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Matlock Dale: St. John's Church, Cliff Road (1)
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St. John's (2)



St. John's (3)



Interior of St. John's



St. John's Church sits above Matlock Dale. The prospect of a church being built here caused quite a stir in the last decade of the nineteenth century. "A munificent gift of a church is being discussed with considerable pleasure amongst the parishioners of Matlock. This is for the isolated district of the Dale, which lies between Matlock Bridge and Matlock Bath, and the donor is understood to be Mrs. L. S. Harris, of The Rocks, Matlock Dale. The building is to be for mission services, and the plans are in the hands of Mr. Dawber, the London architect. It is believed that the work will soon be in active progress[1]". The church was dedicated in memory of an aunt and uncle of Mrs. Harris; Louisa Jane (nee Leacroft) and John Greaves had lived at The Rocks, a large property just below St. John's,[2] and the house was later the home of Mrs. Harris and her husband, the solicitor Walter Noel Harris[3].

Messrs. Parnell & Son of Rugby carried out most of the work, though later additions were done by the Matlock builders J. & W. Lewis in conjunction with craftsmen from London and elsewhere[4]. "Its walls and roof are of local stone, great blocks forming the lower part of the wall which comes down to the road". Just before the Second World War Arthur Mee described the surroundings. "It stands among loft trees, one a splendid yew overhanging the road ; it looks up to sheer cliffs that frown above it, down over the housetops to road and river in the canyon below, and across the valley to High Tor"[5]. We can see the small niche where the well under the building is in both these images.

This beautiful small private church was licensed by the Bishop of Southwell in June 1897. It was reported that the internal fittings had been carried out with no regard of the cost[6]. In the following year it was said to be used daily[4]. In 1899 someone connected with St. John's placed an advertisement in the press for "More Paid Choristers with good voices wanted for St. John's Church, Matlock Dale.-Apply above church, Thursday evenings 6.30"[7].

Louisa Sophia Harris passed away in Bournemouth in 1908 but her coffin was returned to Matlock and there was a short preliminary service at St, John's conducted by the Reverend Stewart Scott. The burial service was also held at St. John's, before she was laid to rest at St. Giles'[8]. Her husband was buried at the parish church on 4 Sep 1911. He was 66[9].

Mrs. Harris bequeathed the church, the grounds on which it was built, the furnishings and the fittings to the Rev. J. W. Kewley, the Rector of Matlock, and his successors in perpetual trust to be used as a Church of England Chapel. The Bishop of Southwell and the Rural Dean were the trustees. She also left them £10,000, the interest of which was to pay a clergyman and for the church's upkeep[10]. Unfortunately, until Mrs. Harris's will was proved the church was closed to worshippers[11].


St. John's, Matlock Bath, private collection


The pen and ink drawing of St. John's was published in a book by Thomas Tudor in 1926. Tudor wrote: "St. John's Chapel [is] a beautiful little structure built upon the hillside. It stands over an old well and the internal decorations are suggested by the lines of running water. The chapel, and some neighbouring cottages, were built by Mr. Guy Dawber, the eminent architect, who has made a study of the use of local material in country architecture, and they do something to redeem the general banalities of Matlock buildings[12]".

Also see "Just" Images: Matlock Dale - there's another postcard of St. John's.


1. Postcard "St. John's Church, Matlock". No publisher. Printed in Bavaria. Not posted. In the stamp box: Inland ½d Foreign 1d and senders were told "with nothing but address on this side". Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
2. Pen and ink drawing from "The High Peak to Sherwood, The hills and dales of old Mercia", Thomas Linthwaite Tudor (1926), published London by Robert Scott. With drawings by Fred Adcock and others.
Drawing in the collection of, provided by and © Private Collector.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks are to transcripts elsewhere on this website):

[1] "The Derby Mercury", Wednesday, August 5, 1896 - Gift of a Church. Also see Biography of Guy Dawber on this website.

[2] Mrs. Greaves and her niece were at the Rocks in the 1871 census. See: Wills Calendar: D - G. Louisa Sophia Leacroft was with her parents in the 1861 census.

[3] Mr and Mrs. Harris were living at The Rocks in the 1881 census | the 1891 census | the 1891 census. Walter was listed in Kelly's 1891 Directory | Kelly's 1895 Directory | Kelly's 1899 Directory.

[4] "The Builder", 29 Oct 1898. Private Chapel, Matlock, Derbyshire.

[5] Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1937) "Derbyshire: The Peak Country", The King's England Series, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 19 June 1897.

[7] "Derbyshire Times", 8 February 1899

[8] "Belper News", 31 January 1908. Church Worker's Demise. The late Mrs. Harris of Matlock. She was buried at St. Giles on 21 Jan 1908, aged 56.

[9] Extracted from the Parish Register. He had died in 1 September.

[10] "Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press", 13 March 1908.

[11] "Nottingham Evening Post", 1 June 1909.

[12] The High Peak to Sherwood, The hills and dales of old Mercia", Thomas Linthwaite Tudor (1926), published London by Robert Scott. With drawings by Fred Adcock and others.