised at its parish church. Many eloping couples from Derbyshire and surrounding counties were wed here in the first half of the 18th century.

Early medieval records refer to Fenny Bentley as a chapelry of Ashbourne but the original building is thought to have been rebuilt in the 14th-century. If anything survives of the Norman church it is the round-headed doorway within the south porch. When Byng sketched the church in 1790 it had a great solid tower but no spire, also a priest's door, later filled in. Mid-19th-century restoration work added a spire and north aisle, while the old roof was replaced by a strikingly beautiful hammer-beam roof, its cohorts of angels leaning out high above the pews.

At the west end of the church is a First World War memorial bearing the names of six men from this small parish, two sharing the same surname. Another soldier who fell in action in 1918, Major Beresford A.J. Havelock, is commemorated in the bold west window which depicts his regimental colours and St George fighting the Dragon. The stone tracery of windows in the main body of the church contain plain glass although a south wall lancet, with an accompanying brass, was installed as a thank offering for the return to health of the rector in 1919.

The lovely east window behind the altar is a mid-Victorian memorial to Maria Jane Tuyl and depicts Christ and the four Marys. The martyrdom of St Edmund King and Martyr is shown in the nearby south window, this dedicated in 1892 by Annie Mary Beresford in memory of her father Captain Hans Busk, originator of England's Volunteer Army - forerunner of the Territorials, and an early advocate of lifeboats. Beresford wall monuments in the chancel are variously ornamented with an urn, a winged angel, cherubs, skulls and wreaths. Showing its age is a 16th-century marble tablet bearing the family arms and commemorating Hewghe Beresford and Lawrence Beresford, the latter actually buried at St Peter's, Alstonefield.

Fenny Bentley church has one of the most renowned monuments in the Peak. Lying on top of their altar tomb in the Beresford Chapel are effigies of Thomas Beresford and his wife Agnes, with smaller incised figures of no less than sixteen sons and five daughters around the sides. Carved from Derbyshire alabaster, each and every one of them is trussed in a shroud, tied around the ankles and again above the head, rather like the neck of a sack. The story goes that the monument was not carved until about 100 years after the deaths of Thomas and Agnes (1473 and 1467 respectively) and the sculptor had no portraits to work from. Historian Dr Cox did not approve of this memorial at all: ‘The effect is most repulsive and ghastly, and we should think the idea must have occurred to a sculptor who wished to conceal his lack of skill in chiselling the human face or figure’.

Unusually, the ceiling of the Beresford Chapel is made from decorated panels of sheet aluminium, with intersecting wooden bosses carved by members of the rector's woodcarving class of 1895. Beautifully painted by Miss Alice M Erskine of Stamford, who was also responsible for the west window, the ceiling displays the Agnus Dei in glory, golden rays, angels playing heavenly music, roses, saints' emblems and the Beresford armorial bearings. The reason for using aluminium is not on record. However, the British Aluminium Company took an interest in the ceiling some years ago and disclosed that between 1888 and 1896 the price of aluminium plunged from £3,000 to £163 a ton. So by the time the ceiling was installed in 1895, aluminium would compare favourably with more traditional materials whilst being lighter and easier to maintain.

An old shield of arms on the north wall of the Beresford Chapel was apparently presented to the church after being found 'lying about' at Bentley Hall.

The beautiful oak rood screen was given by the Beresfords in thanks for an end to the Wars of the Roses in 1485. Richly carved with vine leaves and grapes, it is regarded as one of the finest in the country. A guide book on sale in the church encourages the visitor to look for a small carving of a fox stealing a goose. This visual pun expresses resentment felt by the local clergy at having to pay a chunk of their modest annual income to the Dean of Lincoln. This state of affairs came about when William Rufus gave the churches of Chesterfield and Ashbourne - Fenny Bentley's mother church - to the Cathedral Church of St Mary, Lincoln.

Surprisingly both the screen and Beresford tomb survived the depredations of the Puritans, though the gold plate was confiscated and the church was allowed to fall into disrepair. The parish chest has survived for even longer, perhaps seven or eight hundred years, its former contents so important that it was fitted with the customary three locks, the rector and two churchwardens each having a key. Fenny Bentley registers date back 400 years and are now held in the County Records Office at Matlock. Similarly, the church plate, comprising an early 18th-century silver chalice and paten-cover, is in safekeeping at the bank.

The church timepiece, an old sundial of 1776 on the tower, came from a ruined cottage and was given to the church by the Revd Sir Richard FitzHerbert in 1898. Less obvious and slowly being weathered by time is a link with the more distant past in the form of deep scratches in the stonework beside the porch door. This is where arrows were sharpened in the days when able-bodied men were obliged to practise archery in the churchyard on Sunday afternoons, in compliance with Acts of Parliament passed from 1363. Similar cuts are found at Tissington and Thorpe.

Opposite the porch is one of the oldest extramural tombs in the country. Excavated in 1889, it revealed a tall skeleton surmised to be the last male of the de Bentley line which became extinct almost 600 years ago, when the present church was no age at all."

SOURCE - (visit link)
Building Materials: Stone

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