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Church Post Code SK17 8NU

Open to visitors

Visited February 2020

"The Cathedral of the Peak"


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 Peak’ 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!


It was a very dull day, but the light quality inside, though dark, was better than I expected and was quite workable. A gut reaction on seeing the interior was the sheer dimensions of the place; this is an impressive church and reflects as to the wealth of this area in medieval times. There are four bay arcades to the north and south of the nave, with these being of impressive height, reaching up virtually to the height of the clerestory. Both the chancel arch and tower arch are separated by screens; the chancel arch dating back to the 14th century being considerably older than the tower screen which dates from 1904.


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.


The chancel is long and ornate, with more modern statues in ancient recesses on the east wall. Against the south wall is an ogee headed triple sedilia, the seating for the priests during the Mass, and a piscina which was used in the washing of the holy vessels in pre reformation times.

The east window is of five lights and the central three lights form the Tree of Jesse, with the risen Christ in majesty central; holding a globe with hand raised in blessing. Surrounding these, on the outer two lights are scenes concerning John the Baptist, after who the church is dedicated.  We have, an angel appearing to John’s father Zechariah in the temple, to tell him that his wife is to give birth; John’s mother Anna meeting Mary the Mother of Jesus when each were with child and Zechariah, who had been struck dumb writing down that the child’s name was to be John. We also have John the Baptist at the height of his ministry, calling on people to repent. We also have John baptising Jesus and John’s body being collected after he had been beheaded.  A fine window, dated 1875 by Beaton, Butler and Bayne.


There is plenty of other glass here as well, but just to concentrate on the west window which is of five lights on two levels. At the top is Christ in majesty, and the risen Christ is surrounded on the two levels with various Bible characters from Old and New Testament all at worship. On the bottom level, characters included John, portrayed as an older character, St Boniface who is depicted with a sword going through a book, St Agnes who carries and lamb, St Catherine who is crowned and who carries a processional cross, and the three Marys.

John the Baptist and an angel of the Lord point upwards and alongside Christ on that top level we St Peter, carrying keys alongside other disciples, with the four Gospel writers close by, including a younger depiction of Jon with serpent emerging from a chalice of wine.  From the Ole Testament both Moses with commandments tablet and King David with harp are easily identifiable.


There are some fine wooden carvings here, with several in the chancel not being of any great age and possibly dating from a period of Victorian restoration. We have an angel of the Lord appearing to Zechariah in the temple; informing him that his wife, thought to be barren, will give birth to John the Baptist. We have a depiction of John the Baptist himself close by carrying a cross. There is a depiction of what might be Bartholomew, who carries a cross and something in his right hand. Bartholomew was skinned and is often shown carrying his own skin. Perhaps this is what we have here. On a poppy head we have a small, exquisite depiction of the annunciation. There are more ancient carvings on the choirstalls but it was pretty dark in there and the quality of my photographs on the day suffered as a result.




Church Post Code S32 5QR

Open to visitors


We moved on a little more than three miles to the north east, to Foolow. 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.

We continued this Derbyshire churchcrawl; heading the short distance east to neighbouring Eyam, the plague village, which will be covered on a separate page.

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