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

St. John's (3)

Interior of St. John's

Holy Trinity,
built north to south

Dawber's Cottages,
Matlock Dale, 1899

Nestling under Shining Cliff, the chapel-of-ease dedicated to St. John the Baptist that was designed by Sir Guy Dawber[1] almost looks as if it is growing out of the rocks. This was Dawber's intention. Arthur Mee later described it as clinging to the steep hillside[2]. The stone built chapel was commissioned by Mrs. Harris who lived at The Rocks just a few yards further down the hillside. She was the daughter of Mr. Brooke Leacroft and the church was in memory of some of her relatives[3]. It was completed in early 1897[4]. It was the only church Dawbwer ever designed and today is considered to be one of his finest works[5].

Here are two cards of the church, taken at a similar time judging by the foliage already spreading across the stonework, and both posted in 1905. St. John's was the second church built in Matlock Bath (the cards' titles may say Matlock but this part of the Dale was within the boundaries of Matlock Bath) that did not follow the tradition of the nave going east to west. Its orientation is approximately south south west to north north east because of the piece of land it was built on. The church porch is at the southwest end and the large chancel window we can see here faces north east, towards the home of its benefactress.

Nevertheless, St. John's clerics came under St. Giles' church in Matlock Town. In late 1903 the Rev. William Scott was appointed chaplain to St. John's[6]. He was born in Alton, Hampshire in 1842 and christened there on 1 May 1842. He was a curate in Worksop in 1881[7]; he had also been an Army chaplain and had served in the Australian clergy[8]. He married for the second time in 1905, giving his abode as Cliff House[7]. He and his wife then moved to St. Deny's in Matlock Town where he died in 1915, aged 73[8]. The interment took place at St. Giles' on 24 Aug; the service was conducted by Canon J. W. Kewley, the rector, and his curate Rev. H. Pattinson. Despite the early hour of the service - 8 a.m. - the choir of St. John's were present and sang a hymn although few of the general public attended[9]. After the committal the ringers were directed by his widow to ring an unmuffled peal of bells but there were, according to several reports, only three ringers available![10]

1905, published by H. G. Hartley of Matlock Bridge. This particular card was sent by one
of the Leacrofts to another family member.

Below are the names of some of the later chaplains appointed to St. John's Church (1916 - 1939)

  • May 1916
    The living of St. John's had been vacant for some months following the death of the Rev. Stewart Scott. Canon Kewley announced that the Rev. H. E. B. Nye of St. Phillips Church Norwich had been appointed to take charge the following month.

  • August 1919
    The Rev. D. Coleman, until recently chaplain with the forces in Palestine, took up his duties as chaplain at St. John's. Before joining up he had been at St. Werburgh's, Derby.

  • Mar 1923
    Rev. E. V. Blackburn[e] moved from Otley to Matlock, although it is not clear if he was chaplain at St. John's. He was ordained at Chester in 1912, then served as an Army Chaplain. He moved to the living at Denby in 1931.
    Also see: News Cuttings, Matlock, 1924 |

  • Jan 1932
    Rev. C. F. W. Whiteside, who had been curate at Wirksworth, was curate at St. Giles' for four years and curate-in-charge of St. John's Church. In Jan 1936 it was announced that he was leaving Matlock although he had not decided what he would do in the future.
    Also see: Holy Trinity Choir, Procession of Witness, 1935

  • Jan 1936
    An announcement in the Parish Magazine stated that Rev. John Stephenson Jubb, B.A., of South Shields was to be Whiteside's successor. He had spent a month in the town for some years each summer whilst the Rector, Rev. Urling Smith, had "taken his annual vacation". By the August he had been licensed to the stipendiary curacy. In August 1939 it was revealed that he would shortly be leaving the district as he intended to enter the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Sept 1939
    The Rev. W. Stuart Elliott, of Wednesbury, Staffs, was appointed curate. His previous career had been varied. He spent several years in Canada, had taught for 12 years and had qualified as a solicitor. He had also been a drama critic and manager of the Royal Court Theatre in London. I have assumed he was also chaplain of St. John's.

1. "St. John's Church, Matlock", published by C. Colledge, Stationer, Matlock. Posted on 16 Jul 1905 at Matlock Bath. Personal greeting.
2. "St. John's Church, Matlock". Published by H. G. Hartley, Stationer, Matlock Bridge. Posted on 3 Oct 1905 at Matlock Bath and sent to Miss M[argery] Leacroft, The Manor House, Rowberrow. "This is another card to add to your col[l]ection, Brooke".
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Image scanned for this website and information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks are to more information):

[1] There is a biography of Guy Dawber on this web site

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

[3] See Pedigree of Leacroft

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

[5] "Matlock Mercury", 15 October 1993. Grants lifeline for woodland chapel. The reason for the headline was because much needed restoration work had begun through the efforts of Christopher Charlton and the Arkwright Society, who had obtained grants for the work, including one from the David Knightly Charitable Trust.

[6] "Derbyshire Times", 7 November 1903. Clerical Appointments.

[7] The early information about Rev. William Scott comes from the 1851, 1861 and 1881 census returns. William Stewart Scott married Bertha Josephine Brown at Christ Church, Swindon in February 1905.

[8] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 23 August 1915. He can be found at St. Denys in Kelly's Directory 1908 | Kelly's Directory 1912. He has a headstone at St. Giles : See Matlock & Matlock Bath's Memorial Inscriptions, Surnames S. His widow was at White [House?] in Kelly's Directory 1916.

[9] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 25 August 1915 and "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 25 August 1915. Matlock Clergyman's Funeral.

[10] "Liverpool Echo", 25 August 1915. Other reports state the peal of bells was at his family's request. Presumably, there were so few bell ringers available because his funeral took place in World War One.