Let time show his thumb mark among the many beautifiers and improvers which the church has had'.
The Rev T. James, Rector of Theddingworth in an address describing both the Parish Church and its need for restoration to the Annual Meeting of the Leicestershire Architectural and Archaeological Society given in 1859 in Loughborough
A guide to Loughborough Parish Church, entitled Time’s Thumb Mark, focusing on its history and architecture, was published in 2003. Its editor was the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, Rector of the church at that time. The introduction to the guide can be found below.
The guide offers a tour of the building and if If you would like to purchase a copy please contact the Parish Office.
Loughborough Parish Church is one of the major churches in Leicestershire. Its handsome 14th century proportions are crowned by its elaborate and pinnacled tower and clerestory which date from the 15th century. All this reflects the wealth and patronage of the local manor lords and more especially the merchants and wool traders of those times. Many of their heraldic symbols still embellish the external insets of the great west window and of the tower door. But the history goes back further than this, and the church almost certainly sits on both Norman and Saxon predecessors.
The church's location is significant. It is situated on the highest part of the ancient town, reflected in the names Sparrow (meaning 'little') Hill and Toothill (from the Saxon 'tot' meaning lookout, or watching post). Even today the tower commands extensive views over the town of Loughborough and out towards Charnwood Forest.
The principal streets of medieval Loughborough formed a box to the south of the church and are revealed in the names Church Gate, Pinfold Gate, High Gate (now High Street) and Wood Gate. The word 'gate' derives from the Danish word 'gata' meaning 'the way' or 'route'. These, then, were the gates into what was once probably a fortified settlement or 'berh'. It was once widely believed that the town's name derived from being near or on a lake or 'lough', but this theory has now been discredited. The Oxford Dictionary of Place Names suggests that the first part of the town's name derives from a person's name, 'Lehedes'. Thus Lehede's fortified settlement or 'Lehede's burh' and thence 'Loughborough'.
Surrounding the church in those days lay the manor house (now a restaurant) and ancient guildhall (now an antiques shop) on the south side, and on the north an inn now called The Windmill, reputedly Loughborough’s oldest public house. On the west side was the Rectory, a grand home for the parish priest from the thirteenth century until 1958. Its remains serve as a small museum.
Time's Thumb Mark does not pretend to offer a history of the church, but rather an explanation of what we see today. However, visitors needs to hold in mind a sense of the church having evolved through several different building programmes, all of which have reflected not only the technology and aesthetics of their day, but also theological trends
- The current church was first built in the fourteenth century, round about 1330 which was during the decorated gothic period.
- The height of the tower was increased and a clerestory was added in the perpendicular period, about 1450. The glorious nave roof, with 65 gilded bosses and 18 carved angles, was inserted at this time.
- Before the Reformation, the church was endowed with chantry priests and there is plenty of evidence of their chapels to be found in the church today.
- Between the Reformation and 1859 the church was full of box pews and galleries and there was a triple-decker pulpit at the crossing. There is no visible evidence of this period in the church today other than some memorials.
- Between 1859 and 1862 there was a massive restoration programme for which Sir George Gilbert Scott was the principal architect. This filled the nave, aisles and transepts with pews, and enlarged the east window and much of the cost was met through private donations. In the tour we refer to this as the 1862 Restoration. (In point of fact some of the work on the tower was concluded in 1863 but the church was reopened in 1862.)
- Between 1862 and 1962 there were several more or less discrete projects which have altered the building in various ways. The first of these added the extension on the north side which made a vestry and organ chamber. This was carried out in 1873-4. The other projects took place during the incumbency of George Briggs (Rector, 1918-1934). These included the raising of the height of the chancel floor (but not that of the sanctuary) and the creation of the Burton Chapel and the dedication of the base of the tower to the memory of the Taylor bellfounders
- .Between 1962 and 1965 there was an extensive reordering that introduced a nave altar on a platform at the crossing and choir stalls and organ at the west end of the church. In the tour this is referred to as the 1965 Reordering. The architect who oversaw this was George Pace and his assistant and successor Ronald Simms. (Again, some of the work took place after 1965 but there was a grand dedication of the new organ and altar etc on November 3rd 1965, the date being as close to All Saints Day as could be arranged. Or, as the order of service put it: 'within the octave of All Saints'.)
- Between 1992 and 2001 there was a series of further works. These included restoration of the tower, pinnacles and windows but also involved the re-ordering of the transepts and the introduction of toilet facilities in the Victorian extension. This work was overseen by more than one architect and is referred to as the Millennium Project. The principal architect for the reordering was John Eaton.
- Memorials (Note: web link to War Memorials page) to those members of the armed forces who died in the two World Wars were repositioned in 2014 and are now to be found in the north aisle of the nave.