Tideswell Church – The Cathedral of the Peak

Tideswell church, St John the Baptist. Tideswell is a very large ‘Church of England’ Parish Church. It is one of the most important churches in Derbyshire.

I lived in Tideswell until the age of 20. During that time, like most other Tideswellians whether young or old, I consider that I have a special relationship with Tideswell Church. I spent many hours bored rigid in there as a schoolboy, listening to religious services at Easter, Wakes, Harvest and Christmas.  I had fun practising for School plays and concerts, I was scared by the creepy tombs, and marvelled at the stone Cat and the Monkey. I’ve been Drunk in the Churchyard, in my teens, hanging out in the Churchyard till the early hours.  I saw the Duke of Edinburgh there in the 80s, when he looked at our Cub Scout’s Welldressing. I have shared in sombre moments, attending funerals some of good friends and fellow Tideswellians.  So it feels right, that I should pay some small tribute to a building that I love.

Tideswell Church

Tideswell Church – Cathedral of the Peak

About Tideswell Church

Tideswell church is famous locally, that is to say, within the Peak District, and perhaps Derbyshire, maybe also amongst those, who like myself, appreciate Churches and other ancient buildings. There is no doubt that it will have a memorable effect on anyone who has visited it.

Cathedral of the Peak

This Photo Shows the size of the building in comparison with local houses.

The reason that the church is so well known, is because of it’s size and striking architecture. Dubbed the “Cathedral of the Peak” (it is not a cathedral). It is one certainly amongst the most famous churches in Derbyshire, and is a Grade 1 listed building.

Norman Influences

The church, replaced a small Norman church, was constructed between approximately 1320 and 1400. The building work was delayed by the Black Death, Which also hit nearby Eyam (Plague village). I always like to remind people that the plague wasn’t just in Eyam, but it’s seems to be just Eyam that is famous for it.

St John the Baptist church - Nave

The Nave

There are two main styles to the building: the nave ( main body of the church), aisles Corridors) and transepts (wings) are in late Gothic style,(French style Architecture, characteristics include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress.) and both the chancel (space around the altar) and tower are in perpendicular style.(Focusing on straight lines)

Tideswell Church

Tideswell Church

Tideswell Church

The perpendicular style became popular the Black Death which killed about half of England’s population in 18 months between June 1348 and December 1349 returning in 1361–62 to kill another fifth. This had a dramatic effect on the arts and culture, which it seems became very practical. The nation was affected by the labour shortages caused by the plague so architects designed less elaborately to compensate.

The church underwent was major restoration in 1873 by J D Sedding .Which was truly a restoration rather than a reconstruction. In ‘Churches and Chapels in The County of Derby‘, Rawlins described St John’s as being:

without exception the most perfect and beautiful specimen of pointed architecture to be found in the County, – or perhaps in any other parish church of its size in the entire Kingdom

Tideswell Church Tower

Tideswell Church Tower

Catholicism in Tideswell

We often forget, that although today, most of our Parish Churches are ‘Church of England’. Many began life as Catholic Churches, Tideswell is no different. Bishop Pursglove, and Nicholas Garlic are Tideswells’ most celebrated and most notorious Catholic Clergy.

Lichfield vs Lenton – The fight for Tideswell Church.

In 1250–51, the church became embroiled in a dispute between Lichfield Cathedral and Lenton Priory.

Tideswell was one of a several of parishes that had been given to Lenton Priory by the Peverel family during the 11th century. Later, their lands in the Peak District were seized by the crown and granted by King Henry II to his son William The Younger.

After taking the throne, Henry’s son,  King John, granted the lands to the Bishop of Lichfield and in turn they passed to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral.

This transfer began around 300 years of disagreement between the Priory and Cathedral about who was rightful owner of the Tideswell Church. The legal battle continued throughout this period, including suits in the Vatican Court on several occasions.

Tideswell Church became directly involved in the dispute when in 1250–51, The monks of Lenton Priory armed themselves and attempted to steal wool and lambs from Tideswell,

The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, knew that Lenton would try such a manoeuvre, and ordered the wool and sheep to be kept within the nave of Tideswell church. Strangely, the monks of Lenton did not honour the church’s sanctuary rights, breaking into the building. A voilent battle followed, and 18 lambs were killed within the church: either trampled under the horses’ hooves or butchered by the attackers. The Lenton, monks managed to carry off 14 of the lambs. (House of Cluniac Monks, Page, W 1910)

Despite a commission being assembled by Pope Innocent IV, which fined the monks of Lenton Priory severely for their actions. The disputes continued until King Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries and Catholic Power was smashed throughout the land.

Notable Features in Tideswell Church

There are of course several notable features in, on and around the church. Some of the most notable items are the tombs in the Church. There are brasses to Sir John Foljamb, d. 1383 and to Bishop Robert Purseglove as well as several stone table tombs.  These tombs used to fascinate and scare me as a kid, the thought of waht might lie beneath them petrified me.

The Tomb of Sampson Meveril

In the middle of the chancel there is an Altar tomb. Within lies Sir Sampson Meverill (1388–1462), allegedly one of the victors of Agincourt. Aparently Sir Sampson was ‘a bit of a rum lad’. Not averse, in his day, to abducting Jurers, sent to try him.  As a boy, this tomb always scared me because beneath the marble slab, a stone cadaver lies. The stone corpse looks emaciated and creepy. Sampson’s head is held by an Angel, but the ravages of time make the Angel look more like some kind of evil Succubus. The top of the tomb is heavily inscribed and has an alabaster frieze and brass panels. The tomb was restored in 1876.

Stone Cadaver with Angel

The Tomb of Sir Sampson Meveril in Tideswell Church

In the South Transept, there is the Lytton Chapel has one of the old bells on the floor, whilst nearby, is the tomb of Robert (d. 1483) and his wife Isabel (d. 1458) Lytton.

Mysterious Ladies from the 14th Century

The transcept also holds the effigies of two unknown ladies, these figures are thought to date back to the early 1300′s.

Stone Effigies in the Lytton Chapel.

Stone Effigies - Tideswell Church

Sir Thurstan DeBower

Perhaps the church’s most notable feature is the ‘Bower Chapel’. This contains an impressive tomb, said to be that of Sir Thurstan and his wife Margret de Bower. the recumbent alabaster figures are extremely worn but remain impressive. Personally I think it’s a tragedy that people have etched graffiti into the stone tomb, but most of it is very old by the look of it.

There is some debate raised by previous books about Tideswell, as to the true identity of these figures set in Alabaster. Local Historian, Rosmarie Lockie’s website has transcriptions that state contrary evidence. (See Related Links).

De Bower Tomb

Sir Thurstram De Bower and wis Wife Margaret?

Carved Inscription regarding Sir Thurstram

Carved Inscription regarding Sir Thurstram – but is it accurate?

Thurstram Debower - Knight of Tideswell, and Benefactor of the church

Thurstram Debower – Knight of Tideswell?, Benefactor of the Church

Thurstram Debower

Is this the Debower tomb or an effigy to some other local Knight?

Wood Carvings

Tideswell Church is well known for the carvings of Advent Hunstone. Hunstone was A Tideswellman, who’s carvings adorn the great building, and many other local churches.
Not all the carvings in Tideswell church are Hunstone’s though.
Some in the chancel choir stalls are attributed to a Mr Tooley of Bury St Edmunds Suffolk.

Wood Carvings

Wood Carvings at Tideswell

There are many other notable Features in Tideswell Church, probabally too many to mention. Also I think you should visit the church to get the real feel for it. Even locals, because when you walk past something everyday, sometimes you don’t really see it. You’ll be surprised at what you will spot for the first time.

Here are a few of my favourite features.

Old Stained Glass, Derbyshire

The Stained Glass at Tideswell is fantastic.


This Figurine of Mary is hidden away behind the small Organ.





The Monkey, Often hard to spot…can you find him?


Possible Tunnel & Secret Crypt

There are those in the village who believe that Tideswell Church is connected to a series of other local buildings by a series of narrow tunnels. Some villages dismiss the idea out of hand whilst others swear to have been in them or recount tales of seeing family members in the Tunnels.

Today, those who would know keep the secret. Those who would know, like myself have struggled to find out more than what is already known or supposed. You can read my posts about the tunnels under Tideswell Church here or just Google Tunnels under Tideswell. If the tunnels are there, what do they lead to? Some say they were escape routes for priests during the reformation, others say that they were used to transport prisoners, and goods. Then there are those, who believe that the reason Tideswell church is so large is because it hides an secret crypt of an important person. Whatever the truth is, I hope we all find out one day. I’m sure it would be a positive thing for the village, in terms of tourism, if the stories turn out to be true.

Share if you like Please

I do hope that you enjoyed my post about Tideswell Church. If you did, please leave a comment or at least like or Share on Facebook/Twitter/ Google Plus, Pinterest or  whatever Social Network you favour.

Related Links – Tideswell Church.

Thurstan Debower
Wishful thibking – DeBower

Debower or Who?
Tideswell Church South Transept

Sampson Meveril, Marauding Monks and ‘The Kings Larder’
Tideswell History

Tideswell Tombs

Bishop Pursglove
Bishop Pursglove

Tidza March


Local Business man and Bandsman Vernon Watson talks about the evolution of the Tideswell Processional.

Originally posted on Tideswell Tales:

No celebration in Tideswell would be right without the Tideswell Band playing the Tidza March, so here is Vernon Watson talking about how the Tidza march might have got to sound the way it does today.

View original

Church Street in Wakes Week


Fantastic Tideswell Wakes week Post from the Tideswell Tales Blog.

Originally posted on Tideswell Tales:

“The photos show a house (now called Evelyn House) and the adjacent Old Post Office, in Church Street Tideswell decorated for the Well Dressing & Wakes Week celebrations which are held in June to commemorate St. John the Baptist. The plaques are made of a wire-netting frame with crepe paper pushed through to incorporate a pattern. The only trouble was once it rained it was spoilt! Nowadays coloured carrier-bags are used”.

We now know the lady in the first picture is Annie Brocklehurst (nee Haworth) thanks to a member of the Tideswell Local History Club who were looking though some of our photographs at their supper last week.

Can anyone help us put a date to these photos?

The photo is shown with the kind permission of Mrs Sylvia Finley (nee Brocklehurst)

We now have some more information on the photo above from Helen Middleton.
HM1Helen has sent us this…

View original 74 more words

The Grandma Interviews

A few years ago I had the Idea of recording some interviews with older members of my family, namely my parents. As a boy I’d had some really great and interesting conversations with my grandparents and wanted to give my daughter the same opportunity. I thought that by recording some conversation with my parents it would create a long lasting record for for future generations.

Marjorie Gregory Interview – April 2012

I will upload the other videos as I find them.

A Walk Down Ravensdale

It was one of those lazy Saturdays. My partner was tied up with family matters and my daughter and I were at a loose end. The choice facing us was between festering inside on our respective electronic devices or getting out into the fresh air for a spot of exploration. We chose the latter and made a quick packed lunch, and hopped into the car. As we drive the sun was streaming through the window and the clouds parted above offering us hope of a good afternoon’s walking.

Gibbet Rock / Peters Stone

When heading put on walks, I often decide en-route as to the destination. Sos as we headed through Bakewell I thought a trip toward Gibbet Rock, known by some as Peters Stone. There are several ways to get Peters Stone the way that I chose, wasn’t the best considering that I had my daughter with me. It had been some time since I had been there, and I somewhat under estimated the distance and the rough terrain. These things do happen.

Cressbrook Mill Millpond

We parked the car at Cressbrook Mill, and walked toward the old Mill pond on the right hand side of the road. The imposing mill on our left, almost shone in the cold and bright, January sunlight. We went toward the old Mill Pond and as we approached the gate we could hear the violent sound of rushing water, roaring as it entered the Mill Race. As I reached the gate and began to push it open, Martha was hanging back, somewhat cowed by the sound of the rushing water. I Went through the gate and was immediately confronted by a Kingfisher that almost flew right into me. Clearly the poor bird was as startled as I was, because it took off at speed. Luckily for Martha it had decided to fly around the perimeter of the Mill Pond instead of choosing a straight route to safety, so she did get to see it as it retreated, a blue/orange blur of bright feathers refleted on the shimmering pond. I will never forget that moment, I had never seen a kingfisher before and to see one so close, was a privilege that few people are ever afforded.

After waiting a few minutes, watching the Mill pond drain into the race, we headed up the steep hill towards the entrance to Ravensale.

Cressbrook Mill to Ravensdale

Cressbrook Mill to Ravensdale


It had been raining for days,  this was the only fine day for a week or more. So, when we got down to the the Cottages at Ravensdale the path was little better than a sludge fest.
Despite our better judgement, we soldiered on.

Muddy Ravensdale

The Mud in Ravensdale was bad.

Quite soon it became evident that the dale itself must have its own micro climate, and a very damp one at that. All the drystone walls were completely blanketed in a thick jacket of emerald green moss. Not only the walls but the tree were thick with it too.

Drystone walls covered in thick moss

Mossy Walls



Muddy Ravensdale

As we pushed on through the thick mud, we came to a point where the stream flowing through the valley had spilled through the wall. I cannot really see the point of these walls as the land enclosed must be quite poor pasture. However, I do know that the valley isn’t always as wet as it was this year, so perhaps what I saw offered a distorted view of reality.

Ravensdale Flooded

Water had burst through the wall.

The path meandered on and the woods were thick on both sides. eventually the path split into two and there was a steep climb and a lower path lose to the stream bed, Initially we climbed the hillside but were unsure as to the final destination of this path so clambered down to the lower path, where we saw some interesting trees.

Flooded Trees

Strange Ships Marooned upstream


Flooded Valley

I’m not sure how these trees are still standing, but what was clearly once just a field has now become the bed of the stream, and these trees are left stranded. Eventually over time, I guess their roots will wash out and the trees will tumble. Till then, they continue to be a notable feature on this unusual walk.

At this point I knew we weren’t far from breaking out of the woods, which I can tell you, I was glad of, the woods were damp and cool and nothing much seemed to stir in them except the stream. Eventually we turned a corner an came out into the open. We could see a party of hikers resting on the bank ahead and made our way toward them, it was time for quick bite to eat.

Flooded Valley

Break out of the Ravensdale wood and find a flooded valley

The Valley here was more flooded than I’d ever seen it before, though I hadn’t been here for some time. Perhaps there is some landscape engineering going on, but when I was a boy the valley was only wet in Winter and bone dry in Summer. The Wardlow Mires end of the valley, I have noted, now seems to be wet most of the year.

Peakland Kestrel

Whilst we finished our lunch, I spotted a Kestrel, hovering near the cliff edge. I often see Birds of prey using the Edges as cover in this way whilst they wait for a careless Rabbit or Vole to break cover.

Hovering Kestrel

Kestrel Hovers just behind the edge

We watched it hover for a while, then headed up the valley toward Gibbet Rock. Martha was getting tired, and so was I, the light was beginning to fade a little so I took the decision to head back, instead of going through the spooky woods again we took the path to the left which comes out in Litton, and then walked on the road to Cressbrook.


The Litton Path

The Litton Path

As we climbed the steep path, I began to realise just how badly I had underestimated the difficulty of this walk for a 9 year old, who wasn’t raised as an outdoors kid. It was challenging enough for me, so she was doing really well. there was nothing else for it though, I had to get us back to the car before dark.

Looking toward Ravensdale.

Looking back toward the dale, the edge is where we saw the Kestrel.

Litton & Cressbrook bound

We walked on until we hit the tar road. Unexpectedly, Martha’s mood seemed to lift then, and we were more lighthearted for the remainder of the trip. Sometimes, I think kids just need to know the end is in sight.

Our mood was crowned by the fact that we saw this truly beautiful sunset that seemed as though it would set the fields on fire with molten gold, smelted in the furnace of the heavens.

Sunset Photo

Litton – A Golden Sunset.

minutes later we were looking down on Cressbrook Mill, the starting point of our journey. Next time I will recalibrate the walk, heading from Wardlow Mires to Gibbet Rock, lunch on the rock and then back for ice cream at Monsal Head. I think I owe her that much.