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Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield facts for kids

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Chesterfield Parish Church
The Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield
Chesterfield Parish Church.jpg
53°14′10″N 1°25′27″W / 53.2361°N 1.4241°W / 53.2361; -1.4241
Location Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Website Official Website:
Status Parish Church
Dedication St Mary and All Saints
Functional status Active
Architectural type Gothic
Completed 14th century
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name: Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints
Designated: 15 July 1971
Reference #: 1334708
Number of spires 1
Spire height 70 m (230 ft)
Materials Lead
Parish Chesterfield
Deanery North East Derbyshire
Archdeaconry Chesterfield
Diocese Derby
Province Canterbury

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 and leaning 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.


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

The north transept was rebuilt in 1769 and George Gilbert Scott carried out a 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.

On 11 March 1861 the church spire was struck by lightning, which snapped the gas lighting pipes in the tower, starting a fire 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 midnight bell.

A further restoration was begun in 1896 by Temple Lushington Moore. Moore designed the High Altar reredos, installed in 1898.

A fire on 22 December 1961 destroyed many of the interior fittings, including the Snetzler organ. Surviving elements include the south transept screen from c. 1500, the Norman font and a Jacobean pulpit.

Crooked spire

Crooked Spire
The spire

The spire was added in the 14th-century tower in about 1362, and is 228 feet (69 m) high from the ground. It is both twisted and leaning, twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9 ft 6 in (2.9 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 before 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. 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 (approximately 33 tonnes) which the spire's bracing was not originally designed to bear. Using unseasoned wood could have contributed to a smaller extent. As wood seasons, or dries, it twists and distorts. Although this distortion is generally accounted for in the construction process, distortion still occurs and varies depending on the type of lumber used and how it is cut.

The cockerel weather vane on top of the spire is inscribed with the names of the past vicars of St Mary's.

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-shod the Devil, who leapt 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. A similar tale argues that the Devil was flying from Nottingham to Sheffield and stopped on top of the spire. He then did a violent sneeze that caused the spire 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 1,270 kg (25 cwt). 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 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 Saturdays in the winter, and most days in the summer (except Sundays and Good Friday) and can be climbed partway 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 winter 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 1975–1982
  • Brian Hamilton Cooper 1982–1991
  • Martyn William Jarrett 1991–1994
  • Michael Richard Knight 1994–2013
  • Patrick Francis Coleman 2014–present


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 four-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 1847–????
  • 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 2006–2019
  • Dr Paul Nash 2019–present


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