The Leicestershire and Rutland Pevsner puts it well:
The hill is only 180ft higher than the surrounding country, but the church upon it sturdily dominates the scene, most dramatically perhaps from the immediate E[ast] where the building rises precariously near a huge lime quarry.Indeed, the church of St Mary and St Hardulph now stands above a cliff. I stood in the churchyard and see the vast cooling towers next to East Midlands Parkway railway station and watch the planes taking off from East Midlands Airport.
What feels like the original path up from the village has escaped the quarrying. The guidebook quotes John Throsby from 1790:
Breedon hill stands on the very edge of Derbyshire; on it formerly stood the village which is now seated at its base. It would make a fat alderman puff and blow to gain the top for a turtle dinner.The church stands within the remnants of an Iron Age hillfort on a site has been the site of a hermitage, a monastery and a priory, though by the time of Dissolution the priory was in a poor state.
Today’s church contains parts of the old priory, with the result that it is full of blind windows and doorways, and the outside has the broken ends of buttresses and old rooflines visible. It even has a large porch that you might find in a friendly country hotel.
St Mary and St Hardulph’s is famous for its Renaissance monuments and Anglo-Saxon carvings. It is always open – staffed by local volunteers – and a kind lady allowed me upstairs in the tower to see the best of the carvings.
More about these and the monuments another day.