Monday, March 18, 2013
Old and Eccentric Churches: 1. St. Mary, Mappleton
One of the most fascinating of the post-Wren English Church architects is James Gibbs, who was a pupil of Wren. By far his most well-known Church is St. Martin-in-The-Fields, London. Probably his most obscure Church is the one that we are going to consider - St. Mary's, Mappleton, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, probably built at some time between 1710 and 1750.
Not much is known about what Gibbs had to work with at Mappleton, though it is known that there had been a previous building on the site since at least the reign of Edward. What this building was like is quite unknown, but the outline of Gibbs' Church is a very traditional English Church, a rectangular nave/chancel and a square tower. Does it reflect the form of the Medieval building? While his London Churches all include a steeple incorporated within the structure of the Church, at Mappleton the tower is a separate structural component, though it is still the location of the front door.
The font, which not original, is of a size appropriate to the building. Quite probably the Georgian rector (who was always the Vicar of Ashbourne as well) would have conduced his baptisms using a silver bowl on the communion table. A later Victorian rector is responsible for this miniature font with its incongruent Gothic detailing and Minton tile floor. Since 1974 Mappleton has been part of the United Benefice of Ashbourne. It is still a well-loved and used village Church, open at all reasonable times and very much worth a visit, if only to see a "Wrenaissance" village Church.