Joseph Deans.

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and he sought in vain to be delivered from
its stings. At length he had recourse to
St. Chad, and by his advice sought pardon
for his crime in an earnest use of the ordi-
nances of the Christian faith. He made
open profession of Christianity ; and with
the zeal of one who felt that but for this
his days must have been passed in the
deepest wretchedness, laboured anxiously
for its establishment. At his death, in
A.D. 675, he was succeeded by his nephew
Ethelred, the son of Peada, who had been
educated in the principles and practice of
the Christian religion, and who continued
to support and encourage it, till it entirely
superseded the rites of Paganism.




FROM the tradition which has been
noticed, together with the name of the
place, and the custom already mentioned,
then existing, of building churches for the
purpose of " causing prayers to be offered
up for the soul of a murdered person upon
the spot where the murder had been per-
petrated," it may reasonably be inferred,
that a church was founded at Melbourne
as early as the very beginning of the eighth
century, and probably upon the exact spot
where Osthrid met her death. But ad-
mitting this to be the case, it must still be
a question whether the church then founded
was the same which is now in existence ;
and there are many things, both in the cha-
racter of the building itself, and in the his-


tory of those unsettled times, which lead to
the conclusion that it was not. The style
of workmanship is evidently of much later
date, and the whole plan and execution of
the building point to a period when the art
of working in stone had attained an excel-
lence which could not be expected at its first
introduction. The original roof was formed
of two sides of an equilateral triangle,
an arrangement which was probably not
adopted for some time after stone churches
began to be erected ; the first, built by
foreign workmen, being copies of Roman
buildings, and, like them, covered with a
roof nearly flat : but it was soon found that
this, however suitable to the mild climate
of Italy, became a serious disadvantage in
one more variable and rigorous. This
seems to have suggested the more pointed
roof, which afterwards became general, and
the existence of which leads to the inference


that those buildings upon which it is found
could not have been among the first erected
in the country.

Again, the outside walls of this church
are strengthened with small rectangular
buttresses, projecting only a few inches,
but running up the whole height of the wall.
These were never found in the earliest
churches, but were introduced with that
style of building which prevailed about the
time of Edward the Confessor.

There are also, upon the capital of one of
the pillars, two plain crosses, with a pellat
in each angle.

If we could ascertain that any king of
Mercia had adopted these symbols, we
might presume that he was in some way



connected with the building, and conse-
quently there would be some authority
for assigning it a specific date ; on this
point, however, the coins of that period,
by which alone our judgment must be
guided, supply but scanty and imperfect
information. The symbol of the cross
was adopted by the Saxon kings, to de-
clare their profession of Christianity ;
hence it is probable that, in the first in-
stance, they would merely use a plain
cross ; and afterwards, when it had come
into common use, marks of different kinds
were added by way of distinction. This
opinion is in some degree supported by a
reference to the Saxon coins which have
been preserved to the present time ; from
them it appears that, as far as Mercia is
concerned, pellats were first introduced
into the cross, the symbol of its kings,
when they became tributary to the kings


of the West Saxons : the first coin bearing
that distinctive mark, is one of Wiglaf,
who began his reign A.D. 825 ; and Berh-
tulf, who succeeded to the government A.D.
838, continued to use it. These symbols
then would lead us to suppose that, if Mel-
bourne Church was built under some king
of Mercia, the period of its erection must
have been subsequent to the conclusion of
the Heptarchy.

The irruption of the Danes, and the dis-
turbed state of the country consequent upon
it, is another argument against the opinion
entertained by some, that this church was
built before the ninth century. In the year
874, these invaders made their way to Rep-
ton, at which place they spent the winter,
destroying all around them, and especially
religious buildings, amongst which was the
celebrated priory at Repton, the crypt of
which still remains. Now Melbourne

D 2


church, being at a distance of only seven
miles from Repton, could not have re-
mained unknown to the Danes, and would
never, had the present building then ex-
isted, have been allowed to escape the
destruction with which all others were

Although, therefore, it is allowed that
churches were built of stone long before
the time now spoken of, yet the circum-
stances which have been noticed are strong
evidence that the date of the building of
Melbourne church must have been after
the ninth century, and probably some
little time before the Norman conquest.
It is indeed the opinion of several antiqua-
rians, that the style of the building points
to a period somewhat later than this ; but
the date here assigned cannot be far from
correct, because we find one part of the
fabric undergoing repair in less than two


hundred years from this time. The south
arcade is in character entirely different
from the rest of the building, and evidently
inserted after the whole had been com-
pleted ; probably at the time the church
was granted to the bishop of Carlisle, when
it appears to have been thoroughly re-
paired. This event took place A.D. 1269,
in which year we learn that " Henry III
granted to God, and the church of the
Blessed Mary at Carlisle, and to Walter,
then bishop of Carlisle, and his successors,
and to the priors and canons of Carlisle in
the said church and their successors, the
parsonage of Melbourne, with the rights,
lands, and appurtenances."

It has been already mentioned that the
first Christian churches were built after
the plan of the Basilicse, and distinguished
by the same name. The emperor Con-
stantine is recorded to have given his own


palace on the Coelian mount for the site of
a basilica, to be devoted to the spreading
of that faith which he had embraced. He
also built the basilica of the Vatican (which
was removed by Leo X, to make way for
St. Peter's), and that of St. Paul, which
still exists, although in a ruinous state.
This latter consisted of a nave and two
side aisles ; the rectangular body of the
church being divided by two rows of twenty
columns each ; but in order to support the
roof of the side aisles, there were two other
rows of twenty smaller columns. It was
entered by an open portico ; and directly
opposite, in the middle of the transept, was
a semicircular apsis.

Melbourne Church, although of much
smaller dimensions, is built upon a similar
plan. Under a noble arch at the west end,
we gain admission to the portico, which is
about fifteen feet wide, and extends the








whole breadth of the church ; it is covered
by a groined arch, over which there have
originally been chambers, but it is doubt-
ful to what purpose they were appropri-
ated : and the extremities were surmounted
by two small towers ; the spiral staircase
leading up to that on the south is still
open, but the other has been built up for
many years. From the portico there are
three entrances into the body of the
church, the centre one being nearly equal
to the width of the nave ; and immediately
adjoining the south side of this arch stands
the font, a hemisphere of stone, supported
on a cluster of four pillars, through which
there is an aperture to carry off the water ;
it is lined with beaten lead, and is doubt-
less of high antiquity. The body of the
church is divided into a nave and side
aisles by two rows of massive pillars, con-
nected by arches of the horse-shoe form,


and enriched towards the nave by zig-zag
mouldings. Above these arches are the
arcades, which, however, are different from
each other : the northern one is of the same
style as the rest of the building ; but with
the exception of one small arch, that on the
south is of much later date : the style in
which it is built, was first introduced about
the end of the reign of Stephen, but the
workmanship of the pillars, by which each
pair of arches is separated, strengthens the
opinion that this arcade was not completed
till the middle of the thirteenth century,
the period at which we have already stated
the church was granted to the bishop of

The principal tower is situated over the
intersection of the nave and the transept,
and contained originally a beautiful lantern,
intended to throw light upon the grand
altar ; it consisted of three tiers of arches,




and was covered by a groined roof. Be-
yond the transept is the bema, or chancel ;
this, as we have noticed, was built in a
semi-circular form ; and on each side of
it, but not extending so far to the east, was
a similar recess or apsis, by which the side
aisles were terminated.

Such, in all its main points, was the ori-
ginal of Melbourne Church, a work of
great beauty, whether considered as a
whole, or in the parts of which it was com-
posed. And although some of its beauties
are impaired, yet much still remains by
which its original character can be ascer-
tained. The interior of the building is
nearly perfect, and even the external alte-
rations which have from time to time been
made, have left much worthy of admiration.
The first alteration in the original plan of
the building appears to have been the south
arcade already spoken of; and next to


this, probably about the end of the reign
of Henry VII, the circular ends of the side
aisles seem to have fallen to decay, and the
arch which divided the apsis from the
transept was filled up with a rough wall,
in which windows were inserted, evidently
taken from some other building, since they
differ from each other, both in style and in
the material of which they are made : but
from those projecting stones, which were
used to support the books at the time of
divine service, being found by the side of
both, it is clear that they were inserted
before the time of the Reformation.

At a still later period, the side walls
were raised, and the original sloping roof
replaced by a flat one, covered with lead :
this alteration allowed the insertion of
larger windows than those in the -original
building. The upper part of the tower
appears to have been rebuilt at the same


time ; and, together with the beautiful
lantern in it, converted into a belfrey ; the
bells having up to that period been hung
in one of the small towers at the west end.
This change was probably made about the
beginning of the seventeenth century : one
small bell was cast in 1610, another in
1614, and a third in 1632. The great bell,
after having been cracked and useless for
many years, was recast in 1732.

By order of her majesty Queen Eliza-
beth, a survey of the manor was made in
the year 1602, by Thomas Fanshaw, then
auditor of the Duchy of Lancaster ; and in
the background of a sketch appended to
that survey, is a representation of the tower
of this church, not in its present state, but
with the original circular arched windows.
The changes, therefore, to which reference
has been, made, could not have been till
after this time ; and the casting of the small


bell gives us a date when the work may be
inferred either to have been completed, or
at least to have been in progress. The
steep roof was left, however, for another
century, upon the nave and chancel ; the
former was covered with lead in 1711, and
probably at the same time the circular end
of the chancel was destroyed, and rebuilt
in a style entirely different from the rest of
the building. This change is much to be
regretted ; if the original chancel, with its
circular end, had been restored (which
might have been done without much addi-
tional expense), one of the characteristic
features of our ancient churches would
have been preserved, which is now almost
forgotten. It is clear that at various times
considerable sums have been expended
upon this church, but they do not seem to
have been directed by any wish to pre-
serve the beauty of the building, although


that beauty could in no way interfere with
its internal arrangements.

Melbourne Church, although in so good
a state of preservation, is comparatively
but little known ; and probably, from its
situation, it has escaped the notice of early
historians. A church was in existence at
Melbourne at the time of the Conquest,
for we read, " ibi presbyter et ecclesia,"
" there there is a priest and a church ;" and
this church was very probably the one now
standing. After this, it is only mentioned
as having been granted by different sove-
reigns to various ecclesiastics, one of
whom, Simon de Melburn, Clerk, founded
a chantry dedicated to St. Katherine within
the church. The place where this chantry
priest officiated, appears to have been in
the semicircular recess which terminated
the south aisle of the church. Subse-
quently, there was another chantry founded


by the heirs of Leigh Hunt, the priest offi-
ating in the north apsis. Both of these
priests had residences provided for them,
and one was richly endowed. Melbourne
was indeed at one time a place of consider-
able importance, and possessed a castle to
which Henry V is said to have retired
occasionally, to enjoy the pastime of hunt-
ing. This castle is supposed to have been
built by Henry, Earl of Lancaster and
Derby, son of Earl Edmund, in the year
1328. The character of the building, as
it appears in the sketch made in the time
of Queen Elizabeth, and which has been
already alluded to, agrees with the style
of building prevalent at that period ; and
indeed there seems no reason for supposing
it to have been erected earlier. It appears
to have been a place of considerable
strength, and doubtless bore its part in the
various struggles of the times. Within its


walls, John, Duke of Bourbon, who was
taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt,
was confined by order of Henry V, and
kept there nineteen years, in custody of
Nicholas Montgomery the younger. His
treatment, according to tradition, was very
severe; he was kept in the dungeons of
the castle, and barely supplied with suffi-
cient food to preserve him in existence.

Some years ago, these subterranean
apartments were opened and partially exa-
mined ; they were found to be of consider-
able extent, and of superior workmanship ;
but no discovery was made of any import-
ance, nor from which any information
could be gleaned with regard to the castle,
except only as to the time of its complete
destruction. This event probably took
place about the period of the Great Re-
bellion ; for on the stairs leading down to
these subterranean apartments, there were


found coins bearing a date immediately
prior to that event.* The destruction of
this castle is assigned by tradition to the
troops of Cromwell ; but it is scarcely to
be supposed that a place in such a dilapi-
dated state as this must have been at that
period, could have offered any reason for
a visit from Cromwell himself. This des-
truction, however, may have been the work

* An opinion is very prevalent that there is a subterranean
passage from the castle to the church ; and it has even been
reported that this passage has been broken into in different
places. But when these accounts have been traced to their
source, it appears that there is no ground whatever for such
a supposition. The one extremity which was said to have
been opened, was the subterranean apartment of the castle.
The other was a small entrance door into the cellar of the
chantry house, the use of which has never been explained,
but it certainly had no connexion with any passage, a yard
from its entrance. And the place where it was supposed to
have been broken into between these extreme points, proves
to have been no passage at all, but simply an oblong kind of
trough, with a sink -hole at one end, from which it would
seem that it was intended to contain water perhaps it was a


of some of his followers : Sir John Gell, at
Derby, raised a regiment of foot, and was
very active in behalf of the Parliament ;
and as there were influential royalist fami-
lies both at Melbourne and King's New-
ton, it is not unlikely that some steps may
have been taken by them to put the old
castle in a state of defence, which may
have brought down upon it the anger of
some of these vigilant servants of the Par-
liament. It is true that it was at this
period private property ; for in the year
1604 it was conveyed by James I, by
grant under the seal of the Duchy of Lan-
caster, to Charles, Earl of Nottingham,
who sold it soon afterwards to Henry, Earl
of Huntingdon, by whom it was suffered to
fall to decay. It is not, therefore, to be
supposed that Melbourne Castle under-
went a regular siege, though its ruin may
have been hastened by some indiscretion


of the royalists, bringing against it the local
forces of the opposite party.

From the time of its erection until it was
conveyed away from the Duchy of Lan-
caster by king James, we meet but seldom
with any account of persons connected with
it. Some few are named as having been
governors of the Castle, but little more is
said respecting them. At the south extre-
mity of the transept of the church, in that
part which was used as the chantry of St.
Katherine, lies the figure of a warrior in
complete armour, who has been supposed
to have been connected with the castle.
This, however, is uncertain : from the arms
which are carved upon his shield, it is con-
jectured that he was of the Hardinge
family, of which that part of the church
is the private burial-place.

The Hardinges seem to have been from
a very early period resident at the hamlet


of King's Newton, in the parish of Mel-
bourne. Originally they were from Den-
mark, and a branch of the royal family of
that kingdom. The first who was resident
in England was Robert, the son of Har-
dinge, an alderman of Bristol, who appears
to have been a personal friend of Henry II,
and by his favour a marriage was made
between Maurice, Robert's son, and the
daughter of the Lord de Berkley, from
which marriage the barons of Berkley are

It is sometimes imagined, but perhaps
without sufficient grounds, that the posi-
tion of the sword in ancient sepulchral mo-
numents was intended to record the nature
of the death of the person represented.
Thus, if a sword was found naked, and
laid upon the body with the point upwards,
the party to which the deceased was at-
tached had been victorious in the battle in


which he lost his life ; but if his party had
been defeated, the sword was sheathed,
and placed by his side.

Assuming this idea not to be without
foundation, it would lead us to infer that
the knight to whose memory this monu-
ment was raised, died in battle on the losing
side. This, however, does not assist us to
determine who he was, as there is no men-
tion in history of any of the family of the
Hardinges, to which we presume this knight
belonged, dying in battle about that period,
except only Maurice, Lord de Berkley,
who fell at the battle of Bannockburn, and
whose corpse, if brought into England,
would most probably have been carried
forward to the chief seat of the family,
near Bristol.

After the time of Charles I, the destruc-
tion of the Castle was complete : the mate-
rials were removed and applied to other


purposes, until at length all that remains
of this once extensive building is a few
yards of what appears to have been its
outer wall, and from which no idea can be
formed respecting it.

Next to the mailed warrior already men-
tioned, the most curious monument in the
church is that of Sir Robert Hardinge, a
distinguished royalist in the time of the
Commonwealth. He had the honour to
entertain at King's Newton Hall his unfor-
tunate sovereign Charles II, and probably
during the time of his troubles, for he left
some lines written upon a pane of glass in
the room which he occupied. It was signed
Cras ero lux, " to-morrow I shall shine,"
clearly pointing to a hope of better times,
and these words, when transposed, form
Carolus Rex. This pane of glass was
sedulously preserved for a long time ; but
unfortunately, some years ago, it was either


accidentally destroyed, or surreptitiously

At this time, Sir John Coke, the mater-
nal ancestor of Lord Viscount Melbourne,
was lessee of the rectory under the bishop
of Carlisle, and resided in the rectory-
house, on the site of which Melbourne Hall
now stands. The hall was built by his
grandson, Sir Thomas Coke, chamberlain
to Queen Anne, the rectory-house and
rectorial tithes having been conveyed to
him in fee-farm, by an agreement (con-
firmed by Act of Parliament in 1704) be-
tween the then bishop of Carlisle and him-
self. At the same time he caused a consi-
derable quantity of ground adjoining the
Hall to be laid out and planted as a gar-
den, which now, from its peculiar style
and the care bestowed upon it, is scarcely
to be surpassed for beauty by anything of
the kind in the kingdom.


The natural features of the situation,
the antiquity of the church, and the beauty
of the gardens, which the kindness of Lord
Melbourne opens to the passing stranger,
render a visit to this place well worth the
attention of the antiquary and tourist.




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Online LibraryJoseph DeansMelbourne Church → online text (page 2 of 2)