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St Oswald, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

(53°0′53″N, 1°44′19″W)
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Derbyshire
now Derbyshire
medieval St Oswald
now St Oswald
  • Abigail Lloyd
  • Olivia Threlkeld
  • Abigail Lloyd
  • Olivia Threlkeld
2014 (Olivia Threlkeld) and 2021 (Abigail Lloyd)

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Feature Sets

Ashbourne is a market town in the Derbyshire Dales district, on the southern edge of the Peak District National Park. It is 14 miles W of Derby and 21 miles SE of Buxton. The town in in the valley of the Henmore Brook, a tributary of the Dove, and the church is to the W of the town centre. It is one of Derbyshire's grandest churches with a 212 ft spire and a nave and chancel totalling 176 ft in length. It has a nave with a S aisle, transepts with E chapels and a long narrow chancel. Access is thorugh doors on the end walls of the transept. Excavations in 1913 revealed the existence of a Norman crypt, but none of the above-ground fabric is this early. The oldest part is the chancel, which was ready for the dedication in 1241. The nave dates from the later 13thc, and the transept from the early 14thc. The S aisle was added c.1300, and the crossing tower and spire were begun in the early 13thc. Clerestoreys were added, along with other Perp features, c.1520. The church was restored by Cottingham in 1837-40, by George Gilbert Scott in 1873 and 1876-78, and by G. L. Abbot in 1881-82.

There are a few remains of earlier churches on the site. In the N transept is a section of an Anglo-saxon cross-shaft with interlace and a beast carved on its faces, dated to the 10thc by the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Pevsner (1953) reported a 'stone with Norman zigzag' in the Boothby chapel, but this was no longer described by Hartwell (2016) and was not found by our fieldworker in 2021. Outside the E side of the S transept is a pile of loose fragments, among which is a scallop capital.


Ashbourne was held by the king in 1086, when it was assessed at 3 carucates.There was a priest and a church with 1 carucate of land, and meadow and woodland pasture. William Rufus gave the churches of Ashbourne and Chesterfield, together with those of Mansfield and Ossington, in Nottinghamshire, to the Cathedral Church of St. Mary, of Lincoln, and to Robert Bloett, Bishop of that See, by a charter that is undated, but which recites that it was signed on the day after Archbishop Anselm did his homage, that is December 5th, 1093.


Loose Sculpture


The loose capital was also seen by Rita Wood, and on the basis of her photographs, Stuart Harrison concluded that its size and form suggested a chancel arch capital from the 12thc church. The integral impost is unusual, and represents a waste of stone in cutting.

  1. R. Clark, ‘The Dedications of Medieval Churches in Derbyshire: their survival and change from the reformation to the present day’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 112 (1992), 48-61.

J. C. Cox, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Chesterfield and London 4 vols, 1875-79, Vol. 2, 363 - 401

  1. C. Hartwell, N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, New Haven and London 2016, 108-113

J. Hawkes and P. C. Sidebottom, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, v.13 (2018), 103-104.

Historic England Listed Building: English Heritage Legacy ID: 79839

  1. N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Derbyshire, Melbourne, London and Baltimore 1953, 40-44.

Pevsner, N. (1978), The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, 58 - 67