Tideswell church in winter
The church of St John the Baptist in Tideswell is rightly known as the 'Cathedral of the Peak', for it is one of the largest and certainly the most perfect church in the area.
Tideswell was recorded in the Domesday book and the first known priest for the village was appointed in 1193. The present church probably replaced a much smaller Norman one, and faint traces of this may be seen in the Chancel. The beauty of the current church is that it was all built about the same period, with few alterations or additions - being started about 1320 and completed soon after 1400. The Nave, Aisles and Transepts were begun about 1340 in the Late Gothic style, and the Chancel and Tower were added at the end of the century in a Perpendicular style. Between the two it is thought that church-building was interrupted by the Black Death, which is thought to have killed nearly a third of the population of England. The church was restored in 1875, but this was a proper restoration rather than a rebuilding, as at Bakewell.
Tomb of Thurstan de Bower
There are many interesting items in the church. Notice the wooded screen which separates the Nave from the Chancel - it is the original - and the beautiful Sedilla by the altar. In the centre of the Chancel lies the altar tomb of Sir Samson Meverill, a local knight and land-owner (1388 -1462). He probably fought at Agincourt and certainly served in France later with the Duke of Bedford, struggling to retain English control of France against Joan of Arc. By all accounts he was a colourful character who was not above abducting jurors brought to try him over a land dispute! His tomb (which was restored in 1875) has a marble slab with brasses in it. In the centre is a Trinity plate which is original, but some of the other brasses were replaced after a theft in 1688. Beneath the slab is a stone cadaver surrounded by an alabaster frieze.
In the floor of the chancel nearby there is an even older tomb - that of John Foljambe, who died in 1358. The Foljambes are though to have come to the area with the Conquerer and were local landowners. The brass on the grave was placed there by a descendant in 1875, for the original was stolen, probably in the 17th century.
Carving by Advent Hunstone
Next to this is an original brass, this time to Bishop Robert Purseglove, who was born in the village about 1510 and died here in 1579. Purseglove was a distinguished clergyman who became Bishop of Hull in 1538. He was an agent of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chancellor, and was involved in the dissolution of the monasteries, becoming rich in the process. Though he was created a bishop by Henry and served the Protestant Edward VI, taking the oath renouncing the authority of the Pope, he also served as bishop under the Catholic Mary I. However, when Elizabeth became queen and in 1559 required all the clergy to swear an oath of supremacy to her, Purseglove refused and lost his bishopric. He retired to Tideswell and lived quietly there until his death, giving money to charities and founding the local Grammar School in 1560.
The South transept of the church contain the Lytton chapel and the Bower chapel. One of the original bells, removed in 1928, sits on the floor of the Lytton chapel. In the floor of the Aisle nearby, under a carpet, is the tomb of Robert Lytton (died 1483) and his wife Isabel (died 1458). The purpose of the carpet is to protect the fine brasses of Robert and Isabel on their tombstone. Robert was the squire of Litton and Under-Treasurer of England in the reign of Henry VI, so he was a man of some importance. The Bower chapel contains perhaps the most impressive tomb, thought to be that of Sir Thurstan de Bower and his wife Margaret (about 1395). The recumbent alabaster figures of the couple on the tomb are worn by the ravages of time, but still give a strong impression of the couple.
In the North transept (the Lady Chapel) there are two stone gravestones of women, dating from 1300 and 1375, while the pews have some exquisite carvings by Advent Hunstone, a local man.