Praying to find perfect home for 'magnificent' objects from Derby church

Posted on 03/08/2020 in Press Coverage

Magnificent objects from a Derby city centre church are set to go to auction in August and I’m proud to play my part in helping them find a new home, writes Charles Hanson.

Stained-glass windows, a First World War memorial and communion table are among items from The Central United Reformed Church which are due to be sold thanks to the efforts of church elders to ensure they are saved for future generations.

It’s a case of needs must for the church. It has been based in Becket Well Lane since 1976 - an area of the city now set for major regeneration.

Property developer St James Securities, in partnership with Derby City Council, plans to transform the Becketwell area by providing a mix of homes, workspace, hotel, retail and leisure uses and a new public square for the city.

Communion table.

To avoid compulsory purchase, and to work hand-in-hand with the regeneration team, the church has acted to find itself a new home – both for its congregation and some of its historical objects and church artefacts. It is impossible to take everything to Stuart House in Green Lane, the venue the church will call home from September.

The Becket Well Lane building is likely to be demolished in the fullness of time and the church is desperately keen to ensure a variety of magnificent historical objects are saved.

Consequently, our August Antiques and Collectors Auction will offer a rare opportunity for people to buy around a dozen religious items including two large marble plaques, lecterns, pedestals, a magnificent, carved communion table and two double stained-glass windows, believed to date back to 1923.

Oliver Cromwell/John Bunyan stained-glass windows.

One of the windows immortalises Oliver Cromwell, an English general and statesman who led the Parliament of England's armies against King Charles I during the English Civil War and ruled the British Isles as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658. Standing beside him on the other window is John Bunyan, an English writer and Puritan preacher best known as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The other stained-glass window features, John Milton, an English poet and intellectual who served under Oliver Cromwell, and John Wycliffe, an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, biblical translator, reformer, priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford. He became an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism.

Another lot with great significance is a wooden First World War memorial emblazoned, with the words ‘For God, King and Country’. It dates back to 1923 and states, ‘Sacred to the memory of the lads of Britannia Street Mission who fell in the Great War 1914-18’. It then lists 36 names, Derby men who died for their country.

The church is deeply aware of the importance of honouring servicemen from its congregations and has created a new war memorial for its new venue in Green Lane. But some tough decisions had to be made in the push to ensure objects were plucked from the church before the regeneration got under way.

WW1 memorial and 'the marble ladies'.

For the church, a registered charity, it’s not about making money, it’s about preserving the city’s heritage. In fact, its key hope is to recover professional costs already paid out to secure the safe removal of major items. For example, it cost more than £1,000 to extract the stained-glass windows and marble work of art, known as the marble ladies, from the church building.

Interestingly, the items are linked to three churches which amalgamated to form The Central United Reformed Church in 1976 – Victoria Street Congregational Church, Green Lane Presbyterian Church and Normanton Road Congregational Church. The wooden war memorial originates from the Victoria Street church.

The church elders very much hope the items which they have saved for posterity will go to someone who will love and cherish them. Any money raised from the sale will be pumped back into the church which plays an important role in city life thanks to its central location.

It has long provided a night-time base for Derby’s street pastors and supports ambulance workers, police and nurses by providing space to help people in need of support due to drink or drugs problems.

The Central United Reformed Church.

Plus, it is a vibrant church in its own right hosting groups for tots and the elderly as well as being a meeting place for the Boys' Brigade, Guides and Brownies.

I very much hope to find new homes for some extraordinary, historical and beautifully-crafted Derby objects of religious and community importance. I’m also praying Hansons can significantly boost the church’s charity coffers.

The items are due to be sold on August 17 as part of Hansons’ August 13-18 Antiques and Collectors Auction. You can view the catalogue and bid in advance or during the live action at - catalogue due live August 8.

Anything to sell? Drop by for free valuations at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, DE65 6LS. We are open six days a week, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, Wednesday, 5-7.30pm and Saturday, 9am-noon, and have a spacious and airy marquee to allow social distancing and safe valuations.

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