Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

Archive for the tag “Saxon churches”

More memories of Leicester

I was also in Leicester for the beginning of the reburial week. It is a very historic city with, like Colchester, pre-Conquest, Mediaeval and Civil War history. I studied at the Polytechnic, now de Montfort University, for three years a quarter of a century ago.

Most of my academic time then was spent in the Fletcher building, ten storeys or more of concrete and glass, but visited the adjacent Hawthorn Building on occasion, over the Newarke (“New Work”) church that was Richard’s “chapel of rest” for three days. I remember visiting the Castle and passing the Holiday Inn in Jewry Walk then, in which the Society’s Monday buffet took place, but was oblivious both to St. Martin’s Cathedral and to St. Nicholas’ Church, the site of a Cathedral in Saxon times. I watched the procession highlights in “The Last Plantagenet” near the station and was able to find Mrs. Bridges’ Tea Rooms, my old favourite lunch site, near the Cathedrals. The Adult Education College, in Wellington Street near the New Walk, survives as the building in which I first attended Society meetings.

Sadly, two of the bookshops I visited regularly (Silver Street and Sherratt & Hughes) have gone as has the Southgates subway with a door into the Magazine Museum. Although Richard would scarcely have recognised Leicester 530 years later and a hundred times larger, with a little cannon damage from the 17th century, it has changed relatively little since summer 1991 – a flat and compact city centre with a lot of surprises such as Town Hall Square with the lion statues. Even St. Martin’s has eight miniature statues on the front and Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon and Richard’s great-great-great-nephew is one of them, in the hose.

The Statues on St. Martin's Cathedral, including Henry of Huntingdon

The Statues on St. Martin’s Cathedral, including Henry of Huntingdon

The Town Hall Square lions

The Town Hall Square lions

St. Nicholas; Church, the Cathedral in Saxon days

St. Nicholas; Church, the Cathedral in Saxon days

The Last Plantagenet in Granby Street

The Last Plantagenet in Granby Street

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Two churches in Sudbury

Today’s walk began at the Thomas Gainsborough statue, just outside St. Peter’s church, where there was an event in progress, with a lot of stalls inside from various organisations. However, we entered this fifteenth century church, originally a chapel of relief to St. Gregory’s and now technically redundant. Built on the site of a twelfth century structure, it features a nice font and a very unusual bearded angel.

In walking to St. Gregory’s, we happened to pass Gainsborough’s House, which is surprisingly compact. Outside the church is a memorial to some USAF bomber crews. The main feature, however, is the preserved head of Simon “of Sudbury” (Theobald), who was beheaded by a mob in 1381, in the vestry. Simon had been Chancellor and was still Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. His original head, in a case, still has an ear attached and there is a reconstructed head by a University of Dundee team (just like Richard III), with a portait derived from it, nearby. The Theobald family were very wealthy and much of the present church was paid for by Simon and his parents. The font is far more ornate than that at St. Peter’s but there was evidence of some Dowsing in both venues.

On the outside, a Saxon brick pattern is clearly visible in part before later sections such as the tower feature a chessboard roll of flint so there was evidently a Saxon brick church on this site. The Walnut Tree Hospital is clearly visible from the gate (with the Talbot dog symbol on it) as is the site of Simon’s college, which lasted until the first Reformation.

The whole visit was conducted on a dry, mild morning, just like our walks last year. We are extremely grateful to Ian Fitzlyon of St. Gregory’s, a parish which now includes St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s of Chilton. Now we look forward to Annette Carson’s talk on 27 June, in Ipswich or Colchester, although several of us will be at various events in Leicester later this month.

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