St James the Great

Norton was once the first parish in Derbyshire encountered by Sheffielders on the road south, just imagine the London coach toiling up Derbyshire Lane! Seen from Graves Park it still appears in a rural setting.

About this church

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!

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Wifi

Other nearby churches

St Peter

St Peter’s was built in 1964-65 to serve an area of new housing on the edge of Sheffield.

Beauchief Abbey

The Abbey and grounds were given to the people of Sheffield in 1932 and there is much to see for everyone who enjoys history and the peace of the countryside.

St William of York

This lovely Catholic Church is light and airy and a wonderful contrast to the busy city.

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