“ Address: Hope Valley / Derbyshire / Telephone: 01433 620485 „
The Church of St Edmunds can be found in the heart of the picturesque Peak District village of Castleton in Derbyshire.
I usually try and make a point of visiting Churches whilst I am in an area, not because I am a religious person, but because they are generally beautiful buildings that are steeped in history. St Edmund's is no exception to this rule and serves as an excellent place to learn about the history of this village.
The Church is located in the centre of the village bounded by Castle Street, Market Place, Back Street and Cross Street. It lies at the foothills of Peveril Castle, which overlooks Castleton and it is thought that it may have originally been a Garrison Church to the Castle. It is certainly of Norman origin and was built before the year 1200. The first named Vicar of St Edmunds dates from 1216.
Although a lot of the original building has long been demolished there are still some original features that remain including a broad Norman Chancel Arch.
The Church as we see it today was largely restored in 1837 and the dates on many of the stained glass windows are from around this date.
Walking into the Church the first thing that that struck me was that it was actually a lot smaller inside than I had imagined. From the outside it looks quite large but this is actually deceptive as both ends of the Church are blocked off, and out of bounds to the general public.
The ceiling has light oak coloured wooden beams around its perimeter whilst the plaster ceiling in the middle is a rather unusual turquoise blue/green colour.
Immediately to the left hand side of the entrance there is a small room called "The Gate". Whilst this room was locked during my recent visit it was possible to peer inside through the iron gate that acted as an entrance door.
I was unsure what current purpose "The Gate" now serves and to some extent it almost looked like it was being used as a storage cupboard.
Opposite "The Gate" there was a small area set aside that had various items on display that had been made by the village school children. There are also postcards and small gifts like key rings, each with price tags on them and a note asking for the money to be left at the box in the doorway. Since there was nobody else in the building during my visit this is obviously taken entirely on trust.
Walking down the aisle of the Church towards the alter I was fascinated to see row upon row of boxed pews. Most of the Churches that I have visited have had wooden pews but I do not recall seeing any that have been boxed in before. Each row of pews has a wooden gate or door on the end, which has a latch bolt on it to secure it shut. Maybe they were designed to stop the Parishioners from escaping midway through a Service!
These wooden gates on the end of each pew are carved with religious symbols and each one bears a 17th century date.
Along the walls of both sides of the building there are numerous gravestones in memory of local residents. These date mainly from the 1830's and 1840's and were presumably erected when the Church was renovated. During this time the original aisle was removed and replaced with a new one.
At the front of the building next to the alter there is a glass display cabinet that houses a breeches bible that dates from 1611.
At this end of the building there is another large room that is out of bounds to the general public. This is the Reverend's library and has a collection of valuable 16th, 17th and 18th century religious books.
Before leaving the Church I had a close look at the stained glass windows and noted that many of these also bear dates and they also have inscriptions on them in memory of prominent locals.
On Oak Apple Day, the 29th May the ancient ceremony of Garlanding takes place in Castleton and this Church plays an important part in this festival. A Garland of fresh flowers is paraded through the streets and then it is hoisted to the top of Saint Edmund's Church Tower, where it remains for a full week. This ceremony celebrates the Pagan rite for the ending of Winter, and also the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in 1660 after the rule by Oliver and Richard Cromwell.
St Edmunds is a lovely little Church and well worthy of a visit if you are in Castleton. I would suggest a visit here if you are in the area.
The church shows all styles of architecture and dates back to the 14th century.