Jacob Sapsford
| Whitwell Local History Group Homepage
Programme | A Parish History | Parish Survey |Other Documents  | Links
Enquiries | Photo Page | Latest Changes




Local craftsman, Jacob James Sapsford, Master Carpenter, was renowned for his meticulous workmanship. It was not unusual for Jacob to have a good stock of timber seasoning, in the kitchen of the family home, for five to seven years or more. The family home was “Sapsford’s Farm” in Whitwell Square, at the bottom of Hanger Hill, now the home of local building contractor, Mr Stanley Biggin.

It was from this farm in the Square that Jacob ran his business of Carpenter and Undertaker as well as working the farmland of some 39 acres. Being a devout Christian Jacob was also involved in the work of the Church and Community of the Parish of Saint Lawrence. During the major Restoration of the church, 1885 to 1886, the need for a new pulpit was recognised. The gift of this new pulpit to the Church became the devoted task of Jacob Sapsford and the Whitwell Branch of the Girl’s Friendly Society (G.F.S.). Following the directions of their Associate Presidents, in particularly Miss Jean Tillery, members of the local group took part in a number of fund raising activities in order to raise sufficient money to purchase the special timber needed for the building of the pulpit. With equal devotion Jacob Sapsford made available his carpentry skills, and what spare time he had, to carry out it’s construction. The Whitwell Parish Magazine for 1897 records that the pulpit was placed in the church on Saturday, 10th April of that year. Also, on the evening of the same day, the Church Finance Committee, on behalf of the Parishioners, presented Jacob Sapsford with a silver tea service. Engraved on the teapot was the following inscription:

 Whitwell 1897. Presented to Jacob Sapsford who
freely built the Pulpit in the Church.

On the following day, Palm Sunday, 11th April, the Rev. G.E. (Canon) Mason during Morning Prayer dedicated the pulpit. Sadly, Miss Jean Tillery did not live to witness the dedication since her death had taken place two years earlier in 1895.

Jacob Sapsford lived to hear many sermons preached from the pulpit he built, and he continued to work for the church and community for many more years before his death, at the age of 75 yrs. in 1906. He is buried in the churchyard at Whitwell.

Fixed to the base of the pulpit are two engraved plates with Latin inscriptions.

When translated these inscriptions tell us that the pulpit was the loving work of Jacob Sapsford, and that the material was provided by a Society of Ladies, who we know to be the Girl’s Friendly Society.

The date affixed, in Roman numerals, reads 1898, the date that has always been associated with “Jacob Sapsford’s Pulpit”. One possible explanation for the difference in dates i.e. 1897 and 1898. may be in relation to the location of the pulpit in the Church at different times. It is quite likely that the new pulpit would have been placed were it’s predecessor had stood since 1847, on the north side of the Nave at the foot of the Chancel Arch, the more traditional place in a church for a pulpit. For as long as any one could remember the pulpit at Saint Lawrence’s had always stood on the south side of the Nave. In 1990, after some Restoration work, temporarily, the pulpit was placed in the more traditional ‘pulpit position’ on the north side of the Nave. However, the congregation preferred it to be on the south side of the Nave. The repositioning of the pulpit from the north to the south side of the Nave may well have taken place in the year’s 1897/98. The plates relating to its creation being provided and fitted in the latter year.

In the pulpit we have before us a fine example of the devoted skill of a local craftsman, and the equal devotion of a group of ladies, who, by their industry assisted him in its creation. Our lives can only be enriched by the knowledge of such devotion.

In 1990 it was discovered that the pulpit had been attacked by DeathWatch Beetle.  The P.C.C. undertook  the Restoration work needed. This work  necessitated the rebuilding of the steps since one of the lower panels had been most affected. The whole pulpit was restored to Jacob Sapsford's design and then treated against further ‘Beetle- attacks’. The fine pulpit is a tribute not only to its creator but also to its restorers, Pratts of Wirksworth.



©  Jack O Edson 2007.


 | Back to top
 Programme | A Parish History | Parish Survey | Other Documents | Links