Description / Historical Background
The Church of St Mary Magdalen was constructed in the thirteenth century and consisted of a small nave and chancel. The west tower was built later in the thirteenth century and was later extended upwards in the fourteenth century. The east wall of the upper stage of the tower includes a statue of Mary Magdalene within a niche which is thought to date from the fourteenth century. The spire was added in the early fifteenth century. In the mid-fourteenth century the church was enlarged with the addition of a new four-bay nave and chancel to the north side of the church, after which the older part of the church served as the south aisle. This nave and chancel survive as the north aisle, with a roof dating to either the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, although the roof was heavily restored during the 1894 works to the church.
The church was restored in at least two phases of work during the nineteenth century. Henry Woodyer made alterations around 1860 but it is uncertain what these were. The second phase of restoration in 1894 was carried out by Ewan Christian, who was Architect to the Ecclesiastical Commission. At St Mary’s he rebuilt the south aisle, which had been the oldest part of the church. He copied the original’s Early English style and used the old stones for facing the exterior walls. Other Victorian alterations include the addition of the north porch in 1876, and the renewal of the stonework of the windows of the north wall of the north aisle. The majority of the stained glass in these windows dates from this period.
By the early twentieth century the accommodation had become inadequate for the increased population of the parish. Plans for an enlargement were abandoned following the outbreak of war, and it was not until 1960 that the foundation stone was laid in the new west porch. The architect was the Leicester-based George A. Cole, a worshipper at St Mary’s, who endeavoured to ensure that the extension harmonised with the older parts of the church.
The new addition consisted of a much larger nave and chancel which was constructed between the old nave (now the north aisle) and the south aisle. The latter had to be taken down and rebuilt on the south side of the new nave; and the medieval font, sedilia and pulpit were transferred to new positions. The extension was completed in 1962 and was dedicated by the Bishop of Leicester in the same year. The organ pipes were installed either side of the west window in 1968.
In 1978 four of the five bells in the tower were removed and replaced with six bells from the disused Church of St Michael, Stamford. Two new bells were also installed, whilst the oldest bell, cast in 1627 by Leicester bell-founder, Hugh Watts, was retained. In 2007 a number of pews were removed from the west end of the nave in order to create a narthex which provides catering and other facilities.