Saturday, June 30, 2012

St Nicholas Church, Leicester

This is the oldest building in Leicester. Parts of St Nicholas Church date from 900 and, in the words of Paul Courtney, it
has a claim, however uncertain, to be the site of the mid-Saxon cathedral on the basis of its siting in the civic hub of the Roman city. Its east-end must more or less front on the former Roman street running past the west side of the forum.
And if you look at the photograph above you can see a couple of courses of Roman tile laid in herringbone fashion in the tower.

Which is not surprising because there are are substantial Roman remains - the Jewry Wall - standing next to St Nicholas. I shall show you those remains shortly.

Courtney goes on to say:
Less convincing is the claim that the Jewry Wall was built into such a church. This would imply a church of monumental scale which was then demolished leaving nothing but Roman work. 
Perhaps the cathedral merely lay adjacent to the Jewry Wall and was of more modest proportions than Brixworth which was probably a royally founded monastery with an important relic. 
St. Nicholas is nevertheless the only Leicester church with structural evidence which made date back to the mid-Saxon period.
I have written about the later history of Leicester cathedrals and also been to Brixworth.

St Nicholas was always a small parish and thus short of money, which is one of the reasons that its Saxon origins have not been obliterated.

As the St Nicholas website explains, it narrowly escaped demolition and rebuilding in the 19th century and the guide book I bought there today says that slum clearance and road building in the 1950s removed what parishioners it had. Somehow it soldiered on, developing close relations with the city's universities.

And if you visit the church on a Saturday afternoon, a nice lady will make you a mug of tea.

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