Saturday, July 17, 2010

St Luke's, Gaddesby

I have visited Gaddesby twice before. The more recent occasion, though it is some years ago now, was to play chess for the Leicestershire in the village hall here. We played most of our home games in the old Leicester City Council staff social club, but for some reason we played our match against Nottinghamshire here.

The hall took some finding today. It is a modern - perhaps 1960s - building on the outskirts of the village. I had no memory of it, but for once I have a clear memory of the game I played there. I was Black in a Modern Defence and the game was a short and violent draw. Afterwards my opponent and I played over it again, both rather pleased at how clever we had been.

The first time I came to Gaddesby was at the height of my interest in local political history. I wanted to see something that was inside the church.

I shall show you that in a day or two, but the point of this posting is the church itself.

Writing of St Luke's, Simon Jenkins says:
The Decorated west end of the south aisle appears to have been designed at the end of a riotous 14th-century party. It is one of the most eccentric compositions on any English church.
What is it doing in an obscure Leicestershire village?

A history of the church, written by Ernest Smith in 1968, gives two reasons. The first is that in the 14th century Gaddesby was a significant market settlement in the most prosperous part of one of England's most populous counties.

The second, intriguingly, is that the living belonged to the Knights Templar at Rothley. (Their chapel is now party of the Rothley Court Hotel, where Mike Gatting lost the England captaincy after entertaining a barmaid in his room.)

It is by no means certain that the Knights Templar were responsible for this remarkable work at Gaddesby, and the new Pevsner for Leicestershire pours a little cold water on the idea in a footnote:
As rectors there is no reason why they should have been responsible for the work in the aisles.
But let's ignore that, because the Knights Templar are good box office.

I intend to write a novel mixing up the suggestion that the Holy Grail is buried here somewhere with speculation about the survival of members of the family of Tsar Nichloas II and the real reason the Titanic sank so quickly.

So enjoy Gaddesby while it is still obscure.

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