Sunday, 15 September 2013

Spotlight on: All Saints Parish Church


According to the local paper, the Loughborough Echo, Loughborough has been awarded a gold medal in the Small City category of the East Midlands In Bloom competition! Well done to one and all!! And while you're looking at the webpage for the Echo, have a look at what one man, who lives near the Taylors Bellfoundry, and his friend managed to achieve. 

Also in your local paper this week: A new display in the town library will be on Loughborough's lost houses: This was going to be a topic for a future blog post, but the volunteers in the local studies area of the library have beaten me to it! Be sure to visit: Open 10-12 and 2-4 each week day, although I think the display cabinets are accessible anytime the library's open.

As if that wasn't enough, there's also a plea to demolish the 1958 rectory, the library has been given a new name - Loughborough Community Library and Learning Centre - and yours truly appears in a picture!

Enough!!! On to the feature of my article: 

SPOTLIGHT ON: All Saints Parish Church

All Saints parish Church
I recently had the good fortune to find the Parish Church door open, and I couldn’t resist popping my head in and having a look round, but I was caught in the act by the verger, who insisted I come in and have a proper look! He also introduced me to the vicar who pointed out some stunning parts of the church. I’d previously only ever been in the church to sing or watch concerts, and had never managed to get inside for a visit as the church was not often open. I assumed that photography was not allowed and am kicking myself now for not asking, as a few more photos would have helped to bring this blogpost to life!

A bit of background
Originally, the church was dedicated to St Peter, was later also dedicated to St Paul, and has more recently become known as All Saints. For quite some time this church was the only church in the parish, until Emmanuel was built in 1837. More recently, in the 1990s, the church of the other parish in Loughborough, Holy Trinity, closed and the two parishes merged, but what I call the Parish Church retained its title of All Saints Parish Church.

The current church, the construction of which started in about 1330, is built on a site that has seen both an Anglo-Saxon and a Norman place of worship, but over the years, the church we know today, has been subject to lots of renovations and improvements, so it is sometimes difficult to work out what’s what. 

My visit
The verger showed me the big stone pillars, with signs of smoke from when they had fires in the church during the time of the Civil War, where it’s believed that the soldiers slept, and lots of carvings of signatures, often done by children who were quite possibly bored by the lengthy sermons, or where soldiers had sharpened their knives!

The verger then stood me in the nave, and faced me in the direction of the Chancel and Sanctuary and the great East Window. From here we could clearly see that the Chancel didn’t look straight! According to the verger this was to do with the idea of Heaven and Earth: As the coffin and funeral procession moved off down the Nave towards the Chancel, Earth, on the left-hand side was most visible, but the closer one got to the Chancel, the more one could see of Heaven on the right-hand side. Also, looking up from the Nave we could see a little window in the archway, which, apparently, was thought to be the door through which the spirit of the deceased passed as it was processed down the Nave towards the Chancel.

At this point, the Vicar arrived, and the verger was quick to introduce me: Anyone showing so much interest in looking around the church must surely be a potential congregation member!

The West End of the church is where the bell tower is situated. The area is enclosed by a set of wrought iron gates, which were put there in 1931 as a memorial to Pryce Taylor, a bellfounder, and member of the famous Taylor bellfounding family. The Vicar told me that the Taylor family had moved to Loughborough from Oxford with the specific purpose of recasting the existing church bells, and adding a further two, making a peal of 8. This was in 1840, and in 1889 they added two more bells. Wow! This was exciting stuff! And as if that wasn’t enough, the vicar showed me the most amazing memorial in the floor, made of bell metal! This consists of a circular border with words from Psalm 19 in, and the crest of the family in the middle. Pretty spectacular! There were also memorials to others of the Taylor family on the walls of the tower.

As the Vicar then went off about her business, I had a little look around for myself, and was most taken with the Burton Chapel. This is an area on the south side of the church, which is dedicated to Thomas Burton, a benefactor to the town, who left money in his will to help create a school. It is also a memorial to those former pupils of his school who lost their lives during the First World War. What struck me was that most of the area was made of wood, and was elaborately carved, and quite impressive.
A Swithland slate gravestone

Having spent quite some time looking around inside the church, I then took a walk around the outside of the building. Many of the headstones in the graveyard were made of Swithland slate: Some were taken from inside the church and were lying flat on the ground, whilst others were standing, erected in groups of closely arranged slates. Some were quite old, but there was nothing newer than 1857, as the new cemetery off the Leicester Road was built then, and the churchyard no longer used for the purpose of interment.

Detail of gravestone inscription

There were also some quite elaborate tombs, although most were suffering from weathering and lack of maintenance. Where it was possible to read some of the inscriptions on the headstones, these were quite fascinating, and often gave a lot of information about the deceased, like their job and so on.

Also in the grounds I saw the truly magnificent Fearon Hall. This hall, built in 1889 of that familiar Victorian brick construction, was erected as a memorial to Archdeacon Fearon, who was Rector of All Saints from 1848-1885 and Archdeacon of Leicester from 1863-1885. The original use of the hall was as a venue for the parish Sunday school, and an extension was added in 1910. Today it's the headquarters for the Fearon Community Association and is the meeting place for many local groups, including playschool, scouts and Pilates classes. In the morning sunshine it looked spectacular.

As I walked around the churchyard, my thirst to know more about the history of the area, led me to leave the church and make my way to the Old Rectory, where there is now a museum … a story for another day, perhaps!

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