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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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The `Crooked Spire' of Chesterfield.

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

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Chesterfield’s Famous `Crooked Spire’

`Perhaps Derbyshire's most well known visible landmark'

Chesterfield’s famous `Crooked Spire’ is perhaps Derbyshire’s most well known visible landmark, and seen by thousands of people every day when passing through the town by road and rail; but with the wonderful transformation of the town in recent years from heavy industry to commerce and tourism, the much photographed Parish Church of St. Mary & All Saints has become a regular tourist attraction, and a popular haven for visitors to the Peak District.

The Grade One listed building is the largest Parish Church in Derbyshire and was built mainly around 1350, although building began during the early years of the 14th century - only to be halted by the Black Death, and a corresponding dearth of available craftsmen!

The church has a fascinating history, and guide books are available at the church shop, the Saints Parish Centre nearby, and the modern purpose built Tourist Information Centre in Rykneld Square to the west of the churchyard. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the Chesterfield Museum across the road from the Crooked Spire which houses the massive wooden-framed `construction kit’ used to erect the famous spire over six hundred years ago.

The classically cruciform church has many splendid artefacts, including the late Saxon font which is the oldest artefact of all dating from around 1000AD, and the wonderful tomb effigy of Sir Godfrey Foljambe, who fought alongside William the Conqueror in 1066.

The main attraction for visitors however, remains the famous six hundred year-old Crooked Spire which is visible from many miles around. Trips up the tower, led by the verger, are available on Saturdays and Bank Holidays, and at other times by prior arrangement.

Fascinating Facts about the Spire.

The octagonal spire is timber-framed and constructed of oak, with platelets of lead-cladding rising in herringbone rows from the flat-roofed and crenallated battlements of the clock-towered belfry, up to the golden cockerel atop the weather-vane, 228 feet above the ground.

The spire currently leans 9ft 6ins to the south-west – and leans more every year!

The spire also has a spiral twist of 45% from west to east at its base which is thought to be attributable to the use of green, unseasoned timber, and the weight of the lead cladding.

The spire was added to the existing tower around 1362, but is not attached and is only held in place by the weight (32 tons) and perfect balance!

During the 19th century an official architectural survey declared the spire unsafe and dangerous; the Town Council were ordered to either take it down, or repair it and make it safe – they repaired it!

Did You Know?

Chesterfield Crooked Spire is a member of the Association of the Twisted Spires of Europe – and there are 72 altogether! France has 32, Germany 19, Austria 8, Belgium 7, Denmark 3, and Switzerland 2, with Chesterfield being the UK’s only representative.

And in case you were wondering, Chesterfield’s Crooked Spire is the most unusual, with a greater lean & twist than any other!

And finallyfrom `Old & New Chesterfield’ – (1889)

Whichever way you turn your eye

It always seems to be awry.

Pray, can you tell the reason why?

The only reason known of weight

Is that the thing was never straight.

Nor know the people where to go

To find a man to make it so;

Since none can furnish such a plan

Except a perfect, upright man;

So that the spire,’tis very plain,

For ages crooked must remain;

And while it stands, must ever be

An emblem of deformity!

 
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The `Crooked Spire' of Chesterfield.
Chesterfield's Famous `Crooked Spire'

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