Grid Ref: SK 156 501
Dates: 28 June 2018, 5 Sept 2018, 24 May 2019 & 6 Oct 2021

  St. Leonard's  
  St. Leonard's, Thorpe  
  The Chancel on 6 Oct 2021 using HDR  


The charming ancient church of St. Leonard's is not the easiest to photograph because of the close proximity of venerable old trees. The view from the SE has the best access and light on a June morning. The interior is no less challenging with the high contrast between the body of the church and the brilliance of the windows. I made further visits to obtain HDR (high dynamic range) shots of the nave showing both the window and the altar.

Tower spacer Altar
The Tower, May 2019   Altar in June 2019
Milward Tomb   Arch
Milward Tomb in the Sanctuary   Norman Arch in the base of the tower.
Pulpit   Window
Pulpit   Detail of the West Window
Font   window
Font with garden of Gesthemane   Window of St. Stephen and St. Michael
Windows   Thorpe Cloud
South side of sanctuary   Thorpe Cloud in May 2019


St. Leonard's is a Grade I listed Norman church built in the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), a reign which saw a prolonged civil war known as the Anarchy. Stephen's cousin, Matilda or Maud, daughter of the previous King, Henry I, had been rejected by the barons in favour of her cousin, Stephen of Blois. The two cousins were both grandchildren of William I. The conflict finally came to an end when Stephen lost his only son and it was agreed that Maud's son, Henry would succeed Stephen and become Henry II. Readers of Ellis Peters' Cadfael stories will be well versed in this period of history. The tower is believed to be the oldest part of the church, built around 1100 and there may have been an earlier church, possibly of wood, on the site. The Norman arch at the base of the tower leads to the modern children's corner. The window beyond was designed by Mr. A. F. Erridge in 1950 and replaces the former West Door. The nave is Norman but the chancel was rebuilt in 1881 by F. Bacon.

The church has a list of incumbents starting with one Ralph de Cressi in 1299, during the reign of King Edward I. Arthur Mee mentions that the bowl of the font is Norman and that in the 19th century it had been used as a cattle trough. During its exposure to the elements carving on the surface had crumbled away. It is one of only three "tub fonts" in the county. The chancel was rebuilt in the 19th century.

A brass plaque in the church tells us that the clock in the tower was presented in 1914 by Mary and Emily Twigge in memory of their parents John and Mary, and their younger siblings Lily and Edward. Information sheets in the church notes that the pulpit is modern, the work of a local mason and is in Hopton Wood limestone. The window by the pulpit is by Mr. F.C. Eden, FSA and depicts the raising of Lazarus. It is in memory of Emily and Mary Twigge. The East Window, behind the altar, was given in 1893 by Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Badnall. The Millward tomb, to the left of the altar is from 1642. The organ dates from 1850, and was made by J.C. Bishop.

On the south porch their are marks on the outer doorway thought to have been created by sharpening arrows. In 1363, it was decreed that all practice archery on Sundays and on holidays, a law that was to be enforced by local sheriffs. English archers played a decisive role in the Battles of Crécy (1346) in the reign of Edward III and Agincourt (1415) in the reign of Henry V. Laws requiring archery practice for men in certain age groups continued to be enacted into the time of Henry VIII. Doubt has been cast in recent years on similar marks on a number of churches. It is said that the stone is too soft to sharpen metal arrows. The marks may be related to those found on the beams of medieval houses which are thought to relate to supposed protection agains witches or evil spirits.

Thorpe Cloud is a prominent local landmark, accessible from the village or from Dovedale. It is a stiff climb but the view is worth the effort. It is limestone and known as a reef knoll. The name "cloud" comes from an old English word "clud" signifying a large rock or hill.


The Buildings of England, Derbyshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Elizabeth Williamson, Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-300-09591-0
The King's England, Derbyshire, by Arthur Mee, first published in 1937, 6th impression 1951
Derbyshire Parish Churches, from the 8th to the 18th Centuries by John Leonard, Breedon Book, Derby, 1993, ISBN 1 873626 36 3
Village Website for Thorpe
Information brochure in the church.

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