This is Derby Cathedral. In the seventeenth century, before it was a cathedral, it was known as All Saints, Derby. It is a beautiful building, but the only part of today’s structure contemporaries would recognise is the tower, built in the fifteenth century in the Perpendicular Gothic style. All the rest of the church dates to the early eighteenth century.
I have been doing some digging about the history of All Saints in the early seventeenth century in recent weeks. I am trying to trace the early years of someone who grew up in the parish in the 1610s and 1620s, and establish what I can about the religious influences he might have absorbed during his childhood and teens. The parish records for All Saints not only survive but are also fairly full, and while I haven’t yet had a chance to get up to Derby Records Office to look through them, I have been ploughing through J. Charles Cox’s nineteenth century history of the church, in which a number of the parish’s records are calendared.
The vicar in the 1610s was Richard Kilbie or Kilby, who had been appointed in 1609. After education at Oxford and Cambridge, Kilby had started out his career as a schoolmaster in Kent, and had then been seduced by Catholicism and entered a seminary, before seeing the light and returning as a born-again Protestant. In 1610, he wrote in the parish register:
I see no reason why a register for English people should be written in Latine.
Just before coming to Derby, he published anonymously The burthen of a loaden conscience (1608). A kind of spiritual autobiography, it was structured around the Ten Commandments, with each commandment prompting a self-critical reflection about Kilby’s life and the crisis of faith he had experienced after being ordained. It was clearly popular, running to twelve editions.
In 1612 Kilby began to suffer greatly from the stone, which caused him great pain. This prompted a further spiritual crisis, which he wrote about in a sequel, Hallelu-iah: praise yee the Lord, for the unburthening of a loaden conscience (1614). He was often too sick to preach, and used short sermons and catechisms instead. He thought that anything over three-quarters of an hour was stretching the abilities of the typical lay congregation. This may also have been influenced by his own childhood experiences of religion:
I was a little taught outward religion. That is, to say the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed by rote, to go to church upon Sabbath days and hear service, yea and, after I could read, to answer the minister in the saying of Psalms etc.
Kilby died in 1617, leaving all his estate to All Saints and the poor of the parish, and John Chappell was appointed in his stead. He was a rather different clergyman to Kilby: brother of William Chappell, whom Laud would later appoint as Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and linked to a number of anti-Calvinists such as Richard Sterne, Laud’s chaplain from 1633. One wonders what the All Saints congregation would have made of this undoubtedly rather abrupt change in the confessional outlook of their vicar.
Chappell didn’t stay for long, and was replaced in 1621 by Gervase Hall. Hall soon began to make changes to the fabric of the church. In 1620, the account books record this entry:
Paid for making our minister Mr Halle a seate in the deske that he might keepe his place there without such molestation as some tymes formerlie chanced. 3s. 4d.
It’s not clear what this ‘molestation’ might have been, but it implies Hall may have had anti-Calvinist tendencies: wanting to shut himself and the altar table off from the laity by providing a sanctuary focused on the eucharist.
In 1625, the pulpit was also renewed, with accoutrements that again make one suspect an anti-Calvinist influence:
1625. Item to George Tomlinson for stoneworke under ye pulpitt. 4s. 6d.
1625. Item to John Davenport for the pulpitt. £5 0s. 0d.
1625. Item for painting ye service seat [Hall's reading desk]. 1s. 6d.
1627. Item paied Wm Bold for fitting the Pulpitt Cloth. 2s. 0.
1630. Item for a high Hassocke for the minister to kneele on. 6d.
Under Chappell, then Hall, it seems that All Saints was being taken in a Laudian direction. This was consolidated in the 1630s when Edward Williamot took over. In 1632 Williamot noted the poor condition of his surplices in an inventory of the church’s assets:
2 serpleses a better & a worsse.
This entry in the accounts is also particularly striking:
1635. Rail erected around altar. £2 6s. 8d. to Mr Aderly.
This implies not just that rails were fitted, but that the moveable communion table had been relocated permanently to the east end of the church.
Not everyone in the parish seems to have been thrilled about this change in direction. In late 1641, as Parliament rushed to undo the changes that had happened under Laud, this entry appears regarding Henry Fisher, who had in 1636 been one of Derby’s two bailiffs and was in 1641 one of the two elected church wardens. In other words, he is likely to have a highly respectable, middling-sort member of the community:
It is this daie ordered that Henry Fisher shall for his takeinge awaie two serplisses from the pishe church of All Sts in Derby yt the minister of the said pishe of All Sts in Derby be hereafter enjoyned to weere a serples whereby the pishe shalbe enjoyned to buy a serplis that then he the said Henry Fisher is to buy one good fit & Competent serplis for the use of the said pishe. And if the said pishe shall not be compelled to buy a serplis before Easter next that then he the said Henry Fisher shall paie to the then Churchwardens to the use of the pishe soe much for the bindinge some poor pson of the said pishe as apprentice as the pishioners at the nexte pishe meetinge after Easter sundaie next will sett downe and that if he the said Henry will not assent to this order then the Churchwardens shall take such legal course according to the former order as Mr Recorder shall direct.
Fisher was not the only one to reverse what they saw as Laudian damage, if this entry from after the Restoration is anything to go by:
September 30th, 1662: Ordered that the Churchwardens doe give notice to all Impropriators of the Rectorie of All Sts that they repaire the Chancell of the same Church before the putting in of theire psent’t otherwise that they psent the Impropriators And likewise that they demand of Edward Daft & William Chamberlin the Railes latelie belongeing to the Communion Table, & also the Railes lately belongeing to the font of William Moore, & the late Surplices of Henry Fisher, & the late font of Mr Tho Burne.
It seems likely the church went in a more puritan direction after Fisher removed the surplices. A Directory of Public Worship was purchased in 1646, and the year after that the old medieval font was removed and replaced with an alabaster basin, as the directory required. It may just be that Derby’s political elite, or a faction of them, tended in a more puritan direction than Hall and Williamot. One of Henry Fisher’s fellow civic office holders was Luke Whittington. A man of that name, presumably either him or his father, had been executor of Richard Kilby’s will and had served as a church warden under him.
Either way, the swing back to puritanism might explain this entry in the account book:
1643. Samuel Houghton for removinge a strompett was at Thom Holmes house, 3s.
Unfortunately I don’t know who either Thomas Holmes or the strompett were.
Picture by Jonathan Gill, used under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license.