Faith & The British: Pt 9 – All Saints, Derby

By the riverside in the city of Derby, stands an impressive building, visible from various locations in the city, and providing one of my favourite views in the city from the high street. That building is the Cathedral of All Saints…

Cathedral of all Saints:

Location: DerbyCity of Derby Unitary District, Derbyshire, England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: circa 1350 – 1725

Architect: James Gibbs (1682 – 1754)

Saint 1

The first Church recorded for this site was built in 943, by King Edmund I (921 – 946, King of England). There are no surviving foundations for this Church, so the oldest building here is the present Cathedral, which incredibly dates back to the 14th Century, when construction was started around 1350. The main body of the Church was built first, with the Tower following between 1510 and 1530. Standing 212 feet tall, it is the only truly original section of the building surviving as the rest was rebuilt in 1725, by Francis Smith (1672 – 1738, English Builder from Warwick), and designed by James Gibbs. The Bells in the Tower actually predate the Tower itself, and were cast in the 15th Century. These still ring out across the city, making them the oldest ringing bells in the UK.

Previously the Church had been a general Church, presumably the local Parish Church, until 1927 when it was elevated to the status of Cathedral. The view above is from the rear of the Cathedral, looking from the river Derwent. The Tower marks the main entrance at the front.

Saint 2

Moving into the Church interior, a plethora of detail, colour and shapes jump out at you instantly. This view is looking along the Nave towards the Chancel at the far end, which is marked by a metal screen where the two meet. The screen is made out of wrought iron, and was designed by James Gibbs, and constructed by Robert Bakewell in the 18th century when the Nave was redesigned and rebuilt. It was later extended between 1968 and 1972.

Tall columns hold up the roof in rows between the pews, and look like they may be Corinthian. It is one of the few Cathedrals so far we have visited that actually have proper pews, as many of the others appear to just have chairs that are moved around depending on the service type and the size of the congregation on the day.

Saint 3

This is a close up of the central screen, which includes a set of gates into the Chancel. Above the small arch at the top of the gates is the UK coat of arms, with the English Lion on the left, and the Scottish Unicorn on the right. The detail on the gates is stunning, and a similar set of gates, also by Bakewell, are situated outside the main entrance of the building, and were recently restored after Queen Elizabeth visited in 2011.

The main altar is at the far end of the building, along with the smaller of the two Organs. This one dates back to 1973, and is in the East end of the Cathedral, behind the Choir. It was installed by a firm called Cousans of Lincoln, an Organ company founded in 1877, and still trading today, although despite the name they are now headquartered in the city of Leicester. This section is shown on the first picture in this post, as the protruding section at the back of the building.

Saint 5

Behind the Iron Screen is the Choir, with ornate wooden pews to seat the singers and major members of the clergy. Although not visible on this picture, the Bishops Throne is located on the other side of the Choir, off to the right. Most Cathedrals have one of these and they usually consist of a tall wooden chair that has a small wooden spire on top, a few times the height of the choir pews. Unusually out of the Cathedrals we have visited, there is no grand East Window, this space instead being occupied by the small Organ.

Saint 6

This is a close up of the East End looking across the Altar towards the Organ. The Altar is contained within a small porch like section, with a column at each corner. There are more pews beneath the Organ, and they are known as the Retro Choir, and it makes sense to have the Choir beneath the Organ. The windows on either side of the Organ are simple plain windows, which suit the building just as well as Stained Glass would have done.

Saint 4

Moving back towards the front of the building (West End) there are aisles on either side of the central columns, to the left and the right. At the far end is the main Organ, which was installed in 1939. It was built by John Compton (1876 – 1957, Leicestershire born Organ Maker who moved to London) and given an overhaul in 1992.

Above the Organ is an upper gallery, which is well crafted to fit not only around the Organ but also to match the rest of the woodwork in the building.

Saint 7

Around the Cathedral, are shallow areas on either side of the main Choir and the Iron Gates, which contain a number of Graves and Memorials, to various historical figures. Just behind the plant to the left of the main memorial is a large plaque commemorating Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) who is notable for discovering Hydrogen in 1766. It was, however, actually named by Antoine Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), a French Chemist, in 1783. Cavendish also figured out the mean density of planet Earth, leading to his nickname “The Man who Weighed the World”.

This plaque sits next to the Bess of Hardwick’s Monument, of whom Cavendish was a descendant. Her real name was Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (1521 – 1608) and Bess of Hardwick was her nickname, and she became very wealthy through her four marriages, one of which was to Sir William Cavendish (1505 – 1557), presumably the historical link to Henry Cavendish.

Derby Cathedral is a beautiful building, and if you want to find out more about the City itself and the many varied and interesting buildings and museums, you can read all about it in my dedicated post here.

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2 thoughts on “Faith & The British: Pt 9 – All Saints, Derby

  1. Dan, Great stuff. i love that first interior shot. I’m not a religious person, but. These places were built when they had to have several Sunday Masses to occomodate The Faithful. I bet a few hundred people show up for a single mass on sunday now. Maybe i’m just being nostalgic, but it seems sad that these places are more museum than worship hall.
    The wealth, time and care that went in to creating these places is amazing. It’s to bad their importance in people’s lives has diminished. Just saying.

    • Thanks :D. Yeah I totally agree, they are more attractions now for a lot of people, but its nice they were so important that they have survived the centuries. I think sometimes the Church is so outdated, especially for young people they need more to do, they need more events to encourage new people to come along. Hopefully eventually they will find a new place in peoples hearts so they aren’t forgotten. It must have been quite an experience to visit these places every week and all sing together. You can tell that they were built in a time when everyone was a member of the Church and it was probably the most wealthy organisation in the country, but now they struggle for funds so its shows how its overall important has declined, but yes the skill involved in making these buildings is phenomenal!

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