Parwich & District Local History Society

Articles from Newsletter no. 2 (June 2000)

Care Centre Closes

Copyright © 2000 Peter Trewhitt

History has happened since our last Newsletter for a number of people in the Village and surrounding area; the Care Centre closed on 30th April. Built initially in 1912, by the Liverpool philanthropist and campaigner Florence Rathborne, it was originally a convalescent home for women and children. The British Red Cross took it over as a convalescent home for soldiers during the Second World War. In 1948 the NHS bought it for the princely sum of £1, and it became Parwich Hospital. With the end of NHS convalescent hospitals, it was decided to close the Hospital in 1979. Local concern resulted in the raising of £250,000 to buy the building in the winter of 1981/82, and a Trust was set up to manage what became the Care Centre. With extensions and improvements this provided a nursing home for up to 30 residents. Unfortunately over the last few years demand for places in rural nursing homes has fallen. Leading up to the closure there were 15 residents to re-house, and the loss of 26 jobs. The staff hit hardest are those who are dependant on employment close to home. Sale of the building has been agreed, and it is understood that it is to be converted into a private dwelling. If you have any information, memories, stories or photographs of the Parwich Care Centre/Parwich Hospital/Red Cross Hospital/Rathborne Convalescent Home please let us know so we can record and share them.

The Parwich Tympanum

An echo from a pre-Norman past?

Copyright © 2000 Rob Francis

Drawing of the Tympanum at Parwich Church by Llewellynn Jewitt made in 1872 and published in The Reliquary Vol XXI p201-4, 1880-1 NB Llewellyn Jewitt lived at Winster Hall from 1867-1880. For more about Llewellyn Jewitt see and

The oldest recognisable relic from Parwich’s past is without doubt the tympanum that now stands above the west door. Originally it was inside the church until it was rebuilt in Victorian times. However it seems likely that this was not the first time it was moved as it could well come from a church that predated even the older St Peter’s church. Unfortunately it is only possible to speculate on the origins but there are interesting hints and clues.

The nature of the carving seems to indicate a time somewhere between 700 and 1100CE , four hundred years that spans the later Saxon era and early Norman conquest. It seems likely that the original St Peters was established in the Norman era and the arch, that now surrounds the tympanum, is usually identified as having features broadly in line with Norman arches elsewhere. For this reason it seems that the tympanum has often been dated with the arch.

The tympanum itself consists of a number of fairly primitive animals that are allegorical. The creature to the left is a lamb bearing the banner of the cross. Above this there is the dove, symbolising the Holy Spirit; in the centre the hart probably signifies the Christian convert who is trampling on the wicked serpents. Other animals to the right are believed to be a boar and a wolf. A possible key to dating this is the lamb bearing the cross. The early Christian church often represented Jesus in this way until the council of Constantinople in 692 decreed that Christ should be represented as a person. Obviously in those days such news and decrees did not travel fast and it may have taken a hundred or two hundred years for such changes to take effect but this would still put the tympanum firmly in the Saxon era.

It is also interesting to note that this tympanum is one of a number of local church carvings. Tissington church has a tympanum with two human figures and a font that has some features that are very similar, most notably the lamb carrying the cross. Hognaston Church also has a similar tympanum and Wirksworth Church has some of the finest Saxon carvings in the country – most famously the stone coffin lid. Bradbourne has a fine Celtic cross that was rediscovered and re-erected two centuries ago. It may be that these churches are roughly contemporary and that a mason was responsible for at least some of them. Certainly there was an important school for carving at Breedon-on-the-Hill, not too far away.

A sketch of the figures on the font at Tissington Church

Many churches in outlying communities during the Saxon era were small and crudely built and it was not until the Norman rebuilding programme that village churches became more permanent structures. Often aspects of the older building were incorporated in the new church. Could it be that a church stood on the same site before this? When the Trent and Peak Archaeological Trust carried out a survey of the area in 1988 they noted two concentric banks partially ringing the church inside the enclosure named Yate Croft. The survey went on to suggest that there could have been a circular earth enclosure round the north side of the church, with the stream acting as a natural boundary to the south. (Other possible boundary banks could have been obliterated either by the graveyard or house building.) Such enclosures were a feature of the early church and holy sites associated with water are particularly linked with the Celtic Church. It is possible, conjectures the survey, that St Peter’s overlies the site of an 8th or 9th century church associated with the ring banks. Perhaps the tympanum has its origins with that church. If that is the case (and its animal symbolism does suggest pre-Norman origins) then it is a echo of an earlier and largely uncharted Parwich.


The Trent and Peak Archaeological Survey 1988 (Copy in the Local studies Library Matlock)

Reliquary H. Jewett April 1888

A Short History of Tissington and its Church   D.H Buckley 1966

Churches in the Landscape Richard Morris 1989





Copyright © 2000 Brian Foden

While browsing through back copies of the Derby Mercury in the Local Studies Library, I came across the following articles, dated 1872-3.


Derby Mercury October 22nd 1873

On Friday last the new church of Parwich, built at the sole cost of T. W. Evans, Esq., of Allestree Hall, Derby; patron of the living, was opened by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield. The day was observed as a general holiday, and the weather being fine, a large crowd of people flocked into the picturesque village, which was appropriately decorated for the occasion. At the west gate of the churchyard was a triumphal arch of evergreens with the motto, “Glory to God.” Other triumphal arches spanned the streets, all bearing mottoes expressing the good wishes of the inhabitants and tenantry towards their excellent landlord and his good lady. The service commenced at three o’clock, the Bishop and clergy walking in procession from the west door, repeating the 24th psalm. During the service a sick and dying boy was carried in and in a most touching manner received the rite of confirmation; after which a most appropriate and excellent sermon was preached by the Bishop to a crowded congregation. Between the afternoon and evening services a public tea was provided in the very picturesque schoolroom, also built by Mr Evans. The Archdeacon of Derby preached in the evening a simple and earnest sermon, the church being again crowded. The collection for the two services, for the handsome new organ built by Mr Abbot, of Leeds, amounted to £26 7s 6d. Mr Parkin presided at the organ with his usual ability.

On Sunday, the 10th, the opening services were continued, the sermons being preached by the Rev, W. G. Ketchley, vicar of Ripley, and the Rev, E. J. Hayton, vicar of Bradbourne.

J. H. Casson, Esq., ably fulfilled the duties of organist. On Saturday evening a lecture was delivered in the schoolroom by T. W. Evans, Esq., the subject being “Iceland.” A most interesting description was given of two visits which the lecturer had made to that country; whilst the history, manners, and customs were also dwelt upon. A most cordial vote of thanks was given to the lecturer at the conclusion.

(Comment) The burial register for Parwich shows only one entry for the death of a young boy in the immediate period following the opening of the church, that being Samuel Berrisford on the 17th of April 1874 at the age of six years. Could he be the young boy who was confirmed at the opening ceremony?


Derby Mercury 1873

Parwich is a small and somewhat romantically situated hamlet, seven miles from Ashbourne. The old church has been entirely removed and a new one built upon the same site, from the designs of Messrs, Stevens and F. Robinson, architects of 45 Friar-gate, Derby. The church being now complete, was opened on Friday. The style adopted is late Norman, the chancel being rather later and bordering upon early English. In plan the church consists of a chancel 16 feet by 22 feet six inches in the clear; the nave and north and south aisles are 47 feet by 41 feet in the clear. There is a western tower and spire which rises to an altitude of about 100 feet; and there is an organ-chamber and vestry, 18feet by 12feet, at the north-east end. The pulpit, which is of worked stone, occupies the east end of the northern arcade, and the old Norman font has been placed at the south-west end of the nave near to the tower. There is a new reredos, of Ancaster stone; this is richly carved, and has upon it, immediately over the alter-table, two seraphim with veiled faces. These stand upon pedestals. The panels on either side of the central cross are carved with foliage suggestive of the Blessed Sacrament. The extreme length of the building, from out to out, is 96 feet, and the extreme width 51 feet. As a whole, the interior of the church is very pleasing, and whilst it embodies all the characteristics and features of Norman architecture, presents none of that extreme gloom which detracts so much, as a rule, from the proper utilising and success of Norman buildings generally. The nave is separated from each aisle by a bold arcading of four bays, each column being surmounted by well-carved capitals. Two of the responds are old examples, and the type of these, as well as the other local Norman work, has been carefully retained by the carvers. The graceful characteristics of the transition from Norman to early English have evidently been the basis upon which the sculptors have worked, and in this they have been most successful. Into several of the capitols shields bearing various symbols of the patron saint have been introduced with good effect. The aisles are lit on either side by circular-headed single-light windows, and by double-lighted ones on the western side. The clerestory is carried well up, and is capitaly lit on either side by nine cinquefoil circular windows, recessed in a running arcade, The walls all through the interior of the church are of ashlar stone, and the roof of the nave and chancel and the lean-to roofs of the aisles are of timber. The seating is open and of pine; the stalls in the chancel are of pitch pine. There is a credence table on the south side of the chancel, and at the east end of the vestry is an old pisina. The ancient and highly interesting chancel arch in the old church has been carefully preserved, and made to form the tower arch, and an old stone coffin lid, upon which is incised a foliated cross and a two-handed sword, has been preserved, and been built up in the tower in a conspicuous place. The church is entered by a western tower door and a priest’s door. Over the former is the early Norman arch that originally belonged to the south door and within it is a curious and remarkably interesting tympanum, well sculptured in Norman type. The roofs are slated, but the spire which is low and squat, like nearly all the local spires, is entirely of stone. The carving throughout the building has been executed by Mr, Harry Hems, sculptor, of Exeter. The builders are Messrs W. H. and J. Slater, of Old Uttoxeter Road, Derby, and the Coxbench stone, an excellent material, procured from a quarry belonging to these contractors, has been used for all the work.

(Comment) In its comparatively short 127 year history the new church at Parwich has undergone many changes since it was erected in 1873.The main changes were made in 1907 under the direction of the reverend Claud Edmond Lewis and Gerald William Lewis, when the south aisle was extended to enable the organ to be moved, also the present doorway and porch were added to the north aisle. The seating was rearranged to allow access to the new door, and the pews shortened and placed further apart to give more width to the gangways and space to the occupiers. The carved stone pulpit was replaced by the present one of carved oak, the rood screen was erected between the nave and chancel and the pine choir stalls replaced. The Rood screen and pulpit together with a fine font cover, now consigned to the vestry, are the work of Sir Walter Tapper, an architect and artist who died in 1935. The richly carved stone reredos from behind the altar was removed and the two angels which surmounted it are now perched on the capitals of the Norman arch under the tower. A chamber was excavated under the north aisle to accommodate a heating boiler and the church was lit by acetylene which was generated in the small stone building next to the Memorial Hall. In 1919 a carillon of eight bells was installed by Alfred John Gainsford, joint Lord of the Manor of Parwich and Edith Geraldine his wife, to commemorate the victory won in the Great War 1914-18 and in proud and grateful memory of those men of Parwich who fought and died.

Question: Does anyone know what happened to the stone pulpit or carved reredos?


Derby Mercury 8th May 1872

To be sold the old oak pewing and other fittings in Parwich Church.– Apply at the Church Parwich, near Ashbourne; or to W H & J Slater, Builders Derby


Derby Mercury April 3rd 1872

A Tea Meeting, to be followed by readings, songs and recitations by several local amateurs, will be given in the School Room Parwich, tomorrow Thursday evening, the proceeds of which will be appropriated to the fund for obtaining a new organ for the Parish Church. The entertainment has been got up by Mrs Buckwell, who we are glad to hear has been actively seconded by the principle inhabitants of the Parish. We hope it will be a success in a money point of view, as a good organ will be a very good addition to the new church which is about to be erected by T W Evans Esq. We believe there will be some very good singing and a continuation of the Lancashire Tales which [were] so taking a short time ago.

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