St Helen, Darley, Derbyshire

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Feature Sets (5)


A cruciform church with a nave of three bays, aisles and chancel, with a square tower at the W end. The church is 13thc and later, but within the walls are fragments of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church, and also a small number of Romanesque features and fragments.


A church at Darley is listed in the Domesday Survey. It was transferred by William Rufus to the Dean of Lincoln during the building of Lincoln cathedral.


Exterior Features


S doorway

A simple sandstone Norman doorway (now blocked) in the S wall of the present chancel. It comprises two chamfered semi-circular headed arches, with a chamfered label above. The first arch is inset with the chamfered doorway jambs carried down to the base of the opening. There is no decoration either on the arches or jambs of the opening. The second arch, also blocked off, is considered to be a window opening. The second arch is chamfered and  made of one piece of sandstone; inner jambs also chamfered.

1st arch, depth of voussoirs 0.18m
1st arch, internal diameter 1.47m
2nd arch, internal diameter 0.87m
2nd arch, width 0.16m
Height of doorway, below crown, 1st arch 2.43m
Height of doorway, below crown, 2nd arch 1.12m
Label, depth from wall face 0.065m
Label, width 0.12m
LAbel, width of face 0.05m

Exterior Decoration



A square stone set in the W face of the tower to the left of the doorway. It contains carvings of two animals, one of which is a winged wyvern.

Height 0.31m
Width 0.56m

Interior Features



An original Norman sandstone doorway in the chancel gives access to the present vestry, and it appears that this has always been an internal door. The head is semi-circular with voussoirs and a simple label. The jambs are coursed stone bonded to the adjacent plastered rubble wall. The doorway is undecorated on all faces.

Depth of label 0.03m
Depth of voussoirs 0.29m
Height of arch, internal 1.75m
Height of springing 1.36m
Width of face 0.015m
Width of label 0.08m
Width on each face, chamfer 0.05m

Interior Decoration


Corbel head

A sandstone corbel head is built into the tower interior, designed to span diagonally across the NW corner. It depicts a beast, perhaps a lion, or devil with a grinning mouth and flowing locks and beard, with a claw foot on each wall face. The mouldings are rounded. A possible date is late 12thc.

Depth of corbel 0.20m
Height under corbel 0.30m
Width of corbel 0.60m




A tub-shaped font of grey sandstone, unlined, with four ribs originally running from top of the bowl to the bottom roll moulding. It is very worn but two ribs still show stylised beakheads running into a cross. One rib has been removed leaving a slight recess. There is a roll moulding at the top of the font. The bowl sits on a later base.

Circumference of font 1.82m
Depth of roll moulding 0.03m
Height of beakhead 0.175m
Height of font 0.37m
Width of beakhead 0.125m

Loose Sculpture


Two large fragments are positioned in the nave at the W end. These are much weathered and it is difficult to analyse the carving. One piece is from a tympanum, as could the second piece be, although equally it could be part of a carved lintel. These fragments were seen and sketched by D. Lysons (see bibliography).


Length of first fragment 0.62m
Length of flat head base, second fragment 0.58m
Width of first fragment 0.41m
Width of second fragment 0.255m


Romanesque features are at the E end of the present church and the oldest stonework would appear to be in the vestry, together with that of the blocked S door and window. This latter feature is very reminiscent of Romanesque military architecture with the first arch acting as a relieving arch for the second, considerably smaller span window and arch.

The site of St Helen's church could have been a religious one over the centuries and earlier in pre-Christian times. A considerable number of Saxon fragments and stones survive built into the church structure within the S porch and elsewhere in the churchyard. A reputedly two-thousand-year-old yew tree stands in the churchyard, with a 10m circumference at a point 1.5m from the ground.


  • T. Brushfield, 'On Norman Tympana', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, N.S. VI (1900), 249.

  • J. Charles Cox, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, vols. 2, 4. Chesterfield 1975.

  • D. Lysons, British Museum Add. MS. 9463 (Additional Manuscripts).

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Derbyshire, London 1978, 163.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SK 266 629 
now: Derbyshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Derbyshire
now: Derby
now: St Helen
medieval: St Helen
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Colin Morse 
Visit Date
08 August 2002