Bitteswell Church St Mary

Bitteswell Church

South view of Bitteswell Church

Bitteswell is a small village and civil parish in the Harborough district of Leicestershire and is situated just to the north of Lutterworth, and in the 2001 census had a population of 454. It was also the site of RAF Bitteswell, an airfield used in the Second World War. Hawker Siddeley Aviation had a factory close by, where Vulcan bombers were built and maintained.

Bitteswell Chancel

The chancel rebuilt in 1881-82 during the major restoration of the church

It was recorded in the Domesday Book as Betmeswelle and there was a mention of a priest at that time although he probably would have administered to his ‘flock’ from a wooden church and not the stone structure we have in the village today. There are some earlier fragments of the Norman church but the oldest fabric in the tower dates to the 14th century. The church consists of west tower with spire, a nave, north aisle (added 1881/82), chancel and a very nicely designed additional kitchen and toilet/cloakroom area off the north aisle with disabled access.



Bitteswell Extension

The neat modern extension

The church was heavily restored in 1881/82 but there do survive earlier remains throughout the church. In the vestry there is a fragment of Norman chevron work set in the plaster above the north door and a Norman arch set alongside one of a later date which leads into the belfry. The spire was rebuilt in 1894/95 but the architect was not pleased with the end result and deducted some payment. The spire was said to be a ‘crippled spire with a twist in it’. The ‘twist’ was removed and the finished spire made good.

Bitteswell Nave

View across the nave to the west tower and south porch entrance

During the restoration the old box pews were taken out as well as a gallery at the west end of the church. The clock chamber was made into a belfry, and a vestry, organ chamber, porch, chancel and north aisle were added. The font is thought to date to around 1857.
The church at Bitteswell is small and pretty with its low battlemented nave and chancel and its well proportioned tower it looks the part of a small village church set in a nice area of the village. I used to have to run around Bitteswell and the old aerodrome when I was a student at Lutterworth Grammar School, many years ago now and I do remember the run up the hill through Bitteswell.


Dated 1832 a sketch of Bitteswell. Thanks to contact for permission to use.

There is a very small parking area outside of the church by the Lynchgate and there is disabled access but unfortunately the church is usually locked outside of normal service times. One other comment I would like to make, if a church is looking for an example of a well designed modern extension to their church for a kitchen, toilets or other facilities then Bitteswell has the best executed and designed I have seen so far.

The church at Bitteswell is usually LOCKED. More information here.

View Leicestershire & Rutland Churches 01 in a larger map

Address details – St Mary,  Lutterworth Road, Bitteswell, Leics. LE17 4RZ. 

Author: Chris Jones

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  1. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for your great work, so useful to us as we try to document the fonts of these two counties.
    With regards the font here… Upcott (1818) had reported a 14thC font here at the time (assume he either visited the church some time before, or had the font reported by someone else). Interestingly, though, The Gentleman’s Magazine (vol. 92, pt. 2, Dec. 1822: 504) includes a letter to the editor dated October 29, 1822 by a ‘Antiquarius Carbonarius’, which contains a long praise for the recently completed “complete renovation” at Bitteswell church, and mentions the font itself: “The font is remarkable neat; the body contains six compartments, each furnished with pointed quatrefoils, so carved as to resemble spreading foliage.” That description of the font matches the one present at the church now, so it must have been in place at least by October 1822. My doubt no would be whether the font reported in Upcott was really 14thC, as he claims. I have no access to his illustrations, so, I cannot corroborate that it was different from the present. In any case, there must have been a font in this church by 1086, when a priest was mentioned in the Domesday entry.

    Again, Chris, much obliged for the great work and the wonderful photographs!



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  2. Thank you for such great info. I’m planning to visit as it was the Church where my mother grew up and worshipped. I’m particularly interested in seeing the painting which was given by her family.
    Kind regatds

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  3. Do you have a list of names of Vicars for St. Mary’s Church, Bitterswell, Lutterworth. I have a very old photograph of a vicar and his wife taken by Hills & Saunders, Photographers of Rugby. Name not clear. Could begin with an M or a B. No date but I assume somewhere in the late 1700/early 1800’s.

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  4. Hello

    Does anyone know anything about a Kylpecke/Kilpack family who lived in Bitteswell from 1430 if not before.??? A very long time ago!

    It’s all my family ancestry and so interesting. Some of them later lived in Catthorpe too and one lady named Elizabeth Garritt married Edward Kilpacke in 1565. There were several John Kilpeckes and a Thomas

    Anything of interest would be appreciated.

    Thank you

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