Building » Bakewell – The English Martyrs

Bakewell – The English Martyrs

Buxton Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire

A good example of a relatively intact early  Victorian  Nonconformist church. The building contributes to the character of the area and to the range and diversity of historic buildings in the town. It ceased to be used for Catholic worship in 2019.

Bakewell is mentioned in Domesday, and its market charter originated in the thirteenth century. There is a medieval parish church and the place was an important market town. It later became a minor spa promoted by the Duke of Rutland who partly rebuilt the centre  around  1800.  Not  long afterwards,  Arkwright  built  a  mill  and attendant workers’ housing sprang up. The character of a stone-built market town has largely been preserved, and the place is a popular tourist destination and the administrative centre of the National Park.

Until the late nineteenth century, Catholics living in Bakewell would travel the three miles or so to Hassop to attend Mass. In 1889 Fr James Browne, newly arrived at Hassop, took a seven-year lease from the Duke of Rutland for a garden in Granby Road, Bakewell ‘for the purpose of erecting a removable iron church’ (Brian Cain, Temple in the Peaks, the Story of All Saints Church Hassop, 2018). Such buildings, known as ‘tin tabernacles’, were built by all denominations in the second half of the nineteenth century when there was a need to erect a place of worship quickly and cheaply. This one was built to seat 105, at a cost of £168.12s.0d. (including rail delivery, but excluding foundations, heating and lighting). The church opened in 1890 and was registered for worship in 1905. The lease was renewed several times until 1922, when the site was purchased by the Diocese of Nottingham. The chapel continued in use until 1948, when its condition was such that the diocese decided to purchase a former Congregational Chapel on Buxton Road. The site of the tin tabernacle was sold to Bakewell Urban District Council, and is now a car park.


The church is orientated roughly north-south, but this account assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

On plan the church consists of a single volume, with an aisleless nave and sanctuary under one continuous ridge, and with a sacristy over a (sealed) staircase to the north. There is a gallery at the west end of the nave. The church is raised over a basement, originally built as a schoolroom.

The church is set back from the road behind a low stone boundary wall with piers surmounted by balls at either end (more classical than gothic in character, these may predate the church and relate to the previous chapel on the site). The church is in gothic style, built from local limestone ashlar blocks under slate roofs. At the west end a tall gabled western bay entrance bay projects slightly, with a round-arched entrance to the former schoolroom in the basement, tall lancet window above and a small vesica in the gable. The entrance to the church is on the eastern return of this projecting bay, via a boarded door in a pointed arch opening. This is approached by a flight of stone steps with an ashlar side wall, its underside pierced by two lancet openings. The basement has paired plain lancet window openings in each bay. Above this, the church appears to sit on a high plinth, with gabled pilaster buttresses at the angles and marking the bay divisions. A chamfered sill band runs around the building, above which tall lancets (one per bay) light the main body of the church. The side walls have a moulded eaves cornice, shaped kneelers and moulded gable copings; the projecting western bay has a roll finial to the front gable. At the east end taller buttresses flank stepped triple lancet windows beneath a louvred vesica. The centre part of the gable is raised as a parapet, suggesting a nave and aisles; it is surmounted by a decorative carved finial.

The interior is a single volume with plain plastered and painted walls and fitted carpets. There is a perimeter timber dado, boarded at the sides and panelled at the east end. The finest feature is the roof structure, which appears to be of painted timber but may incorporate cast iron elements. It has four decorative queen-post trusses springing from corbelled wall posts, with gothic panels and arched braces with mouchettes and pendants. The central section of the ceiling is flat and plastered. The lancet windows are set in deep splayed reveals. Those in the nave have mottled glass in diamond panes, with opening hoppers to some of the lights. The triple-light east window has opaque glass in diamond quarries, with red borders. A gallery at the west end has is supported on two cast iron columns of cruciform section. The underside of the gallery has been enclosed with a glazed screen in the late twentieth century to form a narthex/vestibule. At some point the stair to the gallery has been removed and it is now only accessible by ladder. A WC has been formed in the entrance area close to the previous location of the gallery stair. The gallery has been refronted with wooden panels, probably at the same time as the glazing in of the underside, but the gothic iron railings of the original gallery front appear to survive behind this. The sacristy gives off the north side of the sanctuary, via a modern flush door within a pointed arch. From the sacristy side there is evidence of a relieving arch, or possibly of a larger opening to the church. From the sacristy a stone stair (now sealed) originally led down to the schoolroom.

The former schoolroom has a lobby area at the west end corresponding to the gallery area above, and steps down to a large single space with cast iron columns supporting the structure above (augmented by additional columns for floor strengthening).

*Entry amended and expanded 2.1.2021, using photographs and extracts from a report prepared by AHP for the Diocese of Nottingham in March 2019*

List description


Church. 1849. Ashlar sandstone with rubble limestone to rear, slate roof. 1:4 bays; bay 1 projects and is gabled; single vessel raised over schoolroom. Orientated north-south (ritual orientation used in this description). EXTERIOR: gabled pilasters at angles and bay divisions; tall plinth with offset above pairs of lancet windows to the basement. Chamfered sill band to tall lancets which light the body of the church. Bay 1 gable has round-arched door; in plinth a lancet window and vesica. Pointed-arched door in right side approached by flight of steps with ashlar side wall and 2 lancet openings beneath. Eaves cornice, shaped kneelers and moulded gable copings; roll-finial to front gable. East end: taller buttresses flank a stepped 3-light window beneath louvred vesica. Centre part of gable raised as a parapet; carved apex finial. INTERIOR: west gallery; decorative queen-post trusses with Gothic Revival panels, arched braces with mouchettes and pendants. Originally built as the Congregational Church with schoolroom under.

Listing NGR: SK2169268654

Heritage Details

Architect: Not Established

Original Date: 1849

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II