Tag Archives: St Margaret’s Church

Find the past in Draycott’s parish registers

Very few people will have noticed, but a major new book describing some of the history of Draycott-in-the-Moors has just been published.  Titled ‘Draycott Parish Registers 1669-1900’, it is a faithful transcription of 250 years of our church records – outlining christenings (i.e. births), deaths, marriages – and more.

These parish records had to be kept by law, and it was the local clergyman’s job to fill in the register every time somebody in the parish was born or died.

St Margaret's Church, Draycott in The Moors

The registers of St Margaret’s Church noted births, deaths and marriages for 500 years

You can imagine what a huge job it must be to copy and type up these registers.  One is working from old, illegible, fragile documents very often in Latin and very often written out by a priest who didn’t necessarily have easy-to-read handwriting!

The Draycott book alone is 250 pages long… and yet it was compiled by a volunteer, working alone.  The person who took on this huge task was Marion Hall.  Marion says it’s simply just what she likes doing, even though each register that she transcribes can take her over six months to complete.

Family history

As you’d expect, Marion’s interest in these papers began when she was researching her own family history. She told us that it took her four years to really learn how to do it – and then it turned into her all-abiding interest.  She would spend a third of her holidays in old record offices…
Of course nowadays, she doesn’t need to spend all her time in record offices.  Having bought a microfiche reader, she can purchase microfiche copies of old documents to take home and read there.

By 2002 she was ready with her first completed project – a transcription of the parish register at Fradswell, which was taken up and published by BMSGH.


Draycott Parish Registers book front coverSo…  how did Marion come to choose the Draycott parish registers as a project?   She told us: “I don’t have a direct connection with Draycott in the Moors, but I have used the parish registers and other sources here in family history research – particularly the Lymer family.
“Some of my ancestors moved to Milwich and the Belcher family in the parish of Leigh were also in the family tree.  So, that’s how I came to be examining the Draycott registers, which are stored these days in Stafford.”

Unfortunately, the early registers of Draycott are missing, (this has led to some online trees showing incorrect connections in fact), and the earliest records for Draycott still existing consist of a single loose leaf of paper!

But, Marion explained that it’s just a matter of copying what you can. “One also has to check other contemporary sources to make sure everything is as correct as it can be.  Registers can have all sorts of mistakes.  For example, old marriage bonds are useful to verify names – especially if the clergyman used a style of handwriting which is extremely difficult to read.”

Draycott specials

For the local family historian, this book makes fascinating reading.  Names that you see in the district to this day pop up all over the 250 years of the records:  names like Bagnall, Perry, Warrilow, Tabberner and Shelley which come from local families that all go right back to the seventeenth century (and probably before that).

The most interesting thing in the book for the general historian is the number of people and families locally who were described as “Popish Recusants” – i.e. they remained Roman Catholics even when practising Catholicism openly was outlawed.  They were usually recorded as having been buried “on the north side of the church”.

Page from the Draycott Registers book

Page from the Draycott Registers book

And sometimes, just one entry can summon up a whole image.   On May 29 1834, the death of Joseph Cope is recorded as “An Idiot and Draycott Pauper, who died in the Dilhorne Workhouse.” What a terrible life he must have had.

Buy a copy

Being a very specialist item, the book has only had a short print-run, no more than a few dozen copies.
The publishers (the Staffordshire Parish Registers Society, SPRS) only have around ten for general sale.  They cost £5.50 + £1.51 postage.   When they are sold out, the work will be available as a (paid-for) download.
A cheaper way (in the long run) to get the book is to become a member of the SPRS: it costs £7.50 – for which members receive three registers a year. Those who join this year will receive the Draycott one as part of the deal.

And what of Marion?  Is she worn out after her endeavours?
Not at all.  “I am currently working on Bramhall and Marchington. I picked Marchington for my next project because some of it was done already, but it was very incomplete, and I have had to pay a number of visits to Lichfield to check what I have against the original records, and to extend what I have …  It will run to 300 pages, this one.  It will be my seventh published project!”

A note on family history sources in Staffordshire
There are two separate main sources of these registers (unless you want to go to the Record Offices and use the original documents).  These are the SPRS and Staffordshire Find My Past (which works with the Staffs Archive Service to digitise their parish registers).  Each is independent of the other.
The FMP people are, unlike the SPRS volunteers, paid to do it (and Marion has noticed that errors do creep in to their transcriptions).   As yet, the FMP Staffordshire collection is not complete, and also will not cover all of Staffordshire, as some agreements are not in place yet.
The general editor of the SPRS series, Bob Morton, would welcome a call from you if you think you can help in this kind of work.

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

NEWS: Protest reaches govt / vicar’s farewell / changes at Arms / Tara tribute

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in early April 2015
News of…:  Cresswell protesters take it to the government / Draycott Arms changes / Tara is a Sports Personality! / our vicar prepares his farewells
(NB – There are also dozens of events in our locality – including the QQS Anniversary Ball. Check out the Events page)

– – –
Cresswell protesters take it to the top

Well, despite the Easter holiday, the fight against the Cresswell planning application goes on – and now it’s reaching government level.

Although the planning application – to more than double the size of Cresswell’s housing and industrial units – was approved by Staffordshire Moorlands Council, the VVSM local community action group have once again been burning the midnight oil to try to stop, or at least, delay, the plans being implemented.
The new update from them is a plea to ask anyone who objected to the proposals to get behind their latest project: a direct appeal to the government.   You can read all about what they are trying to do and support them by clicking here.

VVSM document

The hundred-page document of objection drawn up by VVSM – but did all the councillors even look at it?

The more one looks into this matter, the odder things seem to get.
There is now quite a strong suspicion that some councillors on the planning committee (the one that made the decision) did not receive or even see the objections-document drawn up by VVSM.  The document spells out in detail the grounds for objection.

And it now seems that other rural districts in the Moorlands are (quite rightly) getting fearful after this decision – because, by approving this application, the committee has set a precedent, enabling the committee to ignore the so-called Moorlands Core Strategy, the very policy that protects many local small villages from inappropriate development.

– – –
So long, Rector David….

It’s always a sad day when a well-liked neighbour leaves the area, but it is perhaps doubly sad when that figure is a well-respected local vicar.  After eight years here, Rector David Bickersteth is finally retiring from his role as a parish clergyman; and he and his wife Gillian will be moving back to his native Cumbria.

David and Gillian Bickersteth

David and Gillian Bickersteth

The Reverend David’s last duty at St Margaret’s Church will be to conduct the 8am service this Sunday (12th April), but he will then rush over to St Peter’s in Blythe Bridge to hold the 10am service, after which there will be a farewell event there.
We have found David to be nothing but open, trusting and welcoming.  We wish him the best in his retirement.

No successor has been appointed yet, though the vacancy is being advertised already.

– – –
All change at The Arms

By coincidence, another established local figure is also taking a new direction in life.

As you may have noticed the Draycott Arms closed recently, but this is a temporary situation while the new owners get themselves moved in.
John Ford, the landlord & owner, decided that it was time for him and wife Deryn to return properly to their main business, the running of their farm, Cairneycroft.  Many of us have tasted the excellent beef that comes off Cairneycroft – as it was on the menu at the Arms!

John Ford at Draycott Arms

John Ford behind the bar at The Draycott Arms. Notice the Crusader Ale beer-pump…

Although John & Deryn have left the pub, you can still thank them for their work by using their Facebook site.  John told us that buying and refurbishing the Draycott Arms in 2012 was always, for him, a form of giving-back to his community.  The pub had been shut for two years when he took it over and some of us had feared it would not open again.  So…  in that sense… job done!
Thanks to them both…

– – –
Congratulations Tara

One interesting thing about all the people we’ve mentioned so far – the VVSM committee, David Bickersteth and John Ford – is that they have been tireless in caring for their community.
But even they may admit that Tara Burndred has the energy of ten!

Tara founded and now runs the Tatsu Kai Dojo martial-arts and exercise centre in Cresswell, and rarely a week goes past where she is not announcing some new venture.
So, to us, it’s not surprising that the her work at the dojo has seen her listed for a Sentinel Newspaper Sports Personality Award in the sport in the community section…
Well deserved, we say!

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

A sad tale of long ago

The old church of St Margaret can tell many stories; and the graveyard is just full of them.
This gravestone tells the sad story of Mary Bagnall, who died in 1799 at the age of less than forty.
The inscription is still beautifully clear even some two hundred years later.

Consumption grave at Draycott in the Moors

Mary Bagnall’s gravestone

The inscription reads:
A Pale Consumption gave the fatal blow,
The stroke was certain, the effect was slow.
With wasting pain Death found me long oppressed,
Pitied my sighs, & kindly gave me rest.

It certainly gives one something to think about…

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If you too have some photos of Draycott-in-the-Moors, and would like to see them on this website,  please get in touch

NEWS: sad RIP / WW1 information / weekend events / fire risk

News-in-brief from Draycott-In-The-Moors in mid May 2014 
We have news of…:  Totmonslow’s Pat Whitfield has passed away /  more about Draycott’s WW1 soldiers / sports weekend / fire-risk checks.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

– – –
Remembering Pat Whitfield

It’s sad to report that one of the grand old ladies of our village passed away last week. Pat Whitfield, who was 89 years old, had been poorly for a little while, and, during yet another stay in hospital, she died. A Catholic to the end, she was able to take the last rites, and died in the company of her family.

Pat is one of the last links to our agricultural past, coming from a well-known local farming family. She lived in Totmonslow Farm right until the end, and, even as late as last year, could be found out tilling the soil on her large vegetable patch almost daily, come rain or shine.
She is also known as the sister of Eve Robinson (the former village post-mistress) and the brother of Joe Thorley, whose marvellous collection of photographs, taken locally between the war years, she was looking after.

The funeral mass will be at St Mary’s in Cresswell on Friday 23rd May at 3pm. She will be buried in the churchyard, as she wished, near her sister.
She will be missed.

– – –
More facts about World War One, but not enough…

A couple of weeks ago, we had an article about local World War One anniversary commemorations – and mentioned that nothing was known about the three people on the Draycott War Memorial except their names.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial inside St Margaret’s

By strange coincidence, The Imperial War Museum launched its ‘Lives of the First World War’ website last week. It lists all the soldiers who died in World War One – including two of the ones on our memorial!
The site lists Phillip Bagnall – click here -, and Harry Billings – click here -, giving their ranks and regiments, so at least we now have that information. Lionel Dobson however is not mentioned on the site.

Some preliminary research from the BB&F Historical Society indicates some odd facts about these soldiers though.
Philip Bagnall was a Potteries boy – so what was his connection with Draycott?
Harry Billings, yes, came from Draycott – but that’s all that is known so far.
Meanwhile it’s believed that Lionel Dobson was actually in a Canadian regiment – but was listed on our war memorial because he had relatives here.

Can anyone help with any more facts? Email us if you can.

Incidentally, if you want to go and see the war memorial, which is inside St Margaret’s Church, for yourself, you’ll be glad to know that the old church is open to visitors across the summer on every first Saturday of the month between 2-4pm.

– – –
Eventful weekend

If you’ve chosen to stay at home this weekend, you’ve done the right thing. There are a few events in Draycott which will entertain you!

Blythe Cricket Club (whose ground is just up from the Izaak Walton) has an evening of live music & humour on Saturday, starting 9pm, free admission. The entertainment is the local trio, Bear Withers, who provide some very decent cover-songs and some very bad jokes (their description, not ours!).
Suppers are available too.

Abdul Razzaq

Abdul Razzaq

Sunday afternoon is a treat for cricket fans as the Blythe Cricket Club 1st XI entertain Hem Heath CC – who include Pakistani international Abdul Razzaq and ex-England test player, Kim Barnett in their team. Just to see these legends in action is a privilege.

Meanwhile, just 100 yards away, Draycott Sports Centre is putting on their Open Day with loads of sports to try out and check out.
If you know you are going, you can beat the queues by booking.  See details of what’s on and how to book on the Draycott Sports Open Day webpage.

Talking of sport, one downer is that Draycott Potter FC, who were odds-on favourites to win in the final of the Ken Green Memorial Trophy last Sunday, slipped up badly going down 1-3 to Cheadle CC. Very annoying, to say the least.

– – –
Free fire-risk checks

Just because it’s nearly summer doesn’t mean that the chances of fire breaking out in the home are any the less.

A fatal fire in Blurton earlier this year has now prompted Staffordshire Fire Service to offer free fire risk checks in people’s homes.
All you have to do is phone 0800 0241 999, or go online at staffordshirefire.gov.uk.
There is also free advice from the fire officers about smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, domestic fire extinguishers and more.

If it’s free, why not?

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.

(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to, and it is always kept private anyway and never published, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

If you find the photos on this webpage too small to see properly, all you have to do is double-click on the photo itself, and it will double in size immediately.

NEWS: vandalism / highways chief / bowls cash / church mag

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in early February 2014
We have news of…:  attack on kiosk  / county highways chief coming / grant for bowls club / advertising in church mag  / Bethlehem carvings for sale.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

– – –
Stupid vandalism

Depressing to say: we’ve been told of another piece of vandalism in Cresswell.  Someone tried to break into the decommissioned telephone kiosk (which is now the Cresswell Information Point) on Sunday night by smashing in a couple of its glass panes.

Damaged kiosk

Two panes were smashed

It seems to be sheer stupidity, as there is nothing in the kiosk of value, though it is kept locked overnight ‘just in case’.  The VVSM community group, which maintains the kiosk, is understandably saddened by the act.

Also, whoever did it doesn’t seem to know what they were doing, as during the attack, the mallet employed– the type with a rubber head – snapped off at the handle and landed inside the kiosk!  Police have taken it away to carry out forensic tests.

If you have information, let VVSM know, or phone 101, the police information number.
VVSM say they are trying to find funds to cover the cost of the repair, and to get the kiosk back in working order as soon as possible.

– – –
Highways chief comes to Draycott

No doubt Draycott Parish Council will be discussing at their next meeting this spate of vandal attacks in Cresswell, which also include an incident of theft, destruction to signage, graffiti, and damage to the BT box there.

Simon Tagg

Simon Tagg

However, there are other good reasons why you might want to attend the council meeting on Monday (Feb 17th).
The council has promised that the county councillor who is chiefly responsible for Staffordshire’s highways will be turning up as the special guest for the evening.
Cllr Simon Tagg will be answering questions about how Speedwatch works across the village, about the local need for speed-checks and extra speed-signs, and about a request for a drop in the speed limit, on parts of Uttoxeter Road, from 40mph to 30mph.

We know that the way that cars and lorries come tearing through Draycott, Cresswell & Totmonslow bothers many people, so you may want to see what Cllr Tagg has to say on the matter.  

Also, a representative from the pub company that manages the (still-closed) Izaak Walton Inn will be attending the meeting – which starts at 7.15pm.

– – –
Bowls club in funds

Our own county councillor, Mark Deaville, will be getting a special cheer in ten days time.
Mark has taken £600 from his ‘Community Fund’ to grant to the Checkley Bowls Club.  Despite its name, in fact Checkley Bowls Club plays its home matches on the green at Blythe Business Park in Cresswell.
The money will be used to buy sets of bowls.

To celebrate the award, and acting as a back-drop to the presentation of the cheque, the club is holding a one-off indoor match at Checkley Community Centre on Feb 19th at 1.30pm.

The club is always on the look-out for players, so – if you are interested in playing for one of its many teams – you are welcome to go along and find out more about them.
The bowls season starts in April – contact the secretary for more details.

– – –
Promote local business in magazine

Ever wanted to advertise a small business or project here in Draycott, but thought that newspaper rates were too high?
Well, why not try advertising in the church magazine…?

After all, the most local print-magazine in Draycott & Blythe Bridge has to be the monthly Church Parish Magazine.  We like it because it not only has news of activities in this district, but some good jokes (!), some interesting articles and even the occasional poem.
If you’re not a church-goer at St Margaret’s or St Peter’s, you can also buy it at The Draycott Arms pub where it retails at 40p a copy.

Of course, to pay its way, the magazine also has adverts, which also act as a sort of local trades directory.  A local business or project may well benefit from exposure here.  The cost for a year of advertising is now £30 for the year – which is not bad value!   For more info, contact the church treasurer.

– – –
Bethlehem carvings on sale

Meanwhile, at Draycott’s other church, St Mary Catholic Church in Cresswell, there will be a special sale this weekend of traditional olive wood carvings from Bethlehem.  The pieces are being sold on behalf of  the carvers. Their livelihood is much harder these days, as fewer pilgrims are going to Palestine because of the tense situation there.

The carvings will be on sale on Feb Sun 16th, after the 11am mass.  (There is also a chance to see them after the 6pm mass on Saturday at St Augustine’s in Meir, and the 9am mass at Caverswall on Sunday).
You don’t have to be a Catholic to go along and make an enquiry!

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.

(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to, and it is always kept private anyway and never published, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

NEWS: busy meeting / re-Marriage / cricket hog / turbine / Brookside path

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in mid-January 2014
We have news of…:  busy parish council meeting!  / wind turbine coming / a celebration of Marriage / cricket club starts a college, with a hog / overgrown footpath at Brookside / school places deadline.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

– – –
Get your seat early! 

The Draycott Parish Council meeting on Monday 20th January promises to be an interesting one.

Starting at the earlier than usual time of 7pm, one item that will definitely be raised is the question of the proposed housing development in Cresswell (click here for details).
And, though it may be difficult to fit in a full debate, the amount of ‘precept’ that the parish council wants to set as its council tax for the forthcoming year should be decided too.

The VVSM local community-action group is holding a pre-meeting on Thursday (16th) at 8pm at the Church Hall to gauge residents’ feelings about the Cresswell proposals; and will be taking their impressions from that session to the parish council meeting too.

– – –
Married? Do it again!

There are only a few churches across Staffordshire taking part in Marriage Week, but Draycott St Margaret’s is definitely one of them.

On Saturday 8th February, it’s Marriage Day at the church, when there will be a display of marriage memorabilia (photos, dresses and more!) during the afternoon; and a renewal of vows for couples at 4.45pm.
Any couple that is married can apply to be part of the renewal of vows ceremony, and we understand that there is even a video being made of the occasion, so you will have a permanent record of the moment if you get involved!

If you want to take part, ether in the renewal of vows or by contributing memorabilia/photos, please contact the church wardens.
You do not have to have been originally married at St Margaret’s.

– – –
Cricket club is going places – with a hog…

Congratulations to Blythe Cricket Club on their latest signing – a water-hog!
Actually a water-hog is a device for mopping up water off a wet pitch, and will come in useful if this summer proves to be rainy.  The club has now replaced the old one they had, so chances of ‘play resuming’ at their ground in Cresswell are now much higher.

Water hog

A water hog is basically a set of rollers, attached to a device to suck up water. The club’s new one has a seat…

The hog is being acquired thanks to a £10,000 grant from Sport England, and the money will also provide for new rain-covers for the cricket-square, and a fascinating new development in cricket coaching at the club.
Members of the club are setting up a ‘Blythe Cricket College’ – which basically will see them providing cricket coaches in local schools and running community-based cricket sessions for youngsters.

It’s really great to see that young people in Draycott and around will have these kinds of opportunities for their leisure time as the season gets under way.

– – –
School places

Incidentally, talking of youngsters, parents should be aware that, if they want to apply for a new school place for their child – to start in September 2014 – they have only one day left to make their application. The closing date is 15 January. (Click here for details).

The catchment-area primary school for us is William Amory in Blythe Bridge.

– – –
No way through

Thanks to Bill who sent in this photo of the footpath that leads off Cheadle Road down to Brookside.

Footpath finger post, from

Footpath finger-post at the point where Cheadle Road goes down to Brookside

As you can see, it is completely overgrown, and really needs cutting back.  In fact, it is impassable at the moment.

Bill, we’ve passed on this photo to parish councillor Gordon Winfield, who takes a special interest in our local footpaths, and to the Staffordshire Ramblers.  The Ramblers groups now work hand-in-glove with the county council trying to keep footpaths clear.

– – –
etting the wind up

Almost eighteen months ago, we reported on an application by New Buildings Farm to erect a wind turbine to generate the farm’s own electricity.  It was a relatively small one by comparison with some, but was still turned down by planners last year.

But the farm, which is in a remote spot between Cresswell and Hilderstone on a ridge looking down on to Bromley Wood, did not give up; and re-submitted the application with improved environmental standards.
It has now been approved.  For conservationists it will be a good result; though some countryside campaigners will be less happy.

So… it will be interesting to see how another application for a turbine in Draycott – at Draycott Cross (click here for details) – will be treated by planners.

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to, and it is always kept private anyway and never published, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

Preserving Draycott’s ancient church bells

One Cresswell man will be looking back on the past year as being a very satisfactory one.
John Clarke not only helped to lead the team that put on an enormously successful Draycott Fayre during the summer, but has also helped to oversee the project to refurbish the bells-chamber at the top of the thirteenth-century tower of St Margaret’s Church.

Decades of debris

Two years ago, it was clear that something had to be done about the bell-tower at Draycott Church.

Sand, dirt,  and debris were all trickling down from the top floor, seeping through the planking on each of the main two storeys, and then falling finally (in dusty layers) on to the ground floor.
The dust simply grew and grew, as, each time the bells ring, the vibrations shake the sandstone tower and a new film of fine dust is formed.

What’s more, the cast-iron frame which supports the bells (whose weight can be measured in tons!) was showing signs of long term corrosion.
John volunteered to coordinate a project to fix the issues.


Climbing to the top of the tower is no easy task.  One has to climb up steep long ladders (the first ladder is reputed to be five hundred years old!), from one platform to the next.
In the bells-chamber itself one has to inch along over and under the girders of the iron frame, walking sometimes like a tightrope artist…

“You have to have a good head for heights” says John.  “The only person I know who has happily volunteered to go up there to the top on their own in recent years is Selwyn Edwards, who is one of the long-time supporters of this church. Despite his age, Selwyn is fearless!

“But the only way we could achieve our aims was to do the jobs ourselves, so we had to learn to cope with heights, and with difficult situations.
To have paid builders or other experts to do things would have cost a fortune”.

The first job was cleaning away the accumulated debris – this clean-up was done with the help of Richard Moore.
Bag after bag of collected bird-feathers, sand, stone-dust and more was laboriously filled and manoeuvred down the various ladders to be thrown away.  “My wife Pauline, who is a church-warden here, was the main help with that job. I really couldn’t have done it without her.”
It took weeks and weeks.


But what of the corroding cast-iron frame?

The frame, which was installed in 1939, holds the weight of all the eight bells, five of which are around four hundred years old.    (The frame’s horizontal girders slot into cavities in the main wall of the tower, and thus it holds itself up).

First, the surface of the frame was attacked with a small electrical angle grinder, fitted with a heavy duty wire cup-brush, to remove surface corrosion.

To halt the corrosion, John was advised by experts to apply red oxide to the cast iron.  He acknowledges the help and advice of the famous bell-makers John Taylor’s of Loughborough:  “Andrew Mills at John Taylor’s was magnificent – gave us lots of advice – and even put a little replacement part (the original had gone missing) into the post to us as a favour”.

However, if the red oxide had accidentally dripped on to the bells themselves (the bells are made of bell-metal, an alloy of copper and tin) that would have been sacrilege, as they are so ancient… so each of the bells had first to be carefully wrapped in protective layers of cellophane, a really arduous and difficult job done. Fortunately, Derek Anderson, one of the church bell-ringers, was on hand to help.

After the red-oxide was put on, a thick layer of viscous black paint had also then to be applied over the top of that.

After that, felt was laid over the chamber’s floor-planks to seal over the planking under the bell-frame – to stop any more dust trickling through and down…
So the main tasks were completed. It had taken almost a year.

The last task, which has just been finished in the last few weeks, was the installation of lighting in the bell-chamber – fitted by Gordon Winfield, one of the local parish councillors.
Now that that is in place the final hope is for a web-camera to be installed,  so that it will be possible to see the bells in operation.
(The web-camera will be useful partly as an aid for the training of bell-ringers, but also so that parishioners can see the bells in operation, as they are such a historic part of St Margaret’s Church).

Ready for the 21st century

The bell-chamber now looks as pristine as you’d hope, and should be good now for another fifty years.

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John is understandably proud of the achievements over the past year.

“The bells are precious to the community , and I want to see them preserved for future generations. All the people who volunteered on this project feel that way too, I’m sure.

“The bells are all different sizes and weights, the oldest being from 1607, and the heaviest being eleven hundredweight.
Each has a dedication inscribed on it. Some of the inscriptions are a bit mysterious though, and we don’t understand all of them!

“The last of bells were donated in the 1930s, one of them by the Shelley family.
Ken Shelley, one of the later generations of Shelley’s in Draycott, was the so-called ‘Tower Master’ here during his life, and in fact he was never sure if the old tower would really be up to it if all eight bells were to be rung at the same time.  He always warned us to avoid a total simultaneous ringing…”


If you too have been fascinated by this story, you might like to join the Draycott bell-ringing group, which meets on Monday evenings at 7.30 at the church, to practise ‘peals’.
John is a member of this group:  “It’s a lot more fun than you’d think, though you have to take it easy at first!  We welcome interested people, so do come along and have a look and, if willing, we will happily train them as future ringers.”

Contact St Margaret’s church wardens to see when are the next best times to go along.

And the great thing about being a bell-ringer is that you stay on the ground floor. You don’t have to climb up those scary ladders…

Merry Christmas!!

Yes, Christmas 2013 is here!

To anyone reading this post:   Have a jolly, happy Christmas, and we hope you get what you want from Santa…

Xmas tree

“Star of wonder, star of night” – the DMC Christmas tree

To help keep up the Christmas spirt, we thought you’d like to see the photo of this lovely decorated Christmas tree, which was one of the best to be featured in the recent Christmas Tree Festival at St Margaret’s.

It was deisgned and made by students at Draycott Moor College. It is a ‘real’ tree, collected on one of the students’ study-days on Cannock Chase.

Ancient times revived

Recently, in the old chapel of St Margaret’s Church, a fascinating and ancient ritual took place.
As with virtually all other churches in this country, Henry VIII’s reforms five hundred years ago meant that practices at St Margaret’s moved from being Catholic to being Protestant – and that Catholicism in England was effectively outside the law, and driven underground, for two centuries.

Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, a Catholic mass was said in St Margaret’s…

Mass in Draycott Chapel

Father Hartley celebrates Catholic mass in the old chapel, using one of the medieval tombs as an altar

It all came about because of the discovery of a nineteenth-century document – a document which refers to an annual ‘mass for the departed’ being celebrated then in the ancient Draycott chapel at St Margaret’s.

In the old chapel (which is the one to the left of the altar) you will find the medieval tombs of the Draycott family. When this family lived and died, they would have been Catholics of course; and the masses being celebrated then remembered the souls of these medieval Catholics.

Interestingly enough, there are also a few post-Reformation Catholics also buried in the chapel.  A number of Catholic priests, who would have resided in and around the Painsley estate (in Cresswell) are buried in the chapel.
This seems odd to us today, but it could be because the local big landowners (the Stourtons) were Catholics and they insisted that their priests be given a ‘decent’ burial in some church, even if it was not a Catholic one.  The first new Catholic church to be built round here was St Mary’s, in the 1820s.

James Tasker gravestone

James Tasker – whose gravestone is here in Draycott St Margaret’s old chapel – was a Catholic priest serving the Cresswell community

Why the tradition of allowing an annual Catholic mass at St Margaret’s was discontinued is not clear, but when Father David Hartley, the priest at St Mary Catholic Church in Cresswell, found the old document describing the tradition, he applied for permission to repeat it.
We are glad to say that the church-wardens and the rector at St Margaret’s gave their permission, in a spirit of ecumenism.

This is why, on November 16th this year, a ‘Special Requiem Mass for all the faithful of past generations’ was held at St Margaret’s.  About a dozen people squeezed into the tiny chapel for the service.

(If you would like to see the old chapel for yourself, it will be open as part of the St Margaret’s Xmas Tree Festival next week.  See our What’s On page)

Old burial ground

Interestingly enough, it seems that during the years that Catholic worship in England was marginalised – from 1600 to 1800 – there was nowhere to bury anyone local who chose to be a Catholic.  So, out of pity, it seems that a Draycott landowner did consent at the time to allowing some land next to the present-day church to be used for Catholic burial.

And where is that old burial land?   Believe it or not, according to Matthew’s Pointon’s book on the history of Draycott (page 77), there is a belief that it is now what is under St Margaret’s car-park… and that the bodies are there to this day.

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Remembrance events

This weekend sees Remembrance Sunday, followed smartly by Armistice Day on Monday.

As usual, the day will be marked here in Draycott with church services, and nearby Blythe Bridge has a parade too.

Grave of Dr Healey

Graves of military personnel – such as this one remembering Dr Charles Healey – are marked with a Remembrance poppy

At St Margaret’s Church the 10 am service will include the reading-out of names from the war memorial and the laying of a poppy wreath.
At St Mary’s Church in Cresswell the blessing of the graves in their cemetery follows the 11am mass.  There are some graves of those who fell in World War Two in the cemetery.
Meanwhile, the Remembrance Parade on Sunday will start from Blythe Bridge Village Hall at 10.40am, and march to the War Memorial opposite the library to be there in time for the 11am two-minutes silence and the laying of the wreaths.
If you live nearer to Cheadle or Hilderstone or Tean, they also have have Remembrance events.

Dr Healey

One of the most unsual rectors to have been in post at St Margaret’s Church was Doctor Charles Healey.  He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps before changing direction in life completely and training to be an Anglican priest.
He was appointed as rector in Draycott at the age of 69, and retired more than ten years later.
On his grave, at the side of the church, you will find inscribed the words In Arduus Fidelis (Faithful in Adversity), the RAMC’s motto; which is why his grave is singled out on Remembrance Sunday.