History of the Diocese of Derby

The diocese began life as the Archdeaconry of Derby and was originally part of the Diocese of Lichfield.

It was moved to form part of the Diocese of Southwell, when that diocese was created in 1884.

In 1927 the Archdeaconries of Derby and Chesterfield became the new Diocese of Derby, as a response to population growth. 

All Saints Derby was hallowed as the Cathedral on the 28th October 1927 and the next day the first Bishop of Derby, Edmund Pearce, was installed.   

Although only founded as a separate diocese in 1927, the county has a long and rich Christian history.

Edward, King of the West Saxons, founded a Church of All Saints on the site of the present cathedral about the year 943.

It was a Collegiate Church served by a college of seven priests, a dean and six canons who maintained daily worship and lived a community life.

Nothing of the first Saxon Church remains nor of the College next door, though the name College Place is a reminder.

All Saints was one of the three pre-conquest churches of Derby, along with St Werburgh’s and St Alkmund’s.

The latter housed the shrine of St Alkmund, Prince of Northumbria, killed in battle in defence of his kingdom in 800 and venerated as a Christian Martyr. 

Alkmund is regarded as the patron saint of the city of Derby.

Although the Oxford English Dictionary agrees to differ, there is strong local evidence that the traditional Shrovetide football match (preserved to this day in a sanitised form in the Parish of Ashbourne in the diocese), played by the parishes of All Saints and St Peter’s Derby across the town in the Middle Ages gave the world the phrase ‘local derby’.

The diocese is blessed with a wealth of historic churches, of great beauty and importance from Tideswell, the Cathedral of the Peak, to the Crooked Spire of St Mary’s Chesterfield and a host of other architectural gems.

But no history of Christianity in Derbyshire would be complete without a brief mention of the people of Eyam in the Peak District. 

In August 1665 bubonic plague arrived in the village via a bale of cloth brought from London.

On the advice of the rector, William Mompesson, the village quarantined itself, over the next fourteen months 260 of the villagers died.

Eyam's selfless villagers, with their strong Christian convictions, had shown immense personal courage and self sacrifice.

They had prevented the plague from spreading across the north, but many paid the ultimate price for their commitment, a heritage of faith and community concern that marks the diocese to this day.

Last modified on Friday, 28 July 2023 12:54

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