Background to re-ordering

For centuries it has been the centre of community life in Dronfield. Now, the town’s oldest building is set to become the newest in ambition and aspiration.

Dronfield Parish Church is a gem of a building that is in the top two percent of historic listed buildings in the country alongside the likes of Chatsworth House and Buckingham Palace.

But today, there are plans to make it into a dynamic and vibrant building with modern facilities and access, whilst retaining the amazing heritage which goes back 900 years.

We want to bring the heritage of the church alive and make it accessible. That means we have to significantly upgrade our facilities to make them fit for purpose for the 21stcentury. We want to create a new Community Heritage Learning Space as part of an extension to the church and to make sure we have areas for large exhibitions, concerts and performances providing the biggest seating space of any venue in Dronfield.”

The team behind the project are currently preparing a Heritage Lottery Fund bid with the aim of making St Johns the focus for the people of Dronfield as a community building, a heritage and learning space as well as a spiritual space for all.

In practical terms there are a number of proposals that have already been agreed by English Heritage and the Derby Diocese. These include removing the uncomfortable Victorian pews in the nave and replacing them with flexible seating which can be moved to create a variety of open spaces; refurbishing various areas of the building but retaining chancel choir pews, and making the building energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The plans also put emphasis on accessibility for the disabled.

Five things you might not know about the Parish Church of St John the Baptist:

1: In medieval times there was no seating in the church. The expression “the weak go to the wall” came from the tradition that older, weaker members of the congregation leant against the wall during services.

2: In Victorian times, the church received money according to how many people they could seat.  So more pews and even a gallery were added even though there were not necessarily people to sit of them.

3: The chancel (at the altar end) is higher than the nave where the congregation sit. This is very unusual and led to it being dubbed “one of the noblest in any country church.”

4: St John’s is the only church in Dronfield to open 365 days a year.

5: The church has Heritage Boards which chart the history of gifts and charities over the centuries. One of the more unusual gifts from the 15th century was of “herring and a strike of wheat to help the poor.”