St Mary and St Laurence church is the parish church for Bolsover. You would be most welcome join us for worship or to visit our church.
A brief history of Bolsover Parish Church
The Bolsover Parish Church is situated in Old Bolsover Town on a natural terrace in the magnesian limestone escarpment overlooking the River Doe Lea and the Vale of Scarsdale. The town lies in the north east of the county of Derbyshire in the civil District of Bolsover.
The Norman/Victorian church is dedicated to Saint Mary, the mother of Jesus and to the Roman Saint Laurence, who traditionally was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron. His feast day is August 10th and from 1251 the annual Bolsover Fair was held on that date.
The church is a listed building. Moreover, although it was gutted by fire in 1897, rebuilt in 1898 and damaged by fire again in 1960, Saxon artefacts, Norman Tower, 17th century Cavendish Chapel, crypt and Victorian developments, including the fine stained glass east window commemorating Lady Augusta Cavendish-Bentinck, Baroness of Bolsover and the Remembrance Corner and the Window for the Fallen from Bolsover have all been preserved.
New artefacts, including statues and carvings, the Coalite Corona, the Willis Organ, the 1960 Fire Commemoration Window in the Children’s Corner, the coal-mining ‘Our Heritage’ banner and miner’s lamp near the north door, together with the new hydraulic technologies stabilising the Tower are continuing the church’s long heritage.
Ecclesiatically, the Parish of St Mary and St Laurence is in the Diocese of Derby, in the Bolsover and Staveley Deanery (Mission and Ministry Area 9), in the Archdeaconry of Chesterfield.
This system is co-terminus with several areas of the historic Scarsdale Hundred (administrative unit) recorded in the countrywide Hundred Roll (1274) drawn up for King Edward I for administrative, military and judicial purposes in common law. The Bolsover Parish at that time was in the Diocese of Lichfield, where it remained until 1884. Then it became part of the Diocese of Southwell until 1924, when it became part of the present Diocese of Derby.
Mentioned as ‘Belsevore’ in the Norman Domesday Book (1086), Bolsover’s Saxon settlement, including a church was protected by natural hillsides, cliffs and woods, together with defensive earthworks. These were all assimilated into the Outer Bailey of the enclosed, hilltop, motte and bailey fortress, founded by Lord of the Manor, William Peverel, alleged illegitimate, favourite son of William the Conqueror and Keeper both of Bolsover Castle and Peveril Castle at Castleton in the Peak District.
Although there was no written reference to a Bolsover church in Domesday, several Saxon carved stone artefacts, including a decorated slab coffin lid, a stone with the sign of the cross and corbels discovered during excavations on the present parish church site provide evidence of a mainly timber-built, pre-Norman place of Christian worship, within the outer bailey of the castle and the entrenchments.
The farm animal heads: stone corbels surviving from that church have now been set into the west wall overlooking the Choir stalls. A carved stone medieval Nativity/Epiphany Tableau, placed in the Baptistry, perhaps provides a medieval mason’s loving tribute to Jesus, as both Lamb of God and Good Shepherd, also to his mother Mary (one of the church’s Patrons), and to the hard, mainly pastoral daily life of the Christian worshippers in Bolsover.
The Late Norman Tower, built in the locally quarried magnesian limestone, is a surviving part of the stone church built in the late 12th century. It supports the original, broad shouldered, broached-spire, roofed with magnesian limestone slabs. It now houses 8 Victorian Bells tuned and hung for change ringing. A 13th century bell pit used for casting the medieval church bells in-situ was discovered during excavations under the tower.
Transcripts, originally from Darley Abbey near Derby, indicate, that in about 1150, the Younger William Peverel’s wife, Avice of Lancaster, ‘gave the church at Bolsover to Darley Abbey’. William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby and Keeper of Bolsover Castle confirmed the gift in about 1220. Bishop Stavensby of Lichfield established a vicarage at Bolsover but Darley Abbey maintained its estates in Bolsover and in 1229 the Abbey received royal approval of the gift, which lasted until the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530’s. The church premises were then rented out to incumbents and others.
As Lords of the Manor the Welbeck branch of the Cavendish Family and their successors, and the Hallowes Family from Glapwell who are remembered in the Lady Chapel, became patrons and impropriators of the Bolsover benefice. In 1624 the Cavendish Chapel was added to the church at the east end of the south aisle. It houses two sumptuous marble monuments. One to Sir Charles Cavendish, younger son of Bess of Hardwick (whose own monument is in Derby Cathedral) and his wife Katherine, Baroness Ogle of Bolsover Castle and their children. The other commemorates Henry Cavendish, the second Duke of Newcastle, his wife and daughter.
The remains of several other members of the Cavendish family, including Charles Cavendish (1626-59), Viscount Mansfield MP, a royalist who sat in the House of Commons, can be found in lead lined coffins in the family vault situated in the crypt under the Chapel. The Viscount fought in the English Civil War. After the public execution of King Charles I he went into exile. He died soon after returning to Bolsover in 1659 just as the republican Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard was ending.
The once private Cavendish Chapel was opened up in 1923 and is now part of the Church’s Remembrance Corner, where there is also a memorial to the 17th century Bolsover ‘Little Castle’ mason architects Huntington Smythson and his father John, son of Robert Smythson the Elizabethan grand designer of the great houses at Hardwick, Oldcotes, Barlborough, Woollaton and Welbeck. The Remembrance Window, a tribute to the Bolsover Fallen in the 1st World War, overlooks the corner, which houses the church’s Memorial Book, an on-going working document.