Having a visit to Chesterfield gives you the opportunity to see something completely unique. The Crooked Spire. There are other twisted spires in Europe. Possibly 60 at least . The spire of the church of St Mary’s and All Saints was supposed to be one of them. But the spire buckled and leant, becoming the only crooked spire in the world. The lean is accidental. There are many theories, but I was informed by a church official that it was because of the weight of the lead. There’s an estimated 32-50 tons of it. The spire is 228 foot high and leans nine feet from the centre. The church is the largest in Derbyshire, in fact, it’s often mistaken for a cathedral. This is an old church built on the site of the Roman camp. Chesterfield was an important Roman town. Remains of architecture found in and around the churchyard confirm this. There was originally a Saxon church built there. The font, still a centrepiece for the church, may date as far back as 890 to 1050 AD. There is certainly reference to a church in Chesterfield in the 11th century and it is also believed that there was a Norman church. It’s not unusual to find Norman churches built around smaller Saxon ones. The local historians believe that a church has stood on the site since 700 AD.
The current church is mainly mediaeval. Construction started in 1234 AD. It survived the dissolution of the monasteries because it wasn’t big or wealthy enough to interest Henry VIII, but Cromwell’s armies did a great deal of damage in the civil war. The church was used as a stables by the army. During this time a great deal of the medieval decor was lost.
A lot of the interior is still 14th century, but there was significant rebuilding in 1843 and again in 1896.
There is much history to discover in the church. As well as a Norman font, the pulpit is Jacobean and in the South transept is a 15th century wood screen and the north transept has part of an original 1475 rood screen. The south aisle has a window depicting the history of Chesterfield. It also has the medieval tomb of an unknown woman. Wander over to the south transept and you’ll find a parish chest dated around 1600 and an unusual 17th century clock case. A prominent family in the 16th and 17th century was the Foljambe family and the southern chapel houses their memorials.
Tours of the Crooked Spire are offered at set times. There is a charge for these, numbers are limited and they advise checking that a tour is planned rather than just dropping in. The church is open to visitors most days from 9 – 4 (Sundays are for services). Being an active church, there will be times that the church is closed for weddings and funerals.
The highlight of my visit, however, was the thoughtfulness of the church official that I asked permission of to use photos for the blog. After chatting about Amy and the blog for a while, he suddenly blurted out “what was her favourite colour?” He then twiddled and fiddled with the church lighting until the colour was turquoise, and in memory of Amy, it was lit in turquoise for the rest of the day.