Analysis of Gothic Church – St Mary’s Catholic Church, Derby

This is a re-working of my analysis after feedback from my tutor.

Derby during the 1800 was a town of increasing size due to the silk mill factory and also the arrival of the railways and as a consequence the population increased due to a huge influx of Irish workers.  Catholics were only just being able to worship openly again after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 which removed the oppressive regulations that dated back to Henry VIII – public worship was only allowed in 1791.  St Mary’s had once been a small church All Saints Church in the centre of Derby   – it was in fact one of 6 parishes kept by William I after he conquered England.  St Mary’s however ceased to be a parish from the late 13th century but was revived in the early 1800’s – a new building was needed as the old original one was becoming too small and so a plot of land was purchased from a landowner who decided to move his household.  Reverend Thomas Sing took over the plans of the former priest and luckily had Lord and Lady Scarsdale of nearby Kedleston Hall within is his congregation who were friends of one A.W.N. Pugin. Pugin was an architect of some repute by the time of his employment and St Mary’s Catholic Church became known as Pugin’s Masterpiece – his status as an architect of this period was highly regarded.  Painters and artists were clearly held in much higher regard than during medieval times – Derby is also known to have had the painter Joseph Wright within their midst.

St Mary’s is of the Victorian Gothic Style with all the characteristics Gothic architecture although it is not as high as Pugin originally designed due to the fact the project ran out of money before completion. The flying buttresses on the exterior combined with the pointed arches reduced the need for thick walls and also supported heavier ceilings and different sized interior vaults. The building has a conflict devotional styles – there are gargoyles on the exterior in order to scare the poorly educated peasants of the community into coming into the interior whereby they are met by the heavenly devotions of the pointed arches, the rood screen with its scene of the Crucifixion and also the sacristy with is exquisitely carved Pieta and also the elaborate carvings or paintings as well as the simple colour scheme of white, blue and gold reminiscent of the Virgin Mary.  The stained glass windows all depict theological scenes thereby transforming the light within the church into the lux nova and thus giving the impression of heavenly reflections thus enabling the poor or illiterate of the community to understand the messages of the Bible.   The 12 Stations of the Cross are depicted in small sculpted friezes on the side walls of the nave and there are also medieval Christian style paintings alongside these which further add to the spiritual message conveyed to the populace.

The whole building is one of spiritual devotion due to intense detail in its architecture to the decoration of the interior which each and every section adding to the theatre of the Catholic Eucharist.

Word count: 516


Art History Journal. (date unknown).  The role of light in Gothic art and architecture [online].  [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:

Encyclopedia Britannica. (date unknown).  A.W.N. Pugin British Architect and author [online].  [Date Accessed:  August 2015].  Available from:

Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984. A World History of Art. Seventh Edition. London.  Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Head Hand & Heart.  (date unknown).  Pugin and the Gothic Revival [online].  [Date Accessed: August 2015].  Available from:

St Marys Church & Parish Derby. (date unknown).  Welcome to St Mary’s Church & Parish [online].  [Date Accessed:  August 2015].  Available from:

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