Saturday 26 September 2015

Glass and More

So, following Mary's tip (see below under 'Launching'), I made my way to Norbury - no, not the South London suburb - and duly found the church of St Mary and St Barlok (an Irish saint), in its picture-perfect setting, tucked away in rolling wooded countryside and forming a wonderfully picturesque ensemble with the manor house (1670s) and outbuildings. It is a quite extraordinary church, and most untypical of Derbyshire. The mighty chancel, flooded with light, is the kind of 'lantern in stone' you'd expect to come across in the flatlands of East Anglia. It seems to dwarf the nave (they are of more or less equal length), and was actually built first. Those tall wide windows, which look so Perpendicular, date to around 1300, when they must have looked quite startlingly 'modern' and daring in their pared-down structure and great expanse of glass.
 And there's more than glass to see here. Standing in the chancel are two extraordinarily fine alabaster monuments (the best in England, according to the notice in the church) to members of the Fitzherbert family, the lords of the manor. Once one of the great English dynasties, the Fitzherberts paid a heavy price for their adherence to the Old Faith. The chap in my photograph above was a serious photographer who was painstakingly working his way around the monuments taking close-ups of the superb carving. As I took my picture with my cost-nothing mobile phone, I cheerily suggested he get rid of his tripod and fancy camera and try one of these. He took it in good part.
 Among the other pleasures of this Derbyshire trip were a walk in Lathkill Dale - perhaps the most beautiful of them all - a drink in the pub that is home to the hen racing world championships (The Barley Mow, Bonsall), and one of the finest pizzas I've ever had, served in a decidedly eccentric one-woman pizzeria - more like a front parlour - in Wirksworth (Gino's - bring your own wine, and be sure to check it's actually open). The weather yesterday was sunny, and butterflies - far more numerous than down South now - were flying in abundance: Speckled Woods galore, Red Admirals and Peacocks, and a profusion of Tortoiseshells; the one below was inside Norbury Church, settled on that great East window.


  1. You would appear Nige, as you hurtle beyond the gate marked 'early years of retirement', to be thoroughly enjoying the experience. Good on yer, that's the way to do it and that part of Derbyshire is an excellent place to meander, church followed by pizza oven, all with a dash of brisk walk. Not two kilometres from Wirksworth lies Shining Cliff woods, once home to a most excellent YHA hostel, now converted to something else, first visited during an August monsoon on a cycle tour of England in 1956, Newcastle to Cheddar (can you imagine today, two fourteen year old kids being allowed to do that.)

  2. Glad you visited the church at Norbury, Nige, and that you were impressed. I hope you had a scout around the back of the Fitzherbert manor house too - there's a pleasant knot garden there where we usually stop for our packed sandwiches. You're not supposed to, of course, but no one has ever been there to tell us to go away.