3 APRIL 1880, Page 20

SOME DERBYSHIRE CHURCHES.* AMONG those students to whom Mr. Cox

specially appeals, his reputation has long been made, and did we think of them alone, we should hardly deem it necessary to do more than announce the appearance of the concluding volume of a work which is the result of years of loving labour, and is a priceless contribution to the architectural and archa3ological literature not merely of Derbyshire, but of England. The artistic treasures and ecclesi- astical relics of every county have more than a local interest; they are at once among the most precious portions of our national wealth, and the most trustworthy witnesses to our national history. Still, though there is no field where the harvest of the past is too poor to repay the toils of the reaper or the gleaner, there are localities in which it is peculiarly rich in quantity and rare in quality, .where all types of beauty are miniatured and all sources of interest represented, where the part suggests the whole by the completeness and adequacy with which it mirrors its most noteworthy and characteristic features. One of these fields is, without doubt, included by the boundaries of the county of Derby. Derbyshire, it may be granted, has no great centre of architectural and antiquarian ecclesiastical interest, such as is supplied by a great cathedral, or even by one or more of our most important abbey churches; but is particularly rich in a number of smaller and less-known centres, which will be despised only by those to whom the interest of a sacred legacy of the past depends either upon its magnitude or its world-wide lame. There is perhaps no county in England to which the student of architecture might more safely confine himself, with the full assurance that his researches and studies would provide him with a fairly adequate outlook upon the evolution of architectural conceptions, and a sufficient knowledge of both the vital and accidental characteristics of the various styles which have from time to time been dominant in England. There is hardly any county which cannot indulge in the boast that it possesses treasures of a kind which are nowhere else procurable, and Derbyshire has not to confess itself destitute of these unique gems; but its peculiar and special boast will always be that no other county of similar area can exhibit so full and various a collection of typical examples of architectural beauty, or provide a larger mass of the material of archological lore. As Mr. Cox truly says, in his preface to the present volume :—

" This county cannot pretend to vie with Somersetshire in its towers, with Northamptonshire in its spires, with Norfolk and Suffolk in the size and beauty of so many of their churches, or with Kent in the number of its brasses ; but this can, I believe, be fairly claimed for Derbyshire,—that no other part of the country of the same size has anything like the same extensive variety of styles and excellent specimens of every period, both in the ecclesiastical fabrics them- selves, and in the monumental remains and other details that they shelter."

It would indeed have been a pity if so good a subject as is pro- vided by the churches of Derbyshire had fared as so many other good subjects have fared before, and suffered the indig- nity of having its bloom rubbed off and its freshness -destroyed by the careless handling of a superficial dilettante. Happily, it has fallen into thoroughly capable hands—hands guided by taste, judgment, and an amount of knowledge which testifies to years of the most thorough and careful research, so that the work has the completeness which is only conferred

by the touch of a thoroughly instructed craftsman. The reader has what he wants, and nothing more than he wants ; for it is one of the most pleasant characteristics of this book that Mr. Cox has no favourite theories, either ecclesiastical, architec- tural, or archwological, with which to bore readers who are anxious simply for facts, and who like to manufacture their theories for themselves. A few passages here and there make it plain that the writer is a somewhat advanced High Churchman ; but he indulges in no cheap sneers against the Puritans, and mentions several of the ministers -ejected for Nonconformity in 1662 with genuine appre- ciation and respect. We are glad, also, to see that, 'with a candour which we could wish were more frequent,

• Notes on the Churches of Derbrhire. By J. Charles Cox. Vol. IV. The Hundred .of Morleston and Litchurch, and General Supplement. Chesterfield: W. Edmonds. London Bemrose and Sons. 1879. he quietly puts his foot down upon the nonsense about "Puritanical vandalism," to which some writers are wont to

attribute every mutilation of precious carving, every daub of unwelcome whitewash. He sensibly remarks :—

"Much havoc was doubtless made with stained glass, with monu- mental remains, and general church fittings, in the sixteenth century ; yet more havoc was done during the disordered times of the great Civil War ; but when we come to inquire of the condition of Derby- shire monuments in 1662, as shown by the notes of Ashmole, Dug- dale, and St. Lee Kniveton, and of the yet later accounts of Bassano, about 1710, it is obvious that the Georgian period, when the Church was at its lowest ebb in intelligence and energy, was also the time that was far the most fatal of any, both to the fabrics themselves, and to all that was comely or ancient within them. The Catholic revival, too, has many sins of its own, in the eyes of the arclueologist and of the reverent student of Church history, to answer for ; some of the Derbyshire 'restorations' have been terribly destructive of much that should have been held sacred, and have swept away that history of religious art which could previously be read, from century to century, in the furrowed stones of their walls and buttresses."

Still, though Mr. Cox speaks with decision where decided speech is needed, he can discuss even the burning question of restoration with a moderation which is as rare as it is refresh- ing, and can utter a not unnecessary caution against the use of the anti-restoration cry as the "cloak of a lazy indifferentism," or as an excuse for regarding the parish church as "a local museum, illustrative of bygone times, to be carefully dusted, and nothing more." Whenever, indeed, Mr. Cox has any opinion to express, we feel we are listening to a man of robust common-sense; but he exhibits this quality most frequently by refraining from expressing any opinion at all, and confining himself strictly to his true work, the collection and arrangement of facts. The book is one to which no sort of justice can be done by generalising remarks of the kind in which we have indulged; but in the space at the disposal of a reviewer in a weekly newspaper, such inadequate criticism is the only criticism possible. The value of the work can only be appreciated by one who has made himself acquainted with its details, and in no brief article can any idea be given of their number and variety, their interest and their worth. We had marked a score of passages for quotation or comment, but we find that neither is at present possible. We cannot, however, refrain from directing the attention of historical students to the rich treasury of information which Mr. Cox has extracted from the chartulary of the parish of Crich, a document of singular interest, which has escaped the attention of all previous inves- tigators of the antiquities of the county. This MS., which Mr. Cox has had the good-fortune to unearth, provides a mass of raw material from which an historian of genius like Mr. Carlyle could manufacture a pictorial narrative charged with the peculiar fascination which belongs to the narra- tive portions of such a book as Past and Present, and even in its crude condition it is full of interest. The discovery is one upon which Mr. Cox may very fairly congratulate himself and his readers.

These Notes on. the Churches of Derbyshire may, indeed, be unreservedly commended. Unnecessary copiousness is the only fault with which they are likely to be charged, and we are not by any means sure that such a charge could be sustained. It is, at any rate, a fault which leans to virtue's side ; and it is possible that the details which seem to a present-day reader most barren and uninteresting, may have for the historian or archwologist of the next century the greatest weight of signi- ficance and value. In an appendix, Mr. Cox corrects a few errors which have crept into the preceding volumes, and the fact that they are so few and, for the most part, so unimportant, is evidence of the never-failing conscientiousness with which this great work has been compiled.