The Parish of Newtown Linford is situated outside the North Western edge of Leicester within the National Forest boundary. It is within easy access of the M1 and M42 motorways and East Midlands airport. Birmingham International Airport is about 40 minutes away. The main entrance to Bradgate Park is at the heart of the village by the church. The park is a popular tourist attraction with one million visitors per year, and provides ample opportunity for exercise and recreation.
All Saints' is very much part of this thriving and prosperous rural community. It is the only church in the village and welcomes people from all denominations as well as seeking to attract visitors. The village primary school regularly holds its special services for Easter, Christmas and Harvest Festival in the Church. Newtown Linford Choral Society has over 80 members and enjoys a very high reputation well beyond the confines of the village. The choir is led by one of the church organists and a number of members sing at services on the third Sunday in the month and at festivals.
The history of the church has, for many years, been much influenced by its association with the Grey family and the Bradgate estate. Lady Jane Grey, whose life and brief reign have been so well recorded by Joan Stevenson, is probably the most famous member of that family.
The Greys, holding the title of Earls of Stamford, were patrons of the church and when Bradgate was the family residence, the earl’s domestic chaplain usually served as village priest. A note in the parish register for 1686 by Arthur Squibb, "chaplain to the Rt. Honbb. ye Earl of Stamford", precedes his list of those "Christned and buried at Newtown in Leicestershire".
Until the extensions of the 19th. century it was a small, simple village church described by John Nichols as "a mean rude structure..not at all ornamented", and measured just fifty three feet long by seventeen feet wide.
This is the main body of the church where the congregation sits. The word itself comes from the Latin "Navis" meaning ship. Many churches have wooden rafters which give the appearance of an upturned boat, and boats, especially fishing boats, have a symbolic significance for Christians. The 19th. century wooden pews replaced the "very antient open seats" described by John Nichols in the early 1800’s.
This is the section at the east end of the church which contains the choir stalls and altar. It was extended to its present size in 1894 and a plaque on the south wall refers to its dedication by the Bishop of Peterborough.
A door by the organ leads into the vestry which is used by the clergy as a robing room.
The North Transept/Aisle
When added in the 16th. century, the Transept would have been a small cross-piece with a fireplace in the corner to warm the family pew of the Earl of Stamford. As the church was extended in 1894, this was lengthened to form a north aisle.
Strongly built to act as place of refuge and to house the church bells, this was part of the original building. There are now six bells, two of which are over three hundred years old. The oldest, inscribed "Tomaset", was possibly moved here from Ulverscroft Priory after its dissolution in 1539.
Points of Interest
The main south window (seen in the print) is Perpendicular in style and dates from the 15th. century when large windows with a flatter arch became fashionable. From the outside it is obvious that at some stage it has been altered slightly.
The small window near the pulpit is 14th. century with stained glass panels inserted after World War I and paid for by the Everard family. These show Saint George and an angel holding a dove of peace.
Overhead, the chancel beam carries the Royal Arms of George I (1714-1727) which was later updated during the reign of George III (1760-1820) by adding the royal cypher G.R.III above the central crown. On the back of the panel is a text from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. On either side of the panel there is a round shield bearing the arms of the Earls of Stamford, supported on the right by a unicorn and on the left by a satyr (half man, half goat). The satyr was apparently used by the second earl some time before 1724, when it was mentioned in Guillin’s "Heraldry". The arms shown on the memorial plaque to Catherine, widow of the seventh earl, which may be seen on the south side of the chancel, are those which had been officially registered with the Heraldic College and have a unicorn on both sides of the shield.
The East window, above the altar, was donated in 1915 by Mrs. Katharine Grey as a memorial to Lady Jane Grey, whose reign as queen lasted for only nine days. The church is dedicated to All Saints, and the window shows Christ in Glory, with a company of saints at his feet. Of these the young girl holding a book on the left almost certainly represents Lady Jane, although technically she was never made a saint. A church and Bradgate Park can be seen in the background, with the trees and plants etched in very fine detail.
The oak panels of the chancel were another donation, made in 1915, by T.E. Everard. Carvings of woodland flowers, the Tudor rose and a crown are all symbolic of Lady Jane’s short life.
On the wall behind the font is a stone slab on which the alphabet and numerals are carved. This most probably was a sample of work made by an apprentice stone-mason. Local legend has it that this was bought by a poor, illiterate villager to mark his grave.
John Nichols’ "History and Antiquities of Leicestershire Vol.IV, Part II (issued 1811). The section on Newtown Linford gives detailed information on the church and village at the beginning of the 19th. century.