A Short History of the Parish Church of All Saints Lubenham
by James Muggleton

The First Church in Lubenham
Some time In the 5th century a group of men and women made their way up the valley of the River Welland and carved out a clearing in the dense forest on the present site of Lubenham. They belonged to the Anglo-Saxon tribe which was invading Britain at that time from the Continent. They had not heard Of Jesus Of Nazareth. He had lived, died and been raised from the dead some four hundred years earlier in far off Palestine. Their Gods were the Gods of wind and storm and battles and they saw their lives as a constant struggle against the elements and against other tribes.

Yet very soon the Gospel of Jesus the Prince Of Peace was being proclaimed among them, and they were being taught about his great victory over the power of death. At this stage both the buildings and the organization of the Church remained very informal and simple. Priests were like missionaries wandering from village to village using the local Minster as their base. Lubenham would have been visited regularly by a priest who joined the villagers In the celebration of the Eucharist. This service was probably held out In the open air on a piece of ground specially set aside and marked by a simple stone cross. Part of one of these crosses can still be seen In the parish church of St. Andrew Foxton.

After a time a timber hut might have been erected or perhaps even a crude stone building to give the congregation some shelter. However, all traces of this have long since gone. Even so, we should remember that the Christian faith has been a deeply rooted force In the life of the Lubenham community over a thousand years.

The First Stone Church in Lubenham
As the influence of the church grew, so it's organisation became more formal and its buildings more elaborate. By the 12th century the work of the church in Lubenham no longer relied on itinerant priests, but on the efforts made by one priest living permanently in the village. Nor was the parish church merely a makeshift wooden hut, but stoutly built of stone to judge by masonary remaining at All Saints' dating from between about 1180 and 1215 when the building was enlarged.

It seems that by the year 1180 the parish church of Lubenham consisted of a chancel, where the priest celebrated the Eucharist at the high altar, and a nave, which accommodated the congregation. When the alterations were made, the nave was extended by building a north aisle, of which remain the arch of the doorway and the two pillars of the arcade. On the capital of one of these pillars are carved three grotesque faces which peer out from among oak leaves. These faces possibly represent the Jack-in-the-green, a youth who was chosen each spring and dressed up in leaves. He took the foremost part in a ceremony which had been practiced in many villages before the arrival of Christianity, and is still performed in a few English villages today.

A little later, two small chapels were erected on either side of the chancel. Of the south chancel only part of one of its arches remains embedded in the chancel wall. However, the two original arches of the north chapel still stand, although the rest of the structure has been rebuilt since. These arches are especially interesting because in them we see the transition between two very different styles of architecture, which took place in about 1200. The earlier of the two, leading into the chancel, is rounded and so is typical of the Romanesque style. But the arch leading into the aisle, because it is pointed, is of the new Gothic style.

The Second Stone Church in Lubenham
The hundred years between 1250 and 1350 formed an important phase in the development of church architecture. It was during this time that the medieval builders were becoming more and more skillful at building their churches in the Gothic style. The confidence of these men in handling this new style is reflected in the finely built steeple of the parish church of St. Dionysius in Market Harborough, which was erected soon after 1300. This phase coincided with a period of great prosperity for the people of the East Midlands. Therefore, it is not surprising that the most important building period for many churches, including All Saint's Lubenham, occurred between 1250 and 1350.

Not long after 1250 a bell tower was built at All Saints', of which remains the plinth and the tall tower arch. A little later the south aisle was erected, as witnessed by the south doorway and the three arches, the westernmost having been blocked up since. Then the north aisle was widened, although much of the rubble masonary of the old aisle wall was reused and the original doorway preserved. A larger north arcade of three arches was also erected, supported by the two pillars of the original arcade. To complete this work the old chancel arch was demolished and the present one built.

In about 1300 the builders turned their attention to the chancel and its adjoining chapels. In the wall of the north chapel two niches were made, an old corbel crudely carved in the formof an animal's head being reused to support the end of one of the arches. In the left niche there is a shallow bowl, the 'piscina', in which water used during the Eucharist was disposed.