STONEY MIDDLETON : CHURCH OF ST MARTIN
Church Post Code S32 4TU
Open to visitors
Visited July 2023
It was the summer of 2023, and a return visit to the Derbyshire Peak District; an area that I have grown to love very much since my first church photography tour there back in 2012. The three churches featured on this page were all revisits, and are quite an eclectic mix, with a substantially rebuilt medieval church of an almost unique design, an intact medieval church and a Victorian Congregational Chapel set up to break away from the local Anglican church.
We start at Stoney Middleton, which can be found less than two miles south east of Eyam, the Plague Village, a page for which can be found on this site. Buxton is off to the west, with Tideswell and its magnificent church a fine stopping off point for those travelling in that direction. The Hope Valley is off to the north and Bakewell to the south. Tideswell and the Hope Valley are also covered on this site.
A few facts about Stoney Middleton; there is a plague connection here with the villagers in Stoney Middleton helping those quarantined in Eyam, by leaving food out for them, which those in Eyam paid for by leaving money soaked in vinegar on a boundary marker.
A fish and chip shop in the village is unique in that it is the only one in the country to operate from a Grade II Listed building. Finally, is the story of Hannah Baddeley, who in 1762 was going to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff after being jilted by her lover. She jumped but her long dress billowed out and acted like a parachute, cushioning her fall and leaving her with just minor injuries. This is now called ‘Lover’s Leap’ and today there is a curry shop tucked under the cliff which runs alongside the main road which runs through the village.
In the 15th century, a stone church was built at the crossroads that connected Eyam, Stoney Middleton and Grindleford. The tower still remains, as part of the church of St Martin, Stoney Middleton that we see today. The nave and chancel of that medieval structure were destroyed by fire but the tower was left virtually unscathed.
The church was rebuilt with nave built in an almost unique octagonal style; this being one of just two in the country built like this; and of the two this being the oldest. Having navigated the tight, winding streets and finding a parking space after a lot of effort and some muttering, Gary went off to the Grade II Listed chippy and I headed off to the church, which was open to visitors.
The visitor enters in to the church through a door in the west face of the 15th century battlemented and pinnacled tower. As one moves around the church though, the unusual nature of the layout of the rest of the church becomes evident. The chancel is flat and shallow, but the nave opens out in an octagonal shape with a large similarly shaped dome over the top of the nave with eight three light windows surrounding in, all of clear glass.
Moving inside, I have to admit that I found this one challenging to photograph as the internal layout is so different than I am used to! There is a central octagonal space in the centre of the nave, and glancing upwards, a beautiful similar shaped ceiling, painted blue with chandelier hanging; this being under the dome previously mentioned.
Lovers Leap Stoney Middleton
The pews are laid out at unusual angles, in accordance with the eight sided nature of the walls. When the nave was rebuilt there was a west gallery here but this was taken down during Victorian restoration in 1861.
The east window shows Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Modern roundels depict St Martin of Tours, after who the church is dedicated, cutting his cloak to give half to a beggar. We also see Mary with Joseph and the Nany Jesus, with script alongside reading ‘The word was made flesh and dwelt among us’, this coming from the Gospel of John Chapter 1 verse 14.
The church is bright and welcoming; a beautiful and elegant Georgian interior. A brass wall plaque from the early 1700’s survived the fire and features symbols of the mortality of Man; a human skull with crossed bones and a winged hourglass, Tempus Fugit, time flies.
The church grounds are fairly tight, and one item in there, to the east of the church, pre dates the rebuilding of 1759 by quite a way. This is a table tomb which has a Grade II Listing; with the official listing suggesting a date of mid 17th century and possibly for a plague victim. As on the wall monument inside, this has a depiction of an hourglass on it.
GREAT LONGSTONE : CHURCH OF ST GILES
Church Post Code DE45 1TB
Open to visitors
We headed south west towards Great Longstone and the church of St Giles. I have really fond memories of this church, having taken the church in here as part of a day’s walk which started off at Bakewell, before heading on to Ashford in the Water, then on to Great and Little Longstone. It was a delightful walk with all churches being open; but the light conditions on the day were poor and it was always the intention to pop back one day.
The church of St Giles at Great Longstone can be found at the north of the village, in a peaceful secluded spot close to where Church Lane becomes Beggarway Lane. We are back to a traditional layout here with the church consisting of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north vestry and chancel.
The church here dates back to the 13th century with additions during the 14th and 16th centuries. There was much Victorian restoration here in the early 1870’s, which included the tower being raised up to its present height.
The church was open to visitors. Inside it was bright and welcoming. This is an impressive interior, with six bay arcades to north and south, with octagonal piers and capitals. The work of the 1870’s restoration is very much evident here, with the chancel arch being rebuilt at that time, with much of the fittings also dating from that restoration. The fine nave roof, with carved bosses, dates from the late 15th century.
Against the chancel arch was a crocheted mouse wearing a choirboy’s surplice and holding a hymn book; this being one of several church mice that we saw on this trip. He was sitting at the entrance to the chancel but I moved him to where he would be more at home; sat on the choirstalls.
The east window is of five lights and has an interesting take on the crucifixion. Christ crucified is central, with Mary Magdalene kneeling at the cross, looking up at Christ, long blond hair flowing. Mary the mother of Jesus is in her traditional place at Jesus’ right hand side, but here she is with Mary of Clopas. John is also in his traditional place on Jesus; left hand side, but is shown with the Roman Centurion. To either side are Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who helped to secure Christ’s body and prepare it for burial.
Against the south wall of the chancel is a two seat sedilia, the seating for the priests during the Mass; the sedilia here though is modern dating from the early 20th century. A piscina, in which the holy vessels used during the Mass were washed, is to the east of that.
Behind the sedilia on the south wall is a two light stained glass window which shows Abraham being stopped by an angel of the Lord from sacrificing his son Isaac, a ram trapped in a thicket in the foreground. The neighbouring panel shows Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. On the north wall is an ogee headed aumbry in which the holy vessels would have been stored.
Stained glass at the east end of the Lady Chapel to the south shows the annunciation. Other glass includes a depiction of the wise men presenting their gifts whilst a two light window shows the reinstating of Peter after he had denied knowing Jesus three times on the night of his arrest; the risen Christ about to present Peter with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, ‘Feed My Sheep’. The adjoining panel show Jesus raising back to life Jairus’ daughter.
A four light window shows four women of the Bible with Naomi, Ruth, Dorcas and Lydia all presented; close by we see St Michael and St Raphael; two of the four Archangels. St Michael holds the scales on which souls will be weighed on the final day.
The font is thought to be medieval, but was re-carved in the early 1900’s. Among the panels are the Baptism of Jesus and Noah looking out over the flood water; the dove returning with a leaf in its mouth.
There are some interesting gravestones to be seen here, including one for a soldier killed at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A stone to Elizabeth Furnis, who died in 1762 aged 18 years has the inscription ‘Be always ready no time delay I in my prime was snatch’d away’. Be prepared; this message in script has the same meaning as the skull and hourglasses symbols seen earlier at Stoney Middleton. A very formal stone to a Mr Baker who died in 1750 is carved in a curious mix of small and capital letters.
A churchyard cross to the south east of the south porch consists of an ancient base with more modern cross. This has a crudely carved date of 1656 on it along with several sets of initials.
LITTLE LONGSTONE CONGREGATIONAL CHAPEL
Chapel Post Code DE45 1NN
Open to Visitors
We moved off a short distance to the west, visiting the Congregational church at Little Longstone; a church that I fell in love with the first time that I set eyes on it more than a decade ago. I think that this will be the only Congregational church that I will cover in my sites. A Congregational church is an independent church, having broken away from the Church of England and believing that a congregation should be able to determine its own affairs without having to submit to any ‘higher’ human authority such as Vicars or Bishops.
There is an interesting story here, which was mentioned in the Great Longstone church guide. There was a Vicar at Great Longstone called CL Cornish who was vicar here for five years in the 19th century. He was a member of the Oxford Movement, which sought a renewal of Roman Catholic practices with the Church of England. This led to his services being very ‘high church’ in nature which didn’t go down too well with some people in the congregation, with the church at Little Longstone being formed by a breakaway group from St Giles at this time.
What we have here is an exquisite two cell building in a wonderful setting; the church standing quite isolated, with cattle grazing in fields criss-crossed with dry stone walls. Monsal Dale, with its spectacular scenery, can be found a short distance off to the west with a large amount of walkers in the area as a result.
The orientation of this church is different that you would normally find. Anglican churches are on a west east alignment with the chancel facing the east. This chapel runs from south to north instead.
What we see here is a simple two cell building with bellcote over a shallow porch, leading to the rest of the church. The porch had a garland over it which from memory I think was for a well dressing festival. The church was open and decked out with flowers and there were a good number of people inside. So that you can see the interior better I have included photographs of the interior from my previous visit back in 2012.
The church is carpeted in red, with Victorian pews leading to a central pulpit, which is flanked by an old organ and more modern piano. An arch over the pulpit has script which reads ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’ (Isaiah Chapter 40 verse 31). There is no altar but a simple table with flowers in front of the pulpit. A simple, elegant non-conformist interior!
I enjoyed these revisits very much; an exquisite area with for the most part open churches and friendly people. It goes without saying that all of these churches are well worth taking a look at if you are in the area. And if you do find yourself here, then neighbouring Ashford In The Water and Bakewell were also open to visitors when I was last in the area. Our two day journey in to Derbyshire continued as we headed west, towards Taddington.