LONGFORD, DERBYSHIRE

Grid Ref: SK 214 383
29 March & 5 October 2005

East end spacer St. Chad's
St. Chad's   The Tower
Sedilia   Nave
Triple Sedilia and Piscina   The Nave
Canopied Tomb   Arcade
Canopied tomb in South Wall   The North Arcade with Norman Arches
Effigies   Effigies
Medieval de Longford Effigies   Last of the de Longfords
St. Stephen's cross   Thomas Coke
Stephen's Cross   *Monument to Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester of Holkam
East window   Font
Details of East window   The Font has a Norman Bowl
Longford Hall   carving
Longford Hall   Choir stall decoration

 

Longford is the type of village I like to discover when out walking - far from motorways and airports, peaceful and steeped in history. It lies close to the footpath 'The Bonnie Prince Charlie Way' leading south from Ashbourne towards Swarkestone Bridge.

St. Chad's at Longford goes back at least to the time of the Domesday survey of 1085 but there are no Saxon remains in the church. It is dedicated to St. Chad, the Bishop of Lichfield in the 7th century. The present building was begun about 1100. Three pillars in the north arcade remain from this period. The bowl of the font is also Norman. Alterations took place in the 14th and 15th centuries with the widening of the aisles and the rebuilding of the south arcade with pointed arches. The tower is in the Perpendicular style (1350-1550). The church had chantry chapels at the end of the aisles, the one on the north side being for the Bentley family. This became the vestry in 1826. The south aisle chapel was for the de Longford family. In the chancel, in an arched recess on the north wall, is an effigy believed to represent John de Cressy the rector who resigned in 1338. Above are memorials to Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who died in 1842 and Anne, Countess of Leicester, who died in 1844.

Extensive restoration took place in 1846 with a new roof for the chancel. The mediaeval churchyard cross was restored in 1897.

The Stephen's cross head was found in 1957 near the Ostrich Inn. On one side it depicts Christ on the Cross and on the other the Virgin and Child. It has been dated to about 1300. Experts who have examined it state that it has some similarity in style to carvings from North East France and it may be significant that the Cistercian monks who founded Croxden Abbey came from that region in the 12th century. A similar cross has been found at Croxden.

The list of rectors and vicars goes back to the early 14th century. Longford is now part of a united benefice of eight parishes for which there is a website.

The Longford Effigies

These effigies have been damaged, possibly at the Reformation or during the Civl War and have been moved. The original alabaster tombs have been lost. The earliest of the effigies, is that of Sir Nicholas de Longford, who married Alice, daughter of Sir Roger Deincourt. It has been dated from the style of the armour to about 1350. A second figure, in a canopied tomb in the south wall is Nicholas the son of the earlier one, who died in 1404. He has a collar bearing the initials SS for Spiritus Sanctus, which one associates with pictures of Henry VII. He married Joan, the daughter of Sir Laurence Warren of Poynton in Cheshire. A third figure is of another Sir Nicholas, son of the above, who also has the SS collar and who died in 1416.

The effigies of a man and his wife are the last of the de Longfords who died in 1610 and 1620 respectively. They had no surviving children so the estate passed through his sister, who had married Humphrey Dethick, to the Coke family.

On studying my photographs, my notes on the effigies and the article in Derbyshire Parish Churches mentioned below, I conclude that the photograph shown in the latter book is of the effigy in the north wall of the chancel. Effigies always have their feet to the east except for priests. John Leonard's picture is therefore not of Sir Nicholas Longford but of the 14th century priest . Indeed his picture does not show a man in armour.  It is quite distinct from my picture above of a man in armour facing east in the south wall of the south chapel, whom I take to be the Sir Nicholas who died in 1404. This conclusion is supported by a picture on the church website of the effigy of John de Cressy in the chancel, which matches that in Derbyshire Parish Churches.

Longford Hall is a late medieval house, given a Georgian makeover in 1762. It was restored following a fire in 1942. Formerly the residence of the de Longford family it passed to the Cokes of Derbyshire. It is a grade II* listed building. Estate papers of the Longford family from the 12th -17th century are deposited at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

The Earldom of Leicester has been created six times. Robert Dudley (1540-1588), the favourite of Elizabeth I, was the 1st Earl of Leicester in its third creation. The fifth creation saw Thomas Coke (1703-1759) as 1st Earl of Leicester but the Earldom was dissolved on his death. He had no sons and the estate passed to his nephew, Wenman Roberts, who assumed the name of Coke but could not inherit the Earldom. George Townshend had the sixth creation from 1784. This title ran until the death of the 3rd Marquess Townshend in 1855. A separate Earldom of Leicester of Holkam was created in 1837 running alongside the Townshend title. It was created for Thomas Coke (6 May 1754- 30 June 1842). He was a the great nephew of the earlier Thomas Coke (i.e. the son of Wenman Roberts) and was famous as an agricultural reformer. He was a leading light in the agricultural revolution. Holkam Hall in Norfolk is now the residence of the 7th Earl of Leicester of Holkam.

The inscription the monument to the Earl of Leicester reads:

To the revered memory of
Thomas William Coke, Earl of Leicester
Born May vi Mdccliv died at Longford June xxx Mdcccxlii
His public conduct as representative for fifty seven years of the County of Norfolk
was conspicuous for its decision, disinterested zeal and unimpeachable integrity
Preeminent no less for his generosity as a landlord
than for his skill and enterprise as an agriculturalist:
he secured the deep affection of an attached and prosperous tenantry,
while by his exertion and influence, he extended in a most remarkable degree
the cultivation and rural management of the country.
In his domestic relations, he was most affectionate, kind and hospitable;
his charity was munificent, without ostentation,
and his piety, simple and unaffected, but warm and sincere.
This monument is erected
by persons of various classes and opinions connected with this County
as some record of an example so excellent and instructive.

 

*The image of Thomas Coke is free of copyright. I have had a request from Ken Vyhmeister of Walla Walla University for him to include it in a Wikipedia article on Longford Hall.

Sources:

Information cards in the church. One of which quotes from Historical Notes on Longford Parish and Church, by the Reverend Samuel Frost, 1926..
Derbyshire Parish Churches, by John Leonard, Breedon Books Publishing Company, Derby, 1993.
Websites shown in the text.

 

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