Rowtor Chapel, St Michael and All Angels, Birchover

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, St Michael and All Angels, Matlock, Derbyshire


Birchover Parish Church, St Michael's', located in the High Peak, Derbyshire, is a small stone church, Grade II listed, built in the early 18th century by Thomas Eyre as a private chapel to the Rowtor Estate, near Youlgreave. In 1977 Brian Clarke designed, and fabricated and installed himself, three stained glass windows presented as a gift to the church, also known as Rowtor Chapel. Between 1975 and 1977, he had lived with his wife, the artist Liz Finch, at Rowtor Hall, the vicarage, where he began work on the Queen's Medical Centre Faith Centre of Nottingham University in 1976, and in 1977 painted the 'Punk paintings', Dangerous Visions. In the three, moulded two-light windows of c1717 (which were then changed to Y-tracery pointed windows in 1869) are a set of three related, abstract artworks in leaded and mouth-blown glass. The building, restored and expanded in the 19th century, was later annexed as a chapel of ease to Stanton, and later was  made Birchover Parish Church.

The form and subject of Clarke’s motifs explore the visual qualities of the emblem, an image which is a sign of itself, which strikes the mind immediately and all at once. In 1977, Clarke replaced religious images in the stained glass medallions of the windows of Birchover Church, Derbyshire with crosses multiplied to form ladders and grids. The + distils the emblem to a very simple and potent form, the intersection of horizontal and vertical centres the eye. Its self-evident, geometric logic relates to the language of the built environment in which Clarke’s paintings or glass work are viewed. It also relates to the language of art, the crosses that fix points during observational drawing.” – Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art at Tate Britain, in her essay 'Weissnichtwo: Brian Clarke and the Global Sublime', 2011.


Birchover Church is at the western end of the former quarrying village of Birchover. A part of the benefice of 'Youlgrave with Middleton, Stanton-in-Peak and Birchover', it serves a community of approximately 300 people of all ages. Almost hidden in a steep-sided valley, the building is unusual in that there are only windows on the East and South side. The church was originally a privately endowed chapel that fell into disrepair. However, this was much improved by the Thornhill family of nearby Stanton Hall and in 1870 became a Church of England Parish church.” – Diocese of Derby.