Building » Hathersage – St Michael the Archangel

Hathersage – St Michael the Archangel

Main Road, Hathersage, Hope Valley, S32 1BS

Hathersage is an old recusant stronghold. The present church dates largely from the turn of the nineteenth century, but includes material from a previous chapel sacked by a Protestant mob about a century earlier. The attached presbytery is contemporary with the rebuilding, while a school and coach house were added in 1825. The building retains the simple character of an early post-Relief Act chapel, with a gallery at one end. The chancel was probably added in the early nineteenth century and later modified with replacement of the east window.

Hathersage is a small town in the Peak District with early origins which was on main packhorse routes over the Pennines. The church site stands in Hathersage Conservation Area. Church and presbytery are set well back from the road in wooded grounds, with a walled garden at the rear. Gate piers of probable early nineteenth century date are attached to one side of the church. Of the associated buildings, the coach house stands behind the church and has been converted to a garage. It is of two storeys, with possibly original window openings, and an upper hatch possibly for taking in hay. The former school also survives as a very simple building with replacement window and door joinery, now used for storage. The group is reached by a drive running north from the main road (A 6187) on the west side of the settlement. The spacious setting is an important part of the character of the group and reflects the extent of the Furniss gift to the church.

A large Catholic community existed at Hathersage throughout penal times. Records of secret Catholic Masses at the nearby farm settlement of Nether Hirst date from the sixteenth century. The Furniss family were recusants who owned land in Hathersage, and a chapel was built towards the end of the seventeenth century. The history of this chapel, which survives as a ruin, is obscure.  The most thoroughly researched history of the chapel is that by Barbara Smith. She states that Adam Furniss gave the land in trust for the building of a chapel in 1691, and his son William Furniss was granted permission to build the chapel a year later. Soon after the church was opened it was sacked by a Protestant mob. However, other sources (Little, Busch) state that the chapel was built earlier, in about 1685, during the brief period of Catholic freedom under James II, and was sacked by a Protestant mob at the time of the Glorious or Protestant Revolution in 1689. Busch suggests that the deeds of 1691 relate to the renewal of the gift of the land where the chapel stands, allowing for its future repair and restoration, and not to the building of the chapel. Little points out that the design of the chapel points to a date of 1685. The confusion is compounded by the conflation by some sources of this chapel with another chapel about one mile north, near North Lees Hall, which was also destroyed by a mob about the time of the 1689 Revolution.

The chapel remained empty and roofless for about a hundred years. However, in 1791 (that is, as soon as this became possible again under the terms of the Second Relief Act), the mission priest William Southworth registered the ruined chapel as a place of Catholic worship. The work of restoring the building began in 1798, and documents, including a plan and elevation of church and presbytery are dated 1797. They show the buildings largely as executed, though the main doorway to the presbytery differs in the detail of the design. The chapel was reopened in 1806.

George Jinks replaced Edward Eyre as mission priest in 1821 and built a coach house and Sunday school in 1825. Jinks also built a small library for the use of locals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and (according to Canon Sweeney’s notes) added the western gallery. Whether he added the present chancel is less clear; Smith says he was responsible, while Canon Sweeney says it was added in 1860; Little seems to support the latter view, describing the chancel as ‘poor Victorian Gothic’.  Examination of the chancel suggests it may indeed have been added by Jinks, as the masonry suggests that the present traceried east window is a replacement and there are signs of disturbances to the masonry around it. Tracery was inserted into some of the chancel windows probably at the same time.

A new roof and west bellcote were given by the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk in 1880.  This work was probably done by M.E. Hadfield, who designed the school chapel at Bamford (q.v.) for the Duke at about the same time. Renovations to the church and presbytery took place in 1908-9, when a pitched roof was placed over the sacristy link, requiring the blocking of the window and the formation of another to compensate. The sanctuary was reordered after the Second Vatican Council by John Rochford & Partner, when the altar was brought forward, and again in 2013. 

The church is early nineteenth century in date, incorporating late seventeenth century fabric. However, the extent of surviving earlier material is unclear. The building appears to be all of a piece, but Smith states that the main front and the epistle (i.e. north side) were restored in the early nineteenth century, while the walls on the gospel (i.e. south) side were entirely rebuilt. Little also suggests that the extent of early fabric is considerable: ‘The heavy rustication of its quoins suggests a period much older than 1806, while the bold edging of its elliptically-headed side windows, the style of its round West window, the bolection moulding round its doorway, and the heavily bracketed cornice above that doorway all point to a date soon after 1685’. The evidence suggests that some seventeenth century fabric is incorporated into the building. The east window seems to have been completely replaced and certain other windows, including a chancel window, appear to be of early nineteenth century date with a little inserted tracery.

Inside, the church is panelled to dado height and furnished with simple modern fittings including new sanctuary furnishings and a crucifix introduced in 2013. The stained glass includes a late nineteenth century window by Joseph Clarke of Dublin and a twentieth century window depicting the Padley Martyrs.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not known; 1880 work possibly by M.E. Hadfield

Original Date: 1692

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed