CHURCH OF ST MARY
Church. C13 tower arch, south arcade of the nave, chancel arch and surviving east bay of north arcade, C14 arcade to south chancel aisle and C15 lowest stage of west tower. Restored 1860-1, unusually by two architects; Charles Baily completed the tower and most of the walls but George Devey constructed a turret to the chancel. Between 1889 and 1892 the chancel was remodelled by GF Bodley. Bodley's small north vestry was replaced by parish rooms of 1995 by Neil Macfadyen RIBA. Built in a mixture of sandstone and freestone with tiled roofs.
PLAN: Three bay nave with lower three bay chancel, west tower, south porch and south turret to south aisle of chancel. The Parish Rooms replaced the north vestry.
EXTERIOR: The west tower is of four stages, the lowest of sandstone, the upper stages of freestone. There are diagonal buttresses, an octagonal south turret, crenellated parapet and moulded band with gargoyles. The west side has a Perpendicular west door with hood moulding and spandrels with quatrefoil and blank shield. There is a triple window with cinquefoil heads to the second stage, paired similar window to the top stage and four centred arched window to the third stage. The south aisle has two arched windows with cinquefoil heads and a gabled south porch with cusped bargeboards and timberframed structure. The north side of the nave has two arched windows with cinquefoil heads divided by buttresses and single bay north aisle with gable and paired trefoil headed window. The south side of the chancel has two lancet windows divided by buttresses and single north bay with gable and paired trefoil headed window. The south side of the chancel has two lancet windows divided by buttresses and an octagonal turret with trefoil-headed entrance. There is a lancet window to the east end. The north side of the chancel now has two-storey gabled parish rooms. The chancel is gabled with a tall paired lancet window with roundel above.
INTERIOR: The west tower has a C13 tower arch and 1893 wooden screen re-sited from its original position between the nave and the chancel. There is an octagonal Perpendicular font with bowls panelled with quatrefoil motifs containing alternate floral motifs and grotesque masks. The lower part of the turret has a C15 stone spiral staircase. Above is a C19 bell frame with four exposed woooden corner posts. There are five bells, variously of 1636, 1640 and 1731, recast in 1871, and a sixth of 1931. The west window has C19 stained glass depicting the Nativity. The nave has a C13 south arcade with circular columns and arches with two chamfers. The east bay of the south aisle has a stained glass window to the memory of Edward Gower of Ensfield depicting sowing, reaping and ploughing. One pier of the C13 north arcade is half buried in the wall with original red stencilling. The nave roof is C19, of crownpost type with four head braces and two purlins. To the east of the north aisle pier is a re-sited C16 brass of circa 1580 with open coffin and angel blowing a trumpet or trombone. The Hine memorial window of circa 1915 unusually depicts St Joan, St Patrick and St George and is by AK Nicholson of Gower Street. The C17 wooden pulpit incorporates an hourglass stand, dated 1597. The pews are C19. The north aisle window has a top light with C14 stained glass depicting the Virgin and Child but the remainder is C19. The chancel arch is C13 and identical to the tower arch. There is a C14 arcade to the chancel and a piscina. The south aisle of the chancel contains a circa 1879 pipe organ by Hill and Son. The chancel roof is a C19 barrel vaulted wooden roof. The north wall has wall monuments including the circa 1717 monument to Abraham Harrison of Hall Place, a cartouche with drapery and the head of a putto at the bottom. There are ledger stones including ones to the Carte family and a brass to Thomas Chanu, soldier-at-arms (d. 1407) in the Sanctuary. The alabaster reredos and linenfold panelling were installed by Bodley and there are a series of contemporary stained glass windows including the east window in memory of the Countess of Albemarle (d. 1892) depicting the Coronation of the Virgin and the Blessed in Heaven.
HISTORY: The present church on the site dates from the C13 and from this period the tower arch, south arcade of the nave and the chancel arch survive, together with the surviving east bay of the north aisle, the remainder of which was destroyed by fire in the reign of Henry VII. There is a C14 arcade to the south chancel aisle. The west tower was commenced in the C15, and a bequest of 1525 was for the "bildying of a new stepyll" but only nine feet of the tower was built and a timber belfry was erected on these walls, shown in an engraving of 1797. The church was reconstructed in 1860-1. At that time the chancel was the responsibility of the Lay Rector, Lord de Lisle of Penshurst Place, and the parish was responsible for the rest of the building. As a result two architects were used and they used different types of stone. Lord de Lisle employed George Devey and the parish employed Charles Baily, who was a cousin of Thomas Farmer Baily, the owner of Hall Place. Charles Baily completed the tower and rebuilt most of the walls. George Devey constructed a turret with a door giving access to the pews of the Lay Rector in the chancel aisle. At the same time the west gallery was removed, old pews were replaced by open seats and a new organ installed. Between 1889 and 1892 the chancel was refurnished by George Frederick Bodley who installed the screen, linenfold panelling, choir stalls and alabaster reredos. In 1995 a small north vestry was replaced by two-storey parish rooms, a bequest from Miss Winifred Genner, designed by Neil Macfadyen RIBA.
John Newman "Buildings of England. West Kent and the Weald". (1980) Ps 374-5.
"St Mary's Church, Leigh" church booklet(2002).
"Oxford Dictionary of National Biography." Entries for Charles Baily, George Devey and George Frederick Bodley. The church is mentioned in Baily's entry.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
St Mary's Church, Leigh, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* The church retains a significant proportion of medieval fabric;
* The C19 restoration includes work by three major Victorian architects. It was one of Baily's major commissions and part of Devey's major commissions for Penshurst Place and Hall Place;
* Noteworthy fittings include a C15 font, C17 pulpit and late C19 alabaster reredos, joinery and stained glass;
* Monuments include small C15 and C16 brasses, C18 wall monuments and ledger stones;
* The church reflects a historic pattern of patronage because the different materials for the chancel turret and the rest of the church resulted from the separate ownership of the nave and chancel;
* It forms part of a group of listed buildings in Leigh village.