Ballidon, Derbyshire, is an undiscovered gem in the care of The Friends of Friendless Churches. In this Blog I outline the main features of the church.
Ballidon is an area of great antiquity. There are remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows in the area and house platforms near the church attest to a sizeable medieval settlement. As industry in the form of quarrying limestone took the place of agriculture the population decreased considerably.
In the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, Ballidon church had seats for 72 people. Most were rented with only 8 being free. A service was only held once a fortnight in the evening and the average attendance was between 20 and 35. The present open benches date from 1882.
This church was a parochial chapel in the parish of Bradborne. Whilst Ballidon is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) there is no mention of a church, but this is not uncommon and cannot be taken as evidence that there wasn’t a church here. In any case the present building dates from shortly afterwards, say 1100, with the south doorway being a good example of simple Romanesque architecture. There was once a north door as well, but this is now only visible outside. The plan of the church is very simple, of nave, chancel and vestry. It is constructed of local limestone rubble, with gritstone dressings, although the external west wall has been much altered and is now significantly thicker than the rest of the church. Its massive plinth foundation is clearly visible outside at the NW corner.
In 1205 the church at Bradborne, with its parochial chapels including Ballidon, was given to Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire which is useful to us as Ballidon is mentioned in several of their documents. In 1287 some of the Priory lands here were being illegally farmed by the locals. In 1547 a record of church goods was compiled, showing that the church was well equipped for divine service. However, the most amusing record dates from a hundred years later when William Alsop was dismissed as a clergyman for conducting illegal marriages here!