Ashford in the Water Church

Part of the present church at Ashford dates to around 1205, although there was probably an early church on the same site, made of wood. The village of Ashford in the Water has been around since the age of the Domesday Book after all. Today the Holy Trinity Church in Ashford in the Water is open most days during the hours of daylight and the local congregation is proud to offer solace to visitors to the area at any time. It is a very peaceful place and has a really beautiful setting.

The oldest part of the church is the Norman tower, which is 12.2 metres high and has extremely thick walls, 1 metre thick at the base. Within the tower are seven bells in total, the oldest of which is called the Sanctus bell and was dedicated before the Reformation. It is used each week during the Congregation Of The Holy Communion. When the church was restored, the lower part of the shaft was found to be damaged and this was replaced by a new piece of stone. The shaft itself has a body of a Dragon embedded in it. With the head and tail emerging from either side, it symbolises the influence of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism Over Sin.

The organ is a modern two-day manual instrument and was rebuilt several times and overhauled in 1983 when two further stops were added. It has a wonderful churchyard with gravestones going back through centuries, and many monuments with inscriptions make interesting reading, depicting the history of families who lived and died in Ashford in the Water.

The tower arch is from the Decorated Period of 1370 to 1440, as is the font, and above it, is the Royal coat of arms of George I, dated 1724 which was restored and rehung in 1985. There is an octagonal font standing below it, which was sold by the churchwardens in the 18th-century and was used in a local garden as an ornament previously. The windows in the North wall are modern but beautiful, with one of them famously depicting St Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

The three arches and the octagonal pillars of the north side of the church date from the late 16th century and are decorated with four maiden’s garlands. This is an old english custom when a garland was carried before the coffin of a young virgin girl, in a funeral procession and afterwards it was displayed in the church. Ashford in the Water is one of the few remaining places, as well as in Matlock and Ilam too, which have preserved this custom. The garlands are known as crowns or crants. Each garland is made up of a wooden frame with white paper rosettes fixed to it. A handkerchief or glove belonging to the young girl was hung in the centre and on it was written her age, her name and her date of birth.

In 1987 the four surviving garlands were expertly cleaned and conserved before being hung inside perspex covers for protection. Originally there were seven garlands hanging in the church, but by 1900 only five remained, and in 1935, unfortunately one fell and couldn’t be replaced. The oldest garland in Ashford is in memory of Anne Howard, who died on 12 April 1747, aged 21.

The altar came from Heanor parish church, replacing an older one, and now stands by the door of the church. To the left of the main door by the war memorial is a new 2000 A.D. Millennium Monument, which houses a local Time Capsule.