Our church looks back to the time of St. Wilfrid (633 – 709 CE) when Christianity was spreading throughout the ancient kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and other parts of England. Wilfrid spent early years at Lindisfarne under St. Aiden and later travelled to Canterbury and Rome before returning to the mission in the north of England.
The earlier traditions of the Celtic church were sometimes out of line with those of Rome. Wilfrid intervened at the Synod of Whitby to help resolve when Easter should be observed. St. Wilfrid was Bishop of York and of Ripon, and for a short period after St. Cuthbert’s death, Bishop of Lindisfarne.
Our carving shows Wilfrid giving the blessing after baptising a new believer.
The name ‘Calverton’ is Saxon meaning ‘the enclosure where calves were kept’. The Domesday Book (1086 CE) records that Calverton had a church and a priest. The oldest part of the current building dates to before 1160 CE and is probably built on the site of previous wooden structures as here the sandstone is close to the ground surface. The reordering of the church in 2011 exposed the huge variation in the stones used to build the church over the centuries, now creating a wonderful space of natural beauty. The Bible says that we too are ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5) reminding us that the church is not just the building, but also the people who have gone before us to build it, and those who ensure it lives, to bring God’s love to the world today.
The Norman Pillars
The Norman pillars supporting the arch are the oldest part of the building (before 1160 CE). Standing here you can judge the width of the original stone church. The two pillars are perhaps an echo of the two pillars of the Old Testament Temple named ‘Boaz’ (meaning ‘In Him is Strength’) and ‘Jakin’ (meaning ‘He Establishes’) (1 Kings 7:15-22). These symbols remind us that the church is established by God in His mighty strength.
Norman stone carvings depicting the occupations of the seasons are to be found in the clock tower. We are seeking to move these so everyone can see them. Ecclesiastes 3 says: ‘There is a time for everything; a time to be born and a time to die… a time to plant and a time to reap…a time to mourn and a time to dance..’ ‘But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God”. My times are in your hands’. (Psalm 31:14)
The Church Bells
The current church bells were cast at various dates from 1623 onward. The treble (1623, George Oldfield of Nottingham) is inscribed ‘Jesus be our Speed’ and the second (1896, Taylors of Loughborough) ‘God save his Church’. The tenor (1879, Taylor of Loughborough) was hung for ringing (not just to sound the hours) as a tune called ‘The Bells of Calverton’ written in 1879 included the bells in its chorus.
Two new bells including the Millennium Bell were added in 1998. Jon Shaw recognised the bells had fallen into disrepair and that the church had lost its voice. His work to restore the bells called him to his own spiritual journey and he is now a reader in the church.
The Revd William Lee
The window on the west of the nave commemorates the work of Revd William Lee who in 1589 invented the stocking frame, the original of all knitting and lace-making machines in the world. He turned his back on the considerable wealth of his family to promote his invention, but was chased out of the country on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I - because his invention was causing unemployment to manual stocking makers.
The arch over the door to the William Lee Annex (1962) displays carvings of domestic animals on stones found under the nave floor in 1881.
The Altar and East Window
The present altar dates from 1956, but is a replica of the previous altar 1874 (which was used to make the cross above the beam over the chancel). It contains the original Irish marble mensa.
The east window is a memorial to the Victorian vicar T.W. Smith who undertook major restoration work in the late 19th century. ‘Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved’ (Psalm 80:2).
The Millennium Window
The Chancel houses the Millennium window, designed by local artist, Sheila Wood, installed in 2001. It depicts Christ, Light of the World in the form of a candle, atop a fishing boat – symbolising the days in Galilee where Jesus calmed the storm, caused a net-bursting haul of fish and called his disciples to become ‘fishers of men’.
Coincidentally, the morning light often shines a reflected image on the opposite chancel wall reminiscent of the image of St. Wilfrid. This reminds us that we too as believers should ‘reflect the Lord’s glory, being transformed into his likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).