The village of Hallaton, eight miles north-east of Market Harborough, occupies a sloping site with a stream to the south and to the west what may have been a 12thc motte and bailey castle built to protect iron works (VCH, V, 121-33; Pevsner and Williamson, 1984, 171-72). The imposing church of St Michael lies on the south-west side of the village, half a mile below the castle site. Although the exterior of the church, including the dominant W tower, is largely 13thc and 14thc, Romanesque elements are preserved in the aisled interior. Notably part of the N arcade is late 12thc; otherwise it was extended in the 13thc when a new chancel was built. Most importantly for this Corpus a sculpted tympanum detached from its original doorway is now reset in the N porch. For Pevsner, this tympanum depicting St Michael fighting the Dragon was 'the best Norman tympanum in the county' (Pevsner and Williamson, 1984, 171-72).
According to The Domesday Survey, Hallaton with 6 carucates, had belonged to the Saxon Tochi, but by 1086 it was held by a Norman under-tenant from Geoffrey Alselin. The demense encompassed 2 ploughs and 2 serfs, 19 villeins, a socman, a freeman, and 2 bordars with 6 ploughs. Although no church is mentioned in The Domesday Survey, the parish was associated with Leeds Priory early in the 12thc. when Daniel Crevequer of Leeds (c. 1130-1177) granted the advowson of half the rectory to that Priory, which had been founded by his father Robert in 1119 (VCH, V, 1964, 121-33). The Priory appointed one rector who divided the income equally with the second rector.
The lands reverted to the king in 1155, and in 1171 King Henry II granted them to Thomas Bardolf on his marriage to Rose, the heir of Ralph Hanselin; she was probably a descendant of the family who had held Hallaton at the time of The Domesday Survey. Their son married Beatrice, the heir of William de Warenne of Wormegay. (VCH, V, 1964, 121-33)
The N arcade consists of five bays: the three W bays are late Romanesque, except for the first arch which was extended in the 13thc. Short circular piers with square abaci. The capitals are square. Pier 3 capital: more complex waterleaf, and foliage on the S side; split leaves with cusped terminals scrolling inwards between the waterleaf on the corners. Pier 4 capital: simple waterleaf. W respond capital, of multi-scallop design, hyphenated with shields defined by a groove; pyramidal wedges, with a deep central groove, between the cones. The S arcade E respond has a Transitional capital with small upright leaves on stalks.
|Depth of capitals||0.75 m|
|Height of capitals||0.32 m|
|Height of W respond capital||0.32 m|
|Width of capitals||0.75 m|
|Width of W respond capital||0.55 m|
The semi-circular tympanum, executed in fairly low relief, depicts St Michael and the Dragon; it probably came from an original N doorway. It is now reset into the W wall of the 14thc N porch, in such a way that about 0.11m of the R corner is hidden by the front (N) wall of the porch. The archangel has two large wings extending behind him; the face is damaged. He holds a long spear in his R hand with which he transfixes the head of the Dragon through its mouth. In his L hand he holds a distinctively conical shield with a pyramidal boss, fluting and a raised rim; behind the shield in the drapery of St Michael's L sleeve shelter three heads, recalling saved souls in the bosom of Abraham. A further three figures in attitudes of supplication, perhaps victims of the Dragon rising from Purgatory, stand in the R angle of the tympanum. Pevsner thought this piece 'vigorous and dramatic', features which are exemplified in the curl of the Dragon's tail below the archangel's R foot and the drapery that flutters around it; the weight in his knee, emphasised by the damp-fold drapery, as he presses down on the body of the Dragon; the strong diagonal of the spear as he thrusts it towards the Dragon; the sweep of the lower parts of the archangel's wings filling the L side of the semi-circle of the tympanum; the way the composition fills th space; and the narrative implied by the small rescued figures safe behind the prominent shield and the figures begging to be saved.
C. E. Keyser, A list of Norman tympana and lintels: with figure or symbolical sculpture still or till recently existing in the churches of Great Britain, London, 1904, VIII, LXXI, 18, fig. 141.
J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, II part 2, facsimile of 1815 edition, reprinted with an introduction by Jack Simmons, Wakefield, 1971, 603, pl. c111.
N. Pevsner, G. K. Brandwood, E. Williamson, Leicestershire and Rutland, London, 1984, 171-72.
Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society, XIII, Part 1 (1923), ff.138.
Victoria County History: J. M. Lee and R. A. McKinley, 'Hallaton', in A History of the County of Leicestershire, V, Gartree Hundred, London, 1964, 121-133. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/leics/vol5/pp121-133 [accessed 13 November 2016].
G. Zarnecki, English Romanesque Sculpture, 1066-1140, London, 1951.