Our old house, Coleorton Rectory, is not a stranger to maintenance problems and one day, towards the end of last year, my husband Rob had cause to lift one of the floorboards on our landing. In the past I have found a George IV coin in floorboard dust, so whilst he was working I explored this recently exposed cavity … and what a heritage treasure I discovered!
It was circular, made of some kind of metal, about five and a half centimetres in diameter and very dirty. I showed it to Rob who thought it might be part of an old electrical system. I was about to throw it away, when I noticed some lettering on it. I took it to the kitchen and cleaned its surface as best I could… and although corroded in parts, I managed to make out some of the wording.
On one side a church with a spire appeared in relief with the words “St George’s Leicester”, and on the other side in very tiny script, we deciphered with the help of a magnifying glass and the younger eyes of our grandson, we were able to read:
The ceremonial stone of this church was laid on
Friday the 29th August 1823 in
The fourth year of the reign of
HIS MAJESTY GEORGE THE IV
By the right honourable
RICHARD WILLIAM PENN, EARL HOWE
Length of the church 92 feet Breadth 64 feet
Height of tower and spire 100 feet
The expenses of erecting the church is defrayed
by His Majesty’s Commissioners for building additional churches in
Populous parishes and the site purchased by voluntary contributions
WILLIAM PARSONS ARCHITECT LEICESTER
THE RIGHT REV GEO PELHAM D.D., LORD BISHOP OF LINCOLN
THE VENERABLE T PARKINSON D.D., ARCHDEACON OF LEICESTER
CHAIRMAN OF THE DISTRICT BOARD
JOHN STOCKDALE HARDY, HON SECRETARY
With this discovery, I looked for an Anglican St George's Church in Leicester but only found the Serbian Orthodox Church, without a spire, of that name. What a pity. However I decided to research further with a series of questions.
My first question: Could this still be the church on the disc?
I found that the current Serbian Orthodox Church was designed by a William Parsons and built between 1823 and 1826 with a spire. It was opened for worship in 1827.
However over the years this church had suffered greatly from the elements: in 1835 a violent storm smashed one of its fine stained glass windows; in 1846 the spire was badly damaged by lightning; and in 1911 the structure of the church was severely ravaged by fire and had to be rebuilt without the spire.
Then later in the early 1970s this church was closed for Anglican worship and in 1983 it was formally transferred to the Serbian Orthodox Church. So the origin of my find was found. It did refer to this church!
My next question: Of what was the disc made?
Seeking further opinions it appears to be made of pewter, coated with silver on the side containing the script.
My final question: Who owned the disc?
The disc was issued to those attending the laying of St George’s Church foundation stone in 1823. Did Reverend Francis Merewether, the Rector in Coleorton at the time [1815-1864] attend the event? It had been his zealous missionary driving force behind the building of new churches in Coalville, Swannington and Thringstone in the early to mid 1800s, and also St John's Chapel, Coleorton, in 1857 . Was he involved in this one too? Or was it one of his visitors to The Rectory? We will never know.
However, I do know that someone at the Rectory dropped the commemorative disc and it had been under the floorboards for all those years! I must get Rob lifting more floorboards!
Footnote: St George’s was the first Anglican Church to be founded in Leicester since the Reformation. It was built under the Church Building Act of 1818, which was set up to mark the Victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1825 [the end of the Napoleonic Wars] to provide churches in places where they were most needed. With the ever rising population many towns had expanded so much that new parishes had to be formed. St George's was originally part of St Margaret's parish, Leicester.
Published in Community Voice magazine March 2023.