Religion in Swannington

George Fox

Last service at the old Wesleyan Chapel, Main Street, Swannington. The building became a carpenters workshop, a storage unit and is now a private residence.

Since the village was at a distance from its parish church in Whitwick, it provided a breeding ground for several non-conformist groups including the Quakers. George Fox, founder of the movement, found fertile ground here and "The Friends of Truth" flourished under leadership of Edward Mugilston.

In 1654 the first national meeting of Friends was held in Swannington. Edward, as an old man' gave evidence to Parliament as to the extent of plundering of Quaker property during the Civil War. The Quakers suffered grievously by imprisonment and by seizure of their property at the hands of the local Lord; George Fox being arrested and imprisoned with others in Leicester gaol. Several stone houses from this period survive. The movement declined and left the village at the end of the 18th century.

The Quaker Smithy, Swannington.

The Baptists took over their meeting-house in 1807 but moved to other premises near to the parish boundary with Coleorton and continue to worship.

Led by the Countess of Huntingdon, who had been influenced by Wesley, the Methodist movement was installed in Swannington and the surrounding villages. James and Ann Burton led the establishment of a chapel in the village at the end of the 18th century. The family emigrated to America in 1856 and their grandson Henry Burton eventually returned to become a renowned preacher and hymn writer. The congregation grew so that a new chapel had to be built in 1908 and served the village until its closure in 1998.

A Primitive Methodist church was opened in the village in 1857 and served the community for about 100 years. The village eventually gained its chapelry, Whitwick St. George was erected in 1825, built on a site chosen by poet William Wordsworth. Growth of its congregation necessitated an extension to the building in 1900 but shortage of finance meant that the building work had to be completed by the vicar and one boy assisting. It was officially named as Swannington St. George's Parish Church in 1986. St. George's Church was instrumental in building a National School for 176 pupils in 1862 and this proved to be too small so a Mission Hall extension was erected in 1894. The school still provides an excellent education for village children.