About Great Dalby Church
Great Dalby St Swithun's is part of the Burrough Hill Group of Parishes, and is within the Framland Deanery. We are currently in Interregnum. Other parishes in our group are Little Dalby, Burrough on the Hill, Somerby and Pickwell. We are also part of a wider Cluster of parishes.
Great Dalby (St. Swithun's Church) stands on high ground behind the village pub. There has been a building on the site since 1232 (thanks Ken!) but many changes have beemade in it's 900 year history.
There was a settlement here before the Norman Conquest and the name 'Dalby' meaning 'Settlement in the Dale' suggests it was Danish. Not long after the Conquest, the manor was held by Hugh de Anaf, who also held Chaucombe in Northamptonshire. He founded a priory at Chaucombe, to which he gave the church. For several centuries the village was known as Dalby Chalcombe or Chaucombe and the Priory appointed the Vicars.
Over the centuries, the manor of Great Dalby was held either through inheritance or marriage, by Seagraves, Mowbrays (Earls and Dukes of Norfolk), Berkelys and Burdetts
The main documented change, was that the Spire was struck by lightning in 1658 and collapsed into the nave of the church. The damage was unrepaired for several years, whilst money was collected to build a new spire and roof. The money was collected, but the collectors ran off with the money! As a result, the tower was capped to form the unusual structure we see today. The North Aisle was completely destroyed, along with a beautifully carved oak ceiling. Remnants of carved stone can be found in village houses, wall, and gardens - not to mention in the rebuilding of the church.
In a written account of the spire's demise in the parish registers, it was stated that ' The Steeple, being an high spire, fell upon the body of the Church on the 2nd Day of January 1658, and brought to the ground the north aile, and the middle aile, leaving only standing part of the chancel and the south aile. It fell on the very morning of our Lord's Day about one o'clock. It gave us warning all the night before, by stones falling down on the bells. The loss was £1660'.
Further research has revealed that money was collected 'far afield'. In Wirksworth, Derbyshire, the parish records state 'Gathered for Dalby Chalcombe in Leicestershire 14/4d. In the Parish Registers of Thornton, Yorkshire, 'Ano Salutis, 1662, Collected for rebuilding ye steeple at Dalby Chalcombe in Leicestershire, 2 shill. & three pence'. From Pickering in Yorkshire, '15th December 1661 - 15 shillings for the Parish Church of Dalby-Chalcombe.