Market Harborough, Leicestershire

St. Dionysius' Church, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Market Harborough did not exist as a town until the early 13th Century. The market was established around 1204 at around which time three separate parishes were joined (Little and Great Bowden and Arden).

The first mention of a church in the town centre is 1220 when it was a chapel of ease for St. Mary in Arden. For a long time the two churches co-existed, but as the town grew so did the importance of the chapel, which became a parish church, dedicated to St. Dionysius sometime around 1350. Around this time the tower was added, but the defining image of the church, the magnificent spire was not added until much later.

St. Dionysius never had a churchyard, and so the dead of the town continued to be buried at St. Mary’s until 1625 when an earthquake caused great damage to the latter and within 25 years it had been abandoned to ruin.

In the years that followed the church in Market Harborough grew into the large edifice that stands in the town today. In 1434 a painting of the Crucifixion was painted over the chancel arch and although it was whitewashed in puritan times, it was later uncovered, but now is faded away to almost nothing.

For once the Victorians did not ‘go to town’ on St. Dionysius and although the church was extended and a new east window added in 1836 most of the Victorian work is to fixtures and fittings and so is fairly unobtrusive.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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