Tutbury, St Mary's Priory Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HistoryIn 1089 Henry de Ferrers, lord of Tutbury Castle, built a church below his hilltop fortress, and dedicated it to William the Conqueror, who had just died, and his wife Matilda, as well as Ferrers own family. The new Norman church was built on or near the site of an earlier Saxon building of which little is known. Some 60 years later his descendent, Robert de Ferrers, founded a Benedictine priory here, with monks drawn from the Norman abbey of St Pierre sur Dives.
Another version of the church's founding says that it was Henry who founded the Priory at the same time as the church, and makes no mention of Robert.
From its foundation the church served both the Priory and the town, a fact which would save it from destruction at the Reformation. The Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and its estates given to Sir William Cavendish. The monastic buildings were pulled down, the central tower of the church destroyed, along with the transepts and two bays of the nave.
What remains is a tantalising mix of time periods and styles. By far the most impressive feature is the ornate west facade, with its wide-arched doorway carved with traditional Norman motifs. It is one of the finest and most beautifully carved Norman facades in England.
The west front may date to around 1150, though the nave itself is earlier, perhaps from around 1100. If you look closely you can see masons marks left on the nave pillars by Norman stoneworkers. The south aisle was damaged during a rebellion by Robert de Ferrieres in 1266, but retains some Norman stonework.
The east end of the south aisle was rebuilt in 1307 by Edmund, Earl of Leicester.
Set onto a pillar behind the pulpit is a 13th century carved head of Christ. This carving may have been part of the original reredos behind the high altar of the monastic church. In the north aisle is a medieval alabaster coffin , discovered when a grave was being dug in 1972. The coffin contained the remains of a woman, aged 36-40, perhaps a benefactress of the Priory, though we do not know for certain who she was. Aside from this medieval coffin the only real memorial of note is to a former Puritan vicar named Anthony Orridge, who died in 1655.
At the west end of the nave is a 16th century parish chest, and the lectern is carved from a 6,000 year-old piece of black bog oak found in the River Dove.
Tutbury's Priory church is well worth a visit; the sheer scale of the Norman architecture is impressive, and it is fascinating to think that what we see now is just a small portion of the original Norman monastic building.
About Tutbury, St Mary's Priory Church
Address: Church Street, Tutbury, Staffordshire, England, DE13 9JE
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Just below the castle and above the town centre. Usually open daylight hours.
Website: Tutbury, St Mary's Priory Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Tutbury Castle - 0 miles (Castle)
Sudbury Hall - 3.9 miles (Historic House)
Catton Hall - 8.5 miles (Historic House)
Kedleston, All Saints Church - 9.4 miles (Historic Church)
Kedleston Hall - 9.4 miles (Historic House)
Derby, St Werburgh's Church - 9.5 miles (Historic Church)
Pickford's House Museum of Georgian Life and Costume - 9.6 miles (Museum)
Derby Museum and Art Gallery - 9.7 miles (Museum)
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