St Michael's Church - Hathersage

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper on 9th August 1999, reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


So much of historical interest lies in and around the lovely church of St. Michael and All Angels at Hathersage that special efforts are made in welcoming its large numbers of visitors, without detracting in any way from its tranquillity as a house of prayer.

It is believed that Christianity was brought to Hathersage by a 7th-century missionary monk, the fabric of the church being predominantly of the 14th century. In the churchyard a long grave is famed as that of the legendary outlaw Little John, a story given an intriguing post-script in 1851/2 upon the discovery beneath the church floor of a medieval burial slab apparently engraved ‘L J’. This stone is preserved in the entrance porch. Below the porch battlements, weathered stone shields originally displayed coats-of-arms still clearly seen on the font of 1440 - those of Eyre, Padley and Bernake.

Behind the tower arch screen, dark old charity boards are dimly lit by the richly-coloured west window, a memorial to William and Mary Eyre of North Lees Hall and depicting Noah, Belshazzar and Job. In the belfry hang six fine bells together with a rare medieval sanctus bell bearing the Eyre and Padley arms with a prayer for the souls of Robert and Joan Eyre (née Padley).

For four centuries the church has housed the sturdy parish chest, its three locks intended to be opened simultaneously by different keys held by the vicar and churchwardens. Against the north wall a superb bronze war memorial, its symbolism taken from Pilgrims' Progress, stands between two simple wooden crosses brought back from soldiers' graves in France following the Great War.

Other north aisle monuments date from the late 19th/early 20th century, in common with two memorial windows depicting Fortitude and Hope, Faith and Charity. A brass plaque was erected in memory of three children of the Reverend Charles Cutler, vicar from 1865-1910, to whom a south window is dedicated. George H. Cammell, who donated the church clock, is commemorated in an engraved brass. According to a nearby memorial his brother, Arthur Cammell, died following a fall but it is said that in truth he was shot in a duel.

A pair of ornate Austrian-carved chairs were given to the church after being used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when they opened St. George's Hall in Liverpool, a building constructed from Hathersage stone. Wood carving of much earlier date is seen nearby in a fragment of an ancient oak screen.

Kempe's Crucifixion window behind the main altar came from the former daughter church of Derwent, submerged beneath the reservoir in the Upper Derwent valley. The window was installed here as a thank offering for the end of World War Two and the safe return of relatives and friends. Stone from Derwent church built the vestry as a memorial to brothers John and Antony Snowden who did not return, whilst church plate was given in memory of two young men who also fell in the war.

A south chancel window contains arms of the Duke of Devonshire and two windows in the south aisle, depicting Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, serve as a monument to Herbert Lander, physician and surgeon of the parish at the turn of the century.

The Lady Chapel Built over 500 years ago as a chantry chapel for the important Eyre family, the chapel was later partitioned off for the squire's pew. At the time of its conversion to the Lady Chapel in 1943 the squire was Major A.A. Shuttleworth of Hathersage Hall, whose family has several memorials in the chapel including altar furniture and two windows. One of the north windows is a lovely memorial to Freda Rylatt who perished on Dinas Cromlech in 1949, its theme inspired by mountains, and birds and animals native to the Peak. Small oak pews in the Lady Chapel also came from Derwent church.

Many more features add to the beauty and interest of St. Michael's Church; graceful triple sedilia, carved stone heads, wooden angels in the roof, animal and human gargoyles on the outer walls and remnants of an early cross in the churchyard. A rare and beautiful collection of monumental brasses are brought together in the sanctuary. Excellent facsimiles of the Eyre brasses are provided in the vestry for brass rubbing, presented for this purpose in memory of former churchwarden Thomas Mottram. This popular facility is unique to any Peakland church.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 9th August 1999.

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