ST CHADS

In 1876, Joseph Paget built a chapel dedicated to St Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield or Mercia as it was called in Anglo-Saxon England. His father and step-mother drowned at Filey in 1873 leaving Joseph the bulk of their estate that subsequently made him the senior partner in the William Hollins Company in Pleasley Vale. He also acquired his father's 400 acre Ruddington Grange Estate at Nottingham, which he sold to Sir Thomas Isaac Birkin, owner of the famous Birkin Lace Company sometime after 1882. Joseph Paget had become very wealthy, and decided that his household and the increasing population of mill workers in Pleasley Vale would benefit by having their own church built in the hamlet of Pleasley Vale. He built it in a lofty position, overlooking the Vale, on the Stuffynwood Estate, Derbyshire side of the river so that visitors from Mansfield Woodhouse could see it directly opposite as they approached on the Northfield road. (now a private road running alongside the modern St Chad's opposite the bridge) It was built of timber, painted white, modest in size but elegant and of handsome design built by Cox & Sons of the Strand London. The church was lit by gas light, connected from the adjoining lodge. Gas had been installed to the Estate and throughout the Vale in 1875. It is recorded that Mr Linney of Mansfield donated a powerful harmonium of excellent tone. Visitors to the church were able to gain access by a footpath from Littlewood in the east and Pleasley hamlet in the west both converging on the lodge and the carriage-drive from the south, from Mansfield Woodhouse. Visitors to the chapel were allowed to walk up the carriage-drive to a path that allowed an easy climb up to the church. The formal opening was on the 10th November 1876, conducted by the Bishop of Lichfield in the presence of a large congregation of local clergy, including the newly appointed Vicar of Shirebook, Dr Quilter of Oxford, who was to conduct an evening and morning service every Sunday.

In 1880, plans were being made for the wedding of Paget's daughter, Elsie, aged 18, to Hubert Hodson, Registrar of the Diocese of Litchfield, aged 32. The Pagets were planning to hold the service at St Chads to be conducted by the Rev. Abney, Dean of Derby, Joseph's father in Law. However, to their dismay, open dissatisfaction to this event was aired by the Rev. Dr. Quilter. In response to this, Joseph instructed that after the wedding, the church was to be taken down and rebuilt on the other side of the river, out of Derbyshire and the Diocese of Lichfield and into the Diocese of the Bishop of Lincoln, Nottinghamshire, where the Rev Webb of St Edmunds, Mansfield Woodhouse had expressed more liberal views. During this transition period, chapel services were conducted in Paget's large photographic room at the Hall. The church was rebuilt just over the river boundary, across the bridge, alongside the Northfield road from Mansfield Woodhouse, however, Joseph Paget decided to make it more 'churchly' than before by building around the timbers with brick & stone, adding a bell tower and replacing the harmonium with a pipe organ built by Lloyd & Co of Nottingham. The interior woodwork remained the same as before, a highly polished contrast of pitchpine and mahogany. The first service at the relocated St Chads was held on the 14th October 1881. It was a low key event attended by a few local clergy including the new Vicar of the church, Rev.Kirby, whom, according to records I have found, was salaried by Joseph Paget. He also built and provided a substantial living accomodation for him behind the church. After Joseph Paget's death in 1896, his will provided a trust containing a substantial holding of Midland Railway stock from which the company dividends were to provide an income for the vicar, including provision for maintenance for the upkeep of the church and livery.

At 9am on April 29th 1880, before St Chads was dismantled and moved, Joseph Paget and his wife Helen, witnessed their daughter's wedding. The service was conducted by the Rev. Abney, the bride's grandfather. The family celebrations however, were low key as Joseph Paget's 38 year old half sister, Ellen, had died a few days earlier. Records show that in 1881 the Rev.Dr. Quilter of the Holy Trinity, left Shirebrook and was replaced by the Rev Lloyd Ware MA of Caius College Cambridge. Joseph Paget bought and improved the livery at Shirebrook in 1875 and after the departure of Dr Quilter, the outgoing tenant whose relationship with Paget had soured, the annual £212 rent received was gifted back to the church.

This picture is of the 'Gothic Revival' interior of the original St Chads church taken in 1876 by Joseph Paget. The design of the church and its furniture was by Cox & Sons of the Strand, London. Cox & Sons' sales literature states that the firm acquired much of the stock of furniture and gothic designs by Edward Welby Pugin, the leading Gothic architect & designer of the day who died in 1875. His father, Augustus Welby Pugin, known as 'God's architect' designed the Gothic architecture and furniture for Westminster Palace during its reconstruction after the fire of 1834. Arguably, his most famous work is the 'Big Ben Clock Tower'.

Cox & Son commissioned furniture, metalwork, stained glass and ceramic designs from a number of leading designers including B.J. Talbert, S.J. Nicholls, G. Goldie, J. Moyr Smith, O.W. Davis, C. Rossiter and E.W. Godwin. From 1870 to 1874 the silversmith John James Keith worked under the firm's name, producing prize-winning designs principally by Talbert. Cox & Son were represented at international exhibitions in London in 1862, 1871, 1872 1873 Paris in 1867. Philadelphia in 1876; as well as later at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. Dresser used Cox's stained glass at Bushloe House. In 1881 the firm merged with Buckley & Co. and continued as Cox, Son, Buckley & Co. into the twentieth century, concentrating again on church furnishings.

 

The 'X' supports were a common feature of A W Pugin's Gothic furniture designs. I realised earlier this year (2009) when I attended a meeting in St Chad's, that the pews were certainly Pugin designs as my research above suggested. The pew's end supports and chamfering were typical of his work. I could not believe my eyes when 15 pews were advertised for sale in the Mansfield Woodhouse Parish Newsletter. in August 2009 for just £100 each! Authentic Pugin designed Gothic furniture is highly sought after by international collectors, hence auction values have risen substantially over recent years. Anyone fortunate enough to have acquired one, would be well advised to preserve rather than expose to the elements as a garden bench!

This table is an example of the work of A.W. Pugin 'carved and chamfered decoration, with X-shaped supports at the ends'

Ref: Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art: The Handley-Read Collection. Ed. Simon Jarvis. London: Royal Academy, 1972. Nos. B6.

 

 

 

 

This snowy scene of St Chads, features the bell tower design to the right and the arches with pointed apex that were typical of the Pugin Gothic influence that fashioned many new Victorian public buildings and churches during the second half of the 19th century.

The Pagets were regular visitors and closely associated with Lichfield Cathedral, a huge 11th century Gothic building that has three tall spires, the centre one of which is 250feet tall. The cathedral is also dedicated to St Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield, (then Mercia) whose bones were buried on the site in the 7th century. Paget must have been very much aggrieved by the Vicar of Shirebrook to have felt compelled to dismantle and rebuild the church out of the Diocese of Lichfield.