St John the Baptist, Tideswell

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St John's Church, Tideswell
Coordinates: 53°16′44″N 1°46′21″W / 53.2788°N 1.7726°W / 53.2788; -1.7726
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication St. John the Baptist
Heritage designation Grade I listed building
Architectural type Decorated Gothic
Parish Tideswell
Diocese Diocese of Derby
Province Canterbury

The church of St John the Baptist in Tideswell is a Church of England parish church.


Tideswell church, one of the most important parish churches in Derbyshire

The church is widely known due to its size and splendour as the "Cathedral of the Peak" (it is not actually a cathedral). It is one of the most famous churches in Derbyshire, and a Grade I listed building.

The church, which replaced a small Norman church, was constructed between approximately 1320 and 1400. The building work was delayed by the Black Death. There are two main styles: the nave, aisles and transepts are in late gothic style, and both the chancel and tower are in perpendicular style.

There was major restoration in 1875 which was a genuine restoration rather than a reconstruction.[1] 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.[2]


In 1250–51, the church became embroiled in a dispute between Lichfield Cathedral and Lenton Priory. Tideswell was one of a number of parishes that had been granted to Lenton Priory by the Peverel family during the 11th century. Following William Peverel the Younger's accusations of treason, the family's lands in the Peak District were seized by the crown and granted by King Henry II to his son, John (later John, King of England). After acceding to the throne, John granted the lands to the Bishop of Lichfield and in turn they passed to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral. This transfer started approximately 300 years of disagreement between the Priory and Cathedral about who was rightful owner of the property. Litigation continued throughout this period, including suits in the Vatican Court on several occasions.[3]

Tideswell church became directly involved in the disagreement when it became violent in 1250–51. The monks of Lenton Priory armed themselves and attempted to steal wool and lambs from Tideswell, which was one of the disputed parishes controlled by Lichfield. Pre-empting the monk's attack, the Dean of Lichfield cathedral ordered the wool and sheep to be kept within the nave of Tideswell church. However the monks of Lenton did not honour the church's sanctuary rights and broke into the building. A fight ensued and 18 lambs were killed within the church: either trampled under the horses' hooves or butchered by the attackers' weapons. The monks managed to carry off 14 of the lambs.[3]

A commission assembled by Pope Innocent IV harshly fined the monks of Lenton Priory. However the disputes continued until Lenton was dissolved by King Henry VIII.[3]


Alabaster effigies, commonly thought to represent Sir Thurstan de Bower and his wife Margaret

There are brasses to Sir John Foljamb, d. 1383 (restored) and to Bishop Robert Purseglove, d. 1579, who is depicted in pre-English Reformation vestments.

In the middle of the chancel there is an altar tomb. Within lies Sir Samson Meverill (1388–1462), allegedly one of the victors of Agincourt. The tomb has a marble slab beneath which is a stone cadaver decorated with an alabaster frieze. The tomb was restored in 1876.

Tomb of Sir Sampson Meveril

In the South transept there are two chapels. The Lytton chapel has one of the old bells on the floor, while nearby is the tomb of Robert (d. 1483) and his wife Isabel (d. 1458) Lytton. Perhaps the church's most notable feature is the Bower Chapel. This contains a rather impressive tomb of (possibly) Sir Thurstan and his wife Margret de Bower. The inscription mentions de Bower, but there is some debate about the accuracy.[4] The recumbent alabaster figures are well worn but remain impressive.

Inscription around the "de Bower" tomb

The churchyard contains war graves of seven service personnel of World War I.[5]


The ends of the pews have intricate carvings by the local, curiously named, Advent Hunstone. These show the sacraments; baptism, confirmation, communion, marriage, absolution, ordination and the last rites.[6] The tower screen is by John Oldrid Scott and dates from 1904.

Stained glass[edit]

Tree of Jesse

The Tree of Jesse east window is by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of Nottingham and dates from 1875.


The church possesses two pipe organs. The main organ dates from 1895 and is by the builder Forster and Andrews of Hull. A specification of the main organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[7] The chancel organ dates from 1979. It is an extension organ by the Johnson Organ Company. A specification of the chancel organ can also be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tideswell Church". Peak District Information. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  2. ^ Rawlins, Rev Richard Randall (1820–40). Churches and Chapels in the County of Derby. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Page, William (1910). 'House of Cluniac monks: The priory of Lenton', A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Victoria County History. pp. 91–100. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Cemetery details: Tideswell (St. John the Baptist) Churchyard (details from casualty record)". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "unknown". [dead link]
  7. ^ "N01050 (Main Organ)". National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR). The British Institute of Organ Studies. 2005. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "N00314 (Chancel Organ)". National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR). The British Institute of Organ Studies. 2005. Retrieved 4 August 2013.