A Guide to Tideswell and Its Church

By Rev J.M.J. Fletcher

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013



Against the North wall of the Chancel should be noticed the two slightly projecting low arches. One of them would mark the place of the Founder's Tomb. The other is sometimes supposed to have been the Easter Sepulchre, or place in which in old times the consecrated elements of the Holy Eucharist were deposited from the evening of Good Friday until the morning of Easter Day. But, from its resemblance to the other, it more probably marked the burial place of a co-founder or some other great benefactor of the Church.


Not far from this, on the N. side of the Chancel, within the Altar rails, is the tomb of John Foljambe, who, according to the inscription on the brasses on and at the head of the tomb is said to have died in 1358. The tomb is the original one: but the present brass is new. Many years ago the brass was stolen or lost; and, so that the knowledge as to whom it commemorated should be preserved, some member of the family, apparently about two centuries ago, had an inscription engraved an another piece of brass and let into the middle of the stone.[1] On this, beneath the Foljambe Arms, is a Latin inscription which states that it is

“The tomb of John, son of Sir Thomas Foljambe, who died August 4th, 1358, and who did many good things with regard to the building of this Church”.

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The small brass mentioned above has now been removed to another stone at the head of the tomb, and Mr. Foljambe (The Earl of Liverpool), already alluded to as the donor of the East window, in 1875, had the brass effigy of his ancestor carefully reproduced so as to fill the exact print where the old brass lay. The figure represents the Knight in chain armour. The Latin inscription on the new brass states that it is

“The tomb of John, son of Sir Thomas Foljambe, Knight, who died August 4th, 1358. This same John did many good things in the matter of the building of the Church. C.G.S.F. had this monument restored in 1870.
Though now I sleep in the dust, I know that my redeemer liveth”.

It is evident from the wording of these inscriptions the erection of the Chancel, to which John Foljambe was so generous a contributor was carried out before the year 1358 (or at any rate before 1383, which in reality appears to have been the date of his death).

A Manuscript, preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the result of a visit to Tideswell about the year 1674, gives a Latin inscription round the margin of the tomb, which states that it is

“The tomb of John, son of Sir Thomas Foljambe, who died the fourth of the Nones of August, (Aug. 2) Anno Domini thirteen hundred and lxxxiii, (sic) who did many good things with regard to the first building of this Church. Pray for him”.

And round the figure (though from an inspection of the matrix which is without doubt the original one, one cannot see how there could well have been so lengthy an inscription there) follows the legend:-

“You who read this verse often think of what will follow.
I am a vile corpse; and you will be a corpse.     1383”.

According to this MS. the date of his death was 1383 and not 1358 as stated on the later brasses; and this evidently seems the case, for John Foljambe was alive in

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1365 when he contemplated the endowment of a Chantry in the North Transept (see page 42), whilst the further steps taken by his son in 1384 seem to imply that he had only recently died.


On the pavement to the west of the Foljambe tomb, is perhaps the most interesting memorial in the whole Church. It is the Brass to the memory of Bishop Pursglove, the Founder of the Tideswell Grammar School. In the centre of the stone is a full-length effigy of the Bishop. He is represented in Eucharistic vestments:- amice, alb, stole, dalmatic, chasuble, jewelled gloves, sandals and mitre. His pastoral staff is over his left shoulder, and points outwardly. The corners of the slab are inlaid with symbols of the four Evangelists, and round the margin is the inscription,-

Christ is to me as life on earth, and death to me is gaine
Because I trust through Him alone, salvation to obtaine
So brittle is the state of man, so soon it doth decay,
So all the glory of this world must pas and fade away.
This Robert Purgslove sometyme Bishoppe of Hull deceassed
the 2 day of Maii in the yere of our Lord God, 1579.

At the foot of the figure is the following inscription an oblong plate.-

Under this stone as here doth ly a corps sumtime of fame
in tiddeswall bred and born truely Robert Purgslove by name
and there brought up by parents care at Schoole and learning trad
afterwards by Uncle dear to London he was had
who William Bradshaw hight by name in pauls wch did him place
and yr at Schoole did him maintain full thrice 3 whole years space
and then into the Abberye was placed as I wish
in Southwarke call'd where it doth ly Saint Mary Overis
to Oxford then who did him Send into that Colledge right
And there 14 years did him find wh Corpus Christi hight
From thence at length away he went A Clerke of learning great
to Gisburn Abbey Streight was sent, and placed in Priors seat
Bishop of Hull he was also, Archdeacon of Nottingham
Provost of Rotherham Colledge too, of York eak Suffragan
two Gramer Schooles he did ordain with land for to endure
one Hospital for to maintain twelve impotent and poor

Bishop Pursglove's tomb

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O Gisburne thou with Tiddeswall town lement and mourn you may
for this Said Clerk of great renoun, lyeth here compast in clay
though cruell Death hath now down brought this body we here doth ly
yet trump of Fame Stay can he nought to Sound his praise on high

The two Latin lines, with which it concludes, urge the reader to think of the future; for, some day, he, like the Bishop, will be “a vile corpse”.

The slab, to which the brasses are fixed, was raised originally about a foot from the ground.

The brasses on this tomb are the original ones, excepting this oblong plate which was inserted in 1705, in place of an older brass which had been removed many years before.


The rivet heads from some cause or other appear to have been worn away, and the brass plate to have become loosened. Instead of being refixed at once it was taken away for safety; but on the death of Rev. L. Brierly, who had been Vicar of Tideswell, in 1680, it was cut up and a portion of it used to mark his tomb. This, which had become detached, was recovered in 1901, after having been in private hands for half-a-century, and has been fixed to the wall of the Church, immediately above Bishop Purgslove's tomb. On the one side is a part of the Purgslove inscription which, as far as it goes, is word for word the same as the existing one; on the other is the memorial to Laurence Brierly, Vicar of this Church, who died January 9th, 1680.

A careful examination of the lettering on this palimpsest brass, compared with the lettering on the original brasses on the Bishop's tomb, will show that even it is not the original one. But recent investigations seem to prove that the inscription now existing on the oblong brass on the tomb is, at any rate, a copy of the original inscription.

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Palimpsest Brass (Bp. Pursglove)
Palimpsest Brass (Rev. L. Brierly, Vicar)
PALIMPSET BRASS (Bp. Pursglove and Rev. L. Brierly, Vicar)

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Robert Pursglove, sometimes nicknamed Sylvester, was born in Tideswell about the year 1504. He came of family of yeomen which had been settled in the Parish at least, since 1431. To this family William Pursegloves, who was Vicar of Tideswell in 1444 and 1447, &c., may have belonged. Robert received his early education in his native town, and then was sent to London, where, through the kind offices of his mother's brother, William Bradshaw, he spent nine years at S. Paul's School. Then, after a short term of residence at the Augustinian Priory of S. Mary Overy, he became a student at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he remained for twelve years, probably until 1532. He joined the Monastery at Guisborough, Yorks., which belonged to the Order of S. Augustine, and very quickly rose to the dignity of Prior. This was in 1534. Four years later he became a Prebendary of York, and on December 29th of the same year, 1538, he was consecrated (by Archbishop Lee) Suffragan Bishop of Hull. In 1539 he surrendered to the King the great house at Guisborough, of which he was Prior, receiving a considerable retiring pension. The following year he was made Provost of the Secular (i.e. not Monastic) College of Jesus, at Rotherham, and held this office until the beginning of the reign of Edward VI., when it was suppressed. In 1550, he was appointed Archdeacon of Nottingham. But he was deprived of this office, as well as of his official position as Bishop Suffragan in 1559 for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. In the same year (twenty years before his death), he founded the Grammar School at Tideswell and dedicated it, as his own old School, at S. Paul's, had been, to the Child Jesus. He directed that a portion of the income should be given to the poor. In 1563 he founded a School at Guisborough, and in the same place erected an almshouse for poor people. During the last twenty years of his life he resided partly at

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Ugthorp, in Yorkshire, to a radius of twelve miles round which he was for a time restricted as being a recusant. In a letter from her Commissioners to the Queen, in 1561, he was described as being “very wealthy, stiff in papistry, and of estimation in the country”. But during some portion of this time he resided partly at Tideswell, and partly at Dunston, in Derbyshire; and his body found its last earthly resting place within the walls of Tideswell Church, where often he would have worshipped as a boy, and where he would doubtless have attended the Services during the years of his retirement.

It is especially noticeable that on the Pursglove tomb, the Bishop, who died in the 21st year of Queen Elizabeth, appears in what are usually regarded as pre-Reformation vestments. It will be remembered that there is a similar representation on the brass of Bishop Goodrych (1554) in Ely Cathedral.

The Grammar School, founded by Bishop Pursglove in 1560, continued its good work until 1930; and during the 370 years that it existed, many boys from the neighbourhood have received their education here, whilst it has attracted some number of boarders from more distant parts. But, amongst other things, the school buildings (the lower part of which were erected in 1742 and the upper storey in 1824) are hardly suitable premises for an up-to-date education at the present day. In another form, however, the good Bishop's work still goes on - for the “Robert Pursglove Educational Foundation” will provide a Central School in Tideswell for boys and girls over 11 years of age;- to the building of

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which £3,500 comes from the Grammar School Funds: in addition to which it will provide Scholarships to Secondary Schools to the amount of from £100 to £150 a year. And the Pursglove Dole, or “Grammar School Dole” as it is locally called, will still continue to help many of the poor of the district.


The large brass affixed to the wall further to Canon the West is in memory of the late Vicar, Rev. Samuel Andrew His long ministry 1864-1900 was signalised by his love for his people, by his devotion to the Church which was carefully restored in 1875, and by his erection of Schools at Litton and Cressbrook, and of Hamlet Churches at Millers Dale and Wardlow. His memory will always live in the hearts of those who knew him, and the handsome, memorial brass will serve to tell to future generations what manner of man he was. The brass, which was erected by public subscription, was unveiled and dedicated by the Bishop Suffragan of Shrewsbury (Sir L.T. Stamer, Bart.) on Nov. 11th, 1901.

Canon Andrew's Memorial

Against the S. wall of the Sanctuary is a tablet to the memory of another Vicar, Rev. Thomas Brown, 1796-1837. He was also Head Master of the Grammar School, and was familiarly spoken of as “Parson Brown”.

And near to it is an alabaster tablet to the memory of Samuel Eccles,- alluded to above (p. 15), as the person who obtained a faculty from the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield to erect a family Pew above the screen at the entrance to the Chancel. The Paten sometimes used at the Holy Communion was presented to the Church by him in 1724.

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William Newton, whose monument will also be seen in the Chancel, was the proprietor of Litton Mill, and a benefactor to the district. Largely at his own cost, he brought a supply of water to the town and carried it on to Litton.


The large Altar Tomb in the centre of the Chancel is to the memory of Sir Sampson Meverill. The five crosses cut in the marble, near each of the four corners and in the centre of the tomb, show that it has been used as an altar. Various brass plates have been let into the slab of Purbeck marble which forms the top. In the centre is a curious symbolical representation of the Holy Trinity, around which is the inscription “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”. God the Father is represented as seated beneath a canopy, holding a crucifix in front of Him on which hangs the human form of God the Son, whilst above the right shoulder rests a dove, the emblem of God the Holy Ghost.[2] Of the four brass shields one is now blank. the others bear the separate coats of Meverill, Daniel, and Brampton. The large shield has the same four coats of arms quartered. Three hundred years ago, the escutcheon now left blank bore the arms of Middleton. Those arms also appeared on the quartered coat, where the blank quartering now is, and over all were the arms of Leche on an escutcheon of pretence. Some of the brasses appear to have been removed about the year 1688. They were renewed by Sir John Statham, a relative, in 1702. The oblong brass plate on the tomb refers to this. At the four corners of the tomb are symbols of the Evangelists.

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It is difficult to see what connection some of the legends on the scrolls have with the Evangelists, e.g. S. Matthew, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”. S. Mark, “He that is baptized shall be saved”. S. Luke, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved”. S. John, “Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder”. The inscription on the brass riband along the margin of the stone (commencing on the South side) reads as follows.-

“Under this stone lyeth Sampson Meverill, which was borne in Stone in the feast of St. Michael the Archangell, and there Christened by the Pryor of the same hous, and Sampson of Clifton, Esq., and Margrett, the daughter of Philip Stapley in the yeare of our Lord, MCCC
VIII, and so lived, under the service of Nicholl Lord Audley and Dame Elizabeth his wife, the space of XVIII years and more; and after, by the Assent of John Meverill, his (a) fader, he was wedded in (b) belser, the King's Mannor, to Isabell the daughter of the (c) worpful knight, Sir Roger Lech, the XVII day (d) Pasche, and after he came to the service of the noble Lord (e) John Mountegue, Earl of Salsbury, the which ordeyned the said Sampson to be a Capitayne of diverse (c) worpful places in france; and after the death of the said Earl, he came to the service of John Duke of Bedford, and soe being in his service, he was in XI grate Battayles in France within the space of two years, and at St. Luce the said Duc gave him the order of kthood: and after that, the said Duc made him kt Constable, and by his commandment he kept the Constable Court of this land till the death of the said Duc; and after that hee aboade under the service of (f) John Stafford, Arch Byshop of Canter bury, and soe enduring in great worp, departed from all worldly service, unto the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ the which (g) dp d his soul from his body in the feast of (h) St Marut in the yeare of our Lord MCCCCLXII, and soe his word may be prouved that grace paseth cunning. Amen. Devoutly of yr charity sayth a pater noster with an Aye for all (k) Xρian soules and especially, for the soule whose bonss resten under this stone”.
Tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill

Key: (a) Father. (b) Belfer, or Beaurepaire, i.e. Belper. (c) worshipful, (d) after Easter. (e) should be Thomas. (f) Archbishop, 1443-1452. (g) departed. (h) should be St. Macut, i.e. Machudd, or Macutus November 15th. (k) Christian.

The French wars, and Sir Sampson's connection with the Archbishop, seem to show that the symbol of the Holy Trinity engraved on his tomb may have been suggested by the same symbol which is painted on the canopy over

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the tomb of the Black Prince, the hero of Crecy and of Poictiers, in Canterbury Cathedral, (1376).

At first sight, the date of Sir Sampson Meverill's christening, as recorded on the tomb, is somewhat puzzling. It appears thus:- M  CCC 
 VIII. The reader will see the XX above the IIII, or 4 times 20, gives 80.- The year then was 1388. Sampson was born 29 Sept., 1388. He served as page to Lord and Lady Audley. He was married at Belper to Isabella, daughter of Sir Roger Leche, a member of the Chatsworth family and Lord High Treasurer of England. The Manor of Tideswell with permission to hold a weekly market and an annual fair came to him by inheritance in 1426. In 1431 he seems to have been the most important resident here, for the annual value of his “free tenement in Tyddeswell held in soccage” was four times as great as that possessed by any other person. He possessed estates also at Ilam and at Throwley. What part he took in the French wars besides which is mentioned on his tomb we cannot tell. Was he present in 1415 at the taking of Honfleur, or at the battle of Agincourt, when he would be 27 years of age? Henry V. died in 1422 and was succeeded. by his infant son Henry VI., in whose name John, Duke of Bedford, himself a member of the royal family, assumed the government of France. We know that after this time Sampson was fighting in France, for he served under the Earl of Montacute, who commanded the English army at the siege Orleans, Oct. 12th, 1428, and was killed early in the siege. After the death of the Earl, he served under the Duke of Bedford, by whom he was raised to the order of Knighthood, and entrusted with the office of deputy Knight constable. Without a doubt, then, he fought at of Orleans, and against Joan of Arc who has been so recently caononised. Perhaps he was present at the crowning of the young King in Paris. After the Duke's death, in 1435,

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he transferred his allegiance to the Archbishop (Stafford) of Canterbury. He died Nov. 15th, 1462. A soldier by profession, he was by nature, too, somewhat bellicose. And there are records of constant feuds between him and his powerful neighbour at Throwley - Ralph Basset of Blore, neither of whom would brook any interference with their real or imaginary rights:- feuds due in the first instance perhaps to the straying of cattle, or the scarcity of labour, And there were frequent disputes about the tithes of Throwley which belonged to the Church of Ilam, and which John Southworth the Vicar of Ilam had devised to Ralph Basset: feuds and disputes which led to imprisonment, and to sentences of ex-communication with appeals to the King and to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sir Sampson Meverill's tomb was restored in 1876. A portion of the old base is still preserved at the East end. Through the openings at the sides of the tomb the stone effigy is visible of the old Knight. It represents him at the time of his death wrapped in a winding sheet, with his head supported by angels. A strange contrast! The brasses tell of his earthly greatness. The effigy points to the earthly end of all, whatever their worldly position may be.

At the beginning of the last century doles of bread were distributed on this tomb. And other old customs still retained are that on it the offertory is counted and the marriage registers always signed.

Although the Estates with the Manor passed by marriage in 1638 to Lord Cromwell (cf. page 5), for half-a-century later Meverills were amongst the most important inhabitants of Tideswell.

The hatchment (or lozenge-shaped frame displaying armorial bearings) suspended against the South wall of the Chancel, is that of Robert Freeman, who formerly resided at Wheston Hall. A tablet to his memory is placed just below.

[1] In a MS. of the early part of the 18th century, this renewed Brass is described as appearing ‘very ancient though wrote in Roman characters’.
[2] Some of our readers may remember a similar representation on the tomb of the Black Prince, in Canterbury Cathedral. This symbolical representation also appears in the centre of the seal of dignity of of Cardinal Pole, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, 1556-8.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

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