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Designed by John Wing (younger) 1757- completed 1775
What British History has to say about the church.
The old church, which stood on or near the site of the later building, seems to have been badly maintained. In 1633 it was reported that the chancel was full of rubbish and stones, that part of the walls needed pointing, that the paving was defective, and that the furnishings were in an unsatisfactory state. By January 1634 the chancel had been repaired by William Whalley, and there were fewer complaints in 1639, though the walls needed whitening and the paving was in parts defective.
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST was built between 1757, when a faculty for rebuilding it was obtained by the patron William Fortrey, and 1775. The architect was the younger Wing (d. 1794), of Leicester, whose father had been engaged by Fortrey in 1741 for the partial rebuilding of the church in the adjoining parish of Galby.
The church, which is built of limestone ashlar brought from Rutland, consists of an aisleless nave and chancel forming a simple rectangular plan with a tower at its west end. There is only one entrance- that in the west side of the tower approached by a flight of steps flanked by stone balustrades. The building has long been acknowledged as a particularly fine example of 18th-century Gothic architecture, both on account of its archaeologically correct details, especially those of the tower, and the preservation of its original fittings. A tall crocketted spire which originally surmounted the tower was struck by lightning in 1843 and 1850. After the last occurrence, when considerable damage was caused to the body of the church by its fall, the spire was completely dismantled. The north and south walls of the church each have seven tall two-light windows of late-14th-century character, separated by buttresses which are continued upwards to form crocketted pinnacles. The east end has three windows containing late Geometrical tracery, the central window having five lights with a large circle at its apex. All the windows have ogival hoodmoulds with finials. The low-pitched roof is concealed by a continuous parapet pierced by open quatrefoils.
The tower is divided into four stages by three friezes, each of a different design. The belfry stage has tall coupled two-light openings with reticulated tracery, and the top of the tower is completed by a parapet with tall crocketted angle pinnacles; below this the angle buttresses are stopped against a corbel table surmounted by a prominent cornice.
The interior of the church is a remarkably well preserved example of the period and has been called 'a perfect expression of 18th-century Anglicanism'. It is entered from a vestibule in the base of the tower and consists of a single lofty room with a gallery across its west end. Immediately inside the door on the north side stands the font, enclosed by original christening pews. The large three-decker pulpit, the most striking feature of the interior, is centrally placed at the east end of the nave. Demarcation between nave and chancel is provided by low gates flanking the pulpit, while the chancel seats are set against the side walls, facing inwards. The shallow sanctuary, containing a small central altar, is raised on a single step and is divided from the rest of the chancel by communion rails which stretch across is church from north to south. The whole interior is flooded with light from the many large windows which retain their clear glass set in leadwork of unusual design. The finely-executed fittings are of Norwegian oak and are mostly purely classical in detail. The gallery is supported on Roman Doric columns and these are repeated on the highest stage of the pulpit. The reredos, forming the central feature of continuous wainscotting round three sides of the chancel, is surmounted by a classical pediment. The Gothic character of the exterior, however, is reflected in the design of the communion rails and the small gates beside the pulpit. The elaborate Gothic font dates from after 1850 when the earlier one was crushed by the fall of the spire. The original organ, also destroyed, was probably mounted in the west gallery; the low-pitched tie-beam roof, extensively damaged, has evidently been carefully restored. All the original box pews survive except on the south side of the nave where they have been removed to accommodate the present organ. In 1776 the reading pew and the clerk's desk, forming the two lower stages of the pulpit, were ordered to be removed but this was apparently ignored.
There are no mural tablets in the church but below the gallery hangs a photograph of an 18thcentury painting of the Fortrey family. The largest and most impressive monument in the churchyard is a tall obelisk built against the east wall of the church by William Fortrey in memory of his parents, William (d. 1722) and Anne (d. 1733). This is enclosed by contemporary wrought-iron railings. On the north side of the church a smaller monument with a pedimented panel between two urns commemorates John Smalley (d. 1763) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1772), daughter of Sir Richard Halford of Wistow. Slabs to various members of the Whalley family, including that of Stanhope Whalley (d. 1698), have been reset against the same side of the church.
There are eight bells. The bells, together with two others subsequently removed to reduce the strain on the steeple, were hung by William Fortrey. He was an ardent campanologist and was patron and director of Thomas Eayre. The clock is dated 1765 and inscribed to Joseph Eayre.
The parish registers date from 1749. The communion plate was given by Ralph Whalley; it consists of a silver chalice with a cover paten, dated 1728, another silver paten of the same date, and a silver dish, dated 1729.
The site of the church is well raised above that of the adjacent manor-house to the east and of the ground to the south and west. The churchyard wall on the south-west side was built by Fortrey who is said to have reset and incorporated into it the gateway from the old hall-house of Norton; the wall has a built-in water trough.
William Fortrey (2nd on the right).
William was the person responsible for building the church in its present form
The church clock has an original carillon which was restored in the 1970s.
It chimes at the top and bottom of the hour, although some of the tunes have been lost to history