Sunday, 15 May 2011

Cromford Bridge Chapel

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, Cromford Bridge Chapel
17 August 1959

This was my father's favourite picture of his Dad, Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975), and he kept a framed, slightly trimmed enlargement on the top of the bookcase next to his chair in the lounge. My Dad took the photo himself during a visit back home to England in the summer of 1959, and it is pretty much how I remember my grandfather even though my memories mainly date from fifteen years later, the year before he died.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ethel & Leslie Payne, Glenwood Road, Chellaston, August 1959

My father has pencilled the location and date on the back so I know that they visited Cromford Bridge Chapel, south-east of the village of Cromford, on Monday 17 August. It is possible they took the bus there from his parents home in Glenwood Road, Chellaston, but I rather suspect they went for a drive in my father’s new Ford Consul (XGC 913), recently purchased from Kenning Motors to be shipped back to Southern Rhodesia.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge Chapel, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin

The stone building in the background, with its Gothic arched doorway, is the last substantial surviving remnant of the Cromford Bridge Chapel, a scheduled ancient monument and apparently one of only six still such chapels remaining in England, another example being St Mary’s Bridge Chapel in Derby.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge and Arkwright's Fishing Lodge, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin

Although situated immediately adjacent to the 15th Century Cromford Bridge, between the southern end of the bridge and a square fishing lodge - constructed in the late 18th Century by Sir Richard Arkwright - if you aren’t already aware of its existence you’re likely to miss it, as it is neither signposted nor easily visible from the road.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated
by Canon Derek Buckley

The land on which the chapel and the adjacent fishing lodge stand belonged to my grandfather, together with the fishing rights along the adjacent stretch of the River Derwent, and Bow Wood Farm a little further downstream and on the left bank. He inherited the properties from his father Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941) and donated the freehold of the chapel and land immediately surrounding it to the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in November 1943. The farm, lodge and fishing rights were later auctioned in July 1947.

Image © and courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society
Survey of Cromford Bridge Chapel after Excavation, October 1951
Mantell & Widdows (1952)

Judging by its first mention in historical documents in 1504, when the vicar of Wirksworth left a bequest in his will for the repair of the roof (Cox, 1877), it was probably built in the late 14th or early 15th Century (Mantell & Widdows, 1952). A watercolour dated 1786 shows the west gable of the chapel still extant, but was converted into cottages, which were then partly demolished by Richard Arkwright in 1796.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated, by Canon Derek Buckley

Excavations carried out in 1951 by the DAS demonstrate, as suggested a century and a half earlier by William Woolley, that the chapel was originally a good deal more substantial, extending some distance towards the east. A large Gothic window in the east wall facing Cromford Meadow, which during the mid-18th century was reported to have contained the quartered coat of arms of Lord Talbot, had presumably been installed some 150 odd years earlier.

Image © Copyright Rob Bradford
Cromford Bridge, 29 April 2005, courtesy of
Image © Copyright Rob Bradford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tudor & Currey (1939), writing in support of an enquiry before the Second World War, describe the adjacent bridge and chapel remnants:
Cromford Bridge is a particularly graceful structure, in an equally beautiful situation, of three arches spanning the River Derwent ... the chapel by the bridge was not only a bridge chapel with the usual functions in relation to wayfarers, but also a parochial chapelry for this outlying portion of the extensive parish of Wirksworth ... An interesting feature ... is a lookout aperture in the north wall from which a view of the river is obtained. This detail is unusual in bridge chapels, and seems to indicate a watch over the river-crossing, probably a ford, before the building of the bridge.

Cromford Bridge Chapel before renovation, 1951

By the time the necessary funds had been procured and the renovation work started in ugust 1951, the walls of the bridge chapel were in even more of a "deplorable condition" than they had been in 1939. Trees were growing in the tops of the walls and ivy was disturbing even the foundations, so these were removed and the masonry repaired. At the same time, the DAS took the opportunity to excavate with a view to investiating the early history of the chapel. A complex series of foundations of various ages was unearthed, difficult to interpret, but which include a possible substantial stone abutment to a timber bridge across the Derwent which emay have existed prior to the current one.

Image © Harry Gill and courtesy of Michael Fay
Cromford Bridge Chapel during renovation, 1951-1952

The chapel does not appear to have deteriorated much since the 1905s renovation work, but little further has been done to protect it, and it remains largely unnoticed.


Anon (1947) Sale Notice: Cromford (with vacant possession), 22 July 1947, Lot 1: The Capital Dairy Farm known as Bow Wood Farm, Lot 2: Fishing Rights on River Derwent & Fishing Lodge adjoining Cromford Bridge, Marchant Brooks & Co., Collection of Brett Payne.

Anon (1991) The Derbyshire Village Book: Cromford, Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, ISBN 185306 1336, reproduced in part on John Palmer’s Wirksworth web pages.

Anon (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Heritage web site.

Anon (n.d.) Cromford Village, Arkwright Society Local History Trail No. 8, Leaflet.

Bunting, Julie (2009) Cromford Bridge Chapel – Cromford, The Peak Advertiser, 15 June 2009, Reproduced by Rosemary Lockie at Wishful-Thinking.

Cox, John Charles (1877) Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol II. The Hundreds of the High Peak and Wirksworth, Chesterfield: Palmer & Edmunds, pp. 571-574, Reproduced by The Internet Archive.

Daykin, Yvonne (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Cromford Village in Derbyshire, on the Cromford Village web site.

Fay, Michael (2005) The End of a Long and Winding Road, Reflections, January 2005, Vol. 14, Issue 156, pp. 37-39, reproduced in part on The Andrews Pages.

Mantell, K. & Widdows, B. (1952) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 72,
pp. 126-130.

Stroud, Gill (2001) Derbyshire Extensive Urban Survey Archaeological Assessment Report: Cromford, 30p.

Tudor, T.L. & Currey, P.H. (1939) Cromford Bridge and Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 60, pp. 159-163.

Photograph of Charles Leslie Lionel Payne at Cromford Bridge Chapel, 17 August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photograph of Ethel & Leslie Payne and Ford Consul, Glenwood Road, August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Canon Derek Buckley, Undated, Canon Derek Buckley Collection, Refs. DCHQ005014 & DCHQ005017, Picture the Past by North East Midland Photographic Record.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Nigel Aspdin, 26 April 2009, taken with Canon EOS 350D.

Photograph of Cromford Bridge by Rob Bradford, courtesy of

Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, c.1951-1952, by Harry Gill, in Fay (2005).

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