St. Leonard's Church, Birdingbury

Church of St. Leonard, Birdingbury.
Photo by Benjamin Earl

There has been a church in Birdingbury for over a thousand years but very little is known about the building until the 18th century, when a Faculty was issued by the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry which gave permission for the complete demolition of the existing church which was described as ‘ruinous, wholly decayed and dilapidated’ and beyond repair.

A ’competent sum of money ‘ having been bequeathed resulted in an agreement to ‘set up and build a new church and chancel in the churchyard upon a foundation on or near to the place, or ground, where the said church or chancel now stands, in a more substantial, decent and uniform manner and form’

Decent and uniform

Although the faculty tells us quite a lot about the early church, the last sentence is particularly puzzling. What is implied by the phrase ‘in a more substantial, decent and uniform manner’? Does the phrase simply refer to the ruinous state of the early church or does it imply it had been poorly built in the first place? And do the words ‘decent and uniform’ refer to a change in taste from gothic to classical or does it imply that, like many parish churches, St Leonard’s had been added to or modified in a variety of different styles?

The new church design had medieval curves replaced with right angles and straight lines; it was presumably built on the foundations of the early church but some evidence suggests that the builders extended the building eastwards beyond the earlier foundations.

The present pulpit, font and box pews belong to the furnishings of this church. The two bells are no longer in use.

Later developments to St. Leonard’s

Extensive alterations were made in 1876, due to the generosity of the Reverend Richard Hickman and his wife Emily. The low roof was raised, an apse added, the rectangular windows remodelled and the gallery redesigned. Sir Theophilus Biddulph gave the St Leonard window in the chancel. Mary, his wife, the East window and the chancel screen which was made out of the former roof beams. The Hickmans gave the window in the South wall of the chancel. A fund was started to build a spire to suggest the transcendence of God, but the money was later diverted to buy a new organ.

This is an abridged version of the church history published on the Draycote Benifice website, who have kindly given permission for its use.