St Leonard Without
(formerly St Peter & St Paul 1908-25)
Standing just off Church Road in Blackswarth Road is the church, or rather churches of St Leonard. These form a picturesque group, which can be appreciated better from the recently-formed green opposite in the winter months before leaves on the trees block the church from view. Origins of the church go back to that of St Nicholas in the City, to which the parish of St Leonard City was joined on demolition of that church in 1771. The vestries of both churches were endowed with property, which in turn founded the mission area of Redfield which first met in a baker's loft in Blackswarth Road in 1906. This was not received well by the vicar at St George Parish Church which had to surrender parts of its parish (and thus his stipend!) for the new parish. In fact this was probably the fifth such parish carved from this former large parish since 1845. The rest of the parish came from St Matthew, Moorfields.
The foundation stone is preserved by the south door of the west narthex. It was laid on October 8th 1907 and records the name of the architect W.V.Gough. The church of St Peter and St Paul was completed the following year. It consists of a four-bayed nave with west bellcote and west narthex (having both north and south entrances), lower narrower chancel, and to the north large more domestic schoolrooms and vestries etc. This is now used as the church hall.
The interior still preserves much of its original form, but is quite difficult to photograph. A stage now fills the chancel and the windows all have curtains. The west wall is probably not as originally planned. The roof with tie beams is particularly attractive, resting on low corbels.
The south side has windows of three light stepped lights. On the north are two large blank arches with lower doors opening into the rooms beyond, which are treated as cross-gabled extensions outside. Talking to a member of the congregation who remembers worshipping in this church, this arrangement was always so.
In 1925 in recognition of continued support from St Nicholas City (contributing towards the earlier Scout Hut and vicarage built that year), the dedication was changed to St Leonard from St Peter & St Paul.
The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 25th June 1938 and consecrated on November 5th in the same year. The architect was Robert Potter. It is still vaguely Gothic in style and feel, and of traditional plan. Nave and chancel in one, with a four-bayed north aisle. A passageway connects the old to the new, which has an open cloister walk and a small enclosed garden to the east.
The interior is simple and attractive. The west end has a gallery with entrance vestibule below. The west end of the north aisle serves as a baptistry. The low arcade is of plain unchamfered semi circular arches cut through the wall.
The church contains several fittings which came from other churches. The organ is the original organ from the crypt of St Nicholas, City. It has a splendid Gothic case. The altar and the freestanding angels in the Lady Chapel came from the parish church of St George after it was demolished. The font is also a mystery, as it looks to predate both churches, but members of the church I spoke to believed this to have been the original font in St Peter & St Paul.
Sadly the church closed in 2012 and the parish was united to that of St Ambrose. In 2014 the buildings were taken over by the Coptic Orthodox Church. It is now known as St Marina's Church.
Page updated 15th March 2016
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