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have been deemed of importance, owing to its situation in the first considerable expansion of the valley of the Wye, from the time of that river quitting the Buxton basin. Its name sufficiently betrays its Saxon origin— the ford of the Ash. Many places in England are named after this tree, and Derbyshire possesses a fair share of them. In the Domesday Record Ashford, under the designation of Aisseford, is included in the list of royal manors ; and in its vicinity are the Berewites of Oneash (Aneise) and Monyash (Maneis).
The church— the special object of our visit to-day—consists of a tower, nave, chancel, north aisle, and south porch. At starting it is somewhat disappointing to learn that, owing to serious defects in the foundations, the outer walls, those of the tower excepted, were rebuilt on their original site about the year 1870; and yet much of interest remains for the consideration of the ecclesiastical antiquary.
No church is recorded here at the time of the Domesday Survey, but we must bear in mind the latter was not intended to contain a catalogue of churches, but only to note those " which the Crown had to look to for payment of some kind, either in services, rents, or produce, ... notwithstanding the vast quantity of land held by the Church at the period;” and although Bakewell is noted to have had two priests and a church, there is fair evidence of the existence of many at the time the volume was compiled that are not mentioned in it.
Long previous to the Norman Conquest, Ashford formed an important centre for the wants of the mining district situated in its immediate vicinity, and in the Domesday Book it is recorded to have one lead work (“i plumbaria”). Other places in the neighbourhood, Bakewell, Darley, Taddington, and Monyash to wit, had Norman churches, and from this alone we might fairly conjecture that one existed at Ashford during the same period.
ve possess direct evidence in its favour: the first and principal is a semicircular stone tympanum, carved with rude figures, and evidently of Norman work, now occupying its original position over the south door, where it was refixed in 1870, after an absence of many years.” Next there is a corbel, sculptured with a grotesque head supported by two hands, apparently of late Norman work, now utilised to support one of the principals of the chancel roof; but prior to the late alterations, served as a bracket, not many feet from the ground, at the end of the north aisle, on its north wall. Also five small square stone blocks with grotesque heads carved on them, which were found embedded in the old walls at the time of their being taken down : now placed over the tympanum of the south entrance. Lastly, over the chancel door was a gritstone lintel bearing a rude sculpture in its centre, and belonging to the same period. (This has not been preserved.)
1 This paper is based mainly on a ground plan and series of elevations of each face of the church, made by Mr. Medland Taylor, architect, of Manchester, in 1867, prior to its reconstruction, which, together with a photo-illustration, were kindly lent by him for the present purpose ; supplemented by information supplied by the Vicar, the Rev. J. R. Luxmoore and his son Mr. J. S. Luxmoore, together with the writer's own knowlege of the church during the last sixty years.
? A full description of this tympanum is contained in the Paper printed in the present volume, pp. 241-271,
To this we may add the authoritative opinion of Dr. Cox, " that one existed here in the twelfth century” (Churches of Derbyshire, vol. ii, p. 45).
The dimensions of the church, before the alterations, were briefly : Nave, 37 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. ; north aisle, 37 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft. ; north chantry 16 ft. by 14 ft. ; chancel, 30 ft. by 17 ft. ; vestry, 15 ft. by 14 ft. 6 in.; and the tower, 9 ft. square. Thickness of the walls : Nave, 3 ft. to 3 ft. 6 in.; aisle, 2 ft. 6 in.; chantry (south and east), 1 ft. 6 in. ; chancel (east end), 4 ft.; the remainder, 3 ft. ; vestry, 3 ft. ; and the tower, 3 ft. to 3 ft. 6 in. The aisle pillars have each a diameter of 2 ft., excepting the eastern one, which is 3 ft. by 2 ft. All the walls that were taken down were formed of rubble limestone, with dressed quoins. Excepting in the greater length of the chancel, these dimensions bear a close approximation to those of the present church at Hognaston, and the former ones at Normanton and Parwich, all three of the Norman period.
The present structure probably represents the main features of the original Norman edifice, which we may accept to have consisted of a nave, extending from the tower at its western end to the existing chancel, which then would be much shorter than now. There would also be a south and a north door of entrance, each having a sculptured tympanum.
In the middle of the fourteenth century, increased accommodation was obtained by the erection of a north aisle, and the substitution of an arcade of three pointed arches for the original north wall. These arches, with the pillars (three entire and a half one) supporting them, all of fine gritstone, possess the main characteristics belonging to small churches altered or erected during the Decorated period of English architecture, of which Derbyshire affords many examples. They have apparently been undisturbed from the time of their erection. The pillars are plain octagons, each alternate face terminating in a simple curved-stop chamfer above the plain square base; while their slightlyexpanded capitals have plain round mouldings. The arches springing from the latter are slightly obtuse, are double-faced, double-recessed, and have chamfered edges.
The tower is situated at the west end of the nave; and “is of a style which makes it difficult to ascribe it to any particular period” (Dr. Cox). It is a very plain, massive structure, with walls from 3 ft. to 3 ft. 6 in. thick, built of random courses of limestone, with very large gritstone quoins. It is 40 ft. high, and has two string-courses ; the upper one is about 37 ft. above the ground level, and is of debased form. Immediately surmounting it is a battlemented portion, formed of large blocks of coarse gritstone, with a debased pinnacle at each corner-all of a late period. The west front is pierced at its lower part by a small two-light window, with rudely-pointed double head cut out of one stone; what kind of inner splay it had originally is doubtful, as it was altered at the time when the window was filled with stained glass. On each face of the upper part is a small two-light window, giving light to the belfry. They are circular-headed, the heads formed in one irregularly-shaped stone: their inner splay is very trifling. The lower string-course, situated immediately over the west window, is chamfered above and below almost to a point.
The tower opens into the nave by an arch supported by demi-pillars of the Decorated period, similar in mouldings and general character to those of the north aisle, excepting that the arch is formed of a single ring of chamfered stone and is equilateral. This portion is only 1 ft. 3} ins. in depth, and is placed in front of the main support of this side of the tower, which consists of a plain Pointed arch, formed of large undecorated blocks of stone about 2 ft. thick, and set 4 ins. behind the former. This is the sole entrance to the tower, and there is no access to the bell-chamber except by an ordinary ladder. Standing beneath it, the arch is seen to be out of the perpendicular, and to lean considerably to the west; and this, no doubt, was the occasion of a dwarf buttress being erected in the centre of the west face of the tower, just below the west window. It is built of large blocks of gritstone, and is of comparatively late date. The general absence of buttresses, with the single exception just noticed, taken in connection with the particulars above described, led Dr. Cox to assign the construction of the tower to the latter end of the twelfth or the commencement of the thirteenth century. Another fact favours this view : the west wall of the nave is 1 ft. wider on the north side, evidently due to the circumstance of the arches separating the nave from the aisle being 1 ft. less in width than the original wall, which was thrown into the nave space.
The nave terminated at the third pillar to the east, which is considerably larger than either of the others, and is strengthened by a piece of walling on its southern aspect, 3 ft. wide, which acted as a buttress. A similar projection corresponded to this on the inside of the south wall, the inner face of each being continuous with that of the contracted chancel. In the same line with these projections a buttress was planted against the south wall. There can be little doubt as to the explanation of all this extra strength. We learn from the testimony of observers, that in the angle behind the present pulpit, that is to say, at the junction of the wide part of the nave with the chancel, where the wall was originally much thicker than the rest on the south side (on the plan made in 1867 it is about 8 ins), several steps leading to the rood-loft were found in situ. From this it is evident the original chancel commenced at this spot, that an arch probably separated it from the nave, and that a screen, with its upper structure of a rood-loft supporting the rood and attendant figures, formed the line of demarcation between the two portions of the building. This is further corroborated by the chancel floor being elevated 6 ins. above that of the nave, commencing at this spot.
The general appearance of the rood-loft, chancel arch, and aisle pillars at this period would probably be similar to that of All Saints' Church, Sherringham, Norfolk, of which an illustration is given in Illustrations of Monumental Brasses (Camb. Camd. Soc.), 1846, facing p. 6.
The north aisle appears originally to have ended in a line with the chancel arch and step, but was subsequently extended eastward for about 13 ft., the intervening wall between it and the aisle being removed. This must have taken place some time after the erection of the latter, but during the same period (Decorated), as without any manifest reason, its northern boundary was 1 ft. less in thickness than the rest of the wall. Moreover, a wide opening was made into the chancel, and a skew arch thrown over it, which rested on the east pillar of the arcade and a demi-pillar on the chancel wall, the latter following the line of the arch. This was owing to the chancel being 2 ft. less than the nave on that side, and the skew acted as a kind of flying buttress to the thrust of the aisle arches. The mouldings of the skew-arch, etc., were of the same general character as those of the aisle, although they varied much in their details. A parclose screen no doubt separated it from the chancel.
In his Churches of Derbyshire, Dr. Cox has related at length the history of the manor of Ashford, and that a chantry was founded in this church in the year 1357, by the son of the Welsh chieftain, to whom King John had granted the manor in 1200. This must refer to a chantry that existed in the century prior to the construction of the north aisle ; but whether the one just described was founded on the
same or on some other endowment history is silent, nor do we possess any additional particulars respecting it. Possibly the erection or reerection may have been one of the results of the Great Pestilence known as the “Black Death,” which ravaged England in 1348-9. Of those who escaped, some appear to have given themselves up to profligacy ; while, on the other hand, it stimulated the religious enthusiasm of many, of which a marked example is cited by Dr. Cox (vol. iv, pp. 35-9); and the formation of the second chantry, soon after the addition of the north aisle, may have been one of its outcomes.
The original Norman chancel was probably only about half the length of the present one, and was extended simultaneously with the erection of the chantry : this appears to be shown by the early buttress situated close to the chancel door, marking the extent of the first Norman structure. A further extension was evidently made at a much later period, as a break existed in the masonry 6 ft. 6 ins. from its eastern termination, the wall for that extent being 9 ins. less in thickness than the adjacent part. Moreover, the supporting buttresses, one at the south east angle and two on the east wall, consisted of large stone blocks similar to that of the tower, instead of limestone, rubble, and gritstone quoins, as in the older portions of the buildings. The floor of the chancel was, and still remains, 6 ins. above that of the nave and chantry; and the entrance door, square-headed and of late construction, had a carved lintel of early date already alluded to. No trace of piscina or of sedilia were discovered when the former walls were taken down.
The windows, removed during the restorations of 1869-70, afforded no clue to the period of their construction. On the south side of the nave there were two of three lights each, set in square frames, and with hood mouldings. Three of a similar character, but without the latter moulding, were in the north wall. Some early windows had been built up, while others, of a plain church warden kind- one of large size near the east end of the nave—were inserted in several parts. Of those that yet remain from the former building, the two small ones in the west wall of the tower poorly represent the beautiful kind of a later date. The large east window was inserted in the middle of this century, and was probably a replica of the original one.
We may fairly assume the early roof to have been an open and high-pitched one, and to have been lowered very considerably during the Mediæval period.
A gallery was erected across the west end of the church in 1755, as we learn from an inscription on a panel recording the names of the donors towards its construction, where it is termed a “loft.” It