SK2129 : Detail of the western doorway of St Mary's Church, Tutbury

taken 11 years ago, near to Tutbury, Staffordshire, Great Britain

Detail of the western doorway of St Mary's Church, Tutbury
Detail of the western doorway of St Mary's Church, Tutbury
This shows the shafts on the left side of the Norman doorway, which has six richly carved receding arches. These shafts have been partly restored, but the arches above are original.

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St Mary's Church, Tutbury

This church was part of a Benedictine priory founded by Henry de Ferrers in the 1080s. The nave survived because it also served as the parish church. The crossing, transepts, choir and apse did not survive but were reinstated in the 19C, designed by G E Street. (Information from Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England - Staffordshire, 1974)

Priory Church of St Mary, Tutbury

Still a largely Norman church, which being a monastic church and always quite large did not receive major Gothic period enhancements.

The church was founded in 1085 and consecrated in 1089 under the auspices of Henry de Ferrers, who held Tutbury Castle. In the mid 12th century he founded a Benedictine Priory based on the church.

What remains today is essentially the nave of the monastic church. Originally cruciform, with a central tower, at the Dissolution the chancel, transepts and tower were demolished, leaving the nave, which had always served as the parish church. To this was attached a south aisle, partly rebuilt in the 13th century when it was damaged in the Barons' Revolt under Simon Montfort. A north aisle was also removed at some stage. The heavy circular pillars of the Norman church remain in place.

The tower is thought to date from the Elizabethan period, presumably to replace the demolished central tower. It is rather squat and because of the way it is fitted to the south aisle it is rectangular rather than square. At around the same time it seems that the Norman period clerestory was removed, a flatter roof constructed, and the openings of the Norman triforium replaced with 3-light windows with rather plain tracery.

A new north aisle was constructed in 1829 to cater for the expanding population of the town.

The final major structural changes came in the late 1860s. A restoration by the renowned Gothic Revival architect G E Street in 1866-7 involved the re-roofing of the nave with a high pitched roof, including a new gable end at the west of the church. The latter followed the Norman style of the west end rather than introducing Gothic motifs. Street also installed a new floor in the nave, approximately 2 feet above the original level, enabling underfloor heating. Immediately following this he also built the new apsidal chancel which was gifted by Sir Oswald Mosley of Rolleston Hall.

The floor was lowered again in 1937 to reveal the full height of the nave piers.

The most recent change has been the provision in 2010 of a community suite within the north aisle enclosed in a timber screen which replicates the style of Street's vestry in the north west corner.

The most distinctive feature of the church is the west front. This dates largely from around 1160, with one of the finest Norman west doorways in the country. This comprises 7 orders. The innermost is of chevrons which continue down the jambs; most of the others consist of stylised flora or foliage with an inner geometric ring, the two inner orders of this group being of beakhead design. The inner of these two appears to be unique in the UK in being carved from alabaster.

Considering the susceptibility of alabaster to erosive decay, the detail has stood up surprisingly well. At the time of my visit it was under detailed survey with the aim of determining the best method of conservation. The uniqueness of the use of alabaster as an external stone means that there is no current precedent for conservation treatment.

The front above the doorway includes a fine Norman window opening of three orders with flanking intersecting arcades. The Norman windows were replaced in the late 19th century with a 4-light window in Decorated style by Bodley.The gable above this is part of Street's restoration, the original having been removed, presumably in the 16th century when a low-pitched roof was constructed.

This situation is mirrored on the interior face of the west front.

The south door is also Norman, although modified over the years, having been blocked or simply a window for most of the post-dissolution period. It includes a lintel, now much worn, depicting a boar hunt which is possibly of Saxon origin.

The church is Listed Grade I.

This description draws heavily on the excellent guide available in the church and produced by a local parishioner. (The Historic England Listing description is very brief and erroneously describes the alabaster order of the west doorway as the outermost, apparently following the Pevsner-series county guide).

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SK2129, 176 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 7 November, 2009   (more nearby)
Saturday, 14 November, 2009
Church detail   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 210 291 [100m precision]
WGS84: 52:51.5390N 1:41.3730W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 210 291
View Direction
East-northeast (about 67 degrees)
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