There is no record of the Chuch building or Parish being affected by;the House of Orange taking over the Monarchy; the Jacobite revolt, the French Revolution; the American War of Independence, the Industrial Revolution. But we do know that things here went downhill and by the second half of this century both the Squire and Rector were absent from the parish, which was occupied by poorly paid farm labourers.
The Rector, a John Hippisley,was responsible for several parishes and cited his `paltry stipend` as the reason for holding so few services at St.Leonard.
The manor was dilapidated, the church building almost a ruin and the village tenements very run down.
During the Napoleonic wars with France the estate was inherited by a very rich man Rev. John Ashforby-Trenchard. He paid the rector a sizeable sum to become his curate until he became rector in his turn in 1822. In 1812 (the year of Napoleon`s first defeat and exile) the height of the roof was raised to accommodate high box pews for the gentry- look at the chancel arch which was raised several feet- also a new roof and ceiling plus much interior repair and renewal took place. This cost the ratepayers £499-4s-0d at 8s in the £1. At the same time the rundown manor house was replaced by a magnificent Georgian residence.
The Victorian era:-
The building was reordered and restored several times. The organ, originally given in 1820 after the decayed rood loft had been removed, was rebuilt twice. Doorways were remade, new windows were added. In 1865 there were 183 villagers, mostly poorly paid farm labourers. Local worthies, including Daniel Gooch the boss of Brunels rail works (£7-2s-0d), gave money towards the restorations
The extraordinary woodcarvings were commissioned or executed by Canon Masters who became rector in 1885. He admired Pugin who had helped design the Houses of Parliament, and copied his Neo Gothic style to produce wood carvings that illustrated the Christian traditions and teachings of his time.
The chancel screen and the altar table were designed by R.H.Carpenter (a famous Victorian). A contemporary , C.E.Kempe created the stained glass in the original Norman window high in the north wall of the nave and in the original, perpendicular, south window of the chancel.
In the 1890`s the building was extended westwards with the large window looking towards the lake, the original south doorway blocked and the interior once again reordered and the vestry added.
The south porch- recently restored with a grant from the Thomas Freke and Lady Norton Charity- was given to commemorate Queen Victoria`s Diamond Jubilee. It replaced the decayed porch (around the original south door) which had been demolished earlier.
The cross in the churchyard was erected in 1916 and later inscribed with the names of men from the village who died in the conflicts.
We still remember them by name on Remembrance Sunday.
The only damage to the building was that some of the parapets were knocked off by a stray Barrage Balloon defending the Vickers factory, which was making Spitfires in WW2.
In a way this building became too big for the community it serves. For years a few dedicated people struggled to keep it open with their gifts of voluntary service and money. Grants are needed to restore the historic structure.
People come to church these days, about 30 regulars give an average Sunday attendance of 23 people at a normal service and up to 120 come to weddings , carol services and other festivals.
Most of the people who worship here have a connection with this church or village, in that they live here, used to live here, were married here or plan to get married here. We try to make couples welcome.
We welcome everyone who wants to explore or express the Christian faith. We believe Jesus is still relevant today.
We value the faith of previous generations and feel privileged to have this beautiful building available to us. To run this church we need £15,000 and lots of voluntary work every year.
We regret that it is tucked away down a private road and has to be locked so often when not in use
.Keyholders are listed on a notice in the porch if the building is locked when you want to visit it.
We would love to see it used as a community resource. Today we invite you to explore your heritage and say welcome to you.
If you want to know more or if you do know more and there is anything you would like to correct or add--please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org