The Middle Ages
These efforts to obtain daily services in Quorn may seem over-zealous to us today but daily prayer and worship formed a central part of life during the Middle Ages. The church was the focal point of the village - the strongest, most beautiful building, a place of worship, social gatherings and a sanctuary in times of danger. We do not know what the church looked like inside, but many medieval churches were decorated with gaudy wall paintings depicting, for the largely illiterate congregation, scenes and teaching from the Bible. There would be no seating except for the old and infirm, hence the expression "the weak go to the wall". Heating and lighting would be provided by candles but since only the Priest had a Bible and there were no service books, good illumination was not necessary.
Baptisms, weddings and funerals have always brought families to church, but then the church was the pivot of all social activity. In lives of drudgery, monotony and poverty of medieval subsistence farming, the only rest days were holy day. Seasons and dates were calculated by saints' days and the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun were times of great feasting and merriment. "Church Ales" were held to raise money for the upkeep of the church - perhaps the earliest fund-raising activity of its kind!
Religion and agriculture were bound up together. On Plough Monday the plough would be blessed in church and then festivities followed. Men with blackened faces danced round the village, belabouring folk with inflated pigs' bladders and called at the larger houses for drink or money. On Rogation Days the crops were blessed and Harvest was a time of thanks-giving and celebration - the culmination of the year's work. The patronal festival of St Bartholomew on 24th August would be a holiday for the villagers of Quorn when some at least would 'wake' or keep vigil in memory of the Saint; hence the origin of the "Wakes" which sometimes went on for a whole week of celebrations. Quorn Parishioners would probably also join in their mother church's patronal festival around Trinity Sunday.
The importance of a resident priest was not only restricted to religious affairs. It is likely that he would provide some elementary education for boys in the village and act as welfare officer, caring for the old, poor, needy and for travellers, using tithes collected from the villagers to supplement his stipend. Any priest neglecting the needs of his block soon felt the wrath of the villagers. The vicar of Barrow in 1339 was very unpopular and was beaten up and goods to the value of £20 taken from his house by two parishioners whose surnames were Cat and Daddy. The incident is recorded in Rolls of the Manor Court, where they were brought to account, but seem to have escaped punishment.
Items for communal village use, such as primitive fire-fighting equipment, were kept in the church. When open fires in thatch-roofed, timber-framed cottages were frequently out-of-hand, it was vital that the buckets and bill-hooks (to pull down burning thatch or wood) were kept in a central known, safe place.
No church records for Quorn survive from this early period, so we can only assume that the annual cycle of worship in the Roman Catholic tradition and agriculture continued relatively peacefully.
The Quorn congregation resisted demands for money to repair Barrow Church now that they had their own chapel to maintain. By 1398, only six years after the endowment of the Chantry, the chapel was in a poor state of repair. A letter from the Pope at St Peter's, Rome, dated 11th December 1398 promised relaxation of penances to those who worshipped at Quorn chapel on certain feast days and who gave alms to the chapel. This money was to be used solely to repair the fabric of the building. By the fifteenth century the chapel, which was built of Mountsorrel granite had in addition to the original central nave and chancel, North and South aisles, a South porch erected in 1270-90 over which was built a priest's room, possibly his home, plus a square 14th century tower and a 15th century clerestory to provide extra light.