Derby and Sheffield: 3 cathedrals

Ø July 5 Derby and Sheffield (Friday)


Additional photos for Derby and Sheffield can be found here.


My notes read: “Up, clean, finished packing & banana with Ron. Out at 8:10 and on platform for 8:40 train which was there.” Leaving Nottingham on time, I was 4 stops and a half hour later pulling into #Derby Midland station. As this was a day stop on my way to Sheffield, I had arranged to drop my roller at the Hallmark Hotel, located just outside the station. (The Derby Tourist Office was a backup, a 15 minute walk.) With a mile walk northwest along Iron Gate through the commercial center parallel to the River Derwent, I was approaching the single stone tower at the west end an hour after leaving Nottingham.

My impressions of Derby weren’t warm. I was confused in my walk, at least until the Corn Market where the streets were yielded to pedestrians. There are no informational signs pointing tourists in the correct direction to visit landmarks.

With no formal schedule for tours (the website said the guides might be limited,) I followed my protocol of walking around the outsides first. Across Full Street to the east of the East End/chancel was a statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie astride a horse in what was labelled both the cathedral green and Silk Mill Park. “The Pretender” had turned around his forces ready to march on London after a council of war in Derby. The alley on the cathedral’s north side abutted the outside walls, lined with trees, so no photo opportunities there.

Derby Cathedral nave

Entering into the nave, my immediate impression was that it was very similar to the interior of Birmingham Cathedral. Apparently, in the 1720’s, rebuilding plans by James Gibbs were influenced by London’s St Martins-in-the-Fields, without the galleries. The uniform height of the cream-colored ceiling with gold trim and the simple white columns had the light provided through the clear leaded-glass windows to give a bright space. Dark wood pews fill the floor space, facing an ornate rococo wrought-iron screen separating the nave from the chancel and sanctuary. Without galleries on the north and south, a gallery and the massive organ rise above the entrance to the west. Keeping with the Georgian style, the throne is understated in carving details, but still handsome.


All Souls window in the Consistory court

Four simple white columns support the baldachin over the high altar in the sanctuary, bracketed by memorial chapels sporting striking modern-design stained-glass windows. The south side is the memorial and burial places for members of the Cavendish, including the scientist Henry Cavendish, a descendant of Bess of Harwick, Lady-in-Waiting to Elizabeth I. To the north is the consistory court, where religious and legal matters were considered. After visiting the crypt, with an altar to St Katherine of Alexandria, I came back to the nave and sat. An organist playing the retro-choir organ was working through some great church organ works.

All Saints window in the Harwick chapel


The cathedral had started as a royal collegiate church pre-Conquest, with the 212-foot high perpendicular Gothic tower added just before the Dissolution. The next 175 years of poor care and maintenance resulted in the rebuild. Nearly 200 years later, with the creation of a new Derbyshire diocese, All Saint’s was elevated to cathedral status.

Leaving the cathedral, I turned north on Queen Street, passing the Church of St Michael’s, now redundant and presently Timms Solicitors. A bit further north, the street became a pedestrian walkway over the subway containing the multi-laned King Street. Two hundred feet across this oval island, another walkway over another subway with St Alkmund’s Way, and ending at the door to the Roman Catholic church of St Mary’s, with its tall perpendicular Gothic tower. An A.W. Pugin designed church of 1837, the nave is tall but narrow with a brightly stenciled ceiling.

Another hour had passed, so I attempted to return to the station via an alternate route, finding Maps to be close to useless, and the lack of signs frustrating. Finally locating and retrieving my bag, I headed to the station about noon.

Downtown Derby

The tickets I’d collected some days earlier were for a specific time about two hours hence, so I bought another ticket for the earlier train to Sheffield. Two stops including Chesterfield and about a half hour later, I walked twenty minutes to the ibis Hotel and checked in. It was pretty much a standard ibis room, with a view of Park Square out the window.

Following Commercial and High streets up a hill, after a half mile I arrived at the south face of the single spired Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul. New outbuildings attached to the southwest corner are now the grand entrance into the nave. Walking around the grounds, there are church office buildings, the Chapter House, chapels extending north off the nave and a coffee shop, all walled in. Another parish church elevated to cathedral status, this one in 1914, it wasn’t included in the Bumpus book. A conglomeration of style and building periods, it is much like Portsmouth. The tri-fold handout and website, as well as Wikipedia, don’t really help in making sense of the ninety pictures I took. Figuring out the flow, and which chapel is which has proved difficult.

One shot I didn’t seem to take would be from the west end down the nave towards the sanctuary. I have several across the block below the tower (the crossing), but there are too many altar photos for the number of chapels. And there are lots of stained-glass windows. In any case, there is a splendid pulpit of wood on the southwest corner of the chancel; a lady chapel, also called the Shrewsbury Chapel, with a four-panel stained-glass window with much red, and an altarpiece with a crucifixion flanked by six small statues of saints.

Lady Chapel at Sheffield Cathedral

The high altar was dark, with a dark wooden beam ceiling with gilded angels on the support arches. The cathedra has blue tones highlighting the gilded light carved wood. At the crossing, the spire tower’s internal roof is laid in a geometric pattern of wood.

Seating in the St George Chapel is of older wood, some pained white, and facing the nave. Its ceiling is sections of blue stencil with wooden slats between. There is a lantern, with an upward window, now obstructed by an 8-pointed star structure blocking most light, located at the western end, the protruding metal structure seen outside. A glass-encased model helps give some order. Still I have pictures of an altar table with a red altar cloth facing out, and a stunningly carved reredos of gilded wood depicting the apostles flanking Christ against a white wall. With light coming from the left, one would guess it should be on a west wall. And while in the cathedral, my phone battery died, so I began the manual recharge.

Leaving after more than an hour (guided tours are at 11:15 only), I crossed the street into an open-air market along Fargate with tented booths offering a wide variety of foodstuffs, mainly sweets, as well a gardening supplies. Most confusing, a Mexican vendor with stir-fry noodles, including a vegan version. A left turn onto Norfolk Row brought me a bonus: I hadn’t known about the Cathedral Church of St Marie, the Roman Catholic cathedral for the diocese of Hallam. With an east-west axis parallel to the street, the outside view of the south face was limited by the width of Norfolk Row. The 8-page self-guided tour pamphlet explained Catholic worship history in Sheffield between 1550 and the two English Catholic Relief Acts (1778, 1829) which again permitted open worship by Roman Catholics. This building had been opened in 1850. With a split of the diocese of Leeds, it became a cathedral in 1980.

Beige blocks of stone (or brick) cover the exterior of the church and tall tower over the west end. The central nave aisle raises to a sky-blue vault ceiling doubling the height of the side aisles. Designed in a Gothic Revival style by Matthew Hadfield, the white walls contrast with the dark arches and window frames. The throne is constructed of stone and wood (and looked uncomfortable) situated before the traditional high altar. The stone reredos depicts scenes from the Marian story. Over the sanctuary, the vault is ivory curved arching over a tan stenciling. South of the sanctuary are the chapels of St Joseph (highly gilded) and Our Lady (stunning blue and gold bowled arching.

Lady Chapel vault in #StMarieCathedral

Exiting the cathedral and going to the east end of the street, I took a few more outside shots. Turning north on Norfolk Street, the red-brick Victoria Hall Methodist Church with its 7-8 story bell tower capped with a dome stood out. Across the street was a large open plaza with the Crucible and Lyceum Theaters, and the Winter Garden, a large greenhouse. Into The Brown Bear, I ordered a pint of Samuel Smith Sovereign Bitter to sip on while updating my journal. I noted my visit to the Business Development Office, getting a heads up to visit the train museum in York. Also, Sheffield seemed quite hilly; and the weather was splendid, with many people out in the sunshine.

Returning to #SheffieldCathedral to attend Evensong, it was what I wrote “Evensong lite”. Moved to the back in the newer part of the cathedral due to lighting issues, there was no organ. A choir of 7 boys and 9 adults sang for the 8 congregants and the presiding clergy. I noted that the polyphony in the Magnificat and anthem, both in English, were super. Afterwards continuing to walk around, I was looking up at building faces, taking pictures of ornamentation as it stuck my fancy. I took a stroll through the greenhouse which had hanging sculpture mixed with the trees and plants. Consulting my Beer Crawl map, I went into the Head of Steam for a Strongbow. Finding it too large for dining (albeit food was served), I pushed on. As I passed the French bakery booth, I asked for a pain au chocolat as the vendor was preparing to close up, so he gave me two for less than a pound.

Per my map, I though I’d head to The Banker’s Draft, but they had a Wetherspoon menu, so I opted instead for Cavell’s. Smaller, mildly occupied, a table with enough light and music toned down – I was set. Quaffing an Aberdell Brewery Moonshine, I ordered jalapeno poppers (cheesebits) and Whitby whole-tailed scampi with chips and peas. The beer was a blond with decent flavor. It was getting harder to find darker ales as the summer weather warmed up.

Feeling full, I strolled back down to the hotel and up to room 616. I charged one camera battery as I offloaded and uploaded 370 pictures for the day. As the phone charged, I also uploaded its pictures for the prior week. Posting the three cathedrals to Facebook, I checked out my plans for the weekend, organizing my luggage. I had to shut the window when I was ready to sleep, as there was a bit too much street noise coming from across the park. I had the air conditioning turned up warm enough that I was comfortable.

Google album of pictures in Derby and Sheffield (July 5)

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