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
53°14′10″N 1°25′27″W / 53.236111°N 1.424167°W / 53.236111; -1.424167Coordinates: 53°14′10″N 1°25′27″W / 53.236111°N 1.424167°W / 53.236111; -1.424167
Location Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship High Church
Website Official Website
Dedication St. Mary and All Saints
Status Parish Church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade I listed building
Completed 14th century
Number of spires 1
Spire height 70m
Materials Lead
Parish Chesterfield
Deanery Chesterfield
Archdeaconry Chesterfield
Diocese Derby
Province Canterbury
Vicar(s) Patrick Coleman
Churchwarden(s) Mr John Gascoyne
Miss Lesley Walton

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[1] 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.[2][3]


The church is largely mediaeval with Early English, Decorated Gothic and Perpendicular Gothic built of ashlar. It comprises a nave, aisles, north and south transepts and the chancel which is surrounded by 4 Guild chapels.

The north transept was rebuilt in 1769 and George Gilbert Scott carried out a general restoration in 1843 when a new ceiling was installed and a new east window inserted with stained glass by William Wailes of Newcastle. A new font was donated by Samuel Johnson of Somersal Hall. The church reopened on 9 May 1843.[4]

Lightening struck the church spire on 11 March 1861 which snapped the gas lighting pipes in the tower and a fire started in a beam next to the wooden roof of the chancel. The fire smouldered for three and a half hours until it was discovered by the Sexton on his nightly round to ring the twelve o’clock bell. [5]

A further restoration was started in 1896 by Temple Lushington Moore.[6]

A fire on 22 December 1961 destroyed many of the interior fittings, including the Snetzler organ. Surviving notable elements are the south transept screen of circa 1500, the Norman font and a Jacobean pulpit. The High Altar reredos was installed in 1898 and designed by Temple Lushington Moore.

Crooked Spire[edit]

The spire

The spire was added to the 14th century tower in about 1362.[7] 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.[citation needed]

It is now believed that the twisting of the spire was caused by the lead that covers the spire. 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.

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. Several local legends hold that the Devil was responsible. In one tale, a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shoed the Devil, who leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape. A similar story has the Devil causing mischief in Chesterfield, seating himself on the spire and wrapping his tail around it. The people of the town rang the church bells and the Devil, frightened by the clamour, tried to jump away with his tail still wound about the spire, causing it to twist.

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 1270 kg (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.[citation needed]

It is this twisted spire that gives the town's football club, Chesterfield F.C., their nickname; 'the Spireites'. A depiction of the spire also features on the club's crest.


The spire is open to the public most days (except Sundays and Good Friday) and can be climbed part way up.[citation needed] 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.


  • Martin Lane 1558 – 1573
  • Cuthbert Hutchinson 1573 – 1609
  • Matthew Waddington 1616 – ?
  • William Edwards 1638 – ?
  • John Billingsley 1662 – 1663
  • John Coope 1663 – ?
  • John Lobley ? – 1694
  • William Blakeman 1694 – 1699
  • Henry Audsley 1699 – 1705
  • John Peck 1705 – 1707
  • William Higgs 1707 – 1716
  • Thomas Hinckesman 1716 1739
  • William Wheeler 1739 – 1765
  • John Wood 1765 – 1781
  • George Bossley 1781 – 1822
  • Thomas Hill 1822 – ? (Archdeacon of Derby)
  • George Butt ? – 1888
  • Hon. Reginald Edmund Adderley 1888 – 1892
  • Hon. Cecil James Littleton 1893 – 1898
  • Egbert Hacking 1899 – 1905
  • Edmond Francis Crosse 1905 – ? (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
  • Francis Longsdon Shaw 1918 – 1924
  • Geoffrey Hare Clayton 1924 – 1934 (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
  • Talbot Dilworth-Harrison 1934 – ? (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
  • Thomas Wood Ingram Cleasby 1963 – 1970 (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
  • Thomas Ewart Roberts 1971 – 1975
  • Henry Alexander Puntis ? – ?
  • Brian Hamilton Cooper 1982 – 1991
  • Martyn William Jarrett 1991 – 1994
  • Michael Richard Knight 1994 – 2013
  • Patrick Francis Coleman 2014 - present[8]


The vast majority of the original John Snetzler organ (1756) was destroyed by fire in 1961.[9] 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.[10]

List of organists[edit]

  • Thomas Layland 1756 – ?
  • Laurence Cornelius Nielson 1808 – 1830
  • Thomas Tallis Trimnell 1847[11] - ????
  • Mr Vaughan
  • Henry Norman Biggin 1875 – 1910
  • J.F. Staton 1910 – 1938
  • Reginald Cooper 1938 – ????
  • Charles Alan Bryars 1947[12] – 1970
  • Michael Baker 1970 – 2005
  • Ian Brackenbury 2006–present



  1. ^ Historic England, "Church of St Mary and All Saints (1334708)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 8 April 2015 
  2. ^ "The Chesterfield Parish Church". Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints. 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  3. ^ "Crooked Spire Church". Visit Chesterfield & Bolsover. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "Reopening of Chesterfield Church". Derby Mercury (Derby). 17 May 1843. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Fire at Chesterfield Church". Sheffield Independent (Sheffield). 16 March 1861. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Chesterfield Parish Church Restoration. Appointment of an Architect". Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald (Derby). 30 May 1896. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  7. ^ "About The Spire". Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "New vicar for Crooked Spire in Chesterfield". Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Derbyshire Times remembers the Spire fire". Derbyshire Times. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Derbyshire, Chesterfield: St. Mary and All Saints, Church Way (N01874), National Pipe Organ Register, UK, 2005.
  11. ^ "Chesterfield Organ". Derbyshire Courier (Sheffield). 1 January 1848. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Who's Who in Music (First Post War ed.). Shaw Publishing Ltd. 1949–50. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield at Wikimedia Commons