TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 27th January 2003 (p9), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

TAKE A LOOK AT: PULPITS

The word pulpit comes from ‘pulpitum’, a raised gallery built above the rood screen in medieval churches on which might be placed a reading desk for the book of the Gospels.

In 1547 the English canons ordered that pulpits be set up in all churches and in 1603 firmly assigned their use to the delivery of the sermon thus:

"The churchwardens or Questmen, at the common charge of the Parishioners in every church, shall provide a comely and decent pulpit . . . to be there seemly kept for the preaching of God's word".

An early relevant reference comes from Haddon household accounts of 1617, when £1.18s.3d was spent on a profusely gilded new pulpit. Youlgreave churchwardens' accounts of 1668 contain:

Pd. to ye painter for coulering ye pulpit 0.11.6;  Pd. to ye joyners for altering ye pulpit 1.12.0;  bestowed in glew for ye canopye 0.0.4. The once fine pulpit cushion would have been showing signs of age by then, its cost had been detailed in 1621 as: three quarters of yellow serg for the pulpit quishen 2.6   seven yeards if fringe and fyfteen skeynes of silke for the sayde quishen 0.3.11  for making the sd quishen 0.0.5   fyve li. of flocke to stuff the sd quishen 0.2.0.

JACOBEAN OAK

Several fine Jacobean oak pulpits are to be found in the Peak. That at Eyam is sometimes referred to as Mompesson's pulpit, after the rector who preached from it during the plague. In the 19th century it was fitted with a candlestick to provide lighting for sermon notes.

Thomas Bocking was a vicar who took up arms in the Royalist cause during the Civil War and was accordingly listed afterwards as 'reputed scandalous' by the Parliamentary Commissioners. His name, with those of three churchwardens and the date 1652, is boldly inscribed on his former pulpit in Hope church.

Panels of Jacobean workmanship were rebuilt into a 19th century pulpit at Ashford church. The original was referred to in a 1632 document about seating arrangements - "under the Pulpitt is for the Ministers wife whomsover she is".

The superb example at Alstonefield has two decks - originally there were three - the lowest for use of the parish clerk who led the services. The pulpit is profusely carved and these words for the preacher on its upper panel: "It is required in Stewards that they be faithfull". On the front is the date 1637 and the names of three churchwardens.

TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP

Tiny Rowtor Chapel at Birchover is decorated with a profusion of delightful wood carvings. Two years of work transformed a dozen different woods into the remarkable pulpit, richly sculpted with figs, olives, vines, pomegranates and wild animals. It also bears an inscription: "The Noon Watch was kept in this church and parish 1939-45. Not one life was lost". The vicar added his personal thanksgiving for the safe return of his two soldier sons and a son-in-law. Elm taken from the vicarage garden supports the pulpit in the form of a strange half-human figure with wings and hooves, the combined likenesses of four creatures which appeared to the Prophet Ezekial in a vision.

Art nouveau hearts and flowers decorate an oak pulpit carved by Cecil Fabian for the hillside chapel of St. John the Baptist in Matlock. Like the late Victorian building itself all the furnishings followed the ideal of the Arts and Crafts movement in their beautiful design and traditional craftsmanship.

MARBLE AND STONE

In 1874 Richard Shaw designed a new pulpit for Longstone church. Supplied by Ashford Marble Works it is carved from polished alabaster and incorporates a column of the rare 'Duke's Red' marble beneath the book rest.

The Duke of Devonshire owned mining rights to this scarce stone - so naturally it was used, together with other marbles found on his estate, in the matching 19th century font and pulpit of Edensor Church.

Neighbouring Baslow also has a beautifully sculpted marble pulpit. Churchwardens' accounts of 1759 refer to a new pulpit, with a pulpit cloth and cushion of velvet and gold given by William Taylor of London, gentleman and Yeoman of the King's Guard.

Gritstone became another natural choice for pulpits, typically carved with symbols of the Passion, vines, fruit, ears of corn and foliage. On the book rest of the example in Matlock Bath church we see again words placed exclusively for the preacher: "Sir we would see Jesus".

The appropriately chosen "My Sheep hear my voice" is sculpted in to the interesting stone pulpit of the church of the Good Shepherd at Wardlow. This pulpit was copied in 1873 from an old example in an unidentified church. It is built, unusually, against the south wall and reached by a stone turret staircase; a style believed to be unique in the Peak.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 27th January 2003.

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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