Friday, 10 January 2020 10:01

The Derbyshire Bucket List

Every parish and every church in the Diocese of Derby has a tale to tell.  

Some are historical fact, some are legend, others are traditions now etched in time. 

We’ve been asking people in the diocese to tell us about those places and events you really should experience at least once in a lifetime. 

So here are some of the most popular. We call it the Diocese of Derby’s Bucket List.



1. Ashbourne: Shrovetide Football

ashbourne shrovetide football

If you’ve never experienced this centuries-old tradition in the town, then you really should – but be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted!

This game is believed to date back centuries and is played over two days.

There are two teams: Upards and Downards (depending on which side of the River Henmore you were born), the goals are three miles apart and you score by standing in the Henmore and striking the ball three times on a millstone on the riverbank.

There are several hundred people in each team and the event is more like a chaotic rugby game than football.

There are few rules - though perhaps the most interesting is the one that states you are not allowed to murder your opponent!

Ashbourne is a market town and also known as the Gateway to Dovedale.

>> Find out more about Ashbourne Shrovetide Football (Derby Telegraph)

>> 5,000 Shrovetide figures invade Ashbourne church!


2. Ault Hucknall: Hardwick Hall

side view of hardwick hall

Bess of Hardwick’s remains may lie in Derby Cathedral, but her legacy – Hardwick Hall – is in the parish of Ault Hucknall.

Hardwick Hall is open to the public and boasts a large collection of 16th-Century embroideries, tapestries and furniture.

It is set in extensive grounds and has a fine garden and lots of walks.

Whilst you’re there, pop into Ault Hucknall itself (said to be the smallest village in England) and the church of St John the Baptist with its intriguing exterior and interior features – including five muses, three with missing heads!

>> Hardwick Hall (National Trust)

>> Ault Hucknall (Wikipedia)

>> Ault Hucknall Church - St John the Baptist


3. Chesterfield: The Crooked Spire 

crooked spire 6106 HDR LR 2 webres

Instantly recognisable and visible from miles around, the Crooked Spire is the parish church of Chesterfield - and certainly one of the most iconic buildings in the country. 

The twist in the spire means the very top is displaced by some nine feet, but don’t worry, it’s been there for centuries and is unlikely to collapse now.

If you want a close-up view of this iconic spire, there are regular spire tours.

Take a look around the inside of the church too if you get a chance.

It is the largest parish church in the diocese and has plenty for you to see inside as well as outside!

>> Visit the Crooked Spire's website

>> The Crooked Spire - Mission with a Twist


4. Edensor: Resting place of JFK’s sister

JFK's sister's grave at Edensor

You know that church you can see when visiting Chatsworth?

Well that’s St Peter’s Church, Edensor.

It is where you will find the grave of Kathleen ‘Kick’ Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington (née Kennedy, 1920–1948), the younger sister of John F Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.

The grave is marked with a headstone and there is a plaque commemorating JFK’s visit.

In 1943, she married William Cavendish, eldest son and Heir Apparent of the 10th Duke of Devonshire. Kick, so called because of her "irrepressible nature" was killed in a plane crash in France in May 1948.

You can combine visiting St Peter’s with a trip to Chatsworth itself – a great day out!

>> St Peter's Church Edensor


5. Netherseal: The age of steam

steam train funnel

One for all steam buffs...

The name Sir Nigel Gresley may not be familiar to everyone, but his work certainly is.

Sir Nigel designed some of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain, including the Flying Scotsman, the first steam locomotive officially recorded at over 100 mph in passenger service, and the Mallard, which still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph).

He died in 1941 and is buried in St Peter’s Church, Netherseal.

In the north east of the diocese, in Newbold, lies another famous railway name, George Stephenson.

>> Netherseal Church

>> Netherseal Village


6. The Peak District: A national treasure

Derbyshire Peak District - a general view

Derbyshire is blessed with some of the county’s most beautiful landscapes, walking and cycling routes and picturesque villages.

Around 12% of our parishes are within the Peak District National Park, so wherever you are in the Peak District, you’re within easy reach of a church – each complete with history and community spirit, as well as an opportunity to enjoy moments of reflection and maybe to pray.

You'll come across churches on walks, cycle rides and other days out. Most of them have been there for centuries and you are always welcome to call in and see what each church has to offer in terms of history and beauty.

>> Peak District National Park


7. Old Brampton, Chesterfield: A very long time!

old brampton st peter and paul 03 South Exterior

Visit the church of St Peter and St Paul, Old Brampton, and you’ll barely notice time flying by.

But if you suddenly feel a few minutes younger than you thought you were, you only need look at the church’s clock face to see why.

Here, they don’t work in GMT or BST, but OBT (Old Brampton Time) – and if you look at the church’s clock face you’ll see that an hour actually consists of 63 minutes!

Local legend has it that the clock face painter completed his work after taking a long, liquid lunch in the George and Dragon pub!

The clock was installed in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

This church is Chesterfield’s oldest – it’s been there since 1100 AD and has medieval carvings inside and out.

>> Old Brampton Church


8. Eyam: The Plague Village

Catherine Mompesson's grave in Eyam churchyard

Eyam’s place in history was sealed in the mid-17th Century when a parcel of cloth was sent from London to the local tailor to make costumes for Wakes Week.

In that cloth were fleas – and those fleas carried the plague.

By Christmas of 1665, 42 villagers had died and so the rector, William Mompesson, came up with a plan to seal off the village – no-one was to be allowed in or out.

The cordon prevented the disease from spreading, but at a huge cost to the village – 260 residents died.

The church, St Lawrence, now has a stained-glass window depicting the story and you can also see Plague Cottage, where the first victim, George Viccars, died.

>> Parish spotlight: Eyam


9. Tissington: Well-dressed wells

The ancient custom of well dressing is most closely associated with the Peak District of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. 

It is the art of decorating wells and springs with pictures made using only natural materials.

Tissington often leads the way with well dressings (thoough there are many others), which attract an estimated 50,000 people each year!

Six wells are decorated during the week of Ascension Sunday, with images created by pressing flower petals and other organic materials into a clay base.

The pictures are usually on a Biblical theme, often reflecting current events or anniversaries.

This tradition is thought to date back to around 1348, following the village’s escape from the Black Death.

The villagers attributed this good fortune to the purity of the water in its wells.

Don’t forget to drop into St Mary’s Church with its quaint and pretty interior.


10. Derby Cathedral

view over Derby from cathedral tower

The view over Derby from the cathedral tower

The history of the beautiful Derby Cathedral can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times - around 943 AD, with the tower dating back to the 16th Century.

The building became a cathedral in 1927, when the Diocese of Derby was created.

There are a number of dates eacxh year when you can climb the 189 steps of the tower, rising 212 feet above the city, for spectacular views.

In the light and airy interior, you’ll find the tomb of Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608), and the wonderful ironwork of local craftsman Robert Bakewell - the screen which encompasses the Royal Coat of Arms of King George II.

There are just two stained-glass windows; installed in 1963, both were designed by Ceri Richards and show the ‘ancient struggle between night and day’.

You can also descend to the small, quaint St Katherine's Chapel, a place for quiet contemplation and prayer.

Derby Cathedral is the city’s number-one tourist attraction.

And if you fancy a coffee and a bite to eat after your visit, just across the road is The Sanctuary at Derby Cathedral.

>> Derby Cathedral website


11. Doveridge: Robin Hood 

doveridge st cuthberts yew tree 6421 web2

Doveridge is not far from Uttoxeter in an area that was once part of the mighty Sherwood Forest when it used to span Derbyshire and parts of mid-Staffordshire.

In St Cuthbert’s churchyard is an old yew tree – a big and very old yew tree.

The yew is thought to be around 1,400 years old and legend has it that this is the very tree under which Robin Hood married.

According to a minstrel’s ballad, “Bold Robin and a woman called Clorinda (who some think was Maid Marion by another name) were married under the vast canopy of the great yew on 15 August, sometime during the reign of Henry III.

Robin is said to have been born in the nearby Staffordshire village of Loxley.

>> Yew Knows best! Spotlight on St Cuthbert's, Doveridge, and the legend of Robin Hood's wedding there

>> St Cuthbert's Church Doveridge

>> St Cuthbert's (Doveridge village website)


12. Buxton: Festivals, Theatre and Arts

buxton opera house

If you’re looking for a vibrant arts and festival scene, you’re sure to find it in Buxton!

Venues include the Buxton Opera House, Pavilion Arts Centre and Green Man Gallery. Summer sees the Buxton International Festival, the Buxton Well-Dressing Festival, Buxton Fringe Festival and the Buxton Military Tattoo.

You really shouldn’t miss the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton Crescent, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and the Roman Baths.

Our churches love to get involved too – St Mary’s was built in the Arts and Crafts style, St John’s is particularly busy as a venue for the Arts and St Anne’s is the oldest building in the town!

No wonder Buxton is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Peak District... we’re tired just thinking about it!

>> VisitBuxton.co.uk

>> Buxton Team Parish


13. Bakewell: Agriculture and Puddings

This Peak District town, known by some as the Capital of the Peak, is famous for Bakewell Puddings (not to be confused with the tarts that came a long later).

Yes, puddings are still made and sold in Bakewell, so treat yourself.

Don’t miss its Monday market, too, with everything from mushrooms to ice cream, local ales to buffalo meat!

If you’re a foodie, then Bakewell is for you

The town is also home to the annual Bakewell Show in August – and a plethora of other events that take place on the showground.

Its livestock markets at the Agricultural Business Centre make it a significant place for farmers from all over the county and beyond. 


14. Swarkestone: Battles and legends

Most famous for Swarkestone Bridge connected to its ¾-mile-long causeway.

It is the longest stone bridge and the longest inland bridge in England.

Its main historical claim to fame is that, in 1745, Swarkstone Bridge was the furthest point South Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his troops, got in his attempt to reclaim the British Throne.

Less well remembered is the Battle of Swarkestone Bridge during the English Civil War (1643). 

It was unsuccessfully defended by the Royalists against the Parliamentarians.

There are a number of legends associated with the bridge, including being haunted by Bonny Prince Charlie’s troops, and the oft-reported sound of horses approaching.

Today, there is a statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Derby, just behind Derby Cathedral.


15. Cromford

cromford st mary 9309 HDR 1500 72

Tourists flock to nearby Matlock Bath and Matlock itself, but let’s not forget Cromford.

On the north side of the A6 is Cromford Mills, part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built by Sir Richard Arkwright, this valley changed the world in the 18th Century with the growth of the British cotton industry and its global impact.

Visit the world's first successful water powered cotton spinning mill.

Just down the Road is St Mary’s Church with its unique interior – decorated with murals added to celebrate the church’s centenary and Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.

And just across the road you’ll find the Cromford Canal.

>> Parish spotlight - St Mary's Cromford

>> St Mary's Cromford website

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 February 2020 11:20

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