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St Mary's before restoration

Wymeswold owes its present church to the enthusiasm of the Rev H. Alford and the inspiration of A.W.N. Pugin. Rev Alford took up his post in the village in 1835, and was shocked by what he found. According to J.B. Firth in Highways and Byways in Leicestershire (1926):

    The chancel was devoted to the girls' Sunday School, the space within the rails to parish meetings. In that area, connected in every Christian's mind with the most holy rite of his religion, sounded the obscene brawls and blasphemous oaths of the village farmers: and at those rails was the weekly mockery called ?paying the poor? enacted . . . The church was lighted by tallow dips, stuck on sticks which were inserted in holes bored in the toprails of the pews. These were usually in all progressive stages of filth, and leaning all ways. The general effect of the inside of the church was completed by two huge interior porches of unpainted deal, after the manner of bathing machines, intended . . . to contribute to the warmth of the church, and fitted with two spring doors which at every entrance alarmed the congregation by their loud clap and rebound.

Alford put all his energies into raising money for the complete restoration of the church. Work began in 1844 and was completed in 1853.

Originally published in Wolds Reflections 1997.

Copyright the author.

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