Saturday, July 25, 2009

All Saints, Leicester

There was a report in the Daily Telegraph last year saying that the Churches Conservation Trust blamed the urban road schemes of the 1960s and 1970s for the decline in congregations.

It quoted Crispin Truman, the Trust's chief executive, as saying:
"Dwindling congregations is often cited as the reason churches are closed, but they are actually being destroyed because planning authorities came up with thoughtless road schemes that physically cut them off from their communities," he said.
"We think about the disastrous impact 60s tower blocks have had on skylines, but we should think of these road schemes in the same way."
I am sure there is more to the decline of church going than that (and I am not sure about his grammar either), but he certainly has a point.

In Leicester the ring road cut off a number of churches from the city centre, and one of them has fallen out of use as a result.

All Saints, Leicester, is unusual in that it is an urban church looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. The Trust more usually takes care of churches in villages where there is not the wealth or interest to look after them.

The Trust's website describes All Saints thus:
Standing beside the main road from the north-west, All Saints is a large church and one of five surviving from the mediaeval town, with a tower intriguingly sited at its north-east corner. The fabric dates from the 12th to 19th centuries and includes a Norman west doorway, fine mediaeval roofs in both aisles and a chancel rebuilt in red brick in 1829. There are a number of interesting fittings and the richly carved circular font is 13th century.
I was passing All Saints today and found it open with someone on hand to talk to visitors. As he said, the fact that brick was being used in the early 19th century suggests that it was not a wealthy parish even then.

The chancel was closed off in the 1960s. It has since been partly converted into a kitchen and lavatories, but there is still a fine 18th century monument, complete with cherubs.

The nave was used for regular worship until the 1980s and remains consecrated. The occasional service still takes place, including an annual one on All Saints Day. There are some interesting furnishings that survived the four years between the end of regular services and the church being taken over by the Churches Conservation Trust.

My photograph shows the tower of All Saints rising above the neighbouring brick buildings.

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