Chapter Two:
All Saints’, Dale Abbey

There are conflicting theories as to the precise date of the building now known as All Saints’ Church, Dale Abbey. The most reliable opinions seem to converge on the second half of the 12th century, based on architectural styles; this would seem to make sense in relation to the history of the Gomme, the Priory and the Abbey. The question of whether any vestige of the Hermit’s original oratory survive in the existing building has been addressed in the previous chapter: it is not proven, in spite of the dogmatic statements to that effect from some Victorian writers.

It seems likely that the north aisle was the first to be built, and one Victorian writer was adamant that the Augustinian canons from Calke built or re-built the church on the site and that lower parts of the walls of the north aisle, the south wall of the south aisle and the north door are their work; this is conjecture, but fits in with architectural evidence and the history of what was going on in Depedale at the time. It is likely that the south aisle was constructed a little later, and possibly rebuilt again around 1250: the blocked-up doorway on the west wall and the jambs of the east and north windows in the north aisle date from around 1250; these may be the minor alterations recorded in the latter part of the 13th century under Abbot Lawrence (see Chapter 10). When the abbey was built, the chapel became the Grendon chantry.

All Saints’ rejoices in having early wall paintings, the story of the discovery of which bears repeating: the interior of the church badly needed renovation, and the architects, Mr P.H. Currey and Mr C.C. Thompson, were called in to advise and superintend the work. One of the jobs was lime-washing the walls, and as they carried many old coats of lime, the architects gave instructions that great care should be used in removing them, and if traces of colour were revealed, they were to be at once informed, as they had in mind the possibility of concealed paintings. Almost immediately thick coats of lime peeled away over a large area exposing a most interesting and valuable painting ‘The Visitation’. On the advice of the architects, Professor E.W. Tristram, D. Litt., the leading expert on wall paintings and their treatment, was called in, and under his supervision the walls were completely stripped, revealing paintings.

They are mostly on the north wall from the door to the window and show the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and possibly the visit of Magi. There are also mouldings and patterns around the east window, all dating from around 1280, and some in the south aisle - high up on the south wall at the west, round the west and south windows and between the south windows – the latter apparently 16th century. The text is 16th century.