A Guide to Tideswell and Its Church

By Rev J.M.J. Fletcher

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


The glory of Tideswell is its Church, and Tideswell Church, which is popularly described as “The Cathedral of the Peak”, is one of the chief ornaments of the County of Derby.

Every visitor to the little town must be struck by the fact that the House of God is by far the most important structure in the place. All other buildings, the factories, the larger houses, the Vicarage, even the National Schools and the S. John's Library fall into insignificance beside it. The main entrance into the Church is on the South; but visitors usually enter through the North Porch. The total length of the Church is 145 feet, and its width, including the Transepts, 87 feet. The height of the Tower to the top of the pinnacles is 100 feet.

Its Age

The first thing that the Visitor usually wishes to know is “How old is the Church?” The present Building was commenced about 600 years ago, and completed half-a-century later. Its probable date is between 1330 and the time of the Black Death in 1348.

The Church from the South, Exterior

[Page 11]

An Earlier

But, as has been already observed, there was a Church in existence long before this. It is true that there is no mention in Domesday Book of a Church or Chapel here. But the district, in consequence of its trade in lead and wool, was rapidly growing in importance; and, as stated above, there is documentary evidence which shows that there was a Chapel in existence at Tideswell before the end of the twelfth century. It appears to have been constructed for the most part of limestone, and to have been of the Norman style of architecture. The ancient sepulchral slabs, two of which, at the time of its erection, were built into the steps of the Tower, whilst a third, discovered in 1900 during some excavations in the Churchyard, is at present placed in the N. Transept, point to the fact that there was a Church here in the twelfth century. The recent removal of the West Gallery, too, has brought to light various stones built into the wall which had evidently formed part of the arches of the doorways or windows of a former building.

It has been conjectured that the earlier Church probably stood where the Chancel of the present building now stands, and traces of the Norman style of architecture are observable amidst the rubble walling work which is exposed on the inside of the Chancel arch.

The present

The present grandly proportioned building, which is dedicated to S. John the Baptist, is almost exclusively of the Decorated, or Later Decorated, style of architecture, which prevailed in the first half of the fourteenth century. Our own impression is that the present Nave and a Chancel were built about the year 1330. This Chancel was not the present one, but a much smaller one,- the roof lines of which may be traced in the weather moulding on the inside of the

[Page 12]

Chancel arch. But almost immediately afterwards, owing to the munificence of the Foljambes, de Bowers, and other members of the local Gild, it would be decided to build the present noble Chancel to take the place of the smaller one which had so recently been erected.

At any rate, the Nave with the present Chancel must have been completed by the middle of the 14th century for the inscription on the Foljambe tomb implies that John Foljambe, who died in 1383, (see page 23) had been largely instrumental in building the Church. The erection of the handsome Tower would be naturally left until the last, and was doubtless delayed in consequence of the ravages of the “Black Death”, which apparently affected Derbyshire more than any other county, for two-thirds of its benefited clergy died within a twelvemonth. (1349-50). It partakes of the characteristics of the next period of architecture; the large West Window being an example of the transition between “Decorated” and “Perpendicular”.

Dr. Cox, writing of the Church ‘Churches of Derbyshire’ speaks “of the delicacy yet boldness of the mouldings, of the effective character of the buttresses, of the grace of the tracery, especially of the Transept windows, of the finish of the parapets, and of the proportion of the component parts, that all combine in the production of a building of singular beauty, and one which it would be no easy task to equal by any of like size in the kingdom”.

The Font

On entering the Church by the Porch on the North side, the visitor will at once perceive the ancient Font, which is octagonal in shape, and has a circular basin large enough for the entire immersion of a child. It is probably as old as the Church itself. The devices on the faces are for the most part obliterated; but two, of those facing the body of the Church, seem to be a chalice and an open book.

[Page 13]

The Font

For more than a hundred years, this Font, degraded from its proper use, and standing in the South Transept, served as a “Parish paint pot”, in which the materials were mixed, when, from time to time, the walls of the Church were colour washed. The much taller erection, with a narrow diameter, having no drain, (and bearing, to their shame, the names of the Churchwardens of the day), which, from 1765 for a century onwards, occupied its place, was removed to Litton, when the School Church was built in 1869, and is now in the new Church which was erected there in 1928.

Some oak panelling, worthy of notice, which was originally used for the backs of the pews, the finest specimens of which bear the date 1632, has been removed from the West end of the Church, and now, serves for the panelling of the Parvise. Much of it bears a striking resemblance to the old oak work in the pews at Castleton Church,- and from a comparison with this we are led to

[Page 14]

South Door

suppose that the dates which it bears refer to the times when the pews were allotted to certain people rather than to those when the work was first executed.

The Old Oak Benches, placed on either side of the Tower Arch, are two which remain of the seventeenth century seats of the Church.


The Church was repewed in 1824-1827. About the same time a Gallery, which extended the whole breadth of the west end of the Nave, was erected for the use of the singers and other musicians. This was removed, in 1904, under the superintendence of the eminent Architect, Mr. J. Oldrid Scott, of Westminster, from whose designs were worked the oak Porches at the North and South doors, the Screen underneath the Tower, and the magnificent South Door of the Church, the latter the noble gift of one of Tideswell's sons.

The Choir now occupy the seats in front of the Organ.

[Page 15]

The Carving
in the Nave

The carving at the end of these seats is much admired. It represents various offices of the Church, such as Holy Baptism, the care and instruction of the young, Confirmation, Ordination, the Visitation of the Sick, Prayer, Praise, &c., &c. It is the work of a local carver, the late Mr. Advent Hunstone, whose work was in great request in Derbyshire and the surrounding counties, as to-day is the work of his successors, Messrs. W. E. and Advent Hunstone, jun. The North Transept Screen, the Lectern, the Vicar's Chair, the Reredos, and the Organ Case (which is not yet completed) &c., &c., as well as the Carved work upon the North and South Porches and Tower Screen, are the work of the same artist. The great variety of the Transept Screen and Organ Case are well worthy of notice.


Before passing into the Chancel, particular attention should be bestowed upon the Screen which divides it from the Nave. The lower portion of this Screen is almost as ancient as the Church itself, and the gates are the original ones. In old times there possibly stood above the Screen a Rood Loft, that is, a gallery in which a Crucifix was placed, and from which the Gospel was read. In 1724, a faculty was obtained from the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, who were then, as now, the Patrons of the living, by Mr. Samuel Eccles, a local resident (to whose memory an alabaster tablet is placed on the S. wall of the Chancel), granting him permission to erect, as a family pew!!, a loft over the entrance into the Chancel 26 feet long by 10 feet broad.

There were in this loft two rows of seats, facing West. Some documents came to light at the beginning of this century, which show that Mr. Eccles sold the seats which he did not require for himself or his family. These seats

[Page 16]

came to be regarded, apparently, as the most “fashionable” part of the Church, and were used by the “well-to-do” portion of the community. This gallery (which itself took the place of an old loft occupying the same position as that which had been used by the Singers) stood there for 100 years, and was taken down in 1824. The upper part of the Screen, as it now exists, was added in 1883.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page: https://texts.wishful-thinking.org.uk/TideswellFletcher/Church.html
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library