The Saxon church had a central tower. This is best thought of not as formed by the crossing of nave, chancel and transepts, but as a central tower from which radiated separately the nave, the chancel and small chambers to the north and south. These lateral porticus would have had narrow entrances to the tower, and the present tower arches, displaced to the west of centre, probably show the position of these entrances. The chancel is noticeably narrower than the tower.
The Norman tower was built in several phases over a time span of at least one hundred years. The tower arches are the earliest part. They resemble arches at Winchester Cathedral, which date from around 1080, and, nearer by, in Blyth Priory, Nottinghamshire. They seem to represent a rebuilding of the Saxon tower.
Later the upper parts of the tower were again rebuilt in four stages. The inside faces of the first stage are ornamented with a blank arcade. There are three openings in this. The one to the east is modern. One in the west face is now blocked, and a third in the north face opens from a gallery in the modem north transept and leads via a steep stair to the second stage. These two openings, which are higher than the other arches of the arcade, suggest that there was a gallery inside the tower at this level. There are also hints of a blocked opening in the south face of the tower.
Above this arcade is an unornamented second stage, and above this are the two stages visible from the outside.
The church has a very splendid tower for its size. There are two blank arcades, the lower being similar to the interior one with five arches on each side. The upper arcade is more complex. There are a pair of bellopenings, surmounted by a round arch, and a pair of arches on each side, also surmounted by round arches. The heads of these small arches appear to be pointed, but this is the result of segments of further round arches in an intersecting pattern. This is a typical form of Norman decoration. The tower is finished off with a corbel table and a modern parapet.
Copyright ©2017 St Nicholas Church, Leicester: All rights reserved.