Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch :: Shared Description

The church is unusual for the principal parish church of a town in being essentially a new build from the late medieval period. There was an earlier church, and although the Historic England Listing suggests that the main arcades are 14th century, embellished in the late 15th century, the church guide treats the church as new build, with a date of c.1475.

It was the work of Lord Hastings who was expanding and improving Ashby Castle at the same time.

The 15th century church comprised nave with aisles and chancel and west tower, with chapels to north and south of the chancel. The southern chapel is the family chapel of the Hastings family.

The church appears to have remained unchanged until 1878-80 when further aisles were added. The result of this is that the remaining 15th century windows are those in the tower and in the chancel and its adjoining chapels. In the latter are good examples of 5-light perpendicular tracery.

The south side of the tower has a large sundial, almost certainly contemporary with the building, which would make it the earliest of its kind in England

The original aisle arcades have distinctive octagonal columns with brattished capitals, but generally the interior structure is quite plain. Even the original nave roof has simple tie beams with no significant embellishment.

Interior fitments of interest (excluding the Hastings chapel, see below) include, in rough chronological order:
- A niche tomb in the north aisle of late 15th century date with the figure of a pilgrim, thought to be Thomas, brother of Lord Hastings.
- An alabaster grave slab to Robert Nundi and his wives dated 1526.
- An unusual wall monument to Margaret Wright (d.1723)
- A fine plaster or wood Royal coat of arms of Charles II's reign.
- A finely carved wooden reredos dated 1676
- A finger pillory of uncertain date but possibly 18th century.
- A Georgian brass chandelier in the nave.
- Ornate Victorian pulpit and font of c.1880 carved from alabaster. The latter replaced a 14th century font which was discarded, but later rescued and restored in 1922 and returned to the church, although not in use.

The Hastings Chapel deserves special mention for the richness and variety of monuments to members of the Hastings family.

The most impressive of these is the alabaster chest tomb of Francis, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon (d.1561) and his wife Katherine (d.1576).
Also of particular note is the memorial to Theophilus 9th Earl of Huntingdon (d 1746), designed by Thomas Kent and including a bust by John Rysbrack of his widow Selina. She is the subject of a commemorative window at the west end of the church with accompanying brass in the chancel dating from the 1880 restoration.
The chapel windows also have a collection of pre-Victorian stained glass, mainly heraldic devices, but including some biblical scenes of Flemish origin. These were collected in the late 19th century by Lord Donington and eventually made up into the windows as we see them in 1924.

The church has an early 20th century organ by Kirkland of London. The original ring of 8 bells was increased to 10 in 2005.

The church is Listed Grade I.

The St Helens Heritage Project has produced a series of excellent leaflets covering various aspects of the church from which much of this information has been drawn.
by Alan Murray-Rust
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SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch  Hastings tomb  2 by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch  Hastings tomb  6 by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch  Hastings tomb  5 by Alan Murray-Rust
SK3616 : Church of St Helen, Ashby-de-la-Zouch  Hastings tomb  4 by Alan Murray-Rust

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Created: Wed, 8 Aug 2018, Updated: Fri, 17 Aug 2018

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