Just a few miles from Market Harborough is the quiet village of Blaston. The ecclesiastical allegiances of the two modest little chapels in Blaston, separately dedicated to St Giles and St Michael, echo the ancient rivalries of the neighbouring villages of Hallaton and Medbourne.
St Giles has been long associated with Medbourne, and St Michaels with Hallaton. It was not until the twentieth century that they were united to create one ecclesiastical parish. It is said that St Giles was founded by Richard I. John Nichols informs us that this was in recognition of the gallantry of Hugo de Nevill:
By king Richard I, the lordship of Blaston was given to Hugo de Nevill, a valiant knight, who being a servant in court to king Richard the First, was in 1193 with that king in the Holy Land, where he performed the part of a stout soldier; and likewise flew a lion by a shot with an arrow into the breast, then piercing his body with a sword.
St Giles served the greater part of the valley in which Blaston lies. For centuries it was associated with Medbourne but maintained its independence as a free chapel with no obligations other than the payment of a pension of 5s per year which allowed parishioners from Blaston to be buried there. Nichols believed that the chapel's independence arose from being founded on royal demesne.
It was rebuilt between 1710 and 1714 with a round-headed doorway, two-light mullioned windows, and a small bell-cote, and it is this building that is illustrated in Nichols with a nave and small chancel and measuring just 50 feet 6 inches in length.
Both chapels were rebuilt
again in 1878 by the Revd. G. C. Fenwicke. The architect was George Edmund
Street who also designed the Parish Church of St Peters in Highfields in
The chapel of St. Michael is first mentioned in about 1220 as belonging to that part of Hallaton church owned by the Martival family, and was even smaller than St Giles, being only 33 feet 6 inches in length and 17 feet 6 inches in width.
The small chapelry of St Michael comprised the eastern part of the village and a number of fields, and was served for three days of each week from Hallaton. The paddock, to the south of the main street, in which the chapel is situated, was owned by the rectors of Hallaton until it was sold in recent years.
St. Michael's seems to have been kept in very good condition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Longmate’s engraving in Nichols shows it as a simple post-Reformation building with square-headed windows and gables with parapets; but in 1838 the archdeacon reported that the roof was in disrepair and the east and west ends cracking away from the side walls. In 1842 he described St. Michael's as ‘a most mean building in a dilapidated condition, its timbers rotten, slates loose, and ceiling falling.’
The chapel was allowed to
fall into worsening repair. In 1858 it was described as 'dilapidated, dirty and
dangerous'. Finally, in 1878, it was rebuilt, and services continued to be held
there until about 1922. It was partly
demolished in 1967 and is now an evocative ruin in a very peaceful setting.