Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

St. Oswalds Church (Ashbourne)

St. Oswalds is the splendid parish church of the splendid Derbyshire market town of Ashbourne.

The church stands at the Western end of the long main street of the town.

The crossing tower and spire rise to 212 feet, with twenty canopied windows. The chancel is a particularly long one, although conversely the nave is unusually short.

There is an excellent chancel roof created in 1963 by Stephen Dykes Bower, the creator of Bury St. Edmunds Cathedral, and the reredos has scenes from nearby Dovedale.

It is probable that some of the 14th century architecture of St. Oswalds is by Henry Yevele, a local man who went on to become one of England's greatest architects.

There is a fine set of memorials and tombs in the Cockayne Chapel.

The best known feature inside the church is Thomas Banks 1791 marble effigy of five-year-old Penelope Boothby. So poignant is this that Queen Charlotte is said to have broken down in tears when she saw it at an exhibition at the Royal Academy. During her short life, Penelope also sat for a portrait by Joshua Reynolds.

There is also a fine collection of glass, with windows by Kempe and an Arts and Crafts one by Christopher Whall.

In a chapel is the churchs original dedication plate, stating in Latin that it was consecrated in honour of St. Oswald, King and Martyr, by Hugo de Patishul, Bishop of Coventry in 1241.

It is the oldest dedication plate in Britain and the oldest example in Britain of Arabic lettering.

George Eliot remarked that St. Oswald's is "the finest mere parish church in the kingdom".

At the right time of year, the churchyard is awash with daffodils. It is said that here there are more than a hundred varieties.

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