ST. MARY IN ARDEN CHURCH
Arden, as a separate village, no longer exists in any way shape or form. It has long since been absorbed by Market Harborough which began life around 1204. The town once had three parishes, Arden, and Great and Little Bowden.
The first mention of the church in Arden, St. Mary’s, is from 1220 but it is only mentioned in relation to it providing a chaplain to St. Dionysius’ Church in Market Harborough which was then a chapel of ease to St. Mary’s. It seems clear that St. Mary’s had existed for some time by this point.
At some point the church at Arden was superceded or at the very least joined to the one in the town centre. St. Dionysius never had a churchyard and so town burials continued at Arden. In 1613 there is a report of scandalous conduct by the curates of both churches and the two were officially made one. What that scandal was is, sadly, lost to time.
By the time the two churches were united, St.
become a poor relation of the town church and was in need of repair. In
earthquake damaged the church further. The spire collapsed around 1650
lead was removed from the roof around 1662.
In 1692 it was decided to rebuild, but as a smaller chapel occupying only the south aisle of the older church. The rest of the church was removed at the time. However, the chapel only lasted another 100 years before being in a poor state once more, with no glass in the windows and no paving on the floor. Repairs were undertaken in 1925 but during World War II all the metal fittings were removed and in 1950 the lead from the roof was removed once more and sold. By 1958 the building was a roofless shell.
It remains such today, now locked tight to save it from vandals, a strange little site sitting alone amongst modern buildings on the outskirts of Market Harborough – the town which grew nearby and eventually subsumed the village of Arden completely.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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