Tideswell is the sort of large village that would once have had the status of a small town. To get there you traverse some splendid parts of the Peak District, and are greeted by a large 14th century church in the Decorated style, whose tower is distinguished by polygonal turrets and pinnacles. Locally it is known as the Cathedral of the Peak District. Well, as we will see, it has its own bishop.

Inside it is spacious, the kind of interior that you associate with the 15th century. The fine Victorian pews are fitted with doors, and the church has some excellent woodwork, both mediaeval and dating from both the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the monuments, the one to search out is up against the north wall, a memorial brass to Bishop Robert Purseglove, a native who returned here in retirement to die in 1579 or 1580, founding a grammar school, which survived until 1930. That tells only part of the story. Purseglove was consecrated as a suffragan Bishop of Hull in 1538 and remained in post through all the changes under Henry, Edward and Mary until 1559, when, along with all the Marian diocesan bishops except Kitchen of Llandaff, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Elizabeth, and was forced to retire. No one knows what led this precursor of the Vicar of Bray to take this principled step, but perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is that his monumental brass depicts him fully vested in chasuble and mitre, surely a thing unheard of in the Elizabethan Anglican church. Was he free to do this in a secluded backwater? Did he sympathise with the local recusants? Here we must leave him, staring up at the wooden 14th c. angels carved on the chancel roof.


Map Reference: SK152757

Simon Cotton