Derbyshire  February 2020

Tideswell    St John The Baptist - Open
Foolow   St Hugh   -  Open
Grindleford   St Helen  -  Open
Nether Padley Chapel -- Closed

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It was good to be back at Tideswell. I first visited this lovely village, the second largest in the Peak District evidently, back in 2013, on the same day that I visited Eyam. Time was a little limited then and I certainly didn’t do the ‘Cathedral of the Peaks’ justice. The return was on a freezing cold February day; snow having fallen the previous day according to a friendly local.

The 14th century church of St John The Baptist is set in the centre of the village and the door was open to welcome visitors, even on a bitterly cold day in the depth of winter. They are hardy folks these northerners! Friendly as well, it is always good to be here!

The church of St John The Baptist is cruciform; consisting of west tower, nave with aisles and clerestories, south porch, north and south transepts and chancel. The tower is pinnacled and battlemented, church clock looking out from the south face, the nave and transepts are also battlemented. The transepts are very large, as is the chancel with enormous 14th century windows running the length on north and south sides, A lovely sight, even on a dull mid winters day!

To the south of the church, the grounds are well maintained, with not much in the way of gravestones. Benches are set against the south wall of the nave. What a pleasant place to sit on a warm summer evening, watching the world go by!

I said this recently in compiling another page, but it seems really strange looking back to be able to just wander up to a church door and go inside. No hand sanitiser, no mask, no social distancing and no anxious glances around to check if there was anyone around who would object to my being there! How quickly the old way of things turns in to the new norm!

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Cathedral of the Peaks! Yes, I can certainly understand this!  A gut reaction was to just admire the sheer scale of the place. This is a very impressive church.  Nave is separated from the long elegant chancel by a wooden screen. The tower arch is as good as anything that I have come across over the years.  The bays, are similarly tall and elegant. A lifetime’s work I would imagine for the local stonemasons of the day.

Wandering around the interior, I was immediately drawn to the memorials.  Two recumbent effigies of female figures at prayer are thought to date from the 12th and 13th centuries, which would mean that they pre date the church structure that we see today.

A memorial to Thurston De Bower and his lady dates from 1423. He is dressed in armour, gauntleted hands raised in prayer.  Part of one leg is missing and there is graffiti covering most of his body. Sadly, his lady is badly damaged as well; both arms missing. Her head rests on a pillow, a tiny attendant by her head for the last 600 odd years.

There is a good deal of stained glass here, with the east window depicting several scenes from the life of Christ, alongside with scenes from the life of John the Baptist, after who the church is dedicated. In fact, we would have to say scenes from before the lives of both; with the Annunciation and the story of Zechariah being struck dumb in the temple for hid disbelief each being told.

A depiction of the Ascension is a wonderful piece of work, and in fairness of higher quality than the east window to my mind. This is on two levels with Jesus on high, standing on clouds with hand raised in blessing, surrounded by worshiping angels. Below, the faithful stand around Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. Two angels are central; one points upwards. He is not here, He is risen!

A more modern stained glass window shows Jesus surrounded by children, two disciples trying to prevent other children from approaching. Wonderful vibrant colours in much of the glass here!

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There are several very well crafted wooden carvings here. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of age to them and I assume that they date from a period of restoration in the 1870’s. A carving of a bearded, robed figure with hat could well be a priest. If it is a priest then it could well be Zechariah given that he was the father of John The Baptist, with the church dedicated to him!

Close by is the figure of a man carrying a cross in his left hand and something else in his right hand. This could well be St Bartholomew, who was skinned and beheaded and is often depicted carrying his own skin.

What a joy to see this church again. A stunning church in a beautiful village with friendly people! What more could we wish for! We moved on!

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The church of St John The Baptist, Tideswell.

Foolow is a small, and very pretty village, two miles to the east of Eyam, the village that famously isolated themselves during an outbreak of the plague, to help prevent the spread to neighbouring villages.

The church of St Hugh can be found just off to the side of the main road which runs through the village. Close by is the village green, with ancient stone cross, dating from the 15th century, which was evidently moved to its present positions from elsewhere in the village in the 1860’s. By the side of the cross, interestingly, is a bull ring.

St Hugh established the first Carthusian Monastery in England in 1170. He became Bishop of Lincoln and his remains are interred in Lincoln cathedral. St Hugh is normally depicted with a swan, with legend stating that the Bishop was protected by a swan as he slept!

A cluster of beautiful stone cottages surround the church, as well as a former Wesleyan Chapel. The large duck pond is close by as well, with four white ducks preening themselves, completely indifferent to the middle aged churchcrawler, who was trying to get some decent ‘arty’ shots of the ducks with the church in the background.

The church here was once the local village blacksmiths. It was purchased and fitted out to be a church in 1888, at a cost of less than £150, with the first service being held in December of that year. The original structure was just a single cell. The nave was extended to include a chancel the following year, with the porch being added a few years after that. A single bell hangs here, this being cast in Sheffield by Vickers. This bell is undated.

This is an area of open churches. I found very few closed to visitors in those pre covid days, even in the depth of winter. St Hugh was open and welcoming. The west door was left open to advertise the fact. I would imagine that many people visit this exquisite little church in the tourist season as they head for Eyam. Sitting here typing this, my mind wandered off to an imaginary, Sunday afternoon in mid Summer. Warm and sultry with thunder rumbling off in the distance. Shirtsleeve weather and a walk, with a friend, leaving from the church at Eyam, heading out to Foolow and back again, ending up in a pub for an evening meal. An appetising thought that will one day be realised. Something to look forward to as this is being typed in the midst of a third national lockdown, with the wind blowing and light snow flurries coming down!

Inside, it is bright and welcoming, even on a dull day. Two lines of benches in the nave lead to the chancel, which as mentioned earlier is just an extension of the nave. The church organ sits to the north of the chancel. Walls and ceiling are whitewashed. There is a little coloured Victorian glass in the east window. The alter was decked out with daffodils and tulips. I daresay that a team of people have probably been doing this for years. Good on them! A cross on the alter had a remembrance day cross attached to it.  “Holy holy holy Lord God almighty” reads above the chancel entrance. A tiny ornament of a figure at prayer rests on a ledge to one side. A peaceful place! Uncluttered!

Moving back outside, the ducks were still wrapped up in themselves, it was still really quiet although a delivery van did cause a little excitement as it headed towards Eyam. If you take away the few cars in view and a tv aerial or two, I imagine that this view would have remained pretty much unchanged from the time that the church opened in the late 1880’s.

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The church of St Hugh, Foolow.

We moved on to Grindleford, and the church of St Helen.  The church here is tucked behind some trees at the side of the main road that leads towards Nether Padley, heading in the direction of Hathersage and the Hope Valley. Eyam, the plague village, is a short distance away to the south east. This is a popular place for hikers, but not necessarily today, on a freezing cold February morning.

Structurally, this is a curious looking building. The large east end of the church looked to be late Victorian or early twentieth century. The long narrow nave that leads up to it looks to be fairly recent. It turns out that the east end of the church is dated to 1910 and it was never completed due to World War One.  By the look of what was completed at that time, the plans were for a very large church!

Interestingly, the village shop is run from the church vestry. The church website stated that the church would be open during the week when the shop was open. The shop was closed when I arrived, but the church was still open.

Modern stacking chairs line the long, slender nave, leading to the chancel. The alter is plain and tasteful; just a cross and flowers, with a curtain taking the place of a reredos. The alter cloth has a repeated pattern of crosses on it.

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The east window has the risen Christ as the centre piece, hand raised in blessing, ‘I am the beginning and the end’ written on a banner above Jesus’ golden flaming nimbus. To the far left as we look at it is St George and to his right is the Virgin Mary. To Jesus’ right is St Helen, after whom the church id dedicated.

Helen was the mother of Constantine the Great. In her final years she was said to have discovered the true cross. When depicted in stained glass, she is mostly portrayed holding a cross, as is the case here. On the far right is St Alban, who was the first recorded British Christian martyr; being beheaded in the 3rd or 4th century.

There is a very fine nativity scene in the south chapel. Interestingly, children are worshiping with the shepherds. Over the stable, three angels keep watch on what is going on below. One angel carries a cross, another carries a crown and the third carries the crucifixion nails. A great representation, showing that Jesus’ life, ministry and death was foretold; not from the day that He was born, but from long before that.

This is an unusual, quirky building, which is not going to win any architectural awards but which has a great charm. I enjoyed visiting here very much!

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The church of St Helen, Grindleford.

It was a very short distance to Nether Padley chapel, our next point of call. The van was parked close to what looked like a very decent café, and we set of a few hundred yards in to what looked like the middle of nowhere!

 Nether Padley is a rural hamlet to the north west of Grindleford. Just a scattering of houses; and the remains of a medieval manor house, set at the side of what passes for the main road. There had been a manor house here since before the Norman Conquest. Nothing remains of that building; which became best known in the late 16th century, when the manor was owned to John Fitzherbert.

In those days; days of catholic persecution, it was an offence of high treason to be an ordained catholic priest in this country, or to harbour a priest.

In 1588, two catholic priests, Robert Ludlum and Richard Garlick visited John Fitzherbert, whose family were staunch catholics, and who were under investigation by the authorities.

They were found, arrested and taken to Derby Gaol. On the journey there, legend states that they went through Eyam. The villagers there were hostile to the two priests and shouted insults at them.  Interestingly, one of the accused made a comment which apparently predicted the coming of the plague there in the 17th century. Both were executed on St Mary’s Bridge in Derby; with the legend being that Garlick’s head was buried in Tideswell church grounds shortly afterwards.

The gatehouse and chapel are all that remains of the manor complex, with the foundation walls of the rest of the complex to be seen to the north of the chapel.  It was interesting to walk around the ruins of the complex, trying to imagine what things were like before it fell to ruin during the 17th century. Over to the east, tree roots have forced their way through one of the perimeter walls, to the south there is what appears to be a sink.

The ground rises up sharply to the north, with a dent view of the complex as a whole, with a few scattered houses visible further on through the trees.

In 1892, there was the first pilgrimage to Padley. This pilgrimage has become an annual event, and proved very popular. In 1931 the gatehouse and some adjoining property was purchased by the Diocese of Nottingham. The chapel was restored and consecrated as a chapel.

In 1934, the alter stone from the chapel, which the Fitzherbert family had buried in the grounds when they realised that they were under suspicion was found and returned to the chapel. Around this time the chapel was made in to a Roman Catholic chapel in memory of the two martyrs.

Daylight was fading fast and it was time to head back towards Peterborough, with a stop off at a Toby Carvery en route. It had been a good, interesting day.

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If you have enjoyed reading this and would like to see some more of my trips in to Derbyshire, click on the photograph immediately above on the right and you will be directed to the page detailing my visit to Eyam, the plague village. This page will open up in another window.