Church History

All Saints Church History

The Church of All Saints

Newtown Linford 

The history of the church has, for many years, been much influenced by its association with the Grey family and the Bradgate estate. Lady Jane Grey, whose life and brief reign have been so well recorded by Joan Stevenson, is probably the most famous member of that family.

The Greys, holding the title of Earls of Stamford, were patrons of the church and when Bradgate was the family residence, the earl’s domestic chaplain usually served as village priest. A note in the parish register for 1686 by Arthur Squibb, "chaplain to the Rt. Honbb. ye Earl of Stamford", precedes his list of those "Christned and buried at Newtown in Leicestershire".

Until the extensions of the 19th. century it was a small, simple village church described by John Nichols as "a mean rude structure..not at all ornamented", and measured just fifty three feet long by seventeen feet wide.


General Information 

The Nave 

This is the main body of the church where the congregation sits. The word itself comes from the Latin "Navis" meaning ship. Many churches have wooden rafters which give the appearance of an upturned boat, and boats, especially fishing boats, have a symbolic significance for Christians. The 19th. century wooden pews replaced the "very antient open seats" described by John Nichols in the early 1800’s.

 The Chancel 

This is the section at the east end of the church which contains the choir stalls and altar. It was extended to its present size in 1894 and a plaque on the south wall refers to its dedication by the Bishop of Peterborough. 

The Vestry 

A door by the organ leads into the vestry which is used by the clergy as a robing room. 

The North Transept/Aisle 

When added in the 16th. century, the Transept would have been a small cross-piece with a fireplace in the corner to warm the family pew of the Earl of Stamford. As the church was extended in 1894, this was lengthened to form a north aisle. 

The Tower 

Strongly built to act as place of refuge and to house the church bells, this was part of the original building. There are now six bells, two of which are over three hundred years old. The oldest, inscribed "Tomaset", was possibly moved here from Ulverscroft Priory after its dissolution in 1539.  

Points of Interest 

Starting at the main door and moving eastwards towards the altar:-

1. A plaque on the south wall is dedicated to Thomas Cheetham, gentleman, and shows three wild boar. His wife, Mary, and her sister Lucy, are also buried nearby. They were the daughters of William Whatton and so members of an important local family in the 17th. and 18th. centuries.

L Main South Window2. The main south window (seen in the print) is Perpendicular in style and dates from the 15th. century when large windows with a flatter arch became fashionable. From the outside it is obvious that at some stage it has been altered slightly.

3. The small window near the pulpit is 14th. century with stained glass panels inserted after World War I and paid for by the Everard family. These show Saint George and an angel holding a dove of peace.

4. The pulpit, a small raised platform from which the sermon is preached, was given in 1893 and is made from carved Caen stone. It replaced an older pulpit which had originally stood on the opposite side of the chancel, near the door which now leads into the vestry.The colour of the cloth hanging from the book-rest shows the season of the Church year:-

White signifies joy and is used during special festivals such as Easter and Christmas.

Red represents fire and is used at Pentecost (Whitsun) to remind us that the Holy Spirit came down to disciples "like tongues of fire". It also represents the blood of those who died for their faith and is used on Saints’ days.

Purple signifies sorrow and is used during Advent (before Christmas)and Lent (before Easter).

Green is the colour of nature and is used for the remainder of the year.

5 Overhead, the chancel beam carries the Royal Arms of George I (1714-1727) which was later updated during the reign of George III (1760-1820) by adding the royal cypher G.R.III above the central crown. On the back of the panel is a text from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.

On either side of the panel there is a round shield bearing the arms of the Earls of Stamford, supported on the right by a unicorn and on the left by a satyr (half man, half goat). The satyr was apparently used by the second earl some time before 1724, when it was mentioned in Guillin’s "Heraldry". The arms shown on the memorial plaque to Catherine, widow of the seventh earl, which may be seen on the south side of the chancel, are those which had been officially registered with the Heraldic College and have a unicorn on both sides of the shield.

The additional title of Warrington dates from the early 18th. century. An entry in the parish register is as follows:-

"George Harry, Baptized Oct. 21st. 1737, Son of Harry Grey, commonly called Lord Grey (Son & Heir Apparent of Harry, Earl of Stamford) & Mary, his Wife, only Daughter of George, Earl of Warrington."

L Lady Jane window6. The East window, above the altar, was donated in 1915 by Mrs. Katharine Grey as a memorial to Lady Jane Grey, whose reign as queen lasted for only nine days. The church is dedicated to All Saints, and the window shows Christ in Glory, with a company of saints at His feet. Of these the young girl holding a book on the left almost certainly represents Lady Jane, although technically she was never made a saint.

A church and Bradgate Park can be seen in the background, with the trees and plants etched in very fine detail.

7. The oak panels of the chancel were another donation, made in 1915, by T.E. Everard. Carvings of woodland flowers, the Tudor rose and a crown are all symbolic of Lady Jane’s short life. An extract from Psalm 51:

"Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness" and her final prayer "Lord into Thy hands I commend my spirit" may also be seen. 

L 1685 chalice8. The Altar, where the Bread and Wine are blessed for the service of Holy Communion, dates from the same year. On it are carved the implements used in the trial, torture and death of Jesus:the scourge, spear, nails, hammer and sponge of hyssop. The dice on the right remind us that the Roman soldiers gambled for His cloak. At the centre is the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, surrounded by a crown of thorns.

silver chalice, given by two widows of Newtown Linford in 1685, is used for special services but housed elsewhere for safe-keeping.

9. The choir stalls were not renewed when the chancel was extended; instead they were moved from a gallery at the back which was taken down during the alterations of 1894.

10. A bronze plaque beside the vestry door commemorates the life and service to the church and community of Jack Ayling who died in 1979.

11. Inside the nave is the memorial to those young men of the village who were killed in the two World Wars.

12. On the west screen, by the tower door, is a list of the ministers of Newtown Linford, going back as far as 1537. It contains a piece of carved oak dated A.D. 1633 and an oak beam removed from the 17th. century wooden gallery. A second window, near the font, is set high in the wall to give light to the gallery.

13. On the wall is a stone slab on which the alphabet and numerals are carved. This most probably was a sample of work made by an apprentice stone-mason. Local legend has it that this was bought by a poor, illiterate villager to mark his grave. 

14. Also at the rear of the church is a cabinet dedicated to the memory of Harry Fletcher, a much-loved vicar of Newtown Linford who died in 1987. 

15. The tower window is 14th. century with stained glass copied from a church in Molde, Norway which was destroyed by German bombing in 1940. It was given by Mrs. Grey to mark the end of World War I. 

16. A stone font, which contains the water used in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, stands by the main entrance to symbolise our acceptance into the family of the church. The oak cover, given in 1896, is carved with Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, "Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not". 

Outside the Church


1. The porch was added in 1860 and contains a plaque describing how the villagers paid for the church clock to be installed in 1953 using money raised from their highly successful pageant "Lady Jane Grey Returns" ,written by Jack Ayling. 

2. A sundial above the porch dates from 1706, but there are worn remains of earlier dials on the south-west corner of the tower. 

3. At the side of the main south window is a particularly ugly stone gargoyle whose age and origins are unknown. 

4. The oldest headstone (1683) in the churchyard stands to the west of the tower and marks the grave of "John Boni and his 5 wifs". His son, Thomas, and daughter-in law are also buried in the same plot, which forms a sizable mound!

Many of the other older headstones, predominantly 18th. century, have been placed along by the church wall. A detailed survey of the head-stones, compiled by Mr. Alfred Thompson, is also available. 

5. The lych-gate, traditionally a resting place for a coffin and pall-bearers, was built in 1921. The roof offers a good example of the method of laying Swithland slates, which decrease in size as they reach the ridge. 

Parish Records 

A typescript of the records, going back as far as 1654, was made by A. Bernard Clarke in 1938. This has now been put on disc by Joan Stevenson of Beech Farm, Newtown Linford (1996) and print-outs of the whole, or part, could be arranged, given notice.

These records are an invaluable source for those wishing to research their family history, but they also offer fascinating information on social conditions over a period of 150 years, for example the high infant mortality rate, the probable incidence of epidemics of childhood diseases and the occupation of those villagers whose marriages were recorded by Robert Martin, curate here from 1790 to 1797. 

Further Information 

John Nichols’ "History and Antiquities of Leicestershire Vol.IV, Part II (issued 1811). The section on Newtown Linford gives detailed information on the church and village at the beginning of the 19th. century.

taken from the book revised by Hilda Sheridan in 1996 

 Illustration and Design by Eric and Andrew Langton