|View of the church and manor house from the gate||South side of Chancel|
|View from the west showing the alignment of the tower.||Window on the north side of the chancel|
|View across the nave to the west end of the north aisle.||Window on the south side of the chancel|
|Facsimile of back of
|Brass commemorating Sir Anthony
Fitzherbert (1538) and his wife
|Memorial in the chancel floor for Alice,
first wife of Sir Nicholas Fitzherbert
|The font of about 1200||Remains of a Saxon cross||Effigy of Sir Henry Fitzherbert|
Norbury lies on the River Dove, south of Ashbourne. The church is a not visible from the road but it is a gem and stands next to the ancient manor house.
After the Norman Conquest, Norbury was held by Henry de Ferrers. In 1076 he gave the church to Tutbury Priory, which in 1125 gave it to William Fitzherbert. A church at Norbury is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The Fitzherbert family, prominent in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, provided patrons of the church until the Reformation. They also owned the adjacent manor house until 1881, but the house is now owned by the National Trust. The Fitzherberts refused to accept the Protestant reforms of Queen Elizabeth 1. Sir Thomas Fitzherbert was imprisoned for thirty years and eventually died in the Tower of London in 1591. From the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, the Fitzherberts were not able to act as patrons of the church but continued as Lords of the Manor. The advowson was eventually bought by Ralph Doxeye from Basil Fitzherbert in 1698. In 1648, the manor passed from Sir John Fitzherbert, the 18th Lord of the Manor, to his cousin William Fitzherbert of Swynnerton in Staffordshire. Sir John, like many Catholic gentry, was a Royalist in the Civil War and became a Colonel in the army. The house at Swynnerton was destroyed by Parliamentary forces.
This family is known to historians of the Regency Period for Mrs. Fitzherbert, who secretly contracted an illegal marriage to the future George IV in 1785. She was twice married and widowed before she met George. The marriage was illegal in that any marriage contracted by a member of the royal family under 25 had to be approved by the King. Moreover, by the Act of Settlement, a royal heir marrying a Catholic was debarred from succession. The couple stayed together until 1803 but had no children; Mrs. Fitzherbert was then given a pension of £5,000 per annum.
The church contains the shafts from two Saxon crosses. The oldest part of the church is the chancel, built about 1340, in the Decorated style, and it contains stained glass from this period. The list of priests, shown in the church goes back to Roger Fitzherbert named for 1320. The south side is surprising in that it consists of three elements - two chapels and a tower incorporating the south door. The tower is not aligned with the nave; it was built about 1410. The current nave was built about 1450. The north aisle dates from about 1480 and the chapels to the south east and south west date from about 1465 and 1500 respectively. The chapel windows are in the Perpendicular style.
Because of the work in the chancel when I visited, the two alabaster tombs were covered. They are the tombs of Sir Nicholas Fitzherbert and his son and daughter-in-law, Sir Ralph and Lady Fitzherbert (1493). On the east side of Sir Nicholas Fitzherbert's tomb there was an inscription recording that he had built the church at his own expense. Sir Nicholas succeeded his father while still a minor in 1415 and died in 1483. His initials, NF appear on glass of the 15th century. The walls of the chancel were raised so that a less steeply pitched roof could be installed to match that of the nave in the second half of the 15th century.
On the floor between these tombs is a brass of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert (1538) and his wife as shown in the photograph below. There is also an alabaster slab in the floor commemorating Alice Fitzherbert, who died in 1460.
The original late 14th century glass in the East window had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 18th century. It was removed and the window blocked up. The glass was then lost and in the restoration of 1842 the window was recreated using glass removed from the nave and chapels. This window was repaired in the late 1990s. The stained glass of the chancel was being restored by Holywell Glass of Wells in Somerset when I visited and about two thirds of the cost was covered by English Heritage and the rest by the parishioners.
The brass shown in the photograph commemorates Sir Anthony Fitzherbert and his second wife, Dame Maud Cotton. Sir Anthony was Lord of the Manor from 1531 to 1538. The panel on the lower right shows they had five daughters but the panel showing their sons has been lost. Hanging on the wall of the south east chapel is an electrotype facsimile of the back of the brass showing evidence of an earlier monument believed to be to Maud the first wife of Sir Theobald de Verdon, who died in 1312 and was buried at Croxden Abbey and also a prior Thomas, perhaps of Croxden Abbey. The facsimile was presented to the church by the president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1895. (I photographed this display from a standing position but have adjusted the perspective so that it appears to be directly in front of me, using the wonders of Adobe Photoshop.)
The manor house lies close to the west end of the church. The main part dates from the 17th century but there are also features from the medieval stone hall-house with a feasting hall, undercroft and a solar. The Fitzherberts were lords of the manor but in the 16th century moved to Tissington Hall near Ashbourne. Norbury hall was largely rebuilt in the 17th century and used by cadet branches of the family and tenants. The estate was sold in 1881. In 1963 it was acquired by Marcus Stapleton Martin, distantly related to the Fitzherberts and he gave it to the National Trust on his death in 1987.
I was contacted in August 2006 by Audrey Golding, the Secretary of the Friends of Norbury Church, who informed me that the chancel windows are now fully restored and the Fitzherbert Monuments are now visible. Recent research shows that the heraldic glass in these windows is some of the earliest in England, probably dating from c.1305 and there is an excellent booklet about the glass available in the church.
Derbyshire Parish Churches, from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries,
by John Leonard, The Breedon Books Publishing Company, Derby, 1993,
ISBN 1 873626 36 3.
The Church of St. Mary & St. Barlok, Norbury, Derbyshire, by The Rev. A. Hart, 2002, a booklet available in the church.
The Prince of Pleasure and his Regency, 1811-1820, by J. B. Priestley, Sphere Books, London, 1971.
Sunday Telegraph, Property Section, 15 June 2003, Article on Norbury Manor.