About this image
Wirksworth church is a fine 13th century building which stands in an open churchyard just off the centre of the town. The church was built on the site of earlier Norman and Saxon churches and has a long history - it may well have been founded by Betti, a Saxon missionary who came to what was then the kingdom of Mercia with Elchfrida of Northumbria, when she married the Mercian king in 653. He is believed to have been to this area to convert the locals. The structure of the present building is interesting and pleasing but perhaps not as visually exciting as Tideswell or Bakewell. The main part of it is Early English, but the roof of the Nave was raised in the 14th century and this was renewed in the early 20th. The line of the old 13th century roof can clearly be seen. The tower is also largely Early English but was added to in the Decorated style and has an odd little spire above, while the west window was added in the Perpendicular period. The church was quite skilfully restored in the early 20th century by Gilbert Scott. The most notable features of the church are inside. Set into the walls are fragments of the old Saxon church including fine carvings unlike anything else in the area except the font at Ilam. They include a lead miner and animals as well as people of importance, like kings. The church also has a magnificent Saxon stone coffin lid, carved with scenes from the life of Christ, which was discovered under the floor of the chancel in 1820. It is one of the finest examples of Saxon carving to be found anywhere in the country, and if Betti did found this church then perhaps this was his coffin lid. It dates from at least the 8th century and could well be a century earlier. Other interesting items are the massive lead-lined Norman font and the Gell tombs in the North Aisle. The largest is that of Sir Anthony Gell (d. 1583), who has his statue lying on the tomb, hands in prayer. Alongside is the simpler tomb of his father, Sir Ralph Gell. In the chancel is the tomb of Anthony Lowe, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber who served Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I and died in 1555.