St James Church, Normanton on Soar, dating from the 12th Century, is situated beside the river Soar at one of the most southerly points in the county of Nottinghamshire. The nearest town is Loughborough in Leicestershire, which is approximately four miles away by road to the south.
St James’ Church is a small church, standing on the River Soar, a Grade I listed building, and is known as the Boatmen’s Church. It is a wonderful historical building in a fantastic location of peace and tranquility beside the river. The earliest mention of a church in Normanton appears in a document of uncertain date between 1141 and 1147 confirming the grant of a church here to the monastery at Durham by the Archbishop of York. No records exist which might provide evidence of when the present church was built, and one has therefore to rely on the architectural styles apparent in the structure. Those appearing in St James’ are the three Gothic styles known as: Early English 1189-1272, Decorated 1272-1377 and Perpendicular 1377-1485. The church underwent a major restoration in 1889, and then again in 1986 following a fire in the chancel. The Font dates from the 14th century and is hewn from a single block of stone. Booklets in the church provide a detailed history of the church and the changes it has seen over the years.
Music and contemplative prayer are very much part of St James’ mission, and the church is open every day for private contemplation, with quiet music. Spiritual books are available to take and to share. The position of St James, by the gently flowing river, with fields behind, provides a quiet and tranquil spot for this beautiful, small church, well loved for centuries. As a resident of the village commented: “I value the spirituality which I feel when I am in and around the church. It offers that rare attribute, in an increasingly noisy world, of a space of peace and quiet for personal prayer or even just respite from the trauma of the day.”
The stones themselves seem to speak of those who have gone before and left their thoughts and prayers in this thin place. The church provides quiet seating areas with cushions and throws to keep warm, with prayers and resources from the Julian Group, poems, thoughts and prayers that people want to share who attend our Quiet Times. Candles are available to light with prayers to use which have been shared from other churches.