St Mary’s Church Freeby

The Medieval St Mary’s Church Freeby LE14 2RY is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  However, as the church was built on “sinking soil” resulting in structural issues mean the church is unsafe for services inside the building.  The churchyard is still open for burials – although we cannot hold a funeral service inside the building.

A Freeby inhabitant of note was Isaac Watts (1674 -1748) the writer of many well know hymns such as “O God our help in ages past” and “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”. He lived in the village as chaplain to the Lord of the Manor and tutored his children.

Please note access to the Church is by unmade path up to the building from the lane and visitors are welcome in the graveyard.


History and Architecture

The church has a nave, chancel, porch and tower, and much of it is in the Early English style. It has a strong resemblance to St James’ Church in Burton Lazars, especially with its nave aisles and the tower at the west end which was built later in the 16th century.

It is a Medieval church in a Danelaw village Freeby village, though a very small village, it has a long and ancient history reaching back to the ninth-century Danelaw, when Danish Vikings invaded a large swathe of Eastern England.  This portion of the country ruled by the Danes became known as the Danelaw. Many of those Vikings who came and settled left their mark on the landscape in form of place names. Freeby is derived from the Fraethi’s Farm the ‘by’ element means farm or settlement in Old Norse.

The present church of St Mary sits in this rural farming landscape on a rise in the village. It is constructed from ironstone and limestone.  Much of the building dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth century and is in the Early English Style. The tower is early fourteenth century and the clerestory along with the raising of the chancel dates to the 15th century, though the aisles were rebuilt during a phase of restoration in 1893. However, the font is thirteenth century indicating the earlier foundation of the church.

The church is home to a sizable colony of Natterer’s Bats, along with Common Pipistrelles that are known to roost in the church. The bats cause significant mess especially over the summer and during the bat breeding season.  Anyone requiring more information should contact our Parish Office or the Churches Conservation Trust – historical information in this article is from the Churches Conservation Trust website and further information can be found on the link also our thanks to English Heritage and Lottery funding identified in 2010 has resulted in the building being saved from demolition.


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