Norton was once the first parish in Derbyshire encountered by Sheffielders on the road south – just imagine the London coach toiling up Derbyshire Lane! Now, instead of stretching to the Sheaf, the Meersbrook & the Moss-brook, St James’ serves a much smaller parish. Seen from Graves Park it still appears in a rural setting.
The earliest visible parts of the church are the north arcade, much of the tower (including the mighty, but slightly wonky, pointed arch) and the much restored, round-headed doorway. These were built about 1190, probably by the same masons engaged at Beauchief Abbey. The unique 9-sided font with its salamander carving can only date from a few years later; and decorative heads closely resemble a corbel from Beauchief now at Weston Park Museum.
The chancel, with its perpendicular window, and the south aisle, were rebuilt in the 15th century. Just before 1500, the Blythe brothers, Bishops of Salisbury and Lichfield (who were born at the ‘Bishops’ House’ in Meersbrook Park) had a fine alabaster tomb made for their parents. Soon after this was moved to a new chapel, which shows the last flowering of perpendicular gothic, already influenced by the Renaissance. The roof in particular deserves special study. The Blythe chapel should really be called ‘St Catharine’s Chapel’. Because her symbol is a wheel (an instrument of torture) she was popular with all the craftsmen who were beginning to exploit water power, and altars were dedicated to her in all the local churches. Later the chapel was used to bury members of prominent local families, and was restored by the Cammell family of industrialists - look for camels in the Victorian stained glass.
Norton’s most famous son is the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841), a great benefactor to the National Gallery and his native parish. He is buried with his parents in the part of the churchyard nearest Norton Hall, and commemorated by the obelisk nearby and in church by a wall-monument and a seated figure by John Bell RA (1811-95).
Much of St James present appearance derives from the restoration carried out by George Edmund Street up to his death in 1881. He changed the aisle windows, and repaired the arcades which had been adapted for galleries. The ‘return’ corbel at the west end of the south arcade may portray the architect; its eastern counterpart has been pulling its tongue out at everyone for over 500 years!
If you know anything more about the heritage of this site and would like us to include it here please contact us.
Address: Norton Lane / Norton Church Lane, Norton, S8 8JQ
Opening Times: Visits can be arranged on application to the Rector.
Contact: 0114 2745066 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions: M1 J33. Follow signs for Sheffield city centre. Turn left (for Chesterfield) onto the A6102 Prince of Wales Road / Ridgeway Road / Norton Avenue. Turn right at Lightwood roundabout & follow signs for Norton. Church on right behind obelisk.
Grid Reference: SK 359 821 GB Grid
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The text has been written by volunteers from the site, more information can be found when you visit in person.
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