A Guide to Tideswell and Its Church

By Rev J.M.J. Fletcher

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013



THE beautiful West Window, as the inscription on the Brass Table points out, is a memorial to Elizabeth Sarah Fletcher and Mary Chandler, the much beloved mothers respectively of the Rev. J.M.J. Fletcher, (Vicar of Tideswell, 1900-1906) and Mary his wife, and was unveiled June 27th, 1907. It is from the studio of Messrs. Hardman and Powell, of Birmingham. The general idea of the window is taken from Rev. viii. 3, 4. The central figure is our Ascended Lord reigning upon His Throne. Beneath is the Angel offering the incense. Above are choirs of Angels, and below are groups of Saints. In the upper tier are the four Evangelists. Next to the throne are four of the Apostles,- S. Andrew, S. James, S. Peter and S. Paul. On the other side of the throne are four Patriarchs,- Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Joshua; and to the extreme right four other O.T. Saints,- David, Elijah, Hezekiah and Isaiah. In the lower tier to the extreme left are four mediaeval Bishops,- S. Chad of Lichfield, S. Hugh of Lincoln, S. Osmund of Salisbury and S. Martin of France. In the next panel are four holy women,- the Blessed Virgin, S. Anne, S. Elizabeth and S. Mary Magdalene. On the other side are four British Mediaeval Evangelists,- S. Bede, S. Aidan, S. Boniface and S. Columba;- whilst on the extreme right are S. Cecilia, S. Margaret of Antioch, S. Genevieve, and S. Cuthburga of Wimborne. The bottom figure in the centre is S. John Baptist. The window may fitly be described as a “Te Deum” window, depicting as it does Angels, Apostles, Prophets and Martyrs praising God, and only needing, for the completion of the idea, the earnest prayers of those who worship in the Church on earth.

Fletcher-Chandler Memorial Window

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On the South side of the Tower Arch, on the wall, about twenty feet from the ground, may be faintly deciphered traces of an old mural painting. It was evidently a heraldic device, and is conjectured to be of the fifteenth century.


And between the Tower Arch and the South Porch at a height of about eleven feet from the ground, have been preserved the remains of an old black letter inscription, with a fragment of the coloured border which surrounded it. When it was first discovered, beneath layers of whitewash, on the removal of the gallery, it was thought to be of sixteenth century work. But the fact that the passages in question, which were inscribed upon the walls were taken from the Authorised Version of the Bible makes it clear that the inscription cannot be earlier than the second decade of the seventeenth century. The passages inscribed were Ephes. iv. 31-32., and II Cor. v. 10.

Careful scrutiny will show, just above the fragment, traces of a still older mural inscription.

It will be noticed that the West wall is for the most part faced with limestone. This was in old days probably plastered over and decorated, as possibly also were the Aisle walls below the windows, with paintings, inscriptions, and heraldic devices, &c.

Built into the West wall on either side may be seen worked stones which originally must have formed parts of the doorways or windows of a former Church.

The Brass attached to the North wall of the Tower Arch expresses the gratitude of the Parishioners for what little a former Vicar (Rev. J.M.J. Fletcher, M.A.) and his wife were able to do for the Church and in the Parish during the 5½ years of his incumbency, 1900-1906.

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The beautiful Memorial Brass, in its richly carved oak setting, fixed on the South side of the Tower Arch, on which are inscribed the names of the 73 brave men from the parish who gave their lives for their homes and their country during the Great War of 1914-18, will be noticed with interest and gratitude.

Before leaving the Church, the Visitor should not omit to notice the beautiful groined roof underneath the Ringers' chamber. The date (1812) painted on it refers, of course, merely to the year when the circular wooden trap door was fixed.

"Consecration" Cross

Just outside the glass door at the South entrance to the Church, cut on the moulded shafts in the jambs of the doorway, at a height of about five feet, may be seen on either side a Cross. They are some 4 inches in length, and have forked ends. It is seldom that such crosses are found at the present day in such perfect condition as are those in this Church. These crosses have hitherto generally been considered to have been the Consecration Crosses which were marked by the Bishop some 600 years ago, at the time of the consecration of the Church, and as a sign that it had been consecrated. The Bishop made the cross with his thumb dipped in chrism. But it had in all probability been cut beforehand by the mason. [As far back as the eighth century the Bishop was directed to make such crosses on the walls of the Church at its dedication. This was done inside the Church. In later times it was customary to have twelve crosses inside and twelve outside the Church, to represent the twelve apostles who by the faith of Christ crucified illumined the world].

Some of our leading archaeologists have latterly come to the conclusion that these crosses at Tideswell, (like the doorway crosses at Bere Regis, Boston, Pevensey, Ridge,

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Romsey Abbey, Southwark, Southminster, Uffington and Whitchurch Canonicorum) were not in any way connected with the consecration service; but “were made to put to flight the powers of evil”.


The groined roof of the South Porch should be noticed, as well as the beautiful doorway leading into the Church (see page 14).


Above the S. Porch is a Parvise, or chamber; in some guide books wrongly termed the Hermit's chamber. It was probably a room used for the custody of documents, &c., and, possibly, also served as a “watching chamber”. Its local name, “the bone chamber”, bears witness to the use to which it has at one time been put. The steps leading up to it were worn away, and an entrance was made into it half

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a century ago by the enlargement of a “squint” into a doorway, in the South wall of the Church, from the then existing West Gallery. Unfortunately the squint was thus destroyed. But the wall has been made good, and the newel staircase has been restored. The Parvise itself was also restored at the same time in 1904-5.

The difference in the height of the windows from the floor on the two sides of the Church is, of course, due to the fact that the ground outside is so much higher on the N. than on the South. The slope of the ground is shown by the four steps by which the descent is made into the Church at the N. entrance.


The Church possesses a fine Peal of Eight Bells. Formerly there were six, the dates of which were (1) 1705, (2) 1659, (3) 1659, (4) unknown, (5) 1659, and (6) 1741. It will be noticed that three of the bells were cast in the last year of the Commonwealth, (by George Oldfield). With the exception of the “fourth” bell which, after nearly 600 years' work, was released from service, and placed near the South Transept (see page 40) the whole peal was restored, in 1929, by Taylor, of Loughborough: four bells being retuned, one recast, and three new bells added, thus making a peal of eight.

Against the wall of the Ringing Chamber hangs a board on which are painted the following quaint Belfry Rules. (Date about 1770.)

All Gentlemen that here intend to Ring
See that these Laws you keep in everything,
When first that you into the Belfry come
See that the Ringers have Convenient Room;
For if you be an Hindrance unto them
Fourpence you forfeit to these Gentlemen,
For Every Oath you swear eer you go hence
You must immediately pay just Sixpence,
For Every Bell turned ore, without delay
Fourpence you must unto the President pay,
And if that your desirous for to ring

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With Hat or spurs on do not touch one string,
For if you do Your Forfeit is for That
Fourpence pay down or else you lose your Hat,
And if you have a mind to be Inrold
A Ringer here these Orders you must hold.


The earliest volume of Parish Registers dates Parish from 1635 to 1675. It was, in the year 1902, beautifully repaired and rebound under the direction of one of the principal officials of the Public Record Office. The second volume which was also rebound, about the same time, contains the entries from 1675 to 1747. There are some number of curious or interesting entries. In 1639 there seem to have been parochial troubles, for after the names of the three Churchwardens are the words “But from such officers God deliver every Church and Parish”. In October, 1682, it is recorded of one of the wardens that he was one “who spent his 2 pence not a farthing more, yet put a shilling up o'th parish store, there's a trick of a knave”.

On July 4th, 1693, Bishop Floyd preached at Tideswell, and “after sermon did confirme 495 persons”. On June 17th, 1707, 558 were confirmed. On July 31st, 1766, “about 500 were confirmed in this Church”. On June 22nd, 1820, the Tideswell candidates were taken to Bakewell, when no less than 2678 were confirmed at one time! (This Service must have lasted for many hours, and many Candidates have left the Church during the Service to make room for others.)

There seems to have been a severe attack of small-pox which lasted from October, 1757, until May, 1758. A considerable number of cases were fatal. And in the early part of the last century the burials are recorded of a large number of children who were apprenticed at Litton Mill. There is a tradition that these poor little “strangers” were all buried on the North side of the churchyard in a plot of ground which in consequence is still sometimes termed

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“The Potters' field”. A pamphlet entitled “A Memoir of Robert Blincoe” deals with the condition of Litton Mill at that time, and shows how brutally the children were treated there a century ago, in the days when “white slavery” was practised.

The Registers contain notices of a large number of briefs, (or “collections”, authoritatively ordered to be made throughout the country), and some entries of burials “not in woollen”, &c. &c. There is a record, in May, 1711, of the burial of a man 112 years of age; in August, 1745, of the burial of a widow “aged 104 or thereabout”; on February 18, 1822, mention is made of a mother giving birth to four children at once, “all living”; and the parish of Tideswell still maintains its reputation for longevity (see page 6), for on Jan. 30th, 1930, Mrs. Anne Brightmore died at the age of 103 years.

for Help

The Visitor is earnestly requested not to leave the Church without putting a donation into one of the boxes provided for the purpose, which will be found inside the Church, attached to the Chancel door, and to the backs of the last pews in the Nave. It may well be imagined that, to keep it in proper repair, a Church of the size of Tideswell needs constant attention. Much has been done in comparatively recent years. The West Gallery has been removed, and thereby the magnificent Tower Arch thrown out. The beautiful Groining underneath the Ringing Chamber has been repaired. The whole of the West Wall and of the lower portion of the Tower have been carefully cleaned down, repaired and pointed. Oak Porches have been erected at the North and South entrances to the Church. The beautiful external South Door, and the Tower Screen have been added. The South Porch, too, has been re-paved and generally repaired, and the Staircase leading up into the Parvise and the leaden roof above it have

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been renewed, (1904-5). Some of the Nave windows have been re-glazed, &c. The roof of the N. transept has been re-leaded (1921), the Guild Chapel was restored in 1924, and the Bells also were restored and two new ones added to the peal in 1929.

Amongst other improvements in the Parish during the present century may also be mentioned the erection of a beautiful little Hamlet Church at Cressbrook, in 1903, at a total cost of about £1,200. It is attached to the building previously used for Divine Service, School, and other purposes, and which is now called the Church Room. And in 1928 another pretty little Church was built in the hamlet of Litton, at the cost of Miss Penfold.

In 1905-6 the Church Institute, often spoken of as the St. John's Library, was completed. The first portion of this building had been erected in 1894 mainly out of monies left for Church purposes by Mr. John Harrop. It has proved a most useful addition to the “plant” of the Parish.

About the same time (1905) the building adjoining the Church Institute was erected for the use of the Churchwardens and Sexton,- so that no tools or lumber need lie about the Parish Church; and in 1930 the old Grammar School was acquired for Church purposes.

What is still needed to be carried out is the careful restoration, on the old lines of the decayed tracery, of some of the old windows in the Nave.- The roofs of the South Transept and of the South Aisle require re-leading; and the Tower needs re-pointing; the Organ case is in an unfinished condition and ought to be completed. The Niches at the East end of the Church, as well as those both inside and on the exterior of the South Transept look very bare. If any of our readers feel inclined to give suitable figures for one or more of these Niches, the Vicar and Churchwardens would be very glad to hear from them on the subject.

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The population is not large, yet the working of the Parish is rendered difficult in consequence of its large area and the multiplicity of Hamlets. Indeed, on Sundays, sometimes as many as twelve Services have to be arranged for. It is hoped that all earnest servants of God before they leave the Church will remember to kneel and offer a fervent prayer on behalf of those who minister here and their fellow-worshippers, and of all other inhabitants of the Parish.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

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