The Earliest Stone Church
The village, as shown by its name ending in by, began about 850 as a settlement of people from Scandinavia. “Hardebi” is the early spelling of the name so we have Harb for herds of cattle and by for settlement. Coming from north Europe these settlers were not Christian but the few historical records that have come to us from this period, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, tell the story of the Christianization of the foreigners. Domesday Book compiled in 1084, does not mention a church at Harby. The records of the Bishop of Lincoln tell us that there was a parson at Harby in 1220 called Robert. The earliest architectural remains in the church are of a similar date.
The earliest stone building of Harby church was put up around 1200. It was in the shape of a long rectangle lying east to west which had within it two areas. The western area was what we know in the church today as the nave for the people of the village to assemble. The east part, separated from the nave by an archway, was the chancel. This, as the church now, had the altar at the east end and was the area for the priest. We do not know what the windows or roof were like as all evidence was removed in later building. The chancel is set at angle to the nave of one degree to the south.
What can be seen of this earliest church is the base of the east wall of the nave, the lower parts of the walls in the chancel and the chancel arch. The chancel arch at the east end of the nave has nailhead decoration, a feature of the Early English period of architecture and dating back perhaps as far as 1200. The stone for the walls comes from the ironstone rock which lies below the soil at the top of Harby hill and along that escarpment. The stone for the architectural features like window frames and arches, which was carefully cut to shape, is a limestone, most likely from Ancaster, the nearest source of such stone.