Retro: Sheffield church’s link to drowned village

Derwent underwater
Derwent underwater
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A church in Sheffield has close links to the famous ‘drowned’ village church at Derwent, which was demolished to make way for Ladybower Reservoir.

The link between Derwent Parish Church and St Cyprian’s in Frecheville is celebrated in the Sheffield church’s logo, which shows a church spire rising from waves.

A Retro reader has pointed out by email that the keystone is from Derwent “and is ‘carved’ accordingly in respect”. The stone features the same design of a church spire rising from the waves.

The reader says it can be seen on the external church wall adjacent to the gennel that runs between Churchdale Road and Brackenfield Grove.

According to the Frecheville church website,, the Premonstratensian Order, known as the ‘white canons’, from Welbeck Abbey first set up a grange in the upper Derwent Valley and built four chapels on various parts of their estates, including at Derwent.

They also founded Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, the patronage of the chapel passed into lay hands and was owned in 1672 by the Balguys, who built Derwent Hall that year.

St Cyprian’s owns some of the Derwent church’s treasures, including a rare silver gilt Elizabethan chalice known as the Derwent Chalice.

Some of the church benches also come from Derwent.

The Duke of Devonshire took over the patronage of the church in Victorian times and retained it up to the time of the flood, when his patronage was transferred to St Cyprian’s.

The Derwent church was rebuilt in 1868 to designs by William White, when it was dedicated to St James and St John. The tower and spire were added five years later.

Some parishioners from St Cyprian’s were at the last service of the other church on Wednesday, March 17, 1943.

The church website quotes the Rev Paul Tuckwell: “A party of 12 from St Cyprian’s – members of the Mother’s Union for the most part – made an expedition to Derwent to be present at the last service that will ever be held in Derwent Church.

They went by train to Bamford, and then walked the four and a half miles up to Derwent. Most of them later had to walk the same distance back: so the journey was something of an adventure, and it was so fortunate that the weather was bright and sunny.

“The party from Frecheville arrived just after the service had begun and were not able to find seats. The church was packed, for the first time, on the evidence of one who was present when it was opened, in its 75 years of life.”

He added: “Derwent Church will have, we hope, a sort of living memorial in the church and parish of Frecheville.

“Materially, at any rate, we shall owe Derwent a great deal. The compensation paid by the Water Board for the destruction of the church is to be devoted to the building, after the war, of our permanent church and vicarage, and should pay for the greater part of these.

“It is proposed also that the endowments of Derwent shall be transferred to Frecheville, to provide the Vicar of Frecheville’s stipend. And we hope also, that some of the furnishings of Derwent will find a home, for the time being at any rate, in St Cyprian’s.”

The story also attracted the attention of local historian John Jackson of S8:

He wrote: “I believe Derwent village had three churches – the parish church of St James, built in 1869, also a Roman Catholic church and a Methodist church as well as a school.

“When the village was submerged under the water the broach tower and spire was sticking out of the water.

“My late mother took me to see the Ladybower Reservoir, I was about five or six years old. It was an awesome sight to see for a young child.

“From that day to this I have been fascinated by church architecture.

“Lastly, the four bells of Derwent Church tower and spire went to Chelmorton church and the furniture went to Frecheville St Cyprian Church, built in 1952.”

The bellringers at Chelmorton near Buxton say that the treble bell was recast from one that came from Derwent.

Incidentally, the spire of the parish church is famous because there is a locust on the weather vane.

This is apparently because the Bible says that St John the Baptist lived on a diet of locusts and wild honey.

St Philip’s Church at Chaddesden, near Derby, also has a Derwent bell.