"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, Leicestershire - Part 1

I have too many photos of the church at Bottesford and can't decide which to leave out so have decided to split the church visit into two posts - so apologies in advance for the detail and huge amount of pictures!! but it was a fascinating church and so much to see.

The church is located on the bank of the River Devon and it is likely a Saxon church stood on the site before the present church was constructed.

Arches and nailhead decorations which can be seen in the chancel area are the remains of the late 12th century church (1190-1220) when the Albini family were the Lords of Belvoir. In the mid 13th century the de Roos from Helmsley(whose estates included Kirkham Priory and Rievaulx Abbey) took the title.

In the early 14th century St Mary's was rebuilt and enlarged. The nave from the original church became the chancel and a new nave and the transepts were constructed. In the early 15th century there was another major rebuilding including the construction of the Perpendicular nave, south transept, aisles, tower and spire.

In the 100 Years War and The War of the Roses the de Roos supported the Lancastrian kings and after the Battle of Hexham Thomas Lord Roos was executed in 1464 by supporters of Edward IV. Belvoir via marriage passed to Sir George Manners and after the Dissolution tombs and monuments to 3 Baron de Roos and 8 Earls of Rutland and their Countesses were added to the chancel at St Mary's. Burials were also made in vaults including one under the high altar.

Restoration of the church under Canon Norman, Rector 1846-1889 took place in the 19th century and at the same time urgent repairs to the tower which was under imminent danger of collapse were carried out.

The 15th century tower has walls over 6 feet thick and supports the spire.



We walked round the exterior of the church first. There are World War Two graves in the churchyard for airmen who died during accidents at nearby RAF Bottesford. I always find these graves so sad when you realise how young many of the men were.

I would have liked to explore the churchyard for longer but as already mentioned in the last post time was limited if we wanted to visit Easton Walled Gardens as well.

So just a few photos of tombs and gravestones.

When I saw these angels I remembered that I had read about "Belvoir Angels" in the past. There are a group of gravestones in the Vale of Belvoir and surrounding area carved from local Swithland slate (from the Charnwood Forest area) and these have a carved angel's head with wings representing the ascent of the deceased's soul into Heaven. The angels have curly hair and "ruffs" and the wings tend to point downwards. Some gravestones have two angels and these are often flanked by an hour glass and crossed bones. They date from the period 1690 - 1759 and many in the Vale are probably the work of one or two masons.

I didn't know any of the above at the time otherwise I would have looked more carefully for dates but to be honest I very much doubt that the examples below are proper "Belvoir Angels" as they look more angels/cherubs I have seen on many gravestones elsewhere. - perhaps Rosie from the Corners of My Mind could please advise me as I am sure I have seen them mentioned on her blog in the past.

The West Door with shields depicting the emblems of The Crucifixion and the Arms of Robert de Roos (note the money bags!)

When I first started to visit and explore churches I always failed to look up and this is a big mistake as you can miss so much.

A selection of Medieval grotesques and gargoyles around the exterior - I always wonder if any of these were based on real villagers or rectors?

This one is the Bellman



and an Ordnance Survey Bench Mark depicting the height above sea-level.

Church Interior

18th and 19th century hatchments to members of the Manners family.

"The Fair Maid of Normanton"

According to the church guide there are a number of theories concerning her identity. Firstly, she was a "flighty" member of the Belvoir household and in the past Dukes refused to allow the effigy inside the church. Secondly, it could be the effigy of a young lady who was hit on the head by a ball on Shrove Tuesday and fractured her head so badly that she died (it is said earwigs crawled out of her ears!). Thirdly, there is a record of a girl who was found dead nearby and was buried in 1597.

The octagonal font is 15th century with carved angels and flowers. It is supported by Tudor legs on a 13th or 14th century base.

Illustrating the importance of looking up! there are number of carvings between arcade arches in the nave. Some represent mythical creatures from the Medieval Bestiary, some are faces and others based on real animals. Creatures include the amphibaesta, the manticore, an ape, a dragon or wyvern, a lion, a snake-like creature or the medieval idea of a crocodile, dragons and wild men. Other carvings include a king, a bishop and angels. The allegorical carvings represent aspects of good and evil and would have carried a moral message to parishioners hundreds of years ago.

A wolf

A dragon?

I think this is a manticore, a mythical creature, with the body of a lion, the face of a man with sharp teeth and a tail with poisonous spiked barbs.

This I believe is an amphibaesta which is another mythical creature with two heads. Although I have to admit that D and I have had quite a disagreement about the identity of these few photos so if anyone can confirm please leave a comment.


A lion

The de Roo Arms (with 3 water bags) above which is a Cap of Maintenance topped by a Peacock (crest of the Duke of Rutland)

A carving of an unknown king and a



The Saxon font was recovered from the Duke of Rutland's hospital garden in the 1930's where it was being used as a water trough. (I have lost count of the number of similar stories in church guides about fonts being either buried or used as troughs nearby!).

The Jacobean pulpit is finely carved oak and has the date 1631.

There were several pairs of hands protruding through the walls in the chancel which I found exceedingly spooky! John from the Stray Rambler blog in a discussion on Twitter has kindly given me more information. They appear to be a set of Funerary Helm and Gauntlets. The helmet which is missing should rest on the bracket above the gauntlets. Many thanks John and I have checked my photos and found a few more gauntlets but no helmets.

1905 organ (replacing at least two earlier ones) by T C Lewis

Stained Glass

East Window

If you have made it to the end of this thanks so much for reading such a lengthy post! In Part 2 I will post photos and information on the tombs and monuments in the chancel area and a few other features not mentioned above - hopefully there will be fewer photos!

*D Photos taken by my son with the Canon SX50 bridge camera

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera

Reference: Visitor Guide to St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, Leicestershire.
Thanks again to The Stray Rambler