History of St. Leonard's

The present church (from the south-west) is the third on the site and was built in 1878. It was funded by James Brown and his family who lived at Copgrove Hall and owned most of the village. The architect was Charles Hodgson Fowler and the skilful carving in wood and stone was the work of George Walker Milburn of York.

Immediately you enter the church your attention is drawn towards the east window. It depicts two angels telling the apostles of Christ’s ascension and coming again. It is the work of Capronnier of Brussels, one of the foremost stained-glass makers of his time.

Milburn’s font with its beautiful and intricate carving is of Caen limestone. This provides a superior material for carving than the local dolomite limestone.

On the opposite wall, is an exquisite embroidery of the three churches which have served the village since 1242. This is the work of Frank Woodward, a long-standing member of the church.

The light and airy atmosphere of the whole church is enhanced by the absence of a full screen separating the chancel and nave.

George Milburn’s carving of the oak reredos is well worth a close look. His work on the pulpit and screen is of the same high standard.

The carved chair to the left of the altar was given at the consecration of the new church by the Jackson family from the tannery. The intricate carving on the back and on the arms is very possibly the work of Milburn.

To the right of the altar is a chair which, it is thought, dates to the opening of Saint Helen’s church in 1780. On the front of the seat the initials ‘WT’ have been carved believed to refer to William Tindall.

Perhaps the only survivor of the first church, this bell was one of two in the steeple when it collapsed around 1779. It was cast by Samuel Smith of York in 1711. The other was smashed at that time. The clock was installed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.

The church is dedicated to Saint Leonard, who is usually shown as an abbot holding a chain in his role as defender of prisoners. The sculpture over the porch is also the work of George Milburn. Although seriously eroded it remains a welcoming image as you enter the church.

The Lych Gate was erected in 1924 as a memorial to those who died during the First World War. After the Second World War the plaque was moved onto the west wall inside the church and replaced by one commemorating all those who died in both world wars.

This photo was taken around 1920 some years before electricity was brought into the village. Note the large number of candles on and around the altar and choir. You can also see two oil lamps above the pulpit and lectern and a third over the altar.

<div><span style="font-size: 1rem;">Words by kind permission of Nick Sambidge</span>