Our Archaeology and Heritage
An archaeological dig where the Community Heritage Centre now stands confirmed what an outstandingly interesting area St Helen’s stands in. A tiny flint microlith tool, dating to 5 – 10,000 BC, showed that hunter-gatherers once passed by here.
A two storey vicarage with large fireplace, external garderobe (toilet) and wide stone doorstep was found. Post holes indicated the likely presence of a wooden tithe barn, and Medieval floor tiles confirmed the connection with Lilleshall Abbey near Telford.
The remains of a stone causeway were found, built in 1641 and leading to the medieval Grammar School. 16th and 17th century pottery finds included an ale jug made in Germany.
Civil war ditches were found, which protected both the church and castle. Royalist soldiers were on our site, making their own lead musket balls and smoking clay pipes.
By the beginning of the 18th Century our site had become the bottom of the “new” vicarage garden, and was used as a rubbish dump, yielding the usual broken pottery of this period.
Many of our finds can be seen on display in the Community Heritage Centre.
St Helen’s Church is a grade 1 listed parish church in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The current building dates to the early 1470s, when it was built - along with the Hastings Tower in the nearby castle - by William, Baron Hastings (Chancellor to Edward IV). The church was enlarged with the addition of two side aisles in the late 19th century, to provide for a growing congregation.
Inside the church there are lots of treasures. Memorials on the walls are dedicated to people from many walks of life – from royalty to the “ordinary” townspeople - many of whom have very interesting human stories to tell. Many of the Earls and Countesses of Huntingdon are buried beneath the chancel, and a beautiful alabaster table tomb shows the effigies Francis, the 2nd Earl, and his wife, Catherine Pole.
Rev. Arthur Hildersham and Selina, Countess of Huntingdon are also buried here, both significant figures in the development of the protestant church after the Reformation.
An almost unique oak finger pillory and a beautiful alabaster tomb slab are also to be seen, as are an important collection of Victorian stained glass windows.
Outside the church, there is evidence of early scientific knowledge in the form of a declining vertical sundial built into the Tower when it was constructed. It may be the oldest of its kind in the country.