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24 September 2014
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Nicholas Henshall at St Alkmund's sarcophagus
Nicholas with St Alkmund's sarcophagus

St Alkmund: Patron Saint of Derby

What do we really know about Derby's Patron Saint, and what traces of him remain?

Who was St Alkmund?

And where can we look, these days for evidence of the city’s 8th century patron Saint?

Born the son of a Northumbrian king, Alkmund became involved in dynastic struggles after the murder of his father and brother.

He gained a reputation for being charitable to the poor and the orphaned, but he too was murdered, in 800, probably by the agents of the usurping king Eardwulf.

His remains were buried, first in Shropshire, then at Northworthy – modern Derby.

His body, considered a holy relic, was moved to Shrewsbury abbey for a time, and brought back to Derby in 1140; legend has it that his tomb gave out a perfume during that move.

There are six churches dedicated to him in England, but the church on Kedleston road which bears his name is a modern building, as the original church of St Alkmund stood where St Alkmund’s Way is today.

A stone set into the wall of the underpass tells that this was the site of a church dating back to the 8th century – a church which was finally demolished in 1968 when the new church was built on Kedleston road.

It was the demolition of the old church which revealed the sarcophagus in which St Alkmund’s body was laid, and which you can see today in Derby Museum.

Nicholas Henshall, Precentor of Derby Cathedral, thinks St Alkmund is an apt patron saint for the city, as despite the highflown dynastic disputes his reputation was forged from his everyday acts of kindness: 

“The sanctity is in the ordinariness. We don’t know much about him, and I think for a place like Derby he’s not a bad patron saint to have, because what we do in Derby best is living ordinary lives well”  

last updated: 15/06/06
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