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Church Post Code  LE14 2UG

Open to visitors.

Visited June 2020


The first English lockdown had ended and churches were again allowed to be open; for private prayer and for regular worship. Very few churches had taken up the chance of communal worship as yet. I had a trip planned in to Leicestershire after a morning zoom service with the Salvation Army; which for the last few months had become my new normal. Churches had been closed, but in some ways they had never been more open!

First point of call was Little Dalby, a little way of the A606, three and a half miles south east of Melton Mowbray. The welcoming committee was first rate!  A black Labrador trotted up to the van as we pulled up and stayed happily with me as I photographed the exterior.  A man was cutting the grass and was happy for me to go inside.  A nice welcome from him too!

There is some great age to the church here. There has been a church here since Norman times. It is time to bring out my favourite Chuckle Brothers joke before we get started   ‘Nice church Vicar’ ‘It’s Norman’ ‘Nice church Norman’!


The original 11th century structure was given an almost complete makeover in the 1840’s, with the west tower being rebuilt, transepts added and the rest restored.  The church of St James is built of dressed ironstone and consists of west tower with broache spire. The nave has north and south aisles; with four beautiful triple lancet windows forming the clerestory to north and south; south porch, substantial north and south transepts and chancel.  The whole is quite heavily buttressed.

There are many gargoyles here of very high quality. Very few appear to have any great age and I suspect that most date from the time of the Victorian rebuilding. A black Labrador nose, followed quickly by a tongue, appeared from nowhere as I was crouched down taking an arty shot of the tower. What a good boy!

The church was open and, to be honest; the virus felt a million miles away in this quiet, picturesque part of Leicestershire, on a gloriously sunny and warm Sunday afternoon. On a mental health point of view, afternoons such as this were really important and it was good to be able to travel freely again!

Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming inside; a very pleasing church. There is plenty of stained glass here, all dating from the time of the rebuilding; and to be honest it is not of great quality. One panel of a higher quality depicts the risen Christ meeting Mary Magdalene on Easter morning. Jesus raises His hand in greeting and the onlooker can see wounds in His hands feet and side.

 Angels line the north and south walls of the nave; one in particular, with long flowing hair and playing a mandolin catching the eye. Another holding what looks like a palm leaf has a serene expression and oversized hands; a symbol of piety.


Moving outside again and renewing acquaintances with the black lab, I started to work around what is a very interesting collection of slate gravestones. One near to the south transept is of stunning quality. Carved in slate it has at the centre three angels, symbolising the flight of the soul to heaven.  To the left of the angels as we look at it; are three human skulls, to the right a coffin, hourglass, gravedigger’s tools and a candle which has been snuffed out.  All of these are symbols of death and the mortality of Man.

Close by is a fabulous carving of an Ouroboros, a serpent with its tail in its mouth; an often used symbol of eternity. This is wrapped around the gravediggers tools. The message here is that, yes the deceased has passed away but there is eternal life in heaven as reward for the Christian life lived.

On another finely carved slate gravestone we see symbols of the mortality of Man to the left as we look at it, in the form of a scythe and a winged hourglass; tempus fugit, time flies. To the right we have instruments of Christ's crucifixion; cross, spear and hyssop stick. Christian faith in the midst of the fragility of human life,


Under a tree, in the shade and difficult to photograph, is a single 'Belvoir Angel' gravestone. These are a particular type of gravestone, thought to be carved by stonemasons in the Hickling area. These stone feature the Belvoir Angel across the top, with wings outstretched, wearing a ruff and with a variety of facial expressions. These stones have a following; and I produced a website devoted to them, which you can visit by clicking on the photograph of the stone on the right. This one is to Anthony Sarson who died in 1716. It has that delightful old script where the 'S' resembles an 'F' and I find it hard to ever see script like this without remembering that classic Vicar if Dibley sketch where Alice Tinker attempts to read a lesson from the Song of Solomon in the Old Kings James!

We moved on, visiting a succession of closed churches, including the church of St Mary and St Hardulph at Breedon on the Hill. I have not included this here as this church was revisited in 2023 when it was open and there will be a full page devoted to this one elsewhere on this site. I pick up this churchcrawl at East Leake, which was open and of great interest!


Church Post Code LE12 6LN

Open to visitors


We moved across the border in to Nottinghamshire, and to East Leake and the ancient church of St Mary. East Leake is a large bustling village of around 7,000. There was mention of a village here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. The church of St Mary sits on slightly high ground, level with the top of the church wall, leaving an uninterrupted view across the grounds. Plenty of people were around; the church grounds providing a little oasis of peace!

The church here dates from the 12th century, with the west tower dating from that time. The recessed spire dates from the 15th century.  The tower and nave are battlemented. The south porch has a modern statue of the Virgin Mary in an older image niche. An impressive church! A statement piece!

It was great to find this church open; and especially interesting as that Sunday morning was the first time that communal worship had been allowed in this country since the first English three month lockdown had been lifted.

There was hand sanitiser on entry and unrestricted movement throughout the church.  It was fascinating seeing how things had been set out for worship that morning. There are no pews here, just modern stacking chairs. Most of the chairs had been removed, with those remaining set out in a pattern so that each was two metres away from the next. Chairs were set out both in the nave and the south aisle.

Standing at the chancel and looking to the west, at the arrangement of chairs; this was the first time that I had seen a church set up for the ‘new normal’ worship. How strange in looked! Within a few weeks it wasn't strange anymore and when we reverted back to how things were originally a few months later, that also appeared strange!

To be in a church, or anywhere else for that matter, without first sanitising hands; once inside  peering through steamed up glasses or glasses off entirely and ensuring that correct distancing was maintained would seem really strange now. We adapt and move on!


I wanted this site in part to help mark a certain, and tragic time in our history. For this reason, I saw the interior of the church here important as a piece of social history; from my end seeing how our churches were adapting to the pandemic rather than just me looking at things architecturally.

Due to the lack of chairs it seemed very spacious inside.  The five light east window is of clear glass; the east window of the south chapel has a depiction of the crucifixion, a modern representation of the Virgin Mary can be seen in one of the windows of the south aisle. St George, with slain dragon below can be seen in another. Unusually, there is a font at the entrance to the chancel; this would normally be found at the west end.

I have a great deal of respect for those churches who opened up as soon as they could. I visited a church in Norfolk who had a midweek communion service on the first morning that the second English lockdown ended in November. Zoom has been and is still very useful but it is not the same. Hats off to them!

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