In recent years, Tideswell has won both the Derbyshire Best Kept Village Award and the East Midlands section of the Britain in Bloom Contest on several occasions.
It has been said that Tideswell is ‘too big to be a village and too small to be town’. The population of around 2,000 has remained relatively static over the last 200 years. The street scene has little changed, even if the use of some of the buildings is different.
Tideswell was granted a market charter in 1250, and although the market has long since ceased, it still has the air of a busy, small market town. It has a wide main street and a magnificent parish church, often referred to as ‘the Cathedral of the Peak’, that would not be out of place in a much larger town.
The church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, with its superb pinnacled tower, has dominated the village for over 600 years. Rebuilding started in 1346 and it was 50 years later before it was finally completed. The Black Death that swept the country interrupted work for a lengthy period in the early stages. Inside, the church is spacious and lofty, with many fine carvings, brass and stained glass windows. Many of the carvings are the work of Advent Hunstone, who was encouraged by Canon Andrew, the vicar, to switch from the family stone masonry business to woodcarving. This he did to great effect and much of his and his family’s work is seen in churches far beyond Derbyshire.
Songs of Praise, the popular television programme visited Tideswell during October 2002, but it is for the singing exploits of Singer Slack the village is best known. Samuel Slack, born in 1757, was a noted base singer. He was commanded to sing before George III, and as a young man he competed for a place in the College Choir at Cambridge. After he had sung, there was a stunned silence and none of the other contestants took the opportunity to sing after such an awesome performance. Such was the high opinion of Singer Slack that he was invited to lead the choir in Westminster Abbey. He declined, preferring to sing with his friends in the village.
Tideswell is a very ancient place and evidence of Neolithic settlements has been found in the area. It is thought however to take its name from a Saxon chief called ‘Tidi’ who lived here in the 7th century.
Amongst the village’s maze of alleyways and lanes are many buildings of architectural interest. None more so than Tideswell Grammar School, founded in 1559 by Bishop Pursglove. Eccles Hall and Blake House, both notable Georgian constructions, provided accommodation for staff and pupils. The school closed in 1927, and the library takes up part of the area where students used to live.
Cattle, sheep and pig fairs, once held in the market square, have long since finished although many local farmers can still be found frequenting Tideswell’s ale house of an evening.
Bagshaw Hall overlooking the old market place, built in 1872 is the Odd Fellows Hall, with its giant pilasters and commanding position, certainly attracts attention. Opposite is the building that for a short period operated as Tideswell College after the closure of the Grammar School. On St. John’s Road is the Bishop Pursglove C.E. (Aided) Primary School and next to it, an immaculate sports centre catering for football, cricket, tennis and bowls.
At the other end of the village, even more surprisingly, is a piano and musical instrument showroom, established in 1983, that has on display over 50 pianos from all over the world. Add to that, a Fossilist and Petrifactioneer’s shop and it can be readily seen that Tideswell is full of surprises.
The village is renowned for its annual Well Dressings, which start on the Saturday nearest to the 24th June each year and continues for a week, with a carnival, parades and fun for all the family. Upholding the musical tradition of the village, Tideswell Male Voice Choir gives an annual concert in the church during the summer.