SK2129 : Church of St Mary, Tutbury

taken 2 years ago, near to Tutbury, Staffordshire, Great Britain

Church of St Mary, Tutbury
Church of St Mary, Tutbury
Norman lancet window of the west front with zig-zag surround.
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, 172 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Tuesday, 17 October, 2017   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 7 November, 2017
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Religious sites  City, Town centre 
Period (from Tags)
12th Century 
Style (from Tags)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 2109 2910 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:51.5388N 1:41.2928W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 2108 2910
View Direction
EAST (about 90 degrees)
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Other Tags
Church Window  Lancet Window 

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Image Type (about): close look 
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