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Listed Building record MDR3874 - St Helen's Church, Churchtown, Darley Dale

Type and Period (2)

  • (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Saxon - 410 AD to 1065 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

The church of St. Helen's, Darley Dale underwent much restoration in 1854. There is apparently nothing left of the Saxon church mentioned in the Domesday Survey, and only slight remains of Norman work. It appears to have been thoroughly restored about the end of the 12th century. There is also 14th and 15th century work (for Saxon stones see SMR 9812). (1) The church is in normal use (1966). (2) The Patron Saint of the Church, St. Helen, resided for some time at York, and was the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor. Inside the church, to the left of the entrance are two fonts: one early Norman, fitted on a new pedestal, and the other Jacobean Gothic, dating from about 1660. To the right of the entrance is the enclosed 'Whitworth Pew', behind which is the memorial window to the famous engineer, Sir Joseph Whitworth, who lived in the parish and is buried in the churchyard. The stone screen enclosing this pew was probably originally in the south transept forming a chantry chapel. Between the nave and the south transept, anciently known as the 'Columlbell Quire', is the recumbent effigy of Sir John de Darley, who was described in a document of 1309 as 'Governor of Peak Castle'. This effigy was originally under the south window until the south transept was formed into the Chapel of St Chad in 1949. The south window is interesting, being the work of Burne-Jones, and being unusual in depicting scenes from the 'Song of Solomon'. Two Early English windows on the east side of St Chad's Chapel contain modern glass depicting St Helen and St Chad. The east window is an exact copy, made in 1864, of a 15th century window in King's College Chapel, Cambridge. Among many interesting memorials in the church the following should be noted: (a) the 'Polyglot Brass' on the south wall of the chancel, which bears inscriptions in Hebrew, Green and Latin, and is a memorial to Mary Potts, wife of a former Rector, who died in 1654; (b) the 17th century monument of the John Milward family in the north wall of the sanctuary. John Milward's grandson, Charles Jennens (son of one of the eight daughters on the monument) selected the words for Handel's 'Messiah'; and (c) the 16th century monuments in the north transept (formerly known as the 'Rollesley Quire') to the Rollesley family, from whom the neighbouring Parish of Rowsley derives its name. On the north wall, above the pulpit, is a fragment of medieval wall painting, discovered in 1928. This is a part of a series of the Banners of the Twelve Patriarchs; the ship represents the Blessing of the Tribe of Zebulum. Outside the church, the four periods of architecture, Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular, can be seen in the south wall of the chancel. There is a large round stone near the chancel door, which is believed to be the lid of a Roman burning-place, and would indicate that the Yew Tree (see SMR 9814), estimated at some 2,000 years of age, marked a sacred site in pre-Christian times. There are also some old stone coffins outside the church, which were discovered during restoration work last century. To the left of the main door in the wall of the church there is a dark stone bearing a Saxon carving. This, together with other Saxon remains found on the site, indicate that the first church was built in that period. In the west wall of the tower is a portion of a Norman tympanum. This was probably taken from a original Norman west door when the tower was built in the 16th century. (3) A grade II* listed Parish church, featuring Norman to Perpendicular architecture. It has a west embattled tower. It contains Norman and Jacobean Gothic fonts, monuments, frescoes, Saxon enriched stones, and a Burne-Jones window. It was restored in 1877. (4) That there must have been a Saxon chruch here seems almost certain from the number of stones displaying the workmanship of that era still very much in evidnece. A fragment of Saxon cross can be seen in the wall to the west of the entrance porch. In the porch itself a number of stone coffin lids stand on end. Some appear to be of Saxon origin some rather later. One, bearing a sword and a representation of a bugle horn is believed to commemorate a ranger of the vast Forest of the Peak in which Darley was situated. The importance of this church in early times is shown by the fact that in the 12th centruy it had three priests. From the 12th to 19th century the right of presentation was in the hands of the Dean of Lincoln. At the time of building the Lincoln Cathedral the patronage of several churches in Derbyshire, including that of Ashbourne, Chesterfield and Wirksworth, was handed over to the Dean of Lincoln by William Rufus and for centuries the Rector of Darley Dale was required to pay a pension to the Dean out of his revenues. St Helen's has for been known as a fine bell ringing church, the oldest bell dated to 1618. (5)

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Article in serial: Cox, J. 1905. 'The Church of St Helen's, Darley Dale', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 27, pp 11-40, illustr.. pp 13-15.
  • <2> Personal Observation: F1 FDC 02-MAR-66.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: St Helen's Church Guide Leaflet for Visitors.
  • <4> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. Ref: 429234.
  • <5> Article in monograph: Sample, E. 1973. 'St Helen, Darley Dale', Derbyshire Countryside.



Grid reference Centred SK 2667 6298 (43m by 21m) Centre

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR751

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Record last edited

Nov 7 2023 4:52PM

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