Gaddesby’s in High Leicestershire, where they say that the next high ground to the east is Russia, and it certainly can feel it at times. Look at the church from the east, and it looks like the archetypical view of a 14th century English parish church, the view topped by a tower with a spire (1). Approach from the West, though, and you are faced by a stupendous and exotic traceried and pinnacled façade to the south aisle (2).

Over its W doorway, there is a window in the form of a spherical triangle, enclosing three cusped spherical triangles (Pevsner’s description cannot be improved on). This is topped by a series of crocketed and pinnacled gables, complete with image niches. If only we could see what it looked like complete with statues (and colour) when it was new around 1340. The embellishment goes on for 2½ bays on the S side, as far as the porch. Maybe there’s a germ of truth in the old theory about the Black Death killing off the craftsmen and putting paid to the Decorated style.

Gaddesby escaped expensive Victorian restoration, and its interior has an untouched feel, not least the nave-ful of original mediaeval benches. Up in the chancel is the other great surprise of Gaddesby, a white marble monument (3) to Colonel Edward Hawkins Cheney of the Scots Guards. He had 4 horses shot from him at Waterloo and the monument shows him dismounting from one of them to re-enter battle, with the horse collapsing under him. This monument, said to be the only one of its kind, was originally placed in Gaddesby Hall and moved to the church a hundred years ago, when the Cheneys left the Hall.

Gaddesby church encapsulates two facets of the English parish church; its ability to astound, and its role as a social document.

Map reference SK 689130

Simon Cotton