Enjoying a spectacular location on a hill overlooking the town of Bakewell, this splendid but rather gaunt looking church is very distinctive, with its tall spire sitting on an octagonal tower. Remains of an 8th century Saxon cross, supposedly cut down by Oliver Cromwell, can be seen in the ancient graveyard that surrounds it. Early medieval stone coffins propped up against the side of the church and stone fragments piled up in the porch add to the rather chilly atmosphere of this weather-beaten edifice. There have been numerous additions and substantial repairs over the years, and it was virtually rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries. The interior is cruciform and spacious, and much more pleasing to the eye. The north transept contains the St Michael and St George chapel with a Ninian Comper altar, whilst the south transept is used as a church hall. The chancel has a wooden screen, carved choir stalls with misericords, and a mosaic floor. Above the high altar the 12 apostles are carved in marble beneath a late 19th century Bavarian reredos of the crucifixion. The church has many beautiful windows, most of which are 19th century.
The parish church is joined with four other local churches in a benefice. At All Saints there are several services on a Sunday with further ones throughout the week, and full details can be found on the website. There is an active fundraising and social calendar, with traditional clubs and societies. The church also hosts concerts given by the Bakewell Choral Society, with a future concert to be given by the Rhos Orpheus Male Voice Choir. It has a link with a church in Nablus on the West Bank, Palestine.
The ancient market town of Bakewell, home of the famous Bakewell pudding, is set prettily by the River Wye in the midst of Derbyshire's glorious Peak District. Unfortunately thousands of visitors are aware of the charms of Bakewell, so it is always extremely busy! The church lies some five minutes walk up a steep road from the town centre, and its immediate neighbours are terraced cottages, many of which are let out to holidaymakers.
The Revd John Paul Hoskins, assistant curate.
What was the name of the service?Parish Eucharist
How full was the building?
It was quite full, with a congregation of at least 80 people, mostly regulars, I would think, plus possibly a few visitors like ourselves. I think most would be referred to as seniors! I noticed only two children, who were very well behaved.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were warmly welcomed by several people who greeted us and supplied us with all the books we needed for the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
A sidesman directed us to sit in a certain area where we would find comfortable cushions on the seats. Yes, it was as comfortable as you could expect a church pew to be.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was quite a lot of chatter going on, with people greeting each other and catching up with the news.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We meet in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." There followed some brief welcoming remarks that sounded most sincere.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns Old and New, a service book entitled The Parish Sung Eucharist, and a sheet containing the collect, the readings, the gospel, and a post-communion prayer. A copy of The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, was in the pew.
What musical instruments were played?
When I saw the organ I thought we would be in for a treat. Unfortunately it was only in the previous week that it had decided to malfunction, so a grand piano was used instead. Nevertheless it was played expertly and effortlessly by one who I assume was the resident organist.
Did anything distract you?
The only thing that distracted me was one point in the service when we were asked to say "Eucharistic Prayer G on page 16." I don't know whether it is customary to use a different prayer each week, but it did seem to break the continuity.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I would say it was very middle of the road, but simple and reverential. An altar was placed at the crossing, in front of the chancel. The curate wore a green chasuble and was accompanied by the tiniest choir I have seen for such a large church just three ladies and a gentleman in crimson-coloured robes. They filed into the choir stalls in front of the organ and looked rather lost! There was no crucifer, and no smells or bells, but the curate crossed himself and genuflected at appropriate times.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – He spoke very clearly.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus tells us not to be afraid. This is a theme that runs throughout the scriptures, because God has prepared good things for us. This was the message of the angel to Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son named John. It was also Gabriel's message to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Faith is about not being afraid, and it helps us look into the future. By faith, Abraham and Sarah were able to have a son in their old age when they had given up hope of having children. It is God's plan to give us the kingdom and we must not be afraid.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The peal of church bells ringing out joyfully and heard throughout the town prior to the service was uplifting, and it made me glad to be making my way to the church. I was delighted that communion was distributed at the high altar. This involved quite a long walk past the magnificent organ and choir stalls into the beautiful chancel. Walking on the intricate 19th century mosaic floor made me wonder just how many feet had trodden that path over the years. The sun shone through the colourful windows, emphasising the beauty of the church.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The climb up to the church from the town centre leaves one with jelly-like legs and such a thumping heartbeat that cardiac arrest seems imminent! When those Victorians were busy rebuilding their church, they should have incorporated a funicular railway from the town centre to the church!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were invited by several people to enjoy a cup of coffee, and we managed to have a chat with the curate.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was very pleasant, and fair-trade as well, I believe. It was served in a room next to the Vernon Chapel, where photographs of recent past events were displayed. Lots of people chatted with us and we were made to feel most welcome.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – If I lived here I would definitely travel to church by car!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so. The beautiful interior of the church, the lovely service, and the engaging friendliness extended to us made me glow with inner happiness. I was saddened, though, when we walked back down to the thronging crowds in the town. So many of those people had no idea of what they were missing in that proud church looking down on them. It is such a pity that our society has become so secular.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The unexpected size and beauty of the chancel, revealed through an exquisitely designed screen.