Extensive Insight into our Church’s History

There are two articles here; the first is the transcript of a pamphlet written by an architect in 1968 which was available to purchase in the church for many years.
The second is a short description written in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubliee.

The Parish Church of St Luke, Gaddesby

By Ernest D. Smith A.R.I.B.A. June 1968
  1. Historical Background
  2. The Growth of the Building
  3. Architectural Description
    1. Nave
    2. Font
    3. South Aisle
    4. North Aisle
    5. Tower
    6. Chancel
    7. Upkeep of the Building
  4. Plate
  5. Bells
  6. Monuments
  7. Bibliography

Historical Background

The magnificence of this parish church is a reminder of the affluence and importance of the village of Gaddesby in feudal times. Commenced early in the 12th century, this fine building was altered and enlarged over the next three and a half centuries and is today a living memory of the social history of this period.

Situated in the hundred of East Goscote, the village of Gaddesby was in pre-Conquest times in the midst of a fairly large Danish settlement. By the year 1284 it had become a flourishing centre of trade and the King granted it a weekly market and a yearly fair. The village was well situated as a market centre; its rich soil was ideal for agriculture and produced excellent pasturage for sheep farming, the wool trade proving particularly profitable.. The open nature of the locality made transport relatively easy, which in the early days would have mainly by pack horses.

The social and economic history of Gaddesby may be briefly summarised as being a rapid rise after the 12th century to its peak in the 15th, followed by a gradual decline. The Domesday records reveal that in 1087 Gaddesby was small, but over the next 300 years its population increased rapidly because of its rich agricultural prosperity. as shown by the next reliable census, the poll tax of 1377. By this time the population over the age of 14 was 176, and it was one of the largest villages in Leicestershire. The significance of this can be seen by comparing it with the population of Loughborough which was then only about twice that of Gaddesby.

At this time Gaddesby was in one of the most densely populated and prosperous parts of England, situated on the fringe of a mainly agricultural zone extending slightly southwards and eastwards as far as East Anglia. Only five counties had more people to the acre than Leicestershire – i.e., Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Northants., Suffolk and Rutland. It has been recorded that in Leicestershire over two-thirds of the inhabitants lived in the more prosperous part, east of the river Soar, and only one fifth west of it. The remainder was concentrated in the Soar valley.

In 1563 the diocesan population return shows that the population on the western side of the county had considerably increased whilst that of the east had either remained constant or even decreased slightly in some villages. This was again born out in the Hearth Tax returns of 1670, by which time the eastern side of the county was beginning to fall behind the western side in density of population and prosperity.

This trend continues as industry gradually became more profitable than agriculture. Coal mining and quarrying enabled the north and west to become prosperous while hosiery, which started as a cottage industry in the villages finally became established as a factory industry along the Soar Valley and also in the west, including the Earl Shilton and Hinckley district.

It will be seem, therefore, that the village of Gaddesby, having become an important local centre for the district, in the forefront of the economic development of the county in the Middle Ages, has gradually declined in importance. The parish church is today a monument to its former glory and a symbol of its will to survive.

The fine church at Gaddesby, built over a period of more than three centuries, owed its growth and magnificence to two important social factors. The first was its association with the important religious body known as the Knights Templars, and the second, the prosperity of the parish in feudal times and the wealth of some of its parishioners.

The story of the Knights Templars is an interesting one. One of the greatest Orders of Chivalry, it was founded in 1118 by a number of Knights who had set out as crusaders to the Holy Land and formed themselves into a Brotherhood bound by rigid and sacred vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The vows of poverty did not imply that the Order was impoverished but only that the individual Knights did not own personal property. A Charter was granted to them by the Pope and during the next century the Order performed great services for Christendom against the infidels in the Holy Land. The name Knights Templars was taken from their headquarters – at the Royal Palace next to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. A further responsibility was the protection of pilgrims from brigands on their journey from the coast of Palestine up to Jerusalem. The Order included in its ranks many of the most famous men in Europe and during this period numerous estates were given or bequeathed by will, by pious benefactors, so that the wealth and power of the Knights Templars increased considerably. However, owing to political intrigue, particularly on the part of King Philip IV of France, the Order was suppressed by the Pope in 1312 and its possessions were given to its colleagues, the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, commonly called the Knights Hospitallers, who held them until 1540 when they themselves were dissolved at the Reformation.

In 1231 King Henry III, who had special regard for the Knights Templars, granted to them the manor and soke of Rothley, including the manor of Gaddesby. The church at Rothley was appropriated by them on 21st August 1240, and by the same decree they obtained the entire fruits of its chapel at Gaddesby, with the land and tithes. In return for this the Vicar of the mother church at Rothley had to find a chaplain and clerk for Gaddesby; the Knights Templars were charged with the upkeep of the Chancel only, but as holders of most of the manorial rights, their position would entail some contribution towards the remainder of the church, although this would not be affected by the episcopal decree.

The contribution by the parishioners towards the cost of building the church was governed by the economic conditions prevailing in the manor. The partitioning of the country into manors is lost in obscurity, but it was definitely of pre-Conquest origin and adopted after 1066 by the conquerors for the social and economic control of the country. The manorial rights of Gaddesby were held before 1231 by the King and granted temporarily to various lords in unequal shares, none of whom was resident locally. There was thus no important family with a predominant interest in the manor or parish until the arrival of Mr Edward Cheney in the 19th century. There was however a number of freeholders in the 13th and 14th century who were wealthy enough to contribute money for the enlarging of the church and for its upkeep.

The first very small church, commenced in the early 12th century (whose plan is shown in fig 1), and the south aisle, were paid for by the people of the parish, but the other additions were probably paid for by local benefactors with the assistance of the Knights Templars- the families of “De Overton” and “De Gaddesby” being known to have made generous bequests. Robert de Gaddesby made donations in 1323 and 1333, and Robert de Overton also gave money in 1333. The chancel, however, which was rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century, was undoubtedly paid for by the Knights Hospitallers – the successors of the Knights Templars.

The Growth of the Building


The Church of St Luke Gaddesby is one of the most beautiful and largest village churches in Leicestershire. When the church was first built early in the 12th century it was only a modest little building consisting of a rectangular nave, with a steep pitched roof, 62 feet long and 20 feet wide. There may have been a small extension approached through an archway from the east end of the nave to act as a chancel or sanctuary, but there was no tower. The simplicity of the building may be seen from the plan shown in fig. 1. A porch was an essential part of the church and it is probable that one existed on the south side of the nave. This not only provided shelter and protected the door from the weather but was also used for the performance of the earlier parts of the services of Matrimony, Baptism and the Churching of women.

As the prosperity of the village grew it became apparent that the very small, narrow nave could no longer cope with the number of worshippers, and additions therefore became imperative. This was achieved, as in so many other churches at that time by adding an aisle. The one on the south side was therefore commenced about the year 1230. By this, the original space for the congregation, which had served for about a century, was now almost doubled. A method of building was adopted which would cause the minimum disturbance to the daily use of the church. As a first step, the new walls of the aisle were built on the outside and covered with a sloping roof. The next stage was to cut gaps in the old walls of the nave and insert new stone piers. Finally arches were formed between the piers, allowing the old walling to be removed. Thus the new aisle was thrown into the church as the very last operation. The walling above the arcade is therefore the oldest part of the church fabric now remaining.

At the same time the erection of the tower at the west end of the church was started, although this was a longer building process and continued after the south aisle had been completed. It is interesting to note that at this time the tower was attached to the church, which, as in the case of the south aisle, enabled the builders to proceed without any disturbance to the worshippers in the nave. The arched opening leading from the nave into the new tower was cut into the earlier 12th century wall as one of the last building operations. The plan of the church at this stage was as shown at fig. 2.

A few years later, the continually increasing numbers made it necessary to enlarge the church again. The north aisle was added in a similar manner to the one on the south side. It is most probable that at about the same time a new chancel was built. It was subsequently taken down and rebuilt nearly 200 years later, but the arch leading from the east end of the nave still survives and is in typical mid thirteenth century style – evidence of the date of this early chancel. The plan of the church at this stage of its development is shown in fig. 3.

The next extension was carried out about 1280 and was the result of a bequest of money by a wealthy local benefactor. It took the form of a westerly extension of the south aisle as shown at fig. 4. The object this was to provide what is known as a chantry chapel, which contained at that time an alter where mass would regularly be said for the souls of the founder and his relatives. Probably the tomb of the founder originally stood in the small recess in the south wall.

Late in the 13th century, with the tower, both aisles and chancel added to the original nave, the church had then reached an advanced stage in its development, but it must have been obvious that a major drawback was the reduced amount of daylight in the original nave. As in most other churches of this period, the remedy was to increase the height of the nave by removing the roof and rebuilding it at a higher level. This allowed windows, known as clerestories, to be inserted in the upper part of the nave side walls, and again the church was adequately lit. It is of interest to note that the position of the earlier roof at a lower level can be clearly traced from the raking moulding on the east side of the tower, immediately above the tower arch. It will also be noted that a small part of the early 12th century walling still remains to this day, just above the arches in the nave.

About the year 1330 as a result of the further affluence of the parish, it was decided to pull down the north aisle,at this time about 100 years old, and to replace it with a wider and architecturally more elaborate structure. The 13th century aisle can scarcely have reached the end of its useful life, and it is of great interest to historians tracing the economic life of the parish that this apparently extravagant step was decided upon. The new aisle was not only wider but also longer in a westerly direction, enclosing the tower, to balance a similar arrangement brought about by the earlier westerly extension of the south aisle. The tower now became an internal part of the church – a most unusual feature in a village church. The very interesting plan resulting is shown in fig. 5. It is probable that this new aisle was paid for by bequests from wealthy local inhabitants, again as “chantry” bequests.

In approximately 1340, further work was carried out to the west end of the south aisle by adding to its external wall ornate architectural embellishments, including new buttresses and pinnacles. It is clear that the sole purpose of this was not structural necessity but a desire for architectural improvement. This refined and beautiful 14th century work (known architecturally as the ‘decorated period’) is almost unique in its craftsmanship and design for a simple parish church.

At about this time another very important feature was added when it was considered desirable to introduce fixed seating in the church. Before about 1350 the congregation was obliged to stand during services except for just a few aged and infirm who were able to sit on the raised ledges around some of the pillars in the nave – hence the phrase still remembered, “the weakest to the wall”. Sixteen ancient oak seats over 600 years old still remain in the nave in Gaddesby church today.

By about 1450 it must have become apparent that the 13th century chancel was unworthy of the magnificent church resulting from the various alterations and additions. It was therefore decided to rebuild it on the original foundations, re-using some of the original windows.

Writing in 1804 the local historian, Nicols, stated that there was an open timber screen separating the chancel from the nave, in which a door was provided which could be locked. It is probable that this screen dated back to the 15th century, when the chancel was rebuilt, as at this period the nave was also used for various secular purposes and was the only public meeting place in the village. It is interesting to note that this arrangement is still carried out in “multi-purpose” churches today. The screen, therefore, divided the nave from the chancel which was considered to be the more holy part of the church where the mass was celebrated. A separate door which exists to this day was provided for the use of the priest, in the north wall of the chancel.

It is recorded that as late as 1841 a day and Sunday school supported by local subscriptions was held in Gaddesby church – probably in the west end of the south aisle, where there are signs that the recess in the outer wall (originally made for the founder’s tomb) was used as a fireplace.

Until the early part of the 19th century, there was also a wooden gallery in the nave at the back of the church, which partly blocked the arch leading to the tower. This was a fairly common feature in churches at that time, and was probably used for the village orchestra or choir in the Middle Ages.

By about the middle of the 14th century the plan of the church had reached its completed form and stood as we see it today, an outstanding example of architecture and medieval enterprise. Owing to the lack of the usual 19th century restorations, the historian and student of architecture may easily trace the steps of its fascinating development from a small early 12th century village church to its ultimate magnificence as we see it today.

Architectural Description


The nave with its five arcades of lofty proportions presents a striking appearance internally. Small fragments of the original 12th century walling still remain over the side arches and on either side of the opening leading into the tower. An interesting feature is the dwarf walls between the arcade pillars on the north and south sides of the nave, which are the remains of the original walls of the early 12th century church, removed when aisles were added. It is probable that these dwarf walls were the bases for screens, thus forming small chapels at the east end of each aisle. Both chapels contain a piscina which can still be seen to this day. On each side of the nave are four pillars of imposing design, the shafts being all octagonal, the capitals varying slightly in design but generally matching the one opposite. The high level windows known as clerestories are unusually large for a parish church of this period. The only remaining medieval stained glass from one of these is still visible.

The oak seating in the nave is of exceptional interest, being amongst the earliest in the country and one of the few surviving examples of 14th century work. The ends, seating and framework still remain, their rude construction showing the early development of carpentry and their irregularity in width and height being of special interest. It is worthy of note that the ends of the pews are carved in “poppy head” design – the name probably originating from the Latin word “puppis”, the figurehead of a ship.

In the Middle Ages some of the pews were frequently allotted to persons of social importance in the parish and there are references to “Mr Pilkington’s seate” and a “Mr Squires” in a report dated 1637.

Two pillars in the south arcade have raised stone ledges around them and these were also used as seats. They are, however, of earlier date than the pews and were at one time the only available seating for members of the congregation, and were, of course, reserved for people who found standing too difficult. It must be realised that in early medieval times the congregation did not come together and leave at the same time. The service was centred on the alter and it was quite common for people to come and go, and even move about during the service. When not moving about, they would be either standing or kneeling according to the point reached in the service. After the middle of the 16th century when great stress was placed on the reading of the Bible in English and the preaching of the Word, it became imperative to provide seats. The early seating at Gaddesby church actually anticipates later developments in other churches.


This is not the original font and was probably made in about 1320. It is of limestone, lead lined, and carved with a lily motif. A small consecration cross carved on the only plain face of the upper portion is worthy of note. The font would have had a cover in ancient times and the marks of its fasteners can still be seen on the opposite sides of the upper surface. The cover was invariably locked in those days to prevent the water, which had been blessed, from being stolen.

The font is not in its original position, which was, in medieval times, probably near the door of the south aisle.

South Aisle

As previously noted, this aisle was built at several different periods. The eastern portion, which is the earliest, is faced internally with uncoursed rubble, and the later work, further west, with coursed squared stones. Externally, the difference in dates of building may be clearly seen – the fairly plain eastern part being the earliest, the western extension built next, and the elaborate work of the cornice and superstructure at the west end built last of all in the early 14th century. Indeed the triangular shape window over the western doorway may have been inserted later. The magnificent canopy and tabernacle work over the western door is indeed famous, and one of the main delights for the many visitors.

During the early part of the 14th century it was clearly intended that the highly decorated cornice, the enriched band over, embattling, and the elaborate buttresses, should be added to the whole of the south aisle (working from west to east). After proceeding some 51 feet, however, this work was inexplicably stopped. The most likely reason was the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 which killed so many skilled craftsmen and halted nearly all new building work throughout the country.

The carved stone cornice contains a variety of interesting and imaginative subjects, such as human and animal heads, hen and chickens, mermaids etc. Another very interesting feature of this aisle is the carving on the moulding over some of the windows which shows a woman’s head wearing a gorget. As this form of dress was typical of the reign of Edward II, it is a reliable method of assigning the date of this portion of the church.

There is also interesting evidence of earlier porches in the south wall. The eastern-most projecting string course indicates the first porch of probably 1240. This was removed and replaced by another in the 14th century, which in turn was replaced by the present porch in the 18th century. Some remains of the 14th century porch are still existing, such as the stone seats and ball flower ornament.

North Aisle

The present aisle designed in 14th century style (known as decorated) is, as previously noted, a replacement of one built about a hundred years earlier which was narrower and did not extend so far in a westerly direction.

The 14th century saw English medieval design and craftsmanship at their full maturity and there are examples of this excellence to be seen, particularly in the windows. Some have been replaced, but in the ancient examples the stone tracery in extremely fine, in the styles known as Curvilinear and Geometric, whilst the shafts, caps and other moulding are typical of 14th century design at its best. Other interesting examples of the rich craftsmanship of this century are “ball flower” ornament on the window sill and the various enrichments of animal faces and shells.

The roof, which is a later feature, is unworthy of the beautiful architecture of this aisle and replaces an earlier one.

Until recently several pews stood in this aisle, known as “family” type and were considerably later than those in the nave, dating back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Only one now remains, moved to the rear of the church, and the loss of these historically important features is regrettable.


The dominant 13th century tower with its noble proportions, seen just against the end of the famous south aisle, is indeed a memorable sight. This tower is built of ironstone with limestone dressings and was designed in three stages, with the uppermost having extremely fine windows with tracery and mouldings, all excellent examples of the best 13th century work. The spire is also of limestone ,broached, with “lucerne” windows in three stages. An interesting feature is the window opening from the upper chamber looking into the nave of the church, from which the sexton could follow the celebration of mass and sound the bell at the appropriate moment of the Eucharist.

As previously noted, the tower was at one time attached to the church but not enclosed within the external walls of the building, as it is today, This may be discerned from the design of the tower staircase, the tower windows of which were blocked up when the south aisle was extended. The large arches at low level on the north and south sides were later additions when the aisles were added. The present clock was provided for the tower in 1902 in memory of the Greaves family, and presented by Samuel and Elizabeth Greaves.


This was built in the 15th century in the architectural style known as “perpendicular”. The beautiful style of the 14th century, as exemplified in the north aisle, had come to a halt about 1350 with the coming of the Black Death which killed off so many craftsmen. Consequently the succeeding style was more severe and lacking in rich architectural detail, so that the chancel is not up to the same high standard as the earlier parts of the church. In the north wall of the chancel is and oblong recess known as an amber, where the Communion plate was originally kept. A 15th century piscina where the chalice was washed is in the opposite wall.

In 1892 a Faculty was granted for the provision of a new stone reredos. This was presented in memory of Mr Edward Henshaw Cheney by Mr Charles Bland and was designed by the architect, John Ely, of Manchester.

A stained glass window at the east end of the chancel was also provided in 1892 in memory of Edward Henshaw Cheney and presented by his widow.

Upkeep of the Building

Until the time of the reformation-about 1540-there is ample evidence that the fabric of the church was well maintained. Examples of this are the rebuilding of the 13th century chancel in the 15th and the provision of a new roof, flatter in pitch, to replace the 14th century roof of the nave.

Apart from the new lead roof to the chancel in 1725, however, subsequent repairs and maintenance were shamefully neglected, clearly due to lack of funds. The roofs and floors seem to have suffered most and in the year 1800 it is recorded that the general condition of the building was lamentable.

Water was percolating through the roof in about twenty places, particularly in the north aisle, where the results of constant dripping can still be seen to this day on the surface of the incised slabs. Subsidence had already occurred in the floors, which were cracked and almost dangerous.

No substantial repairs were carried out, however, for in 1851 the Rev Raymond S Daniell, M.A., Curate of Gaddesby, launched an appeal stating that “during the last two centuries this lovely church has gone sadly to decay”. Public interest was stirred by this campaign and some essential repairs to the roof and windows were put in hand. Also in 1859 Mr E.H. Cheney paid for repairs and restorations in the chancel which, as a result, is now very well preserved.

Nevertheless, the ruinous state of the church was not so easily remedied, as is indicated by a report in 1874 by the Leicestershire Architectural Society (as it was then known) that the building was still in poor condition. In 1896 the records show that three windows were in a bad state, these being the south west window of the south aisle, a clerestory window, and a north east window of the north aisle, which had actually been blown out by the wind. Local contributions enabled minimum essential repairs to be done but, as usual, the money was too little and too late and twenty years later the writer, J.B. Firth, in his “Highways and Byways in Leicestershire”, wrote that, with the exception of the chancel, “all was dreadfull decay”, the north aisle being in a particularly shocking state. The “family” type box pews were grey with neglect and suffering from severe rot. Apparently even the hassocks and cushions were gathering mould.

In 1927 a desperate appeal was made for money to save the church and a most encouraging response of over a thousand pounds was obtained for a restoration fund. This enabled essential repairs to be carried out to the roofs and also paid for a good deal of new masonry to replace part of the decaying external walls. These restorations were fortunately carried out prior to the outbreak of the second world war, just in time to save the church from further serious decay. It was also possible to install electric light in 1939.

After the war a small balance of money remained for minor essential repairs. In 1946 some electric tubular heaters were installed to supplement the very inadequate solid-fuel heating system, and although this was an improvement, conditions were still uncomfortable in cold weather. Regular architects reports have been obtained on the condition of the building and it has been possible as a result of further limited funds being available to carry out repairs to the masonry of the tower, the top of the spire being taken down and being rebuilt, and a new weather-vane provided. The clock face has also been re-gilded. The lead roof of the chancel has been renewed – a long overdue item of repair – and some defective roof boarding replaced. Inside the church the roof timbers have been dealt with to eradicate woodworm and death watch beetle, and the interior walls limewashed. Repairs have been carried out to some windows and also the organ has been overhauled.

Although the church is now structurally sound, after centuries of neglect, much still remains to be done, and in the near future it is proposed to install a new oil fired heating system. Parts of the floors now require attention, and the overhaul of some of the electrical wiring is necessary. It is also hoped, at the same time, to restore and refurnish the side chapel at the east end of the south aisle.

The new red kneelers in the nave, the pulpit cushion and Bible markers, the fine tapestry kneelers in the chancel, the scarlet Laudian throw-over cloth and cushions, together with matching burse and veil for use at the Communion service, were the work and gifts of the Ladies Guild.

Silver Cup Weight 6.6oz, Height 5.75 inches, Date 1575, Mark; a rose. This cup is of characteristic shape for its period, having a bowl supported by an inverted cone with a flat projecting base. Surrounding the middle of the bowl is a band of stroke ornament.

Silver Paten Weight 2.5 oz, Diameter 4.75 inches, Date 1922, Marks; (a) WOM, within a shaped stamp, (b) Old English G in a shaped shield, (c) Lion passant in a shaped oblong, (d) Leopard’s head in a shaped shield. The paten has an engraved design of a Cross flory upon two concentric circles.

Pewter Plate Diameter 9 1/8th inches. MArks: (1) a hare supporting a garb between two pillars “Samual” above “Smith”, (2) MAde on Snow Hill, London, (3) X crowned, (4) four small shapes, – (a) S.S., (b) Britannia, (c) Leopard’s head crowned, (d) Lion’s head erased.

Pewter Paten Diameter at top 4.5 inches, at foot 7 1/8th inches. Date 1682. There are no marks. This has a raised edge and once was fitted with a foot. The paten is inscribed “Ex dono Dorothy Nedham 1682”.

Pewter Flagon Height 14 inches. Diameter at top 4.5 inches, at foot 7 1/8th inches. Date 1682. MArk: on bottom inside J.C., a mullet and the date 16.. . A pewter knob has been fitted to replace the original lid which is now missing. The flagon is inscribed “Ex dono Dorothy Nedham”.

The pewter paten and flagon were presented in 1682 by Dorothy Nedham who came of a local family famous for its benefactions to Gaddesby church. The clause in her will reads: “I give to the church of Gaddesby 20 shillings to buy a pewter flagon and pewter plate for the Communion table”. She married Francis Nedham of Gaddesby and they had several children, to some of whom are monumental slabs in the church. Mrs Nedham also bequeathed £2 to the poor of the parish.


The number of bells has recently been increased to six, through the generosity of Mr H.G.A. Ross-Wilson of GAddesby, Vicar’s Warden for 16 years, who presented three new bells in 1964. At the same time the existing bells were removed, tuned, repaired and re-hung on a new frame. Some structural repairs were also made to the bell-chamber in the tower. The complete peal, which is in the key of A natural, is now as follows :-

Diameter Weight Date Founder
Cwt Qrs Lbs
Treble 2′ 0″ 3 0 23 1964 John Taylor & Co
2nd 2′ 1″ 3 1 6 1964 John Taylor & Co
3rd 2′ 2.5″ 3 2 24 1964 John Taylor & Co
4th 2′ 4.75″ 4 3 21 1701 Henry Oldfield
5th 2′ 8″ 6 0 3 1562 Thomas Newcombe
Tenor 2′ 11.25″ 7 3 3 1701 Henry Oldfield

The two bells made by Henry Oldfield in 1701 are inscribed “God Save The King” and “God save his Church – B. Reeve, S. Hutton, Wardens 1701”, respectively. The one made by Thomas Newcombe in 1562 is inscribed “”Sancta Maria”.

These bells have taken the place of the original ones in the church. The craft of bell-making dates back in Leicestershire to the early 14th century, and the first bells in Gaddesby church probably were of that period.

Only 25 bells in the county remain of an earlier date than the year 1500. Their disappearance is due mainly to wear, such as cracking, over the centuries, but apart from this, many old bells had to be recast to make them suitable for change-ringing in the 16th century.


Incised Slabs

A favourite form of monument from the 11th to the 16th centuries took the form of the incised slab. This is the name given to a flat memorial with a design engraved in line, usually on a stone, alabaster, marble or slate. The earlier examples were normally laid on the church floor, but sometimes were used as covers for alter tombs. The designs were carried out in “flat relief” and included representations of the human figure (effigies of the deceased), crosses, or other inanimate objects and inscriptions, although the human figure is not usually represented on incised slabs in this country before the middle of the 12th century. The incised slabs of stone or similar material were later superceded by brass, carved in the same manner. Many early stone slabs have been unfortunately destroyed over the years by wear and tear, particularly during the 19th century restorations, when new floors were often provided. Those remaining are therefore of special interest to antiquarians and historians. In Gaddesby church the following incised slabs still exist:-

1. Monument to WILLIAM ATTMILEND of Gaddesby – 1445

This is on the floor of the chancel which had recently been rebuilt about this date. William “at the mill end of Gaddesby” was probably a prosperous local miller, and the mill in medieval times stood by the brookside, to the south-east of the village, on the road leading to Ashby Folville. The slab is of Ancaster stone, 87 inches by 46 1/2 inches, with the effigy of a clean shaven man, in a high-collared gown, his head on a cushion and a dog under his feet. The inscription on the margin is too worn to be entirely legible.

2. A monument to WILLIAM DARBY and his wife – 1498

William Darby was obviously a fairly wealthy land-holder in the district, as shown by his will which indicated that he held the following properties:-

300 acres in Gaddesby,
60 acres in Barsby,
20 acres in South Croxton
30 acres in Great Bowden,
and a small amount in Foxton.

The slab is in alabaster, 88 inches by 42 inches, with incised effigies of an armed man and his wife. The suit of armour is early Tudor in design, with a standard of mail round the neck, reinforced breastplate, fluted pauldrons and a skirt of five lames and a belt carries a short sword. The lady is dressed in a tight-waisted gown, having a low neck trimmed with fur. A girdle with lozenge pattern is around the waist, from which hangs a pomander – a small ball or box containing perfume, formerly supposed to ward off infection. The shoes have pointed toes and are trimmed with fur. The headdress is an early form of pedimental hat, also trimmed with fur. At the foot of this monument is an inscription in latin which, freely translated, reads: “Yielding to his fate, here in truth lies William Darby Esquire, covered up in the tomb. He had borne rule splendidly in peace throughout his life; he was powerful in justice and had pity on the unfortunate. His goodness is already known through many a city; he is praised by all grateful people. He is accordingly anxious to part from human desires that he may enjoy the supreme heavenly bliss of God”. The slab is considerably damaged by damp and vandalism.

3. Head of a Cross on Chancel Floor

The date is uncertain but is later than the middle of the fifteenth century. The stone is of Ancaster stone, 26 inches by 25 inches.

Other Monuments

Alter Tomb

At the east end of the north aisle is a good example of this type of monument, its date being about 1500. On the top is a sculptured effigy of a man in armour but there is no means of knowing his identity. The figure is wearing the Lancastrian collar, with a dagger at his side and at his feet a dog. The sculpture is carved out of one block of grey sandstone.


A large scuplted monument in alabaster, almost life-size, stands in the chancel, the work of Joseph Gott. It shows Colonel Edward Hawkins Cheney, C.B., of the Scots Greys, on one of the four horses which were killed under him at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Colonel Cheney had a distinguished military career of over twenty-one years and upon retiring he lived at Gaddesby Hall.


Rev Andrew Trollope – Church Plate of Leicestershire, Vol. 1 (1890).

Thomas North – Church Bells of Leicestershire (1831).

White – History of County of Leicester and Rutland.

Nichols – History of Leicestershire.

The Victoria History of the Counties of England.

F.A. Greenhill – The Incised Slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland.

Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society.

J.B. Firth – Highways and Byways in Leicestershire.

Article 2

St Luke’s, Gaddesby Jubilee April 8-11-1977

By Roshnara Johnstone – April 1977

Described by Nikolaus Pevsner in “Buildings of England”, Leicestershire and Rutland edition as “One of the largest and most beautiful village churches in Leicestershire,” St Luke’s, Gaddesby always attracts many visitors. This is not surprising as it has something of interest for almost everyone. For the historian there is its connection with the Knights Templar whose main foundation was at Rothley Temple, and who became “Rectors” of the chapel of Gaddesby in 1270. When the Templars were suppressed the living was passed to the Knights Hospitallers and subsequently through many hands to the Martyrs Memorial Trust, its present patrons. The link with Rothley however was only severed in 1874. A romantic memento of the Templars is the magnificent Cedar trees which abound in the Parish and which local legend avers are descended from cones brought back from the Holy Land, the Lebanon, by crusading Templars.

Architecturally, the exterior of the church is remarkable for the grace and richness of the south aisle. The main part of this structure is probably 14th century, though some of the intricate decoration, moulding and carving may date from the 15th century. The garlanded facade carries on round the west side of the aisle, with a luxuriance of detail, and a view of the Church from the south west is a sight that no visitors to the neighbourhood should miss. There are few cathedrals which could produce a more lovely corner with its ornamented buttresses and tower and broach spire.

Parts of the tower show signs of Norman origin, but the church was restored at an early date, the main part of the present structure having been completed by the addition of the North Aisle somewhere between 1330 and 1350.

A unique feature is the original oak bench pews dating back to the 15th century. Plain and solidly made by local craftsmen from local wood they are still occupied by worshippers each Sunday and the ancient timber is as strong and practical as it was in the days when their users wore farthingales and wimples.

There are some fine tombs in the church, notably one of William Derby who died in 1497. This is at the east end of the North Aisle and is fashioned in alabaster, portraying Sir William and his Lady, their hands lifted in prayer. There is a beautiful and touching Latin inscription which being translated begins “Oh that he might return from Death, but the Lord had need of him during his life”. The inscription goes on to praise his goodness “already known to many cities” and “which is known by rich and poor alike”. He must have been a fine man, and now, nearly five hundred years later, one can still hear a whisper of his widow’s sorrow.

In the chancel stands a very different and just as spectacular monument, Colonel Cheney, owner of Gaddesby Hall had four horses killed under him at the battle of Waterloo where he acquitted himself with glory, the command of his regiment devolving to himself, then a young man. In life-sized marble he is depicted with one of the luckless quartet collapsing beneath him whilst he prepares to spring off and into the further battle. A plaque to the left of the statue tells the whole story. This statue was originally in the Hall, and was moved to the Church when the family left at the end of the last century.

There is so much beauty and interest here and if you have never seen it before we hope you enjoy its discovery.

Useful Links

Church History

Knights Templar