Parwich & District Local History Society

Church History

The Church Group's initial objective was to write a brief history of St Peter's Church in the form of a leaflet, so that it could be made available to passing visitor's to St Peter's as in so many other churches.  There is a wealth of references in the Bibliography (see section (iii)) to St Peter's and these have been followed up and used to produce a more comprehensive booklet on the history of St Peter's which is planned for launch at the beginning of the Parwich History Festival. Visitors to this website may wish to visit the church website at for further information on the church and its activities. The vicar, the Rev Christopher Harrison may be contacted by email at  or by telephone at 01335 390226

Articles published in the Newsletter on Church History include the following:-

The Parwich Tympanum    Issue 2, page2
A New Church for Parwich    Issue 2, page 4
St Peter's Church    Issue 6, page 3

The Parish records contain another rich vein for research of Parwich residents covering christenings, marriages, deaths, memorials in the church yard etc.  These records are now published on the website.

Parwich (Pevrewic in the Domesday Book) formed part of the ancient Crown lands, and together with Ashbourne was granted soon after the Conquest, to the Ferrers, Earls of Derby. Robert de Ferrers, the grantee's son, took a prominent part in the Montford Rebellion against the king, after which Edward I seized his lands. The king conferred the manor upon Edward Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster and henceforth it became an appendage of the Duchy of Lancaster under which it was held by the Cokayne family of Ashbourne Hall. It was purchased from Sir Edward Cokayne in 1603 by Thomas Levinge, Esq., and remained in the possession of the family until 1814 when it was sold by Sir Richard Levinge, 6th Bart, to William Evans of Allestree Hall. The Levinge family held the manor for over 200 years but even though they built Parwich Hall in 1747, they spent little time in Parwich after acquiring estates in County Meath in Ireland. The son of William Evans, Thomas William Evans, later Sir Thomas William Evans, used Parwich Hall as a summer residence to escape the smoke and grime of Derby. It was he who built the present church, it was erected in 1874 at a cost of 4,500. The Evans family line died out in 1892, and the estate was split between the Carrs and the Gisbornes.      Rev Claud Lewis, son of Samuel Lewis and Susan, daughter of the Rev John Edmund Carr, was vicar of Parwich 1904-11 and lived at the Hall. After World War One, the Estate was sold to the Inglefields, by marriage heirs of the Cromptons of Flower Lilies, Windley, and for many years the residence of Col. John Crompton-Inglefield. His widow sold it in the 1970s to Mr Donald Shields whose family still reside there.

The present church was built in 1874 at the sole expense of Sir William Evans, to replace the old Norman building that had stood on the site for nearly 800 years. This had fallen into disrepair and had become too small for the growing population of the village. The new church is a handsome Norman style building of limestone with yellow sandstone dressings, and consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south chapel and a western tower surmounted by a six-sided spire. When built the church was probably one of the best lit in the county, but since then most of the clear glass has been replaced by stained glass memorial windows. In the clerestory above each are three small window lights geometrically designed and enriched with two carved pillars, and in each aisle are three double light windows. The chancel window comprises three lights and is filled with stained glass to the memory of Sarah Critchlow, who died in 1862, James Swindell who died in 1858, and others.  The chancel arch is lofty and pointed, but the four arches on each side of the nave, separating it from the aisles, are semi-circular, resting on cylindrical pillars. The font pair of these pillars has carved capitals relating to the dedication of the church to St Peter in the form of keys, fishing nets, and a crowing cockerel.    The coat of Arms is that of the Lichfield Diocese under whose jurisdiction Parwich came until the formation of the Derby Diocese in 1928. The south chapel was added at the same time as the north door and porch in 1907, together with the fine oak screen separating the nave from the chancel. Major Alfred John Gainsforth installed a carillon of eight tubular bells in the tower in 1919 in memory of the men who served and died in the Great War. Many features of the old Norman
church were saved and incorporated into the new building, including the tympanum, Norman arch and font. 

The tympanum, which is thought to be of Saxon origin, is situated on the outside of the church above the west door, and is supported on two carved pillars of the same period. It was discovered under many layers of whitewash over the south door of the old Norman church before it was demolished. The stone is covered with rudely carved figures unfolding the story of the Redemption. On one side is a lamb bearing a circular-headed cross symbolising Christ as the Lamb of God; above the head of the lamb is a dove, typifying the Holy Ghost. The central figure is a hart, representing the Christian convert or true believer, and under the feet of the hart and lamb are two serpents with protruding tongues symbolic of the Evil One. Above is the swine into which the Unclean Spirit entered, and the remaining figure is a wolf, with tail expanded into a trifolium or shamrock. The latter is the emblem of the Trinity, and the wolf is represented devouring one of the leaves, symbolising the Denial of the Divinity of Christ.

The Lady Chapel was added to the church in 1907, enclosing the grotesques from the old church that had been built into the external wall of the chancel. These can be seen high up on the north wall of the chapel. The two millennium windows on the south side are inscribed with the names of all the children under the age of 14 who were living in the Parish during the year 2000.

The Norman arch is situated under the tower leading to the west door. It was originally the chancel arch of the old church, and is a fine example of zig-zag moulding of this period. The two capitals at the west end of the nave are also Norman, and two more can be seen on the floor near the west door.

The font is Norman work and of an unusual shape. It is round at the top , but a few inches below tapers down to sixteen sides, and stands on a circular shaft. It is inscribed with the date 1662, probably the date it was reinstalled to the church after Cromwell's Commonwealth.

The parish chest was discovered in the boiler house under the church in the early 1990's. It was in very poor condition, but after cleaning and drying out it was returned to the church, but unfortunately only the lid could be saved. The Chest was dated as 17" century, and is almost certainly the work of an itinerant wood carver making his living by making such chests for the local churches.

The Church Registers begin in 1646, but contain some gaps. They can be consulted at The Public Records Office, at Matlock.

If you wish to buy a copy of the booklet which has now been published you can order one through the society if you  click on bookstall.

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