Chesterfield, Crooked Spire Church (St Mary and All Saints)
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The famous 13th century twisted spire
The Crooked SpireSt Mary's is famous for its peculiar 13th century twisted spire, which leans at an alarming 9 feet 5 inches from true. But why does it lean? The typical explanation is that the builders used green timbers, which warped over time. Yet that explanation is only partly true. Medieval builders used green timber all the time, and would have known what to expect.
So why did the spire twist so markedly?
The answer lies in the lead tiles used to cover the spire's timbers. Over 32 tonnes of lead tiles created such a heavy weight that the timbers simply couldn't bear the strain, and twisted alarmingly. An additional reason is that the builders didn't use a cross-brace to compensate for the weight of the tiles.
Other, less practical reasons have been given out for the crooked spire. One old story says that the Devil was resting on the spire, his tail wrapped around it for support. The smell of incense from inside the church made him sneeze, and the violence of the sneeze caused the spire to twist.
While you are standing in the churchyard gazing at the crooked spire, look for an old 1924 gas lamp, which once illuminated the nearby market place.
Historic features include the Jacobean pulpit, a Norman font, and a late 15th century wooden screen in the south transept. Look for a window on the south aisle wall depicting scenes from the history of Chesterfield. Also in the south aisle is a medieval tomb niche with the effigy of an unknown woman, her hands clasped in prayer.
Beyond the screen, in the southernmost chapel, is a pair of brass chandeliers dated to 1760. Also in the southernmost chapel is a wonderful array of 16th and 17th century memorials to the local Foljambe family.
In the north transept is part of an original 1475 rood screen.
On the north side of the churchyard is the grave of Francois Raingeard, a French officer during the Napoleonic Wars. Raingeard was held prisoner in Chesterfield, and died before the war ended. He was buried in St Mary's churchyard, under a gravestone inscribed in English, French, and Latin.
St Mary's is a wonderful historic church, full of interest even without the famous spire.
About Chesterfield, Crooked Spire Church
Address: Church Way, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, S40 1XJ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Just east of the market place in central Chesterfield. Several nearby paid parking areas including the nearest off Station Road
Website: Chesterfield, Crooked Spire Church
Phone: 01246 206506
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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