The Grade One listed church of St Mary the Virgin, Leighton Bromswold, consists of a Chancel (46¾ ft. by 20¼ ft.), Nave (58¼ ft. by 24 ft.), North transept (18¼ ft. by 20¼ ft.), South transept (17½ ft. by 20¼ ft.), West tower (15 ft. by 14 ft.) and North and South porches. The walls are of coursed rubble with stone dressings, except the tower, which is faced with ashlar, and the roofs are covered with tiles and lead.

Early Days and Decline

The church is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086).

Original 1310 Pillar

14C blocked up door in South Wall of Chancel

A chancel and an aisled nave were built about 1250, (the first vicar, Robert de Maperton, was recorded in 1248) but this chancel was apparently rebuilt about 1310, and large transepts were added to the nave some forty years later.

Probably the aisles were partly rebuilt and new windows inserted in them, and perhaps a clearstory added to the nave towards the end of the 15th century. At the beginning of the 17th century the church was in a ruinous condition and apparently about 1606 a rebuilding started.

The South arcade and aisle were pulled down and the south wall of an aisleless nave and south porch built. The work, however, was stopped for lack of funds, and for twenty years the church was 'so decayed, so little, and so useless, that the parishioners could not meet to perform their duty to God in public prayer and praises.' The church’s roofs had fallen in; the tower was in ruins as were the upper courses of the walls.


The Chancel

The Chancel

 

The 14th-century chancel has a four-light east window with original jambs, but a late 15th-century depressed four-centred head; on the north side of it a 13th-century capital (now mutilated) has been built in as a bracket.

The north wall has two original three-light windows with intersecting tracery in a two-centred head; a late 15th-century three-light window with a depressed four-centred head and a 13th-century locker with trefoiled head and stone shelf.


The south wall has three windows similar to those on the north; a small late 15th-century doorway; a blocked original doorway,only visible inside; a blocked low-side window; a reset 13th-century double piscina having one whole and two half semicircular intersecting arches with interpenetrating mouldings, carried on a central shaft and two detached jamb-shafts with moulded capitals and bases.

The 13th-century chancel arch is two-centred, of two chamfered orders, thelower order resting on triple attached corbel-shafts with moulded capitals and modern corbels. The roof is modern, but the moulded principals of 1626 remain.The weathering of the earlier roof remains above the chancel arch.

North Transept 

The 14th-century north transept has a four-light east window with reticulated tracery in a two-centred head. The north wall has a late-15th-century three-light window with a depressed four-centred head. The west wall has, near its northern end, a blocked late-14th-century doorway; and at the southern end the weather stones of the early aisle roof remain. In the north transept are some 17th-century red and yellow glazed flooring tiles.


South Transept

The 14th-century south transept is similar to the north except that it has no doorway in the west wall. In the east wall is a rectangular shelf-bracket ornamented with ball-flowers and supported on a carved head. The south wall has a trefoiled-headed piscina and a rectangular locker.

North Porch 
 
The 17th century north porch has a mid 13th century north doorway, perhaps the old door of the former aisle in situ. It has a two-centred head of three orders, the two outer orders springing from detached jamb-shafts with moulded capitals and bases and the inner order continuous. The porch has no buttresses, but the plinth of the nave is continued along its east and west walls.

Inside there are some indecipherable scratchings. On top of the porch is a moulded stone cross. The paving stones are modern of Northamptonshire stone.  
 
South Porch 
 
The 17th century south porch has a mid. 13th century south doorway, almost certainly rebuilt, as it does not seem to be quite on the line of the former aisle wall. It has a two-centred arch of three moulded orders enriched with the dog-tooth ornament resting on four detached jamb-shafts on each side and having moulded capitals and bases. The east wall has a plain square-headed 17th century window. The porch has buttresses square at the angles, probably largely of re-used 13th century material.

The South door was known as the Marriage Door. It is said this is because marriages were originally contracted in the porch, where there were seats for witnesses, and the couple then went to the church for the Nuptial Mass. The movement was preserved in the prayer book of 1662; the vows being taken in the body of the church, the couple then proceed to the altar to be blessed by the priest.

Roof

The roofs of the chancel, nave and transepts are all of 1626. In the chancel are five trusses with moulded tie beams, moulded and panelled braces and moulded wall-posts with shaped and moulded pendants. On the nave, six bays similar to the chancel with some repairs; transept roofs are similar each of three bays. North Porch

The 17th-century north porch has a mid-13th-century north doorway, perhaps the old door of the former aisle in situ; it has a two-centred head of three orders, the two outer orders springing from detached jamb-shafts with moulded capitals and bases and the inner order continuous. The porch has no buttresses, but the plinth of the nave is continued along its east and west walls. South Porch

The 17th-century south porch has a mid-13th-century south doorway, almost certainly rebuilt, as it does not seem to be quite on the line of the former aisle wall; it has a two-centred arch of three moulded orders enriched with the dog-tooth ornament, and resting on four detached jamb-shafts on each side, having moulded capitals and bases. The east wall has a plain square-headed 17th-century window. The porch has buttresses square at the angles, probably largely of 13th-century material re-used.

Screens

Under chancel-arch there is a low screen in two parts with opening in middle, plain lower panels and open upper panels, six on each side, with round arches springing from short turned balusters, moulded top rail and turned knobs over alternate balusters and flanking central opening; c. 1630–40. In south transept modern screen to vestry incorporating eleven bays of arcading probably from one of the stalls or seats, c. 1630–40. In the west tower across north west angle, curved screen or partition of moulded panelling, 16th-century, cornice and door modern now used as a store room.

Twin Pulpits

The most striking and unusual feature of St Mary’s are the two pulpits which date from 1626. On the north side is the pulpit and on the south side the prayer desk.

They are both of oak and of the same general mirror design, set against the two responds of the chancel arch, each of them is pentagonal in form with a short flight of steps. The base has a series of short turned balusters connected by segmental arches and capped by a cornice which continues out¬wards as a rail to the stairs.

The upper part of pulpit has each face divided into two bays by turned columns with moulded bases and capitals from which spring segmental arches and the whole finished with an entablature. The door is similar but with one half-column only between the bays and with strap-hinges. The sounding-board rests on a panel at the back with two attached pilasters.

The board is finished with an entablature with segmental arches below and turned pendants, boarded soffit with turned pendant in middle.

The reason why there were two pulpits was that George Herbert’s philosophy was that man should pray as well as preach, which was contrary to current Puritan opinion, that prayers should be given the same importance as preaching.

The unusual turnings are repeated in the Vestry woodwork and the Tower Screen although the former was not made until later.

It appears that Communion was celebrated, if not at a table, in rows of seats facing each other across the Sanctuary, like choir stalls, and that there was originally no altar, or only a small one.

Benches

In the nave there are fourteen benches, upper parts of backs with a series of panels formed by attached half-balusters, with moulded top rail, open ends with turned terminals and curved armrests, supported by turned balusters, c. 1630–40, made up with some modern work. In north transept-six benches generally similar to those in nave but with open arcaded backs formed by segmental arches resting on turned balusters, also one front enclosure of similar design and two benches at east end of nave, c. 1630–40. In chancel-four stalls similar to the benches in the north transept, but with half-balusters attached to the lower panelling, made up with modern work.

Lectern

The modern lectern (1903) incorporates some oak balusters and knobs from the staircase of Stow Longa Manor House and was given in memory of Rev. Thomas Ladd who was buried in the churchyard in 1899.

West Tower

It is generally believed that the west tower was built by the James, Duke of Lennox in 1634 however there is no authority for this. In the July of that year he was just 12 when he succeeded the Dukedom on the death of his father Esmé Stewart. His mother, Katherine Clifton of Leighton Bromswold continued to hold the titles and the lordship until her own death in September 1637. There is also the suggestion that John Ferrar produced a 'ruff draught' for a tower after 1634 with the note 'for the finishing of Layton church that he might the better in time provide.'

James, Duke of Lennox, Earl of March, Baron Clifton of Leighton Bromswold was at the height of his powers in 1641 and it was probable that the tower was completed before or in that year. On the parapet are the initials 'R.D. 1641' probably made by Richard Drake a long standing friend of Nicholas Ferrar. In 1655 it was recorded that 'Only the steeple could not be compassed wch afterwards the most Noble, Religious, worthy good Duke of Lenox did perform at his own proper cost & charges, to the Memorial of his Honor.'

It is of three stages finished with a modillioned cornice between the buttresses, an embattled parapet and angle pedestals, supporting obelisks with ball-terminals. The two-centred tower-arch is of two classically moulded orders springing from square responds with moulded imposts. The west window is of two coupled lights divided and flanked by plain pilasters and with round heads, moulded archi¬volts and imposts; the west doorway is flanked by plain pilasters with moulded capitals and has a half-round moulded arch with a plain key-stone; above the doorway is a plain tablet.

The second stage has in the west wall a square-headed window with a moulded stone architrave. The bell-chamber has in each wall a double window similar to, but larger than, the west window of the ground-stage; above each pair of windows is a lozenge-shaped panel.

The stairs to the belfry are at the south-west corner. In the north eastern corner of the tower is a modern disused brick chimney. On the tower floor is the matrix of a 15th-century brass with figure of a man and inscription plate. In 1552 there were four bells and a sanctus bell.

The original nave walls were in line with the existing porch fronts and connected to the transepts at the point show in the adjacent plate. On the inside the join of the new, inner transept wall and the original 14th century can be seen. 

The Church Before 1606 Re-construction

North and South walls were the symmetrical.

How far the original walls went towards the West is unknown, but the windows of the West Nave were re-used and are in their current positions.

There is mention of an earlier tower but this cannot be substantiated.

Bells

These are described in Rev T M N Owen’s: “Church Bells of Huntingdonshire, 1899 page 104”, as follows:

Bell Diameter Approximate Inscription

Weight

Treble 36½” 8¼ cwt. + I.H.S. Nazarenvs rex Judeorvm fili
Dei Miserere mei + George Woolf Vicar I: Michell : C : W : W : N .1720

Bell 2 38” 9¾cwt + ABCDE FGHIKL MNOPQR
Thomas Norris made me 1641

Bell 3 41¼” 12¾cwt + ABCDE FGHIKL MNOPQR
Thomas Norris made me 1641

Bell 4 44¼” 15¾cwt + ABCDE FGHIKL MNOPQR
Thomas Norris made me 1641

Tenor 48¾” 20½cwt Esmé, Catherine 
 
Bells 2, 3, 4 and tenor of the ring are by Thomas Norris, of Stamford; the treble is by Thomas Eayre of Kettering.

The treble and 2 of the ring have been heavily rim tuned (sharpened); 3 and tenor have been internally tuned (flattened); 4 are almost untuned. This tuning was probably carried out when the treble was added in 1720.

The treble bell’s sound bow is 2.69” thick and has a normal pitch of 900 c/s. The tenor has a nominal pitch of 632 c/s
The ring, approximately in the key of E, does not sound quite in tune. It seems possible they may have been tuned into approximately a major key from a minor key.

All five of the bells in the ring have lost their original canons and have been quarter turned.

There is apparently, only one heavier tenor bell in the County and that was made much later (1832).  
 
Bell-frame and fittings

 
The frame is supported on four rolled steel joists running North - South and built into the walls. At the North-East corner there is a short diagonal trimmer round the chimney and between the two centre joists, in the middle of the tower, there is a short piece of smaller joist with a light pulley.

The frame itself is partly timber, partly cast iron. The top and bottom horizontal frames are of timber with cast iron vertical members beneath each bearing. There are five cast iron posts at the four corners and at the centre of the south side. The joints in the timber members are strengthened with steel brackets.

The frame is made with pits for six. The two heavy bells are on the North side, swinging East-West, with the tenor. To the East, the pits for the four lighter bells are along the South side, with the bells swinging North-South and the Easternmost pit of the four being empty. This pit is 33” wide.

The headstocks are of cast iron box section with cast-in gudgeon pins and inscribed “Barwell Founder Birmingham". The bells are hung by these each by four bolts, through a hardwood pad, with a centre bolt holding the clapper. The gudgeon pins are carried in plain brass bearings whose cast-iron housings are screwed to the top members of the frame. The straight timber stays are housed in sockets cast in the headstocks. The timber sliders have adjustable stops. There are standard timber wheels. The clappers have a T-shaped shank, suspended from a pivot bolt through a Y-end on the suspension bolt. The ground pulleys are of hardwood, perhaps ebony or lignum vitae, running direct on iron pins.

The clock strikes the hours on the tenor, the clock hammer striking through the wheel on the South side of the bell.
Owen, writing in 1899, speaks of them as "badly needing re-hanging” and it would seem that the re-hanging and quarter-turning of this ring was carried out in 1902 by Barwell of Birmingham.

In January 1978 the bells were declared unsafe to ring. After inspection by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London, they estimated over £3,000 would be needed to repair them. This was completed in 1982.

Lectern

The modern lectern (1903) incorporates some oak balusters and knobs from the staircase of Stow Longa Manor House and was given in memory of Rev. Thomas Ladd (the longest serving vicar) who is buried in the churchyard in 1899 and has a wall memorial in the Nave.

In the back is a curtain made by parishioner Linda West for the Millennium.

Miscellaneous

Brackets in chancel east wall, in form of moulded capital, late-13th-century, now cut back to wall-face. In south transept east wall, rectangular shelf with 'ball-flower' ornament and a carved head below, early-14th-century

Communion Table: with turned legs, moulded top rails with shaped brackets, plain lower rails, c. 1630–40, top modern.

There are two chairs in the chancel with moulded and twisted legs, front rail, and back-uprights, of c. 1700. A 16th-century chest is in the north transept and is plain with coped lid, two locks, iron straps and three strap¬hinges, all terminating in fleurs-de-lis.

The font is made up of two 13th-century circular moulded capitals and a piece of circular shaft. The cover is largely modern, but has a 17th-century ball on the top and a Victorian mounting.

In the nave the north and south doorways, the doors are twinned, each of two leaves with moulded panels and nail-studded framing; both doors set in moulded framing, with panelling above, mid-17th-century, partly repaired.

The Lockers in chancel north wall, with rebated jambs and trefoiled head, stone division or shelf, late 13th¬century. In south transept south wall, rectangular, with chamfered and rebated reveals, 14th-century.

In chancel, on the south wall, there is a double piscinae. with two-centred arches the moulding continued to form an intersecting arcade, free shaft to each jamb and in middle, with moulded capitals and bases, shelves within the recess, at level of abaci of side-shafts, two multifoiled drains, mid-13th-century, reset. In south transept in the south wall, there is a recess with trefoiled head and round drain, 14th-century.

Scratching

On the parapet there is engraved fiti scratching on the east wall of the tower parapet, ‘R.D. 1641’ ;

Probably made by Richard Drake, a long standing friend of Nicholas Ferrar. (see West Tower) 

On the walls of the West Tower are a number of engravings, including ‘W.H. R.I. 1666’ and ‘E.S. 1653’  

On the ground floor of the Tower, there is a scratching in the woodwork dated 1688.  

Tower Flagstones 
 
On the tower floor is the matrix of a 17th century brass with the figure of a man and an inscription plate.

Rainwater Heads

Rainwater-heads are in lead. On north and south walls of chancel there are four, three with embattled tops and painted decoration, curved junction with down-pipes, on one of which is a fleur-de-lis; one head on south side elaborately shaped, with enriched cornice and cresting, the date 1632, and strap-work ornament on the flanges, junction with down-pipe enriched with acanthus ornament, down-pipe with strap-work ornament and enriched straps with three crests. On the north wall of north transept two shaped heads with embattled tops, the two heads bearing together the date 1634. On north wall of nave, head with arabesque ornament and painted decoration; on south wall, with rounded and moulded head. On south wall of south transept, two similar to those on north transept, but with painted decoration and no date, all 17th-century.

On the night of 31st December 2011, thieves stole the bottom quarter of the down-pipes on the south and north Chancel.

On the south Chancel the lower downpipes were replaced with cast iron and on the north Chancel wall they shortened to the original 1964 architect’s recommendations!

Tiles 
 
Most of the tiles are Victorian to modern but some tiles, against the North wall of the North Transept are 17th Century.

There are no tiles under the pews. The example (in the Chancel) shows the red and blue general tiling with the more decorative border including highly glazed green tiles.

There are no medieval tiles in the Chancel and they were all installed in 1870 as a result of the general modernisation carried out ending that year.

In 1964 identical tiles were purchased on the demolition of Trinity Church in Huntingdon for £100. (together with some doors that have not been found)

Modern Features 
 
Carpets - Pictures in 1968 show a red carpet strip between the South and North Porches, down the centre of the Nave and up to the Communion Rail. The upper Chancel floor was carpeted to the width of the Altar.

In early 21st Century, new, blue, carpets were laid, three strips down the Nave, crossing the Church by the pulpit and extending up to the Altar.  

An altar frontal and east wall curtain is shown in the 1968 photograph. Just before the Millennium, Linda West, a parishioner from Leighton Bromswold, made a new altar frontal, east wall curtain and Lectern Cloth.

Kneelers - Some of the Kneelers are dedicated – Two were made for Freda Goodwin and Bi McArthur, in remembrance of Ellen Rose Mills and Henry Cyril Mills their parents. All the kneelers were made by Sylvia Stamper, a member of the Parochial Council. In 2010 two kneelers celebrate the wedding of Elizabeth Stamper and Adam Fitch were completed together with one for the Millennium. 
 
Mothers Union - Although there is now no Mothers’ Union, the banner remains in the church.

In 1998 a flower stand was donated by The Mothers Union in memory of Evelyn Rose.  
  
Altar Cross and Altar Candles - There is no record of when the altar cross, or altar candles, arrived in the Church, it is, however, definitely earlier than 1968.

The cross is made from roughly cut wood faced with sheet brass and rivets. 
 
Communion Rail - According to H B Malling, ‘Leighton Bromswold, the church and lordship,’ a communion rail was added in the 19th Century before which Communion was taken at a table in the Chancel.

Church Plate

Chalice - The Chalice is a large silver cup engraved in a lozenge a bull's head rising out of a ducal coronet with a ducal coronet above, both are repeated twice. On the other quarter is an engraving with the quartered arms of Catherine (Clifton), Duchess of Lennox, hall-marked for 1627–8. The Chalice is 23.5cm high, 10.5cm across the top of the cup and weighs 16.5 troy ounces. The makers mark is R.M. in 1965 the chalice was returned from loan to Spaldwick Church. 
 
Paten - A silver cover paten for the Chalice is engraved with the same crest and coronets as the chalice, weighing 10 troy ounces, there are no date-letters but there is a makers mark is M.B.. 
 
Flagon - A silver Victorian flagon, inscribed 'Leighton Bromswold Church 1878,' hall-marked for 1878–9’ and weighing 32 troy ounces.

In an insurance schedule in 1972 it was noted that ‘the base and side were dented’ – they still are.

Rose Bowl -Silver, hallmarked 1933, engraved inscription ‘Emily Jellis’, 10.5 troy ounces.

Baptismal Ladle - Mother-of-Pearl Shell with Silver Maltese Cross stop, this has not been seen for a number of years. 

Organ


The Church has no Organ!

In August 1849, an organ was given to the church of St Mary by Squire Norris, allegedly from the estate of Lord Cornwallis. The Rev. Charles Grey, then Vicar of Godmanchester, preached to a crowded congregation on the occasion of the opening of the organ. When opened, with such ostentation, it was a barrel organ! However, ‘odious an instrument a harmonium may be, it is infinitely preferable to a hurdy-gurdy!’


Altar-tombs

In the north transept is an alabaster altar-tomb with mutilated effigies of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, who died on 10 May 1572 in Leighton Bromswold, and Elizabeth (Oxenbridge), his third wife, died 1578. Altar-tomb of alabaster, south side divided into three bays by ornamental pilasters, shield in middle bay with arms three tirwhitts for Tyrwhitt quartering a chief indented, the whole impaling a lion rampant with a forked tail and a border, figures of daughter and two swaddled infants in side bays; similar pilasters west end of tomb, forming two bays each with a shield bearing the quarterly coat above and the impaled coat; on tomb, recumbent effigies of man and wife, man in plate-armour with head on mantled helm and lion at feet, legs of man missing; effigy of wife in French cap, long cloak,

Also in the north transept, further west, is a mutilated alabaster effigy of probably Katherine, the 4th daughter of Sir Robert and Elizabeth, and wife of Sir Henry D'Arcy, died 1567, head on two cushions, hands broken, modern altar-tomb with old alabaster plinth, mid- to late-16th-century.

Lying loose, close to these monuments, is a broken stone crest. There is also a monument of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt and his wife Elizabeth Oxenbridge in Bigby church, Lincolnshire, dated 1581, which unlike the monument in Leighton church, included effigies of all his twenty-two children.

Worshipful Company of Dyers

In the Church box a letter was discovered, dated 1947, confirming that the effigies were of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, the first benefactor of the Worshipful Company of Dyers, and that if ever the effigies could be restored, the Dyers Company would be interested to help. A letter was despatched appealing to them for help and telling them of the efforts of this small parish of 220 souls, including all denominations. The Worshipful Company of Dyers very generously offered to relieve the village of its financial burden and pay off the remainder of the money by Deed of Covenant.

There is engraved graffiti scratching on the tower parapet, R.D. 1641; on doorway of bell-chamber, W.H. R.I. 1666; on wall of second stage, E.S. 1653.

There are the following monuments: in the chancel, to the Rev. Thomas Ladds, vicar, died 1899; in the nave, to Ernest Cook, died 1917, Wilfred Barwell, died 1918; Lewis Robert Jellis, did 1933; in the south transept, to Hugh Brawn, died 1917; in the tower, floor slab to William Chapman, died 1687.

Rev. George Herbert's Restoration

George Herbert was born on 3rd April 1593, his family were noblemen and landowners and their family home was Montgomery Castle. As a child he was shy and anxious and his mother, Magdalen, wanted him to become a priest and in his youth spent time writing religious poetry and adopting strong religious views.

He was educated at Westminster School and went to Trinity College Cambridge at the age of 16. After graduating he was invited to be a Fellow of the college and studied divinity with a view to ordination. In 1619 the post of Public Orator became vacant and the post carried considerable income. In representing the university he set about healing the rift with King James who was upset about Cambridge’s refusal to organise a ceremony to receive a bound copy of his writings.

In his role of Public Orator, he was an opponent of Prince Charles desire to advocate a war with Spain and when he became King Charles his days at Court were over. In 1624 he entered Parliament as the member for Montgomery and he gradually turned back to religion.

In 1626 George Herbert was made deacon and honorary canon of Lincoln Cathedral by the Bishop of Lincoln, Lord Keeper Williams. This appointment carried the Prebandaryship of Leighton Ecclesia where the Lennox family were lords of the manor. He was not even present at his institution as prebend as it is recorded that Peter Walker, his clerk, stood in as his proxy. He never lived in Leighton Bromswold and paid a curate to serve in his absence.

In the same year that his close Clare Hall Cambridge friend, Nicholas Ferrar, was ordained Deacon in Westminster Abbey by Bishop Laud on Trinity Sunday. He went to Little Gidding, two miles down the road from Leighton Bromswold, to found the remarkable community with which his name has ever since been associated. 
 
No religious offices had been said in St Mary’s for over twenty years, Izaak Walton wrote - ‘so decayed, so little, and so useless, that the parishioners could not meet to perform their duty to God in public prayer and praises’.

During that time it is recorded that John Barber MA in 1607 and Maurice Hughes MA in 1623 were described as taking up their duties as vicars of St Mary’s Leighton Bromswold and it is probable that they used the Duke of Lennox's barn for divine service during the period leading up to the completion of the restoration.

During this time he became ill and went to live with his brother in Essex and it was during this period that he wrote much of his finest English poetry. He moved to Sir John Danvers home in Wiltshire and married his third daughter Jane and asked to be rector of St Peters, Fugglestone and St Andrews, Bemerton, near Salisbury.

During that time, permission from the Crown had been obtained by the previous incumbent to re-build the church at a cost of £2,000 (approximately £1,000,000 in today’s money)

To raise this money and re-construct the church was too daunting so George Herbert asked Nicholas Ferrar to help rebuild the ruined church. Nicholas was fully occupied with his community, so he suggested that his brother, John Ferrar, should supervise the rebuilding whilst Herbert, for his part, should try and raise the money amongst his influential friends, which he eventually achieved. £50 from the William, Earl of Pembroke; £200 from Catherine Clifford, daughter of Lord Clifton of Leighton Bromswold; some money from Lord Manchester and Lord Bolingbroke and also from Henry Herbert, George's brother. Donations, small and great, came from here and there. The actual rebuilding was supervised by John Ferrar and Arthur Woodnorth, a wealthy gold merchant, who was also a subscriber, acted as Treasurer and during John Ferrar absence, as his deputy.

By far the greatest amount of money, however, was subscribed by George Herbert himself, from his very modest resources. So worried did his mother become, that she summoned George to London, and advised him to abandon the whole project. He is recorded as having replied to her, "Mother, I ask you to allow me at the age of 33 to become an undutiful son, for I have a vow to God that, if I am able, I will rebuild Leighton Church." 
 
It is recorded later (by John Ferrar in 1632) that there were 18 masons and labourers and 10 carpenters at work during the reconstruction and that ‘all was finished inside and out, not only to ye Parishoners own much comfort and joy, but to the admirationof all men, how such a structure should be raysed and brought to pass by Mr Herbert’

The work was completed in the years 1632-1633 by pulling down the north arcade and aisle and building the north wall of the new aisleless nave and the north porch. He re-roofed the whole church and put in the pulpit, reading desk, dwarf screen and seating.
George Herbert died on 1st March 1633. It is probable that he never saw the results of his efforts.
Perhaps a fitting epitaph for the faithful of St Mary's and George Herbert are the words written in Izaac Walton's book on Herbert's life (1670).

He said: "Allow that Herbert in the body never looked on Leighton Church, never worshipped God in its aisles; Leighton Church was very dear to Herbert's heart: it was hallowed by his prayers, it was washed by his tears. It is ever to be remembered as incensed by his memory."

The question still remains today. ‘Why did George Herbert not visit Leighton Bromswold in all the years that he was associated with the Church?’ 

Walton's Lives 1796
 
From a note to a 1796 edition of Walton's Lives, quoted in H. B. Maling, 'Leighton Bromswold, the Church and Lordship'.  

It appears from a recent survey of this church, that the reading desk is on the right hand in the nave, just as you enter the chancel, and that is height is seven feet, four inches; and that the pulpit is on the left hand, and exactly of the same height. They are both pentagonal. The church is at present paved with bricks; the roofs bother of the church and chancel tiles, and not under drawn or ceiled. There are no communion rails; but, as you advance to the communion table you ascend three steps. The windows are large and handsome, with some small remnants of painted glass. The seats and pews both in the nave, the cross-aisles, and the chancel, somewhat resemble the stalls in cathedrals, but are very simple, with little or no ornament, nearly alike, and formed of oak. It was evidently the intention of Mr Herbert that in his church there should be no distinction between the seats of the rich and those of the poor. During Divine Service the men have from time immemorial been accustomed to sit on the south side of the Nave, and the women on the north side. In the cross-aisles the male servants sit on the south side, and the female servants on the north side.

1868 Survey

In October 1868 Ewan Christian surveyed the church on behalf of the Commissioners and commented that the interior of the church is well white-washed as to its walls, but being open to the tiles has a bare and barn like look. The tower is blocked off by a gallery, which greatly damages the internal appearance. The nave and transepts still retain the benches of the 17th century, but the wood floors under these are to some extent decayed, and the benches themselves need repair. The chancel was also benched in the same way, but a few years ago the benches were removed into the transepts and large square pews of high deal framing erected in their stead. They are very unsightly and ought to be removed. The pulpit and the desk are also of the 17th century, each of the same height and each has a sounding board over head. The chancel has a plain balustrade rail comparatively modem and both ugly, and wrongly placed.

As a result, the paving in the chancel was renewed, the square chancel pews being converted into benches with some modern material, (this can clearly be seen in the front westward chancel bench, where the turnings and woodwork are of similar, but different design and texture) and wooden floors modified with some new woodwork into its current configuration and the benches were removed into the transepts. Work was also carried out in the nave and transepts, improving the wooden floors and benches and providing some new ones, also new steps and paving for the passage, restuccoing walls and repairing the old pulpits and desk as well as removing the gallery and opening the tower, restoring old doors and the gate.

The church was restored in 1870 as a result of Christian's survey. The children's pews at the west end of the nave were installed in 1870 as a result of a request from the vicar Rev. Thomas Ladd at a cost of £18 at which time the font was mounted.

The original globe electric lights were installed in June 1900 (they were dismantled and are currently stored in the north west of the tower) and replaced in the 1990s by sodium industrial lighting which remains to this day, at the same time the heating system was replaced.

Originally it was headed by wood burner in the west tower drafting hot air down the centre of the nave where the cast iron grilling can still be seen. Later it was converted to low-wattage oil-filled electric pipe heating under selected benches and finally with medium-wavelength infra-red heaters in the chancel only. Currently there is no heating in the church.

In 1914 the tie beam in the chancel was cut out and replaced by an iron rod, drawing by Inskipp Ladds, but in 1914 the vicar, Rev. John Cooper, commented that the tie beam is 'a real eyesore disfiguring as it does the east window and hiding the tracery.' An additional tie beam was added across the east face of the west tower.

Modern Upkeep

Recent repairs in the year 1961 the Ely Diocesan Board asked for a Quinquennary report to be prepared by John Gedge, Esq., Architect. This was presented to the Parochial Church Council, and the estimated cost was £8,000. The Architect stressing that such a large amount from such a small parish would be impossible to raise suggested the more important items of roof and gutters should have top priority.

One member of the Parochial Church Council wrote to the Church Commissioners of England asking if St. Mary' s, Leighton Bromswold had a Lay Rector. To this query, came answer that they held this office and were solely responsible for the repair and upkeep of the Chancel. This part of the restoration was carried out for the Church Commissioners by John Allen & Co., Brampton at the figure of £5,500. The Architect, Major Gedge, set the target figure of £3,000 to cover the remainder of the work on the restoration of the Church.

The Leighton Village Fund for Church Restoration was opened in 1962. On 28 July 1962 a Barbecue Dance was staged in the village field and a Fete down the village street added another £358. The following year, 1963, another Barbecue Dance, in a Barn and another Fete added a further £225 and in 1964 another £199 was made from a Fete. Altogether, with donations and other efforts, a total of £901 was made.

The Historic Churches Preservation Trust donated £500, Church Commissioners gave £50 The two Restoration Appeal Funds were closed in September 1964 having reached the target of £3,000.

During the winter months of 1964, a farmer sent his men and they removed from the Church Yard an estimated 100 tons of soil so that the level of the ground outside the Church is at least 6 inches lower than the floor inside. A 24-inch-wide trench, 1 1⁄2 to 2 feet deep, was dug all round the church and was refilled with 95 tons of 1 1⁄2 foot inch gravel to assist drainage and prevent damp rising in the Church. The old drainage system was exposed and renewed where necessary. The gravel was given and carted from Thrapston by the farmer and also red bank drainage tiles.

On 3 June 1965, the Bishop of Ely, lead a Thanksgiving Service to commemorate the completion of the work with the Choir of St John's Cambridge and the Ely Diocesan Bellringers, it was televised by BBC TV.

Lych Gate

The lych gate was built in 1893. It was dedicated to the memory of George Smith, sometime churchwarden and buried in the churchyard, by his widow, Margaret in 1909.

Clock



Originally, a provision was made on all four sides of Leighton church tower for square clock faces set lozenge-style, recalling similar clocks on the St Gregory Tower at St Paul's and the western turret at Covent Garden (neither of which are still in existence). There are additional similarities in the design of the west tower to these two churches, in particular the parallel windows of the ringing chamber, though there is no evidence to suggest that there was any formal connection. However, as built, the west tower has a single clock face on the west face of the tower.

In 1977 the church clock winding system was electrified at a cost of £365. This was to save someone climbing up narrow winding stone steps to the Clock Tower floor and winding up two sets of mechanisms, striking and timing, 5 times in fourteen days. The necessary wiring was installed in May 1976 enabling the work to commence.

For the clock, the work consisted of a RPH50C motor and Junior winder weighing approximately 16 pounds with overload protection and regulator. A 16-tooth split chain and 10 feet of one-half-inch pitch roller chain with idler and chain adjuster. For the strike, the installation consisted of a RPH50AC motor and Mark II winder weighing approximately 40 pounds with overload protection and regulator. A 16-tooth split chain and 35 feet of one-half-inch pitch roller chain with idler and chain adjuster. The clock was also cleaned and repainted with the internal dial re-lacquered. The work was carried out by the inventor of the system, David Gamble of Eaton Socon and consists of a small electric motor clamped to weights and geared with sprockets onto a continuous chain. As the weight operates the clock mechanism by pulling downwards, the electric motor monkey is climbing up the chain at the same speed, so that the weight never has to be cranked back to the top.

Heating and Lighting

The original globe electric lights were installed in June 1900 (they were dismantled and are currently stored in the north west of the tower) and replaced in the 1990’s by hideous sodium industrial lighting which remains to this day.   

For some time the church was heated by wood or coke burner under the nave, drafting hot air down the centre of the nave where the cast iron grilling can still be seen.

Subsequently, electric oil-filled pipe heating was installed under selected pews in the nave but switched-off in the early 1960’s.

In 1964 it was proposed to install a Zepair-Ductair II heating system with ducts in the Choir Stalls, Sanctuary, Transepts and Nave at a cost of £1,076 (increased due to increased petrol prices!) It was never fulfilled.  
 

There are some disused electric Under Pew Heating - Some heating was achieved with the installation of wall-mounted medium-wavelength ceramic infra-red heaters in the chancel only. They too have been decommissioned.

Currently there is no heating in the body of the Church.

New Notice Board 
 
After 109 years the church’s notice board finally fell apart and the Parochial Church Council, with financial support from Village Matters had a new one design and built which was installed just before the Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, visited St Mary’s.

Earlier in the year, a new sign was made to inform visitors that our Historic Church is open. 
 
The internal Notice Board was kindly made by the men in Workshop 5 – HM Prison, Littlehey in 2006.

Hand Bells 

10 hand bells presented in1950 to Leighton Bell Ringers by Mrs Maling in memory of her husband, Henry Bromley Maling, M.A., Vicar of Leighton Bromswold, from his ordination in 1899 to his retirement in 1914, and also her father, Rev. Hon. Hugh Wynne Mostyn, Rector of Buckworth and Hon. Canon of Ely Cathedral. 
 
On 4th September 1969, the Rev. Lancaster of Kimbolton School agreed with the Parochial Church Council that they could borrow the bells on condition that they would be returned, kept in good order and their value estimated at £100.0s.0d. (then!)

For many subsequent years they were loaned to Brington Church of England Primary School until their return in 2011 after a search by the Churchwarden, Penny Ash.


Chantry

There is a chantry at Leighton Bromswold apparently in the church, which was founded by Master Gilbert Smith, Archdeacon of Northampton, and endowed with a pension payable by the Priory of St Andrew, Northampton. 
 

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales made a personal visit to St Mary’s on 31st July 1998

Visit of Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams

On Saturday 30th May 2015 the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, held a service before the Little Gidding Pilgrimage which attracted over 200 worshipers and the Parochial Church Council, and some additional helpers provided lunch before they set off on their annual walk to Little Gidding.

Current Maintenance 
 
In 2014 there were concerns as plaster had begun to fall from the roof in the South Transept and the Nave and it was decided that a survey was necessary in order to determine not only the extent of the damage but the general condition of the roof. 
Unfortunately, access to the roofs is only possible using extensive scaffolding and this proved to be too expensive. 
 
With the development of GPS fixing drone cameras it was decided to survey the roof with high definition photography.

Unfortunately, it showed that there was considerable damage to the tiles and a second survey identified in detail the tiles that were missing or broken. Later, we arranged for an internal survey to be done which identified some additional information.  

In 2014, the graves were de-weeded and filled with new granite chippings which has considerably tided up the churchyard.

Floodlighting

The Church is illuminated on the West and East sides which can be seen for many miles including from the A14 trunk road. The cost is supported by contributions from parishioners and, currently, every night of the year is sponsored, the balance of the money goes towards the Parish Quota and the total collection is around £1,000 per year. The money is collected by Dick Martin.
Grass Cutting of Church Yard

This is the responsibility of the Leighton Bromswold Parish Council who have purchased an impressive sit-on mower and for many years Dick Martin, a long established villager, has maintained the Church Yard – even digging graves.

Flowers and Cleaning

There is a rota maintaining the flowers and regularly thoroughly cleaning the Church. Equipment is jointly funded by all the organisations in Leighton Bromswold, including the Parochial Church Council, the Social Committee, the Parish Council and donations. 
 
Sound System

The Social Committee has purchased a complete modern sound system for larger events and complements the Church’s own system. It is also available for use by any parishioner or family free-of-charge.


The Leightonstone
 
 Alongside the Lych Gate of St Mary's Church stands the Leightonstone. It was originally situated to the south east of the Church, where the village originally stood. The Leightonstone is the ancient marker where the Moot Court of the Hundred of Leightonstone gathered to collect taxes and cast judgement of many local issues that were within the jurisdiction of the court.

The Leightonstone was actually sited on the other side of the church but to prevent it becoming lost or damaged it has been moved a few hundred metres to its present location by the church gate together with a commemorative plaque and seating.

War Memorial

The limestone memorial takes the form of a small medieval-style Latin cross and plinth. The plinth has tracery decorative detail on each corner and flower motif in a band around the top. The names of the nine men from the parish who lost their lives fighting in the First World War are inscribed on the plinth and painted black. The memorial is surrounded by concrete paving and wooden posts with chain link. The memorial was unveiled in 1920 and was the work of Mr Pettit of Godmanchester.

This memorial was a recipient of a grant from the Grants for War Memorials scheme in 2007. In 2009, War Memorials Trust applied for the listing of the war memorial cross. In March, the Trust was advised that the memorial has been listed at Grade II.