MELBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE

The Norman church of St. Michael and St. Mary

Grid Ref: SK 389 250
27 April 2003

 

South door spacer View from the north
View from the East towards the South Door      View from the North   
Nave   From the South West
The Nave   View from the South West
Gallery   North Door
The West Gallery   The North Door
Inside the crossing   Font
The inside of the tower from the crossing   The 13th century font

 

The church of St. Michael and St. Mary at Melbourne is one of the finest Norman churches surviving. It was built in the first half of the 12th century. There are two theories as to why a modest settlement like Melbourne should have such a large and magnificent church. It may have been built by Henry I as this was a royal estate until the early 17th century. The church is on a very large scale for a parish church of the period. Among the unusual features are the West Gallery and the walkway around the clerestory to the crossing beneath the tower linking to an upper storey in the chancel. This upper level has been used as evidence that the church may have been built for Henry I with the upper level for his private use. Henry I died in 1135.

Another idea is that it was built by the Bishops of Carlisle who stayed in the area in times of raids across the Scottish border. Henry I founded the diocese of Carlisle in 1133 and gave the church at Melbourne to Adelulf the first bishop of Carlisle. However, the Scots captured Carlisle in 1136 and Aedulf is thought to have been in Melbourne from 1136 to his death in 1156. Thereafter the bishopric of Carlisle was not filled for a time but in 1224 Walter Mauclerc was appointed and he organised the rebuilding of the south clerestory which had fallen into disrepair. The connection with Carlisle continued until 1870 when Lichfield became the patron. In 1927 the new Diocese of Derby became the patron of Melbourne.

The current roof of the aisles and nave together with the aisle windows are a result of restoration work in the 1630s. Sir George Gilbert Scott, was responsible for restoration work in 1859 to 1862. He was responsible for the destruction of many ancient features in churches around England when he undertook modernisations, sweeping away tombs and effigies. He may be responsible for the fact that their are relatively few monuments within the church. The church formerly had three apses at the east end and a two storey chancel, now substantially modified.

Near the church is Melbourne Hall which was built originally by the Bishops of Carlisle. It was rebuilt in a Georgian style by Thomas Coke and his son, George in the period 1726 to 1727 and 1742 to 1745. The Coke family first came to Melbourne when Sir John Coke, Secretary of State to Charles I moved to the area. The gardens of the Hall were designed in 1704.

The first Lord Melbourne was Sir Penistone Lamb, who took the title when he was created a Viscount in 1781. He was succeeded by his second son, William in 1828. William was a member of parliament and after being Home Secretary he became Prime Minister in 1835. He was Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister and it is from him that Melbourne in Australia is named. As a result the flags of Australia and Melbourne hang in the north aisle of the church. Lord Melbourne was married to Lady Caroline Lamb, who gained notoriety in the early 19th century for her affair with Lord Byron.

The town has many other building of historic interest and there is a guide to the village that can be purchased in the church. In addition to Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, Melbourne also gave rise Thomas Cook, the founder of modern tourism, who first organised rail excursions in the 1840s. His business expanded rapidly after 1851, when he organised rail excursions from towns in the Midlands to the Great Exhibition in London. Thomas Cook was born in Melbourne in 1808. There was also a castle in Melbourne but only a few foundations remain.

Sources:

Melbourne, a Tour of the Town, published in 1995 by Melbourne Parish Council, Melbourne Civic Society and Melbourne Business Association with the support of Melbourne Branches of the National Westminster and Midland Banks, illustrated by Helen Vamplew with text and map by Philip Heath.

Melbourne Parish Church, by the Reverend Frederick Ross, with photographs by Arthur Pickett, a booklet available in the church. It has a series of excellent colour photographs.

 

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