Why is the Spire of Chesterfield Parish Church Crooked?
Many know of Chesterfield, a market town in Derbyshire, for its crooked spire. To be technically correct, the spire is not crooked; rather, it is twisted.
The building of St Mary and All Saints, the Parish Church of Chesterfield, began in 1234 A.D. It’s incredibly old! The present building you see today dates mainly from the 14th Century. The spire was added around 1362 A.D.
The spire dominates the area as the church is built on a high point in town and can be seen from many directions. The spire reaches 230 feet (70m) from the ground.
It became this shape centuries ago. It is both twisted and leans 9ft 6in (2.9m) off-centre. The angle of the twist is 45 degrees.
The question is: Why is it twisted? One reason put forward is that the timbers used were not seasoned properly. It is also a theory that there was shortage of skilled labour to build the spire in a more stable way. In the 17th century, the spire was covered with lead sheeting and weighed 33 tons, not ideal on a frame not designed for it. These are likely reasons, with a few other that I won’t mention that seem less likely.
Amazingly the spire has survived, although it has come close to being destroyed, not by its structural issues, but by fire. It came perilously close to being no more when on December 22nd 1961, a fire broke out. The alarm was raised in time, and although the fire engulfed the north part of the church, the fire brigade managed to contain it and save the spire.
The spire has become a symbol for many businesses within Chesterfield, especially Chesterfield Football Club which carries the nickname, The Spireites.
If you ever visit Chesterfield, you will be sure to see the “crooked spire” looking down over the landscape. You might even wish to take a tour of the spire if you don’t mind climbing the steps. Tours have to be booked and numbers are limited.
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Lovely, reminds me of the spire of the St. Clemens church in my German ancestral home. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Clemens_(Mayen)
On a road trip, I saw the twisted spire out the car window and had to stop to take a photo. It was so unexpected!