Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mountsorrel, Leicestershire

A place in the sun

Long ago when I was a teenager, I occasionally accompanied a relative of mine on journeys to do with his business, taking the opportunity to discover bits of the country I’d not normally have known about in the process. One regular trip was to Loughborough, and the last leg was up the A6 from Leicester. We didn’t have much time for places like Mountsorrel, a small town on the A6 that I remember as being full of grime, noise, and fumes from the cars and lorries on the main road, which carved its way straight through the centre. ‘A decayed market town,’ Pevsner called it, and no wonder. And as for the church. Well, who would bother to pay attention to a building so pulled about, patched up with brick, apparently unloved, its walls of local granite graying over with dust? Added to which, it always seemed to be raining.

When I revisited Mountsorrel a couple of weeks ago I was amazed how different my impressions were. The main road now skirts the town, the place has been cleaned up, and, wonder of wonders, the sun was shining. The granite buildings were glowing with a pinkish hue and even the brick patching on St Peter’s church had a warmth to it that made me want to look, not turn away. The building is still a strange mixture – the gable, aspiring to be a classical pediment but not quite making it, sits oddly with the Gothic windows (in the Decorated style of the 14th century) – a state of affairs that is the result of successive remodellings (in 1794 and the 1880s) of an originally medieval building. But I like the way that its chequered history is visible in the morning light, the lines of brickwork embodying in a ghostly fashion the shapes of past windows and doorways, and I was pleased that when I passed by, the building had found its place in the sun.

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