A Guide to Tideswell and Its Church

By Rev J.M.J. Fletcher

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


As stated above, (page 12), it is conjectured that the present Chancel was built a few years later than the Nave, and that the weather moulding on the inside of the Chancel arch shows the roof lines of a rather earlier and much smaller Chancel of the same date as the Nave which only existed for some few years.[1] It will be remembered, too, that traces of a much earlier Church, of the Norman style of architecture, may be seen amidst the rubble walling, exposed on the inside of this arch. This rubble work is left in its present rough condition for historical reasons because it tells something of the story of the Church.

It appears as if the present Chancel is not built according to the original plan,- but that the design was changed during the progress of the work. The shafting which, in five places (two of which are behind the Screen), pierces through the string course and then terminates abruptly, seems to indicate that a vaulted roof may have been in contemplation.

Chancel (Interior), looking East
CHANCEL (Looking East)

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The corbels in the Chancel are new. There were none before the restoration of 1875. Apparently, the work at the end was finished hurriedly, and the roof put on as quickly as possible. This may have been in consequence of the Black Death which wrought so much havoc in the country in 1348.


Of the Chancel itself, Rev. S. Andrew, (a former Vicar, 1864-1900, to whose taste and architectural skill the Church which was restored in his time owes so much) wrote in 1875, “The effect of this Chancel is almost unique. It is one gallery of light and beauty, and yet it is singularly free from trifling ornament. All is massive, and grand, and dignified. The side windows might, to persons unacquainted with the details of Gothic architecture, be mistaken for windows of the Perpendicular or even later period. But the date of them is readily recognized by persons conversant with the details of the various styles. The mouldings are all pure Decorated mouldings. The proportions and tracing are most interesting from their grandeur and simplicity”.

Similar square-headed Decorated windows may be seen at Dorchester, and other Churches in Oxfordshire, and in Leicestershire, at Driffield and Nunburnholme in E. Yorkshire, and at Breadsall Church, (which alas, some years ago, suffered so much from the work of incendiaries), and Haddon Hall (Chapel) in Derbyshire, &c., &c. Examples of square-headed windows of still earlier times are to be seen in the Chapel adjoining the Leicester Hospital at Warwick, which was as built in the 13th century.

Size of

The large, almost conventual proportions of the Chancel, so unusual in a Parish Church, strike one immediately upon entrance. But Tideswell never belonged to any monastery.

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It was always a “secular” and never a monastic Church. Indeed it owed nothing to the monks but trouble and difficulty. The scene described on page 9 shows something of what it owed to the rapacity of the Monks of Lenton. And we cannot be altogether surprised, after the new Church had been built, to find it expressly enacted in the Gild Charter of 1392 that the Gild Chaplains were to be 'secular' ones; that is, that they were not to be 'monks' connected with any religious order.

The size of the Chancel was, no doubt, due to the munificent gifts of John Foljambe and others. In those days the dimensions of a Church were not settled by the number of worshippers who were likely to use it. The main thought was the glory of God rather than the needs of man.

Stalls and

John Foljambe was connected with the Gild, of which we shall hear later. The Gild Chapel was originally in the N. Transept; but probably on those occasions when there was not a special Gild Service, the Aldermen of the Gild, as well as the two Chaplains attached to it, would occupy the stalls in the Chancel. The old stalls were removed from the Chancel to their present position in the N. Transept nearly half a century ago, and the handsome new stalls were put in their place. They were the gift of one of Tideswell's sons, Mr. Harrop, of Manchester, the carving being executed by Mr. Tooley, of Bury S. Edmunds. It will well repay careful study. On the S. side, the carved figures are in some way connected with S. John Baptist, the patron Saint of the Church. Those on the N. are mostly symbolical, and denote purity, victory over sin, &c.; though the figure nearest the Chancel Screen represents S. Chad, the First Bishop of Lichfield, who holds in his hand the celebrated “S. Chad's Gospel”,

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whilst a conventional model of the Cathedral is at his feet. A charming little “Annunciation”, and a group depicting a bird feeding its young, should be noticed on two of the stall ends.

Carving on Misericorde
(Underneath the seat of one of the “return Stalls” in the Chancel.)

A great peculiarity of the Chancel is its stone Reredos, or Screen for the back of the Altar. In nearly all Churches the altar is placed against the East wall, or has an ambulatory round it as at Malvern priory, or a Lady Chapel behind it as at Lichfield Cathedral. But, in this Church, it is placed in front of the reredos which stands out more than five feet from the East window, and extends across the whole length of the Chancel. The space is much too small for it to have been a chapel, and, as it has only one door, it cannot have been an ambulatory. The niches placed against the stone wall are of rather later date than the Church, and the position of the piscina and sedilia seem to show that the altar originally stood further to the East. The space behind the Screen was probably used as a

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Sacristy for the custody of the sacred vessels, vestments, and books, &c., and as a vestry or robing room. Other examples of this very unusual “free standing reredos” may be found at Sawley in this county, at South Petherton, Somerset, and at Westleton, Suffolk.


The Niches for figures of Saints, on either side of the reredos (alluded to above), and those on either side of the East window should be noticed. There is no record as to what figures were placed either in them or in the three other Niches in or about the Church, viz.: the one within, and the two placed on the outside of, the South Transept.

Altar and

The Altar, as the inscription behind shows, is a Memorial to Mr. Henry Dakin, who for more than sixty years was a devoted Church worker, and the faithful friend of six Vicars. The Communion Benches are a Memorial to Mr. Advent Hunstone, another earnest worker, who by his artistic skill has beautified the Church, and by his lifelong service has been the friend and helper of many.

Old Tiles

Behind the altar are some old Tiles bearing heraldic devices and ecclesiastical symbols. They probably date back from early in the fourteenth century, and apparently now occupy nearly the same position as that in which they were originally placed. Some more of these ancient tiles are fixed in the flooring of the recess behind the stone screen at the back of the altar.

Alms Dish

The Alms Dish is an old Dutch one. It represents the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and bears the following inscription,- “Nyt sonder Godt ys van alien Schryfthren het slodt”, that is, “The key to all the Scriptures is, there is nothing without God”. Somewhat similar dishes,

Sedilia and Piscina
North Door of Church

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(though with different subjects represented), are in use at Christ Church Priory, near Bournemouth, at Hathersage, Derbyshire, and at Attleborough, Norfolk. &c.

Sedilia and

The Stone Sedilia, or seats for the Clergy, on the South wall of the sanctuary are very handsome. Just beyond is a piscina, or drain, down which the water was poured which had been used for the cleansing of the sacred vessels after the Holy Communion. There seem to have been originally five holes in the drain, symbolical of the five wounds of our Lord, in hands, and feet, and side, at the Crucifixion. Illustrations of the Sedilia and Piscina are given in Cox's Derbyshire Churches, Vol. ii, p. 108.


The coloured glass in the fine East Window was the gift in 1875 of Mr. Cecil G.S. Foljambe, of Cockglode, near Newark ( afterwards Earl of Liverpool, who died March 23, 1907). It is in memory of his first wife, Louisa, (who was daughter of Lady Fanny Howard and a niece of the Seventh Duke of Devonshire), and of their second son, Frederick Compton Saville, both of whom died in 1871, and also of John Foljambe and other ancestors, were buried in the Church more than 500 years ago. The artists were Messrs. Heaton, Butler & Bayne of London. The central portion of the window exhibits the descent, according to the flesh, of our Lord from Jesse Father of David. It represents Jesse lying on the ground, a tree growing out of him - his descendants, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Hezekiah, Asa, Josiah, Salathiel, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Lord in His Human Nature, appear as fruits growing out of the Branches.

The outside lights give scenes from the history of S. John the Baptist. The little white robed figure in the centre light at the top of the window is a representation of Mrs. Foljambe, the wife of the donor of the window.

[1] Mr. Oldrid Scott thought, however, that the builders of the Nave may have found a Chancel which they did not intend to alter, and so built a housing course into the East side of the Chancel-Arch wall to fit to its roof. Very soon they decided on a new Chancel, and this was high enough to enclose the steep housing. Mr. Scott mentioned, as an example, Lichfield Cathedral, where a housing course has been built into the West wall of the central Tower (fitting into the then existing Norman Nave roof).

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

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