Church Guide and History

St Leonard’s Church was built with financial assistance from the Duke of Grafton. It was consecrated on Thursday, 22nd December 1864 as a Chapel of Ease in the Parish of Potterspury cum Yardley Gobion. You can read a contemporary newspaper account here.

In 1867 it was granted a licence to solemnise marriages. The first wedding took place between Henry Joseph Weston and Helen Franklin on 19th December 1867. The same marriage registers are still in use today.

As you enter the building on the right of the door is the organ. It is the original Victorian instrument and was re-sited in 1976 from the south-east arch of the chancel. It used to be pumped manually, usually by boys. The electric blower was given in 1950; look for the slit where the old pump handle used to be.

In front of the organ is the font. ­­

Near the organ are two photographs of the church interior taken at different times. It is clear to see in the earlier one how cluttered the chancel used to be. The decision to move the organ was taken because of the difficulty of turning coffins around at funerals, and also because wedding couples and attendants, together with the priest, found it too cramped to carry out the ceremony with dignity.

Hanging on the organ there is a curious Chinese scroll that was given to a member of the congregation by Jackie Pullinger, who worked with drug addicts and prostitutes in the walled city of Hong Kong. On trips home Jackie talked to the Junior Church here. The inscription is translated: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16 v31)

The brass oil lamps were given by the Duchess of Grafton over a period of several years in the late 1800s. We are not sure when they were converted to electricity.

There are newer floor tiles between the pews and the chancel steps, where pew platforms once stood. The platforms were removed in 1997 and the 2-3 foot void filled in, and reproduction Victorian tiles were laid. They are gradually blending in with the older ones.

In the chancel you will see two carved stone heads which are believed to be of the architect and the stonemason. You may also notice where the oil lamps once were and the marks where matches used to be struck on the stonework.

There are jack-plugs for the sound system on either side of the chancel steps. The system and the hearing loop were given by a member of the congregation “in advance of his will”.

The sanctuary lamp was given in memory of Robert Shakeshaft. It is there to indicate that the Reserved Sacrament is in the aumbry – that is, the little wall cupboard behind a white and gold curtain on the north side of the chancel.

The communion rail bears a memorial plate. The extension to the rail was given in memory of the Rev. Ron Howe, one time vicar in the parish, by his wife in 2002. A new kneeler was worked by a member of the congregation for use when numbers necessitate.

The lectern, pulpit and priest’s stall were given by the villagers as a memorial to the eight Canadian airmen who died when their bomber crashed into the village during the Second World War. The avoided the houses and no village was killed. After much research their names were discovered and have been added to the war memorial in the churchyard. In 1997 the Canadian High Commissioner sent a wreath and the Canadian Airforce Veterans’ Flag Bearer came to the ceremony for the unveiling.

The reredos behind the altar is a fine example of the period and has the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments painted in gold lettering. The tall panels each side look as though they were intended for a picture of a saint. Perhaps the money ran out!

Near the pulpit, there is a brass plaque to Dr Druce, who donated the extension to the graveyard.  There is a Millennium Picture, handworked and presented by the Women’s Institute in 2000.

The two stained glass windows are typical of the period.