A brief History.

St Leonards is a thriving village church but initially many people are attracted by its location and history.

There’s probably been a church here for over a thousand years. There are several interesting features.

The Throckmorton tombs depict Thomas whose cousin was involved in the gunpowder plot. The knight looks remarkably like the busts you see of Shakespeare and some say it is by the same sculptor, Garrett Johnson. The one against the south side used to have a collection of armour displayed on it but this has to now be kept secure elsewhere.

The east window probably shows Edward IV in the top centre with yellow hair. It is unusual to see a picture of him especially in a rural village church. The house next to the church (the ruined entrance hall is being conserved) was owned by Lady Alicia de Veel in 1472. Edward had various mistresses, one of whom was holy, (others were wise, beautiful, etc.) but her identity is unknown. Perhaps Lady Alicia was she. It is certainly the right date and very unusual. If you look at it with binoculars you can see the detail and there are boards in church explaining the rest of the window.

The font with its unusual octagonal shape, is probably from the original building,. You can see where it has been repaired over the years with new bits of stone. The cleverly counterbalanced cover is Victorian but the lid itself is Stuart.

The bells. There are 6 bells high up in the tower which are rung regularly. The heaviest is 12 ¾ cwt. but the most interesting is the 5th which has a small crusaders’ ship embossed on it and was probably cast around 1493 in Bristol. You can find details of the inscriptions in the porch.

The pillars. Look at the detail in the fluted carving of these graceful pillars. Each base is carved intricately and each soars up to the wooden roof. They must have been repaired in the 1860s when the church was largely rebuilt but the design is probably medieval.

The wooden reredos behind the altar. This was made in 1886 by Nathanial Hitch. It was an early piece of his work and the detail is fantastic. He followed this up with work for Truro cathedral. The screen there is a vast stone reredos behind the whole chancel. After that he did work on Liverpool cathedral and various other churches.

The Julia Seat in the east wall of the church yard may have been placed by the 3rd Earl in the space formerly occupied by a gate and archway from the big house next door. It was built to commemorate his wife Julia and is a favourite place for wedding photographs.

The trees.Tortworth is famous for its trees although the great sweet chestnut is outside the actual church yard. (turn right before entering the gate and it’s across the field) There is a leaflet in church giving the details of the various specimens.