The Story of St. Mary and St. Hardulph Church
Who was St. Hardulph?
Breedon church is unique in this dedication. It is one of those names like a small handful of others in the country for which little more is known than a persons reputation causing their inclusion in a church dedication. St. Mary has been a popular dedication from early times - to lay claim to a saint that had some local connection or association as well would of course give an added sense of elevation and importance to the monastery.
A pamphlet in a book dated 1541 by the Hon. Mr. Justice Joyce makes reference to the life of St. Modwen - Burton on Trent parish church is dedicated to St. Mary and St. Modwen - yet another little known saint.
The text refers to 'St. Hardulche in a place named Bredon. He herde tell Modwens holy lyvnge and went oft to her and bore books of holy Sayntes lyves.'
The fragment speaks of the saint having a little cell in a cliff a little from Trent which sounds remarkably like the anchorite cave or 'Anchor church' near Ingleby. The text further relates how two maidens or nuns were saved from drowning in the Trent in attempting to obtain a book Hardulche or Hardulph had forgotten to take to Modwen. She reputedly lived on Andressey Island in the river near Burton bridge. When this was is uncertain since up to five saints had the name Modwen or Modwenna whose lives have become confused over time - but range from the 6th. to 9th. century. The name Modwen is of Celtic type suggesting Hardulph belongs to the early period - perhaps even before the monastery on Breedon was founded in 675.
Could St. Hardulph have been 'Sanctus Aerdulfus rex' recorded by Hugh Candidus in the 12th. century as being buried at Breedon? The name suggests a king later made a saint - by no means an uncommon event in Anglo Saxon times. (Note Castle Donington nearby to St. Edward king and martyr). He could well have been an early king in the midland area whose name is lost in documents that survive. To speculate on similar names later in the Anglo Saxon period must make one wary of how names can be re-used. For instance a king of Northumbria called Haerdulf invaded Mercia in 801 and murdered Prince Alkmund - a church in Derby being later dedicated to St. Alkmund. It is hardly likely Breedon would have added an unwelcome raider to their dedication, and even less likely that he was ever buried there. Unless archaeology ever produces an answer - we shall probably never know who he really was.