The architecture of the present building suggests that St. Mary's was rebuilt in the 13th century. The chancel and tower arches, parts of the chancel and the arcade to the south aisle all belong to that period. The north aisle is known to have been destroyed by fire during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). This aisle was not reconstructed, but the existing north wall was erected along the lines of its columns, and the columns were built into the wall. One such column was opened up to view some years ago and still shows signs of the original colour decoration.
It seems likely that the western tower was never completed, for a new tower was begun in the 15th century, behind the 13th century tower arch, and carried up to a height of nine feet. At this point the stonework stopped and a timber belfry was erected on the walls.
In 1860-61 the church underwent considerable reconstruction. At the time, the chancel was the responsibility of the Lay Rector, who in this case was Lord de Lisle, while the parish was responsible for the rest of the building. The two parties employed different architects; Lord de Lisle using George Devey, and the parish Charles Bailey, a cousin of Thomas Farmer Bailey, the owner of Hall Place. The two architects used different types of stone, as is obvious when viewing the outside of the building.
The steep barn-like roof and dormer window in existence at the time were removed and the roof raised. A tower was erected at the existing base, and a turret with a door giving access to the pews of the Lay Rector in the chancel aisle. The south wall was rebuilt and the nave restored. Changes were also made to the interior of the building. The west gallery was removed, old pews were replaced by open seats, and in 1862 the chancel was restored. when the work was competed, the church was paved and refurnished, and a new organ, in place of the old barrel organ, installed.
Between 1889 and 1892 the chancel was refurnished to the designs of a well-known architect George Frederick Bodley. He was responsible for the screen, linen-fold paneling, the choir stalls and alabaster reredos.
In recent years the rood screen has been relocated from the entrance to the chancel to the entrance to the baptistry at the rear of the church and a portable baptismal font introduced to enable congregations to participate more fully in in baptisms. As a result of the move, the congregation is also brought closer to the altar and the open space of the chancel is now more readily accessible to choirs, musicians and other performers.
The nave has been lightened by restoring the pews and cushions provided for the comfort of the congregation.
Sound enhancement, projection and TV facilities are also available to enhance informal services and support secular events held in church
In contrast to the openness of the sacrament of baptism with the font near the door, there is a separateness (holiness) about the sacrament of communion serving to remind the worshipper to receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ with careful preparation and utmost reverence.
"Hic jacet Thomas Chanu armiger qui obit XXX die memis Octobris anno domini M.CCC. VII et Christinana uxor ejus quorum animabus propricietur Deus"
The font stands near the West door because baptism is our entrance or admission to the Church, the body founded by Christ himself. It used to be the practice to dip the child three times in the water, hence the size of the bowl.
Before the introduction of Parish Councils (in 1894) the church was the centre of parish administration, hence the board listing of charitable bequests which were administered by placing loaves in the church porch.
St. Mary's Church stands on the highest point of Leigh village, overlooking the village green, and for hundreds of years has been the centre of the religious life of the local community and was for many years that of the civil community as well.
Seating in the naves of churches was not general until about the mid 19th century as the nave was used for a variety of functions, serving as a "Village Hall".
The Brass on the North Wall is from the tombstone by the Chancel steps and shows a firm belief in a glorious life after death.
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