Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beeby Tub without a pub

This is All Saints, Beeby, or 'Beeby Tub', a few miles east of Leicester. Britain Express explains its strange vestigial spire as follows:
The story goes that two stone masons who were brothers were responsible for building the steeple. They quarrelled while at work, and both fell to their deaths from atop the tower. After that the spire was never finished, but was simply capped. The oddly shaped spire became known as 'Beeby's Tub'. An old rhyme tells the story of the legend:
Beeby Tub without a pub,
A church without a spire.
Two brothers fought and broke their backs
And so ‘twas built no higher.
The leaflet I picked up in the church offers a more prosaic explanation: the money ran out. And it is easy to imagine money being short at Beeby. The rhyme itself says there is no pub, Pevsner (who calls All Saints "an unfortunate church") talks of the scattered houses and farms near the church as the "shrunken medieval village of Beeby and when the church's chancel was rebuilt in the late 19th century it was done in brick.

And Pevsner is rather harsh. The interior contains box pews and some remarkable corbels commissioned by the Revd George Calvert, who was here from 1818 to 1865. My leaflet suggests these represent Calvert's idea of what medieval corbels ought to look like. The skull and bones here is one of them.

All Saints is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, but when I arrived it was unlocked. Two miles away across the fields Barkby church, still in the hands of the Church of England, was locked, barred and bolted when I tried the door.

While I was at Beeby a man arrived on a motorbike to tend one of the graves in the churchyard. He said he had grown up here and that he and some friends had found the key to the tower and would often climb to its battlements.

As I waited for the bus back to Leicester I read an ominous notice about a consultation over the withdrawal of little-used services.

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