St Mary's Church, Wirksworth

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St Mary's Church, Wirksworth
St Marys Wirksworth.jpg
St Mary's Church, Wirksworth
Coordinates: 53°04′56″N1°34′27″W / 53.08221°N 1.57404°W / 53.08221; -1.57404
CountryUnited Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication St Mary the Virgin
Heritage designation Grade I listed building
Designated24 October 1950
Architectural type Perpendicular Gothic
Length142ft [1]
Width102ft [1]
Province Canterbury
Diocese Diocese of Derby
Parish Wirksworth
Rector Canon David Truby

St Mary the Virgin is a parish church in the Church of England in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. It is a Grade I listed building. [2] The existing building dates mostly from the 13th–15th centuries, but notable survivals from the Anglo-Saxon period indicate a church has stood on this site since at least the 8th century AD. [3] It was restored in 1820, then in 1870 by Sir Gilbert Scott. [2]



Anglo-Saxon coffin lid on the north wall Wirksworth Stone.jpg
Anglo-Saxon coffin lid on the north wall

The church is notable for its Anglo-Saxon carvings, and a large Anglo-Saxon coffin lid which was discovered under the chancel floor near the sanctuary in 1820. It is now mounted on the north wall of the nave. It appears to date from the second half of the 7th century. [4] [3] The church is also noted for containing an Anglo-Saxon carving of a lead miner, "T'owd Man", the oldest representation of a miner anywhere in the world. It was moved here in 1863 from Bonsall church for safe-keeping and has never been returned. The parishioners of Bonsall have had a replica carved for their church. [5] The church also contains numerous early medieval and medieval carvings, many fragments of larger pieces, that have been grouped together and inserted for display in the transept walls. These include fragments of early medieval stone crosses and medieval grave slabs, figures of a wise man and shepherd, and the face of a bearded man. [3]

It is one of the few remaining churches in Britain which still performs the ancient custom of clipping the church. This takes place on the first Sunday after 8 September, the Sunday after the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The nave roof was replaced in 2020, following leaks which threatened to damage the church interior. A traditional topping out ceremony was held with the Bishop of Derby on 18 August 2020. [6] [7]

The church has commissioned a new poem about the tower and bells of St Mary's. [8]

Th' owd Man, the oldest known representation of a miner T'owd Man - - 2326157.jpg
Th' owd Man, the oldest known representation of a miner


In the north aisle are the tombs of the Gell family. Sir Anthony Gell (d. 1583) has his statue on his tomb. Alongside is the simpler tomb of his father, Sir Ralph Gell.

The chancel contains the tomb of Anthony Lowe, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber who served Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I and died in 1555.

Abraham Bennet, the inventor of the gold-leaf electroscope and developer of an improved magnetometer.

The churchyard contains the tomb of Matthew Peat of Alderwasley, who died 11 December 1751, at an alleged age of 109 years and 10 months. [9]

Parish status

The church is in a joint parish with


This list is taken from the list displayed by the South Porch door inside the church, except where noted otherwise.


In 1826 a two-manual organ was installed by Thomas Elliot. It cost £400 (equivalent to £35,755 as of 2021), [11] raised by subscriptions, and was placed in the tower of the church, but it was removed in 1853 to a more convenient location in the nave.

The church had a three-manual 26-speaking-stop tubular pneumatic-action pipe organ installed in the north transept in 1899 by Brindley & Foster. [12] It was rebuilt in 1955 by Kingsgate Davidson with electric action.

This organ was replaced in 1987 by a three-manual 48-speaking-stop Makin electronic digital organ.


See also

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  1. 1 2 Hackett, Richard R. (1863). Wirksworth and five miles round. British Library, Historical Print Editions. ISBN   978-1241320706.
  2. 1 2 Historic England. "Church of St Mary (Grade I) (1335090)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Hawkes, J.; Sidebottom, P. (2018). Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Vol. XIII: Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780197266212.
  4. Millward, Roy; Robinson, Adrian Henry Wardle (1975). The Peak District. Eyre Methuen.
  5. The Matlock Mercury, 20 February 2002
  6. "Topping out: Bishop Libby blesses Wirksworth's new roof". Diocese of Derby. 19 August 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  7. "St Mary's Wirkswoth, Topping out ceremony". 19 August 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020 via YouTube.
  8. "Ringing for the Ghosts of Today". 17 November 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020 via YouTube.
  9. Magna Britannia: Volume 5: Derbyshire (1817), pp. 275–306.
  10. "Photograph of church records for 1412". Anglo-American Legal Tradition. University of Houston Law Center. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  11. UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  12. "Derbyshire Wirksworth, St. Mary, Church Street [N05363]". The National Pipe Organ Register. The British Institute of Organ Studies. 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  13. Derby Daily Telegraph, Monday 22 February 1932
  14. Wirksworth Advertiser 27 July 1860
  15. Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday 26 October 1878
  16. Plaque in church on pier in the north transept.
  17. Lichfield Mercury, Friday 18 February 1916
  18. "A Derby Organist's Appointment" . Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal. 21 March 1920. Retrieved 3 June 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  19. "New Choirmaster" . Derby Daily Telegraph. England. 29 May 1936. Retrieved 3 June 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.