St Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch
St Helen’s Church is the Anglican parish church of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. There was a church in the town in the 11th century, but the core of the present building mainly dates from work started in 1474. The church was rebuilt by William Hastings at the same time that he converted his neighbouring manor house into a castle.
About St Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch in brief
St Helen’s Church is the Anglican parish church of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. There was a church in the town in the 11th century, but the core of the present building mainly dates from work started in 1474. The church was rebuilt by William Hastings at the same time that he converted his neighbouring manor house into a castle. The sandstone church has a tower at the west end, and its nave is wider than it is long due to the extra Victorian aisles. It is a nationally important building, with a Grade I listing for its exceptional architectural interest. It has a long association with the Hastings family, its patrons for four centuries, and became a centre for Puritanism under Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. The finger pillory is a rare item, once seen as a humane form of punishment. The cost of these works has been estimated between £16,000 and more than £18,000 as between £13,000 and £18,.000 in 1974, the church’s quenary is the quincentenary of the St Helen’s Church’s Trust. The fund has been set up for the restoration of the Hastings Chapel, which was converted to a vestry in 1974. The Hastings Chapel has been converted into a chapel of ease, and a new vestry has been added to the vestry. The new chapel has been named after the Earl of Hastings, who was a patron of the Augustinian community of Lilleshall Abbey, which retained possession until 1538.
The tower, Hastings Chapel and some buttresses and windows still remain from the 15th century. A 2013 excavation found evidence of a two-storey vicarage dating from this period, but it fell into disrepair following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the site was cleared in the English Civil War of 1642–49. A gallery was built at the western end of the nave, and the carved reredos and a large wooden Royal coat of arms, now at theWest end ofthe nave were acquired at the. same time. The increasing congregation led to the replacement of the galleries down both sides of the building in 1829, a more extensive rebuilding was undertaken in 1878–80, by James Piers Aubyn Aubyn. Rich crimson hangings in the church had earlier attracted the attention of a thief, but construction of the pews attracted the construction of pearly gates. The galleries and two outerisles were added during this period and a rededication in 1974 found during rewiring, improvements to the heating system and a quincential system to combat deathwatch beetles was found during 1963 and 1968 to combat beetle infestations. The church may have been fortified as part of the defences of the castle, a Royalist stronghold. It has an entry in the Domesday Book that suggests that it had about 100 inhabitants in 1086, and subsequently grew in importance under its La Zouch and Hastings lords.