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St Mary, Thorpe Arnold, Leicestershire

(52°46′19″N, 0°51′36″W)
Thorpe Arnold
SK 770 200
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Leicestershire
now Leicestershire
medieval Lincoln
now Leicester
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Richard Jewell
  • Jennifer Alexander

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Feature Sets

Thorpe Arnold is a farming village in the Melton district of NE Leicestershire, a mile to the NE of Melton Mowbray. The church stands on the S side of the A607, which is the main road through the village. It is built of coursed, squared ironstone and limestone with limestone dressings, and consists of a chancel, aisled nave, S porch and W tower. The chancel dates from the early 14thc, The nave has 3 bay arcades with octagonal piers and moulded capitals. A clerestorey was added in the 15thc. The tower was rebuilt in 1875-76 by R W Johnson, along with the S aisle, the porch and the chancel arch. The only Romanesque feature is the font.


In 1086 15 carucates of ploughland were held by Walter from Hugh de Grandmesnil, along with a mill and 100 acres of meadow. It was occupied by 37 numbered people (i.e. households) implying a total population of more than 150 people. Curiously in 2021 the village had 35 occupied dwellings. No church is recorded in DS, but one was in existence here by 1162, when it was mentioned in a charter to Evreux Abbey in Normandy, whose monks were granted part of the lesser tithes by Robert Bassu, Earl of Leicester. The local landowners, the De Bois family included four C12th Ernalds hence the village name. One of the Ernalds gave the church and other property in the village to the abbey of St Nacy de Pratis in Leicester, probably in the first half of the 12thc.





Zarnecki (1951, 33) dated the font to the early 12thc, stigmatising it as 'the cride work of a village sculptor'. He found a 'fierce, almost savage element in the animal sculpture' and linked its flat relief and precise outlines and fierce animals to the Scandinavian derived forms of pre-Conquest sculpture. All of this contrasts sharply with the restrained work in the foliate crosses alongside, but what they have in common is a sureness of line, and the heads in the centre of the crosses belong to the same world as St Michael. A case could be made for a later dating, based on comparison of the foliate crosses with, e.g. the Bakewell tomb slabs, dated by Cox (1875) to the years around 1200, and while this seems too late a date in the middle of the century could still be a possibility. On balance we must accept that this aesthetic had a long timespan and offer a long date range in the 1st half of the 12thc century.


J C Cox, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, vol. 2 (1877), 33-34 and pl.II. Chesterfield and London, 1877.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 190340

J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, 4 vols, London 1795 – 1810-11, 2 pt.1, 365-72 and pl.lxix

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, New Haven and London 2003, 406

G Zarnecki, English Romanesque Sculpture 1066-1140, London 1951, 33 and pl.46.