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Tutbury Priory Church of St Mary the Virgin - a potted history

Tutbury Church was founded in 1089 by Henry de Ferrers, the holder of Tutbury Castle. It was founded as a Benedictine Priory colonised by the Abbey of Saint Pierre sur Dives in Normandy.

The Priory Church was in memory of the recently dead William the Conqueror and of his wife Matilda of Flanders, and as a thanks offering to God for Henry’s wife Bertha, their children and his Father and Mother.

From the start the Church did double duty as both Priory and Parish Church. What survives today is the parish part, the western six of an originally eight bay naive.

East of what we now have would have been the central tower, monk’s choir and side chapels, and to the north of the naive would have been the Monk’s
quarters with their cloister and attendant buildings.

The Church stood in its entirety until 1538 when on 14 September it was surrendered to the Crown during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Quickly the lands and buildings were conveyed by the Crown to Sir William Cavendish, the Monks were pensioned off, and the last Prior transformed into the first vicar of the new arrangement.
What wasn’t needed was stripped of its lead and unceremoniously pulled down.

Away went Monk’s Choir, Central Tower, Transepts and two bays of the Nave. At the same time the monk’s quarters with the nave north aisle were destroyed and the north arcade walled up. The roof and clerestory of the naive were removed and over the triforium, which was then glazed, a plain domestic ceiling was constructed with a flat roof.

The south aisle walls also seem to have been interfered with at this time. What was left was about one third of the original structure and its reduction made it viable as a Parish Church for the village.

What was done in the 16th century was slapdash and cheap to a degree as may be seen from the cruelly cut about east end of the south aisle. Old prints show what happened to the west gable.

It is fortunate that we have what we do, but the sadness is great for what has been lost, the craftsmanship at Tutbury is excellent and the design is rich.