ALSTONEFIELD

Grid Ref: SK 132 553
21 Feb 2004, 1 Nov 2005, 28 & 31 May 2017

 

Church
St. Peter's Alstonefield, in May 2017

 

Nave   Towards Belfry
Nave with Norman chancel arch   View from the nave towards the belfry
Pew   Organ
Close up of the front of the pulpit   The Organ
Pew doors   Font
Pew door decorations   The Font
tombstone   Pew
Rare tombstone from 1518   Cotton family pew
Saxon carving   pew
Saxon stone set into the porch   Seat near the north door
hall   Grocer's
Alstonefield Hall, 2017   Former Grocer's premise

 

Alstonefield is a village and civil parish in the Peak District National Park and the Staffordshire Moorlands district of Staffordshire, England about 10 miles (16 km) east of Leek. The parish had a population of 304 according to the 2011 census.

Pevnser describes Alstonefield Hall, dated 1587, as of irregular shape with mullioned windows. Arthur Mee, writing in 1937, states that the manor with its tall chimneys is now a farm bearing the initials of John Harpur, who built it in the year before the Armada (1588). There were then the remains, comprising a doorway and fragments of a wall of Beresford Hall, where Charles Cotton (1630-1687) lived, writing poems, translating Montaigne and entertaining Izaak Walton (1594-1683) the author of the Compleat Angler.

For those interested in country churches, Alstonfield is a delight with many interesting features spanning the centuries. Arthur Mee mentions that the church was described by Charles Cotton when he wrote the second part of Izaak's Compleat Angler. The chancel arch and south doorway are survivals from a 12th century church. The south aisle is 13th century and the south porch is 14th century. The chancel dates from the 14th century but was rebuilt in 1590 and again in the 19th century. The East wall and window are Victorian. The tower, the four-bay arcades, clerestory and arcades date from the 15th and 16th centuries. Broken pieces of Saxon stonework are exhibited in the church and three are incorporated into the fabric in the porch, tower and north aisle.

The two-decker pulpit dates from 1637. It can be seen in the view of the nave above and more detail is shown in the picture below, with the date 1637 visible at the right hand side. The carving on the ends of the box pews are in similar style and also date from the 1630s. In the south aisle is the Cotton family pew, painted green. Here Cotton would sit with Izaak Walton. From here they would walk back to Beresford Dale where Cotton would entertain such luminaries as the playwright Ben Jonson (1572 – 1637), the poet Michael Drayton (1563 – 1631) and the author and diplomat Sir Henry Wotton (1568 – 1639) who wrote a biography of Walton. The latter was never happier than when staying with Cotton.

From Alstonefield one can walk along the banks of the river River Dove through a spectacular limestone gorge.  The path on the Derbyshire side of the river is suitable for all weathers and grades of walker.  There is also a path on the Staffordshire side but this much more demanding and parts may be impassable after heavy rain.  Charles Cotton wrote of it:

O my beloved nymph, fair Dove,
Princess of rivers, how I love
Upon thy flowery banks to lie.

Cotton and Walton spent many happy hours fishing in the River Dove. They were an odd couple for Walton was an old London linen-draper, while Cotton was an aristocrat nearly forty years his junior, a traveller, and a man versed in the classics. He wrote of their enjoyment of a simple life in the country:

How sweet are all things here!
How beautiful the field appear!
How cleanly do we feed and live!
Lord! what good hours do we keep,
How quietly we sleep.

In the village of Alstonefield there is a house as shown above that was once a grocers.  The plaque tells us that it was the premises of J. Hambleton, mercer and grocer, who dealt in coffee, tea, tobacco and snuff.

Sources:

The King's England, Staffordshire, by Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton, London, first published in 1937.
The Buildings of England, Staffordshire
, by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, 1974, ISBN 0 14 071046 9
The Old Parish Churches of Staffordshire, by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, 1996, ISBN 1871731 25 8
Wikipedia article on Alstonefield

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