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St Mary Magdalene, Waltham on the Wolds, Leicestershire

(52°48′59″N, 0°48′41″W)
Waltham on the Wolds
SK 802 250
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Leicestershire
now Leicestershire
  • Richard Jewell
  • Ron Baxter
  • Jennifer Alexander
  • Ron Baxter
04 Aug 1990 (RJ), 3 April 2023 (RB)

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Waltham on the Wolds is a small village in the Melton district of NE Leicestershire, 5 miles NE of Melton Mowbray. The church stands on the High Street in the village centre and is built of coursed and squared limestone. It consists of a chancel with a N vestry, central tower, transepts, aisled nave and a S porch. The doorways indicate a 12thc nave to which aisles were added c.1300. The chancel was remodelled at this time too, and so were the transepts. The nave clerestorey and the tower belong to the 15thc. The church was restored by Rev. G. E. Gillett in the 1830s, then in 1850 a complete restoration was undertaked by G. G. Scott. The richly carved font is 13thc in form but largely Romanesque in its details, and other features described here are the much restored N, S, and reset vestry doorways. In 2016 a new guidebook was produced (Alexander (2016) and before it was complete, new works were begun that necessitated the inclusion of an addendum explaining what had been done. The work took place between April and September of that year and included the installation of a toilet at the W end of the N nave aisle, along with a servery for catering. The font was moved from its traditional position inside the W doorway to the E end of the N aisle, and the step for the celebrant to stand on while baptising was discarded. In the course of these works it was found that the nave floor was rotten and the PCC decided to replace it with polished Ancaster slabs. It was decided at the same time to remove all the pews permanently to allow the nave to be used for more social purposes; a decision that some of the parishoners found inappropriate.


Waltham on the Wolds was held by Walter from Hugh de Grandmesnil in 1086, and was assessed at 16½ carucates. A further 2½ carucates were held by Guy de Craon. The church, not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, probably formed part of the Earl of Leicester, Robert de Bossu's gift to the priory of Nuneaton on its foundation in c.1144; or of his daughter's subsequent endowment. Certainly in 1220 the nuns of Eaton were patronesses of the church.


Exterior Features





The font has been dated to the 13thc by Bond (1908), 139, and in the List Description, while Pevsner places it in the Norman period. We prefer an early 13thc date, based on the octagonal form; the forms of the fictive capitals, the tendency towards stiff-leaf of some of the foliage, and the dogtooth on the stem. A similar, but completely retooled font is to be seen at Stonesby, slightly more than a mile to the E. Both have the enigmatic Latin Cross in a mandorla symbol.

The S doorway with its heavy rolls, trefoil scallop capital and chip-carved imposts was originally produced in the second quarter of the 12thc., but has been heavily remodelled. Alexander (2016) suggests that the S chancel doorway may be Anglo-Saxcon based on its tall and narrow proportions, but the impost profile and chamfered jambs and arch suggest a date well into the second half of the 12thc.


A. Alexander, A guide to the Church of St Mary Magdalene Waltham on the Wolds, November 2016

F Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, Oxford 1908, 139.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 190335

J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, 4 vols, London 1795 – 1810-11, II, 379, pl.lxx

  1. N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, New Haven and London 2003, 417-8