You can see the tower of St Mary’s from the B676 road travelling from Melton as you approach the small hamlet of Garthorpe. It is a few miles to the east of Melton Mowbray and sits on rising ground overlooking a shallow valley in a rural landscape. The churchyard is edged by trees and the former rectory sits to the side.
The grey limestone tower was added after the nave and chancel
The plan is a west tower, nave, chancel and two aisles north and south. The church fabric dates from the 13th and 15th centuries, there was some restoration in 1895-96 when the Victorians removed the plaster to display the stonework, the original intention was never to show the ‘rubble’ masonry but as in other cases the Victorians were keen to show the masonry. The arcades are all 13th century and the fine limestone tower is a 15th century addition.
There are Piscinas at the east end of the aisles and these were probably used as subsidiary altars in medieval times. The present pews are thought to have come from another church during the Victorian restoration. Due to dwindling numbers the church in 1999 was handed to The Churches Conservation Trust who made repairs and now open the church to the public.
Access is good with a little off road parking at the church. Wheelchair users should be ok although the gate was difficult to open on my visit. The church sits in a open location with only the former rectory nearby, the village of Garthorpe such as it is has no real amenities and consists of only a few houses and a farm, I would suggest a stop at Melton where there are plenty or a trip to nearby Wymondham to view the church there and visit the Berkeley Arms, I can vouch for the excellent food.
The church is locked but there is a keyholder nearby and there is literature to read about the church inside. Please remember to leave a donation should you visit (as we all should at every church – it all helps). There is a link to the Trust’s website below and they have other churches open within the Melton area.
As a note I expect the village of Garthorpe in the past was more substantial, on Google Earth there seems to be indication of enclosures and buildings which have now disappeared.
I have a great fondness for this part of Leicestershire and there are many churches to enjoy in the pleasant countryside. The church was open on my visit – I am now being told it is usually locked with a keyholder nearby.
Definitely worth a visit.
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