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Squires Monument

Case study: The churchyard of St James' Church, Melton Road, Burton Lazars, Leicestershire (East Midlands)

List entry number: 1307784

Building at risk Squires Monument and the Church of St James, Burton Lazars
Squires Monument following repair and the Church of St James, Burton Lazars

Background and history

The modest Leicestershire village of Burton Lazars lies a short distance south of Melton Mowbray. It is a village of hidden surprises. To the west lies the site of a medieval hospital founded in the 12th century. It was the principal English hospital of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem. It is regarded as the most important leper hospital in England. Further east, standing proudly in the churchyard, is the striking monument to William Squires.

The monument is regarded as one of the largest and most ambitious Leicestershire churchyard monuments. However, William Squires was not a member of Georgian high society as one might expect. He was a weaver.

When Squires passed away in 1781, he had amassed a personal fortune of £600. Part of this sum was to be used to build an elaborate pedestal tomb. His remaining fortune was intended for the education of the poor and to provide for his family. Sadly, when his monument was completed, there was little left to fulfil these wishes.

The monumental tomb is adorned with all manner of carvings. It is even thought that it was once gilded and painted to resemble marble!

Is it at risk?

Squires' monument was added to the Buildings at Risk Register in 1998.

Stonework was decaying and architectural detail was being lost, threatening the survival of the monument. It has now been repaired with a grant from Historic England. Melton Borough Council also contributed financially. Works began in 2014 and it was removed from the Register in 2015.

What's the current situation?

Local Civic Society research concluded that the Squires family had no surviving members. This meant that responsibility for the repair of the monument passed to the District Church Council. Following discussion, a plan was drawn up to apply to Historic England for a grant. A bid was also made to the Local Planning Authority.

With funding in place, investigations and specialist reports were obtained. These provided important information about options for careful cleaning of the monument. Historical paint research established the original colour of the iron railings surrounding the monument. Specialist conservators were appointed. In 2014, they started the careful conservation of stone and ironwork. The repairs were completed later that year.

William Squires' desire to be remembered created an important local landmark. Its repair and conservation will ensure that it survives long into the future.

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Squires Monument image gallery

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Building at risk - Squires monument in 2013
  • Building at risk Squires monument - Weathered, but carved detail still visible
  • Building at risk Squires monument - Monument’s stepped base before conservation
  • Building at risk Squires monument - Detail following sensitive repair
  • Building at risk Squires monument - Detail following sensitive repair