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Last Day of Dissertation as Tourism

Finding an Open Church

So the only tomb of a Findern family member is at a church in Swarkeston. However, that church is now so small that it shares a priest with three other churches and only has services once a month when the priest gets around in the rotation to them. So my brilliant plan to get into the church by simply attending services on Sunday was dashed to the ground. Thankfully, the church in Findern only shares with one other congregation and we happened to hit one of their "on" Sundays. So Sunday morning we set off for the Findern manuscript's namesake village.

The original village green in Findern that faces the church is tiny. What we would call a "good-sized" backyard in Oklahoma or Indiana. A bit down from it was a road called, "Castle Hill." That road sign is all that is left of the old Findern manor, which was once a multi-turreted and gabled structure. (Well, you know, a stone manor house in a small village becomes a castle in the parlance of the village.) The medieval Findern chapel was completely obliterated in the 1800s when the Anglican church was trying to revitalize itself. Doubtless you are thinking the same thing that we were, "Why on earth would the Anglican church start gutting and tearing down medieval churches— only to build back Victorian gothic churches in their place?"

Dissenters in Findern

Well, here's the deal. In 1662 England passed a restrictive law meant to curb the rising tide of nonconformists (also called dissenters). These are the people that eventually founded the Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, etc. So the act boots out of the priesthood any priest that will not swear to the statutes of the Anglican church. It also prevents them from holding many kinds of jobs within five miles of any incorporated city. Now here's where we come to Findern. The little village of Findern is just a bit over five miles from Derby. So guess where a gob of the dissenters went? (There is still a very large Methodist church in Findern.) And that was pretty par for the course in England. By the 1850s, the nonconformists were about half the population, despite the fact that the Church of England (the Anglican church) was the state religion.

So throughout the 1800s, the Church of England kept trying to update itself. One of the ways it did this was to go on a church building spree. So lots of little communities that hadn't had a church, got one. And places that had kind of tatty run-down medieval churches (like Findern) got funds to build something new. Antiquarians (like William Morris) threw a fit and eventually laws were passed to prevent the old churches from being destroyed. However, not before they had gotten to Findern.

Matriarchs at All Saints Church in Findern

So the church is a Victorian gothic revival church. The congregation the day that we were there was about twelve people. Since Shelly, Erin, and I constituted a 25% attendance increase, everyone instantly noticed us and welcomed us warmly. I asked the priest quiety for directions to the restroom, and she rousted a vestry person out of a pew to take me across to the little building where they have flush toilets. They just waited the service on me till I got back. The man who took me across said that they were saving money to try to get plumbing inside the church, but there were always more pressing things.

The service had a lot of elements that you'd see in nondenominational churches here in the U.S.— we sang praise songs reading the lyrics off of an overhead projector, there were a few parishners who raised their hands, there was a lot of emphasis on the body of Christ. (Well, alright, most of that is also similar to medieval Franciscan practices— but that's a blog for another day.) The sermon was very heartfelt and as Shelly commented later, you could really tell that they cared a lot for each other. They are a close-knit little community.

The priest had evidently been thinking about the fact that I was in Derbyshire to learn about the local families in the fifteenth-century, because immediately after the service, she caught me by the arm and steered me towards an older woman that she thought might know a bit. That person took me to Dorothy, who was standing ready to leave the church with her granddaughter. After listening for a moment, this matriarch said, "You want to talk to John Hawkins. You follow me in your car and I'll take you to his house and tell him that he needs to talk to you." And that's exactly what she did. John came out of his house and made arrangements to meet with me that afternoon, and gave us directions to the Littleover Lodge for lunch, as Findern is too small to have its own pub.

Manors and Lands

The Finderns, in their hey-day, owned manors and lands all over— Findern, Potlock (the nicest and the one they lived at), Repton, etc. When the male line of the Derbyshire Finderns failed in the sixteenth century, the lands went to kind of a ne'r do well Findern from another county. But there was a female Findern who had been overlooked (as was often the case, as any reader of Jane Austen can tell you.) Jane Findern did not inherit the lands but her son, John Harpur, eventually managed to buy all the old Findern holdings. Jane's husband, Richard, a wealthy judge, built a manor house in Littleover, and the house is still standing. So after a scrumptious Sunday roast at the Littleover Lodge, we went in search of it. I had only dodgey directions from a website describing the sights in Littleover. We finally found the manor, which the townspeople call "The Old Hall," (now made over into the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service office). I darted out in the rain to take pictures of it from all sides. Doubtless parts of it were added later, but it's really an impressive manor, and still has a substantial garden and park behind it. (Posh Firemen in Derbyshire!)

Tea and Kindness

So Erin and Shelly dropped me off at John's house (even faithful friends are not obliged to listen to two hours worth of Findern lore). He had printed out things for me, told me all sorts of tidbits that I didn't know, and I shared my bits of trivia with him as well. Ann, John's wife, made tea and cake for me. While John was printing things out, she talked a bit to me about where I'd been and where else we were going. Discovering that I wanted in the Swarkestone church, but that it wasn't open, she spent the next two hours calling around to find someone with a church key.

As John and I were saying goodbye, Ann said, "No, no. John, you are going to take Cindy in our car and drive over to Swarkestone, and I will come with Erin and Shelly to make sure they don't get lost. Barbara Foster is going to meet us there with a church key." And that is how I came to have pictures of the power plant where the Findern's farm at Potlock had been, and pictures of the effigy of Jane Findern, the last of the Derbyshire Finderns.

It turns out that Barbara had written an article about Jane Findern's grave and inheritance that I'd read just the week before. (If you missed it, I told the story of Jane and her ne'r do well cousin's battle for the inheritance here.) Erin went wandering around the churchyard, and Barbara's husband, Keith, looked pitiyingly at Shelly, knowing that Barbara, John, and I were going to stand about talking shop. So he took her outside and pointed out particular gravestones. (She was very taken by one that had the statue of an angel.)

So Barbara and John held a rickety folding chair for me, while I climbed on it to take pictures of the impressive effigies of Jane and her husband Richard Harpur, and their son and his wife. As you'll see in the pics, Jane and Richard are carved in a stylized way, while John (their son) and his wife are carved much more realistically. Once again, these gentry graves are surrounded by heraldry. Making known their family lineage is obviously very important to them.

A very "me" story really. I meet new people and find them kindly going out of their way to help me to whatever I am looking for. This is somethng I appear to have inherited from my father, a man who in his later years was comfortable asking and receiving help with whatever was at hand— and always made new friends as he was doing it. On the drive home to Breadsall, the three of us talked about what a good day it had been and how much we had enjoyed being in Derbyshire.

Pretty Pics:

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version and enter a slideshow of the larger versions.

Findern Green
Findern Green
Findern's tiny little town square green.
Erin in Findern
Erin in Findern
All Saints Church in Findern
All Saints Church in Findern
This stands on the site of the medieval Findern Chapel, but the old church was replaced by this one in the 1800s as part of a push to modernize the Anglican Churches. They were evidently not competing well against the nonconformist churches. (And indeed, the Methodist church is still the "big" church in town.)
Cindy in a shawl
Cindy in a shawl
It was a cold rainy day, so I've got on a shawl despite it being July.
Inside All Saints
Inside All Saints
The church only has around a dozen parishners. It has adopted a number of practices from the more evangelical churches, including singing praise songs that are projected from an overhead. The sign outside the church said that "messy church" had been held that Saturday before.
Isabella Findern's Grave cover
Isabella Findern's Grave cover
A few items from the medieval chapel have been placed in the "new" church. Isabella Findern's grave cover stone (the big slab to the right of the cross in the north transept), and a tympanum. The head from the effigy of a priest (possibly John de Fyndern, a vicar), which had been partially destroyed before the renovations is said to be buried under the chancel floor.
Lunch in Littleover
Lunch in Littleover
As a change in our culinary adventures-- this is a carvery. (Kind of a buffet with three big hunks of meat that one can ask for them to carve slices for you.)
Richard Harpur's Manor House in Littleover
Richard Harpur's Manor House in Littleover
Jane Fyndern's husband, Richard Harpur the judge, had this manor house built in the 16th century. It is currently the Derbyshire Fire Department headquarters.
Back of Richard Harpur's Manor
Back of Richard Harpur's Manor
No telling what parts of this are original and what parts are added, but it still has a beautiful garden attached to the back of the house.
The park behind Harpur's manor house
The park behind Harpur's manor house
Potlock's best farmland is now a coal power plant
Potlock's best farmland is now a coal power plant
The Fyndern's lands at Potlock are likely to have been near where the Willington Coal-fired power plant sits now.
St. James Church, Swarkestone
St. James Church, Swarkestone
Like many of the churches, this one has seen rennovations over the centuries.
John and Dorothy
John and Dorothy
John's back and Dorothy near the chair I stood on to take pics.
Cindy taling to John and Dorothy
Cindy taling to John and Dorothy
This is really good of Shelly to have snapped a pic of me, as by this point the three of us were talking hard-core Findern geneaology. Shelly and Dorothy's husband, Keith, escaped to the graveyard soon after.
Image
Image
Jane Fynderne (d. 1597) and Richard Harpur (d. 1576/7)
Jane Fynderne (d. 1597) and Richard Harpur (d. 1576/7)
This is the last of the Derbyshire Fyndernes. Another branch of the Fynderne's inherited the lands, but the Harpur family bought them out— so ultimately, Jane's family ended up with the properties even though she did not inherit.
Jane and Richard
Jane and Richard
The carving of the clothing is quite detailed, but the facial features are not really. Richard is wearing his judge's regalia, and one of his rings is Jane's brother's ring (Thomas the last Derbyshire male Fynderne). Jane is in Elizabethan dress with a french cap.
Feet
Feet
One wonders if this could possibly be accurate that the linens would hold feet off the table. A brass shield with their heraldry halved is below them.
Harpur and Findern Heraldry
Harpur and Findern Heraldry
The rampant lion with an embattled border is the Harpur arms, the three crosses around a chevron are the Findern arms.
Closeup of Jane
Closeup of Jane
Her nose and fingers have suffered, but the rest is in good shape.
Richard the Judge
Richard the Judge
Close up of his judge's "kit." The wings on the side of his heads are upturned material on his cap—not his ears.
Sir John Harpur (d. 1622) and Isabella Pierrepoint
Sir John Harpur (d. 1622) and Isabella Pierrepoint
John is the son and heir of Richard and Jane. These faces are much more lifelike— John's face even has a mole on his cheek.
Jacobean or Elizabethan?
Jacobean or Elizabethan?
To my amatuer eye, this dress looks Elizabethan, but it was likely carved in the late Jacobean era.
Isabella's skirt
Isabella's skirt
John's armor
John's armor
John's lower armor
John's lower armor
Their children
Their children
Their children are carved below them— seven boys and five girls. Each child's heraldry is above them.
Harpur Arms on John and Isabella's tomb
Harpur Arms on John and Isabella's tomb
Notice the Fynderne arms are still one of the eight shields.