St Mary's Churchyard
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Wirksworth's crowning glory has to be its 13th century, 152 ft long church, with its surrounding circular pathway, from which loom up some very impressive buildings. St Marys has a crossing tower with short spire, transepts, nave and chancel with aisles. In 1272 the Dean And Chapter of Lincoln, to which wirksworth belonged, appointed the first special vicar for the church. The church went through some heavy restoration in the 19th century, particularly by Sir George Gilbert Scott between 1870 and 1876. The crossing tower is part 13th and part 14th century as are the massive piers supporting it. Also the arcades separating the nave from the aisle and the early English lancet windows in the north and south walls of the chancel and north transept. It contains 2 fonts, one Norman, large and plain, the other, octagonal, built by John Ashmore with florid initials. It also contains brasses dated 1525 to Thomas Blackwell and his wife. Other monuments include an impressive one of Anthony Lowe who died in 1555, Ralph Gell who died in 1564 and a tomb chest with alabaster effigy of Anthony Gell who had founded the Almshouses which stand at the Churches edge and the Grammar school, which was built in 1584, then rebuilt in a more gothic style in 1828. It now houses a craft centre specialising in wood. Pride of Place in the church must go to the Saxon coffin lid, dated about 800 ad and one of the important sculptural remains of that period, certainly one of the earliest Christian monuments in the Peak District. It was found by accident in 1820 when a paving was removed in front of the altar and must have been from the sarcophagus of an important person buried here. Its carvings depict the life of Christ in short stumpy figures. A figure of a lead miner with his pick and kibble is set into the west wall of the church. The carving was found at Bonsall and brought to Wirksworth in 1876. (information from www.derbyshireuk.net) Clypping is an old word meaning embracing. On the Sunday following 8 September, the ancient custom of clypping is still observed, when the congregation join hands in thanksgiving to completely encircle the church. Image from 'This Place', images featuring the working communities of rural Derbyshire: a photographic essay. To purchase limited edition signed handprints visit www.katebellis.com.