Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield
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|Chesterfield Parish Church|
|The Parish Church of St. Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Dedication||St. Mary and All Saints|
|Heritage designation||Grade I listed building|
|Number of spires||1|
|Churchwarden(s)||Mr John Gascoyne
Mr Jon Sangwell
Chesterfield Parish Church is an Anglican church dedicated to Saint Mary and All Saints, located in the town of Chesterfield in Derbyshire, England. Predominantly dating back to the 14th century, the church is a Grade I listed building and is most known for its twisted spire, an architectural phenomenon which has led to the church being given the common byname of the Crooked Spire. The largest church in Derbyshire, it lies within the Diocese of Derby, in which it forms part of the Archdeaconry of Chesterfield.
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The spire was added to the 14th century tower in about 1362. It is both twisted and leaning, twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) from its true centre. The leaning characteristic was initially suspected to be the result of the absence of skilled craftsmen (the Black Death had been gone only twelve years prior to the spire's completion), insufficient cross-bracing, and the use of unseasoned timber.
It is now believed that the twisting of the spire was caused by the lead that covers the spire, which was added 300 years after it was built – before this it was covered with oak tiles. The lead causes this twisting phenomenon, because when the sun shines during the day the south side of the tower heats up, causing the lead there to expand at a greater rate than that of the north side of the tower, resulting in unequal expansion and contraction. This was compounded by the weight of the lead (approx. 33 tons) which the spire's bracing was not originally designed to bear. Also it was common practice to use unseasoned timber at the time the spire was built as when the wood was seasoned it was too hard to work with, so as unseasoned wood was used they would have made adjustments as it was seasoning in place. These theories can be rejected as there is evidence to suggest that the spire was straight for the first 300 years after it was built and as wood seasons within 50 years these theories now can hold no weight.
In common folklore, there are numerous explanations as to why the spire is twisted. One well established legend goes that a virgin once married in the church, and the church was so surprised that the spire turned around to look at the bride, and continues that if another virgin marries in the church, the spire will return to true again; with only 3 weddings in 2010 in the church it seems that this legend understandably discourages marriages at the church. Another legend is that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shoed the Devil, who leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape. Many other such stories exist, however these are two of the more notable examples.
The tower upon which the spire sits contains ten bells. These bells were cast in 1947 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, replacing a previous ring. The heaviest weighs 25cwt. The place in which the bells are situated once held the builders' windlass, which is one of the few examples of a medieval crane in existence and is the only example of one that has survived from a parish church. The windlass is now on display at Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery.
It is this twisted spire that gives Chesterfield FC their nickname, 'The Spireites'.
The spire is open to the public most days (except Sundays and Good Friday) and can be climbed part way up. The views from the top of the tower on a clear day stretch for miles. The spire, which is used as a symbol of Chesterfield, can often be seen from the surrounding hill poking out of a sea of mist, on a winters morning.
The vast majority of the original John Snetzler organ (1756) was destroyed by fire in 1961. It was replaced in 1963 by a redundant T.C. Lewis organ from Glasgow. This is a large 4 manual pipe organ with 65 stops. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.
List of organists
- Thomas Layland 1756 – ?
- Laurence Cornelius Nielson 1808 – 1830
- Thomas Tallis Trimnell
- Mr Vaughan
- Henry Norman Biggin 1875 – 1910
- J.F. Staton 1910 – 1938
- Reginald Cooper 1938 – ????
- Charles Alan Bryars 1947 – 1970
- Michael Baker 1970 – 2005
- Ian Brackenbury 2006–present
The church in the 18th century as sketched by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm
- "The Chesterfield Parish Church". Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints. 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
- "Crooked Spire Church". Visit Chesterfield & Bolsover. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
- "About The Spire". Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
- "The Derbyshire Times remembers the Spire fire". Derbyshire Times. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
- Derbyshire, Chesterfield: St. Mary and All Saints, Church Way (N01874), National Pipe Organ Register, UK, 2005.
- Who's Who in Music (First Post War ed.). Shaw Publishing Ltd. 1949–50.
Media related to Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield at Wikimedia Commons
- Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints
- Derbyshire churches — Church of Our Lady and All Saints at Chesterfield