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Derby Cathedral or the Cathedral of All Saints
Having lived in Derbyshire since I was about 14 years old on and off this is somewhere I have been a few times but as it is often years between visits it always surprises me when I go.
Our most recent visit was just before we went away and we took my sister in law and brother in law as they had never been and we wanted to do something other than just sit at home when they came over. My sister in law loves churches and cathedrals so this seemed a perfect choice.
Previous visits include ones where I took a group of school children, once we took part in a well dressing competition and all the children's efforts were on display in the museum, I have also been to carol services where my children sang as well so as you can see this is a cathedral where I have spent some time.
The current cathedral dates from the 14th century but the 65 m tower is not as old and dates from 1510 to 1530 and is built in the perpendicular Gothic style favoured at the time of the time. This church did not reach the status of Cathedral until 1 July 1927. James Gibbs, who was the Georgian architect of the Cathedral, also designed St Martins in the Field church in London and those with an architectural interest may notice similarities.
This is not a Cathedral full of fancy gilt and decorations; in fact initially it seems quite plain for a C of E Cathedral as it is high ceiling- ed but the wall are pretty plain as is the ceiling . The most obvious decorated element that you notice when you enter is the Bakewell screen which divides the main part of the cathedral from the altar and chancel areas.
There are a number of interesting factors in the Cathedral but I will share my favorite parts as some things are quite specialised and others of no interest to me at all.
THE BAKEWELL SCREEN
This screen looks a bit like a wrought iron entrance gate and was designed by Robert Bakewell who also designed the wrought iron entrance gates outside the museum which look pretty similar in fact. The screen was constructed in the 18th century and the cost at the time was apparently £157.10.0d . It is quite impressive and I have not seen anything similar in other cathedrals. It has a lot of gold paint to lift it from looking a bit like prison bars.
The rood screen is a feature found in a number of medieval churches and dived the nave from the chancel. They can be made of stone, wood or in Derby's case of wrought iron and are carved to look decorative.
This is pretty high and although the Cathedral cannot be seen from across the city you do get a pretty good view of the city if you climb the tower.
I have climbed this a number of times with classes of children but my in laws declined the offer. The stairs are narrow and dark so not suitable for anyone with height fears, disabilities of claustrophobia. The tower is not always open either so be prepared to be disappointed if you come and it is a day when it is closed.
One reason it may be closed is if the weather in inclement and another is if the resident peregrine falcons are nesting. They first arrived in 2005 and in 2006 a special nesting platform was built for them. Since then the same pair successfully reared chicks in 2007, 2008, 2009 and other pairs have joined them. Now there are Webcams so you can observe the birds online and on a video in the cathedral so that the birds can be seen without being disturbed which I think is a wonderful thing for a Cathedral to boast.
The tower has also become popular for abseiling down for charity but I can't say I have been tempted to join in that event.
DING DONG THE BELLS DO CHIME
Derby Cathedral is very proud of the fact that it has the oldest ring of ten bells in the United Kingdom, and in fact one of the bells , the 15th century tenor is actually older than the tower itself. These bells played by a carillon play daily at 9am, 12pm and 6pm so if you are nearby you should be able to hear them play.
SYMBOLS OF LOCAL TOWNS
Near the rood screen in front of pews that are ninety degrees to the altar there are wrought iron symbols to represent the different Derbyshire towns and these pews are where the representatives of the city council sit when they came to services of importance.
THOSE RESTING HERE
Famous people who are remembered here include Bess of Hardwick from Hardwick Hall nearby. Henry Cavendish , famous natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. Georgina Cavendish better known as Duchess of Devonshire played by Keira Knightly in the film 'The Duchess'. Finally we have a William Ponsonby who I have never heard of before this.
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS
There is a special plaque or memorial to Florence Nightingale who apparently helped who helped design the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary. They do hold a memorial service and celebrate her birth date in the Cathedral and there is a school and road named after her in Derby as well as three statues too. This famous lady's connection with Derby is slightly tenuous as she was born in Italy, spent most of her life working overseas and died in London but her family did own Lea Hall just outside Derby. If interested you can book to stay in this hall in the Derbyshire Village of Lea and be impressed with the grand entrance with its chandelier.
Although you do have to go down some stone steps this is not the usual dark, damp crypt often found in churches. This is small and painted cream and has been made into a small chapel which is very plain and quiet as well as being slightly chilly.
THE CLOCK AND CARILLON
For those interested in clocks there is a very fine one in the Cathedral tower and it is this timepiece that chimes regularly playing a tune. It apparently plays different tunes on each day of the week but I have to admit I was not aware of this fact before the last visit. If I am in the city at noon I will take special note in future.
We did wander over to enjoy a cup of coffee and inspect the Cathedral treasures under the cafe. One of the 'treasures' is actually from Shirley church and is the famous plate which we only have a photo of in our church. There are a number of other treasures there if that kind of thing takes your fancy. There is also a small at gallery with paintings from a local artist which I liked more than the cathedral treasures.
The cafe is small and friendly selling drinks and cakes and snacks. They also have cards and books for sale too so it a nice place to sit and look back at the Cathedral over the road.
WORTH A VISIT
Yes it is a very different sort of Cathedral with lots of interesting and different things to see. It is not a building I would drive to visit from afar but if you are in the local area then it is well worth a visit. It is open most days and is free so a a place for a rainy day visit. It is right in the city centre and there are lots of cafes and restaurants nearby for lunch after or before your visit.
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