by Gwen Compton-Bracebridge


In the reign of William I the Domesday Book was compiled. Its purpose was to record the lands of England, as well as the men who owned them, and the payments due to the king by each of these men. Morlei or Morley then formed part of the vast estates of Henry de Ferrers.

Although a Church is not mentioned, it is probable that one was in existence at Morley.

From one of the chartularies of the Abbey of Chester, the advowson was conferred upon the monastery by Robert de Morley.

In the year 1280, Richard de Morley gave the Abbey full licence to dig and take away marl, from his marl pits at Morley, Smalley and in Morley Park.

At the dissolution of the Abbey, the manors of Morley and Smalley passed through various hands, and subsequently the manors and the advowson passed into the possession of the family of Sacheverell, who inherited the property from the Stathums.

In the reign of Richard II and about the year 1378, Ralph Stathum married Goditha, a descendant of Richard de Morley, and the history of Morley Church starts from that date.


Ralph Stathum and his wife Goditha lived in the manor of Morley, which was in the field adjoining the Church yard on the West side of the Church. The only portion now remaining is a doorway now within the Church yard, although the foundations of the house may still be traced in the equality of the turf in the adjoining field. The Church consisted of a nave 40ft long by 18ft wide, the dimensions of the present nave; to this was probably attached a short semi-circular chancel and a West bell gable. Ralph and Goditha added to the Church a Chapel on the North side. A brass to their memory on the pavement of the Chapel has the following inscription:

“Pray for the soul of Ralph de Stathum formerly Lord of Morley, who had this Chapel built, and died the 13th day of June AD 1380, and for the soul of Godytha his wife, late Lady of Morley aforesaid, who rebuilt the present Church with the tower, who died the 16th May AD 1418, on whose souls and on those who pray for the same may God have mercy. Amen.”

It appears that a passageway communicated from the manor house to an entrance into a gallery at the West end of the North Chapel. In 1405 Goditha obtained the episcopal licence for having Mass celebrated therein, for the souls of her husband and others of the family.

The building of the Church was continued by Goditha after the death off Ralph, and she was helped by her son Richard. They added a tower and chancel. Richard died before his mother in 1403, but a successor, John Stathum, prolonged the South aisle and erected a Chapel at its termination, in which there is a piscine with a canopy.

The pier that supports the North side of the chancel arch was pierced at this time, so as to form a hagioscope or squint, by which the high altar could be seen by anyone serving the North altar.

John Stathum gave three bells to the Church, two of which are still in use, and ordered 3/3 to be distributed yearly amongst the poor folk of the parish on the day of the death of dame Goditha. There are three memorials to him in the Church, the first a brass plate with the inscription:

“Pray for the soul of John Stathum esquire formerly Lord of this township, who was a notable benefactor to this Church, and who died on the 7th day of November AD 1453, and for the soul of Cecilia his wife, who died on the 15th day of April AD 1444, on whose souls may God have mercy.”


The second memorial is a brass of several plates. One represents John Stathum kneeling on his helmet, hair cropped close, hands joined in prayer, in armour of the 15th Century.

His wife Cecilia kneels opposite him clad in a loose gown, with horned headdress with pendant veil. Between their heads is a figure of St Christopher. St Christopher was the patron saint of the Lords of Morley.

These two memorials are on the pavement of the North Chapel.

The third memorial takes the form of a requiem plate enjoining specific benefactory prayers. It is affixed against the South wall of the chancel over the piscina.

The brass is inscribed thus:

“ffor the sowles of Rafe Godyth Thmis Elizabeth Cecill and John & of theyr suxcessores & for all cristen Sowles de pfundis &c: pater noster &c: Ave maria: et no nos: reqe etnam &c: Dne exaudi oracoem: W yis oriso Inclina dne &c: John Statham ordynd yis to be said & more

Written in divers bokis.” (See Appendix at end)


Probably John Stathum also put a new roof on the nave of Perpendicular pitch, raising the walls over the arcades and inserting clerestory windows. The tracery of these windows was removed and the mullions renewed at a later date. John was succeeded by his son, Thomas, who died in 1470, having twice married. He has an altar tomb on the North side of the South aisle bearing a memorial brass. In the centre is the figure of Sir Thomas in plate armour with sword, his head resting on a tilting helmet. He is flanked by his two wives, they are clad alike in flowing robes trimmed with fur, and wearing mitred headdresses. From the Knight’s head proceeds a label “Sce Cristofere ora p’nobis,” surmounted by a figure of that saint. From his first wife proceeds a label “Sce Anna ora p’nobis,” leading to a figure of St Anne teaching the Blessed Virgin to read; and from his second wife proceeds the label “Sce Maria ora p’nobis,” and above it is a brass depicting Our Lady and the Holy Child.

Sir Thomas was succeeded by his son Henry by his first wife. He married three times, but only one daughter survived.

His tomb is a raised slab of Purbeck marble inlaid with brasses, resting beneath a canopied archway opening from the East end of the North wall of the South Chapel into the Chancel.

The slab contains portrait brasses of Henry and his three wives. Henry is in the armour of the last quarter of the 15th Century, his feet rest upon a lion, and his head upon a helmet. To his left are two wives, and to his right his third wife, who survived him. She is wearing a long mantle over her gown, a veil over her headdress. Above the heads is this distich:

“Thou art my brother or my sister
Pray for us A pater noster.”

Beneath the inscription are the figures of one son and four daughters.

Henry Stathum’s sole heiress was his daughter Joan. She married John Sacheverell, son and heir of Ralph Sacheverell of Snitterton and Hopwell. The estates of Morley thus passed into the possession of the Sacheverells. The brass memorial to John and Joan Sacheverell is upon the South wall of the South Chapel. The two figures are kneeling opposite each other, he is in plate armour with three boys behind him, his wife, in a close-fitting gown and headdress, has five girls kneeling behind her. John was killed fighting at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Their son Henry succeeded to the Morley estates and he married Isabella, daughter of Sir John Montgomery of Cubley. Their memorial brasses are on a large altar tomb between the chancel and North Chapel near the altar. Sir Henry is in plate armour, his wife is dressed in French hood with lappets and a gown with sleeves puffed at the shoulder and tied with knots of ribbon. Henry left five sons and five daughters. There is a memorial to only one daughter, Katherine, who married Thomas Babington of Dethick. She was the grandmother of Anthony Babington, who was executed by Queen Elizabeth in 1586 for conspiring against her, in favour of Mary Queen of Scots.

The memorial to Katherine is a raised tomb in the North Chapel, upon which reclines a figure of her in alabaster. The inscription upon it is: “Here lyeth ye bodye of Kat’yn Babyngton, late wyfe of Thomas Babynto’ and daughter of Henrye Sacheverell Knyt. Ye whyche said Kat’yn dyed ye 23rd day of August in ye yere O Lord God 1543.”

There are eight sons and five daughters kneeling on each side of an eight-quartered shield. The names of four children are known, two sons and two daughters, the others died in infancy.

Sir Henry Sacheverell married secondly, Margery, daughter of Sir John Holford. Although several of the Sacheverells were determined recusants, they obtained burial within the Church, and from entries in the registers appear to have been buried with Anglican rites. This was illegal, as recusants were excommunicate and were buried at night without any service.

Neither Sir Henry’s son John by his second marriage, nor his grandson John, have any memorials or are mentioned in the registers. This was probably on account of the fierce persecution prevalent at the time, against those who clung to the faith of their fathers. The son of John and Katherine Sacheverell was Henry, who lived in the quieter times of James I. There is no memorial to him in the Church, but his death in 1620 is noted in the registers, though his burial is not mentioned.

The eldest son of Henry Sacheverell by Joan, daughter of Sir Humphrey Bradbourne, was Jacinth, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Harpur, of Littleover.

The recumbent figures of Jacinth and Elizabeth lie side by side on a raised tomb on the South side of the North Chapel.

On one side kneel the figures of three children and a fourth is in a cradle. On the pavement near the tomb are the incised slabs to the memory of four children. Henry aged nineteen years, Ralph aged one year and Richard. He is depicted swathed in a chrysom or baptismal robe, thus betokening he died before he was a month old. The fourth child was Dorothie aged sixteen years. In 1656 Jacinth erected six almshouses, three for the poor of Morley, and three for Smalley, with a provision of £5 a year for each. The almshouses are still inhabited.

The last monument of interest in the Church is in the South Chapel, now the vestry. It is a mural monument with half-length figures of Jonathas Sacheverell and his wife Elizabeth, their two sons who died in infancy are depicted also.

The inscription says that Jonathas was pious, charitable and a true lover of his friend and the last of the eldest line of the Sacheverells of Morley who died a true Protestant the 8th day of November, 1662. Jonathas is said to have been the first of the Sacheverells of Morley who agreed to the use of the first English prayer book, and it was said … that the reason for his conversion late in life was the hope that he would thereby secure the Morley estates on the death of his brother Jacinth, it being the principle constantly acted upon, for the government to strain every point to give succession to those of the establishment. But Jacinth bequeathed the property to a relative of the Barton line to the exclusion of his brother.

Henry Sacheverell of Barton, Notts, did not long retain the property, and there is an ugly tomb to his memory in the North Chapel. He died in 1662, and left issue, William, Catherine, and Joyce. There is another raised tomb in the North Chapel to William Sacheverell, son of Henry, and to Jane his second wife. He left his three surviving daughters, Joyce, Elizabeth and Jane, co-heiresses of a moiety of his estates – Joyce married Robert Wilmot of Chaddesden, Elizabeth married John Osborne of Derby, and Jane died unmarried.

In the Chancel are mural monuments to William Wilson, Rector from 1690 to 1741, and also Archdeacon of Coventry; and to Richard Wilmot, Rector from 1741 to 1771 and Canon of Windsor, the son of Joyce and Robert Wilmot. Their second son Edward took the name of Sitwell, of Stainsby House, Smalley.


   Robert Sacheverell’s daughter married Edward Pole, of Radbourn. When Dale Abbey was dissolved and the Church destroyed in 1539, Francis Pole, of Radbourn, purchased most of the material. It seems likely that the glass in the windows in the North Chapel was purchased from him by Sir Henry Sacheverell. The glass and stone framework from the refectory windows were placed in the North Chapel, the outer walls were taken down and the width of the Chapel much increased. There were five Abbey windows consisting of four lights, they were square headed, Perpendicular in style, and were probably constructed in the time of Abbot John Stanley. Four of the windows are in the North wall, the remaining one at the East end. Originally the five windows of this Chapel were filled with painted glass from Dale Abbey. On the outside they were covered by heavy wooden shutters. This was to screen from the eyes of the curious the lights from the candles in the Chapel, when the family were attending the mass celebrated by their own priest.

About the close of the 18th Century the wooden shutters were removed, and the windows were then gradually mutilated and robbed until only three remained, and those much damaged. Up to 1829 or thereabouts it was the custom of the visitors and friends of the village, at times of hospitality such as Christmas and the Wakes, to show their regard for the Church and its interesting objects, by pulling a piece of stained glass out of the windows to take home as a relic, or as an object of amusement for children. An inscription in the glass tells of their restoration.

“These ancient windows were brought here by Francis Pole, from the Abbey of Dale, after its destruction in 1539, and were restored by W. Warrington, London, for Thomas Osborn Bateman in the year 1847. Samuel Fox M.A. Rector.”

Another of the North windows is of recent origin and was put in to the memory of Harriet Wilmot, wife of Hon. W. H Jervis and daughter of Robert Sacheverell Sitwell, who died January 22nd, 1875. The style and character of the old glass of Dale has been well imitated by Messrs. Burlison and Gryllis. In the South Chapel, now the vestry, there is some old painted glass, and the heraldry therein shows that it was designed for Morley Church. It may be in memory of John Sacheverell, who was slain at Bosworth Field, the number of children depicted seems to confirm this view. The encaustic tiles in the North Chapel were up to 1850 in various parts of the Church floor, and were placed together at the East end of the North Chapel.

They were probably made at Dale Abbey, and purchased from the Canon’s Kiln. The Morley arms, with the three bells, was obviously especially made for this Church. There are also set patterns and initial tiles, and various armorial tiles. The moulds of these tiles after being struck would become part of the stock in trade of the Kilnmaster, and would be used whenever fresh tiles were required.


Over the South door of the Church is a porch which in all probability came from Dale Abbey. In former times crosses were placed in every Churchyard. The old shaft of one remains in Morley Churchyard, it has been considerably shortened in order to receive a sundial, which was placed upon it in 1762. There is another cross known as the Butter Cross which, about a century ago, was enclosed from a public green. It is a short distance from the Church and within the Rectory grounds. In 1916 it was restored by Henry Topham Esq., of Morley Hall. The figures of Our Lady and Child under a canopy were placed upon the shaft.

In 1850 a restoration took place in the Church. The carved oak bench ends of the old pews were worked up in the present open seats. The choir stalls were put in in place of simple benches in 1884. The organ was installed in 1885 beneath the South Chancel Arch and was removed to the Tower in 1950. A new clock was placed in the Tower in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The works of the old clock with stone weights are in the Church.

In the vestry is a parish chest of oak with three iron locks. The oldest register book of Morley dates from 1540.

The following is taken from the Inventory of the possessions of Morley Church taken by the Church goods Commissioners about 1547.

“Morley Oct. 3rd. Sir Christopher North, parson and curate, 1 Chalys of sylver with a paton parcel gift – a canopye with a pyx of laten – I holy water satt of brasse – 3 bells in ye steple – 1 lytle handbell – 1 sacrying bell in ye chancell – 2 cruetts of puter – 2 copys of sylke ye one of blew, ye other chaungable – 2 vestments ye one blew damaske, ye other grene saten of Brugs with albes and other necessaryes – j and ij old vestments without albes – iij corporaxes of cloth with cases to them iij aulter clothes iiij towells of clothe – j lytle pyllow of cloth of gold – j surplesse for ye priest and rocket for ye clarke and a shete yt hanged afor ye Rode j lytle bell taken off ye chauncell in value ijd and pax of wood and glass.”

Morley was in the Hundred or Morleston and Litchurch, in the diocese of Lichfield, the deanery of Derby. In 1789 there were 50 houses in the parish and 250 inhabitants.

A list of Priests of Morley:
1334 Robert de Heyford, Patron Abbey of St Werburgh Chester
1349 William dictus Lombe de Salop
1350 Roger de Saperton
1361 John de Snayth
1390 William Couper
1393 John de Scheynton
1393 Robert Balstone
1402 Thomas Derby
1402 Edmund Drury
1430 William Weatherby exchange with Vicar of Marston
1435 William Thrumpton exchange with Rector of Heanor
1438 John Fletcher
1467 Thomas Broadhurst patron Sir Thomas Stathum
1471 William Tykhull patron Abbot of Chester
1507 Milo Hudleston patron Peter Leigh
1508 Bartholomew Tatton patron Abbot of Chester
1536 Christopher North patron Thomas Byrmyngham
1553 John Stanton patron William Paget
1559 William Bill
1591 James Walker
1603 William Bennet
1647 John Harpur patron Henry Sacheverell
1690 William Wilson patron Francis Pierpont
1741 Richard Wilmot patron Jane Sacheverell
1772 Joseph Twenlow patron Joyce Osborn and others as Lords of the Manor of Morley
1777 Robert Wilmot patron the Lords of the Manor of Morley
1804 Edward Willes patrons Hugh Bateman & Edward Sacheverell Sitwell Bart and Richard Bateman
1807 William Sitwell patron Edward Sacheverell Sitwell, Sir Robert William Bart, and Richard Bateman
1844 Samuel Fox patron John Wood Andrews
1871 Arthur Alfred Wilmot
1876 Henry Holden Bradshaw patron John George Crompton and others as trustees of Robert Sacheverell Sitwell
1883 Charles John Boden patron Robert Sacheverell Sitwell
1918 Edward Bedford patron Edward Sacheverell Wilmot Sitwell
1935 John Battersby
1935 Wilfrid Benson
1938 James Compton-Bracebridge patron R Wilmot Sitwell
1958 Patronage suspended for one year
1959 Pat Stacey Waddy patron John F Wright
1967 George Burningham patron the Lord Bishop of Derby
1972 Lewis James
1981 EN (Mark) Kemp
1982 Arthur Redman
1985 Arthur Robertson
1987 Mike Royle
1996 Vic Price
2002 Carolyn Henson
2007 Mike Alexander
2013 Lisa Shemilt

In 1939 the patronage of the living was transferred by Commander R Wilmot Sitwell to E Fitzwater Wright of Morley Manor.

The three-light pointed window at the East end of the Chancel is now filled with modern glass, and there are other memorial windows. The Church was restored in 1850 and few alterations have been made since.

A Sanctuary carpet was made and given to the Church by Mrs Compton-Bracebridge in 1949.

The organ was cleaned, repaired and re-erected at the West end of the Church in 1950.

An oak figure of St Christopher, carved by Faust Lang (Oberammergau), was placed in the empty niche of the canopied arch on the South side of the Chancel. It was the gift of the Rector and Mrs Compton-Bracebridge in 1952.

A Silver gilt Altar cross, made by Faith Craft, to harmonise with the candlesticks, was presented to the Church by the Rector, to commemorate his priesthood of forty years, 1914-1954.

Renovation of a Baptism Jug (Ewer) engraved as being given to St Matthew’s Church by Rosa Boden, sister of a former Rector in 1901 in memory of Queen Victoria, was funded by Morley Parish Council to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2016.


The inscription which is not dated but is of the latter half of the fifteenth century is engraved in Old English lettering on a brass plate. Many of the words are abbreviated. The inscription may be read thus:

For the souls of Ralph, Godith, Thomas, Elizabeth, Cecilia and John and of their successors and for all Christian souls. Out of the deep &c. (Psalm 130): Our Father &: (The Lord’s Prayer). Hail Mary: Lead us not (into temptation). Rest eternal &c: O Lord hear our prayers: Incline thine ear O Lord to these &c: John Stathum ordered to be said and more as written in divers books.

According to Mr A R Dufty, who published a paper on the subject in 1952, one of the books referred to in this inscription is “The Stathum book of hours.” This is a manuscript of about 1458, bound in pigskin on boards and fitted with rings. The rings were probably for the purpose of chaining the book near to the brass. The book passed through Sotheby’s Auction in June 1962. It is now in the possession of the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock (Ref: D5649).