Sunday, June 12, 2011

St John the Baptist, Mayfield, Staffordshire

The road from Blore to Mayfield said it was "gated" - no problem I thought, expecting one or two. There were six I think in total, including one painted "No through road" outside a farm. But each gate had a Staffordshire County sign, so I trusted the map and SatNav. The modern town of Mayfield is at the road junction by the bridge over the river into Ashbourne and Derbyshire. The church is away from the main road, and must have been quite isolated before the new houses were built round and about.

The church has a tall slim west tower dated 1515 and a lowish spreading nave and aisles with a lengthy chancel. Odd "pie-crust" crenellation to the chancel, Georgian according to the master. The outer porch door was locked, the first locked door of the entire weekend. No matter, keyholders were listed on the sign by the gate. No reply from the first nameless person, but a lady answered the second one. I explained my reason for ringing, and she said "Oh God, no!" and went to fetch her husband. I spoke to him, and his first words were the same as his wife's. A debate ensued in their house, and in the end he said he would come telling his wife he may as well walk the dog. Neither of them seemed very happy, so I waited  with some trepidation. Whilst I was waiting another group of people turned up who were preparing for a special service the following weekend to commemorate the crash of a plane close by in World War Two. They said they were expecting a different villager who also had the church key! We waited. My man turned up first, and actually was very enthusiastic about his church and showing it to visitors. His reluctance was down to the fact CW#1 was on holiday and he was in mid-lopping of his garden trees. I warmed to him and he also gave me the tower key and invited me to climb it if I wished. Of course this was a yes! Anyhow he unlocked the porch to reveal a Norman doorway and an odd porch interior with a stone roof supported on a broad semi-circular arch. He left me too it whilst he walked the dog, and also kindly gave me a copy of the church guidebook. Inside the church the south arcade is also late Norman with circular piers and stepped arches, but the similar later north arcade arches have a slight chamfer and stand now on quatrefoil shaped piers with different capitals; they look a medieval alteration but may date from the rebuilding and widening of the north aisle in 1854. The pews incorporate much C17 woodwork and there is a fine pulpit and panelling in the chancel of a similar date. However the most interesting feature is the Communion Rails, three sided with intricate carved decoration. On top the tower there was little to stop you going over the edge, the parapet being only six inches or so above the apex of the pitched leaded roof. Meantime in the churchyard below even more people had gathered, and I left quite a happy gathering including my CW and his dog.

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