In May 1842, Sir George Gilbert Scott was commissioned to refit Chesterfield Church in Derbyshire which cost around £5,000. He says that ‘contrary to the wish of the incumbent, Mr. (afterwards Archdeacon) Hill’, he provided galleries, of which the west one still remains. He also renewed the west door and east window. But it was in his reorganisation of the internal spaces that Scott made his greatest impact on the church.
I found the rood screen to have been pulled down & sold but we protested & it was recovered. I recollect that there existed in the church as I found it a curious and beautiful family pew or chapel of wood screen work to the west of one of the piers of the central tower (There are two such chapels now in St. Mary’s Church, Beverley). This was called the Foljamb Chapel, & was a beautiful work of Henry VIII’s time. What to do with it I did not know. It was right in the way of the necessary arrangements & must be removed. I at last determined to use its screen work to form a reredos, and if I remember rightly, it did very well.
This is an astonishing admission, and perhaps was only made because Scott was criticized some years later for his deeds at Chesterfield by The Ecclesiologist. Not only was it a destructive restoration but more importantly, in the eyes of the ecclesiologists, he gave the church a large internal open space more to the liking of the Evangelicals than the ecclesiologists, with their ideas of mystery and concealment during church services.
Scott employed John Burlison as Clerk of Works, who became an expert on ancient structures and stayed with Scott until his death in 1868. Perhaps part of the reason for Scott’s failure at Chesterfield was due to the success of the practice. A constant flow of new churches was still being maintained as well as other new buildings such as Macclesfield Workhouse in 1843, but now the practice was also taking on restorations. They required a painstaking survey, constant supervision and it could take many years of dealing with impoverished clients before the work was completed and all the fees paid. From the business point of view, restorations were not satisfactory but it is certain that Scott enjoyed this work.
He further reported on the state of the twisted spire in 1860 but carried out no further work there.
Scott’s Recollections, I 321-2, 338.