St. Leonard, Clent
© Clent PCC 2021
We welcome visitors to our ancient Parish Church of Saint Leonard, dedicated to a C6 th . saint of France, and patron saint of prisoners and of the sick. There has been a church on this site from the C12 th . and possibly a building here before that. A re-building took place in the C15 th . and much remains of this work. The last reconstruction took place in the mid-C19 th . and the most recent additions include re-furnishing woodwork in the choir stalls and Lady Chapel, and the provision of modern toilet facilities (late- C20 th .). We are therefore heirs and custodians of some eight hundred years of history and of service to the villagers of Clent.
Visitors enter through the Porch , built in 1865/65 which replaced an earlier (Tudor) one. It is proposed to have photos and video of the ‘tour’ and these will be accessed via the images on the right.
In front of you is the modern Font , carved with a ‘cushion’ pattern.
Turning to your right along the south Side-Aisle, built originally c. 1170 and re-built in its present configuration in 1864/65, you pass lightly decorated Norman pillars from the original church. A list of priests who have held this living hangs nearby.
On your left hand side you will notice that the area has been converted into a young-child-friendly space, fitted-out with carpet and toys, so that the whole family can come to church and yet feel ‘at home’.
In front of you is the Lady Chapel , furnished in 1964, and situated on the site of an ancient altar, as is shown by the remains of an ogee-headed piscina of the C15 th . in the south wall. The Lectern is modern and is of oak carved as an eagle with spread wings to support the Bible.
Ahead, in the main body of the church, are the Chancel and Sanctuary , reconstructed c. 1440, and which deviate slightly to the south (a slight dog-leg). They are raised above the level of the nave to accommodate the family vault of the Amphletts - Squires and lay-Rectors - whose memorials are on the south wall. The East Window , of plain glass, is the original traceried window of five lights with sequintal pointed head, ribbed on the inside. The High Altar and the Choir Stalls are all of light oak and were installed in 1956, replacing Victorian woodwork, which had, in turn, replaced Jacobean work. That this is the ancient site of the Altar is shown by the remains of an ogee-headed piscina of the C15 th . in the south wall. Look up to see the barrel-vaulted roof of the C15th. of a type known as ‘trussed rafter’ and which imparts a fine acoustic for singing.
Slightly further on is the modern Pulpit, of carved oak.
Compare what you see before you today - with this sketch of the church pre-modernization, c.1820, with steps allowing limited access to the Altar. Notice the low-slung oil lamps for illumination. Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
You now arrive in the North Aisle , constructed in 1837 with iron arcades, and then rebuilt and enlarged to its present dimensions with stone arcades in 1864/65 - and the scene of considerable recent change. The Children’s Altar and its furniture were made in 1946. To the right (East) was where the organ once rested is now an open community space with built-in kitchenette and robe storage chests, with a short corridor affording access to toilets and doubling as a Fire Escape and Disabled Access to the upper area. Because of its location next to the Altar and the fact that it can be viewed from the Nave, it is a popular location for couples to sign the Registers after their Wedding Ceremony.
Turning left to face West it is immediately apparent where the organ is now situated .. except .. it’s not the same organ ! This instrument was installed in its new home in 1992, while “our” instrument - a ‘Harrison & Harrison’ - went to the Catholic Oratory church on the Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham. This historic (1869) instrument by Joseph W. Walker of London, built for St. Mary’s, Wendover, came to us from St. Hughes School, Wendover, and features a fine façade of pipes designed by the architect G.E. Street. It was restored (1982) by John Budeon of Warminster and fitted with a modern pedalboard. This has since been replaced by a flat/parallel pedalboard which is faithful to the original design (though more difficult to play). Separate pages will be dedicated to the organ and to the bells of St. Leonard. In front of the organ some pews have been removed to provide an open space used to accommodate wheelchairs, musicians or display stands, as different circumstances demand.
Standing in the centre of the building you get a good impression of the proportions of the church and the intimate relationship between Nave and Chancel - between Priest and People. The C15 th . Chancel Arch was reconstructed in the 1865/65 building programme. The South arcading is of three bays with portions of the C12 th . masonry retained. The West respond is original C12 th . work.
Finally: moving to the West End , it is immediately apparent that there is no ‘great’ West Door through which processions can proceed. The base of the Tower - built C15 th . - is separated from the Nave by an Arch and a Screen of modern oak. Look up to see the Glass Cross installed this century, commissioned with funds from a Community/Parish performance of the rock-opera ‘J. C. Superstar’ and erected courtesy of a generous Australian benefactor. The tower is entered through a diminutive door in the far corner (dwarves only) for access via a steep winding stone steps to the bell-ringing chamber and tower roof. [This is kept locked for H&S reasons] The ring of eight bells, some of early (possibly medieval) origin - four were recast and a fifth added in C17 th . - a sixth bell added C18 th . - and 7 th and 8 th completed in 1902. The historic ‘graffiti’ comes, not from exceedingly tall choirboys but from idle hands when there was a first- floor gallery which housed the ‘Parish Band’ (or ‘Quoire’) - an ‘ad hoc’ assembly of those who could play instruments and who accompanied the singing of (a few) well-known hymns.
And there you are. St. Leonard’s in a flash .. or as far as we’ve got, so far. We will add photos soon - and then follow with video clips so that, if you are unable to visit us in person, you can do so via the internet. We are, after all, one flock .. one people of God. For historians, this .doc downloadable document contains much early detail.
Map of the church’s previous lay-out
St. Leonard
© Clent PCC
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